It’s summer and the time for Annuals. Well, it’s still summer, technically, but the Annuals, special one-shot stories of DC’s regular comics, are more than welcome this week, especially considering the return of Gotham Academy, and a Suicide-Squad style DC Bombshells Annual. Plus, this week sees a new John Ostrander Suicide Squad story.
But the comic we adored the most? The end of The Legend of Wonder Woman. Though we should say it’s the end of the first story, as a second series has already been approved.
WARNING: COMPLETE AND TOTAL SPOILERS FOR ALL OF THIS WEEK’S DC COMICS
The Legend of Wonder Woman #9 – Renae De Liz, Writer/Artist; Ray Dillon, Inker/Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Beautiful Ending
Ray: My pick for the greatest Wonder Woman origin of all time, this epic WW2-set adventure comes to a close – for now – as Diana faces her greatest challenge. With Barbara Minerva having unleashed an ancient Titan on the world, Diana finds herself drawn into the space in between worlds as a mysterious force – revealed as Gaia herself – asks her to take up the banner as Wonder Woman again. This is a really nice way of getting Diana out from under the shadow of the mercurial, egomaniacal Zeus, who has become oddly prominent in her mythology lately. Gaia also reveals the identity of the Titan – and it’s not what you’d expect.
It’s a Manhunter, the iconic GL villain, here reinvented as an ancient giant of destruction. Fantastic visuals, too. While Renae De Liz’s writing is excellent, it’s truly her art that steals the show in this final issue. I wasn’t quite as fond of the slightly predictable “and now I must go” ending, which seems to be used a lot, but there was a lot of emotion in this issue, and I liked seeing Etta track her down in the end. There’s a lot of interesting hints and questions about the next volume – including the introduction of the JSA behind the scenes. Will the sequel take place after the war? During the time Diana was MIA? Can’t wait to find out. Bring on Season Two!
Corrina: Diana has had quite the hero’s journey for this series and been put through the fire to truly become her best self: Wonder Woman. Yes, this is likely going to be the best version of Wonder Woman’s origin for the foreseeable future. The idea of tying her to Gaia–the life force of the planet–is brilliant because it covers the clay origin and provides her with another, special kind of magic. (Dare I even say it–feminine magic?).
However, I initially found bringing in the Manhunters a puzzling choice, but having Diana face off against yet another force of universal power works, especially the symbolism of Diana fighting a corrupted heart, as that is what she almost became. Steve and Etta are both great–I love how they are friends now as well–and the artwork of the final confrontation is outstanding. Special props for the lettering in some of the “creation” pages. This is a brilliantly executed comic, from story to art to lettering to colors.
Seconding “bring on season 2!”
Gotham Academy Annual #1 – Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, Writers; Msassyk, Michael Dialynas, Chris Wildgoose, Artists; Adam Archer, Penciller; Sandra Hope, Inker; Serge Lapointe, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Fun, Especially the Easter Eggs
Ray: Can I just say how great it is to have Gotham Academy back? This brilliantly original horror-accented boarding school adventure blended the mythology of Gotham City with an original cast of teen detectives and created an incredibly compelling main mystery in year one before turning into an anthology story for the final arc. Now, as season two gets ready to kick off, this oversized annual gives us a done-in-one adventure with lots of character development and reveals about the heroes, as well as a very surprising pair of villains with ties to another franchise. I have to say it’s kind of smart to have Olive Silverlock, our hero, down for the count with a mysterious illness for most of this issue, because while she’s a great character, she completely dominated the first season. That allows the other kids to shine.
The kids are also divided, with Pomeline and Colton divided over who they think is responsible for the mysterious lightning strike on the bell tower, and the illness that has sickened Olive and many of the professors. Pomeline blames a vampire (and keeps mistaking teen Man-Bat Tristan for one), while Colton is targeting the mysterious new professor Derek Powers. Batman Beyond fans will know something is up with him right away, but the answer isn’t as simple as that. In a very clever twist, both kids are right. And wrong. The action-packed resolution packs in sci-fi, the supernatural, and time travel, and gives Maps a chance to shine, as well as confirming a very popular bit of fanlore about one lead character. The title is pretty much always a joy to read, and this annual did its job of getting me even more excited for the new series.
Corrina: Once upon a time, I received a critique for a novel which said “hmm…this author is wanting me to believe 3 impossible things, which should be one too many but…” So, yes, having both a vampire and a time traveler (with connections to Batman Beyond, no less) separately be involved in the latest caper of the Gotham Academy kids should be way too much.
But it’s not because it’s fun and tongue in cheek and because the kids are a joy, even young Warren McGuinnes. This may be Terry’s Dad’s first appearance outside of Beyond comics. Also, because Maps is at the heart of it all and I adore Maps. My one quibble: I wanted more Olive!
DC Comics Bombshells Annual #1 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Elsa Charretier, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Babs as a Vamp? But It Works
Ray: Bombshells has covered a lot of iconic DC heroines since it debuted, but there was one name prominently missing from the story so far – Barbara Gordon. This issue resolves that question by revealing that she’s not a WW2 hero – because she was a WW1 hero. The first of Amanda’s recruits, she was a French farmgirl and master tinkerer who built her own plane and took to the skies, eventually being recruited into Waller’s squadron. Her backstory has a few weird flourishes – Luke Fox, black German WW1 pilot? – but overall the idea of Barbara Gordon as a flying ace is very appealing. But she disappeared after Luke was shot down, and has dabbled in the supernatural. That’s where Frankie Charles comes in. Waller’s newest recruit and an expert in solving problems of magic, she’s deputized to find Gordon.
That leads Frankie to a haunted house in Belle Reve, Louisiana, guarded by fearsome crocodile-man Waylon Jones, where Barbara – now a vampire – has holed up with her coven, prophetess Rose Wilson and sorceress June Moone. The issue has a fun, creepy vibe, and while the idea of vampire Barbara Gordon is a bit weird, the issue never really villainizes her. Her dangerous actions this issue are more those of someone cornered in her home, and you wind up sympathizing with both her and Frankie. The rest of her coven don’t make much of an impression, and the reveal that Luke is still alive is a bit predictable, but this group seems like they’ll make fun additions to the Bombshells. A bit surprised by the name they’ve been given, but synergy, right? Either way, an interesting new chapter in an intriguing AU that I’m glad is continuing.
Corrina: I found Frankie a terrific lead character, though I’m not that familiar with her regular DC analogue. The choice to make Barbara Gordon a French native and a vampire is interesting, though far off-center to what I’d expected. I didn’t see enough of her regular family life to get a sense of how it was the same or different than our DC universe Barbara Gordon. Similarly, while I loved the song that memorializes the character, flying seems to be something far off from what Babs character has always been. But I liked this Batgirl character–I just didn’t find her a great version of Barbara Gordon, if that makes sense.
It was the rest of the characters that made the issue for me: Waller, Enchantress, Ravager the Pirate Prophetess, and Killer Croc, who almost steals the show. The ending, with a Bombshell version of the Suicide Squad totally works, though it has far more autonomy than a traditional Squad.
Earth 2: Society Annual #1 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Bruno Redondo, Diogenes Neves. Pencillers; Juan Albarran, Ruy Jose, Inkers; Rex Lokux, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: We Should Have Had This Story Sooner
Ray: One of Earth 2’s biggest problems in recent months has been an overstuffed universe with no real characters to latch on to. So it’s a good move that this annual focuses primarily on the legacy of the Bat-family – Dick Grayson, his son Tommy (now the brainwashed supervillain Firepattern), and Batman’s daughter Huntress. Dick has just found out that his son is still alive, and Tommy has shrugged off the Ultra-Humanite’s conditioning to spare his father and seek him out. The two characters face off inside the new Batcave, with Tommy questioning the way his father became Batman and Dick pretty much agreeing that he isn’t meant to be Batman. I haven’t really felt like Dick’s tenure as Batman in this world worked out very well, so I’m inclined to agree.
Besides this father-son chat, which is fairly affecting and well-written (Abnett is a good writer, especially when he can dial it back) most of the issue focuses on Huntress battling the rest of Ultra-Humanite’s minions. I feel like the story is pretty clearly leading up to her becoming the heir to her father’s legacy before this story is over, so if that’s the goal then the issue certainly shows her being badass. However, it all feels more than a little telegraphed and predictable. The stakes in this universe somehow feel over-the-top and overly small at the same time, due to the lack of characters to attach to. This was a small step up, but I’m expecting the finale to the story to be lacking the emotional punch this issue had in points.
Corrina: I enjoyed this story a great deal but it seems like this is the kind of tale we should have received all along from this title. The year-long skip in stories never let any of the characters shine and those who were my favorites, like Huntress, seem to have been forgotten and instead I had a plot that didn’t resonate. This annual is a great step in featuring not only the new Dick Grayson/Batman but in adding in the emotional background for himself and Helena Wayne/Huntress. That’s far more interesting to me than city-states fighting over small resources. As Ray said, Abnett can be an excellent writer.
I’m glad to see the young Grayson alive and happier still this had more focus on characters but I doubt even the last few issues will fulfill the promise inherent in the premise.
Suicide Squad: War Crimes #1 – John Ostrander, Writer; Gus Vasquez, Carlos Rodriguez, Artists; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Classic Ostrander Story
Ray: Suicide Squad gets political under the trusted hands of its original writer, John Ostrander, as the Squad wades into the thorny world of international law. A prominent and controversial former Defense Secretary has been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court, and while the US government is protecting him, a team of European meta-mercs has other plans, abducting him and bringing him to Europe for trial. He’s threatening to spill all his secrets if he is forced to stand trial, so Amanda Waller sends the Squad abroad to track him down and bring him back to the US.
Complicating things – he has his own security team looking to free him as well, a private army loosely based on Blackwater, and they don’t care how many bodies they leave in their wake. And they have recurring Green Arrow foe Shado on their side. Overall, it’s an intriguing plot, although there’s a lot of Suicide Squad tropes – you’ll be able to spot who’s doomed within five seconds – and the opposing team of metahumans are never anything more than stock characters. The ending should have a lot of people cheer at karmic payback, although I don’t think Ostrander clicks 100% with this version of the Squad – his team was much more hardcore espionage, and Harley is an odd fit there. Still, I preferred this to the launch of the new series.
Corrina: I finally found Ostrander’s classic Suicide Squad issues about a decade ago–they weren’t collected at that point–and recognized his style from those issues in this book. One, there tends to be many panels, rather than a lot of splash pages. That allows for more story but also for more characterization. Two, the pacing is usually quick, and, three, there’s usually a plot twist that you don’t see coming.
Oh, and four: no one beats Ostrander’s Amanda Waller. Ruthless, smart, and yet with enough hints of humanity that she becomes complex rather than one-note. And after so very much Harley Quinn all over the place, I was glad to see other Squad characters take the lead, rather than being her supporting characters.
I easily enjoyed this issue as much, if not more, than any Suicide Squad series I’ve read in the last five years. Aside: other than the plot setup borrowed from politics, the story didn’t strike me as particularly political.
Justice League of America #9 – Bryan Hitch, Writer/Penciller; Daniel Henriques, Inker; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Delayed (And Thus Confusing) But Good
Ray: It’s been months since we got an issue of Bryan Hitch’s epic Justice League story – and he even launched a new Rebirth series in the meantime, with him writing but not usually drawing – so this story has kind of suffered due to the big gap. A lot of the big dramatic moments kind of lose their impact when you know people make it out – or in some cases, are destined to meet their end a different way. The scene that suffers the most is Superman’s big, dramatic revival scene as Wonder Woman refuses to give up on him and uses lightning to bring him back to life. It’s weird to see the New 52 young Superman again, months after his dramatic death scene.
This series has always been fairly twisty for a big blockbuster-style story, and it’s scattered the various members of the League across Time and space. I was most intrigued by the part taking place on the Ancient Krypton as the older, corrupt Rao manipulates his younger self and Hal Jordan desperately tries to change history. The ending, which finds Rao leading an army of ancient Kryptonians on Earth to complete his conversion of the world, promises a dramatic finish. I just wish it still had the momentum it started with because not every series can survive crippling delays without losing a step.
Corrina: The problem I had with the delays is that this is a complicated story with multiple characters in multiple time zones, as well as a crisis on Earth, as well as the original scientists who kicked off this story. Confusion reigned at first. That said, once I refreshed my memory, I’ve enjoyed this story more than any big JLA event story in a long time. If nothing else, Hitch has certainly proved that his writing ability is on a high level.
He even managed to do what several years of Wonder Woman/Superman relationship stories haven’t done: convince me (for a minute) of how much Diana cares about Clark. Not easy, especially when packed into a blockbuster tale. I hope the next chapter in this story is the climax and I’m looking forward to it.
Harley Quinn and the Gang of Harleys #5 – Frank Tieri, Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers; Mauricet, Inaki Miranda, Artists; Dawn McTiegue, Penciller; Ray McCarthy, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 4/10
Corrina: Kinda Bland
Ray: I’ve been very hard on the new Harley Quinn series, finding it to be a mostly ugly mess of graphic violence without much of the humor that makes the series great. That’s been the problem with this miniseries from the start, and it doesn’t get better with this issue focusing on the origin of Harley Sinn. It’s basically a tale of rich-kid entitlement played out as some greek tragedy. She was a sociopath from a young age, hurting people left and right until she burned down her building and killed several people. This led her father to exile her to a private island until her mother died. She then came back, fell in love with her future stepsister until the girl OD’d, and then went completely off the deep end and became obsessed with Harley – first as an idol, then as an enemy.
It’s kind of amusing that Harley has her own Harley in a way, but she’s just a bland character. The adventures that the heroes get into this issue are a bit more amusing, but feel sort of like non-sequiters – Sirenbots! Murderous man-eating demon goats!. This has been the weakest chapter ever since Harley burst back onto the scene as DC’s latest franchise-maker, and I very much hope Harley Sinn is disposed of next issue.
Corrina: I don’t have much to say about this beyond what Ray said, in that this has been a disappointing Harley mini-series. Harley Sin as the villain doesn’t work at all, of course, and even her origin story was one that fell flat, though I suspect I was supposed to find it darkly humorous.
The Harleys fighting the stuff on the island? That was fun. But it didn’t save the comic.
Future Quest #4 – Jeff Parker, Writer/Artist; Evan “Doc” Shaner, Ron Randall, Artists; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Race! The Quest Universe Begins To Tie Together
Ray: I don’t know what’s happened with the schedule on this book, but it’s really unfortunate because a brilliant first issue seems to have turned into a series of loosely connected anthology stories with guest artists. Doc Shaner’s art is always a joy to see, but he was missing on issue three and is now on less than ten pages in this issue. The issue itself is divided into three segments. The first is where the main story advances, as the growing team of heroes is pursued by enemies and struggles to stay free, and the kids get the help of caveman hero Mightor – only without his magic, so he’s only an ordinary Neanderthal. This segment is fun from beginning to end.
Then we segue into a story set in FEAR’s base, as Doctor Zin has taken over the organization from within, and has kidnapped a scientist’s son to force her to work for him. The most notable thing about this segment is that Jeff Parker is the artist – and the guy is pretty great as one. From there, it’s on to Ron Randall’s segment, focusing on the son of the scientist – and his guardian, a giant robo-golem named Frankenstein. Some cool art this segment, but the plot is probably the weakest of the three. As a whole, this story is fun, but it feels a bit disjointed, and I’m hoping that the rest of the mini is more consistent – I want to see the story Parker and Shaner had planned before all these adjustments.
Corrina: I enjoyed this issue more than any issue except the first one, primarily because it featured characters and events I cared about and we did get to the main story, somewhat, with the Quest team working together. And I also loved the background stories for many of the heroes, especially Frankenstein Jr., and how the creative team tied some of the properties together, even giving us the name of Benton Quest’s wife. If I’d read these as a kid, I’d be making up stories for the married scientist team. (Though I’m sure the original cartoons were thought to be just for boys, because, girls, eww…)
Oh, look, there’s Race shooting a dinosaur. That would have made the issue for me, if nothing else, but there was plenty of other action to hold my attention, including Zin realizing he’s in over his head.
GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.