DC This Week – Deathstroke Hits the Target

Comic Books Entertainment
Deathstroke rebirth images
Deathstroke Rebirth #1

In a week where Scott Snyder’s All-Star Batman launches, where Lois Lane and Lana Lang get superpowers in Superwoman #1, where Wonder Womans Year One continues and where Detective Comics reminds us of how great the Batman Family can be, it was Deathstroke Rebirth, written by Christopher Priest, that stood out. If you’ve been ignoring that book (and rightly so) now is the time to start picking it up.

In the meantime, old-school Superman still is busy with Doomsday, the new Super-Man continues to show why he’s not ready for his responsibilities, the Earth-2 Society book limps to a finish, and the Flinstones dives into our habit of mass consumption.

All-Star Batman #1 – Scott Snyder, Writer; John Romita Jr., Declan Shalvey, Artists; Danny Miki, Inker; Dean White, Jordie Bellaire, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Confusing and Disappointing.

Ray: A strange, often confusing, but ultimately fascinating debut issue, Scott Snyder’s return to Batman wastes no time throwing us into the action and setting up a fascinating mystery. However, at the same time, it seems to have quite a few out-of-character moments that left me scratching my head, and as a stand-alone comic falls quite a bit short of the iconic Snyder/Capullo Batman run. In that run, Snyder spotlighted Joker, Riddler, and original villains the Court of Owls and Mister Bloom. Now it’s time for the third iconic member of Batman’s rogues gallery to get his spotlight – Two-Face. In a story that flashes back and forth between Gotham and Batman’s current situation, we find out that Two-Face has been steadily deteriorating mentally, with his evil personality coming out more and more often in escalating bursts of terror, at one point attempting to drench Gotham in acid rain. Harvey Dent, in one of his rare moments of lucidity, asks Batman to take Two-Face to a mysterious house far outside Gotham, sending the two enemies on a bizarre road trip together.

Of course, nothing is ever simple, and Two-Face has placed a bounty on them, leading D-list villains like Firefly and Killer Moth – as well as random civilians – to target them. The action is great, and this is some sensational art by John Romita Jr., but it does feel at times like a random set-up, and I’m not quite sure what to make of Two-Face’s characterization in this arc yet. The last-page reveal about Alfred is very clearly a fake-out much like his apparent death in a previous arc was, so I’m not worried. Duke is a highlight both in the main story, and in his backup, which focuses on his training. A little more blood than I expected as he and Batman investigate a sadistic killer, but a very interesting reveal about Batman potentially having a “lost protege” who went to the dark side. A slightly bumpy start, but it’s good to have Snyder writing Batman again, and this title seems designed to evolve with every arc. Intriguing.

All-Star Batman #1, copyright DC Comics
All-Star Batman #1, copyright DC Comics

Corrina: This comic read to me more like one of Snyder’s horror comics. With the first issues of those stories, it’s all right for events to be confusing because it’s a new world and the reader is trying to find things out along with the main characters and, clearly, being in the dark ups the horror.

But here…I was flipping pages back and forth to make sure I’d read the panels correctly. Obviously, this is outside the main story line happening in the Batman books but the inclusion of Duke Thomas made me first think it was in continuity. So I had to put that aside that first. That’s not so much the fault of the creators but the premise certainly was: the idea of Batman on the run with Two-Face while there’s a bounty on the villain’s head is, just, well, I’ve seen it done before and I’m not impressed with this idea.

That concept ruined most of the action for me and I was throwing up my hands about the same time that regular citizens pulled guns on Batman to collect the reward. I get that we’re going for Batman having the strength of character to try for even a slim chance of saving his greatest enemy but the way the plot is set-up is ridiculous. As was the fake-out of Alfred supposedly giving Batman up. Maybe it’s all part of some master plan or something.

I’ve enjoyed Snyder’s work on Batman a great deal. But if this didn’t have his name on it, I would be advising people to completely skip it. As it is? Maybe the following issues will make this one look better in retrospect.

Deathstroke: Rebirth #1 – Priest, Writer; Carlo Pagulayan, Penciller; Jason Paz, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Excellent! 

Ray: Expectations for this book were high, given that it’s Priest’s return to big two superhero comics for the first time in over a decade, but after one issue, I can safely say – this is not just the best issue of a Deathstroke solo series in recent memory, it may be one of the best issues featuring the character I’ve ever read. Priest manages to neatly thread the needle of one of the trickiest balancing acts in comics – writing a villain protagonist who remains intriguing enough to be a lead while not being neutered. This issue starts off by humanizing Slade – such as it is – nicely by showing us the kind of father he was when his boys were young. Certainly not a good father by any stretch, but actually more likely to threaten and neglect than to abuse. He comes off more like a standard bad father than a deadly assassin. It makes him seem, if certainly not likable, human.

It’s an interesting development that the focus is on Grant and Joey this issue, unlike Rose who is supposed to be a regular here but doesn’t appear. Also worth noting that Rose and Joey seem to have switched ages again, which I put more on the previous writers not knowing the history. Slade has a new team of allies who seem intriguing, and it’s good to see Wintergreen back for the first time since he was killed off way back in 2003. Most importantly, Priest seems to have a unique MO for Deathstroke, essentially casting him as a hitman who isn’t afraid to head into dangerous, war-torn locales that the governments of the world have all but abandoned. This is also the best Pagulayan’s art has ever looked. In only one issue, Deathstroke has turned from a 90’s killing frenzy to a smart geopolitical thriller, and I’m hopeful Priest will have a nice, long run on this book.

Corrina: When I interviewed Priest at Comic Con in San Diego last month, he said he was “terrified” of disappointing readers excited about him taking over this book. He should not have worried as this title just took a quantum leap in quality, from your basic boring comic about a mercenary to an examination of the nature of justice and parenthood.

Priest also said that he wanted to pack as much as he could into every issue so the reader would put down the book having been completely satisfied. He accomplished that as well, because there’s a great deal here: Slade’s relationships with his sons, his relationships with Wintergreen, and his work as an assassin. The dialogue is complicated and layered, too, especially in the present day with Slade on his latest job. As for the flashback sequences, yeah, that glimpse of Slade as Dad is pretty chilling.

Buy this book.

Superwoman #1 – Phil Jiminez, Writer/Penciller; Matt Santorelli, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Girl Power! 

Ray: Definitely one of the most out-of-nowhere series announced for Rebirth, Phil Jiminez’s take on Lois Lane as Superwoman is an intriguing start that packs not one but two major twists. Having been present when Superman went Nova, Lois absorbed some of the energy he expelled, which gave her some of his powers. She goes to a skeptical Lana Lang – still holding a grudge over Lois’ decision to expose Clark’s superhero identity – for training and help in understanding her abilities. The issue flashes back and forth between Lois’ training and her first major mission in Metropolis, as Luthor’s unveiling of a giant aircraft carrier turns into a disaster. The action can be a bit jumpy at points, as Jiminez is fond of very busy, detailed pages, a trend only accentuated when he’s writing and drawing. Still, some of the action is spectacular.

And then we come to the twist – there isn’t one Superwoman, there’s two. While Lois got powers akin to Superman’s, Lana seems to have abilities somewhere between Firestorm and the 90’s electric blue Superman. Did not expect to see a callback to this. I like Lois’ characterization, not entirely sold on Lana yet, but that’s because the sudden revision of Lana into a science genius and explorer never felt quite genuine to me. Which makes me think that this series could lose me quickly if the second twist, at the end of the issue, sticks. I get that having two Lois Lanes running around might be a bit tricky for DC, but while I like the issue overall, the ending has the potential to be a nasty bait-and-switch.

Page from Superwoman #1, copyright DC Comics.
Page from Superwoman #1, copyright DC Comics.

Corrina: I’d no idea what to expect from this title but, hey, it’s Jimenez writing it and he wrote one of my favorite Lois Lane stories ever during his Wonder Woman run, so I hoped for the best. This wasn’t what I expected but it was definitely intriguing and fun and I loved the interplay between Lana and Lois. It makes sense that Lois is the impetuous one and Lana is the more careful one, with an engineer’s sense of finding out what makes something tick before tackling the problem.

Look! Two women in the same comic and they have differing personalities that both conflict and compliment each other. See, that’s not hard, writers! The action sequences are well done, too, particularly the sequence of Lois and Lana saving a bridge together when the task proves more than either one of them can handle.

This is clearly tied into the overall mystery about the new Doomsday and even connected to the hints that the dead Superman of this Earth wasn’t what he seemed, and that could make some things in this story confusing if you haven’t read the other tales. (Like Superman Lex.) I have faith that Lois’ supposed “death” of the end isn’t the end of this at all. It better not be!

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

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: It’s an Improvement Over Pre-Rebirth

Ray: I was surprised by just how much I liked the Rebirth issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws, having giving up on the various incarnations of this title long ago. I thought it was a good set-up for Jason’s new status quo, but I expected things to fall apart quickly. So color me surprised when…the second issue is just as good. It helps that the focus remains very firmly on Jason Todd as he attempts to infiltrate the Gotham crime scene, and I like that it pulls in Jason’s past to flesh things out. It uses his youth to introduce a new villain in Ma Gunn, a gun-toting Orphanage head who uses her facilities to turn orphans into mob killers. Dexter Soy draws some great action scenes, and Lobdell does a strong job with the quieter moments as Jason tries to square his loathing for the criminal world with the vow he made to Batman last issue.

His undercover mission leads him to join up with Black Mask, who is making a major play to bring all of Gotham’s crime scene under his boot. No one will ever top Brubaker’s take on Black Mask and his gleeful sadism can get old for me, but he makes a decent foil here. The main point is to get Jason to the site of a daring train robbery where he encounters Artemis, the first of the new Outlaws. I’m going to keep on waiting for the other shoe to drop (and that other shoe will likely be named Bizarro), but Lobdell’s handle on Jason continues to be surprisingly strong.

Corrina: This is a considerable improvement over the ridiculousness of the last year of this title. I’ve always liked Soy and he does a terrific job here, especially with the explosion and rescue. The idea of Jason going undercover on the mob isn’t a bad one, though, I have to say: is anyone in Gotham ever going to trust a guy who was once Batman’s sidekick? I mean, maybe the Joker would love the idea but I’d think the other Gotham crime families would just shoot him.

But you have to suspend disbelief to enjoy this title. Like, say, if you want to wonder why Bruce sent Jason to an orphanage run by someone like Ma Gunn in the first place. Because one would think Batman would do his homework on this one, paranoid as he is. Again, suspend disbelief. Jason’s characterization is good, so if you like him, you might like this new story.

Batman: Detective Comics #938 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Alvaro Martinez, Penciller; Raul Fernandez, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: The Real Tim Drake is Back and He’s a Boss.

Ray: As the “Rise of the Batmen” arc reaches its climax, this issue focuses heavily not on the heroes, but on its main antagonist, Colonel Jacob Kane. Kane has been a heroic if complex figure throughout the various Batwoman runs, so his turn here needs to be explained well, and this issue does a great job, starting with a stunning flashback segment in which Kane’s promotion – the promotion that put him in position to become the leader of the Colony – is interrupted when he gets a call that his runaway daughter has been found at the site of her mother’s grave. This shows nicely how for everything Kane has done, even against his all daughter, it was all formed in the pain of a recent loss, out of a desperate wish to protect what he had left. True well-intentioned extremist characters are hard to come by, and usually come off as flat, but Kane is a rare strong example.

Speaking of the villains, I thought that Ulysses Armstrong helped steal the show here, with his fanboying over Tim and his conspiring with Kane, although he still reminds me much more of Lonnie Machin in characterization. The heroes don’t get all that much to do, with two exceptions. Cassandra Cain manages to take out an entire room of Bat-men alone, in her best scene since her reintroduction. She doesn’t get all that much page time, but Tynion clearly loves her. And even though he’s still a puzzling addition, the unique uses of Clayface’s powers lend themselves to some spectacular visuals. The ending takes this arc in a really interesting direction with some harsh parallels to real-world wars. Despite not getting the hype of the other two titles, I think this may be the best Bat-book on the stands right now.

Clayface gets into the fight, from Detective #938, copyright DC Comics
Clayface gets into the fight, from Detective #938, copyright DC Comics

Corrina: My inner child, who grew up on the old Batman Family comic, is enjoying the heck out of this new run on Detective.

As Ray said, the focus is on Jacob and while he finds this a layered take on fanaticism, I’ve seen this before, where a good man is pushed over the edge. I wonder if Jacob Kane will survive this arc, given that he loves Kate so much, and that he’s certain to disappoint her with his choices at the end of this issue. I’m kinda disappointed too: soldiers on the front lines are usually the ones least able to live with collateral damage.

But, let’s get to the other characters. I love the panel where Cassandra smiles as she’s about to take on the army. I love the fact that Tim outsmarts Ulysses. This is the Tim Drake as he was originally conceived, the one who shares Batman’s need for prep time and research, the one who is usually one step ahead. He makes an excellent second to Kate. Plus, banter with Spoiler! It’s like old times.

Clayface is finally used, in spectacular fashion. I hope we see more of him and his personality when this particular story is done.

The Flash #4 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Neil Googe, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Still Good But Not as Great as Previous Issues

Ray: After last issue’s packed, thrilling issue that introduced a whole new cast of speedsters as well as the ruthless villain Godspeed, this issue feels like a step back, if only a minor one. Carmine Di Giandomenico steps off on art and is replaced by Neil Googe, who does a capable job. I don’t think he renders the speed effects quite as spectacularly, though. Where the issue continues to excel is in the exploration of Barry’s new role as a teacher and mentor, something that was sorely missing from the New 52 version. We get more of August Heart and Dr. Meena Dhawan this issue, as they form the core of the new Team Speed, along with teenager Avery and a young male speedster who seems to be fanboying over being trained by the Flash.

Where the issue is a little weaker is no Godspeed this issue. Instead, we get Dr. Carver, straight out of villain central casting and transforming himself into a living speed tornado in an attempt to recreate the Flash’s powers. There’s some cool visuals in the battle, but overall a forgettable villain. I’m also surprised they’re waiting so long to get Wallace involved here, as a short segment shows he’s still trying to get his powers under control. Barry’s sudden bond with Dr. Dhawan, turning into a romantic bond where he reveals his identity, is a bit abrupt, especially as she’s my top suspect to be Godspeed. Not a perfect issue, but Williamson’s characterization of Barry continues to be top notch, and this remains a massive step up from the previous run.

Corrina: There are two things I’ve loved about this Flash run. One, it’s tackling something new rather than the same old Rogues story. Two, that Barry is finally showcasing a personality unique to him and not one either borrowed from Wally or a generic superhero personality. These changes have made the Rebirth issues a pleasure to read. It’s great to see Barry teaching other speedsters and happy to have people who share his power. So many other heroes would have been threatened or reacted with suspicion but Barry, being Barry, wants to help. I love his worry about his proteges as he brings them into battle.

Yes, Dr. Carver was nothing special, I agree with Ray, and I also agree that the romance with Dr. Dhawan is a bit abrupt but, hey, Barry’s never had a speedster that could be a romantic match before and he’s basically supercharged, so I could buy it happening, well, fast. I’m not sure how this will end up, as the hints this issue seem to indicate all these new speedsters are going to lose their speed, but I have no idea what exactly will happen next and I love it.

Superman: Action Comics #961 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Stephen Segovia, Penciller; Art Thibert, Inker; Rob Leigh, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Forward Momentum, Thank You.

Ray: As I said last issue, I am very much tired of Doomsday. I think starting this run off by having Superman spend two months punching his most iconic villain may not have been the best idea, especially as it was also trying to balance a bunch of subplots involving Luthor and the mysterious new Clark Kent. However, this issue, something goes right. By taking Doomsday out of Metropolis and bringing him close to Superman’s home and family, the threat of Doomsday becomes less lout and over the top, and more intimate and genuinely scary. It’s one thing to have Doomsday threatening a city. It’s another to have Superman see the beast coming for his only child.

The tension and the desperation in these scenes are through the roof, and you really get the feeling that Superman would sacrifice himself for his family again without a second thought. Of course, we’re not going to see Superman die again, so there has to be an x-factor – and that comes in the form of Mr. Oz and his mysterious army of old-fashioned superhero-style minions. Giving more fuel to the Ozymandias theory? I think so. There’s a lot of little subplots involving Luthor, Superwoman, Wonder Woman, and Clark Kent, but no real advancement in any of them. However, the core plot here is as strong as it’s been since this new run began.

Corrina: I, too, have grown bored with the endless punching of Doomsday. So far, it hasn’t gone anywhere, nor have any of the mysteries been solved. Ray thought the fight scenes in this issue were tense and worrisome but I found them just another continuation of the endless fight and therefore not riveting at all. (They do, however, let the art team show off.)

That’s not to say this new take is bad: characterization is excellent, the mysteries set up so far are intriguing, and it’s nice to have a Superman who’s, well, Superman. Finally, though, we get moving on the plot at the end of this issue with Mr. Oz. It all seems connected to Lois and Lana’s new powers, the new Clark Kent, and the reason why this Superman and Lois exist on this Earth. Hopefully, the next chapter in this story will feature less punching and more plot.

Wonder Woman #4 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Nicola Scott, Artist; Romulo Farjado Jr., Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Cool Addition to the Tournament.

Ray: The second part of Year One is here, and I was looking for any signs that this arc had something new to say, and wouldn’t just be a distraction from the excellent main arc. The answer is…sort of. This is definitely a step up from the previous issue, and has a few interesting twists overall. Steve Trevor is the sole survivor of the crash, and the Amazons are currently deciding what to do with him while he recovers. It’s interesting that this is one of the first versions of WW I’ve seen where the Amazons aren’t immediately hunting Steve down for being a man on Paradise Island. Although there are those who don’t want him there, it’s a much more moderate approach overall.

The issue gets some decent material out of the Amazons and the way they interact with guns, as well as Steve’s grief over the loss of his friends, but I had to say once we get to the actual tournament, it doesn’t have the impact of other recent takes we’ve seen. There’s a two-page spread by Nicola Scott showing the combat that’s frankly spectacular, but then it turns into a strange segment of the finalists dodging gunshots from Hippolyta to show who can survive Man’s world. It looks gorgeous, no doubt, but the story is still sort of lacking especially in comparison to Legend of Wonder Woman. Scott’s art is the main draw here, but I’m still looking forward to getting back to the main story.

The Amazon Council meets in Wonder Woman #4, copyright DC Comics
The Amazon Council meets in Wonder Woman #4, copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Every take on Wonder Woman’s origin is going to now be compared to Legend of Wonder Woman and most will suffer by the comparison because that book has become the gold standard. This story is no exception but while it’s not as layered as the other story, it does have some compensations. The Amazons manage to argue with each other about what to do next in a civilized manner. The Amazon council sequence is one of the best scenes featuring them that I’ve read. Hippolyta and Phillipus are clearly a couple and it’s great to see them back together after numerous destructions of Paradise Island and several deaths on each of their parts.

But it’s the relationshipsbetween Diana and her mother that make this issue, first the tenderness and love between the two of them as Hipppolyta realizes her daughter will enter and win the tournament and, then, when Diana is the last contestant and Hippolyta has to fire the gun at her to test whether she can deflect bullets.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #2 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Rafa Sandoval, Penciller; Jordi Tarragona, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Not Going to Turn Anyone Into a Hal Jordan Fan

Ray: Three issues in, it feels like we’ve seen this all before. This title is rehashing plots from multiple different books, and it feels like there’s no real forward motion. In the most intriguing of the three plots, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and the rest of the surviving Lanterns have wound up back in the main universe. However, several of them are dying from a mysterious ailment, their rings are on the verge of death, and they don’t know where in the universe they are. As the leader, John sends Guy off on a mission into the unknown to find help and their way back home. Guy lost in space punching anything he sees? I think I’ll enjoy that.

The rest of the issue…just generic. Hal Jordan is essentially starring in “Punching round the Cosmos” as he gets into one brawl with a Sinestro Corps member after another. Some of the banter with the three-faced villain is amusing, but that’s about it. Meanwhile, on Warworld, Sinestro and Soranik rehash a lot of their past issues from the Sinestro series. However, Sinestro seems to have lost most of his characterization from there, primarily talking in cliched rants about the power of fear. While the art is pretty strong, it feels like this series is running in place right now.

Corrina: Generic is a good word for the issue. Like Deathstroke was generic as a mercenary who killed with no layers until Priest’s issue, this is a generic space adventure story with mostly interchangeable characters. I couldn’t even hate Hal this issue because he was so bland and I’m so, so done with Sinestro and his plotting and his tricking of everyone. Ooo…he’s such a scary villain! He’s so smart! He’s so arrogant. I get it. But making him so strong makes Soranik a weak and uninteresting character by comparison and that’s too bad. It would be so much more interesting if she were close to his level instead of continually disappointing him/being disappointed by him, and moping about it.

As for the rest of the Corps, I was hoping for a quick reunion with Hal but instead it’s being drawn out again. Those scenes are only mildly saved by the talk between John and Guy. For a Rebirth story, this doesn’t feel fresh at all.

New Super-Man #2 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Viktor Bogdanovic, Penciller; Richard Friend, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Love This Character

Ray: After a promising first issue, a lot of major issues sort of cropped up in this sophomore outing. This is obviously a passion project for Gene Yang, and I like seeing just how he works details of life in China into this book. However, the main problem seems to be the characters and their likability. Kenan Kong was introduced as an immature bully, albeit one with quite a few reasons for being a jerkass. That’s fine, that’s how you develop a hero. However, surrounding him with characters who are all other versions of jerkass is a little more iffy. You’ve got the mercurial scientist who has no problem torturing her charges, and ersatz versions of Batman and Wonder Woman.

Batman is a large, tech-based hero who likes to insult Kenan’s intelligence, while Wonder Woman is stoic and ruthless, bearing no real resemblance to the original hero. Things pick up a bit when they go on their first mission as a team, rescuing a powerful businesswoman and her daughter from a super villain, and we see how Kenan’s past informs him now. His decision to unmask at the end of the issue is the kind of impulsive decision I could see a young hero making, so it has promise. I’m just hoping for less of the fake JL and less insults and electro-collars as comedy in the future, more genuine character development.

Corrina: We’re going to have to disagree on this one because I like reading about Kenan. Each time I believe I’m going to hate him, he does something that makes me root for him. In this, he’s like a lot of lost teenagers: his rebellion isn’t sweet or endearing, it’s angry and prideful and complex.

Where Ray saw other jerk-ass characters around Kenan, like the Batman and Wonder Woman, I saw adults who were naturally unimpressed and unwilling to take the time to deal with such an unruly brat (in their eyes at least.) That made perfect sense to me, especially as the two of them clearly have responsibilities and take them seriously. They’re not going to like Kenan and why would they even be kind to Kenan? Clearly, someone will have to do that down the line, and I wonder who that will be. I also find the subplot involving his father intriguing and clearly connected in some form to the super-powered scientists.

This issue was a highlight of this week for me.

Additional Reviews:

Suicide Squad Most Wanted: El Diablo and Boomerang – Jai Nitz, Michael Moreci, Writers; Cliff Richards, Oscar Bazaldua, Artists; Scott Hanna, Inker; Hi-Fi, Beth Sotelo, Colorists

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: If You Liked El Diablo In the Movie, You’ll Like This.

Ray: The second incarnation of this Suicide Squad anthology title, timed nicely to come out at the same time as the movie, this book feels more relevant than the last one due to being two stories actually designed for a Suicide Squad title. The opening story, focusing on El Diablo, suffers from an overtly villainous Amanda Waller, who seems more openly sadistic than she usually does. However, once Checkmate enters the picture, things get interesting. Diablo is released into the wild on a private mission, which brings him into conflict with an old rival from his hometown. Jai Nitz is Diablo’s co-creator, so you can tell he has some interesting things to say with the character.

The second story, focusing on Captain Boomerang, is notable for the fact that it’s the first story written by a graduate of the DCU writers’ workshop, noted indie writer Michael Moreci. It starts out with a straight-up action mission for the Squad, where Boomerang is far from pulling his weight. His slacking off leads to him getting left behind, which leads to him on the run down south, in search of a supervillain and a way home. He eventually winds up encountering a teen metahuman with a unique and creepy power and getting pulled into her own agenda. While the story is kind of generic, Boomerang’s constant screw-ups and general lazy nature make him an amusing lead.

Corrina: I picked up this issue the day after seeing the Suicide Squad movie and El Diablo’s characterization from that tale meshes well with this issue. He’s once again a man full of regrets but unable to completely give up on his powers. The story of him going back home only to have to fight the new guy running things is a basic plot we’ve seen before but the addition of Checkmate and a new way of doing things makes it worth reading. Also: I know Waller is more villainous than we’ve seen her before but much more of this and she’s going to start cackling like a super villain. I hope DC dials it back a bit.

On Boomerang, yeah, we’ve seen this before too but the dialogue is top-notch, especially Harley’s comment about maybe not missing Boomer, and Boomer’s internal monologue about the way he does things. He’s lazy and unconcerned with his teammates for the most part and that’s why seeing him in over his head is so amusing: he deserves it and he knows it.

Earth 2: Society #15 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Tony Harris, Angel Hernandez, Artists; Wade Von Grawbadger, Inker; David Calderon, Colorist

Ray – 2/10

Corrina: Art Not Working At All.

Ray: As this series limps to its finish, this is one of the strangest issues it’s had yet. For one thing, the art style is radically different in the first and second halves, and the first half is apparently drawn by Tony Harris of Ex Machine fame. However, the inking is so different from his usual style that it makes his art look, frankly, bizarre. The confrontation between Dick and his possessed, aged-up son is rather anti-climatic, as Tommy acts oddly histrionic and the art often even makes it hard to tell who is who. From there, the art gets better, but the story doesn’t, as Fury and the heroes argue over what to do with the artifact Ultra-Humanite is trying to get ahold of, and Ultra-Humanite possesses Alan to force him to take his ring back and strip the power from the world. It seems like the world of Earth 2 faces a potential catastrophe every other day, so this is nothing surprising. Bring back the real JSA, please.

Corrina: How about ‘bring back interesting stories, please?’ I’m not sure that this series is so much limping to the end as crawling to its inevitable doom. There’s so much jumbled here that could be interesting but it’s executed in such a way that it’s not. Dick and his son’s confrontation should be heartbreaking but it’s silly. The Ultra-Humanite should be a serious threat but he’s not because he’s just dull. The other heroes arguing about what to do next made me throw up my hands. The art, so disjointed and so different from past issues, is jarring and that only adds to the mess.

The Flintstones #2 – Mark Russell, Writer; Steve Pugh, Artist; Chris Chuckry, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Fun Satire

Ray: Two issues in, there doesn’t really seem to be a strong central plot here, unlike the rest of the Hanna-Barberra line. This title seems more interested in exploring the various quirks of Bedrock and prehistoric life in general, and that’s both a plus and a minus in places. I was glad to see the strange framing device set in the modern era was gone, but this issue sort of lacked the complexity of the first, instead settling on just giving us a bunch of clever sight gags for most of the issue. There’s a new craze sweeping Bedrock called “crap”. All the stuff you don’t need, which in Bedrock is mainly various animals designed for household tasks.

With the family going crazy for crap, Fred and Barney take a second job selling vitamins, which to anyone who remembers those chewables will make you laugh. The pokes at organized religion in the issue feel a little too on the nose, and I was disappointed to see nothing of the villain Mr. Slate, who was one of the best parts of the first issue, but the ending brings in a fan favorite from the original series and made me grin. Overall, still a strong silver medal in the Hanna-Barberra line.

Corrina: I interviewed Russell at Comic Con in San Diego and he said this title is basically going to be a series of one-off issues exploring different aspects of Bedrock, with a big dose of satire about our modern life. That’s the case with this issue, which focuses on conspicuous consumption and where it leads. The animal “gadgets” are inventive and good sight gags but, as Ray said, the religion plot is a bit on the nose, which may be the point: the deceptions in religion should be obvious.

The Flintstones the show was basically a riff on The Honeymooners, so the original was already poking fun at real life. It’s a good take on the comic version too, allowing the creative team to riff on pretty much anything. I don’t like this as much as I liked Prez but it’s definitely silver medal quality, as  Ray said.

Teen Titans Earth One Vol. 2 – Jeff Lemire, Writer; Andy MacDonald, Artist; Brad Anderson, Allen Passalaqua, Colorists

Ray – 7/10

Ray: Teen Titans: Earth One was sort of the black sheep of the Earth One line. Batman was received with universal praise and had maybe the most powerful creative team at DC on board. Superman and Wonder Woman were more controversial, but had top-tier creators and a lot of hype. Despite having Jeff Lemire on board, the Teen Titans didn’t seem to have anywhere near the same amount of buzz, and the book came and went with middling reviews due to the fact that it bore little resemblance to the Teen Titans. A story that resembled Runaways more than anything, it focused on the group of Beast Boy, Terra, Cyborg, and Jericho as they discovered they were science experiments with super-powers and went on the run from their parents, who were deep in with the project. Along the way they encountered others like Tempest (here an alien-looking mer-boy) and Starfire while Raven, here a Native teenager, had visions hinting towards the formation of the team. Filled with bizarre flourishes like a mostly benevolent Slade Wilson and an evil Joey Wilson, plus Cyborg’s mother randomly being the big bad of the entire thing, the book was quickly forgotten and not expected to get a sequel given Lemire’s departure for Marvel.

Well, surprise! Turns out there’s another book in the pipeline, and this second installment course-corrects in some ways as the group starts feeling more like a team and a more compelling threat emerges. There’s still a lot of bizarre twists that keep this from feeling like a true Teen Titans book. The four remaining Titans are on the run, holing up in abandoned houses and stealing to stay alive. Meanwhile, Starfire has found her way to Raven and the two have become fast friends. These two are undeniably the highlight here, and I would say their characterization may actually be stronger than what we’ve gotten with the characters in most recent main-line comics. I don’t get this take on Cyborg at all, though, with his powers resembling Colossus more than anything and now threatening to kill him. And then at the end he becomes human again but bonded to a giant robot? Very weird take on Vic Stone. With Jericho and Slade forced to share a body now, they track down the real big bad of the Titans project, Niles Caulder, who attempts to capture the Titans using his own private squad – a sullen, militaristic Wally West; Kole, who seems to be the conscience of this hit squad; and a pint-sized, African-American Cassie Sandsmark who vacillates between wanting to beat up everything in sight and acting like the scared, confused little girl she is. None of them get much development, but it’s not a surprise when they realize Caulder is a monster and switch sides to help battle Blackfire, a gruesome, mutated clone of Starfire.

Andy MacDonald’s art is a strong substitute for the Dodsons, and by the end of the book there’s some strong bonds formed and quite a few characters I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Raven and Starfire’s bond is written exceptionally well and for a minute I thought they were going for a relationship between them. Nope, the only relationship we get is Beast Boy and Kole. Overall, it’s a fun comic book featuring a version of the Teen Titans that doesn’t really resemble the Teen Titans in any meaningful way, but seems like it could develop into its own thing nicely. Who knows if we’re getting a volume three, however.

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #3 – Chynna Clugston-Flores, Writer; Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Penciller; Maddi Gonzales, Inker; Whitney Cogar, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: As the mysteries surrounding the villa begin to reveal themselves, the two teams of kid adventurers find all sorts of trouble to get into. With the leaders trapped inside attending a bizarre endless party, the rest of the gang tries to break in – only to be besieged by various mystery creatures who get them captured by the mysterious skull-faced monsters. The really interesting stuff takes place inside the mansion, though, as it turns out that Professor MacPherson knew Louise back when she was a teenager – or at least, back when she was supposed to be a teenager – and this entire plot seems to have spun out of a revenge prank against the former queen bee that led to her locking herself up in her mansion for a good three decades under mysterious circumstances. However, it soon becomes clear that she may not really be the one in charge here, and in fact may not even know exactly what’s going on around her. There’s a really creepy moment involving what we see and what she sees that makes this clear. Despite the fairly bright colors of the issue, the story has a real sense of menace as it proceeds, and it seems there’s a good deal of the mystery yet to unravel. Fans of either property are going to love this.

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