DC This Week – A Teen Titans Rebound

Comic Books Entertainment
Deathstroke #3 cover.
Deathstroke #3 cover. Yeah, it never goes well for Slade and his family.

It was a good week to be a current or former member of the Teen Titans. First, there was the launch of yet another Teen Titans book, this one with a more classic lineup, Titans #3 had the now-adult members of the Marv Wolfman/George Perez-era team, and others were featured as well, from the new Wally West in The Flash to Rose (Ravager) Wilson in Deathstroke (everyone should be reading this book), and Jaime Reyes back in his own title as the Blue Beetle. 

Not to mention Nightwing in Detective this week, acting as his usual compassionate self.

DC Launches of the Week:

Teen Titans: Rebirth #1 – Ben Percy, Writer; Jonboy Meyers, Artist; Jim Charalampidis, Colorist – Ben Percy, Writer; Jonboy Meyers, Artist; Jim Charalampidis, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Good Start

Ray: Teen Titans has had a rough go since Infinite Crisis, never quite recovering since Geoff Johns left and suffering maybe more than any other franchise when the New 52 rebooted everyone. The characters that made up this generation of the TT had been changed massively, and not for the better. So it’s not a surprise that Percy’s relaunch here dispenses with all those characters. Tim Drake has been “killed off” and his “death” weighs on the title here. Wonder Girl’s been shuffled off-screen, and both the poor facsimiles of Superboy and Bart Allen have been sent off to limbo previously. In its place is a rather unusual fusion of the old and the new. The new roster contains both New Teen Titans mainstays Beast Boy, Raven, and Starfire, with Damian Wayne as Robin and the young Wally West as Kid Flash. Like all Rebirth books, the title is heavily a new entry point for first-time readers, but it also serves as its own story.

One by one, we meet the members of the team, starting with Beast Boy. Since the team disbanded, he’s living in LA with his family’s money, partying and in general being an obnoxious teen celebrity. However, Percy manages to get under that surface and show his lingering insecurity issues and how they manifest in his need for attention. The segment with Raven is equally good, as we get to see the human, haunted girl underneath her dark exterior. Her characterization is very much in line with the excellent miniseries that started last week. I also really liked the Kid Flash segment, which gives him an upbeat, energetic outlook on life while also addressing some of the dangers a young black superhero would face today. The one character who doesn’t fit is Starfire, who is working as a humanitarian and is clearly way too old for this book. It feels like a step down for her, given how much fun her solo series was. One by one, we get to meet them – and then they’re captured by a mysterious figure, who greets them once they’re restrained in his secret lair. The reveal that it’s Damian (with Goliath in tow) isn’t unexpected, but it already makes me excited to see how he interacts with the rest of them. Percy’s dialogue/narration style is similar to GA, but the tone is much lighter. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a fun and promising start.

Kid Flash's segment in Teen Titans, where the artist shows off. :) Image copyright DC Comics
Kid Flash’s segment in Teen Titans, where the artist shows off. 🙂 Image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: By the second abduction, I thought “obviously some other hero is testing them.” I should have remembered the solicits or I would have realized it was Damian sooner. With any other character, this kind of manipulation would be ridiculous. With Damian, it makes perfect sense. This time-honored plot device (I first saw a version used in a Justice League of America issue in 1973) works great for a first issue because it also serves to introduce the reader to each of the characters, especially their strengths and weaknesses.

However, while the individual character segments are terrific (Aside: someone at DC editorial really loves Raven lately and that’s cool), it does create the question of why these people will even work together as a team. What is their purpose? Damian obviously has a purpose for them but he’s not a threat nor a binding agent. Once they get free, they should be able to take him, especially with the powerhouses among them. Why would they stick around? Previous versions of the Titans have united in reaction to a threat–like Trigon–or because their mentors asked them to get to know each other and train as a team. Ray is high on this title. I thought it was fine but nothing blew me away. (Then again “fine” is a huge step above from the last version of this title.)

I’m cautiously optimistic issue #2 will answer the questions I have about how this team will work together. Meyers’ art, especially in the Kid Flash and Raven segments, showcased great storytelling ability, especially with kinetic motion in Wally’s segment, and the nightmares in Raven’s visit to the art museum. Meyers had to depict four different settings with complicated background and it all looked effortless. I look forward to his group fight sequences.

Batman Beyond: Rebirth #1 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Ryan Sook, Artist; Jeremy Lawson, Tony Avina, Colorists

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: A Batman Beyond Origin Recap

Ray: When we last left the world of Batman Beyond, Tim Drake’s ill-advised tenure as a Batman Beyond from one alternative future who landed into another had come to an abrupt end, and Terry was put back in the role that people wanted. Although this is still the post-Futures End world, this is very much a back-to-basics issue. The first villains Terry ever faced in the Batman Beyond cartoon was the Jokerz gang, and they appear right again here. In the aftermath of the chaos of the last series, they’re attempting to reestablish themselves as the most powerful gang in Gotham, which leads them to hijack a school bus – only to be promptly kicked in the face by Batman in a pretty spectacular scene. Ryan Sook is on art here, and he looks great as always.

Once the threat is contained, we catch up on what Terry’s been doing. He’s reconnected with Matt, Max, and Commissioner Gordon, although Bruce and his mother are dead and he hasn’t talked to Dana since he returned. She’s become a social worker, which leads her into trouble when the area she’s trying to help becomes overrun by Jokerz who kidnap her to send a message. It’s pretty clear that this will lead to their reunion, although her being damseled right away is a bit annoying. I always found her to be one of the thinnest characters in the original series, but I’m hoping that changes here. The villains are fairly generic, but the fusion of Joker gas and Bane’s venom is intriguing. The reveal at the end that the original Joker is still alive is telegraphed, but I’m hoping that we see this title take on much more of the tone of the original Batman Beyond cartoon than the last one did.

Corrina: Yes, I know. Joker is the uber-Batman villain and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is considered one of the best animated DC universe films ever. So in trying to get eyeballs on this title and increase sales, the Joker coming back was likely inevitable.

Doesn’t mean I like it. At all. The Joker as this great agent of chaos is never a favorite with me–not the creator’s faults–and I sighed when I finished this issue. The good points: the Beyond gang is getting back together, Terry seems to have gotten over his angst over being mind-controlled easily enough, and I could happily follow his adventures for a long time. But maybe with new villains or successors to other villains we haven’t seen, like a new Two-Face?

Blue Beetle #1 – Keith Giffen, Writer; Scott Kolins, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Disjointed

Ray: Two issues in, it seems like the main draw for this title is going to be the unconventional buddy team of Jaime and Ted Kord. The issue is very dialogue-heavy, and it opens with a flashback to a mysterious dream that Jaime keeps having. It’s set in Ancient Egypt and deals with Dr. Fate battling a mysterious Blue Beetle. Jaime thinks it’s a flashback of some sort to the Scarab’s memory, but neither he nor Brenda and Paco can figure it out. Brenda and Paco’s banter is fun, although they do seem a little too vicious with each other at points. I’m hoping the snark is slightly dialed down in the future. They head to career day at school, where Ted shows up and proceeds to massively embarrass Jaime. Ted’s eccentric young genius vibe is one of the most enjoyable parts of this book.

After school, Ted lures Jaime into another one of their adventures, and Jaime is shocked to find out that Ted is working with a local superpowered gang of some sort. Jaime winds up fighting a supervillain who has the power to pull him into a shadow dimension of some sort, but it turns out to be a kid who really can’t control his powers yet. What’s more interesting is the fact that the kid might have ties to Nightshade, and for the first time, Ted confirms that he was, in fact, Blue Beetle at one point. The title’s weak point is still its villains and plots because they’re just slightly generic, but the main characters are fun enough that it overcomes this. It’s not quite on the level of Rogers’ run, but it’s good to have these characters back.

Beetle striking a very Steve Ditko-esque pose on his cover. image copyright DC Comics
Beetle striking a very Steve Ditko-esque pose on his cover. image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: I know the banter between Jaime and Ted is supposed to sell the title, and I appreciate bringing back Jamie’s excellent supporting cast, including his formidable Mom. All the pieces are there for this to be good. But the execution lacks, primarily with what should be a strength–the dialogue. The exchanges between Jaime and Ted aren’t banter, so much as disjointed pieces of conversation that they throw at each other and make no sense. I know we’re supposed to see Ted as somewhat absent-minded and maybe ADD but this is ridiculous and it’s distracting, and it continually tossed me out of the story.

Working up a connection to Doctor Fate and the mystical aspects of the scarab is a great subplot and I love this take on Ted. But I can’t sink in and enjoy this book the way I want. I’d almost rather read it with just Kolins’ art, especially since he has a way with facial expressions.

DC Rebirth Reviews:

Batman: Detective Comics #941 – Steve Orlando, James Tynion IV, Writers; Andy MacDonald, Artist; John Rauch, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Gory, Fun, Touching

Ray: It’s part three of Night of the Monster Men, and this kaiju-influenced body horror adventure takes a new turn as the monster plague starts spreading. You’ve got Spoiler, Orphan, and Bullock attempting to keep peace at an enclave for survivors, while Batwoman takes on the giant monster in the sky. However, things in the enclave start turning ugly when people start turning on each other and on the heroes, and it soon becomes clear that the strange red slime that’s dripping on them is the source of the chaos. At first, they’re just acting angry and irrational, but soon they become zombified as the fungus takes over their higher brain functions. Spoiler and Orphan wind up alone against an army of these mutants, and it’s good to see the girls get a big action scene together.

However, it’s Blackgate prison that’s the site of the biggest scenes of the issue, with Nightwing attempting to keep the peace as hundreds of small monsters overrun the place. He gets some help from Gotham Girl, who shows up despite not being particularly stable at the moment. Nightwing tries to keep an eye on her and the monsters but gets scratched by one of them in the process. Gotham Girl finds the quickly-reproducing monster that is behind the plague and proceeds to rip it to shreds in graphic fashion, contaminating herself in the process. I was a bit surprised by just how gory this got, although I suppose undead fungus-monsters aren’t true gore? Before Nightwing can calm down Gotham Girl, they both start mutating themselves due to their contamination, and the team loses two valuable allies. This continues to be a straight action thriller with some great scenes.

Corrina: The best parts of crossovers are always the interactions between the heroes as they’re faced with something so unusual that they need to work together in ways they haven’t before. Putting this attack by the monsters just after Tim’s death was a great idea because it threw a wrench into everyone’s emotional state and, even though they know each other, they’re still slightly off. But it’s the segment with Nightwing and Gotham Girl, strangers to each other, that pulled me in the most, as Dick once again shows he can stay calm and kind in the worst situations. (I’m hoping that this dose of monster-whatever-it-is resets Gotham Girl’s biology so she’s no longer under a death sentence from being modified.)

Also, seeing Steph and Cass Cain work together again? That’s just icing on the cake.

The Flash #7 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Story Looking to Finish As Strong As It Started

Ray: The last issue sort of lost me a little bit with its predictable, Hush-esque reveal of Godspeed’s identity, but this issue pulled me back in a big way with how Williamson handles the new villain. It’s a bold move to give the villain equal narration to the hero, but Godspeed is no ordinary villain. Rather, this issue makes clear that his descent into villainy was almost an accident. More of a ruthless seeker of justice particularly obsessed with his brother’s killer, the first lives he took were accidental as he attempted to sap the Speed Force from the criminals. Instead, because the Speed Force was not taken willingly, it backfired and killed them. After he trounces Barry in their fight, he solves a hostage crisis without any loss of innocent life – but with the graphic deaths of every hostage-taker. It’s like watching Punisher with superpowers, but Godspeed is a villain and making rookie mistakes.

I was a bit disappointed by the fact that Barry needs to take back the speed force from the other speedsters to get the power to stop Godspeed. Avery speaks for this reader when she says she doesn’t want her powers to go, but I suppose it was just too much to ask to keep Speedster Club going indefinitely. Wally already had a connection to the speed force when the storm hit, so he and Barry both keep their powers and have their first team-up as Flash and Kid Flash (although he doesn’t have the costume until Teen Titans this week). Meanwhile, Godspeed, in his twisted attempt to prove himself better than the Flash, is headed for Iron Heights to wipe out Flash’s rogues’ gallery. Now that the mystery is over, Godspeed is an intriguing enough villain and very different from the other “evil Speedster” villains.

Corrina: I have loved this Flash arc more than any Flash story in, well, at least 20 years. Godspeed has what great villains need: proper motivation. August doesn’t wake up each morning and think “Today, I’m going to be a murdering, evil jerk!” No, he wakes up believing he can save the world and with a specific plan to do just that. Whether the speed force made him slightly insane–my own interpretation in that it sent his thoughts racing about his brother’s murder–or whether he’s only a violent cop driven over the edge, it works because of his commitment to his cause. (Also, I love the name.) I only hope Godspeed’s attack on Iron Heights doesn’t just lead to all the villains escaping, especially Zoom. We don’t always need a story with Zoom.

I’m still waiting for Meena’s return, as I refuse to believe she’s dead. Yet, anyway. And, agreed with Ray that the speedsters were inevitably going to have to lose their powers but I like the execution of this. I hope we’ll see this crew in some form again, perhaps as Flash support staff.

Superman: Action Comics #964 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Patrick Zircher, Artist; UIises Arreola, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Who Is Clark Kent?

Ray: After last issue’s tense Clark Kent-centric story, this issue brings back Superman and this new Clark as the two – both with a reporter’s mind – circle each other warily and try to figure out what the other knows. Normally, a story like this would make the other Clark inherently suspicious and put the whole thing entirely from Superman’s perspective, so it’s especially intriguing that Jurgens pays as much attention to Clark’s perspective and his distrust of this new Superman. Most of the story takes place at Superman’s new Fortress of Solitude, as he uses a Kryptonian device to revisit every single one of Clark’s memories to try to find holes. Instead, he finds a story that’s very much like his own, only without Superman in it.

This Clark Kent was adopted by the Kents after losing his parents in an accident, had the same moral upbringing, the same friends – all without being a Kryptonian. Although neither trusts the other’s story fully, they wind up choosing to put their faith in each other – Superman sharing information on Doomsday and giving Clark a signal watch, while Clark writes a column for the Daily Planet recommending the new Superman and saying that Earth needs to put its faith in him. It’s a fairly low-key issue that raises more questions than it answers. It seems like the new Clark Kent is going to be a slow-burn mystery. The end of the issue introduces a new villain named Godslayer, but it’s been the quieter moments that have made this book work.

Corrina: It’s interesting seeing the “Clark” part of our Superman as an entity that has never been Superman. It’s always been my thought that Clark is the real person, while Superman is the mask. This Clark Not Superman isn’t quite the boyscout that Clark (Superman) Kent has always been but I give Jurgens a fudge factor there as this non-Superman Clark has a slightly different background and life experiences. He may even be an alternate-universe Clark Kent or he may be a clone with implanted memories. Hard to tell. Or maybe he’s telling the truth, implying that the deceased Superman wasn’t what he seemed at all either. I’m looking forward to finding out.

Wonder Woman #7 cover, image copyright DC Comics
Wonder Woman #7 cover, image copyright DC Comics

Wonder Woman #7 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Liam Sharp, Artist; Laura Martin, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Fine Story, Great Cover

Ray: It’s the conclusion of The Lies, and while this first story from Rucka and Sharp took a little while to get going, it’s pretty clear that it has one main purpose – and that’s setting up the redemption of Barbara Minerva. The Cheetah’s always been the closest thing Wonder Woman had to an iconic arch-nemesis, but with so many versions, she never got the iconic stories of Luthor or Joker. Rucka is trying to change that, but in many ways he’s not treating her as a villain at all, but rather a fallen friend of Diana’s who Wonder Woman’s boundless compassion is still willing to save. The story opens with Diana and Cheetah staging a dramatic rescue of the kidnapped girls before going to rescue Steve Trevor from the forces of Cadulo and the demon Urzkartaga, who Cheetah made a pact with years ago.

Sharp’s art, and Cheetah’s near feral nature, raise the tension throughout, and once the demon actually shows up he’s genuinely creepy. I still do feel like Steve Trevor is the least interesting thing in this series, although Rucka reestablishing his bond with Diana is very welcome if it means she gets over New 52 Superman more quickly and we never have to hear about that relationship again. It’s Cheetah who really steals the show this issue, though, as she’s forced to choose sides once and for all – and her choice has seemingly major consequences for the character. I’m not sure if it’ll stick, but it’s an interesting choice, and I’m very much looking forward to her spotlight origin next month.

Corrina: Sharp indeed draws monsters very well–but he also draws humans who are trying hard not to be monsters well. There are several instances in this issue where Cheetah’s expressions are riveting and hold my attention more than the big monster demon who eventually shows up and is quickly dispatched. Between this and the appearance of Minerva in the Year One story, it’s clear that the choice is to hold Cheetah up as a mirror to Wonder Woman: they both left behind everything they’d ever known in the service of something else, only to find out that promise is seemingly a lie. Cheetah’s story is Diana’s story and vice-versa.

That makes this search for Wonder Woman’s origins also a search for their lost pieces of humanity, and a quest to rebuild their friendship, which adds levels to both the year one arc and this continuing story.

I should be annoyed at Steve being the damsel in distress but he accepts that with good humor, never having been worried that Wonder Woman would eventually show up. I like that he doesn’t have to posture about it and his banter with Diana seems easier than it has been in about a decade. So far, this tale is making me forget not only the Superman/Wonder Woman pairing but the last year of regular WW comics. That’s such a good thing.

Batgirl #3 – Hope Larson, Writer; Rafael Albuquerque, Artist; Dave McCaig, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Killer Art

Ray: Another overall strong issue as Larson’s Batgirl: World Tour takes Barbara to yet another country in search of the mysterious villain Teacher. When we last left off, Barbara went into an MMA fight against a mysterious opponent – and was promptly one-punched right out of the fight. After picking herself up and finding some new fangirls in the process, she discovers that her opponent, who calls herself Moth, was actually deaf. That’s the second mysterious martial artist after Fruit Bat who had an unexpected twist to their abilities, which may just tie into Teacher’s MO. She doesn’t have to wait long for a rematch, because Moth is at her apartment coming after Kai, and Barbara’s knowledge of Moth’s style this time allows her to get a punch in. She later gets in a fight with Kai over his secrets, and heads off to South Korea for her next stop.

The plot that Barbara begins unraveling this issue is a bit obscure, dealing with encoded bacteria that might hold encrypted secrets. However, I’m glad that Barbara continues to get to deal with computer-related things, as this title does show her full range of skills. There’s some lighter touches in this issue, in the vein of Batgirl of Burnside, such as Barbara’s annoying seatmate on the plane to South Korea, and the fact that one of the villains she goes up against is literally some guy in a hardhat. It doesn’t quite have the same fascinating supporting cast and setting we saw in Burnside, but it continues to be consistently entertaining.

Corrina: The obscure plot is the main failing of this tale so far, as it’s hard to parse not only what Babs suspects but what the villains want. They’ve been so in the shadows for three issues that it’s opaque. But Babs realizing that her friend Kai is deeply involved in this goings on solves the frustration I had over her blindness last issue.

Whereas Ray feels like this reflects the Batgirl of Burnside, this chapter read far more to me like a classic Barbara Gordon Batgirl story, where she may be overmatched physically but uses her wits and investigative skills to gain the upper edge. This is more like a Babs story I grew up reading (pre-Oracle) than any version since then. I still miss Oracle but it’s also nice to see Larson’s Batgirl call back to this era.

Albuquerque’s art, including the stunning cover, yanks the reader into the story and plops them down in the middle of the fight. I can’t see how it could get better and I’ll miss him when he leaves the title.

Batgirl #3 cover, image copyright DC Comics
Batgirl #3 cover, image copyright DC Comics

Titans #3 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brett Booth, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Lacks…Something

Ray: This book seems like it’s going to be one of the big staging grounds for the coming DC vs. Watchmen war, but the problem is, it’s just not subtle enough to quite pull off the suspense that Rebirth set up. Last issue pitted Wally and the rest of the Titans against Abra Kadabra, one of Wally’s arch-enemies from the old universe. The weakest part of last issue was the weird Titans clones who showed up for a fight scene, and I’m still not really sure how they fit into all this, but the idea that Kadabra was involved in casting Wally into the timestream is intriguing. The long shot of Kadabra’s nosebleed getting on his pocket watch, though…like I said, not subtle. We get it, it’s a reference.

This issue is by far the strongest when it’s dealing with the characters and in particular Wally and his awkwardness with trying to fit back into this world. He contacts Linda again, and she acts with the mix of confusion, anger, and interest that you’d expect from someone who knows they’re connected to this person but can’t make any sense of it. It seems like Abnett is going for a slow-burn here with the two of them, which is smart. I wasn’t thrilled to see her get kidnapped by Kadabra at the end, which is as predictable as it gets, but overall this is a decent issue that sets up some interesting things. At the very least, Abnett is doing a good job of reminding us of the Wally West people loved before the last few pre-Flashpoint years.

Corrina: There’s nothing particularly wrong with this book but there’s nothing here that will create new fans for the adult versions of the classic Titans either. This is so continuity-loaded that it’s not funny, with callbacks to Donna and Roy’s relationship, Wally’s confusion over his erased past, and with some Titans remembering things that others can’t. Booth’s art only adds to the problem, as it’s garish and tends to make any action more frenetic than it needs to be, such as in what should be a quiet moment between Wally and Linda.

I guess Abra Kadabra is the problem with the Titan’s memories? I could go with that if he did anything interesting other than yell at Titans and rant about how he was wronged but he’s so one-note that the makes the problem feel small…and the problems with changed history and altered memories should be a big one.

Deathstroke #3 – Priest, Writer; Joe Bennett, Penciller; Belardino Brabo, Mark Morales, Inkers; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Still Terrific. Read. Now.

Ray: This series has been strong since minute one, and that doesn’t change this issue as we finally catch up on Slade’s latest troubled relationship – with his youngest child, Rose. She’s living on her own, moving from job to job and seemingly dating a random guy who knows nothing of her past, but is also reluctantly moonlighting in daddy’s business. The scene in the beginning of the issue when Slade shows up in her apartment like a ghost to casually shame her is one of the funniest things in this series so far – he’s basically every disapproving dad ever, only with additional swords. Rose, in disguise, makes a pretty compelling assassin on her own, and her angry banter with her dad is a highlight of the issue.

Her reunion with Wintergreen was surprisingly emotional, and it really drives home to me that Wintergreen was the main thing missing from the Deathstroke books that DC tried to make a go of before this one. He’s really the semi-evil Alfred, in that he’s the glue that holds the family together and keeps Slade focused and from going over the deep end. I’m still not sure exactly what timeline or continuity this book takes place in, as we get to see Jericho’s throat-cutting incident, and there have been two different versions of Jericho in the New 52, one an adult and one a child, none of whom had their throat cut. I get the feeling that unlike some writers, Priest isn’t even trying to explain the post-Rebirth continuity. He’s just creating a version of Deathstroke he likes. And I’m fine with it, because it’s the best version of Deathstroke in decades.

Corrina: Slade being a bad dad is never not darkly amusing, especially since the creators are in on the joke but Slade thinks he’s, well, being a good dad. Sorta. I worried how Rose would be portrayed, given that the last issue showed she was a killer since she was a child but I like the angle that she’s taking assassin jobs to stop assassins—the ultimate rebellion against her father the assassin, maybe? The action sequence at the beginning where she runs through the ambush and fails is terrific, and a great showcase of her precognitive ability and why it’s so valuable. (Her history with Nightwing also seems to be intact, which is nice.)

In short, Rose is a kid trying to do the right thing but, given who her dad is, the right thing is always debatable. But, hey, Wintergreen makes a great uncle. At least we know he likely always has Rose’s best interests at heart. I think. Maybe?

I feel certain the scenes with Joe shot and bleeding out on the floor of the home is a flashback, since we also see the moment where Slade loses his eyes. It’s a necessary flashback given how relevant it is to the current situation: Slade cares about his kids but…well…one family is beyond his abilities, never mind taking care of another.

Next up: Batman and Gotham. That should be fun!

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #5 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Ethan Van Sciver, Artist; Jason Wright, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: More Naked Guy! (Um, Is That a Good Thing?)

Ray: Probably the most colorless book in DC’s lineup, this title isn’t capable of getting strong feelings out of me for good or bad. It’s just hanging around, telling the same Green Lantern stories we’ve been getting ever since Venditti jumped on this book, and there’s very little forward motion of any kind. Guy Gardner’s being tortured by Sinestro’s evil priest of fear, but refuses to give in. Although Sinestro’s suitably conquered the universe, he’s still gripped by paranoia and seeks the counsel of Lyssa Drak. He kills some underlings for letting Hal get away, but unbeknownst to him, Hal’s been saved by his daughter Soranik. Soranik’s role is the only really interesting thing in this book – she’s loyal to the Sinestro Corps, but not to her father, who she sees as tearing down everything she tried to build.

Meanwhile, in John Stewart’s story, he leads what’s left of the Green Lantern Corps against a mysterious invading fleet, but they soon turn out to be less than hostile, and he’s able to unite the two armies for a final stand against Warworld. Ethan Van Sciver’s art looks great, but the book almost feels like an art showcase at points, with many splash pages, even for scenes that aren’t all that dramatic. The visuals are certainly well-put together, but what made Van Sciver’s art so great in the Geoff Johns run was the memorable scenes they were paired with. It feels like we’ve taken an awful number of issues to get to the Green Lanterns fighting Sinestro once again, and I’m still disappointed all his character development has been erased.

Corrina: Can we have a moratorium on evil geniuses brooding in bed with their half-naked girlfriends/mistresses/underlings? It’s annoying even at the best of times and it’s even more annoying with a character like Sinestro, who is usually dispassion and intellect. What the scene between Lyssa and Sinestro is meant to show, I have no idea? (Other than fan-service?) She’s evil and totally on his side? That he might care about her? Nah. She’s likely toast eventually and Sinestro only cares about his own ego. (This is part of what makes him boring. No depth.)

Guy resisting torture is okay, I guess. My favorite scene had to be Hal and Soranik talking things out. Plus, Soranik just recapped the last several issues of the series for readers. She did that so you don’t have to read them. Excellent.

I wish John and the Corps had a more compelling subplot. Or else dispense with the subplots already and just reunite them with Hal and Guy and get to the fight with Sinestro so the Green Lanterns can stop being all about Sinestro.

Suicide Squad #3 – Rob Williams, Writer; Jim Lee, Penciller; Philip Tan, Artist; Scott Williams, Inker; Alex Sinclair, Elmer Santos, Colorists

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Harley’s Funny

Ray: The split-format of this title continues to keep it from really clicking, as the plot advancement is minimal and we don’t get much new stuff out of the backup. The main feature picks up where we left off, with Captain Boomerang being vaporized by General Zod as he steps out of the Phantom Zone. It really defies belief that the current Squad would be able to last five seconds against Zod, but it becomes clear that he’s powerful, yes, but also crazed and erratic from how long he’s been isolated in the zone. He’s more of a tank right now, rambling and furious, so he’s fairly easy to work around and it’s Katana who plays the starring role this issue, managing to draw blood on him with her magic sword. Overall, though, it’s almost pure action and I’m not sure what the bizarre-looking Russian super-team that shows up at the end is supposed to be.

The backup features Katana, which makes sense given how prominent she was in the previous issue. She’s not a traditional Squad member, being a hero and not a convict, so this backup explains why she’s here, as well as rehashing her origin. The only new thing we learn is that her original origin is back i effect, giving her two dead sons in addition to her dead husband. I’m not sure how the New 52 is really being unwound so quickly, but the main highlight in this issue is Philip Tan’s art on the backup, which is easily the best he’s ever looked. He should do more in this painted style, and his art could become a real draw for DC.

Zoinks! Shaggy! Somehow, he became a Russian bad guy!
Zoinks! Shaggy, Scooby! Look, somehow, he became a Russian bad guy!

Corrina: I wanted to say the bizarre-looking Russian super-team that shows up at the end included the Atomic Skull but I realized who he really reminds me of: that evil astronaut who haunted one of the original Scooby Doo episodes! I feel that there’s a lost opportunity here for a Harley Quinn/Scooby Doo crossover.

Harley is the best part of this issue’s main story, from her quick assessment of the threat Zod poses and her decision to run away. (Hey, I would as well.) Unfortunately for Harley, she runs into heavily armed Russian soldiers, so it’s back to Zod and her teammates. Her justification (I was scouting ahead!) made me laugh. Meantime, Zod is so over-the-top with his dialogue that I also laughed. Having Katana injure him with her magical sword–magic is always a problem for Kryptonians–gave her a showcase that she’s needed for a long time and told the reader far more about her than the back-up story, which only recapped her origin.

The Hellblazer #2 – Simon Oliver, Writer; Moritat, Artist; Andre Szymanowicz, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Love the Supporting Cast

Ray: Three issues in, it seems very clear that Simon Oliver is seeking to bring Constantine back to his Vertigo roots. That doesn’t mean necessarily mature content – the Tynion/Doyle run that just concluded had plenty of that, sending Constantine through a freakish hellscape – but also the very deliberate pace steeped in the darkest corners of London that the character was known for. The tension builds through conversations, minor subplots take issues to unfold, and the action lurks in the background, building tension. The issue opens with Swamp Thing and Constantine’s young friend hanging out on a hilltop, discussing the mystery of Abby Arcane’s disappearance and Constantine’s tendency to make bad life choices. Meanwhile, Constantine is crashing at Chaz’s and irritating his wife.

Chaz has basically been relegated to Constantine’s chauffeur, as the mage attempts to tie up the loose ends he left behind in London when he was chased out. That leads him to Clarice Sackville, a conniving British blue blood with ties to the supernatural who’s one of his best allies in London – and may be one of his deadliest threats. The two talk over the recent supernatural goings-on since Constantine came back, but soon Constantine sees a duo of goons following him. As he tries to escape, it becomes clear that they’re anything but human. There’s a subtle, uncanny valley effect to this chase scene that works really well. It’s definitely not the fast-paced horror-adventure of the last run, but it has its own old-school Vertigo charm that I think will win over a lot of people.

Corrina: I don’t see that much of a tonal shift from the Tynion/Doyle run, as that had some quiet moments, especially John’s day wandering New York and setting minor magical things to rights. But this new creative team has opened up to a wider magical world, such as including the Swamp Thing and his quest to find Abby Arcane. That was my favorite part of the issue and a nice contrast to Constantine’s blunt approach to demons with multiple agendas. Not that Constantine doesn’t have multiple agendas himself.

Those weird not-people following Constantine? Between them and the ghosts on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D last night, it’s a wonder i slept at all.

Additional Reviews:

Harley Quinn and the Gang of Harleys #6 – Frank Tieri, Jimmy Palmiotti, Artist; Mauricet, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Ending Worked

Ray: This has probably been my least favorite chapter of the modern Harley Quinn franchise, relying more on violence than humor (which was also my problem with the first arc of the new ongoing series). This conclusion brings things to a semi-satisfactory conclusion, but seems to serve as a teaser for a sequel that I can’t see playing out well. It starts with Harley being reunited with her gang on Harley Sinn’s island of evil, and the two fight off an army of hired goons with the help of Popeye’s sniper skills. This segment pretty much sums up the worst of this book, with weak humor and lots of violence.

Things get more interesting in the second half as Harley finally confronts Sinn one on one – and surprised me by prioritizing her compassion. She challenges Sinn to a fair fight, and intends to get her help once she defeats her. Even when Sinn cheats and tries to kill her, Harley still tries to get her the help she needs in a legitimate mental health facility, but Sinn’s Trump-esque father sabotages the plans and gets her sent to Arkham Asylum instead – where she’s promptly recruited by the Joker for revenge against Harley. Some nice moments, especially towards the end, but the last thing I want to see is Sinn and Joker working together in future stories.

Corrina: Sniper Pop-eye! That’s the kind of gag that could get me to like the entire issue. But what makes this a step above the previous issues is Harley’s dual nature arguing with itself. Therapist Quinzel wants to help Harley Sinn. Harley Quinn simply wants to defeat her and does, in a well-drawn and well-written takedown that showcases Harley nicely.

But I groaned when the Joker showed up at the end as he greeted Harley Sinn. Because the Joker bores me (see above in Batman Beyond) and because that means we might see Harley Sinn again. Ugh.

Six-Pack and Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin’ Heroez #2 – Garth Ennis, Writer; Russ Braun, Artist; John Kalisz, Colorist

Ray – 3/10

Corrina: Did Not Finish

Ray: Well, the best thing I can say here is that this issue is significantly less disgusting than previous issues. There’s no body horror, sexual assault, Nazi cosplay, or graphic depictions of vomit! Progress. That’s still not to say it’s a good comic. Ennis has some amusing meta commentary on John Constantine, who meets up with Dogwelder and delivers a drunken rant on how DC has defanged him and turned him into a shadow of his Vertigo self. I’m surprised DC publishes this book when it’s essentially determined to spork their line at every opportunity, but I guess Ennis has pull. I don’t care about Dogwelder at all, but Constantine is slightly funny.

Certainly more so than the other half which focuses on the worst character in this series, minor demon Baytor. He’s wanted by the Spectre, who is planning to drag him back to hell. This leads to an elaborate “I am Spartacus” riff where everyone claims to be Baytor to protect him, leading Spectre to be ready to destroy the whole town – until he sees Dogwelder and is somehow scared off. Very little about this comic makes sense at all, and none of the characters are compelling at all. It’s just a puzzle to me, in a lot of ways.

Corrina: Do I have to read this? ::opens book:: Nope, I do not have to read this. Whew. Note: You don’t have to either.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #18 – Sholly Fisch, Writer; Dario Brizuela, Artist; Franco Riesco, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Super-Scooby!

Ray: One of the most pleasant surprises of the week, this offbeat all-ages title continues to impress with its deep knowledge of DC lore. This issue sidelines the Mystery Machine crew for a change and instead sends Scooby off on a solo adventure. He and Wonder Dog are recruited by Ace, Krypto and G’nort for a trip to a world populated entirely by dogs, with its own super-team. After an initial battle with a group of cat supervillains, the world’s superhero team introduces their predecessors, a JSA-influenced team including Yankee Poodle that’s gone but not forgotten – especially since their ghosts seem to be haunting the lair.

The issue maintains a fast pace throughout, with a twist ending that manages to be a genuine surprise while also fitting perfectly with the optimistic vibe that works into most of Fisch’s stories. Even though there aren’t any human DC characters in this story, it works as a tribute to DC’s golden age in a way that’s been missing for the last few years (although it’s making a comeback for Rebirth). This title is always brimming with love for DC’s long and epic history, and that’s what makes it one of the best all-ages titles on the stand.

Corrina: Scooby joins the superhero ranks! Awesome. I’ve seen Yankee Poodle before in an animal version version of the JSA and her appearance along with her teammates has to be a tribute to a JSA storyline where those heroes were trapped in another dimension and thought to be destroyed for years and years. I can only wish that the people JSA would  show up again in the regular DCU. (The people JSA, not the dog version. Though Ace and Krypto can stick around anytime.)

Wacky Raceland #4 – Ken Pontac, Writer; Leonardo Manco, Artist; Mariana Sanzone, Colorist

Ray – 3/10

Corrina: Did Not Finish

Ray: The road trip from hell continues as the teams make a pit stop in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, which is basically just Las Vegas only with more mutants. The place has been divided into gangs, many patterned after the casinos, such as one based on ancient Egypt and one based on the Roman empire. This concept actually has a good potential for fun, turning the vaguely surreal setting of Vegas and making it deadly, but the execution is unfortunately dull and drab. The art is dark and makes it difficult to see what’s going on at times, and an extremely lazy Trump joke is not a substitute for humor.

The issue continues its pattern of spotlighting one racer an issue, and this issue is the Red Baron’s turn. Unfortunately, his story is the height of cliches, involving a dead girlfriend and her vengeful father. It feels like it could have been taken from any soap opera. The other villains aren’t much better, including a mutated obese crime boss who lies in a tank. If you like this series, it’s more of the same. Me, I’m hoping Ennis can find some fun in this world in the spinoff.

Corrina: I’ve read some positive reviews of this book. I cannot fathom what attraction it holds for any readers but, hey, to each his own. If you want a grim, depressing story based on toys and cartoons from the 1970s with dingy art that is supposed to make it all look serious and sad, this is for you!

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