When a comic company restructures its lineup, the inevitable casualties are the series must finish up their solicited issues, despite their impending cancellation or reboot. We see the problem in many of these non-Rebirth DC comics this week. (We already reviewed the Rebirth comics.)
The lone exception to this and the stand out among this batch of DC Comics is Adventures of Supergirl, a title based on the television show, where the creative team is doing such a great job that viewers of the show are going to want to grab the comic.
Robin: Son of Batman #13 – Ray Fawkes, Writer; Ramon Bachs, Artist; Mat Lopes, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Cute. Not Needed But a Sweet Ending.
Ray: Damian’s road trip around the world comes to a close this issue, surprisingly not so much with violence and stabbiness as with the power of friendship. Having already brought Maya Ducard over to his side, the two reformed assassin kids decide to make one last shot at redeeming a much more difficult target – Suren Darga, Damian’s pint-sized arch-nemesis. This provides some fun moments as Suren does not take easily to traditional rituals of being a normal kid, such as stuffing yourself silly with dessert. T
here’s some nice commentary about moving on from an abusive family and rejecting bad influences. Then this little assassins’ playdate gets interrupted by Den Darga attempting to sap his son’s lifeforce to empower himself, and the team needs to spring into action one last time to stop him. This segment suffers a little bit from unclear storytelling and comic book logic, but Maya’s heartfelt efforts to bring Damian back from beyond are effective (even if there’s no vibe that Damian is ever truly in danger). Darga defeated and angry parents dealt with, Damian, Maya, Suren, and Goliath head off into a happier future having chosen their own paths. This series wound up a lot more soft and fuzzy than I expected given the first few issues, but it’s a nice ending. Even if it sadly seems Maya is now bound for limbo.
Corrina: I guess that’s the secret of Damian: at the heart of the little reformed killer is a deeply caring person who wants, at least as much as his father, to help people. His methods, however, tend to be a little bit more extreme, and that’s where the story tension comes from.
I thought last issue settled just about everything, so this issue was a bonus. The part where the three young scions of evil are having dessert is great but the action sequence felt unneeded and tacked on. Agreed with Ray that it was a nice and more optimistic ending than I would have expected. But I’m glad to see Damian going back to his other family too.
Adventures of Supergirl #4 – Sterling Gates, Writer; Carmen Carnero, Artist; Sandra Molina, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Gates Clearly Should Have Been Writing Supergirl’s Regular Titles
Ray: Free of the limits of a TV budget, Adventures of Supergirl embraces its comic book roots and gives us the best Supergirl comic in a long time. It seems like Gates is slowly building up a compelling rogues’ gallery for Kara, rooted firmly in the mythology of Krypton and Fort Rozz.
First there was Rampage, then sinister hacker Vril Dox, then the mysterious telepath Psi (who may be on Kara’s side), and all of them seemed to have a personal agenda and know more than they should about who Kara is. This issue, seeking answers, Kara teams up with her sister Alex and heads to a top-secret DEO site to find the remains of Fort Rozz that crashed there. Inside, the sisters encounter powerful Kryptonian droids and the mysterious mastermind behind the attacks on Kara – a Kryptonian soldier with diamond-like skin (hard enough to injure Kara’s hand when she punches it) who seems to be the result of a Kryptonian experiment that Kara’s mother had ties to. Gates has confirmed that he’s building towards a “Supergirl Revenge Squad” plot, but this story’s real strength is in its solid character work, especially where it comes to Kara and Alex. I think I actually like this series better than the main TV show so far.
Corrina: Whatever Gates is building to, I like it. In many ways, this reads better than the plotting of the series itself, so not only is it the best Supergirl comic in a long time but it improves on the television show. I say the show hires Gates for the show’s writer’s room!
The character work here between Kara and Alex is great, as each relies on the other, as teammates should. Carnero also deserves credit for creating comic book images of these characters that look like the television actors but are also fully formed. Too often, I read comic book versions of actors that seem only like stiff 2D versions. Far from the case, here.
If you like Supergirl the show or the character, you should be reading this book.
Harley Quinn #29 – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers; Char Hardin, Artist; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Harley’s Giant Robot Farts.
Ray: On one hand, this issue features Harley Quinn in a giant robot. There is no way that’s going to be a bad issue. That being said, this story suffers from some of the problems that Harley’s had in this book regularly – repetitive plotlines and too much reliance on toilet humor. The issue starts with Harley finding out she’s behind on the bills, so she agrees to take a job delivering some rare cars to a small-time criminal. Unfortunately, this is just a front for an evil mobster to get revenge on her for the death of his son in the Roller Derby arena. Sound familiar? This is also the motivation of the mayor and his pursuit of Mason over the last year of stories. The villain is a bit of a cliche, but overall he serves his purpose, which is to get the Jaegers into the picture and let Harley go nuts with hers.
Standing out like a sore thumb in the issue (in the best way) is Harley’s interaction with Ivy, as the two girls get some quiet time in between chaos. Who knew that these two would have one of the sweetest and healthiest LGBT relationships in the DCU? Just don’t let them start talking marriage and arouse the attention of editorial. Overall, could have done with a few less jokes about bombs coming out of robot butts, but it’s a fun done-in-one issue as this run winds down before the relaunch that changes nothing.
Corrina: It’s hard to dislike an issue where Harley is a giant robot, this is so true. It’s also a fix that only Harley Quinn could find herself in, which is why this book can be so fun. I have niggles, in that it’s unclear why these giant robots were built, etc, but that seems churlish.
And, yes, I find this book at its most fun not during the action but when Harley is simply interacting with people, either as her alter ego, unexpectedly giving proper counseling, or with her friends, especially Ivy. Nope, no marriage here, but a solid bond. I far prefer this Harley to the one I’ve been reading about in Suicide Squad.
Cyborg #12 – Marv Wolfman, Writer; Felipe Watanabe, Daniel HDR, Julio Ferreira, Pencillers; Oclair Albert, Daniel HDR, Julio Ferreira, Inkers; Adriano Lucas, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: A Bit Bleak
Ray: Another done in one issue for Wolfman, along with a whole host of artists. This book has struggled with fill-ins ever since it began, and I’m hoping it gets some more stability when the new run begins. This issue is a decent read, if very familiar and far from groundbreaking. Cyborg is still in the tube getting scanned, and his time there wraps up just as a brother-sister pair of super-criminals breaks into STAR Labs. They’ve got density-shifting powers that they aren’t very good at controlling, and the sister accidentally kills a guard while escaping. This leads to a showdown with Cyborg, where he’s able to find out that they’re the kids of a friend of his father’s who got fired from STAR Labs for his unorthodox attempts at experiments. His wife died of a chronic disease and his kids have the same one, hence him experimenting on them. The story serves as an interesting contrast to Cyborg’s relationship with his cautious, meticulous father, but the villains (of sorts) aren’t very compelling and the heel-turn one takes towards the end comes out of nowhere. Readable, but not much more.
Corrina: I thought the siblings breaking into STAR and Cyborg’s interactions with them worked well and showcased Vic’s instincts to help rather than jump into the middle of the fight. He always was one of the more thoughtful Titans when Wolfman wrote the series and that’s echoed here. But the parallel between Vic and the siblings, and Silas Stone and the father of the siblings, is a bit too on-the-nose.
I was hoping for something more hopeful from the end or, at least, a good death, but it appears Wolfman left open the possibility of a new villain. I suspect, however, that we probably won’t see these villains again.
Teen Titans #21 – Tony Bedard, Writer; Miguel Mendonca, Penciller; Diana Conesa, Inker; Tony Avina, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Corrina: It Could Be Worse?
Ray: When the best thing you can say about an issue is “Well, no characters were written horribly”, that’s a sure sign that the title is in trouble. This arc is essentially a fill-in closing out the current era of TT before Ben Percy comes on with an almost completely new team (only Beast Boy and Raven from this roster stay on), and the plot is as slight as you can expect. Angered by an internet meme making fun of supervillains (the one clever concept in this arc), Monsieur Mallah and the Brain are using mind-control bots to get their revenge on the creator of the meme, which brings them into conflict with the Titans.
There’s been several hundred mind-controlled heroes/civilians plotlines in the last few years, and this one just goes through the numbers (defeat mind-controlled teammate, try not to hurt mind-controlled civilian mob, try not to look bad beating up mind-controlled seals – well, okay, that one’s new). Mallah and Brain come off like a bickering couple on the verge of divorce, which might seem like a new twist for them, but just isn’t very interesting to read. And Cassie’s willingness to kill the Brain is a good example of why the character seems to be going away for a while come September. The introduction of Amanda Waller at the end of the issue has some promise, as the character rarely intersects with the TT, but overall, this story will be completely forgotten soon.
Corrina: Bedard is one of DC’s go-to writers to finish up a series and he does the best he can with this ending but it’s too much to expect him to save the series. I wanted to love the idea of Beast Boy fighting the Brain again, given their comic history, but this was all muddled. The tone is supposed to be fun and over-the-top and it is, but it barely treads water because the premise is so slight.
I remain amazed that DC cannot find a creative team to make Teen Titans work the way it should. Percy is an odd choice, given how erratic his work has been on Green Arrow. I guess we’ll see.
Deathstroke #19 – James Bonny, Writer; Paolo Pantalena, Artist; Arif Prianto, Colorist
Ray – 4/10
Corrina: Over, Finally.
Ray: Much like TT, this title is the definition of “playing out the string” right now. We know Chris Priest is coming on with the relaunch and will have his own direction. Still, there’s a bit more to go in this book, so here we go with Slade battling the same villains he has been for almost Bonny’s entire run. When we last left off, Slade had cut a deal with Ra’s Al Ghul to save his daughter’s life from the negative effects of being freed from Lawman’s possession. As Jericho enters the dreamscape to try to lure Rose back from the void, Deathstroke goes up against Lawman, Snakebite, and the new villain Mystasia, who all have their own personal grudge against him for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.
There’s lots of stabbings and explosions, and Snakebite even lampshades the fact that they’re both so used to battling each other by now. The only thing resembling a twist in this issue is the fact that Ra’s has designs on Rose and Jericho as well, setting up the inevitable conflict between the two assassins. Otherwise, this series limps to its conclusion, never having a strong hook of any kind. Let’s hope Chris Priest can change that.
Corrina: This is a very macho comic, with lots of posturing among the villains and lots of that guns, explosions and whatnot but not once did I buy any of these characters caring about the others, especially the family unit of Slade, Jericho and Rose. I should be worried about how they feel about each other but if they all died, I’d shrug. Adding Ra’s to the mix didn’t help either.
Bring on Priest!
Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Deadshot/Katana #6 – Brian Buccellato, Mike Barr, Writers; Diogenes Neves, Viktor Bogdanovic, Pencillers; Ruy Jose, Juan Albarran, Richard Friend; Inkers; Carrie Strachan, Wendy Broome, Michael Spicer, Colorists
Ray – 4/10
Corrina: Not Much to See Here
Ray: These two Suicide Squad stories wrap up this month with mixed results, as neither one wound up being all that interesting. Mike Barr’s Katana title is definitely a step up from the weird take on the character we got in Nocenti’s book, and it brings her back to basics, but it’s been dragged down from the start by an overly complex Kobra plot involving magical beings possessing Halo. It feels like this run, more than anything, is going to appeal to fans of the old-school Outsiders title where Katana is most strongly associated.
Corrina: It definitely appeals to the fan of the Outsiders in me. I had a nice warm feeling seeing them all back together, as Katana and Halo’s mother-daughter-type bond was one of the highlights of the original Outsiders series. Unfortunately, the story surrounding them needed to be stronger. I suspect there weren’t enough pages for the full tale, as this miniseries reads like the comic equivalent of a television network burning off shows when they’ve already decided to cancel it.
Ray: Katana is still better than the Deadshot run, which started out looking like a backdoor way to get Will Smith’s Deadshot into the comics, and then turned that new character into a caricature of a gun-toting madman out to prove he’s the best and kill everyone in his way. His defeat this issue isn’t a surprise – he’s stupid and seems to work solely based on ego and grudges, as opposed to Deadshot’s strategy. It was cool to see Deadshot as a papa wolf again, but overall this story just went in circles until it wound up right back where it started.
Corrina: Oh, yes, the Katana story was worth reading, though I wanted it to be more. The Deadshot story, however, did nothing for me from the start. If you like Floyd Lawton, maybe it’s worth looking into but you have to be hard-core Floyd fan to even have interest in these issues.