In DC Comics this week, Cyborg‘s new creative team debuts in DC’s laudable effort to raise the profile of the character, a strong Batman issue is about grief and healing, and we love the first issue of the new Supergirl title, which looks to be in great hands under Steve Orlando (Midnighter.)
Oh, and the Bloodlines miniseries is over. Whew. Now the question remains why this series was needed in the first place. I’m guessing these kids will show up on the CW at some point.
WARNING: COMPLETE AND UTTER SPOILERS FOR THIS WEEK’S DC COMICS
DC Rebirth Reviews:
Cyborg: Rebirth #1 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Paul Pelletier, Penciller; Sandra Hope, Tony Kordos, Inkers; Guy Major, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Give It A Try
Ray: Of all the books announced to be going biweekly, Cyborg was the one I was most skeptical about. The last title, despite a strong start by David Walker, struggled in sales quickly, and those problems only got worse once he left the title. The choice of animation veteran John Semper Jr. as the new writer was intriguing, although he is a newbie to comics. The bigger problem, though, is that I don’t know what fills a Cyborg title, especially a biweekly one. He’s only been viewed as a solo/A-list character for a short time, and being stripped of his connection to the iconic Teen Titans cast certainly doesn’t help. Based on the first issue, there’s some hints of promise here, but all the things I was worried about are definitely still present.
Like most Rebirth issues, this issue intersplices a done-in-one story with flashbacks to the hero’s origin, to get everyone caught up. Most of the stuff in Cyborg’s origin is familiar, although we finally find out how Cyborg’s mother died and the roots of Silas Stone’s research into human-machine hybrids. The main plot has Cyborg once again fighting an all-powerful techno-villain – this time a malevolent hivemind named Malware that is attempting to break into STAR Labs and get access to a secret room. The battle is fairly generic, and Malware makes no impression, but the last few pages drop some intriguing bombshells. Cyborg possibly being a simulacrum of Victor Stone, not the real thing? Doubtful. An evil cybernetic Silas Stone with ties to all the robotic villains and heroes of the DCU? Intriguing. A slightly promising start, although this issue does accentuate how Cyborg’s world doesn’t have all that much to fill it out yet, either in rogues or supporting cast.
Corrina: Yes, it’s hard for me to read Cyborg without viewing him through the lens of the Marv Wolfman/George Perez Teen Titans. His growth into a hero in that series (has it been THIRY YEARS ALREADY?) was a joy, particularly the friendships that developed. Since DC decided to make him an A-list hero and a member of the Justice League, they’ve wiped away all that history without replacing it with another solid foundation. As a result, Vic Stone doesn’t have those relationships with the other heroes that Flash or Green Lantern has, so we have a hero who’s a member of the league without any foundations for friendship. This was probably unavoidable and it’s not wrong to move Vic Stone up to the big leagues, but it’s a problem in a continuing series because all this must be built from the ground up.
However, this issue may well be an excellent jumping on point for new readers. The backstory is well-integrated, and it’s good that Silas Stone is around, and it’s good to connect Vic with this branch of Star Labs. The idea of the main villain being an AI makes story-sense but while I feel like this is ground that’s been trodden before, especially in the early issues of the previous series, and especially the part where Vic wonders if he’s even a person anymore, it is likely to be new to new readers, and that’s okay.
Supergirl #1 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Brian Ching, Artist; Michael Atiyeh, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Best Characterization of the Girl of Steel In a Long Time
Ray: Steve Orlando’s incredibly promising relaunch of the Girl of Steel wisely turns the focus on her personal life in this issue after an action-packed Rebirth issue. The main emphasis is on Kara’s growing pains on Earth, dealing for the first time with just how challenging it would be for an alien teenager to suddenly be thrust into a completely different world. Her struggles with things like parallel parking, dodgeball, and slide projectors are all amusing and her interaction with her foster parents make up the real heart of this issue. I’m sure any parents who struggled to cheer up a moody teenager will empathize with the Danvers’ here, and this is maybe the first issue I’ve seen that feels like Kara genuinely is only months away (in her mind) from Krypton.
The issue also starts building up Kara’s supporting cast nicely. There’s a potential friend and confidant from high school, Ben Rubel, who sort of feels like he’s going to be a fusion of the roles Winn and James play on the TV series, since obviously none of them can really be introduced into the DCU easily (although I kind of hope that Winn is replaced with Hiro in this version – he’d fit nicely). And speaking of the TV series, Cat Grant is introduced, imperious and imposing as ever. This is definitely different characterization than we saw in her appearances in Superman, but that might be for the better. Whether she’s reading Supergirl the riot act over an unnecessary rescue or setting up a Young Innovators contest at Kara’s high school, it seems like she’s very much going to be a presence here. The end of the issue takes Kara to the deceased Superman’s fortress and brings her first encounter with the Cyborg Superman, but honestly, I could read whole issues of Kara finding her way on Earth with no action involved.
Corrina: Many writers have struggled to make Supergirl a distinct character separate from her cousin. For much of her history, she was the sunny, naive one to Superman’s more serious mien. When DC brought Supergirl back after her much-publicized death in Crisis on Infinite Earths (1986), there has been more concentration on her feelings of alienness on Earth, particularly since she wasn’t raised here and remembers Krypton well but it’s never been as well done as it is in this issue. The poor kid is suffering from the same kind of post-traumatic stress that many refugees driven from their homes and their families forever must feel.
That’s what makes this issue feel so contemporary and relevant. Supergirl has all these skills and talents and yet none of them seem immediately applicable because the world she encounters is so alien. You want to reach into the comic and give Kara a hug, she’s so out of sorts, and the efforts of her new foster “parents” to make her feel comfortable only make things worse. That promises something great from this comic and I hope it lives up to that promise, though, I could have done without Cyborg Superman.
Batman #6 – Tom King, Writer; Ivan Reis, Penciller; Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Scott Hanna, Inkers; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Brilliant, As Usual
Ray: In the aftermath of last issue’s shocking conclusion to the Gotham arc, Ivan Reis steps onto art for an issue for a done-in-one story dealing with the fallout. Namely, Gotham is dead, but Gotham Girl is still around, and is not doing well. At all. Her mind still damaged by the influence of Hugo Strange and Psycho Pirate, she’s shaving her head, talking to her dead brother, and flying around Gotham obsessively fighting crime – even as every flight she takes shaves more and more time off her life. Obscure villains abound on her quest, including the one I never thought I’d see again – Kite-Man – and there’s laughs to be had there, but this is actually one of the darkest, most psychologically intense comics I’ve read in a long time.
While Reis is known as a great action illustrator, and the fight scenes are spectacular here, it’s King’s characterization that really shines. His Alfred has been one of the biggest bright spots in his entire run, bringing a dry sense of humor that really stands out. His Duke is just sort of there, but then I imagine it’s Snyder who’ll do most of the development for him. However, what really stood out to me was the interaction between Batman and Gotham Girl once he tracks her down, as he does something I can’t imagine Bruce doing before the current development of his character. It is so good to see “Dark edgy loner” Bruce go the way of the Dodo, in what’s been a consistent theme over all three major Batman books. Another fantastic issue – now let’s just hope that this title keeps its momentum through the upcoming crossover.
Corrina: Having read several different of King’s comics now, I begin to see some of his overall themes developing, namely in how people handle grief and tragedy. It was a running theme in The Omega Men and the Sheriff of Babylon, and now it’s part of this story as well, with Gotham Girl falling apart not only from the death of her parents and brother but because she killed her brother. She had no choice, she knows that, but it’s broken her, at least temporarily. But this isn’t a descent into madness story so much as an examination of grief and how to bridge the divide from a full breakdown to healing.
That it’s Bruce who reaches her is perfect and, like Ray, I’m so glad to see his compassion come out as it’s been buried in stories for so long. I also loved Alfred’s comments regarding not having done a particularly good job of dealing with young Bruce’s grief or else he wouldn’t be putting on a costume and going out at night to fight evil as an adult. Good point there, Alfred.
Nightwing #4 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Love Nightwing. Meh Court of Owls
Ray: The first arc of Nightwing comes to a suitably spectacular conclusion as Nightwing and Raptor arrive at the secret headquarters of the Parliament of Owls in an attempt to complete their multi-pronged rescue of the refugees the Owls plan to use for human sacrifices in their Labyrinth. The main appeal of this series from the start has been the banter between Dick and Raptor, with them instantly becoming one of the most appealing buddy teams in comics. However, this issue adds to that dynamic in some very interesting ways, both with the reveal of what exactly makes Raptor unique, and hinting at some very interesting ties to Dick’s past. Who is Raptor exactly? We’ll have to wait and find out.
The bulk of the action this issue takes place in the Court of Owls’ Labyrinth, and any issue set there was going to pale in comparison to the mind-bending Batman #5, one of the most visually stunning comics ever revealed. However, the escape here is still compelling and exciting, complete with a huge monster that’s a necessity for any Labyrinth. I was glad to see some of the old Grayson crew return, including fan favorite Tony the Tiger. I can see there being some issues with the last few pages of the issue, what with Batman and Dick getting into conflict yet again and a reveal of Raptor’s true loyalties that could ruffle some feathers. Still, overall a strong, exciting issue that sets up some fascinating stuff as it heads into the Monster Men crossover.
Corrina: Can I hope this is the last we’ve seen of the Court of Owls because I’m so, so tired of them? But what I love is Dick and his dedication to his work. The asides these characters throw out at each other is what makes the issues, from Dick telling Bruce that he’s so afraid of others stepping over the line because Bruce knows he could never come back from it, to Dick’s conclusions about Raptor’s origins in the circus and the short conversation with Damian.
Did Dick get it wrong about Raptor or is the other man playing yet another dangerous game with HIVE? Only time will tell, I suppose, but I’m pleased to see HIVE itself used. That may be my Teen Titans nostaglia talking, however. So far, I’m enjoying this series a great deal.
Superman #6 – Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Patrick Gleason, Penciller; Mick Gray, Inker; John Kalisz, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Good Resolution
Ray: A huge-scale, satisfying conclusion to the first major story in the Tomasi/Gleason Superman run, this issue neatly puts all the awkwardness of the early issues behind it and delivers a no-holds-barred conclusion. Eradicator was a good choice for the first arc’s villain, because he brings the story back to Krypton and highlights Jon’s unique status as the first human-Kryptonian hybrid. He’s also quite the intimidating figure, although the whole mechanic of him absorbing Kryptonian souls was kind of ill-defined throughout. Pat Gleason draws a fantastic action segment, and Krypto bursting his way out of Eradicator’s chest was a crowd-pleaser moment, albeit oddly reminiscent of Alien. I do wish Lois had more to do in this segment besides cheer the boys on.
The issue really clicks more later, as everyone deals with the fallout. The weird way that Clark and Jon’s relationship was written in the early issues has been ironed out, as Superman seems to have finally accepted that he can’t protect his son forever and the best way to deal with the dangers they face is by letting Jon in and training him. Jon gets both his superhero identity and his civilian disguise, and Bibbo accepts the new Superman as the genuine article – which as a 90’s Super-fan, makes me very happy. It’s clear they’re sweeping the original Superman under the rug quickly enough, but I don’t really mind. Superdad is where it’s at.
Corrina: I would say that this sequence got off to a rocky start but, to keep it in perspective, it’s also true that this arc was a vast improvement over the last two years of Superman comics. The good stuff: that Clark is clearly the Clark Kent/Superman we know and love, not an angsty loner; that we won’t get into a horrible arc with Jon killing more family pets; that Lois is very much back in the Superman mythos, even if I wish she was more pro-active.
That goes a long way to winning my love for Superman comics back, even with action sequences that I thought too long and too repetitive. So, yeah, Rebirth has been excellent for this Superman.
Green Arrow #6 – Ben Percy, Writer; Stephen Byrne, Artist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: All Emiko Issue
Ray: My complaints about Emiko’s characterization in this run have been well-known, with her first doing an unexplained heel turn, then flipping back to the side of good only to be captured by her mother, drugged, and dragged off. Fortunately, this issue turns the focus on her as she finally gets to explain her side of the story – and it’s both very entertaining, and a lot more complex than I anticipated. When Percy began his previous run, Emiko was already living with Ollie and we never got to see their adjustment period. Here we do, and it’s every bit as awkward and amusing as you’d expect. Ollie pulling off one of the all-time blustery dad moves – door confiscation – made me laugh to no end. A lot of it really rings true, though, especially Emiko feeling far more comfortable in costume than out.
Things take a much darker turn, though, with the Clock King getting Emiko hooked on a new adrenaline drug that essentially makes her unstoppable – but also makes her chemically dependent on it and forced to carry out missions for the villain. This story is interspliced with Emiko being taken by her mother to face the Yakuza, and getting involved in a Japanese underground arena. Emiko makes for a very compelling lead, and I’m really hoping she’s the surprise sixth Teen Titan Percy has hinted at – she’s basically where Damian was at the start of his career, so that would be a very fun interaction. Stephen Byrne’s art isn’t quite as immediately eye-catching as Schmidt or Ferreyra, but it’s very strong on its own. After a slightly rough start, this book is really coming into its own as the best Green Arrow’s been since Lemire left.
Corrina: If you remember my last review of this book, I threw up my hands at the inconsistent plotting and characterization. If I were subscribing to this series, I would have dropped it after last issue. It’s probably good I’m getting review copies, I suppose, because this is worth reading, especially with the focus on Emiko, one of the best (if perhaps the only) DC character to come out of the new 52 reboot. (That it also retconned out Ollie’s rape by Shado is also a plus for me.)
But this issue also showcases my problem with the series as a whole: it’s not enough to have Emiko’s flashbacks adjusting to life with Ollie and her conflict with her mother, and even wondering if her mother will kill her, but there’s also the sequence with Emiko working for the Clock King to get high, which seems an ill fit to me, even though Emiko is an overall enjoyable character. Final verdict: it’s kinda like the original series of Star Trek movies. Every other issue is interesting to me.
Justice League #4 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Jesus Merino, Artist; Andy Owens, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Love the Lanterns
Ray: The saga of the Kindred continues, with Jesus Merino taking over on art for this issue. Merino is a strong artist, but he’s also not really known as a widescreen artist in the same way that Daniel or Hitch are, so it’s not a surprise that this issue isn’t quite as spectacular visually. There are some good scenes – especially the ones dealing with Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz as they take on a mysterious wave of living alien missiles – but overall the action seems much more close-up than it did in previous issues and lacks the big explosive scenes. The League is still divided across the world and beyond this issue, with Wonder Woman getting a face-to-face with the Kindred while Superman is at the Earth’s core trying to save the planet from destruction.
This segment is by far the best, with Superman lost, confused, and dealing with threats that could potentially even destroy him – yet still maintaining his composure and determination to come out alive. The biggest problem with this storyline, though, is that the Kindred’s plan is being parceled out so slowly that they remain mostly blank slates of villains. They’re the kind of huge cosmic threat that needs to be given a unique hook quickly. Meanwhile, Cyborg is being hacked again somehow? This happens every issue. It just doesn’t have the impact it used to anymore. Once again, this series is mostly passable but not all that memorable.
Corrina: It’s hard to create worldwide threats without repeating what’s gone before. So far, Hitch has done a good job of that, with Rao in the previous arc, and with the Kindred but it is taking a long time to get at the secret of the Kindred and what they want, and where they came from. It’s all about multi-issue arcs in comics now, so I suppose I should be less annoyed at that.
What will make any of these stories stand apart are the smal,l personal scenes, like Simon and Jess taking on the origin planet together, despite being rookies, and the original Superman going beyond his limits to save the Earth. Cyborg being hacked is sort of becoming the “go to” thing to happen to Cyborg, so I hope that changes soon.
Aquaman #6 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brad Walker, Penciller; Andrew Hennessey, Inker; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist
Ray – 3/10
Corrina: Didn’t Hate It. Didn’t Love It.
Ray: This arc has not been my cup of tea from the start, kicking off with using Black Manta, Aquaman’s most overused rogue, and then pitting him against the US government. It’s been mostly mediocre, but this issue isn’t mediocre. It’s flat-out BAD, maybe my least favorite comic DC has released in the Rebirth line. For one thing, it falls on the most overused tropes in Superhero comics, hero vs. hero. This issue it’s Aquaman vs. Superman, as Supes has been called in by the government to rein in Aquaman. And the problem is, they’re both wrong. Superman does come off as a government stooge, ready to run in his friend over false charges. Aquaman, though, is the bigger problem, coming off as petty, angry, and resentful over poor treatment by the League that we’ve never actually seen and feels more meta than anything else.
Aquaman then proves his loyalty by refusing to order his troops to attack the mainland, and he and Superman part on tense terms. It could be explained by the fact that this Superman isn’t the one Aquaman knows – but no one ever mentions this. Meanwhile, Black Manta is taken to the headquarters of NEMO, argues with their leader – and then promptly kills him and takes over the organization. So even when the bigger bad is introduced, Black Manta still winds up being the main villain. This comic, unfortunately, really feels like it’s out of ideas, which is the last thing a comic book should be three months into Rebirth.
Corrina: There’s nothing truly exceptional in this issue but I can’t say I hated it as much as Ray did. It was just ‘meh,’ yet another superhero fight, this one with some odd undertones. Aquaman coming up with an Atlantean nickname for how he’s viewed as lesser by the Justice League and humanity in general was a nice touch, but not much happened this issue except superhero fight club, though it was good to see Arthur and Mera cut loose. Like Ray, I thought the fact that this Superman is a stranger to Aquaman should have been addressed more openly.
But the entire plot requires the characters–nearly all of them–to be dumb, from Aquaman to government officials to Superman on down to Captain Nemo who seems to think ranting to a stranger puts him in no danger at all. About the only people being smart are the Atlanteans who listen to their king when he tells them to stand down. I’d hoped this series would explore more new things about Atlantean tech, especially with such a fascinating villain as showed up originally. But, no, we’re back to Black Manta again. So it goes.
Harley Quinn #3 – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers; Bret Blevins, Layouts; Chad Hardin, John Timms, Finishes; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Corrina: No More Zombies. Phew.
Ray – 5/10
Ray: A slight improvement, but only by virtue of this terrible zombie plotline being wrapped up quickly with a few interesting visual twists along the way. When we last left off, Poison Ivy showed up to rescue Harley and friends from the zombie horde, which means at least we get a little of the always-entertaining relationship dynamic between them. And DC is not making Palmiotti and Conner play coy at all with that anymore, which is much appreciated. Still, though, the issue is full of the weak gags that killed the first two issues of this series. Case in point – Red Tool losing his arm to an overzealous Harley wasn’t funny to begin with. Neither was his violent arrival at the local hospital – and the reveal that his arm transplant came from a serial public masturbator isn’t particularly either. Maybe Red Tool just isn’t a good character?
Thinks pick up quite a bit with the reveals of underground tunnels below Coney Island, leading to a maze of likely haunted catacombs, but before the cast can really explore it, they’re attacked by Zombies again. More amusing is the ongoing subplot about the angry alien parents trying to find their son who started this whole mess by shapeshifting into a cow and accidentally getting eaten. You’d think that there’s no way this story could end happily…but this comic is just that weird. There’s flashes of what this comic was at its best, but it’s not back yet. Hopefully no more zombies and much less Red Tool are in its future.
Corrina: Harley’s series has always been over the top in terms of gore but the last few issues seem particularly egregious, especially with the poor teenager slaughtered like a cow and the legion of people killed when the aliens grabbed the bits of their son out of them to reconstitute him. I did chuckle at the mother alien lecturing her son as he’s being reconstituted when he can’t talk back but the question of why his meat caused people to turn into zombies is never resolved. With all the dead, I’m not sure that’s much of a happy ending.
And I’m not sure what’s going on with Red Tool either. He is as unfunny as Harley Sin in the other HQ book. Hopefully, we can more onto a new arc next issue. With no zombies.
Batman Beyond #16 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Stephen Thompson, Artist; Lisa Jackson, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: Tim’s Not Dead? Terry’s Back. All Good.
Ray: This would be what’s known as a housecleaning issue, as things are placed in order for the more iconic Batman Beyond relaunch coming at the end of the month. When we kick off, Terry McGinnis is still under the control of Spellbinder and is being ordered to kill Tim Drake. However, Matt McGinnis has stolen the Bat-plane and shows up just in time to save his brother through the power of love. No kidding, that’s really how it works. He’s able to wake up Terry’s memories by his presence, and that gives Tim enough time to take out Spellbinder. The guest artist is overall pretty decent, but there’s a major continuity glitch with the way he draws Barbara – she looks like she’s still in her 20s.
With Terry’s memory restored, Tim wastes no time in giving him the Batman costume back and decides to head out on his own to explore the world, thus removing himself from the title. However, things then take an intriguing turn with the final page. Tim is on a road trip when he’s suddenly pulled towards a golden portal and seemingly erased. The end of the timeline? Or something more sinister given what’s been hinted in Detective Comics? We’ll see. Either way, a flawed issue, but one that mostly serves its purpose for the upcoming relaunch.
Corrina: I hope Tim isn’t dead after all that. One could go either way with that ending which means that this Tim will only stay gone only until someone comes up with a good idea to bring him back. Unlike Ray, I liked that Matt rescued his brother. The ppor little guy has been traumatized enough with the whole Brother Eye taking over the world thing.
Though this issue seems to hint that all that stuff might end up being erased or, at least, left behind and never to be spoke of again. I can’t say this bothers me at all.
Bloodlines #6 – JT Krul, Writer; V Ken Marion, Penciller, Sean Parsons, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Colorist
Ray – 2/10
Corrina: It’s Finally Over!!
Ray: One of the oddest comics in DC’s lineup in a while, this bizarre reboot of the 90’s hero boom annuals comes to a close in a very strange way. The heroes – such as they are – face off against the next of alien parasites that have infected them all, and are forced to also battle against one of their own who has been turned. There’s a death that’s supposed to have emotional impact, but pretty much no one in this comic has been developed to such an extent that it would matter. The issue ends on a bizarre note, with the survivors driving off into the sunset knowing that they’re all going to turn one by one and have to be put down just like their deceased friend. That’s not a superhero comic ending, that’s a particularly bleak Stephen King story. And what’s more – the villain introduced early on in issue two, Anima, doesn’t even get dealt with, instead getting a teaser scene at the end for a sequel that will never happen. Telos ended the same way, and I have no clue what’s with these comics no one wanted and ending on cliffhangers.
Corrina: It’s over, with it being only slightly better when it began. Nothing in this series worked and, as I said above in the intro, one has to wonder if this miniseries was written to remind people of characters who will soon be used in shows on the CW.
The Flintstones #3 – Mark Russell, Writer; Steve Pugh, Artist; Chris Chuckry, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Carl Sagan is Back!
Ray: This comic continues its done-in-one social satires with an issue that gets much darker than I ever expected a Flintstones comic would. Not gratuitously so, like Wacky Raceland or Scooby Apocalypse, but still pretty twisted in a darkly comic way. It starts with a visit to the prehistoric Planetarium by Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm’s middle school class, that includes a primitive attempt at a shuttle launch that doesn’t involve much more than shooting a helpless Chimp into space. This somehow actually manages to contact an alien species that comes back to do a census of the planet – and then returns with a planet full of spring-breaker aliens looking to party. They make everyone miserable, and then develop an app that allows them to disintegrate any human with the touch of a button. The plot to stop them pulls in a depressed, suicidal war buddy of Fred’s, and ends on a note that makes me think this entire thing is a commentary on the way we treat soldiers after they return home. I’m not sure all the jokes land exactly, but it is an intriguing and ambitious take on the source material.
Corrina: This comic is not what I expected but this take allows Russell to do what he does well, which is use ridiculous situations to make pointed comments about our world today. The aliens could be the one percent viewing the world as their playground and the plot involving the suicidal war hero is obviously relevant and touching at times, except, well, he’s killed defending people from the aliens, so that’s a bummer. But I suspect this death is another kind of commentary, that people only honor heroes after they’re dead.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.