DC This Week – Black Canaries Unite!

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Constantine the Hellblazer #13, image via DC Comics
Constantine the Hellblazer #13, image via DC Comics

Ray takes a look at the imaginative Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy crossover, and we check out the final issues of Constantine the Hellblazer, Black Canary, Green Lantern Corps: The Edge of Oblivion, and Red Hood/Arsenal. Hint: we’ll only miss the first two.

But we love the new Adventures of Supergirl, the title that the Woman of Steel richly deserves.

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #1 – Chynna Clugston-Flores, Writer; Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Penciller; Maddi Gonzales, Inker; Whitney Cogar, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

On the surface, this crossover is a match made in heaven. Two quirky, fan-favorite titles focusing on a unique, diverse group of teenagers investigating paranormal phenomena under the watchful eye of adults who know more than they’re letting on about the school/camp? The concepts seem like they’ll mesh very well. However, there’s a few glitches in the execution, as it feels like the two groups combining doesn’t really give anyone much room to shine.

There’s a nice parallel in the set-up, as both groups find their mentor taken mysteriously by some supernatural force. Rosie, the eccentric chairwoman of the Lumberjanes camp, disappears after setting off a distress signal in the forest, while the kind Professor MacPherson vanishes from her office, leaving a mess behind – and the GA kids discover a mysterious postcard from thirty years ago pointing to the Lumberjanes camp. Deciding to steal the Professor’s car and go on a road trip, they wind up encountering the Lumberjanes in the woods – along with a trio of mysterious skull-faced monsters.

Lumberjanes/Gotham Acacdemy, image via BOOM.
Lumberjanes/Gotham Acacdemy, image via BOOM.

It’s fun, and fast-paced, but it feels like there’s a bit too much going on to really stick the landing this issue. Clugston-Flores, a very talented writer on many of her own properties, is writing these two casts of characters for the first time, so I assume it’ll take her some time to find her footing with them. While it’s not quite the slam dunk right out of the gate that Batman/TMNT was, there’s a lot of potential here.

Adventures of Supergirl #3 – Sterling Gates, Writer; Emanuela Lupacchino, Penciller; Ray McCarthy, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Excellent!

Ray: This is a rather confusing but ultimately thrilling issue that furthers the plot, as Kara fights an opponent that she can’t take on using her fists – it goes through her mind. Ever since the battle with Vril Dox, Kara’s found herself haunted by bizarre dreams every time she goes to sleep. Sometimes, an old villain returns for revenge. Other times, her friends and family turn on them. Other times, she’s back on Krypton. As she starts to get control of herself in these dreams and chase after the mysterious figure tormenting her, she finds herself in one bizarre reality after another, some subtly or even explicitly referencing other “lives” Kara Zor-El has lived over the last 50 years.Supergirl #3

There’s even a clear Bombshells reference! On this point alone, this issue is a joy to read for Supergirl fans. Once the culprit is revealed, it turns out that they’re not a clear cut villain and send Kara in pursuit of answers at the DEO. It’s only a TV tie-in, sure, but I think this series has a much stronger narrative than Arrow or Flash’s comics ever did, and the lack of budget allows for crazy stuff in this issue.

Corrina: I thought this would be like many of the other television tie-in comics, with mildly entertaining side stories, but so far this series has instead turned into one terrific Supergirl comic, the best she’s had in years. Yes, it uses the television show setting but, as this issue makes clear, DC seems to consider her the one, true Supergirl. I loved the callbacks to her previous runs. Ray noticed the Bombshell Supergirl. I paid particular attention to the call-out to the Peter David Supergirl.

At the same time, the story focuses on what has been Kara’s most lasting quality: her determination. Supergirl fans should buy this even if they’re not watching the television show.

Black Canary #12 – Brenden Fletcher, Writer; Annie Wu, Sandy Jarrell, Artists; Lee Loughridge

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: Much like Martian Manhunter and Omega Men, this final issue is a slightly odd one, tying up a lot of things as well as taking us on a slightly meta journey through the world of this title. The issue opens with Dinah putting on a farewell concert before retiring from the band – and, it seems, from superheroics as well. The book then travels into the future, a few years at a time, as Dinah becomes a music phenom under the tutelage of her new partner, Izak Orato. And in the meantime, the world goes to hell as a new villain named Ravedeath takes the world apart. Whether you like this issue depends heavily on whether you’re willing to go along for the ride, because these future segments go in some strange directions and take up a lot of the segment. I thought it was just fascinating enough to work, even though I was ready to get back to the main story and see how it wrapped up. In the end, Dinah defeats her enemies using some epic martial arts, and takes a third route from the one presented to her in the alternate reality segments. This is another title that really should have gotten more than 12 issues, especially since it had a fill-in in those twelve, but Fletcher has left Dinah in a good place for her return to the Birds of Prey. And it’s great to see Annie Wu return to the title one last time to dazzle us with her art.

Corrina: Wu’s art is the star of the show, one more time, as she and Fletcher take us on a time-spanning journey, as a last hurrah. I had the feeling reading it that this arc would have played out longer but as a single, finishing story, it worked, even with the time jumps. It’s not only a glimpse into a future Dinah-that-might-have been but also a trip through the evolution and devolution of a rock n’ roll band. (The creative team needs to get more credit for that.)black Canary #

My favorite scene? All the Dinahs, past, present, future, mother, daughter, teaming up to finish what her mother started. It’s a fitting end for a series starring DC’s lone remaining independent female character from the Golden Age of Comics, (aside from Wonder Woman).

Constantine: The Hellblazer #13 – James Tynion IV, Ming Doyle, Writers; Eryk Donovan, Artist; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Fine Series, Sour Note at the End

Ray: Tynion and Doyle have undeniably given us the best take on Constantine since he came over to the main DCU, restoring him to his rightful place as the rat-bastard magical con man whose schemes usually wind up screwing over everyone, including himself. This issue closes out the run in that classic vein – but it also unfortunately ends the run on a sour note that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

When we last left off, Constantine had been conned himself, as Neron had taken control of NYC and Constantine’s boyfriend Oliver had his kids stolen by Constantine’s jilted ex Blight. This issue finds Constantine calling in every favor he has to drain NY of its magical power, rendering it useless to Neron before getting Neron to sign it over to a far-less evil magical overlord – and then revealing that the effects of his spell will fade in hours. Constantine gets the upper hand on Neron and then throws in Oliver’s kids into his demands – only to return to the bar and find out that Oliver’s already sold his own soul to Blight as a trade for his daughters.

Oliver is taken down to Hell in a disturbing and rather graphic segment as Constantine tries to shield his daughters from the horror. I’m glad Constantine is back to being openly bisexual, and I know nothing good ever happens to the people Constantine loves, but something about ending the run with an LGBT black man being shoved into the demonic fridge rubs me the wrong way. This book definitely brought Constantine back to form overall, but this last arc didn’t quite stick the landing.

Corrina: Agreed. This has been a terrific run for the most part, especially making New York City come alive with magic. Cosntantine has sometimes been a snarky guide to it, sometimes its protector, sometimes its’ doom, but it’s always been an interesting journey. Signing the city over to the literal lesser of two evils is, well, an unusual solution but perfectly in keeping with who Constantine is. He frequently chooses not between good and bad but bad and much worse.

Yet Oliver’s fate is disturbing. I fully expected the pair to part badly and for Oliver to wound Constantine about his gray morals and the endangering of innocents in what turned out to be a game in which Oliver became a pawn. (The saving grace of Constantine as a character is that he also considers himself a pawn.) But why did Oliver has to have his soul taken down to hell and in such a graphic manner in front of his daughters? It disturbed me and it left the entire title on a sour note. As Ray said, sending a LGBTQ person of color to hell in front of his loved ones, who are children, seems tone deaf. (And, yes, I know Tynion is bisexual himself. It’s the narrative choice to end on a such a sour note that I dislike the most.)

Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion #6 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Jack Herbert, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Corrina: Epic Battle Doesn’t Save the Series

Ray – 7/10

Ray: This fast-paced, exciting, if slightly thin issue wraps up the GL run before its Rebirth relaunch, and while there’s some truly dramatic scenes here, it suffers from the fact that the ending is well known – all the characters make it back to the main universe – and a character who makes a particularly stunning sacrifice this issue has already appeared alive and well last week. Ausras and Dismas have been unmasked as the real villains and have transformed into monstrous angler fish as they begin to consume the remnants of the universe. With the universe collapsing on itself the the tear through which they lost Arisia and B’dg expanding, the Lanterns wage one last desperate battle to survive and save the last refugees of this world. I could have done without the introduction of a child Green Lantern who immediately dies, but overall this issue well captures the feel of a full-on space war. The discovery that the rings, when they lose the bearer, travel through the rift to find their new bearer, spurs Simon Baz to lead the Lanterns into the unknown in search of a way home, leading to a dramatic finish as the Lantern’s survival remains in doubt. The main thing I care about is that this gives hope that Arisia isn’t dead after all, if the hole in space is actually a way home.

Corrina: The creative team was stuck in a tough place on this title. They had six issues to spend with the team trapped in another universe that was slowly being destroyed and yet there was only enough story for maybe three issues at the most. That left a couple of obvious heel turns to pad the story out. So while the action in this issue is excellent, it’s more going-through-the-motions than anything else. I felt more epicness in the beginning of Future Quest.

The drama of the finish was diminished by the knowledge that, of course, the Lanterns survive.

Red Hood/Arsenal #13 – Scott Lobdell, Writer; Joe Bennett, Penciller; Belardino Brabo, Juan Albarran, Inkers; Jose Villarrubia, Colorist

Ray – 3/10

Corrina: Is It Over Yet?

Ray: The Red Hood/Arsenal partnership comes to an inglorious end this issue, as Roy heads off for greener pastures in Titans: Rebirth next week, while Jason…is stuck with Lobdell and gets Bizarro and Artemis the Amazon as new partners next month. Hooray? This issue wraps up the bizarre plot about Roy’s ex-mercenary buddies, who are now mutated and taking orders from Joker’s Daughter. She’s the mastermind behind everything, because…reasons? Because she’s crazy? She’s such a thin villain it’s hard to tell. After Jason kills the mercenaries and takes out Joker’s Daughter, he tells off the world for voting for Roy to die. Meta much? This entire plot has been bizarre. Then, Jason and Roy have a big falling-out over Jason’s kill-happy environment, in a scene that very much feels like a breakup. As Jason walks off, we segue to a strange flashback that shows the two as kids, snarking at each other during their first team-up. It’s actually a fairly nice segment with unique retro art, but why is it at the very end of this series? It almost feels like it’s teasing us. “See? These guys weren’t horrible, once upon a time”.

Corrina: Can we move Jason over to Detective instead of having yet another unentertaining revival of this book? I thought this would be worth reading just to see if Joker’s Daughter died or suffered an inglorious defeat but it’s not worth buying even for that. The mercenaries working for her are also thin plot devices.

Obviously, the break-up of Roy and Jason was mandated by editorial but why did it have to end like this, with Jay becoming his old kill-happy self, tossing away a good portion of his character development. ::sigh:: Will readers like the new title with Bizarro and Artemis? It’s an odd combination that might be interesting in other hands. But I can’t see Lobdell making it work.

Harley Quinn and the Gang of Harleys  #3- Frank Tieri, Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers; Mauricet, Alex Tefenkgi, Artists; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Too Gory and Not Fun Enough For Me.

Ray: Corrina and I both felt that this series has been a spin-off too far for Harley Quinn, mainly sidelining the main character and focusing on her team of sidekicks. The problem is, most of those sidekicks are only a collection of random tropes so far, instead of being fully fleshed-out characters on their own. Last issue ended with them all in mortal peril, but this issue focuses on how they escape – trapping themselves in a walk-in freezer inside the restaurant that was just blown up. It lends itself to a few funny scenes, but overall the big problem isn’t with the Gang. They’re fine, just mainly stock characters.

The big problem is with the villain, Harley Sinn. An S&M evil Harley Quinn who seems to have more in common with Joker’s Daughter than Harley, we learn this issue that her primary motivation is that she was rejected as a member of the gang. At some points, she seems like a wannabe villain who is more of a joke than anything, then the next she’s casually murdering her henchmen because they want to get paid. Harley works best when she’s up against truly absurd threads, and Harley Sinn doesn’t qualify. She’s a take-off on the 90’s anti-hero Harley could have become if written badly.

Corrina: The freezer sequence was kind of funny and I hoped the rest of the issue would follow along in the same vein. But alas, there’s far too much of Harley Sinn, who is an edgier, grittier and unfunny version of our beloved wacky Harley Quinn. If I’m supposed to hate her, good job. If I’m supposed to be entertained by her confrontations with our anti-heroine, I’m not.

Once again, I’m missing Amanda Conner’s off-the-wall voice on this title. This is so far too straightforward and too gritty to be fun.

Earth 2: Society #13 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Federico Dallocchio, Artist; David Calderon, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Is This Title Cursed Too?

Ray: This book has sort of rebooted itself for the third time in a year, although current writer Abnett is staying on board for the final arc. The last arc’s problems of a barren world and warring city-states have disappeared with Alan Scott’s sacrifice of his powers last issue, and the heroes of Earth 2 are trying to get back to some sense of normalcy. That’s complicated by the arrival of the Amazons, who say they’re ready to share their power and knowledge along with that of Atlantis to get the world back up and running.

However, the methods by which they survived the destruction of the original world leads some to think the people they lost along the way could be revived. No one wants this more than the new Batman, who has been searching in vain for his son. Meanwhile, the Ultra-Humanite is building an army of artificially aged child super-soldiers to take on the Wonders and claim this world for him – an army that, to no one’s surprise, includes Johnny Grayson, Dick’s son. This is a more old-school comic than the previous arc, and it’s kind of welcome. Still, the whole title feels like it’s playing out the string now that we know the original JSA are out there.

Corrina: Some titles just never seem to work for DC, like Superman/Wonder Woman and the Justice League 3000 stories. This title joins them because every time something interesting happens and the book takes one step forward, it takes two steps back. I would have enjoyed an issue that simply showed our team getting on with their normal lives because we don’t know who these characters are, not really. On the surface, they’re the JSA but they have such different life experiences that they’re not them and little of that has been seen often enough. Instead, we’re tossed in yet another crisis with far too little build-up.

And now we’re going to get into a situation where the alternate universe Dick Grayson has to fight his son? Glad the boy’s alive but I’m still smarting over this Barbara being dead, plus we haven’t spent any time with this Dick to even care about what happens to him or his son. I can only conclude that this concept isn’t working.

Legends of Tomorrow #4 – Gerry Conway, Aaron Lopresti, Keith Giffen, Len Wein, Writers; Eduardo Pansica, Aaron Lopresti, Bilquis Evely, Yildiray Cinar, Pencillers; Rob Hunter, Livesay, Bilquis Evely, Trevor Scott, Inkers; Andrew Dalhouse, Chris Sotomayor, Ivan Plascencia, Dean White, Ulises Arreola, Colorists

Ray –

Firestorm – 7/10
Metamorpho – 7/10
Sugar and Spike – 4/10
Metal Men – 7/10

Corrina: Metamorpho Is My Favorite

Ray: It feels like all these stories are sort of in a holding pattern this month, with the events in the established superhero titles feeling sort of predictable and Sugar and Spike being…predictably weird.

Firestorm picks up with Ronnie and Stein captured by General Eiling, being tortured to near-critical mass as the mad general tries to get information out of them. Meanwhile, Multiplex schemes and Jason, and his and Ronnie’s family search for the kidnapped Firestorm. It’s a bit slow-paced this month, but the characterization is strong. I was a bit puzzled by Major Force being the voice of reason and working to stop Gen. Eiling, given what he’s most famous for. It’s the same weird vibe I got when Dr. Light was a loving family man in JL.

Corrina: The part I liked most in this is Major Force’s objection to torture and kidnapping and pointing out that this is not something the chain of command would endorse. It’s about time there is a soldier with some principles in the DC Universe, since the army is usually portrayed as utterly evil or, at best, wrong-headed. The search for Firestorm by Jason and Ronnie’s family is a great addition. Still, the story only moved forward a little.

Ray: Metamorpho is overall probably my favorite of these stories, putting the weird-science based character in a plot that neatly combines aliens, mythology, monsters, and magic. The pilgrimage through the ancient land leads them to a temple where Rex discovers the source of his powers and exactly how strong they can be, before the expedition is confronted by Kanjar Ro. Overall, Lopresti’s art is the highlight here and the story has a fun, old-school vibe that reminds me a lot of the past Warlord series. However, not a big fan of the idea that Sapphire’s a traitor.

Corrina: I was skeptical of the time/space travel addition to Rex’s origin but I loved it as it added a unique element to the transformation to Metamorpho. The creative use of his powers is worked well this issue.

But, yes, I’m with Ray: I’m unhappy about Sapphire’s treachery. I thought the character had come so far from the cliche of brainless and yet loyal mad scientist’s daughter. :sigh:

Ray: Sugar and Spike throws us into another case, this one involving a sentient flower who was Green Lantern’s sidekick being held dormant at a museum run by a former supervillain. A concept like this could have been good if it just embraced the wacky, but instead we get what is essentially a mediocre heist story involving the forgettable villain from the “Superman’s Kryptonite Island” issue, and more of Sugar being weirdly hostile to Spike. This whole revival puzzles me.

Corrina: I loved the idea of Itty being at the center of a museum and the overall concept of a museum of sueprhero relics. You could even build a series around that. Unfortunately, Sugar and Spike are in the middle of it and mess it up. I suspect their nastiness toward each other is supposed to sound like banter but each exchange makes me wince instead.

Give me that story concept with better drawn characters and I’d totally be on board for a series.

Ray: Metal Men’s biggest problem is that there’s only a select few stories that anyone seems to do with them, and tops on the list is “evil counterpart to the metal men”. That’s what we get this issue, as after losing the Metal Men to some clever lawyering by Robotman, evil military boss proceeds to commission her own set of replacement Metal Men, made out of more volatile metals. This does create a few interesting visuals over the course of the comic, but overall it still feels like we’re bouncing from fight to fight without much to care about.

Corrina: Metal Men escape, are captured again, escape again, only to have the government come after them again, this time with a new group of Metal Men. Unfortunately, it also seems too similar to the military “capture the good guys” plot being used in Firestorm too. I’m not sure what I want in a Metal Men comic but this isn’t thrilling me.

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