Quite a week for DC. The new title, Trinity, featuring Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman premieres, Teen Titan’s Raven has a new solo book that looks promising, and Steve (Midnighter) Orlando begins a crossover featuring Monster Men in the Bat-books. From the first two chapters, it looks to be creepy and fun.
Also, Doctor Fate hits its penultimate issue, and we wish that this title had gotten more attention because it’s added a great new character to the DC universe. Plus, a bonus review of Wonder Woman ’77 Special #4.
DC Premieres of the Week –
Trinity #1 – Francis Manapul, Writer/Artist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: The Heroes Are Actually Talking to Each Other!
Ray: DC has been trying team-up books with its top-tier characters for years now, with mixed results. Superman/Batman and Batman/Superman had some strong creative teams and interesting stories but tended to become mediocre anthology titles once those teams left. Superman/Wonder Woman, meanwhile, was a misguided mess from the start. I wasn’t sure what to make of this title, a replacement for both of them, although Manapul writing and drawing instantly made it an intriguing book. Well, based on this first issue, it’s extremely promising and manages to feel both relevant and original. First up, the art is brilliant. Manapul has a vivid, colorful style that manages to get the best out of both action scenes and quiet moments, and his solo style here (without Brian Buccellato assisting) is lighter and cleaner than his runs on either Flash or Detective.
But it’s the excellent character work that really sells this issue.
The concept of the issue centers around Lois Lane organizing a meeting between her family and the other two members of the Trinity, attempting to reestablish the bond that her Clark had with the Superman and Wonder Woman on their world. It doesn’t go smoothly at first, with Wonder Woman’s idea of a housewarming gift being a giant dead boar, and Jon nearly blasting them into the next state when he uses his x-ray vision on the door. However, once the dinner gets going, there are some really interesting things. It’s good to see a proactive Lois actively encouraging her husband’s superhero career and helping him to forge connections, and all the Trinity feels like themselves. There’s a hilarious callback to Batman’s famous Rainbow Costume, although it’s unclear which Batman it was or if it really happened. The lingering tension between this Lois and Wonder Woman over Diana’s relationship with the previous Superman is thankfully dispensed with quickly. The end of the issue introduces some intriguing time travel elements that shake things up, but I’m not exactly sure where this comic is going yet. I can’t wait to find out, though.
Corrina: Hey, anything that disposes of the hated Superman/Wonder Woman team-up was going to meet with approval on my end. But that was only a minor reason why I enjoyed this issue.
First, it was bereft of fight scenes, which allowed the cast to spend time with each other. And these four badly needed to do that, with Batman paranoid at the idea of another Superman suddenly showing up, with Lois wondering just how this Wonder Woman sees her husband, and with Lois herself noting that her husband likes to keep things to himself, even at the cost of keeping her in the dark about his secret identity for years. (That last was a particularly nice bit of characterization.)
Adding in Jon Kent helped thaw the chill between the three heroes and Lois. No huge, world-threatening stakes here, just four people hurting and still somewhat lost learning to rely on each other.
And, yes, seeing Clark tease Bruce about the rainbow suit was priceless. I thought Clark referred to the Batman of his world with that comment but if Ray wants to believe otherwise, and have the Rainbow Bat suit in continuity, who am I to rain on his fun.
This title is off to a terrific start.
Raven #1 – Marv Wolfman, Writer; Alisson Borges, Artist; Blond, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Excellent Start
Ray: This isn’t an official Rebirth title, although it is very much in current continuity – the very first line of the issue references the “death” of Tim Drake and how the breakup of the Teen Titans has led Raven to seek a fresh start in San Francisco. I wasn’t sure about bringing back Wolfman for yet another go on one of his most iconic creations because the last Raven mini he did wasn’t my cup of tea. This one, however, has a lot of promise. For one thing, it ditches the horrific bird costume she’s been wearing for most of the New 52. Second, it puts her in a situation she’s really never been in before – a loving, all-American family. Turns out her mother had a sister, who is now living in the city by the bay with her family. They’re deeply religious (the house is covered with crosses), but while it would have been easy to make light of this or portray them as prudes or out-of-touch, Wolfman doesn’t go this route, instead showing them as old-fashioned but kind and caring. Raven still feels ill at ease, just because it’s so different from what she’s used to, but that’s nothing compared to her biggest challenge – high school.
We’ve seen the “teen superhero tries to fit in at high school” thing done very well in Supergirl recently, and while some of those themes are similar here, there’s a much darker edge. Raven’s alienation is only compounded by mysterious energy making her sick, and some sort of supernatural force targeting her and her classmates. Although we don’t learn much about the mysterious girl stalking Raven, Raven does learn enough to make clear that this isn’t another ally of Trigon hunting her – fortunately. I am more than done with every Raven story coming back to her evil dad. This girl is an intriguing adversary with an impressive power set, but I’m much more interested in the world Wolfman is building around Raven. Her new family and classmates are intriguing, and this is the first time the character’s felt like she exists outside of the Teen Titans. There are some shades of her cartoon characterization, and shades of the comic blended into a likable lead who I’m hoping gets a strong run in Rebirth both here and in TT.
Corrina: This Raven seems a blend of the animated Raven from Teen Titans, (“Evil beware, we have waffles.”), and the classic Raven that Wolfman himself created, and mostly ignores the Raven created for the new 52. The feathers are gone. Phew.
The addition of Raven’s new family is a fantastic idea. She’s not alone in trying to sort out her new life and while they seem a little too earnest at times, it’s a good contrast to Raven herself. Also, Raven’s trauma from having been raised in a hell dimension is clear and so when she overreacts, it makes sense. Her snarkiness at the social mores of high school are also funny and Wolfman probably had a fun time writing them. Picture a slightly more mellow Teenage Megasonic Warhead and you’ll come close to Raven’s attitude about her peers.
The mystery of the other girl who sets off Raven’s paranoia is a good start on the first arc. I also liked that some of the high school students thought Raven was cool, rather than shunning her. I can imagine that happening in real life: those who are naturally cool sometimes draw admirers quickly without even trying. In short, I’m hopeful for rest of the series.
Cyborg #1 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Paul Pelletier; Penciller; Tony Kordos, Scott Hanna, Inkers; Guy Major, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Quiet but Strong Issue
Ray: The first issue of the new Cyborg series had some good points, but it continued to worry me because of the ongoing problems of Cyborg not having much of a heroic MO, supporting cast, or rogues’ gallery. He mainly seemed to run around fighting general robotic enemies and bickering with his dad. Well, in an issue that resolves a lot of these issues, John Semper Jr. proves he’s aware of these problems and is actively thinking about how to resolve them. Sure, evil cyber-Silas is still hanging around the background and activates a new enemy to come after Cyborg, but most of the issue is Vic’s story. The potential information that he may in fact not be the original Victor Stone is weighing on him, even as he defeats a pair of bumbling bank robbers in a very amusing segment. One thing I really like about this run so far is the way Semper is using his powers, both in combat and outside of it. Wouldn’t we all love to be able to stream an entire TV series in a second?
The STAR Labs crew gets fleshed out a bit, and so does Cyborg’s relationship with Sarah Charles. Sensing that he’s bothered by something, she convinces him to go out into the world for a change, hiding his robotics under a hood. They go out for ice cream, and later to a jazz club. This segment, where Vic meets a blind Jazzman who gives him a new outlook on life, was really well-written. I’m hoping the jazz club becomes an occasional hangout for the character – every hero needs those places they can retreat to from the chaos of the superhero life. The supporting cast in this issue feels a lot more alive than they did in Walker/Wolfman’s run, and Vic’s personal struggles feel more genuine. Then, at the end of the issue, the evil robot Kilg%re (that’s really how it’s spelled) attacks and we’re back to rock-em sock-em robots, but there’s a lot of promising elements in this issue that make me think DC’s attempt to make a go of Cyborg as a solo hero may have some legs to it.
Corrina: Often, when I think back on my favorite comics, they’re not the big fight sequences but the small, human moments that I remember best, like the scenes in original Teen Titans where Vic played with and inspired (and was inspired by) disabled children. Whenever Vic brooded too much in those stories, Gar (Beast Boy) would do something ridiculous to snap him out of it.
In Gar’s this issue is Sarah, who provides the snark and tough love in order to drag Vic out of his shell and show him that he’s human after all. It’s always good to see a superhero in a normal environment, not only for how he reacts to others but how they react to him.
I hope this issue mostly puts to bed the idea in Vic’s head that he’s only an artificial copy of a boy who died. He is who he is. I almost wished Sarah had told him “you can be what you choose to be,” but maybe an Iron Giant reference would have been too on-the-nose. I was also skeptical about the villain, the sentient AI, but it makes sense to concentrate on a mirror opposite to Vic, a being who feels that they’re superior to human and not vice versa.
DC Rebirth Reviews:
Batman #7 – Steve Orlando, Tom King, Writers; Riley Rossmo, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: Rebirth’s first crossover event kicks off with a very strange bang, as the heroes of Gotham unite to stop a major threat. It’s just days after Tim seemingly sacrificed himself to save Gotham, and it’s clear that this is still heavily affecting everyone – no one more than Bruce. He’s running himself ragged trying to ensure no one dies in Gotham. He always seems to take on some self-destructive trait after a Robin dies. It’s one of his things by now. But the massive flash flood and storm – the worst since Zero Year – that they’re facing is only the beginning, as bodies in Gotham’s morgue mysteriously get up and transform into hideous Clive Barker-esque Kaiju. It’s rare we see Batman face off against threats of this scale solo, and Riley Rossmo’s art is brilliantly creepy. The monsters are genuinely grotesque.
This first issue is primarily action, as the heroes work together to try to bring down a gigantic-eyeball beast before it tears through Gotham. The Detective team is in the field, while Alfred, Duke, and Gotham Girl are holed up at the Batcave for their safety. Bruce deploys a new portable Batwing from Steel, which I really liked, although I was a bit iffy about Bruce explicitly trying to destroy – read, kill – the monster. I guess it’s the loophole that it wasn’t really alive? However, the story takes a turn once the identity of the monster is revealed – it’s the man who committed suicide in Gordon’s office after mentioning the Monster Men. Hugo Strange is unmasked as the main villain before another, even more horrific monster emerges. It’s a very odd Batman story, but a compelling one so far.
Corrina: I’d no idea what to expect from this story with Tim Drake’s supposed death hanging over the team and with Orlando not having been in charge of a major crossover before. Given Orlando’s imaginative stories in Midnighter, I knew this would be something a little outside of the box and that proved correct. There’s a fine balancing act with shifting a Batman story over to the macabre and I’ve only seen Jim Starlin pull that off well, in a story about a giant great white ape with a human mind many years ago.
Orlando walks that line nicely, primarily by grounding the monsters in the strangness that is Gotham, where nothing is safe and odd things lurk around every corner. Rossmo’s art is a terrific asset for this as well. I also liked the choice of an action-based event after Tim’s death. One, because the reader knows that Tim isn’t dead and it’s not necessary to see the characters floundering when we know he’ll show up eventually. Two, because Batman always shows personality through action rather than words and him rushing around Gotham to protect everyone is a perfect metaphor for who he is.
Nightwing #5 – Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley, Writers; Roge Antonio, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Part 2 Zips Along Well
Ray: In part two of Night of the Monster Men, the threat escalates. While the first monster rampaging through Gotham was more of a hideous, confused child-like being, the second is a full-on Kaiju, hideous and gigantic, aiming to destroy everything in its sights. With Gotham in a panic, Batman debuts a new invention of Duke’s – the Bat-Beacon, which allows him to deliver a message to all of Gotham. This is a nice touch, as it shows how the Rebirth Batman is very much a superhero who wants to be viewed as a protector of Gotham, rather than simply an object of fear. However, Duke is beginning to chafe under being confined to the cave, while Gotham Girl feels guilty sitting out the huge battle.
As the heroes and the GCPD work together to evacuate Gotham, Spoiler’s new cynical attitude begins to emerge, while Dick leads the monster on a high-speed chase across Gotham to rescue a man who refused to evacuate. Dick investigates the morgue and discovers some very disturbing evidence about what the monsters’ purpose actually is, as more and more creatures start to emerge around the city and one attacks Blackgate, causing a mass release of prisoners. Things quickly start spiraling out of control for the heroes, and Gotham Girl – despite knowing that her powers are killing her – makes the decision to disobey Batman and enter the fray. This continues to be a creepy, intense story that delivers action and suspense in spades. It continues next week in Detective.
Corrina: Anyone else have flashbacks to Tony Stark’s Iron Legion message asking for calm from citizens from Avengers: Age of Ultron? Not to be outdone, Batman’s messages are immune to anyone throwing tomatoes. It is a terrific sequence, however, and, as Ray said, shows just how public this Batman has become to his Gotham. We’re squarely back to Batman as Gotham’s Eternal Guardian rather than the brooding loner who can never connect with anyone. Yes, Bruce is being over-protective but he’s doing it in such a way that he’s not being a dick about it, as has happened in stories past.
But, over to Nightwing, since this is his book. As he flies through the air, he caries the reader with him, giving a sense of urgency to anyone reading the story and showing that he’s firmly his own man, a partner to Bruce, not one of his soldiers. But poor Steph. I wanted to give her a hug.
Superman #7 – Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Jorge Jiminez, Artist; Alejandro Sanchez, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Another Win For the Quiet Moments
Ray: After the constant action of the Eradicator arc, this done-in-one breather issue calls back to the classic weekly Superman stories (which we have back, in a way!). Superman has been keeping busy, helping out the various members of the Justice League with crises around the world. They’re all happy for the help – except Batman, naturally. But that means he’s been away from home for a while, and both Lois and Jon are anxious to have their family complete for a night. So Superman, after clearing his schedule, decides to have a night out at the Hamilton County Fair with his wife and son. He promises there’ll be no superheroics – but as usual, the world doesn’t exactly cooperate with that.
There’s very little in the way of actual action in this issue, as the family tours the fair, meets up again with the kind farmer and his granddaughter from when Jon took a fall out of the tree. Thankfully, Superman’s hostility towards strangers seems to have been dialed back from those early issues, although he’s still very protective of his family and their secret. However, a threat does emerge in the form of a trio of masked hooligans who plan to rob the fair’s cash booth. Can Superman foil them AND get back to his family in time to ride the roller coaster? It’s a fun, old-school comic that delivers a lot of laughs, although I do kind of wish pulling one over on Lois wasn’t part of this issue. In the old universe, she was always the most supportive of Clark’s double-life. She would have understood that sometimes, Superman is just needed, even on family night.
Corrina: It is very much a classic Clark Kent story, rather than a Superman story. I’d forgotten how much I missed this Clark Kent, as he hasn’t been seen in years, possibly not even in the last decade, as he grew more and more isolated. I was skeptical of how bringing Superman over from another dimension to replace the current Superman but this switch has opened a wealth of storytelling opportunities. I grew up, even as a teen, reading about an older Superman and still liked him, so hopefully this guy will be as “relatable” to average readers as broody, cranky Superman was supposed to be and never was.
My only complaints are in regards to Lois. Now, I’m a mom and a writer. You can be both. Switching worlds might have stilled her impulsiveness, as secrecy is needed, but I can’t see how Lois would have been so oblivious to her surroundings. I’d have much rather had Lois spot the potential thieves and cover for her husband than her being in the dark. Hopefully, as this Lois is used more in comics, the wife/mother parts will be more equally balanced with the writer/reporter aspects of her personality.
Green Arrow #7 – Ben Percy, Writer; Stephen Byrne, Artist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Emiko’s Fine
Ray: Eight issues in, it’s not even close – Green Arrow takes the title for most-improved title in Rebirth, for me. It’s partly the spectacular art – Stephen Byrne two issues in has easily proven himself on the level of Schmidt and Ferreyra – and partly the exceptional characterization for Emiko. She reminds me a lot of Damian Wayne crossed with an actual teenager. Yeah, she’s not socialized as a normal teen and has a lot of unhealthy homicidal instincts like Damian, but unlike him she is also prone to impulsive bad decisions, changing her mind quickly, and seeking the approval of parent figures she values even if she won’t admit it. Ollie is not in this title except in flashbacks, so she gets to take the helm.
In the first flashback story, she got into hock with the Clock King. Addicted to his custom time drug, she got Ollie hooked as well, and when he found out he completely lost faith in her. This led her to pull off a dramatic (if slightly uncomfortable, given this last weekend’s events) gambit to take out Clock King and win back Ollie’s trust. This is paralleled in the present day, when she takes a similar risk to win her mother’s freedom from the Yakuza. This segment has her taking on her dragons – literally, in one spectacular scene – and firmly emerging as one of DC’s most impressive young heroes. Which makes me wonder – why isn’t she in Percy’s Teen Titans next month? This has quickly become one of my favorite titles, and I’m excited to see the full cast reunited soon.
Corrina: There’s a lot of plot in this issue and that seems too stuffed for me. We not only see Emiko training with Oliver, we have to throw in the Clock King and the accompanying weirdness, which obscured the point of the backstory. It’s okay to let quieter scenes play out, as we’ve seen just this week in Cyborg, Trinity and Superman. But Percy’s plots are always too busy for that. I worry about his Teen Titans on that basis.
Was the Dragon in the present tense meant to be a version of Richard Dragon? I don’t know. I hope not because this Dragon seemed quite a throwaway. I wanted to quote the Evil Overlord list to it (“Don’t turn into a giant snake, it never helps.”) but, then that would have been rooting against Emiko, yes? In any case, it’s good to have a clear picture of where Shado and Emiko stand in relations to the Yakuza, and that Emiko seems to have come out of things with her life basically intact.
Green Lanterns #7 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Ronan Cliquet, Artist; Blond, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: My Favorite Lanterns!
Ray: After a first arc that was bogged down with Atrocitus and a plot that really didn’t make much sense, the characters who shined through in that story are finally given a spotlight in easily the best. Having escaped Atrocitus’ rage with only a broken arm, Simon Baz finds maybe his biggest challenge – making traditional Lebanese cookies. It seems his mother is coming for a visit for Halloween, and he and his sister are trying to impress her with food from their homeland. (Minor continuity glitch – Simon’s sister was younger than him when she first appeared as a child in GL #0’s flashbacks, and now she refers to being his older sister!) Simon has a tense relationship with his mother due to his many screwups, and his genuine vulnerability this issue is the most interesting he’s ever been.
This team-up of Simon and Jessica feels genuinely real in a way many teams don’t. They both get their chances to be vulnerable, they both get their chance to be screw-ups. Jessica’s negative self-talk feels so real that I wonder if Humphries has faced some of these issues himself. Simon’s mother comes off as stern and tough to please without being caricatured as a harridan like so often happens. There’s a lot of humor involving the meditating hobo Guardian in their house, and when he finally wakes up to deliver a message, it almost feels besides the point. The fun in this issue is watching Jessica and Simon interact with his family. I think I’m finally sold – this is easily the superior of the two GL books.
Corrina: I wouldn’t say “bogged down” by Atrocitus but, then, I wasn’t paying much attention to the villain or all his minions, only to Jess and Simon. These two, I adore them, and now I’m worried because so many awful things happen to Lanterns not named Hal Jordan. (Well, horrible things happen to Hal as well but he always seems to come back as a headliner.)
Again, quiet moments win the day in the story, with Simon finally explaining why making the cookies means so much to him, and with Jess struggling with her anxiety even when the world isn’t at stake. Jess knows she has to rise to the occasion as a Lantern but not so in her personal life, where she can run and hide with ease. It’s wonderful to see the partners talk to each other and find a way to support each other. It feels like a real friendship developing and I’m so glad that, so far, they’ve left out any romantic feelings because friendship is what these two need right now. What they have in common? Love of their famillies, and that bonds them nicely.
Justice League #5 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Tony Daniel, Penciller; Sandu Florea, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Decent Ending
Ray: The bizarre, huge-scale story of the Kindred comes to a close, and it feels like we don’t know all that much more than we began with. Shiny giants made out of possessed people gathered, stole the power of the Justice League, all in an attempt to perform some strange ritual for unknown purposes. The various members of the League split up to try to stop them, each taking on various dramatic roles. Aquaman traveled to the bottom of the sea to find crystals that might stop them, Diana conversed with their leader in the thoughtspace, Simon and Jessica battled an army of creepy space slugs, and Superman went to the core of the earth to stop a series of bombs that could destroy the planet. A lot of dramatic scenes to be sure, but for what?
This issue introduces an intriguing element at the end, which is the idea that all the various threats to Earth was actually something else trying to stop the Kindred, and the Kindred didn’t actually mean the world any harm. Interesting, but it just adds to the problem of us not really being sure what this arc was actually about. However, the action is drawn very well, and there were quite a few great scenes. Superman in particular steals the show as he battles within the Earth’s core and pulls the last bomb out of a volcano. This was a great story to look at, and nicely established the tone of Hitch’s new League, but I’m hoping the next arc has a slightly less ambiguous threat and storyline.
Corrina: What Hitch has shown is that he can handle all the personalities of the JL and the world-shattering threats they face but I can’t help wondering if this arc was truncated in some form because this climax feels a little too flat for a story that started so strong. While the character moments hold up, the action is lacking, so I feel about this the way Ray must have felt about Atrocitus in the Green Lanterns story: it ends up being kinda ‘blah’ because the villain is a cypher.
I wonder if part of the reason for this story was to teach the Justice League to trust the new Superman as the real deal, and become used to working with him. But I thought Aquaman stole the show with his rushing around the world to plan the crystals. I would love to see Hitch on Aquaman just because of that sequence.
Aquaman #7 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Scot Eaton, Penciller; Wayne Faucher, Inker; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: The Tone For This Series Is All Over the Place
Ray: Now that the disastrous Aquaman vs. the US Government storyline is over (for now, although the upcoming big arc will focus on a full-on war between Atlantis and the US, ugh), things pick up a bit as Aquaman returns home and deals with the fallout of the events of the last arc. Although Superman has disappeared with a warning for Aquaman and the government isn’t pursuing him anymore, tensions are still high and Aquaman is desperate to find the truth behind the attacks that are being blamed on Atlantis. This leads him to interrogate the leader of the terrorist cell The Deluge, who is probably the most interesting villain so far in the series. There’s also some interesting bits about Atlantean tradition, including rumblings of a series of trials Mera will have to pass to marry into the Atlantean royals.
Less interesting, however, is the goings-on at NEMO, as Black Manta has taken control of the organization by way of murder, and is now murdering everyone in his way of controlling it. Because murder. Manta has been a rather one-note villain since this series began, and it may be time to give him a rest for a while. Where’s Ocean Master or Charybdis to make Aquaman’s life difficult instead? I was glad to see the offbeat federal agents who Aquaman met in Abnett’s first arc. This title could really use a little more levity to make it more interesting, plus some better villains.
Corrina: Didn’t we just have an Atlantis/U.S. War? And even in Flashpoint, Atlantis went to war. This will be the third time in the last decade. It’s getting so that Atlantis goes to war at the same rate Paradise Island and the Amazons are destroyed. Though I wonder why Atlantis never gets destroyed but Paradise Island does? Hmmm…
Right, the story. The one element I loved about this issue was the leader of the Deluge. Finally, a complex villain because he’s not so rigid that he can’t see the big picture, and a villain whose viewpoint the reader can understand, if not agree with. It’s hard to have any sympathy for Black Manta, with his one-note campaign of vengeance, but the leader of the Deluge makes the reader wonder if he could be right and Arthur wrong. I want to see more of him.
The callback to the federal agents who helped in the siege of the embassy and its destruction was also a good moment, as Ray said. But the tone (even the characterization) of Arthur and Mera seems to veer all over the place, depending on what’s needed for the plot. I’m not sure Mera would ever see the need to “prove herself” to the Atlantean populace. Couldn’t she just run footage of her destroying a whole bunch of American troops?
Harley Quinn #4 – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Writer; Joseph Michael Linsner, Artist; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Missing That Magic
Ray: After a disastrous first arc that turned the entire cast into players in some bizarre sci-fi zombie slaughterfest, this title finds its footing again with a done-in-one story set in India. Joseph Michael Linsner, the legendary artist best known for the creator-owned “Dawn” takes the help on art this issue. With Coney Island steal cleaning up from the zombie massacre, Harley is more than happy to get out of town and help Bolly Quinn with a secret mission – but not before helping to repair the reputation of hot dogs in Coney Island and meet with another eccentric new merchant in the area. However, soon she’s up in the air with one of her most trusted lieutenants.
In India, the mission turns out to be fairly routine but still funny. There’s an evil corporation, a giant robot, and a big dramatic chase scene. The issue does unfortunately still suffer from a lot of the problems that this title does at its laziest. There’s a good deal of weak ethnic humor – Indian call centers, Russian gangsters obsessed with vodka, etc. – and some scenes are just completely random, such as the robot being piloted by an evil baby. Still, it’s a major step up from the first arc’s unfunny gore, even if it’s still a long way from the series at its best.
Corrina: Given what’s happening in the world, particularly New York City over the weekend, it’s hard to look at the scenes of all the dismembered bodies on Coney Island and not think about real life events, and that threw me out of the story. Not the creative team’s fault but it certainly cemented my dislike of the whole zombie alien storyline.
It could be me, also, but even scenes I should have found funny, I didn’t. I want to feel the magic that was in this title at the beginning but this isn’t didn’t bring it back, even with the incredible artwork.
Doctor Fate #16 – Paul Levitz, Writer; Sonny Liew, Artist; Lee Loughridge, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Khalid Should Get More Respect
Ray: The penultimate issue of this series finds Khalid up against one of his biggest threats yet in the form of the ancient Egyptian God Osiris. Khalid wakes up one morning to find that the sun simply hasn’t risen. As people panic and begin to wonder if the end of the world is coming, Khalid heads home to check on his parents. This leads to a great identity reveal moment that should happen more in comics – I’ve long felt that heroes keeping their identity secret from those closest to them was a rather lazy trope for easy drama, and heroes who have their family for support are more effective.
Then it’s time for the big battle to begin, and Sonny Liew proves once again why he’s one of the best new artists DC has discovered in a while. His Gods and spirits are impressive, surreal creatures, and the sense that Khalid is up against something far more powerful than him is clear. It’s only through the assist of some old friends and enemies – and his own worthiness as a hero – that he survives his final battle. There’s one issue to go, and I’m pleasantly surprised that this title lasted as long as it did. It’ll be missed when it’s gone.
Corrina: Khalid had a year and a half to endear himself to audiences and it bums me out that so few people gave his comic a try because it’s been a solid series and one that’s brought much needed diversity to a concept that basically had a white man using ancient Egyptian magic–and being the expert in said magic.
Khalid is an inspiring character, a young man who wants to be a doctor in real life, and one who is struggling with the demands of family, a girlfriend and his new superhero powers which are more aligned with a curse than any kind of gift. This issue, with the reveal to his parents, was terrific, and gave me hope that DC won’t just make Khalid a casualty of war in the next big upcoming crossover. Maybe if DC has a new magic-based series, he can be part of it.
Suicide Squad Most Wanted: El Diablo/Boomerang #2 – Jai Nitz, Mike Moreci, Writers; Cliff Richards, Artist; Oscar Bazaldua, Penciller; Scott Hanna, Inker; Hi-Fi, Beth Sotelo, Colorists
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: It’s Okay.
Ray: The latest anthology miniseries continues as two of the Squad’s less-prominent members get their moment in the spotlight. The status quo set up for El Diablo’s story, featuring him as a double agent between the Squad and Checkmate, was intriguing. However, this issue is, unfortunately, a bit of a mess. It jumps back and forward between three different time periods following Chato, with the main action being a battle between him and Parasite. By the end, he gets recruited by a third party that promises to free him by any government handler, but none of the characters involved are really grabbing me.
I think I preferred the second half of the shorter Captain Boomerang story this month. Mike Moreci does a good job of balancing Boomerang’s general nature as a useless layabout with giving him a bit of real menace in points. The two-issue length means things don’t drag out, and soon enough he’s battling against the Jaguar, the evil ringleader of the country. There’s some good action, and Boomerang’s partnership with the young meta who recruited him is appealing. Overall, though, both stories are fairly forgettable, much like the Most Wanted miniseries that preceded it.
Corrina: Everyone does time jumps now in their stories and everyone should stop unless they’re really good at it. Case in point is El Diablo’s story in this issue, which is every bit of a mess that Ray says it is. I hope linear storytelling makes a comeback because, right now, many people are using flashbacks and flashforwards as crutches to prop up flawed stories or pad them out, like this one does.
The Boomerang story shows why Boomer became such a reader favorite during the original Suicide Squad run. He always sits on the edge of incompetence and unconcern for anyone else but, every now and then, he’ll surprise you, like in this issue. An enjoyable story.
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Five #18 – Brian Buccellato, Writer; Mike S. Miller, Artist; Rex Lokus, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Ray: As this comic heads towards its end – although it will never go away, with a bridge comic telling the story of the game before Season Two launches with Tom Taylor back at the helm – this issue turns the focus on Deathstroke, who has stayed on the fringe of this series until now. He’s in retirement, happily staying well out of the way of the regime, until Luthor and Batman bring him in to help them steal the Mother Box from STAR Labs and use it to put their plan of getting an alternate version of the Justice League on their side into effect. The bulk of the issue is Deathstroke waging a hopeless fight against the regime’s forces, but there is a subplot involving the murder of Mr. Zsasz in the headquarters of the Regime. Overall, very standard stuff without much to make it stand out much one way or another.
Wonder Woman ’77 Special #4 – Mark Andreyko, Amy Chu, Trina Robbins, Amanda Delbert, Writers; Tom Derenick, Dario Brizuela, Tess Fowler, Christian Duce, Artists; Carrie Strachan, Jenn Manley Lee, Wendy Broome, Colorists
Ray – 7.5/10
Ray: A quartet of overall entertaining stories set in the old continuity. The opening tale, by Mark Andreyko and Tom Derenick, brings back one of the TV Wonder Woman’s most over-the-top villains, the evil brain-in-a-jar Harlow Gault. This old-school villain is an entertaining threat, and the battle between him and Wonder Woman in the thoughtscape is one of the most dramatic scenes of the issue.
Corrina: I love that something that might have looked a little hokey on-screen, like a brain-in-a-jar, fits in perfectly with the comic, where the artwork reminds me of the television show but improves on the visuals. It’s definitely a fun story, especially the sequence with Gault taking over Steve, then Wonder Woman, then Wonder Woman winning in a fight inside the mind.
Ray: The second story, by Amy Chu and Dario Brizuela, is probably the best of the issue. Focusing on a long-serving civilian employee of the government who turned traitor to the Russians, and a popular rock band that gets caught up in the caper when the tapes get switched, this story makes the best use of the 1970s setting and has a fun, madcap vibe unlike any other comic.
Corrina: I laughed a few times during this story, particularly at Steve getting down to boogie and the reactions of the fellow behind him. I did figure out the secretary’s motivations early on–I thought Wonder Woman might as well but all that funky music must have been distracting. 🙂 Aside: as I read this story, I realized how much I missed a well-placed thought balloon!
Ray: Trina Robbins and Tess Fowler’s story is the shortest of the lot, clocking in at only ten pages. It deals with Diana and a famous rock star paying a visit to a European country only to be kidnapped by a shady dictator with secret plans for them. The story has an oddly sentimental ending that attempts to humanize the dictator, but there just isn’t enough room to really sell the emotion of the story.
Corrina: I thought the ending worked nicely and showcased some optimism, in that even evil dictators can have one corner where they’re someone’s hero.
Ray: Amanda Delbert and Christian Duce’s sci-fi Cold War story emphasizes Wonder Woman’s role as peacemaker as she attempts to stop war from breaking out over the mysterious disappearance of a shuttle crew. The villain is introduced a bit abruptly, but it has that campy sci-fi vibe that always worked very well for this series. Overall, a fun collection of stories that fans of the series will likely love.
Corrina: I thought the villain would turn out to be the Atomic Skull or someone like that, thus I was distracted when I realized the villains were actually aliens. Great action sequences with the explosion at the Soviet base and with Wonder Woman on the spaceship versus the aliens.
Overall, a fun collection!