DC This Week – ‘Nightwing’ Comes Back Strong

Comic Books
Nightwing #1 cover, image via DC Comics
Nightwing #1 cover, image via DC Comics

This week in DC, we’ve got a trio of new releases. Both Corrina and I think Nightwing is a strong comeback for Dick Grayson to his classic role, while we were a bit more mixed on the other two launches, finding Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps to be a slow start while New Super-Man was an intriguing debut with an unconventional lead.

We’ve also got dueling Wonder Woman origins in two books! Read on for our thoughts on all this week’s reviews, as well as a bonus review of Boom crossover Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy from me.

Nightwing: Rebirth #1 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Yanick Paquette, Artist; Nathan Fairbairn, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Great  Characterization

Ray: Most of the Rebirth one-shots have suffered from a common problem–they feel more like recap specials and intros to the concept than they do like the launch of the series. It makes sense for new fans (and we’ll talk about one that falls into this trap next), but it can make for an unsatisfying read for long-time readers. And then there’s Nightwing: Rebirth, which catches us up with Dick’s complex status quo and sets things up for the next chapter, while effectively telling its own story and hooking us for the rest of the series. This is one of the best first issues to come out of Rebirth, returning Dick to his classic role and reminding us what makes him work as a superhero while also serving as the final Grayson story. The story jumps around a lot, taking us through most of Dick’s supporting cast past and present as he prepares to take advantage of his restored secret identity to return to his role as Nightwing.

He takes Damian to an arcade, but with the ulterior motive of getting the bomb from Robin War out of his head. He returns to St. Hadrians’ with the plan of reconnecting with Helena, but she’s off on her own mission–as Huntress. There’s final team-ups with Agent Tiger and Midnighter, both of which provide the best scenes of the series. However, the best dialogue comes from Dick’s meeting with Batman. I am really, really liking the more compassionate, human Bruce Wayne as he appears in this book and in Batman. Too often Bruce and Dick’s relationship is defined by conflict. Not here. Overall, this is an extremely strong start. You can see the DNA of Grayson in this book, but it’s very much its own thing, and looks to be setting up for Nightwing’s best run in a long time.

Corrina: One thing this creative team has is a perfect sense of who Dick Grayson is. That’s what makes this issue, basically a recap of Grayon’s past few years and his relationships with little action, enjoyable and interesting. Any issue that has Damian and Dick playing video games at an arcade is naturally going to be a lot of fun. I wish, perhaps, we’d gotten to see Damian learn that Dick was still alive but this is the next best thing. I loved the quick appearances of Midnighter and Helena Bertinelli as well. What doesn’t thrill me is that we’re back to a Court of Owls story. That’s a personal pet peeve, though, and not a comment on the strength of this issue.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth #1 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Ethan Van Sciver, Artist; Jason Wright, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: So, Hal’s Back With a Ring

Ray: Robert Venditti has been writing Green Lantern for a while, ever since Johns left the title. In that time, there’s been quite a few exciting stories, but it often felt like it was bouncing from one huge event story to another without much progression. When this title picks up, Hal is at his lowest point. He’s without the Corps, without his ring, and with Sinestro’s forces marching on the rest of the universe atop the powerful Warworld. And the big problem is the issue spends a lot of time telling us all of this. As this is just picking up the story that concluded in May, this issue feels more like a delay than anything else. There are some good points to the issue. For one, Ethan Van Sciver drawing the Green Lanterns is always spectacular, although I believe he’s only on this one issue. Second, Sinestro’s current status quo is kind of intriguing. Although he’s closer to his goal of world domination than ever, he’s personally weaker than he’s ever been. His defeat of the Paling left him diminished and possibly dying.

Thus, there’s a nice mirroring to the stories of both Hal and Sinestro, as they attempt to regain their power. While Hal travels to the center of the universe and forges a new ring, Sinestro plans to harvest Parallax for his power. I did like the confirmation that Kyle Rayner would be appearing in this series, as I was worried about him disappearing after Omega Men. I can say I’m intrigued by the overall plot and looking forward to the series, but I don’t think it quite works on its own as an issue.

Corrina: Hey, look, it’s Hal Jordan. Mainly, this issue is recap while it catches a new reader on what’s been happening with Hal and why he decided to be an “outlaw.” It does the job of introducing a new reader to the status quo and the visuals of Hal forging his own Green Lantern ring, complete with the Green Lantern oath, are great. But I can’t help comparing this book to the space sequences of Future Quest and finding it coming in second place.

New Super-Man #1 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Viktor Bogdanovic, Penciller; Richard Friend, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Fresh, Original Take

Ray: There’s been a lot of new diverse young heroes introduced in recent years at DC and Marvel, and the best come from writers with ties to the culture the hero comes from. So I was very excited to see what Yang would do with the original character of Kong Kenan, despite the… lackluster run on Superman he had during the “Truth” storyline. Where this issue really surprised me, though, is with the characterization of the lead. He’s something we haven’t seen before in teen heroes. Namely, he’s a complete and total jerk. The best comparison I can think of is Flash Thompson being bitten by the spider. When we first meet him, he’s harassing and beating an overweight rich kid, only for a supervillain to attempt to kidnap the rich boy for ransom.

A random moment of heroism (or stupidity) leads to Kenan playing hero and becoming a viral video superstar, impressing everyone but his harsh, demanding father. It also puts him on the radar of the mysterious organization we first saw in the recent “Last Days of Superman” arc, as they attempt to create their new Superman. There’s some decent nuance in this issue, especially when we find out why Kenan has chosen this kid as his specific target. There’s no excuse for bullying, of course, but the understanding of the pain Kenan is acting out goes a long way to making him a more redeemable character. I feel like the issue lags a bit once the shadowy mad scientists enter the picture, but Yang has created a promising new character with an intriguing supporting cast. A strong first issue.

Corrina: At the back of my mind, I expected this new Superman to be typical of the new young wave of heroes: an earnest, honest, sort, eager to help others. As I was reading this issue, I realized that would have been far less interesting than the character who is the hero of this story. He is, quite frankly, a bully and proud of it. He’s disobedient, enjoys his glimpse into fame, and reckless as only a teenager can be. And yet, he works as the new Superman. That’s because Yang allows us to see behind the facade and see the hurt and anger that’s consuming him. He’s not the hero he should be yet–he’s not even a hero, just a kid given powers–but it’s clear he may just get there someday and I’m interested in his journey.

Batman: Detective Comics #936 – James Tynion IV, Writing; Alvaro Martinez, Penciller; Raul Fernandez; Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: A Showcase for Kate Kane

Ray: This Batwoman-centric issue brings the action in a big way, and seemingly reveals the big bad of the first act of this run. In many ways, a strong issue… but I’m not sure how I feel about the reveal. When we last left off, Batman had been attacked by the Colony and seemingly defeated with ease. Now, Batwoman is meeting with Renee Montoya to discuss her hesitations with Batman’s programs. Renee basically shuts her down and tells her she needs to trust herself and make her own choices–just before she gets the alert from Red Robin that something’s wrong. I did like the little glimpses we got of everyone’s lives in their off time (especially where Cass likes to hang out), but once they get back to the Belfry, it’s all action.

Cass chooses to head off to fight the Colony on her own before returning, and Jacob Kane shows up at the Belfry to brief the group on the threat–only to then betray them and bring down the security on the base, allowing the troops to storm their way in. To be fair, it doesn’t seem like he’s a straight villain–more an extremist who wants to use Batman’s training program to build an army of super-soldiers to take down threats abroad. It’s an interesting concept, but Jacob Kane was a great character on his own, and “surprise villain” wasn’t really the direction I wanted to see him go. Overall, though, this continues to be another strong book in the Bat-line right now.

Corrina: Huh. I was loving this book, especially the characterization of Kate Kane, until Jacob Kane pulled his twist ending. I’m not sure what to believe anymore. This book is well-written, has great dialogue, and is blessed with amazing art that manages to depict a large cast, and yet I’m just now sure I’m on board for another story in which the person closest to our hero betrays them. Now, of course, Jacob’s change may be another fake-out, like with Emiko Queen in Green Arrow. Comic cliffhangers are built on fake-outs. But this feels more like a layered heel-turn and, thus, I feel like it might be sticking. Tynion has set up a tough road for himself. Here’s hoping he pulls it off.

Action Comics #959 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Tyler Kirkham, Artist; Arif Prianto, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Better, Not Yet Great

Ray: Dan Jurgens continues to be one of the preeminent Superman writers of all time, especially when it comes to this new Superman and his family. I was a bit surprised, though, at just how much recapping there was this issue. We saw a lot of flashbacks to the “Death of Superman” in the Superman: Rebirth special, and here we sort of see those events again, from Lois’ perspective. It does make sense in context, as it’s grounded in Lois struggling how to tell her young son about what Doomsday is and what happened the last time he fought Superman. The human emotions in this story are what makes it stand out. I didn’t think the rest of the issue, involving Superman and Luthor continuing to fight against Doomsday, was as strong, though.

Doomsday is same as he ever was–an implacable force of nature, destroying everything in sight. Superman and Luthor’s teeth-clenched teamwork as they try to slow down the monster is entertaining, although Luthor didn’t seem to have as much to do as past issues, disappearing for long segments. I was least fond of the mysterious new Clark Kent wandering around, nearly getting himself killed at every opportunity and slowing Superman down to cause rescues. The action is big and dramatic in places, and Kirkham draws a suitably intimidating Doomsday. I’m sort of ready to move on from Doomsday already, though.

Corrina: While this rebirth of the Superman titles has been vastly more enjoyable than what went before, I feel as if this comic tossed a lot of questions out at once and then spent several issues with a big battle that provided few clues to the answers to those questions. I’d like to end the battle and get to the meat of the overall plot, as this Doomsday seems very much a sideshow.

The Flash #2 – Josh Williamson, Writer; Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artist; Ivan Plascencia

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: You Get the Speedforce! And You Get the Speedforce!

Ray: Josh Williamson has wasted no time expanding the world of the Flash, going in-depth into what the Speed Force means and how different people use it. The end of last issue saw Barry’s friend, August Heart, get hit by the first bolt of the Speed Force, getting powers of his own. I know a lot of people thought this meant he might become the villain Godspeed, but fortunately there doesn’t seem to be any hint of that in this first issue. Rather, Heart seems to be an inherently decent person, dedicated to justice, although he’s definitely more no-nonsense than Barry. He doesn’t see the point in a secret identity or costume, and more significantly, he believes he and Barry should be using their powers to aid in their police duties and collect evidence–a concept with definite implications for due process. The issue seems to take Barry’s side, but August definitely comes off as a fellow hero.

The young Wally also makes an appearance, as he tries to work out his growing powers on his own. Ever since Williamson took over, Wally’s characterization has improved a lot. He comes off much more like a fun-loving kid than the resentful petty crook he originally did. The only weak link of the issue is probably the villain, Doctor Carver, who comes across as your stock scarred mad scientist. However, it’s unlikely he’ll be much of a focus–given the massive Speed Force storm that erupts and hits hundreds of people. The issue’s got great characterization and leads to an intriguing cliffhanger. This is quickly becoming one of the best new runs in Rebirth.

Corrina: I can safely say I’ve never quite read a Flash story like this and that’s a good thing, as this series was badly in need of new ideas. I loved the sequences of Barry training his new “partner,” which nicely highlighted the wonder and the limitations of super-speed. August’s idea that now he can simply stop crime with his powers quickly runs into that roadblock of civil rights in a great discussion between the two men. It’s also great to see Wally having fun with his new powers and wondering where his limits are. And the cliffhanger? A whole city of speedsters? Neat! I have no idea what’s coming next and I like it!

Wonder Woman #2 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Nicola Scott, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Also a Steve Trevor Origin

Ray: After a strong Rebirth issue and #1, I was wondering how this series would hold up once Nicola Scott came on board for the “Year One” storyarc, retelling Diana’s origin. I was rather hesitant, given the way Legend of Wonder Woman is telling a potentially definitive WW origin right now. Unfortunately, this first issue did absolutely nothing to assuage my concerns. While it’s definitely a step up from the misguided “Wonder Woman: Year One,” this issue lacks a certain charm and doesn’t really feel like it adds anything new to Diana’s origin. The story is split in two, much like the first issue was. The first part focuses on Diana on Themysrica, as we get a feel for what Rucka’s take on the island is. He’s written this world before, so it’s no surprise that he has a decent touch, although we don’t really get much of a feel for any characters besides Diana and Hippolyta.

The other half of the issue is devoted to Steve Trevor as he prepares for the fateful mission that leads him to Paradise Island. While Rucka usually does well with military stories, this is unfortunately a cliche storm. I mean, really, a black best friend who has never been mentioned before and whose wife has a baby right before he heads off on this mission? Could he be marked for death any more? He might as well be talking about five days till retirement. I’m hoping that this story gets stronger, but based on these first two issues, it feels like I’m just going to be wishing for “The Lies” to be bi-weekly instead.

Corrina: This tale is as much a Steve Trevor origin as a Diana origin. We see each takes the steps that inevitably lead to their paths crossing after the plane crash on Paradise Island. I’m always a sucker for scenes on Paradise Island and this glimpse into mother-daughter and Amazon-Amazon bonding is exactly what I needed to wash away the whole “Amazons baby slavers” storyline. (though that’s not specificially washed away but now it’s easier to ignore). There is open talk about Diana’s sexuality, an appearance by Philippus as Hippolyta’s best friend and perhaps lover, and it’s just a feast for the eyes for long-term WW fans.

However, I was less thrilled with Steve’s sequences. I thought they showcased his character nicely but his friend practically had “dead meat” written on his forehead before the inevitable happened. Here’s hoping that is more complicated than it seems at first.

DC Comics Bombshells #15 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Laura Braga, Mirka Andolfo, Sandy Jarrell; Artists; J. Nanjan, Wendy Broome, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: A Fairy Tail Plus Gotham Girls

Ray: This book is all over the map this week–literally, and in a good way. It criss-crosses the world as the breather issues after the battle of Britain end and the gang starts to get back together. We still don’t get to see many of the main Bombshells this issue, so we don’t get to see all that much fallout from the big death, although it does factor in in Batwoman’s story. The issue opens with Mera, whose fairy-tale romance with Arthur Curry is brought to an abrupt end when a deranged Atlantean priest-turned zombie attacks the sleepy Irish fishing village and issues an ultimatum, leading Mera to prepare to return to the sea.

In Germany, Zatanna and Constantine are tasked with escorting the young Jewish half-demon girl Raven to safety, where she has the possibility of turning the tide of the war. Meanwhile, we flash back to Batwoman’s time in the Spanish Civil War with another young freedom fighter–Renee Montoya, who returns this issue after a nasty breakup with Kate. I’m impressed with just how knowledgeable this series is when it comes to WW2 history and how many elements it works in. And in the middle of this all, Harley and Ivy are scheming and causing trouble for everyone. This continues to pretty much always be a solid read.

Corrina: This Mera-focused issue has something of a fairy-tale quality about it, with Mera on an isolated island with Arthur as her guide to the local lore and legends. Arthur, too, seems more than he is on the surface, and the romance between them is sweet and understated. But fairy tales must end and Mera is going back to Atlantis to save her kingdom. Seems to me that she’s the same kind of absentee ruler than Arthur himself is in the regular comics. I hope this Arthur plays a part in Mera’s quest.

Meanwhile, the Gotham Girls get the band back together. I like this mercenary Selina Kyle, who while she wants the money, also wants take the money from the right side. Should be a fun team-up next issue. Like old times.

The Legend of Wonder Woman #8 – Renae De Liz, Writer/Artist; Ray Dillon, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Wonder Woman Shows Her Compassion

Ray: The final act of Legend of Wonder Woman seems like it’s going to be spectacular, as it completely shows up the origin story in the main book and delivers one of the best issues of the run. With Diana now sans her powers and trying to adjust to life as a normal person, the issue starts off with a rather light tone, as Diana’s main struggle in the first act is helping Etta pull off a performance coup after sabotage by her arch-rival. Then, things get serious in a hurry as the troops come under attack and Diana, Etta, and friends steal a plane to get to the front.

Through a surprising series of events, we get the debut of the invisible plane and one of the most exciting action segments in any comic this week. From there, it’s another face-off with the Duke of Deception and his fellow Ares acolyte Priscilla Rich (a familiar name). There’s twists and turns aplenty, with several fantasy creatures making surprising appearances and a great last-page cliffhanger that puts Diana in the fight of her life. This book’s view of Diana’s rogues gallery is firmly grounded in mythology, which is where I like it, and its Diana and her supporting cast is top-notch. This is going to go down as the definitive WW origin.

Corrina: After Diana spurns Zeus’ offer to be her champion after he cleanses Earth, our heroine is at a crossroads. With few powers, she’s forced to face the fact that this is her life now and will be for the foreseable future, perhaps forever. That leads to a terrifice sequence where she makes a smashing entrance into Etta Candy’s musical number, and Steve remembering his angel and realizing that Diana and WW are the same person. Of course, Steve’s pulled into a too-dangerous mission. Of course, Diana will go after him. What I didn’t expect was the appearance of the invisible plane. Good show!

But the issue belongs to the Duke of Deception, who has been deceived himself. Here, Wonder Woman’s compassion shows through as one of her weapons, and I never expected to feel sorry for the Duke but I do.

Earth 2: Society #14 – Daniel H. Wilson, Writer; Federico Dallochio, Angel Hernandez, Artists; David Calderon, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Corrina: Decent Issue

Ray: In many ways, I’m struck by the similarities between this small alternate-universe comic and universe-spanning crossover Civil War II. In both, you have a potential game-changing but dangerous opportunity that some heroes want to embrace and others don’t trust. You have friends ready to tear each other apart over their vision of the future. Also, both aren’t all that good, but at least this one manages to get its story over and done with in one title. The stakes and dangers aren’t explained all that well here, and Fury is too thin a character to really speak well for her side, but she and Dick Grayson do get some decent interaction this issue. The villain, Ultra-Humanite, spends most of the issues sending his child assassins after the heroes, all leading up to the cliffhanger confrontation between Dick and his son. It feels like there might be some meat to the next issue, but this one was mainly forgettable. I’m ready to say goodbye to this post-apocalyptic world and hello to the real JSA again.

Corrina: It seems like every other issue of this book is a good one and this is one of those, as the focus shifts to this Dick Grayson. It’s about time we had a look at who this guy is and why he fights, and if we’d had more of this character work in the beginning of the series, I wouldn’t be so disenchanted with it. The debate between “eke out our existence” and “try something that might end in destruction but could also save the world” is a good one and it’s nice to see reasoned discussion between hereoes. I’m guessing that option #2 is chosen somewhere along the way.

Wacky Raceland #2 – Ken Pontac, Writer; Leonardo Manco, Artist; Mariana Sanzone, Colorist

Ray – 1/10

Corrina: No On the Dead Family Thing

Ray: So, after last issue’s post-apocalyptic sludge that included the world’s creepiest Revenant parody, we’re back on the road. It seems like they’re going to be parceling out the information about the racers’ backstories one at a time, starting with the most popular characters. This issue, it’s Dick Dastardly’s turn in the limelight, such as it is in this dour world. While plotting to win his latest race, he drives by an abandoned building that has significant meaning for him and stops.

It turns out that, in his past, he was a virtuoso musician with a loving wife and son. Then the apocalypse happened, and he sealed himself away in a safe room and refused to let his wife and son in for fear that the bugs would get him! We get to see a graphic visual of them getting eaten alive by monster bugs! And then we see their bones when he returns there! Towards the end of the issue, there’s a bit of the Dick Dastardly trickery–but it actually works here, which stands against everything Dastardly represents! He’s never supposed to win! That’s his thing! So, once again, I really don’t know who this book is for or what it’s supposed to be.

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #2 – Chynnna Clugston-Flores, Writer; Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Penciller; Maddi Gonzales, Inker; Whitney Cogar, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: After a first issue that tried to balance a few too many characters to fully work, this second issue nicely finds its groove as it pulls both groups into a compelling mystery. Having just seen Olive and Jen be kidnapped by a mysterious group of skull-masked cultists, the friends are at first despondent, but soon get going on what they do best–coming up with outlandish plans with high chance of death to rescue their friends. These segments lean a little too heavily on the power of friendship stuff in places, but there’s some good jokes mixed in.

The book really shines in the other half, though, as Jen and Olive wake up to find themselves in a pastel-creepy ’80s resort, complete with retro debutante dresses they’re expected to wear. They soon find Professor MacPherson and Rosie–but not as they expected. Their mentors have been de-aged to teenagers in some sort of supernatural celebration for a rich ’80s debutante who just can’t let go of her past. There’s a creepiness to the whole thing, but it never quite loses the offbeat vibe of Lumberjanes, such as when the Skull-wearing henchmen are playing the role of butler. Overall, this is going to be fun for any fans of either book.

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