Between Clean Room and Astro City, Vertigo wins the week, with only Batman #1 of all the Rebirth titles coming close to their quality.
Plus, the regular DC line had a strangely large proportion of plant monsters. Hmm..maybe DC will do a gorilla week again next, for old times’ sake.
But since Vertigo “won” the week, we’re going to do Astro City first. As always, MAJOR SPOILERS.
Vertigo Bonus Review:
Astro City #36 – Kurt Busiek, Writer; Ron Randall, Artist; Peter Pantazis, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Winner of the Week
Ray: Astro City has been one of the most intriguing original takes on superheroes for well over a decade now, and this current run out of Vertigo continues its strong focus on legacy and how the presence of superheroes would organically affect a city. Legacy is definitely the focus of this two-part arc, as the focus shifts to Jack in the Box, a mantle which has passed down through several generations of a family and close family friends.
The choice to focus on a young man who didn’t take the mantle is intriguing as well, as he tries to solve the murder of the original hero from decades ago. Where this issue has one of my favorite swerves in recent memory, though, is how it turns the concept of legacy on its head when it comes to the villain. While the legacy of Jack in the Box is family, community, and heroism, the legacy of his old foe Mr. Drama is suffering, want, and resentment, as his obsession consumed everything around him and left his family penniless. That legacy trickled down to his Granddaughter, who serves as a compelling, tragic villain here. The ending is surprisingly dark, more so than I’m used to for Astro City, but Busiek does work in a hopeful note. The chief appeal of Astro City is the richness of its world, as it gives us a very human but still fantastic take on superheroes that never gets old. While Watchmen may have defined the New 52 from DC’s perspective, the new era of DC could hopefully take some cues from Astro City.
Corrina: I’ve seen this type of story before, where the legacy of the hero is contrasted with the legacy of the villain (the movie Megamind comes to mind) but this is done so well and the characters are so well-drawn that it doesn’t matter if I’ve read similar works before. Add in the originality of the story being told from the point of view of someone who doesn’t want to don the Jack-in-the-Box costume, and it becomes unique. That unusual point of view is also typical of this series. Two stories ago, it was told from the point of view of the First Family’s enemies and the last arc concerned a retired super villain trying to go straight. That’s what makes this series so good: no one is forgotten or disposable.
It is a dark ending, as are some of Busiek’s stories, but I prefer the term bittersweet. Any superhero reader who has somehow missed out on Astro City needs to remedy that, post-haste.
Justice League #51 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Paul Pelletier, Penciller; Sandra Hope, Inker; Adriano Lucas, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Fill-In But Mostly Fun
Ray: This is very much a fill-in, not even really fitting in the Justice League title. Instead, it’s actually a Titans Hunt prequel of sorts, showing us just how the plot in Titans Hunt got started. The framing device here focuses on Dick’s first meeting with the Justice League as a pre-Teen Titans Robin. At first, he feels completely out of his depth, especially when various threats emerge and he’s thrown into the deep end, teaming up with the League against an army of cyborg hounds, Mammoth, and a rogue Coluan. Abnett seems to have a good voice for Dick Grayson, so his adventures with the League work well.
I will say it’s a bit odd to see Dick looking up to Cyborg when they used to be peers and friends, though. The story ties back to the very first New 52 JL storyline in terms of how the threat got here, which is a nice way to close out this era of the DCU. However, it’s the narration this issue that really stands out. The mastermind behind the mysterious invasion is the same person who was behind what happened to the Titans, and this is the genesis of that plot. Is this Mister Twister or something bigger and worse? I’m leaning towards the latter. Either way, for a fill-in issue, this one feels like it could have significant fallout down the line. Good read overall, even though it feels like it was put down in this series by default.
Corrina: It’s a decent issue and I wouldn’t think much of it in the middle of a run but I’d hoped for more from this book at the end of the run. Still, it’s a good demonstration of how intelligence and strategy can make even superheroes more effective, though it’s interesting that the story is kinda twisted to make Dick smarter even than experienced heroes like Flash and GL. Still, stories of Dick Grayson as Robin are rare in this day and age and it works on that level.
Plus, there is that line with Green Lantern referring to John Constantine and I wondered just how..intimately…Hal and John became acquainted. Heh.
Swamp Thing #6 – Len Wein, Writer; Kelley Jones, Artist; Michelle Madsen, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Standard Ending.
Ray: It’s the conclusion to the latest revival of the DCU’s favorite plant monster, and it feels like this issue is a massive saving throw to quickly bring everything to a close. Where the story goes right is that it finally explains Matt Cable’s bizarre heel turn from longtime friend to genocidal monster. The explanation is…it’s not Matt Cable at all, hasn’t been since he appeared in this miniseries.
Instead, it’s the monster who hijacked his body while he laid comatose in the snow outside Nanda Parbat – Anton Arcane. I do prefer a real villain here as opposed to a cliche friend-turned-bad story, but much like Black Manta over in Aquaman, everything always seems to come back to Arcane. He’s by far Swamp Thing’s most famous bad guy, but I would have liked to see someone like Seeder or Lady Weeds make a reappearance over yet another Arcane-as-big-bad story. Still, there’s a lot of good in this issue, as Swamp Thing’s allies from the Justice League Dark join him to put Arcane down for the count. Even his occasional ally Etrigan shows up to help finish the job. Overall, it’s a satisfying read, and the Abigail Arcane guest-appearance at the end is welcome. Still, this series was hard to get excited about compared to the legendary Swamp Thing run that came before.
Corrina: I loved the start of the run, thought it stumbled a bit in the middle, but rebounded with the guest appearances of all the other arcane characters in the DC Universe. That there’s an arcane enemy at the heart of Matt Cable’s transformation into a villain was predictable. I wanted something a little more intense than a “well, Alec must continue to be a monster because that’s the why it has to be in this world.”
Kelley Jones’ art has added to the miniseries and, overall, I’d recommend it, especially as an introduction to the Swamp Thing but it never became as great as I hoped it would.
Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #6 – Amy Chu, Writer; Al Barrionuevo, Cliff Richards, Pencillers; Sandu Florea, Scott Hanna, Inkers; Ulises Arreola, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: Feels Like Half a Story
Ray: This started out as a really intriguing comic, dealing with issues of the nature of life, what makes a villain, etc. It did a really good job of giving Poison Ivy a new status quo and supporting cast and letting her shine as something besides a villain or Harley’s straight woman. Thus, it’s kind of disappointing to see the comic end with what amounts to a ridiculous monster battle comic. Now unmasked as the main villain, Grimley (which, in retrospect, that name should have been a dead giveaway) has transformed into a giant tree monster at some point and is attacking Ivy and her sporelings, attempting to drain their human-plant hybrid DNA to gain immortality.
His backstory of being a dying old man who used plant DNA to cure his cancer and transformed into a monster is sort of a cliche, and the battle seems to go on and on without any real stakes. At points it almost feels Bugs Bunny-esque, with Grimley’s giant body falling on Darshan only for Ivy’s friend to emerge unscathed from a massive chest cavity in the monster. The ending feels a bit odd, with Darshan helping the Sporelings strike out on their own on a mysterious mission – except that this is the end of the series and there’s no hint as to where this story will continue, so it’s like a cancelled show’s season finale cliffhanger. I liked the ideas in this mini a lot, but the final issue’s execution sort of let me down.
Corrina: This is almost a repeat of my Swamp Thing review: I was blown away by the first two issues of this series, despite the fact I’d never been that interested in Poison Ivy. The revelation that she was growing children was also a surprise and I was prepared for some creepy, weird but somehow loving shenanigans.
Alas, Poison Ivy’s daughters seem to have developed basically into a plant-human version of the Mean Girls with plans to impose their will on something or other. I want some weird science stuff they can do, not snarky plant teens. I would guess they’ll stay in limbo until someone decides to use them again.
On the good side, Darshan has grown (see what I did there?) on me over the series and it’s good to have his more normal perspective in the middle of all this green mayhem. I wonder if we’ll see him again as well, though it certainly wasn’t too bright to let the Sporelings just run away. What was he thinking?
New Suicide Squad #21 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Gus Vasquez, Artist; Juan Ferreyra, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: I Forgot What Was Supposed To Be Happening.
Ray: It’s the final issue of Suicide Squad before the big-scale relaunch in August, which will put the movie cast front and center. Seeley’s brief run started promisingly enough, but by the end it was a jumble of competing assassin squads killing each other in a dimly lit castle, with a random demonic villain, Rose Tattoo, thrown in there as well. Ferreyra’s creepy art was the big selling point on this run, so his demotion to breakdowns this issue was disappointing. Adam Reed, the reality TV host turned cult leader who serves as the big bad of this arc, has never been much more than a blank slate in a terrible hipster bears. He kills one villain, and then another kills him. Rose Tattoo, the supernatural threat that emerged last issue, is never more than a generic threat, and El Diablo’s sacrifice to save her is the most dramatic scene of the issue – but it would be more so if the character had been developed, and if it wasn’t a sure thing that he’d be back soon enough with the movie version of the character. It’s Captain Boomerang who really steals the show this issue with a dramatic last-second rescue.
This run is essentially a fast-paced prequel to the real show starting in a few months, and given the preview issue we got a while back, that should be a great Suicide Squad comic. This one? Skippable.
Corrina: When I opened the issue, I had to read a few pages to make sure I remembered everything that was going on. Right, big murder house, everyone is supposed to kill each other. So, essentially, a Hunger Games for super villains. The premise had promise and I was liking Deadshot and his weird doppleganger. However, at the beginning of this storyline, I figured all the extras would die and the core team would live and so it was.
I also feel like I missed a good story with El Diablo somewhere? This seems to be a sad throwaway for an interesting character.
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Five #12 – Brian Buccellato, Writer; Marco Santucci, Artist; Rex Lokus, Colorist
Ray – 4/10
Corrina: Why Did I Read This?
Ray: Injustice has always been a cynical world, with pretty much everyone being darker and more violent than their mainstream versions, even the ones on the heroic side. This issue takes that to a whole new level, as it’s implied that Superman unleashes Victor Zsasz from the metahuman prison and sets him on a specific mission to murder an innocent man. That innocent man? Alfred Pennyworth, who spends the first half of the issue in a rather charming segment involving his not-birthday and interactions with the Bat-family. As anyone who’s ever watched a horror movie knows, if they’re suddenly trying to make you care about someone, they’re probably doomed. Then we watch Alfred get stabbed to death by a one-note serial killer. Batman captures him, and he and Damian square off over whether to kill the man who killed their father figure. I’m not really sure what the point of this story is at this point besides senseless sadism, but it’s almost caught up with the game and I don’t think it has much left to say.
Corrina: I’ve never liked the premise of this story–Dictator Superman–but every now and then, I’ll pick up an issue become some of the characters have been well done. Uh, well, I should have left it alone because I wasn’t in the mood for dead Alfred. At all.
I guess that’s what was needed to bring Bruce out of hiding but it feels so pointless. Alfred’s death is just a plot device and has no resonance, even in the story.
Scooby Apocalypse #2 – Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Writers; Howard Porter, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 2/10
Corrina: It Was Okay.
Ray: After the bizarre first issue that made clear this would be nothing like Scooby Do0, I was hoping that the second issue might work in a bit more humor and make it at least resemble the wacky spirit of the original a bit. Instead, we get eldritch horrors. Last issue, Velma accidentally unleashed a monster plague on the world, and this issue is like something right out of an R-rated monster shoot-em-up, as the four heroes and one talking dog try to make their way out alive as monsters attack.
The crew encounters their transformed former friends, now horrific mutated cannibals with mouths where there shouldn’t be mouths. The mystery machine is now a dull battle tank. If your idea of a fun Scooby Doo book is watching Daphne abuse Velma while accusing her (maybe correctly) of dooming all life on Earth, and then agonizing over the fact that she had to kill something that used to be human, this is the Scooby Doo book for you! Otherwise, like me, you’re wondering how this and Wacky Raceland could have gone so very, very wrong after the success of Future Quest.
Corrina: Hey, at least the gang is sorta working together now? But I never expected this comic to traffic in so much gore. I know, I know, it’s the Apocalypse, it says so in the title, but this is grimdark serious gore and lacks any of the spirit of the original. Well, mostly. Every now and then Scooby indulges in something that feels like Scooby.
Maybe it’s too much to hope that they paint the new Mystery Machine to make it look familiar? Probably.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.