One Green Lantern Shines But Not the One With 50 Issues

Before we begin reviews of this weeks issues, I wanted to mention that Martian Manhunter: Vol. 1: The Epiphany is now available. This is one of the unexpectedly awesome books DC has published lately and it stands alone as a great SF invasion story.

Also of particular interest this week is Omega Men #9, another terrific issue spotlighting Green Lantern Kyle Rayner in what’s fast becoming a modern classic, so much so that there’s a scene this week that Ray compares favorably to the classic The Watchmen.

Martian manhunter, mr. biscuits
Martian Manhunter’s multiple selves. Panel copyright DC Comics

As for the more well-known Green Lantern? Hal Jordan’s series hits issue #50, a milestone for the new 52 reboot. Ray finds that the whole series was rewarding but I’m not even close to Hal Jordan’s biggest fan.

Plus, Swamp Thing, more Bat-kids, and Batgirl has a trippy issue that is my favorite in this run. And don’t forget to check out the bonus Batman ’66 and Scooby Doo reviews.

The Omega Men #9 – written by Tom King, art by Barnaby Bagenda

9.5/10 (Book of the Week)

Ray: You know, for a character who’s been a fixture of the DCU for 20-odd years, Kyle Rayner’s always had a hard time of it. He was the hate-sink for Hal Jordan fans, was constantly switched to different identities at the drop of a hat, and was usually only Geoff Johns’ will away from being killed off to streamline the line. And it’s kind of hard to name any truly iconic Kyle Rayner stories. Until now. Because Omega Men, a title where Kyle felt like more of a prop/hostage for the early issues, is quickly turning into the ultimate Kyle Rayner story.

What makes Kyle unique isn’t that he’s another Green Lantern – it’s that he’s the only one who takes the “peacekeeper” role seriously in terms of actually trying to create peace. There was a story dealing with this part of his character in the Judd Winick run, but it was a big heavy-handed. This issue, though – which takes place almost entirely within the confines of a neutral space in the Vega Sector – places him front and center as he attempts to find a third way in the endless bloody conflict between the Citadel and the Omega Men.

However, as always, radicals on both sides – the Citadel’s mad, bloody chairman, the ruthless Princess Kalista – have no room for peace in their hearts. This is a bottle episode of an issue that turns into one of the most gripping and thrilling issues of the series as it goes on, with one classic line – “I am not threatening” – that reminded me of an iconic scene from Watchmen. And who thought a comic book could make me genuinely feel for a genocidal planet-killing robot? Surprise!

This comic is headed for an epic conclusion, and I think this is one that’s really meant to be read as a whole, which explains my quibbles with the very dense first few issues. This issue, though, is spectacular both as a single issue and as part of the whole.

Corrina: When Ray drops a comparison to an iconic scene from Watchmen, you know this is a book you should be reading. I’ve run out of superlatives for this series so read it however you can, by preordering a collected edition of the whole series that will be out in August or by grabbing individual back issues.

Green Lantern #50 – writer, Robert Venditti, penciller, Billy Tan & Vicente Cifuentes, inkers, Mark Irwin, John Livesay and Cifuentes.

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Two Hal Jordans Not a Selling Point.

Ray: The first of the New 52 original titles to hit #50 this month, this delivers a strong issue that works as both a conclusion to the current story and a set-up to the finale of this run, while also delivering a surprisingly strong character driven story. I’ve always appreciated how both Johns and Venditti have spent some time fleshing out Hal’s family, and the scenes of him bonding with his brother and brother’s family as his nephew comes home from the hospital are great. Also, is it just me, or is seeking heroes with siblings pretty rare?

Hal isn’t always the most fleshed-out character, but that’s a nice touch. The big threat this issue isn’t an outside villain like Sonar, but rather Hal himself – the Zero Hour Hal Jordan who went insane and became Parallax. Finding himself in this universe after Convergence, he finds out that Coast City is still standing, and figures that by replacing our Hal as the Green Lantern of this world, he’ll be able to rewrite history. Where the issue really excels is in its nuanced portrayal of Parallax, making him menacing while making very clear that there are lines he won’t cross – despite his insanity, he’s protective of his “family”. His demonic appearance in certain scenes is a bit of a retcon, though – the Fear Demon Parallax that twists its wielders’ appearance is a newer element of the story – but overall, this is a pretty strong issue with a lot to appreciate for both new and older fans of Hal. The ending hints at a new threat for Hal, as he seems to possibly be vanishing from existence. I’m stoked to see how this run wraps up.

Looking back, GL has been one of the more consistent runs in the New 52. It’s only had two creative teams, both lasting a fairly long time. The first two years of the run were more a wrap-up of the pre-Flashpoint era, with Geoff Johns telling his GL story exactly as he wanted to much like Morrison got free reign to wrap up Batman. That run didn’t have quite the highs that the pre-Flashpoint era of Johns’ GL did, with certain elements (Simon Baz, The Third Army, Volthoom) not having the impact he intended and being a bit forgettable – but DAMN, did he stick the landing, giving us a spectacular finale issue that tied together his entire run and served as a massive love letter to the entire franchise.

Any writer would have a hell of a time following that up, and while Venditti did have a few really strong ideas – putting Hal in charge of the Corps, for one thing – it felt like the story tended to ping-pong too much from event to event, trying to recapture the momentum of the Johns run. Interestingly, it’s not until he dialed things back and focused on Hal back on Earth that I really connected with his Hal Jordan. Still, this title has never been less than consistently entertaining, which is a feat only a few other books that made it to this point have managed!

Corrina: I’ve always been much less enthused about the Green Lantern franchise than Ray. In DC, my heart belongs elsewhere. Green Lantern is one of the few titles that I have never collected, not in forty years of reading about superheroes. I say that up front, so you know where my negativity stems from.

But here’s the problem: Hal Jordan has consistently been an uninteresting character in the time I’ve been reading this current series. I have no reason to hope he wins or loses, mostly, save when he’s been defending innocents, but mostly he’s been running around the galaxy like a jerk and arguing with people. I liked it when he came back to Earth. That was a good story choice and it humanized him but having Hal go nuts and doing damage to the terrorist camp to no avail seemed like such a rookie, idiotic move for an experienced superhero that I was back on the “I hate Hal” bandwagon.

However, Parallax showing up intrigued me. Did that mean we’d get a discussion about how one self sees the future and realizes their mistakes, or one of them looking into a mirror and realizing where wrong choices take them? I hoped for something deep and interesting, something that was pique my interest in the character.

Instead, I get two Hal Jordans fighting like jerks while committing property damage on the city they’re supposed to protect. A generic fight was just about the least interesting thing that could happen between the two of them.

The book closes with Hal literally encased in green energy. Maybe he’s going to become a being a light and merge with the sun? Uh, well, I can hope.

Swamp Thing #3 – Len Wein, writer, Kelley Jones, illustrator

Ray: 6/10

Corrina: Creepy Horror Art Plus Zatanna

Ray: This book looks great, I’ll say that much. Jones was born to draw creepy stuff, and his Swamp Thing is an eerie, shambling monster with an aura of mystery about him. As for the story, though…maybe it’s a bit unfair, because Len Wein is the creator and he developed all these tropes for Swamp Thing, but it really feels like in a lot of ways, we’re treading on some old ground with this story.

Swamp Thing is met by his old friend Matt Cable, who reveals that he’s been traveling the world trying to find a cure for Alec Holland’s condition. Despite his responsibility to the Green, Swamp Thing makes it clear he would love nothing more than to be human again. See, I’m just rather tired of stories in which the monstrous superhero is constantly plagued with angst over his appearance. It gets tired with Ben Grimm, and to a large extent, the Snyder and Soule runs of Swamp Thing seemed to put a rest to that, elevating Swamp Thing to a cosmic force who was far beyond the desire to be human. This story feels like a throwback. So Swamp Thing and Cable head to Zatanna’s lair so she can use the artifact Cable stole from Nanda Parbat to perform the ritual, and it works – only for Alec Holland to look up and see a menacing-looking Cable now with the power of Swamp Thing. This plot is actually very similar to another in Soule’s run, and I have to say I saw it coming a mile away. It’s not bad, but if they’re going to revive Swamp Thing after an epic run like the last one, I would have liked to see much bigger ideas.

Corrina: This is another title where I haven’t been wedded to the previous run, and, so, unlike Ray, I can look at this series on its own. I’ve been enjoying it, for the most part.

There’s the art, which is perfectly suited to Swamp Thing, and the first arc about the misuse of magic and rebirth was entertaining. This issue is, as Ray says, dedicated to exploring man versus monster. Yes, it’s a well-used plot but it seems to suit the Swamp Thing we’ve met in this series. He seems at loose ends, not so much depressed as tired and bored with it all. What the heck, might as well try to be human, if he can, and, if not, hey, that’s the end to the weight of what’s happened to him and what he’s supposed to be responsible for.

However, any reader will see Cable’s transformation coming from a mile away. I hope the plot has him trying to adjust to his new Swamp Thing-ness while Alec Holland explores being human but I fear that it may end up as “Cable wanted to steal the Swamp Thing’s power” and Alec has to grab it back. Now, that? I’ve seen before, too many times.

Her mind is literally being erased. Cover to Batgirl #49.
Her mind is literally being erased. Cover to Batgirl #49.

Batgirl #49, writers, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher, artists, Babs Tarr, Horacio Domingues, Roger Robinson, Ming Doyle and James Harvey.

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: However, I Do LIke Multiple Barbara Gordons

Ray: A little over a year in, it’s safe to say this is the weirdest Batgirl run ever. That’s not a criticism per se – it’s one of my favorite Batgirl runs as well – but we’re into some seriously bizarre sci-fi territory here. When we last left off, we found out that Barbara’s old childhood friend Greg was actually the villain who had hacked the neural implant in her brain and altered her memories. This leads to the plot of this issue, which I have nicknamed Bat-Ception, as Dinah and Frankie have no choice but to send Frankie inside Barbara’s mind to root out the foreign intruders. However, to pull that off, they need help – the twisted AI that believes it’s Barbara and was the big bad of the first arc.

The segments inside Barbara’s mind are a good mix of creepy alternate histories that never happened and surreal scenes where the villain inserts himself into her life. It’s great to see Frankie take center stage for an issue, too, as she’s been one of the best original characters in this run. The villain is an interesting touch as well – we’ve seen a number of villains who play with people’s minds, but the idea of a villain who has actually been hacking someone’s mind for a while and has already been present in their life as a secret saboteur before they’re ever revealed to us is very clever. Tiny bit disappointed that the AI Babs went predictably rogue for the second time, but overall, this is setting up a really strong conclusion to this arc. Bring on #50!

Corrina: This is my favorite issue of this creative team and I suspect because the action is so character-focused. We haven’t gotten such an intense look inside Barbara’s mind and mood in a long time. I loved the different alternate memory sequences, from tragic to just plain weird, and I love that multiple artists handle these segments, as they give each a different feel. For once, I can also feel Frankie and Dinah’s desperation to save their friend.

The AI Barbara was an odd idea at first but I would have liked to see it more fully fleshed out instead of beaten and pushed aside, so its return worked for me in this issue. I predict an integration between all of Barbara’s selves next issue that may push her more toward the realm of the Oracle identity–minus the wheelchair. Fingers crossed for that Birds of Prey revamp that should be coming.

Batman And Robin Eternal #22, James Tynion IV & Scott Snyder, story, Genevieve Valentine, script, Fernando Blanco, art,

Ray: 9.5/10

Corrina: Robins Rule!

Ray: Valentine, one of the best writers on this series, is back for a return engagement in the penultimate arc, and she doesn’t disappoint at all. A much-needed change of pace issue focusing more on characterization than action, it provides some fantastic moments for characters across the field. The opening scene, as a captured Cass and Harper are being dragged back to Mother’s lair, is heartbreaking. This scene could have easily gone very badly, taking the side of one character over the other, but instead Valentine very gracefully contrasts Cass pain and regret with Harper’s anger and grief. Meanwhile, the Robins have just been outplayed and outfoxed by Mother, leaving them with no plans left to save the girls and foil her apocalyptic scheme – only for Damian to literally smack some sense into them.

I know Corinna was worried about the dark take on Batman hinted at by the opening issues, and so was I, so it’s great to see a flashback segment that makes very clear just how much Batman cares about and respects his Robins – as well as a really nice father-son bonding session between Bruce and Damian in the recent past. Meanwhile, things are distinctly less functional at the villains’ lair, as Mother and Orphan come face to face again with bloody consequences. I knew one of them would eventually die at the other’s hands, but I wasn’t sure which. All the pieces are set up for a great final month of stories, both from a plot and character perspective. One of the best issues of the series.

Corrina: Yes, I was worried that this series would feature the creature known in comic circles as Bat-dick–the arrogant, annoying, uber-powerful hero who never tells anyone anything. At least in this issue, there none of that. There is Batman as mentor and father-figure to all the Robins, even including his son. So, yay.

I also liked the shift to character work this issue but, from a pacing standpoint, it is a bit jarring after all the action of the previous issues. Yes, the former Robins absolutely have to talk about their trust issues with Batman and even wonder if they can defeat Mother, but this seems oddly placed with Cass and Harper in such jeopardy. I chalk that up to the juggling of scripting teams between issues–and I wish Valentine had written more of this series. Perhaps she’ll have work on a Batman & Robin title because I loved the scene she wrote between Damian and Bruce.

Midnighter #10, Steve Orlando, writer, Hugo Petrus & Aco

Ray: 8/10

Corrina: It’s Not A Good Idea to Torture This Dude

Ray: This series can pretty much always be counted on to deliver some incredible action, as Steve Orlando may understand the nature of the fight scene better than anyone else writing comics. However, while the issue is a fast-paced blast to read, I didn’t think the story was quite as strong as the rest of the run. When we last left off, a new metahuman with the ability to see five seconds into the future had completely dismantled his defenses and captured him for Amanda Waller. As she and the Squad plan to interrogate him for information on the artifact he’s stolen, Deadshot proves to be increasingly unstable in his quest to get one up on the only man who has made him miss. This again makes me wonder if Floyd Lawton is heading towards an epic self-destruction story like in his current title.

I’m usually not a fan of torture scenes, but Midnighter’s sheer ridiculous bravado during the entire thing makes it easier to read. And once he gets loose, all hell breaks loose as he takes on the entire Squad in a fantastic ballet of violence. However, unlike Midnighter, the Squad cheats. And they play for keeps, as Midnighter finds out when they try to blow him up several thousand feet in the air. I think a Midnighter series never had a chance to sell, no matter how good it was, but DC’s discovered a great talent in Steve Orlando, and I hope wherever he goes next, he can bring Midnighter with him.

Corrina: See, I don’t think it’s bravado that Midnighter is channeling during that torture sequence. Midnighter genuinely doesn’t care about being hurt–and I suspect he likes being tortured, that it revs him up, rather than worrying him. It means he’s one on one with his enemy and, sooner or later, he’ll win because he’s still alive. Also, it’s just part of his personality to feel in control when everyone else believes they have control over him. That’s been part of this character since issue #1 and what sets him apart from Batman. Midnighter enjoys violence and a fight, if in a good cause, and he has no angst about that. That’s how distinctive that Orlando has made this character.

However, I had a problem with this issue that’s cropped up before, in that I can’t always follow what the story intends me to read between panels. At first, I thought Midnighter had managed to launch the plane at the end even when half-unconscious. But after reading Ray’s take, maybe the Suicide Squad put him in the plane to blow him up? I read this several times and I still can’t tell.

The loss of the healing ability is worrying for Midnighter and the only time we see his confidence falter, as that’s so unexpected. But I expect next issue will see the appearance of powerful back-up in the case of Apollo. Aside: Can I take another moment here to once again be so annoyed that we had to have a young, hot Amanda Waller in charge of the Suicide Squad? I just hate this change from her original characterization. HATE IT

Batman Beyond #10, Dan Jurgens, writer, Bernard Chang, artist

Ray: 7/10

Corrina: Optimism Gone.

Ray: This title is starting to find its groove a bit as it reaches the end of the current run. It’s still dragged down by the post-apocalyptic future it’s stuck in and the fact that Tim Drake frankly just isn’t as interesting a Batman Beyond as Terry was (seriously hoping he’s back for the new run, or I doubt anything will make this title really click), but the second main arc has more of a vibe in line with the animated series in places.

Tim’s search for Matt has brought him to the ruins of Metropolis, where he’s found the big bad – Doctor Cuvier, the creator of Splicers, and his animal army. I thought I smelled some Kirby in there, and I was right – Cuvier’s splicers aren’t the only animal-men, they’re aligned with Prince Tuftan of Kamandi fame and his army.

Anyone who wants to use Kirby concepts gets a bit of a pass from me, so I’m curious to see how this plays out. But the subplot involving the JLA waking up from stasis and immediately being brainwashed by an evil Elephant-man to attack Tim and think he’s a robot was…iffy. I was also intrigued by the unraveling state of things in Gotham, as the Metropolis refugees and those opposed to helping them reach a boiling point and the city threatens to descend into complete chaos. This series got off to a rough start, but there’s some potential here if it starts becoming more of a traditional Batman Beyond series.

Corrina: Like Ray, I was intrigued by Matt’s quest to find the Justice League and maybe even his brother and I enjoyed seeing some elements of Kamandi’s world. But…by the time I was done with the fight between Terry and the reawakened Justice League, I was back to being down on the title. Shouldn’t a GL ring be able to discern the truth better than this?

The other problem remains too, in that this feels like Terry in the suit still, instead of Tim, and has all along. It sorta defeats the purpose of having Tim in there.

Out-of-Continuity Reviews:

DC Comics Bombshells #10 – Marguerite Bennett, writer, Laura Braga and Marguerite Sauvage, artists

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Consistently Excellent

Ray: This title continues to be the best alternative universe DC has done in years, as the various female heroes continue to battle against supernatural forces and the villains of WWII. The opening segment, featuring Wonder Woman, finds her leading an unlikely alliance of her troop of US soldiers and their Nazi POWs against an army of Tenebrae. I’m not really that big a fan of these mystical zombies, but there’s no question that Bennett knows Wonder Woman really well, firmly rooting her in her role as a peacemaker rather than a warrior.

The second segment is exceptional, though, combining Zatanna’s storyarc with Batwoman’s. It feels like it’s been way too long since we caught up with Kate, and her story is a fast-paced battle in the heart of enemy territory as she works with Selina and Helena to take on some Nazis. I love how unapologetically Jewish Kate here is, and Selina’s chaotic good approach to battle is a blast. Also loving just how oily this book’s version of Lex Luthor is. They hold their own, but do get a magical assist from Zatanna and bunny Constantine, who have their own plotline where they pull off a major gambit despite being trapped within the cabaret. However, it’s not without its cost, as they’re caught by the villains and seemingly stripped of their magic. I hope this doesn’t hold, because Constantine not being a bunny anymore saddens me.

Corrina: Constantine as a bunny is endlessly amusing but I suspect we’ll see him back to his human self soon, unless the Nazis boil him or something. But if his magic is gone, then he’s human, so they wouldn’t be able to do that. Oh, wait, they’re Nazis, nevermind…

This book continually surprises me with its quality, especially in the treatment of Wonder Woman, with her classic origin, and her classic hope to end war. Here, she’s literally up against war/the undead and that works perfectly as a metaphor for what her character is about as well as a creepy villain. A successful twofer. Plus, a scene of her carrying off Steve Trevor, ala Golden Age WW is a great callback.

Not only does Bennett write a great Wonder Woman but she has more fun with Selina teaming up with various allies than anyone this side of Gail Simone’s classic Birds of Prey run. The only downer for me this issue is the use of Luthor, who I feel is overexposed, even in alternate reality.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Five #5 – written by Brian Buccellato art by Juan Albarran, Mike S. Miller, Bruno RedondoRay: 6/10

Things go from bad to worse for the resistance, as the Rogues take part in a series of terror strikes against locations meaningful to Superman, as a way to draw him out of hiding – including his hometown of Smallville, which holds a rather creepy tribute to him every year. However, the Rogues are just human – something that becomes painfully clear when Bizarro shows up, seemingly playing Superman. His turn from childlike heroic character to just as violent as Superman is rather abrupt, and results in the death of two of the Rogues.

Beyond that, there aren’t any more major developments this issue, save for Catwoman defecting from the resistance in a scene that’s very reminiscent of a scene from last issue. This book sort of feels like it’s running out of momentum as it heads towards the final act that won’t actually be the final act – this book leads into the story of the video game.

Batman ’66 Meets the Man from UNCLE #4 – written by Jeff Parker, art by Karl Kesel and David Hahn

Ray: 8/10

Although the main Batman ’66 series is over, this is an incredibly entertaining substitute. Last issue’s reveal of Batman unmasking to Batgirl turns out to be a swerve – he’s put on a fake face of Bruce Wayne so he can impersonate Bruce Wayne and infiltrate THRUSH’s headquarters.

That’s quite elaborate, but very much in line with the lighthearted spy antics both shows were known for. There’s a lot of fun bits in this issue, from the way THRUSH has taken over Monaco by brainwashing the Crown Prince and installed all their minions as increasingly ridiculous officials – Secretary of Fear for Scarecrow, for instance. The issue makes really good use of Bat-gadgets, including a Bat-submarine, and we finally get our big reveal of who Corvid is – it’s Hugo Strange, a classic villain who seems to be making a significant comeback all of a sudden. Really enjoying this series, and looking forward to future team-ups.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #15 – written by Sholly Fish, art by Dario Brizuela

Ray: 7.5/10

With Scooby-Doo getting an elaborate post-apocalyptic relaunch a few months from now, it’s good the classic versions are still getting some play. The best thing about this series has been the obscure DC continuity it plays with, and an entire episode set in Gorilla City definitely fits that bill.

When the Flash gets summoned by telepathic message to Gorilla City, he brings the gang along for the ride and they investigate a mysterious Gorilla ghost for King Solovar. Everyone suspects the recently escaped Grodd of being behind it, but he’s in fact just as scared of the ghost as everyone else. The ghost seems to have magic powers, which leads him to temporarily transform the Flash and some members of the Mystery Machine crew into weird images from classic Flash covers. The ending has an amusing twist to it, and overall this is yet another winner for this offbeat book. Looking forward to next issue’s Shazam story already!

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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.