With the DC You initiative of a year ago, a gay hero and a bisexual hero each received a book. Not only does DC deserves credit for that, but the creators on Midnighter and Constantine the Hellblazer deserve all kinds of credit for crafting compelling stories and characters.
Midnighter ends this week, though hopefully it’s not the last we see of him. More people should have bought this series. Go find it in trade. Now.
Also excellent this week was the continually amazing digital first series, The Legend of Wonder Woman. I hope the writers of the new movie are reading this series because it hits all the right notes for Diana.
As for the rest of the books this week? We were lukewarm on most of them, save the fun Scooby-Doo Team-Up #16. If you ever wanted Velma and Shaggy say “Shazam” and turn into superheroes, this is your book. Your kids will like it, too.
As always, MAJOR SPOILERS IN THE REVIEWS.
Midnighter #12 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Aco, Hugo Petrus, Artists; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10 (Book of the Week)
Corrina: Fantastic Serious. One of the Best Parts of the DC You Initiative.
Ray: One of many books ending this month or shortly thereafter that was just too good for this market, Steve Orlando’s gonzo take on Midnighter has been one of the most original and gripping titles the troubled DC You relaunch has given us. This is especially impressive given that Midnighter – and all of the Wildstorm characters – had a reputation as an inch-deep 90’s caricature, something titles like Grifter, Voodoo, Stormwatch, and Team 7 did little to rectify.
Here, though, Orlando not only took Midnighter’s power set and used it to create some of the best action scenes I’ve seen in a mainstream comic in recent memory, but grounded the story in a fascinating character, a broken sci-fi soldier cleaning up the world one brutal fight at the time. Much like with Constantine, I was here as much for the main plots as I was for the twists and turns in Midnighter’s train-wreck of a personal life. The final villain, the Unified, is essentially a combination of the power sets of Midnighter and Apollo, making him a powerful opponent, but we know Midnighter’s going to win and the enjoyment is in watching the show. Is Henry Bendix’ plan particularly interesting? No, he’s much more of a Wildstorm relic than anything in this book. However, between the action and the way Orlando ties up loose ends, this is a fantastic final issue, especially in the emotional reunion between Apollo and Midnighter in the last few pages. I knew these two were endgame, which took the sting out of the Prometheus reveal earlier in this run. Let’s just hope that Steve Orlando still gets a chance to write Midnighter in the future. Undercover mission as a gym teacher at Supergirl’s high school, anyone?
Corrina: The perception is that Midnighter is a grim n’ gritty Batman analogue with nothing new to offer beyond that. Orlando, Aco and the other artists blasted that perception away with an original look at the darkest corners of the DC Universe and the battles fought in the shadows. At the same time, they gave their main character much more of a personality than Batman Dark. This Midnighter knows he’s a flawed person but he’s not particularly haunted. It’s more that he accepted he was broken and, well, he’s going to use it. I love that his emotional journey in this series eventually brought him back to Apollo. As Ray said, I became concerned a bit in the middle of this series, when it was revealed Prometheus had been posing as Midnighter’s lover in order to get closer to him, but the ending with Apollo more than makes up for it.
I had no idea when this series started that it would turn out to be one of my absolute favorites. Creative team, take a bow.
The Legend of Wonder Woman #5 – Renae De Liz, Writer/Artist; Ray Dillon, Inker/Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: This Series Makes Me Happy.
Ray: This title hasn’t had a bad issue since it started, and this isn’t the first. #5 does feel a bit more like a bridge issue than any of the ones that came before it, but that’s sort of necessary at this point in the story. Now that she’s in Man’s World with Etta Candy, Diana is trying to fit in and adjust to our weird culture, which results in some hilarious misunderstandings (Diana’s take on Shakespeare) and some serious ones (her attempt to enlist in the armed forces after finding out about WW2). This is a very good take on the fish out of water concept, showing how she’s out of her element while not incompetent by any stretch. There’s an amusing B-plot involving an embarrassing advertisement put up by Etta’s parents, but it’s a chance encounter with Steve Trevor – now a national hero – that sends Diana and Etta on the path to becoming nurses in the war abroad, which allows Diana to track down a mysterious new villain with magic powers, the Duke of Deception. There are some slight similarities here between the main plot and the plot of Bombshells, involving a supernatural force turning Nazi fallen soldiers into Zombies, but it’s intriguing so far. I also loved the cameo by a young Perry White on the path to becoming an honorable journalist. Strong issue, and I’m hoping this book doesn’t lose its charm once it heads to the war front.
Corrina: This is a bridge issue, yes. Things I loved: Diana’s confusion about why women couldn’t do what the men could. She’s not angry; she’s utterly bewildered as to why this could be. I also loved her take on clothes: functional for fighting, hence the chicken dress made of the material she thought would be suitable for a warrior.
Etta makes a great guide for Diana and, as Ray said, this is a comedic issue. I thought it hit all the right notes, though Steve’s appearance is, of course, a huge coincidence. Maybe not, though, given the gods might be moving pieces around. The only worry I have is about the Duke of Deception. I thought he seemed the weakest part of this entire series but that’s like saying he’s only merely good while the rest of the series is wonderful. Greg Rucka and Nicolas Scott are going to be doing a Wonder Woman year one story starting this summer in the regular series. They’ll be hard-pressed to match the quality of this.
And how much do I love the fact that Diana is taller than everyone in this issue? De Liz remembers that she’s an Amazon. Huzzah. I’m running out of superlatives for this book.
Batman/Superman #32 – Peter Tomasi, Writer; Doug Mahnke, Penciller; Jaime Mendoza, Christian Alamy, Livesay, Tom Nyguen, Inkers; Wil Quintana, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Seemed Like an Excuse For a Fight Scene.
Ray: A definite improvement from last issue’s focus on Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship, although I will point out that the issue is at its weakest when the two are sharing the page together. Batman’s sarcasm whenever the two of them start getting cute amused me – once again Batman speaks for the audience.
The bulk of this issue takes place in China, as the Trinity arrives in search of the mysterious energy creature formed from Superman’s solar flare energy, and are immediately confronted by the Great Ten. It’s good to see these obscure heroes from the pages of 52 again (and they certainly have more potential than another obscure gang of heroes making a comeback this week), although most of them are primarily used as generic punching bags for the Trinity this issue. Still, I always liked their unique power sets, and Mahnke does a great job with their unique designs. Also, there’s a Yeti on the team now! When they manage to talk things out with the Great Ten and get to the secret lab run by Doctor Omen, they discover what seems to be the first appearance of Gene Yang’s New Superman, although he doesn’t get to do or say much this issue.
Meanwhile, Lois is being threatened by the strange energy Superman in Metropolis. This issue is lacking in the strong emotional moments of the first three parts, but it’s still an entertaining action-fest that sets up some interesting things for the last three chapters and the Rebirth status quo.
Corrina: The first two segments of this story remain its strongest and I’m worrying the promise of it all has flitted away with the last two chapters. It could be with a story designed to help recreate the universe that too many boxes need checking and that gets in the way of a good story. Batman, as Ray said, steals the issue with his sarcastic asides, making Superman seem like an after-thought.
I’m not familiar with the Big Ten, as they were a creation from around the beginning of the new 52, four years ago, and not much has been done with them since. I think the fight sequence is to give readers a sense of their powers and personalities but the reason they start fighting seems so random and the reason they stop just as random. Hey, you tried to sneak into our country! Let’s fight without discussing why! Oh, hey, I guess since you’re concerned about hurting my teammates, we’ll stop! I hope if the Big Ten are a large part of DC’s future that they’re handled better in those stories. They’re an intriguing crew. I had no idea the Yeti was new. That makes sense, given they’re supposed to exist in the Himalayas.
Basically, Ray was entertained by the action. I wasn’t, though Mahnke drew it nicely and I liked the Big Ten’s designs too.
Batman: Detective Comics #52 – Peter Tomasi, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Matt Ryan, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Old-School Pulp Ending.
Ray: The first of this week’s series to reach the final #52 issue, this wraps up the Jim Gordon Batman era with an oddball but entertaining story that takes the down-to-earth hero into some seriously bizarre territory. The first issue set up an intriguing mystery involving some forgotten horror from the Middle East that was picking off Jim’s former Marine buddies. Heading back to the war grounds with a Batman suit en route, Jim started investigating with the help of some old allies – and in this issue, the military thriller transforms into a Hammer horror film with alarming speed! The old Marines find a hidden temple and start exploring it, only to come across an army of cultists, in the service of an evil mummy who requires sacrifices to gain his full strength and ascend. The finale of the issue turns into a flaming temple escape straight out of Indiana Jones and is a bit more violent than I expected. Did we really need that last splash page of the villain’s horrible fate? Still, it’s exciting, and once Jim is home free, there’s a very powerful page with him visiting the widows of the men he wasn’t able to save. A good story overall, and I love that a generation from now when looking up this era of Batman, people will find that there was a story where Jim Gordon fought the Mummy.
Corrina: Ray and I discussed this issue on PMs and Facebook. We loved the characterization of Gordon and the marines who follow him into battle. If you’re a Jim Gordon fan, it’s a great showcase for why he’s such a unique type of Batman.
But the rest? It’s like reading an old-school pulp novel where the white explorers stumble into some evil native magic and must pay the price for their interference. That’s how thin the plot is and how thin the villain is. Gordon and the Marines stumble into the hidden crypt, a man is transformed into an evil super-strong mummy by virtue of the skin of his enemies, and more fighting. There’s no explanation to the magic or why the villain rose from the dead or even a sense of its origin. It also reads–as the old pulp stories did–as more than a bit dismissive of the native culture. (Which I think is either Iraq or DC’s equivalent of Iraq.) So, I’m torn. Love Gordon. Find the story a bit squicky on its handling of non-white evil stereotypes.
Green Lantern #52 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Billy Tan, Penciller; Mark Irwin, Livesay, Inkers; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Rushed Conclusion.
Ray: After all the universe-trotting adventures that have taken place in this 52-issue run, it’s kind of amusing to me that it all comes down to a Wild West standoff inside Hal’s spaceship. Newly returned from his adventures on Earth, Hal finds his ship and his new allies Virgo and Tracker being held hostage by Marshall Ranck and the Grey Agents. These corrupt vigilante lawmen intend to make their name by tracking down the cosmos’ most wanted fugitives – no matter who they have to kill in the process.
The problem is, this story feels more than a bit rushed. Ranck and his minions have barely appeared previously, and they’re mostly generic (although their interrogator has a cool design). They’re eventually scared off after Hal’s mysterious new energy-being powers manifest again, and it becomes clear he’s starting to lose himself to the power a bit. He parts ways with Virgo and Trapper and goes off to figure out what he’s becoming and to try to bring back the GLC. It’s a perfectly acceptable final issue, with some good action sequences, but it feels more like a prelude to the next chapter than anything, not a conclusion. Venditti’s run feels like it’s been mired in small ball for a bit, which reminds me of how Johns’ run actually felt in the half-year before the OYL jump after Rebirth. Let’s hope that like last time, a Rebirth is the key to truly buzz-worthy GL stories again.
Corrina: The story definitely feels rushed. The idea that Hal is becoming a green light/energy being that he can’t control is interesting visually–all props to the art team for that–but it also reminds me that Hal has been corrupted by Lantern energy before. (Hello, Parallax.) Hal also gets quite murdery with the vigilantes. (I’m not sure I’d call them lawmen, as they seem like space’s version of stormtroopers who want to control everything.)
The issue then jettisons the supporting cast, leaving Hal adrift, though the comic promises the return of the Lantern Corps and Hal as a primary member of the Corps. If you’re a Lantern fan, maybe this run satisfied you, but I suspect there’s nothing in it to create new fans of Hal.
Green Arrow #52 – Ben Percy, Writer; Szymon Kudranski, Artist; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Love/Hate Relationship Here.
Ray: Like GL, this title is continuing into Rebirth with the same writer, so there’s no real urgency to bring the run to a close. Ben Percy didn’t seem to notice, though, as this issue contains three major villains, several huge battles, and in general never slows down for more than a minute. On one hand, that makes for an exciting read, but on the other it makes the issue feel a bit frantic and jumbled.
Ollie turns out to be not so dead thanks to Dr. Miracle’s blood on the sword that stabbed him (which also cures him of the Warg disease), and he and Emiko escape to track down the good doctor before Deathstroke can deliver him to the evil billionaire who wants to bleed him dry and gain immortal life. I was amused that Deathstroke, who was determined to deliver his quarry, couldn’t care less if his quarry stays there. He’s a man without honor or loyalty, but he also has no loyalty to the villains he serves. I like this Deathstroke more than the one in his own series. After rescuing the Doctor and asking him to help make a cure, Ollie and Emiko return to the city where a war between the Wargs and the anti-Warg terrorists is erupting, and the last part of the issue is basically Ollie trying to talk reason into rampaging werewolves and fascists. Kudranski’s art is great and there’s some good action, but the conclusion feels very rushed.
Corrina: I like this Deathstroke in this issue but not the one from the earlier issues, where he was ranting and making over-the-top threats. His characterization is, like Percy’s entire run, erratic, veering from idea to idea with plots that can seem disconnected or oddly placed. At times, this has worked great. I loved Ollie’s characterization this issue, as he became more mature, and I’m so glad the whole Warg disease is gone from him, as that seemed to take forever to resolve. The cuts to the Wargs being rounded up in camps and their subsequent rebellion is well done and builds suspense but then Ollie just lets the head Warg terrorist go, even though he’s a murderer several times over? That makes no sense.
Percy definitely has a distinct voice but it seems to go in and out of tune several times during this single issue.
The Flash #51 – Van Jensen, Writer; Gus Vasquez, Joe Eisma, Artists; Gus Major, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Are We Back to Batman: Zero Year Again?
Ray: Now that Riddler’s been unmasked as the villain behind all of Flash’s recent troubles, we’ve got an interesting status quo going on. What happens when the fastest man alive meets the swiftest mind alive? Well, based on this first issue, it seems like the mind has the upper hand. Riddler plays on Flash’s greatest weakness – he can outrun almost anything, but he can’t be in more than one place at the same time. Thus, Riddler plays on this by threatening to target random Central City citizens with his drones unless Flash surrenders. Flash will always prioritize innocent life over himself, and the Riddler would have won – if it wasn’t for Pied Piper speeding to the rescue and driving Flash out of there before Riddler could kill him. Good to see Piper back and being heroic again, for one thing. This is definitely psycho Zero Year Riddler, which I’m not that happy about, and this issue did have some problems – namely the supporting cast. Darrel Frye is essentially Riddler’s stooge after he’s backed into a corner, the Rogues spend most of their time bickering, and Wally and Iris don’t have much to do besides sitting around being concerned. Entertaining issue with a great central conflict, but this run of Flash as a whole has lots of flaws.
Corrina: What Ray calls an “interesting status quo,” I call a plot device that’s been used far too often, the old “you can’t fight me because I’m going to kill random people if you attack.” It’s similar in setup to Riddler’s Zero Year plan too, and Batman didn’t even need super-powers to stop it.
I’m also confused about the Riddler and his imposition of martial law. Flash stays because he has to let Riddler beat him up but then when Pied Piper rescues Flash, Riddler just shrugs? Also, why would the police cooperate at the drop of a hat? Yes, people will die if they don’t do what the Riddler says but then people will die if they follow Riddler’s orders too.
I did like the crowd standing up for Barry and the small bit with the Rogues, but everyone in this series seems to have personality whiplash. However, the swap in art team is so much appreciated! The colors and actions are less garish and the people are portrayed in a more realistic fashion, especially Wally.
Bloodlines #2 – JT Krul, Writer; V. Ken Marion, Penciller; Sean Parsons, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Sotocolor, Colorists
Ray – 2/10
Corrina: What Is This Mess??
Ray: Well, this series went off a cliff quickly. You know, I don’t have many fond memories of the original Bloodlines comics, but they had an over the top 90’s vibe that didn’t let you take anything too seriously. That’s this comic’s biggest problem – it takes almost everything deadly serious. Our main character, a disabled boy who saw his best friend die and is now blamed for his death by most of his friend’s fellow jocks, can turn into a giant blue Hulk-like creature when endangered. He’d be slightly likable if his story was more generic. Most of this issue, though, is taken up by introducing new versions of other Bloodlines characters. A makeup vlogger develops electric powers while making a video, a tattooed young woman sprouts metal spikes out of her skin and impales a sexual harasser, a young man accidentally charges a beer bottle with kinetic energy causing it to explode. Hello Sparx, Razorsharp, and Gunfire. None of them really make an impression. Anima, however, sure does – in the worst way possible. A character who was once a teen runaway with a giant demon spirit as her bodyguard is now a little girl right out of “The Bad Seed” who uses her demon spirit to massacre a bunch of children and parents at a birthday party because she wanted to steal presents from the birthday girl. It’s a gross, senselessly violent segment. There’s nothing to recommend here, and quite a bit to turn me off.
Corrina: I want to hear what this pitch was like in the DC offices. “I want to bring back a failed crossover from the extreme 90s and, hey, in the second issue, a little girl goes evil and kills all the other kids at a birthday party in a gory segment! Doesn’t that sound awesome?”
No. No, it does not. Do not spend money on this.
Superman: Coming of the Supermen #4 – Neal Adams, Writer/Artist; Buzz and Josh Adams, Ink Assists; Tony Avina, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Corrina: Cool Adams Splash Page.
Ray: You know, if it wasn’t for the dialogue, this would actually be a pretty entertaining comic. It’s over the top in the most absurd way possible, with some great action scenes. Superman and Orion escape Apokalips, and Superman tries to foil Darkseid’s plan to turn the sun red and depower him by literally ramming a giant spaceship at full speed as it approaches the sun. It’s big, action-packed, silver age action.
But then, there’s the dialogue. The first page involves Superman delivering one of his insult speeches combined with threats of bodily harm towards Kalibak, in what is becoming a weird trademark of modern Adams comics. Granny Goodness dressing up as a kindly grandma to lure Rafi is amusing, if a bit weird, and Darkseid and Luthor bickering like the Odd Couple over their evil plan is unintentionally hilarious. I’m never sure if I’m supposed to take this comic seriously or not, but either way, it’s an entertaining read. It’s also the furthest thing from a good one, but I’d rather read this light-hearted absurdity than certain books.
Corrina: This was my favorite issue of the series, as it had a sense of epicness, especially since Adams does an amazing job with a two-page splash of Superman tackling a ship in space and failing. That was eye-popping and made me want to buy the artwork.
Of course, then I had to read the dialogue of this issue and..whoo boy. This whole series is a hot mess. It’s way more entertaining than, say, the awfulness of Bloodlines, but it’s by no means an essential buy.
Batman Beyond #12 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Philip Tan, Penciller; Jay Leisten, Inker; Elmer Santos, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Ray: This arc seems like it’s going to be a bridge of sorts between the first eleven issues and the Rebirth series. For the most part, gone are the post-apocalyptic trappings, and the story focuses again on the Batman Beyond mythology from the cartoon and the previous comic. That’s a good sign overall, but the problem is that the flashback segments are far more interesting than the present day ones. This issue finally answers some questions about the Tim Drake of the Batman Beyond verse.
Essentially, Bruce never was able to find answers about where Tim went after he faked his death with the Titans (because he went to the future) and it haunted him all his life. The return of Davis Dusk, aka Rewire from the previous Batman Beyond comic, is an interesting twist as we’re seeing the various Batman Beyond continuities start to bleed into each other again. I’m still finding this version of Tim a completely boring lead, but it feels like he’s more just a pawn in this title, as we all know Terry is coming back and retaking the lead. I’m hopeful that come Rebirth and free of the Future’s End lash, this title will find its groove.
Corrina: For the first time, this series feels like a continuation of the Batman Beyond Universe instead of some weird post-apocalyptic mess. It’s not Jurgen’s fault that the concept was doomed from the start but I do think he could have made Tim’s personality much more distinctive. However, he’s obviously familiar with the Beyond Universe and the short flashback segment with Terry shows Jurgens has a better handle on the original than on Tim Drake in the suit. (If you ask how this fits in with the Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker movie, all I can do is tell you this is an alternate universe, okay?)
But, in any case, this issue is a good sign for the rest of the series, especially leaving the whole Futures End business in the past.
New Suicide Squad #20 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Juan Ferreyra, Artist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: Mildly Interesting.
Ray: Much like Batman Beyond, this title isn’t ending this month, instead going a few more months into the early Rebirth launches. The current run started off with a promising enough story, throwing our favorite anti-heroes into a murder-cult’s annual spree and pitting them against an army of trained killers. Unfortunately, since then it hasn’t done much beyond a constant barrage of action scenes. A big problem is the team itself doesn’t seem to get much characterization among all the action.
Harley is written well enough, but everyone is sort of a blank slate besides her. I was far more interested in Amanda Waller attempting to stage a rescue with the help of Captain Boomerang and “the “Hunky Punk”. The latter is actually an interesting character – until the inevitable happens mid-way through this issue. New villain Rose Tattoo, the spirit of murder, doesn’t make much of an impression this issue, and the cliffhanger feels like it’s been seen countless times before. Overall, readable for Suicide Squad fans, but overall forgettable.
Corrina: I was getting to like “Hunky Punk,” too! This particular arc seems to be designed more to showcase Harley and the other characters in the upcoming movie rather than to tell a good story. Lots of fighting, lots of gore, some fun Harley lines, but it doesn’t add up to too much in the end.
Out-of-Continuity Reviews –
Scooby-Doo Team-Up #16 – Scholly Fisch, Writer; Dario Brizuela, Artist; Franco Riesco, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
This oddball all-ages comic has been one of DC’s best for a while, combining the Scooby-Doo characters with a host of obscure DC faves. I’m kind of surprised it took them so long to get to the Shazam family, but I’m very glad it’s finally here. This is an odd issue, in that there’s no mystery per se. It’s just a straight adventure pitting the Mystery Machine crew and the Shazam family against a full host of Marvel Family villains. Fisch is obviously a great fan of Golden Age comics because some of these Shazam rogues even I wasn’t aware of until now. Also, Velma and Shaggy becoming members of the Shazam family with codenames based on their catchphrases? Hilarious. It’s kind of a sin that we don’t have an established Shazam comic and haven’t for years, and while this doesn’t quite fill that gap, it’s an enjoyable read in the meantime. More Mister Banjo!
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Five #9 – Brian Buccellato, Writer; Tom Derenick, Artist; Rex Lokus, Colorist
Ray – 3/10
Corrina: That Escalated Fast.
Ray: This comic has been going on for a long time, and while it’s often been too dark for me, it always had a sort of balance between the bleak status quo and the hope of the resistance fighters. That seems to be gone with this “season”, and it’s only getting worse. I’m not a fan of Bizarro, but he can be fun when used properly. This issue is definitely not doing it properly. It’s turned Bizarro into a psychotic, ultraviolent man-child who kills with the slightest provocation. First, he murders a random goon in a restaurant to protect Trickster. Then, when warned about witnesses, he kills everyone in the restaurant. Then he accidentally kills Trickster and rampages around the world demanding people “fix” him. It’s like an adaptation of Of Mice and Men with more blood splattering everywhere. Just distasteful.
Corrina: This issue felt like a strange parody of the Jimmy/Bizarro comedic series from earlier this year, as Bizarro tries to do the right thing but everything all goes wrong. But, in this case, people die, including a big “oops” involving poor Trickster.
It’s gory and almost nihilistic but then this whole universe is like that. Pass.