DC This Week – The Bat-Kids Are All Right

Reading Time: 23 minutes
Batgirl #1 cover, courtesy of DC Comics
Batgirl #1 cover, courtesy of DC Comics

This week has stories featuring all of the Batkids, plus Kate Kane, and they’re all enjoyable and, in several cases, terrific. The Batman titles have always been the strongest part of DC’s stable but, right now, they’re as good as they’ve ever been.

Flash, too, is now a title worth reading, mostly because of strong characterization and original ideas. Overall, we can call DC’s Rebirth a creative success. So check out below for the Titans, Nightwing, Red Hood, Kate Kane & crew, Flash, a decent issue of Green Lantern, and, plus, Future Quest #3!

(And if you scroll down to the Deathstroke review, there’s a small snippet of what to expect from Christopher Priest’s run on the title.)

AS ALWAYS, MAJOR, MAJOR SPOILERS.

DC Rebirth Reviews:

Batgirl #1 – Hope Larson, Writer; Rafael Albuquerque, Artist; Dave McGaig, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Excellent

Ray: A fresh start that takes Barbara out of Burnside and into the world at large as she seeks to take her training to the next level, this is a very promising first issue that sets up an intriguing new supporting cast with several mysteries following Babs. The characterization is very much still the youthful Babs of the Fletcher/Stewart run, which isn’t a surprise. Hope Larson has a history of writing young-skewing comics like Goldie Vance over at Boom. However, the globe-trotting martial arts movie vibe is new. The story jumps around a little bit, beginning by throwing us right into a fight with a Kabuki Schoolgirl Ninja Assassin. However, who is the guy Barbara is trying to protect? That’s explained later – it’s an old friend named Kai, a son of a fellow cop who she was childhood partners in crime with. He’s in Japan on separate business, and they explore the country together – before he gets attacked by said villain and is revealed to be hiding quite a few things.

I know there were some quibbles about the old trope of the white kid seeking to find themselves in Asia, but this is very much a modern Japan, treated with respect, rather than the pastoral land of martial arts and wise monks that we often see. Barbara is seeking a mentor in Fruit Bat, a legendary Japanese vigilante who was one of the first recorded superheroes – way back in the 40s. She finds her as a very old woman in a wheelchair with a contemptuous son/caregiver, but it soon becomes clear that’s far from the truth. Both Kai and Fruit Bat have a lot of potential right off the bat, and I’m excited to see how this story develops. It feels very much like a sequel in spirit to Burnside while also finding its own path.

Corrina: Like all the myriad changes to Barbara Gordon since she was last Oracle, I approach a new take with trepidation. While I enjoyed the Batgirl of Burnside stories and love the costume change, they skewed a little light for my taste. This issue, however, is promising and should make fans of both the Gail Simone Batgirl and the Flectcher/Tarr/Stewart Batgirl of Burnside happy. There are many-nuances in this story which I hope will unfold nicely.

I love, loved Fruit Bat and Batgirl’s response to seeing her hero in action. It’s also perfectly in keeping with Barbara Gordon to do original research and go back to the source for inspiration, thus taking her halfway around the world. If there’s anyone who is going to research a topic to death, it’s her.

The only false note here was Barbara decided a hostel was a good place to stay. I would have thought she might want a place that offered more privacy. Then again, maybe she paid cash and she’s hiding among many. And, of course, the reappearance of Kai into her life is not a coincidence. (At least, I hope not.) I only wish that “coincidence” set off alarm bells for Barbara but this Batgirl isn’t as paranoid as the old-school Oracle.

Red Hood and the Outlaws: Rebirth #1 – Scott Lobdell, Writer; Dexter Soy, Artist; Veronica Gandini, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Tolerable

Ray: It’s no secret that I’ve been very hard on Scott Lobdell’s writing. I think his Teen Titans was an all-time disaster, and the quality of his other books varied massively and not for the better. But in all that, I’ve found his Jason Todd characterization to be solid, despite everything else he was usually surrounded by. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this issue. Despite the title, this is a Jason Todd solo story, and one that clears up a lot of the rumors about the unsavory things Jason would be doing in this title. It does have a lot of flashbacks in it, mainly detailing how Jason came to be Robin and how his relationship with Bruce was. There’s a nice amount of nuance in it, showing how Bruce really did try to make Wayne Manor a home for Jason (and it ties in nicely with the healthier, kinder Batman we’re seeing in King’s run), but he was unprepared to deal with Jason’s pain and rage.

The present-day segments start with Jason fighting Batman, shooting the Mayor in the head at point-blank range, and disappearing into Gotham’s underworld where he’s recruited by Black Mask’s gang. This would be absolutely horrible characterization – if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s quickly revealed this is a high-risk undercover operation he and Batman cooked up. (The Mayor was actually shot with an antidote, in a convoluted explanation) Bruce’s hesitation about letting Jason play villain given how close to the edge he’s come rings true, and I actually really like the way Jason and Bruce’s relationship is right now – a lot of caution and anger tinged with a family connection that both know isn’t going anywhere. There’s a bit too much retreaded ground and cliched dialogue, but it’s a genuinely good start. Will this quality continue once the oddball team members of Bizarro and Amazon Artemis show up? I’m skeptical.

Red-Hood-and-the-Outlaws-Rebirth-1-7-600x923

Corrina: Of all the things DC could have kept the same, I scratch my head and wonder why they’d keep the “Jason killed and resurrected via Lazarus Pit” origin. With all the changes, they could have easily had him near-beaten to death and angry, when recovered, that Batman let the Joker live. But, ah well.

And, yes, we’ve both been hard on Lobdell’s writing. This issue isn’t perfect, as it’s basically a retelling, but it’s good and readable and enjoyable and that’s not nothing. Jason is still my least favorite Robin but this story is working. So far. However, as I pondered Dick Grayson going undercover in his own title (see below), I thought it refreshing that the reader knows Dick will not be corrupted. This story with Jason is yet again delving into on-the-edge hero taking risks and I’ve seen that plotline many times before. My favorite is Ed Brubaker’s original run on Sleeper. (Everyone, go buy that book, it’s brilliant.) That’s a high standard for anyone to meet, never mind Lobdell. We’ll see.

Titans #1 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brett Booth, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Hey, They Like Each Other!

Ray: Given how significant this title seems to be to the overall picture of DC Rebirth, it seems a bit odd that it’s one of the few major books to be monthly. It feels like it’s been ages since we got the Rebirth issue! But it’s back, and much like its predecessor Titans Hunt, it continues to be a very solid read. For one thing, it seems determined to put the terrible characterization these characters got prior to being reunited far behind us. In some cases, that makes for a slightly awkward read – Donna Troy’s genocidal Amazon warrior period is in the rearview mirror, and she now seems to be characterized as a sweet, naive girl who is not all that familiar with man’s world. More in common with cartoon Starfire in places, but still a definite improvement. Roy Harper plays a big role here as well, and that’s hit and miss. Some of the darker elements of his past are back in continuity (the drug use, not the dead cat) and it’s used well, although his new costume is one of the most overtly hideous outfits I’ve ever seen in comics.

A lot of characters are used sparingly (Nightwing, Aqualad) or are MIA (Mal and Karen) so the focus can stay firmly on Wally West and his quest to get his memories and old life back. I’m glad to see that Linda Park and her connection to Wally are going to be a big part of this issue. It only makes sense that as a reporter, she’s going to try to find answers about the mysterious man who appeared in front of her. However, she’s not the only one with ties to Wally who’s emerging – and a birthday party gone very wrong promises to bring one of Wally’s deadliest enemies back to prominence. There’s some kinks to work out here, but this is still the best treatment a lot of these characters have gotten since Flashpoint.

Corrina: This reads much like a Wally West Flash story and that’s a good thing, as there’s a light touch in the Titans exploring their so far unknown past, especially in the teasing of Wally about how he’s focusing on Linda. These people are friends and may not remember each other in physical memory, but their emotional resonance is intact, especially in the banter between Donna Troy and Arsenal. (I assume DC is keeping them as “former lovers,” as established in Devin Grayson’s run.)

Omen, usually in the background, takes center stage and that’s a good choice, as her telepathic power is a unique skill set, especially with Raven not part of the original Titans. Nightwing gets some good-natured barbs in but, yes, I missed Mal and Karen and even Gnaark.

I worried about the art before I picked up this book as Booth’s style is garish to my eyes but it’s mostly in control here, perhaps because of the colorist? Whichever it is, I like the more muted style of his.

Nightwing #1 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: “Oh, for the daring young man on the flying trapeze….”

Ray: The Rebirth issue was one of the best single issues DC has published since this new line begins, and the first issue makes it clear that wasn’t a fluke in quality. Backed up by the grittier but still dynamic Javier Fernandez on art, Tim Seeley launches Dick Grayson into the next phase of his life in style, and things haven’t gotten any simpler. Dick now works for the Parliament of Owls, deep cover as an arrangement to protect Damian from them (although they don’t know he removed the bomb from Damian’s skull last issue). While he’s been an effective agent when it comes to intimidation, protection, and fighting off rival syndicates, the leadership is getting frustrated with his refusal to kill for them. He meets with Batman to discuss his undercover mission (and participates in a very amusing training session with Damian), and the conversation seems to be taking an oddly hostile turn for a second only for it to swerve into a really nice statement of Batman’s faith in his protege.

There’s a slightly awkward reunion with Barbara Gordon that seems to reignite the will-they/won’t-they question (I’m kind of hoping they let this pairing rest for a while, after their last major meet-up in the Batgirl wedding issue), but the main plot of the issue hits once we get to the last segment. Dick is ambushed by his new partner/handler for the Parliament, Raptor (who we first saw last issue disposing of arch-villain Lincoln March) and the costumed assassin makes clear he’s here to train Dick – and starts by absolutely destroying his defenses and soundly defeating him. The book very much still feels like Grayson, with Dick living multiple lives and dealing with overarching conspiracies, but with the colorful superhero vibe that was missing. This is looking like it’s going to be one of the Bat-line’s best books.

Corrina: This book makes it clear from moment one that Dick Grayson is his own person, building on what came before from Marv Wolfman and Chuck Dixon and numerous writers in the Batman-verse. And, of course, Seeley’s own work on Grayson. If you’re a long-time superhero comic reader, the best you can hope for from characters is emotional continuity and that’s exactly what we have in this book with Dick Grayson, who’s always been one of my favorites.  I particularly love the bond between Damian and Dick that’s been kept intact and was one of the best parts of the story that temporarily had Dick taking on the cape and cowl.

If you haven’t been reading Grayson but you’re a fan of Grayson, you’ll want this book. It posits the interesting notion that Dick is the perfect person to be undercover because he never can be truly corrupted. Raptor’s introduction seems to challenge that but I’m not convinced as yet that Dick isn’t shamming to gain Raptor’s trust or, at least, to let Raptor believe he’s in charge. As Ray said, this looks to be one of DC’s best books.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #1 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Rafa Sandoval, Penciller; Jordi Tarragona, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist

Ray – 6.5/10

Corrina: Not Bad.

Ray: For a title that’s continuing the Green Lantern run which seemed to present a new universe-threatening arc every few issues, this run is really starting off fairly slow. Last issue primarily focused on Hal Jordan and his quest to get his power back, recapping the history of Hal and the GLC as he became the first Green Lantern ever to forge his own ring and restart the Corps. Now he’s on the trail of his fellow Lanterns, seeking evidence that they might still be alive. This leads him to a smuggler’s ship full of evil aliens, but as he’s interrogating them, he gets a sudden flash that something isn’t right. That something would be Sinestro. Now that Hal’s fully powered up again, it’s Sinestro’s turn.

As Soranik Natu tries to hold the kinder, gentler Sinestro Corps together, Sinestro absorbs the life force of Parallax and restores himself to youth. He then addresses the Corps in a creepy speech, takes back leadership from his daughter, and sends the troops out to enforce their order on the universe through fear. So it seems pretty clear that ol’ Thaal is back to being a villain. There’s a brief showdown between Hal and the three-faced Sinestro Corps member, but other than that, relatively little happens in this issue until the end, where the remnants of the GLC make it back to the current universe (with Arisia along for the ride, yay!). There’s nothing technically wrong with this issue, but there’s also nothing that hasn’t been sene before and not much in the way of hints about what’s coming next.

Corrina: Humpf. Usually I complain that I don’t like Hal Jordan much and that’s why I’m not into a GL book but this particular story is filled with Sinestro and the Big Yellow Fear Monster aka Parallax, two characters I dislike even more. The former because he seems to have no weaknesses to humanize him and the later because it’s a boring plot device. I may be tired of Sinestro from his mostly dull solo title and that could be affecting my perspective here. At least the inevitable turnback to villain is done in this first issue so we can get on with things.

But, yes, Hal is the best part of this issue and that’s new for me but good. The arrival of the Corps at the end of this? Also good.

Batman: Detective Comics #937 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Alvaro Martinez, Penciller; Raul Fernandez, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Modern-Day Batman Family Story. Loved It.

Ray: Two months in, it’s very clear that this Detective Comics run is going to be as ambitious and as huge-scale as the two Eternal stories were, pulling in characters from every corner of the Bat-verse. When we last left off, Batman had been captured by the Colony, and Batwoman and the Bat-kids had barely escaped the shocking betrayal of Jacob Kane, revealed as the Colony’s leader. The story picks up with Batman, as the soldiers of the Colony try to reverse engineer his utility belt and he breaks free, launching an epic one-man escape from the top-secret military base. Along the way, he encounters Kane’s tech man, Ulyssess Armstrong. While this kid seems to have more in common with Anarky than the original General, it sort of makes sense – a military-hardware obsessed teenager in the year 2016 would likely be more of a tech nerd than a Patton wannabe. By the time he fights his way to Kane himself, we’re treated to a full breakdown of the Colony’s plans.

Kane has put together an elite squadron of soldiers using Batman’s techniques and sent them into hot spots around the globe, including one operation in which they recover a nuclear bomb from terrorists. He thinks he’s protecting the world. Batman is horrified to see soldiers killing people with his techniques. For the record, THIS is how you do a morally complicated plot line.

Meanwhile, the Bat-kids and Batwoman are wandering around the underground of Gotham led by Tim Drake, who Tynion has reinvented as a historian of the city. Although there’s no real danger down there as they make their way to the colony, both the tension and banter are top-notch. And you can see how much Tynion likes writing Tim – which makes it not a surprise that he shut down those rumors at SDCC hard. The issue ends before a major showdown of father vs. daughter begins, but this issue went a long way to reassuring me about Jacob’s characterization. He may be the antagonist here, but he’s far from a stock villain. Four issues in, this may be the best book in the Rebirth roster.

Corrina: Ray’s tackled the basic plot, so I’ll talk characterization. I’ve been unhappy with Tim Drake since DC rebooted the new 52. This is a character who had over 100 issues of a solo series that featured strong and distinct characterization that until Batman and Robin Eternal showed no signs of being that character again. It was the ultimate of ironies that Stephanie Brown, once a supporting character in Tim’s book, somehow came through the last few years of DC reboots and changes and finally emerged intact while Tim has been all over the place. Even in Batman Beyond, where an older Tim was the title character, he was blah.

No more. This is the Tim Drake I remember and that’s important because he was always a unique character. Putting him in place as the planner of this time, the one who investigates each eventuality, is perfect for who he is. (Fans of his solo series must be applauding.)

And that’s indicative of Tynion’s approach to storytelling: it flows from the characters. The heart so far of this run is the bond and struggle between Kate and Jacob Kane and Kate and her team, and even Kate and Batman. That’s perfect. Toss in a new character like Ulysses Armstrong who makes an immediate impression, and it becomes an amazing book.

Martinez and Fernandez have many character to juggle, to say nothing of TWO secret headquarters to depict, and it’s done with great style. Kudos, art team.

The Flash #3 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Original and Fascinating.

Ray: This is the fastest-paced issue of the Flash I can remember, and that’s a very good thing for a book defined by speed. No sooner than Flash had gotten used to having a partner in the field as he and August Heart began fighting crime as a super-fast duo, a second speed force storm hit and gave hundreds of people the same powers. This issue covers a lot of those cases, ranging from a trio of bumbling criminals who try to use their new speed to rob a bank and fail miserably, to a young doctor who seems to have her speed as much under control as any veteran speedster, to a teenage girl who is so overcome by her new powers and fears that she can’t even make herself solid anymore. A lot of writers don’t really know how to make Barry distinct, but Williamson seems to be doubling down on the idea that he’s driven by his compassion, and it shows nicely as he sets up a training program at STAR Labs to help the new speedsters.

From calmly counseling the girl until she manages to get her composure back, to insisting that even the crooks deserve a second chance, he’s the human core at the heart of this story and it works really well. I’m not sure what August’s direction will be yet, but he’s an intriguing character, as are both Dr. Dahwan and Avery. Of course, it couldn’t stay light and positive, because Godspeed makes his presence known before the end of the issue, and those unfortunate crooks never get their chance at redemption. This already feels like a completely different book than the one that came before it, and it’s an improvement in every way. This is probably the book that’s going to firmly place Josh Williamson into the top tier of comic writers.

Corrina: So many new characters, all good in their first impressions, and so much good characterization, all wrapped in a plot that I’ve never read in the Flash before, which is how to handle a multitude of people with his power. This is a brilliant idea because when numerous characters have speed powers, Barry’s own personality must take center stage to differentiate him from the others. Thus, we’ve gotten a distinct Barry for the first time in comics in a long time. Barry, the mentor and Barry the dedicated cop, and Barry the friend.

That leads to the appearance of Godspeed, a terrific name for a villain, especially for a Flash villain. I’m excited for this title.

Wonder Woman #3
Wonder Woman and Cheetah talk truth. Image via DC Comics.

Wonder Woman #3 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Liam Sharp, Artist; Laura Martin, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Friendship Drives This Story

Ray: Definitely a massive step up from Year One as we return to chapter two of “The Lies.” Liam Sharp’s dark, fantastical art grabs you from page one as Diana and Cheetah wander through the jungle pursued by a ravenous band of werewolves. Wonder Woman and Cheetah are two arch-enemies whose connection has never quite been explored to the same extent as Superman and Luthor, Batman and Joker, or Hal and Sinestro, so this forced teamwork between the two of them goes a long way to fleshing out that relationship. Being transformed by an evil God has always been part of Cheetah’s origin, but it’s never really influenced her character all that much. Here we see the tug of war between the brilliant, embittered scientist trying to keep the vicious beast at bay.

Diana’s compassion, rather than her warrior skills, is her best weapon when it comes to trying to keep her former friend stable and useful as an ally. The battle segments against the monster army are spectacular, and overall these segments are very strong. I continue to be surprised by just how prominent Steve Trevor is in these issues, but his role here is a good deal stronger than it was in Year One, as it becomes clear that the same villain who is pursuing Diana and influencing Cheetah has another adherent in the warlord Steve is after. It’s a strong fusion of the modern and realistic with the fantastic and supernatural. Rucka’s pace continues to be deliberately slow, and this book may not be for everyone much like his last run, but this story at least seems like it’ll continue to be strong.

Corrina: I thought this was a continuation of quality, rather than a step-up, as Ray said, but otherwise we’re in perfect agreement. Diana and Cheetah fight in some glorious art by Sharp but the true battle is going on with their emotions, as Diana insists on seeing her friend in the transformed Cheetah and Barbara lets her bitterness, envy and even love for Diana show. This is how you write battle sequences that emotionally invest a reader.

Steve, too, has taken a step up from simply being a military liaison. Putting him in the field, giving him a beard, making him someone driven to help on the front lines is a way to show he has as much compassion and fortitude as Diana does.

My own quibble? I’m not sure how fighting this particular villain will get Diana answers.

Superman: Action Comics #960 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Tyler Kirkham, Artist; Ulises Arreola, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Lois Needs To Do More.

Ray: I’ll say it – Doomsday just isn’t a very good villain. I think that’s the biggest problem with this current arc of Action Comics. Dan Jurgens continues to be excellent when it comes to writing Superman and his family, which isn’t a surprise given his great work on Lois and Clark. The best scenes in this issue are the ones back at the family farm, which this issue is not quite as far from the danger as everyone thought. However, too much of the issue is devoted to the heroes fighting the unstoppable monster in Metropolis. Wonder Woman’s role in the story doesn’t add much, although I was glad to see her and Lois meet and not have any competitiveness or resentment due to Diana’s past relationship with the other Superman.

Jurgens does make good use of Doomsday’s original origin, making him a Kryptonian-hunting machine – which comes into play when a casual, childish use of Jon’s powers serves as trigger for Doomsday to sense and hunt him, bringing the monster on the road to the farm. That adds some stakes to this story, but before that happens it feels like it’s running in place a big. Luthor doesn’t have much to do, and we’re no closer to getting any answers when it comes to this new Clark Kent. I’m very much ready to see Doomsday go away so this book can get back to exploring the very interesting things it’s set up.

Corrina: I suspect the story behind Doomsday is what will ultimately make this story interesting, as I’m not convinced this is actually Doomsday and might be the tip of the iceberg of some other plot. But I’ve had enough of Superman smashing things and not nearly enough of exploring the mysteries put forth: how did this Doomsday get here, what’s up with the new Clark, and why is Lois not investigating this stuff instead of spouting homilies at her son? I love Lois as a mom and I love the bond between Jon and his mom, but it’s time to give her something else to do. We moms can multitask, you know!

Additional Reviews:

Harley Quinn #30 – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers; Elsa Charretier, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Conner’s Back! Yay!

Ray: This title is relaunching next month with the same main creative team, so this series finale doesn’t have much of a sense of finality to it. It even ends with “The End…of Volume One”. So really, what this issue is more than anything is just a nice break point for Harley’s adventures before the next arc begins. There’s no real loose ends to tie up, and what this issue does is simply take us through a day of Harley being the kind of oddball hero that only she can be. It’s more a series of vignettes than anything else, with the closest thing to a main plot being Harley teaming up with her friends to stop some evil developers from tearing down a beloved tree. In between chaining herself to the tree and battling super-strong construction crewmen, she’s beating up rude guys on the subway and helping a lonely old man find a new companion after his parakeet dies.

The main plot is resolved with some help from Poison Ivy, and everything ends on a happy note. It’s an interesting balancing act this title has, trying to keep Harley’s anarchic weirdness while also selling her as a genuine hero for the downtrodden in Coney Island, but the writers pull it off. Reminds me of a more comic-relief version of the status quo Catwoman used to have. There’s some genuinely sweet scenes between Harley and Ivy at the end, and Charretier’s guest art is gorgeous. A top-tier finish to one of DC’s biggest surprise hits in years.

Corrina: This issue shows what made the whole series work: a sense of humor, a dose of Harley’s very real compassion and work as a therapist, her friendship with the Coney Island crew, and, yet, also scene which shows exactly why Harley is a villain at heart and not a hero. People are complex and Harley more than most, but there’s lines she crosses that a hero wouldn’t cross.

I admit, the scene on the roof as Harley helps her client find meaning put a little mist in my eyes. And, then, well, there was that little bit of murder. But good on Poison Ivy for coming to the rescue.

Doctor Fate #14 – Paul Levitz, Writer; Inaki Miranda, Breno Tamura, Artists; Eva De La Cruz, Lee Loughridge, Colorists

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Hang in There, Khalid.

Ray: This title keeps on going, well into Rebirth, despite the fact that it was one of the lower-selling DC You titles. That’s a pleasant surprise, as it seems to be continuing at least to 18. Despite the credits on the cover, the regular artists aren’t on this issue and in fact this book isn’t one story, but two. The first, with guest art by Inaki Miranda, is 13 pages and is more of a straight up supernatural adventure story. As Khalid’s training under his uncle Kent Nelson heats up, he’s taken to repair a portal he accidentally opened during one of his battles. As he attempts to fix the damage he caused, his journey takes him into the underworld where he encounters a host of creepy critters as well as an old enemy. The story is a bit slight and Kent seems to be more on the jerk-ish side here, but Miranda’s art is the real selling point.

The latter, 7-page story was my favorite part this month. It ties into real-world issues without being heavy-handed or overly negative. Khalid and his family and friends are attending an inter-faith service in the aftermath of an unspecified terror attack, but the Church it’s being held in is being picketed by angry, threatening bigots not wanting to share “their space” with Muslims and immigrants. Through a rather clever use of his powers, Khalid brings them face-to-face with their legacy and scares them off while leaving them some things to think about. It’s a story with a nice message while managing to serve as an exciting comic book tale in its own right. Decent read overall for what amounts to a breather issue.

Corrina: I love that DC hasn’t abandoned Khalid, though it seems to me that the company is hedging its bets by keeping Kent around. I’m not particularly surprised this title is low-selling as even Kent wasn’t strong enough to hold up a solo series, even back in the day. The sometimes erratic pacing hasn’t helped the series but it works in this issue because they’re focusing on Khalid and his journey, with Kent, and with his family.

And the art? The art has always been a strong point of this series.

Who else wants a new Infinity Incorporated, headed by Khalid?

Teen Titans #22 – Tony Bedard, Writer; Ian Churchill, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Tony Avina, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Corrina: :Sigh:

Ray: Much like Doctor Fate, this book is continuing through September. Unlike Doctor Fate, I’m puzzled by why DC is bothering. We know that this team is essentially irrelevant come Rebirth, with only Raven and Beast Boy continuing as Titans. Tim heads back to Detective while Wonder Girl, Power Girl, and Bunker join Carrie Kelly in the limbo hole. This issue doesn’t do much to acquit what’s left of the book. When we last left off, Tim Drake had been captured after a battle and taken to Belle Reve by Amanda Waller. She’s looking to recruit the TT and turn them into her latest squad of killers, and she lures the group to Belle Reve to rescue Tim. Waller’s always been a bit morally dubious, but her actions here – ordering guards to open fire with deadly force on teenagers, etc – are pretty extreme even by that standards. There’s a few decent bits here, like the team switching places and costumes to neutralize the defenses agains them, but the story sort of ends abruptly and Tim’s “I did that fifteen minutes ago” routine plays a lot better in Detective. Certainly not the worst TT story DC has put out in recent years, but nothing here convinces me it’s not time to retire this version of the group.

Corrina: Bedard often has the task of finishing off titles that DC is ending, which is too bad, because he has the writing skill to be a regular on his own book. But this story doesn’t show off that skill much, as it’s yet another “evil government kidnaps our hero” tale, and one that has no nuance at all, especially in Waller’s actions.

You can see Bedard’s skill more in the costume-swap stuff. But that’s about all that’s interesting here.

Deathstroke #20 – James Bonny, Writer; Paolo Pantalena, Artist; Arif Prianto, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Corrina: It’s Over Right? Bring on Priest! 

Ray: Another title relaunching next month, I think most people are already looking past this run and to the spectacular-looking Priest run that begins shortly. There’s a reason for that – it feels like this run has been running in place for almost a year now. Ever since Rose disappears, Slade has been fighting the same group of Z-list villains including Lawman and Snakebite. Now he’s part of the League of Assassins, forced to kill for Ra’s Al Ghul to protect his children, but this final issue begins by showing that they wind up on opposite sides soon enough. That’s not a surprise – while Ra’s has a long game at play, Slade is just obsessed with revenge right now. It’s not a big surprise that Ra’s turns out to be playing Slade and manipulating him with Rose’s safety when she’s actually just fine, but it does lead to a pretty strong fight scene between the two master assassins. The issue ends with Slade letting his children go so they’ll be safe without him, and starting to get some grey hairs again. Glad to see his classic look remaining, but we already know he’s back working with Rose next month. Looking forward to a run that will hopefully finally make me see Slade as a compelling lead for the first time since the 90s.

Corrina: The art here is not to my taste, though the team does a fine job on the action sequences. It’s the faces and depictions of the people that don’t work for me.

Oh, wait, the story? Ray said it all. All I can tell you is this: Priest told me at Comic Con that the goatee is back, that Wintergreen is back (as seen in previews) and that his run will feature “The World’s Greatest Assassin who’s also the World’s Worst Dad.” (More when I write up that interview.

Future Quest #3 – Jeff Parker, Writer; Steve Rude, Aaron Lopresti, Artists; Karl Kesel, Inker; Brian Buccellato, Hi-Fi, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: I Like the Prequel Shorts But Want More of the Overall Story.

Ray: Much like Doctor Fate this month, this is a break from the main story and a split tale, with different art teams tackling the two halves. Fortunately, even if I didn’t find the story quite as compelling as the first two months, the art here is fantastic. The first story is a Birdman tale with art by Steve Rude, which is a fast-paced adventure/spy saga involving Birdman teaming up with a new spy character, Deva Sumadi, against a blob-like monster unleashed by FEAR that absorbs everything it touches. Lots of spectacular action, although it ends a bit abruptly and I still feel like Birdman is not exactly a fleshed out character. The second story has Aaron Lopresti art and focuses on the Herculoids, taking place on an alien planet filled with bizarre life forms ranging from a rock-plated gorilla, to a dragon, to an armored triceratops, to a duo of strange friendly blob-creatures. Lopresti was basically made to draw fantasy monsters, and the issue contains an interesting backstory to the planet’s robot wars. This issue definitely does feel like a fill-in to let Shaner get ahead, but it still gives us some great artwork and lets us get to know some of the countless players factoring in to Future Quest. A good read for anyone who remembers these shows, and fun even if you don’t.

Corrina: I’m totally unfamiliar with Birdman from the cartoon and from his recent appearances as an attorney-at-law, but I loved this story here, and that’s indicative of the quality of this book that a short tale featuring a character basically new to me can make me a fan of Birdman.

I knew the Herculoids before but they showcase more depth in this short story than in their cartoons, likely because their cartoons were just basic action stories with monsters. Not sure how I feel about the reveal of how they became stranded on this new world but it sure adds story conflict.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #17 – Sholly Fisch, Writer; Dario Brizuela, Artist; Franco Riesco, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Ray: The Mystery Machine Crew’s tour around the DCU continues with one of their most obscure stops yet, in Midway City. The home of Hawkman and Hawkgirl isn’t known for too many iconic DC stories, so it’s an odd choice to set an accessible all-ages story. Still, it delivers a Scooby Doo tale that’s far more faithful and enjoyable than Scooby Apocalypse. It starts with the standard mysterious ghost at the museum, bringing statues to life. The ghost claims to be Nicholas Flamel, the famous alchemist looking to reclaim an old notebook of his. I was a bit surprised that the mystery was revealed very early on in the issue, though – it’s a team-up of three Hawkman villains, Shadow Thief, Fadeaway Man, and Matter Master. Once they’re unmasked, it becomes more of a chase comic as Hawkman, Hawkwoman, and the Mystery Machine crew have to outwit the villains. There’s no real twists and the story isn’t quite as full of gags as the magic-based issue a few months back, but it’s still a fun read for fans of obscure DC heroes or Scooby-Doo.

 

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