DC This Week – ‘Flash’ Hits #50 and the Girl of Steel Returns

Reading Time: 20 minutes
Harley Quinn's Little Black Book
What an interesting name this demon has…page from Harley’s Little Black Book #3, copyright DC Comics

Yes, it’s a big issue for Flash and it’s nice to see Supergirl firmly part of the DC universe again but the most entertainment value of the week is found on Harley’s Little Black Book team-up with Zatanna, and not just because the creative team is not-so-gently tweaking the co-Publisher of DC Comics.

And if you’re looking for a classic Superman story?

Buy Superman: Lois & Clark, Ray’s Book of the Week.

Flash #50 – Van Jensen, Writer; Jesus Merino and Paul Pelletier, Pencillers; Joe Eisma; back-up Penciller; Jesus Merino, Scott Hanna, Tony Kordos, Wayne Faucher, Inkers; Guy Major, Pete Pantazis, Chris Sotomayor, Colorists

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Eh. Definite Improvement In the Art.

Ray: The much-delayed 50th issue of Flash arrives, leaving us one short of completing the set of anniversary issues (Justice League hasn’t even reached #49 yet), and the main story is pretty much business as usual for this title. When we last left off, Barry had been captured by the Rogues and arrested by his mentor Captain Frye as part of the Thawne-inspired crackdown on superheroes, while Wally was starting to discover his new Flash powers. Upon hearing that Flash has been arrested, Henry Allen returns from retirement and calls in some favors from his time in prison – using Girder to create a disruption that allows Overload to get free, shutting down the power in Iron Heights and deactivating Flash’s power-dampeners.

As Flash attempts to fight off the Rogues and keep the criminals from escaping the island, Trickster betrays the Rogues at the behest of our mystery villain, and Heat Wave is revealed to be alive. As for the identity of that mystery villain…he’s on a vacation from Gotham. That’s right, it’s the Riddler, and this is a matchup with some promise for the final issue of the series. The backup, with Joe Eisma art, is a rather charming short focusing on Wally as he figures out where his powers came from and how he can use them to do a little good at his school. Not groundbreaking, but this is the first use of the new Wally where he comes off as a likable character. Overall, the issue as a whole is a fun #50 that more sets things up for a promising future.

The series as a whole has been composed of two runs. The first, by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, took some odd turns. The Rogues being entirely metahumans now was controversial, but their new take on Golden Glider was a fun revamp. The new Reverse Flash was sort of a dud of a character, given his unceremonious end in Suicide Squad, but the title as a whole was gorgeous, and had some great use of the speed force and interesting original villains like the misguided Darwin Elias.

The Jensen/Venditti run was more of a classic Flash run, but also covered a lot of ground we’ve seen before. Thawne was a bit too much of a moustache-twirling villain compared to his TV version and his minions didn’t make an impression. And oh, lord, the extended evil future Barry story was not good. The new version of Wally suffered from being an unlikable stereotype, but it seems like things are turning around on that front. Josh Williamson’s run coming down the pipe seems like it’s going to be a shot in the arm for this series.

Flash #50 cover, copyright DC Comics
Flash #50 cover, copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Ray is kinder on this series than I would be. It’s not that it’s been terrible but it’s not been memorable, either. The 50th anniversary is much like the rest of the stories. It’s a quick enough read but nothing sticks with me. I suspect the problem is that Barry Allen himself hasn’t been made a memorable character. Adding in his mother’s death was supposed to make him more angsty and relatable but, instead, it made him too much like every other angsty hero out there. The knock on Barry Allen was that he was dull and that Wally West as the Flash was more interesting. The angst may have been added to make him less dull but instead, it made Barry part of the crowd instead.

What would have set Barry apart would have been some old-fashioned belief in doing the right thing because he’s a police officer and a scientist and he wants to help people. But, so far, there’s nothing even approaching, say, Wally’s catch-phrase of “I’m Wally West and I’m the fastest man alive,” from one of his definitive runs. To me, this entire series is a lost opportunity to do something different.

However, yes, it’s been good to see Wally back and as an African-American is a good thing. One of the few positive elements of this run has been adding diversity to the DCU.

Action Comics #51 – Peter Tomasi, Writer; Paul Pelletier, Penciller; Sandra Hope-Archer, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: The Story Was Going So Well Until Now

Ray: It’s chapter three of “The Last Days of Superman”, as Superman continues to tour the DC universe and prepare the people he cares about for a world without him. This is probably the weakest of the three chapters, lacking a bit of dramatic tension, but at the same time – Supergirl’s back! That in and of itself makes me happy! The chapter opens with Superman speeding over to the just revealed National City, bursting into DEO headquarters, and freeing Supergirl from an elaborate laboratory setup where tests are being run on her – only for her to tell him to back off, that she went there voluntarily.

You might remember that when Kara’s solo series ended, she was losing her powers, and this is finally explained here as a byproduct of Vandal Savage’s comet getting close to earth and leeching power away from the heroes. So, essentially, a post-game tie-in to Truth. However, once Superman collapses in mid-air and Kara finds out about his condition, things pick up. Clark takes her to the Fortress, where he essentially passes the history of Krypton and its legacy on to the girl who will soon be the last survivor of the House of El, as far as he knows. I was a little less interested in the mystery villain who is possessed by the power of Superman and seems to vacillate between good and evil, and the mystery Chinese villains aiming to steal Superman’s blood. The heart of the issue is Clark and Kara, though, and on that note, it succeeds. Next issue, though – Superman has it out with Wonder Woman, and given that relationship…a bit worried.

Corrina: The first two chapters of this story were fine and had me interested in it. This story featured the same dumb jerk Superman that I’ve had problems with all along in the new 52. Dude, don’t you ever knock? It’s not like you couldn’t storm in there as a back-up plan after making sure of the situation. I knew, he’s ill, but jeez. It would seem then that he’d want to conserve his energy.

Wonder Woman bursting onto the scene and yelling at him for not telling her sent me looking for a facepalm meme. Agreed with Ray that I’m thinking that won’t go well. Or be that interesting to read, if her entrance is any indication.

I’m not sure why this third installment read so badly. Maybe it was rushed? The scenes with Superman and Supergirl were quite nice but, boy, that’s a lot of responsibility to throw on a teenage girl’s shoulders. (Is she even 18? She’s 18 by now, right?)

I’m sure the mystery Chinese villains have something to do with the upcoming Chinese Superman, so hopefully that will be interesting.

Aquaman #51 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Vincent Ciufuentes, Penciller; Juan Castro, Inker; Guy Major, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: You Have My Attention.

Ray: Now that we know this is essentially a prequel arc to Aquaman Rebirth, where Abnett will be continuing as head writer, the sheer number of plots he’s introducing in this short four-issue run starts to make a lot more sense. This issue sort of pulls back, without much focus on the politics of Atlantis and Mera’s new role, and is more of a straight action story.

Dead Water, the horrific murderous serpent, has been captured and reverted back to an ordinary human with no memories. Aquaman is keeping him as a captive in a dehydration chamber, away from water, and this segment of a superhero essentially torturing a man with no memory of his crimes is rather uncomfortable. He reveals who’s behind his transformation – Scavenger – and it turns out that his victims were all people who he had a grudge against and the monster subconsciously carried out a vendetta against them. Where the issue is strongest is when Dead Water is actually on screen, as the monster is unique and creepy. Scavenger is far more of a standard villain and doesn’t leave a strong impression when he appears, attacking Aquaman in a generic battle armor. Still, the new status quo as a whole is promising. I’m hoping the lighter touch we saw in the last two issues shows up a bit more in the future.

Corrina: There’s a lot of emotion in this comic, between Arthur’s worry about helping Dead Water and the man’s own conflicted feelings, ranging from anger at being imprisoned to denial about his monstrous self to his need to see his child. I feel for Dead Water and I hope he doesn’t end up dead at the end of this. Considering that he was only introduced last issue and his human self didn’t speak until this one, that’s quite a feat.

As Ray said, next to Dead Water, Scavenger is dull and uninteresting. That’s too bad because I like all the characterizations so far in Abnett’s run. Cifuentes art is excellent too, showing the emotions on human faces but also capable of drawing the monstrous villain. I only wish he’d made Mera look less like a twenty-year-old.

Harley’s Little Black Book #3 – Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, Writers; Joseph Michael Linsner, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Best Villain Name Ever.

Ray: While the main series has been taking a bit more of a serious turn lately, this bimonthly team-up book has been the place to get over the top wacky Harley antics. This issue pairs her with Zatanna, a character who seems to have been sidelined since Justice League Dark. And where Zatanna goes, bizarre supernatural hijinks follow. The art this issue is by Joseph Michael Linsner, famous for the indie series Dawn, and he does gorgeous versions of the two leads.

Zatanna’s in town to perform at Coney Island, and she’s crashing at Harley’s apartment building at the exact same time that Harley’s superhero buddies from London arrive. This group is like a version of Section Eight – aggressively incompetent, more than a bit obnoxious – only not horrible. Meanwhile, a trio of phantom former carnival workers who have been seeking refuge in an abandoned haunted house are displaced when the place is torn down – setting an ancient enemy after them. This comic does a really good job of mixing over-the-top superhero comedy with some genuine supernatural thrills. The villain is nicely creepy, and there are some good settings mixed in. Plus, the eventual way Harley gets out of her deal with a demon made me laugh, even if it basically is an old O’Henry twist. The done-in-one structure of this series combined with some small ongoing plots has made this probably Harley’s best showcase at the moment.

Corrina: Likely Harley’s superhero buddies would become annoying after a while but so far, they’re working.

I was hard on a Harley issue last week but this week? I loved it. It had just the right amount of humor for a Harley book, including insight into Harley and her ghost beaver. (Yes, I mean that literally.) I’m not sure what to do with the realization that Harley can see ghosts except to say, well, her mind has always been open to all influences, so I suppose it makes sense. It certainly helps this story.

But it was when the eventual demon showed up, with the name of DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio, only spelled backwards, that I burst out laughing. Tweaking the boss isn’t always a good idea but, hey, it’s Harley. I’d recommend this to Zatanna and Harley fans and it could be read as a stand alone.

Wonder Woman #51 – Meredith Finch, Writer; Miguel Mendonca, Penciller; Dexter Vines and Diana Egea, Inker; Stephen Downer and Ulises Arreola, Colorists

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Art is Quite Good.

Ray: With only two issues to go before Rebirth and Rucka, this series seems to be playing out the string with an issue whose playbook feels cribbed from every Scarecrow issue in Batman. Diana finds herself in Tartarus, betrayed by Hecate, and is subjected to a series of disturbing visions of her past, present, and future. There’s some revisiting of childhood trauma and bullying, a visit from Zombie Zola and Zeke, blaming her for failing them, and an odd creepy encounter with Superman where Diana hallucinates herself as pregnant for some reason. Then she’s confronted by a specter of Hera blaming her for everything that’s gone wrong, for betraying her, etc. This is revealed to be the real Hera, consumed by hatred and driven insane by the same illusions of Tartarus. They’re able to see through the illusions and reconcile, and head back to Olympus – where they find Zola seemingly dead.

The issue manages to be both wordy and brief, somehow, and the highlight is the creepy visuals of Tartarus by guest artist Miguel Mendonca. The issue as a whole is lacking, though, and I’ll be glad to see this comic enter a new era come June.

Corrina: Wordy, because Wonder Woman has a lot of internal monologue but brief because not much happens here except Diana walks the gauntlet of her own fears. I could wish for more imaginative visions of her fears but the pacing is good and Hera’s reveal is a nice one.

But what really struck me on this issue is the art. Mendonca, Vines and Egea deserve all the credit for delivering Tartarus in all its creepiness. Finch’s script is only okay but the art moves this issue it a notch above the rest of her run. My biggest issue is that there’s no forward movement on why Zeke is sick in the first place.

Superman: American Alien #6 – Max Landis, Writer; Jonathan Case, Artist

Ray – 4/10

Corrina: Just Bros Hanging Out

Ray: This continues to be one of the most puzzling comics DC has put out in some time. The quality vacillates wildly from issue to issue, despite the writer staying the same, and the creative decisions Landis makes in his retelling of the Superman origin are just bizarre.

This issue shelves Luthor, Batman, and mostly Lois from the last few issues, and focuses on Superman and his friends from Smallville. Pete Ross is essentially portrayed as the BMOC friend who never grew up and never left town, and he and Clark have some major nasty clashes over the way Clark’s going about his superhero duties, primarily fueled by Pete’s paranoia over the future of superpowers. They’re accompanied by third wheel Kenny Braverman, who 90’s fans will remember as sociopathic villain Conduit. Here he’s literally just a generic quiet nerd character. Jimmy Olsen shows up for the first time, this time as a young black man who looks nothing like Mehcad Brooks, so it seems American Alien is pretty firmly out-of-continuity.

The series takes one of its turns for the gleefully bizarre at the end when Superman fights with Pete, flies into space, and encounters Abin Sur while confused and vaguely drunk. Just odd stuff all around, although Jonathan Case’s art is pretty fantastic on a strange script. I’m just not sure why we needed yet another Superman retelling, especially this one.

Corrina: It’s Superman as a bro, just hanging with his dude friends this issue. Like Ray said, the creative choices on this series is puzzling. I believe this issue is meant to show how Clark is growing up and coming into his own. Using his friends from Smallville is a good idea.

But the execution? How can one count on a hero who gets drunk and flies into space and likely would have killed himself if not for the Green Lantern who saved him? I understand this is a young Superman but that’s just idiotic. Even normal humans usually don’t go do something suicidal when their childhood friends aren’t thrilled with their lifestyle choices.

If this series is Max Landis’ overall vision of Superman,  I’m glad he’s not in charge of a Superman movie. There’s some originality here but there’s absolutely no sense of wonder at all.

Legends of Tomorrow #2 – Gerry Conway, Aaron Lopresti, Keith Giffen, Len Wein, Writers; Eduardo Pansico, Aaron Lopresti, Bilquis Evely, Yildray Cinar, Pencillers; Rob Hunter, Matt Banning, Trevor Scott, Inkers; Andrew Dalhouse, Chris Sotomayor, Ivan Plascencia, Dean White, Colorists

Ray:

Firestorm – 8/10
Metamorpho – 7/10
Sugar and Spike – 5/10
Metal Men – 7/10

Corrina: Decent Stories. High Price Tag.

Ray: This comic continues to be a very mixed bag, with the four stories having little to nothing in common with each other, not even really in tone. The opening segment is the strongest, as Gerry Conway continues to have a strong grasp on Firestorm and his supporting characters. I was surprised to see Conway jettison Jason Rusch from the Matrix in favor of the old Raymond/Stein partnership, but it’s the dynamic he’s previously written and I suspect it’ll be temporary – despite Stein’s protests to the contrary. With both Multiplex and Major Force lurking around to cause trouble, this is a good, old-school Firestorm comic. It feels like Conway never left.

Metamorpho is pretty decent, as Rex Mason starts to get better control of his powers with the assistance of Sapphire Stagg. The biggest strength this series has is Aaron Lopresti’s art, as he really seems to have a good grasp of just how bizarre and powerful Metamorpho’s powers can be. I’m not sure how well the new ties to Egyptian mythology work, and none of the villains – Java, Simon Stagg, or alien tyrant Kanjar Ro – make much of an impression. The same pretty much goes for Metal Men, which covers a lot of ground we’ve seen before. I did think there were a few clever touches here, including Will Magnus’ daring breakout of his Metal Men, and I was surprised by just how many characters make their New 52 debut here – both Robotman and classic Red Tornado haven’t appeared in a very long time, have they? Still, both the evil hacker and the generic government threats feel very warmed over.

The fourth feature, Sugar and Spike, continues to stick out like a sore thumb here. This issue finds the PIs helping Superman to clean out an old hideout of his where he stored Kryptonite when he was young, before the Superman-shaped isle is turned into a luxury resort. The reason why evil toys are taking over the island is never really explained, but the biggest issue is the oddly venomous way these two childhood best friends treat each other. It’s just not particularly fun to read, and the quirkiness of the concept is undone by the tone.

Corrina: One of the reasons I enjoyed the Firestorm story so much is that I invariably heard Victor Garber’s dulcet tones in my head every time Stein had dialogue. That was excellent. However, getting rid of Jason in favor of the original Firestorm combination of Stein/Ronnie is an odd choice. I wonder what’s behind it? Synching things up with the television version or creative choice? But if DC wanted this synched with the television version, it would have merged Stein with Jason, not Ronnie. Like Ray, I’m not convinced this is permanent.

Metamorpho seems to be the comic most willing to take chances in revitalizing an older property, especially with Sapphire Stagg’s characterization. That woman has been nothing but a sexy lamp for nearly her entire history. Here, she’s not so much madly in love with Rex as she is determined to do the right thing and find out the truth about what her father had done. Rex, given his continual shape-changing, is definitely a character that allows Lopresti’s art to shine.

Metal Men felt more like a mosh to me. Are we tossing all the artificially intelligent DC characters into one comic now with the additions of Red Tornado and Cliff (Robotman) Steele? Um, okay.

Sugar and Spike go to an island shaped like Superman. If a story starts with a premise like that, it has to be bizarre and over-the-top to carry it off. It’s not, and the craziness of the situation is too underplayed to carry the story.

Superman: Lois and Clark #7 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Lee Weeks, Stephen Segovia, Pencillers; Scott Hanna, Art Thibert, Jay Leisten, Inkers; Jeremy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 9/10 (Book of the Week)

This book has turned out to be a stealth prequel to the biggest twist of Rebirth, so look for it to get a ton of action in the back issue market come may. It’ll be well deserved since as I said repeatedly, it’s the best Superman book we’ve gotten in years. The issue opens just after Lois and Jon escaped a burning shed courtesy of Jon’s nascent powers, only to encounter Intergang. A

fter a brief detour dealing with dumbass supervillain for hire Blackrock, Superman shows up and rescues his family, and the parents and son finally have it out over the secrets they’ve kept from their child. I’ve got to say, this scene was written incredibly well. I don’t know if Jurgens is a parent, but he completely nailed the struggle of parents to keep their kids safe combined with the hurt kids feel when they discover a family secret that was kept from them. I’m also amused by the fact that Jon thinks Flash can beat Superman in a race. Smart kid!

Where the issue is at its best is in the interaction between these core characters. I actually felt a bit bad for Blackrock, who was more stupid than anything – he genuinely seemed shocked that his actions killed someone in what was supposed to be a controlled demolition. The other villains, like alien queen Hyathis, feel a bit more like stock characters, but they serve their purpose. This Superman has a bit more of an edge to him, but it’s not like Man of Steel Superman. He’s an older, desperate man who has everything to lose. Based on what we’ve seen, I can’t wait to follow his adventures as the Superman of Rebirth. The Man of Steel is fully back for the first time since 2011.

Corrina: Agreed with everything Ray said. It’s amazing how much personality that even Jon Kent has in this brief run and that bodes well for his team-up comic with Damian (Robin) Wayne.

It’s so rare to have families portrayed well in superhero comics. This comic should go on the shelf next to the Blue Beetle revival that used Jaime Reyes as a member of one of the best family stories ever.

Titans Hunt #7 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Paolo Siqueria, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Mecha-WHAT?

Ray: First the good news! Despite a mistake in solicits, this issue is in fact written by regular series writer Dan Abnett, not Scott Lobdell. Much like Lois and Clark, this series is very much a prequel to a new Rebirth status quo, as Abnett will continue onto a new Titans series with this cast. That being said, this issue feels a bit more like a holding pattern issue as we head towards next month’s big conclusion. The members of the team are still divided, on their own paths, and Diablo has sent vicious assassins after them to silence them before they discover the truth.

The “squad” of Roy, Lilith, Caveboy, Hawk, and Dove are menaced by a father-daughter team of redneck transformer assassins, which is as absurd as it sounds. These villains are hilariously 90’s, but overall, the battle with them drags out a little too long. Most interesting development this issue goes to Karen. As Mal’s pregnant wife is menaced by the modern day version of Mad Mod, she develops powers of her own and knocks him out, making me much happier about her portrayal so far in the series. Meanwhile, Dick, Donna, and Garth are climbing the mysterious tower created by Mr. Twister, and find a bloodied Mal at the top, on the bone organ – as well as a demonic Mr. Twister. This issue doesn’t have too many big moments, but it sets things up nicely for the finale next month. Quibbles with the pacing aside, it’s great to have this team back.

Corrina: Redneck Transformer assassins seem more like something Lobdell would write, despite his not being on the writing credits. Those felt so at odds with the rest of the series but, I admit, they were amusing enough. But their biggest flaw is they substituted a ridiculous brawl instead of forward plot momentum. I wonder if that’s because this new organization that hired the Mechas is going to be a player in Rebirth? I hope not because what the DC Universe doesn’t need is yet another secret spy agency who knows best.

I’m still loving Gnaark. He gets all the best lines. I’m hopeful that Mr. Twister will be defeated by hope and youth. That’s the way it should work for the Titans, right?

Martian Manhunter #11 – Rob Williams, Writer; Ben Oliver, Artist; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: ::doffs hat in memory of Mr. Biscuits::

Ray: DC You’s most bizarre sci-fi comic rockets towards its conclusion in the wake of the death of a fan favorite character – or is he dead? The answer is not simple, as things rarely are with the multifaceted Martian Manhunter, but the scene between Darrell Wessel and the dying Mister Biscuits is easily the highlight this issue – alternatively tragic and hilarious.

Those intimate moments aside, the rest of the issue is on a HUGE scale, as J’onn puts into effect a strange plan to save the people of Mars while letting Mars meet its preordained end. Teaming up with the Pearl, he comes up with a plan where she will stretch her body to such an extent that she merges with the city itself, lifting it and ferrying the Martian refugees to Earth. This issue does a good job of covering the kind of mental and physical stress a stunt like this would pull on a shape-shifter – and on J’onn, who’s the one who shields her from the sun.

I also enjoyed Constantine and the Justice League Dark’s short guest appearance this issue, even if they’re mainly there to comment on just how bizarre everything is. Where the issue falls down a tiny bit is in the portrayal of big bad Ma’ale’fak, who comes off as sort of a stock villain. He looks creepy and he’s certainly pulling off evil deeds on a huge scale, but he twirls his moustache a bit too much. That quibble aside, though, I cannot wait to see how this series wraps up. Much like Omega Men and Midnighter, this book is a short-lived masterpiece that will hopefully find a second life in trade.

Corrina: The idea of all Martian souls being loaded into a monster-sized facsimile of the Martian Manhunter should be absolutely ridiculous but instead it comes across as an awesome science fiction concept and provides a great showcase for the imagination in this story.

The Martians are all J’onn. He’s all the Martians. But, still, we can grieve for the individual selves. I’m not sure what the fallout of this story will be and I’m afraid it will never be followed up on but this is one trade paperback I’ll be recommending for years to come.

Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #4 – Amy Chu, Writer; Robson Rocha, Julio Ferreira,Ethan Van Sciver, Pencillers; Jay Leisten, Ethan Van Sciver, Inkers; Ulises Arreola, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Mama Ivy Not Happy.

Ray: We finally start getting some serious answers this issue, as Ivy enlists the help of the two people she trusts most – lab assistant Darshan and her old friend Selina Kyle – to break into the secret labs of her company to find who stole her research and what they’re doing with it. Too much of the early going is devoted to the three of them arguing over what to do and then dealing with generic security measures and goons as they make their way through the HQ, but Chu’s dialogue keeps things from getting stale.

Then things get creepy and intense in a hurry, as they start to find bodies of half-man, half-plant victims littered through the lab. The mastermind is finally revealed and it’s not really a twist – but what he’s been doing is. The reveal of a third, more advanced sporeling is a big twist, and it’s been a while since we truly saw Ivy unleashed. There’s some disturbing visuals in this issue – both in what sets her off and what she does once she’s angry. Much like Titans Hunt this week, this issue takes a little while to get going and seems more set-up than anything else, but once it gets going…batten down the hatches. Can’t wait for next month.

Corrina: But I enjoyed the dialogue so much at the beginning that I wasn’t bothered by the talk between the three of them. It’s those little character moments that I love in superhero comics. Not only does Chu have Ivy’s voice down, she also does a great job with Selina and would be one of my picks to write Catwoman in the future.

Given this series is about an anti-hero, I fear it will end with the older plant-child that Ivy saves killing Ivy’s other children and sending Ivy to a bad place. That’s too bad because, murderous soul that she can be, I want Ivy to enjoy her progeny.

Robin, Son of Batman #11 – Ray Fawkes, Writer; Ramon Bachs, Artist; Mat Lopes, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

The fill-in team of Fawkes and Bachs returns this issue, as Damian’s quest to finish off atoning for the Year of Blood takes him to Gorilla City to confront the child terrorist Suren Darga. On the surface, there’s certainly some fun stuff here – a child ninja riding a giant were-bat as he fights killer gorillas!

Unfortunately, the story this issue is lacking in a number of ways. For one thing, after a few battle sequences, Batman drops in to assist his son. The costume indicates that this is definitely post-#50 Batman. This should be a huge emotional moment, especially given the gut punch of Gleason’s scene involving Damian and the amnesiac Bruce. Instead, it’s done in almost a cursory manner, with a throwaway line about Batman’s return. This scene never should have been done by a fill-in team. Damian’s tension with his mother feels real, but some of the dialogue feels exaggerated this issue – although Damian is a petulant pre-teen, so maybe that’s how it should be. Maya’s seeming disappearance/death this issue was abrupt and left me wondering what’s up, and Suren is essentially a moustache-twirling alignment-flip of Damian so far. Still, next issue – Mother, Father, and Son against dinosaurs, so this can’t be all bad.

Doctor Fate #11 – Paul Levitz, Writer; Sonny Liew, Artist; Lee Loughridge, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Since the start, this has been a promising book with a likable lead character and an intriguing mythology behind it. Unfortunately, the tone seems to shift massively this issue, and not for the better. If I hadn’t read the credits, I would think there had been a creative team shift like there was on Robin, but no. After the epic first arc’s battle with Anubis and the apocalypse, a lighter tone is not unwelcome, but the current big bad of an evil Egyptian general who has enslaved the ghosts of Julius Caesar and his Centurions is almost overly jokey.

There’s never any real sense of danger in this issue. Interestingly, Sonny Liew’s art also seems to shift dramatically during these battle sequences, as both Khalid and his foes come off as very cartoony and distorted. The effect isn’t the same when we focus on Khalid’s friends and parents, which makes me wonder if the shift in style is intention. Also, I know Donald Trump is an easy and deserving target, but c’mon, people – this is the second time in two months we’ve had a villain yell “Make ____ Great Again” in a DC book. This isn’t really satire. There’s flashes of good stuff in this issue, mainly in Khalid’s dialogue and his supporting cast, but I’ll be well glad to have this threat behind us.

Out-Of-Continuity Review:

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Five #8 – Brian Buccellato, Writer; Bruno Redondo, Penciller; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

With the main threats locked up again, Superman’s focus has returned to taking down dissent in all its forms, and his ire is raised when he finds out that a group of rebels are invoking the name of the Joker in their actions. As Batwoman and Harley try to get the rebels to drop their embrace of the murderous clown, Superman tracks them down and exacts a brutal vengeance. We’ve seen this Superman cross the line before, obviously, but this is the first time we’ve seen him openly commit mass murder and it’s a disturbing scene. This comic is a bit too grim-dark for me, but I liked some of the scenes in the rebellion, especially Bruce’s top-secret communiques with Alfred – which include cookie deliveries. A little levity in this universe is a good thing.

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