The end of the month means a small week for DC Comics but it is high in quality, led by the wonderful The Legend of Wonder Woman #7, and, surprisingly, ending with a good noir war story in the Deathstroke Annual.
As for DK III: The Master Race #5? Despite the cynicism surrounding this book as a money grab, it’s been an entertaining tale.
MAJOR, MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!
The Legend of Wonder Woman #7 – Renae De Liz, Writer/Artist; Ray Dillon, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: As we head towards the conclusion of volume one of this series, Diana finally faces off against her arch-nemesis, and it turns out quite a bit differently than I was expecting. Diana is settling into her new role as a nurse in the European war theater, but is still on the trail of the Duke of Deception. While the first half of the issue is devoted to Diana and Steve’s slow-building relationship and Etta’s ongoing attempts to get one over on her musical arch-rival, things pick up in a big way once Diana finally finds her way to a confrontation with the Duke of Deception.
While the villain is certainly powerful and has a big body count on his hands, Diana’s lasso reveals the truth – he’s nothing more than pawn. After seeing his brother die in a bombing raid, Ares manipulated him to blame the allies and turned him into the monster he is now. Her attempts to persuade him don’t work, and that’s where things get really interesting. As his power brings her to the brink of death, Diana finds herself in a space between worlds, where she encounters her former mentor Alcippe – as well as Zeus, who intends to turn her into his champion and use her to take control of Earth. Diana, not trusting him any more than she trusts Ares, rejects him in an incredibly dramatic scene – and seemingly finds herself returned to Earth, this time sans her powers. Obviously, we know this won’t take, but it’s one more wrinkle in the best origin revision for a major character we’ve gotten in years.
Corrina: That change in mythology that Ray mentions is what this book is all about: reclaiming Diana’s legacy as true hero, a true “wonder” that inspires and not some tool of the gods or anyone else. Her rejection of Zeus’s offer and her insistence on being a champion for everyone on Earth and to forge her own way made me wanted to fist bump her. Too often in stories lately, we see heroes forced to choose between the least bad option, instead of the heroic option. This Diana stays true to herself. I also can’t help see this as perhaps a tiny swipe at the retcon of Diana as Zeus’s biological daughter over in regular DC continuity. Or perhaps it’s just a side effect of the story. Either way, it works perfectly.
At first, I thought the bits with Etta were a over-the-top but Etta is an over-the-top character and that’s why she’s awesome. Similarly, I was about to be annoyed that Steve kept randomly appearing where Diana was and then there was that lovely sequence where Steve shows her how to fly an airplane and how he only feels right with her–and it’s just lovely because while Steve doesn’t remember his stint with Diana on Paradise Island mentally, he remembers emotionally.
If this was the end of the series, I might be disappointed. But, of course, we have two print issues to go, so I await how Diana regains her powers in the end. Note: I don’t say “how she becomes a hero again,” because she already is.
DKIII: The Master Race #5 – Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller, Writers; Andy Kubert, Frank Miller, Artists; Klaus Janson, Inker; Brad Anderson, Alex Sinclair, Colorists
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Great Ending Scene
Ray: The main story in this comic has been pretty strong for a few issues now. Unlike the gritty Gotham-based story of the original or the unclear mess of the sequel, this is a big-scale, epic war with Gotham as ground Zero. The rogue Kryptonians of Kandor have ordered the capture of Batman and threatened to raze Gotham to the ground if he’s not turned over to them, turning the citizens of Gotham into an enraged, paranoid mob. Completely outmanned against the forces of Kandor, Carrie joins forces with Aquaman to revive Superman from his shadowy prison, which seems to come almost a little too easily, although Superman’s return is welcome.
Even with Flash critically injured, the comic finds an interesting new role for him in this issue. The thing I enjoy most about this issue is how very Batman-like it is. Even when facing impossible odds, Batman is always thinking several steps ahead. The segment towards the end involving a synthetic rain of Kryptonite is a great set piece, and while the last page cliffhanger is sort of comical, it’s also a much-anticipated team-up that brings the entire Dark Knight saga full circle. The main story is highly recommended. Unfortunately, the mini-comic in the middle, written and drawn by Miller, continues to be lacking. Focusing on Superman’s rogue daughter Lara, it’s a thin and bland story involving her dealing violently with a would-be Kandorian suitor with no sense of personal space. The main story would be stronger without it. Lara as a whole has never really worked as a character.
Corrina: “I’ve got your back.” That last page, with an armored Superman and Batman standing against the rogue Kryptonians alone might just be worth the price of the entire miniseries. I never expected such a moment from this series–I expected so little of it–but it’s a scene strong enough to stand with the original.
As is the sequence with Carrie Kelly underwater with Aquaman. It’s eye-opening and Kubert outdoes himself with the two-page spread. (It’s hard to tell if Miller did any of the line work, though what art is on the page is definitely in his style.) In a very short sequence, it’s hinted that perhaps the Amazons are going to appear with Wonder Woman in the lead to help out Superman and Batman, thus reuniting the Trinity. We’ll see if I’m right.
As for the insert comic with Lara, Miller’s art features odd angles and has a weird focus, though I believe he’s going for abstract representation of Lara’s feelings. The art does better with the car and its inhabitants that are turned into a toy by Lara’s new boyfriend. But the art isn’t the true problem with the story–it’s the concept that Lara enjoys rough sex because she’s an Amazon. Since when is tenderness during lovemaking not an Amazon thing? So weird and almost abusive. Certainly triggering to some readers.
Grayson Annual #3 – Jackson Lanzing, Colin Kelly, Writers; Roge Antonio, Natasha Alterici, Christian Duce, Flaviano, Javier Fernandez, Artists; Jeromy Cox, Mat Lopes, Chris Sotomayor, Colorists
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Nice Collection of Tales.
Ray: An epilogue of sorts to the now-defunct Grayson status quo, this is an amusing Jam issue that features a quartet of talented stories telling funny or dramatic stories featuring heroes having chance encounters with Agent 37. Gathered together by Jim Corrigan to investigate the mysterious agent they’ve all met, John Constantine, Azrael, Harley Quinn, and Simon Baz share their tales, with appropriate art for each segment. The funnier stories are by far the strongest.
John Constantine and Grayson’s team-up against an army of vampires is great solely for the banter, as these two snarking at each other amid the battle is worth the price of admission on its own. I also really liked the Harley Quinn segment, which features Dick and Harley teaming up on a heist for a particular memento of the Joker’s, in what essentially amounts to a hyperactive “Date night”. The Azrael story is played pretty much straight, as Dick parachutes into a war-torn country in search of an ancient tablet and finds himself in a civil war. The Simon Baz story is probably the weakest, as the two heroes battle a Parademon and argue over how Simon does business, proving once again that Simon can’t be in a comic without people fighting. The ending twist, which reveals the purpose of this meeting and the true identity of “Jim Corrigan”, is great and serves as a fitting coda to this era of Dick Grayson.
Corrina: What an odd assortment of team-ups for Dick Grayson. I have no idea whose idea it was to put Dick with each of them but it worked out nicely. John Constantine, of course, notices Dick’s butt, and his segment has the sexiest Dick (yes, that sounds dirtier than it should) but each segment also gave a nice character sketch of the hero telling the story. I liked the Simon Baz story more than Ray, as it gave me insight into why Simon is so sullen all the time: he’s fighting freakin’ parademons and no one has given him a playbook. Harley, of course, ends up in an odd sort of “date” with Grayson.
It’s worth buying for Grayson fans and a nice showcase for those interested in the other characters, too.
Deathstroke Annual #2 – Phil Hester, Writer; Mirko Colak, Roberto Viacava, Artists; Michael Spicer, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: So Dark it Drips Acid. But It’s Good.
Ray: Corrina and I have both been pretty hard on the current Deathstroke series, finding it a pointless series of sword battles and waiting for Priest. So I was pleasantly surprised to see this annual be a massive improvement. Phil Hester, always a strong writer; dials back the carnage and turns this annual into a noir story of sorts set in an Opium den of a war-torn country that is a clear stand-in for Afghanistan.
Hired by a local opium lord to avenge his son, he targets the son of the rival gang and kicks off a massive war between the two syndicates. However, his mission is complicated by two characters – a young local orphan with a ruthless streak who becomes Deathstroke’s employee, and a rival mercenary called “The Balkan”, working for his rival and creating a brutal game of tit-for-tat. The twist about the Balkan’s identity is a bit obvious in retrospect, but it creates a pretty compelling story with a surprising amount of moral complexity in it. I lost my interest a bit towards the end as it becomes more of a kill-em-all action comic again, but it remains entertaining. Think The Sheriff of Babylon if it was adapted by the guys behind The Fast and the Furious. I have a feeling Priest will make Deathstroke one of DC’s best books, but if you don’t want to wait that long, this will definitely fill your assassin fix.
Corrina: What this story did was focus not on Deathstroke and his angst about his family–boring so far–but on Deathstroke and the immorality of his job and the motives behind the people who hire him. In other words, the story was about Deathstroke’s eventual victims and the endless war they’re all living in. To Slade, this is status quo, and a job, and that’s what makes him different from the vengeance-seekers on both sides. The story uses that difference to great effect. A nice curve is thrown by the reveal about who really hired Slade at the end too.
Now I’m wondering: Does Slade take out the last person or let him go? The story lets you decide.
Teen Titans Annual #2 – Scott Lobdell, Writer; Cory Smith, Artist; Dean White, Colorist
This was the only book from the skip week offerings not sent out for review, and I would bet it’s because DC is more than ready to move on from this era of Teen Titans. Everyone is already looking forward to the new Damian-led era, and this one-off story by Scott Lobdell feels like a throwback to an era no one is really nostalgic for. That being said, this issue is…not terrible? There’s a few decent, lighthearted scenes, especially focusing on Beast Boy and Raven as the team’s two oddest members try to feel like normal teenagers as a change. The issue begins with the entire team going out to a club for a night off, as Miguel meets a nice boy and everyone tries to get Tim to loosen up. That soon unravels as Miguel’s dance partner takes an experimental club drug that turns him into a rampaging green beast – along with everyone else in the club who took the drug.
One big battle later, the team splits up and finds the new “Sister Blood” in the basement, and it turns out this all ties back to Professor Pyg’s plan to steal Beast Boy’s blood during the vaguely connected Robin War tie-in. This is mostly a clean-up issue, with no one being horribly out of character but few coming off as very likable either. The main point of this issue seems to be to set up Tim’s departure from the TT because he feels the team isn’t coming together as the elite crimefighting unit he wants. Sans any time-traveling mass murderers, this is one of the better issues of the Lobdell run, but that’s faint praise indeed.
Disclaimer: We received these items for review purposes.