DC This Week – Cave Carson Has a Great Start

pages 2-3 of "Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye." Art by Michael Avon Oeming.
pages 2-3 of “Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye.” Art by Michael Avon Oeming.

Cave Carson not only has a cybernetic eye, he owns the best debut among the new Young Animal comic line cultivated by Gerard Way, who also co-wrote this comic. Over in the regular DC, the past reaches out for Nightwing, Batman assembles his version of the Suicide Squad, Superman & son team up with the last surviving member of the Losers, and two former Teen Titans, Cyborg and Raven continue to battle a mysteries foes.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR TODAY’S DC COMICS.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1 – Gerard Way, Jonathan Rivera, Writers; Michael Avon Oeming, Artist; Nick Filardi, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Outstanding, Distinctive Art

Ray: The Young Animal line started strong with Doom Patrol, then made its case even better with the gloriously weird Shade the Changing Girl. Now, its most down-to-earth title may be its best yet. Focusing on the obscure adventurer/geologist spinning out of the Challengers of the Unknown, this title is both fascinatingly bizarre and incredibly human. Cave’s backstory seems to be intact – he worked as a world-renowned geologist who explored unknown civilizations, wound up marrying a princess from one of them, and had a daughter. He’s now retired and his wife passed away recently. His daughter Chloe, who seems to be college-aged, cares about him but doesn’t fully know how to relate to him. Oh, and he has a cybernetic eye that he doesn’t exactly know how he got, and it’s giving him strange visuals of his dead wife.

The first half of the issue is surprisingly quiet and straightforward, with Cave mourning his wife, meeting with his daughter, watching home movies, and meeting with Dr. Magnus about his eye. Unlike the others, this book doesn’t so much take place in the fringes of the DCU as right alongside it – the Metal Men play a clear role here, and it seems to be fully in the weird-science corner of the DCU. There’s some amazing set pieces like Cave’s underground geologist lab that barely hint at the strange world this book is going to explore. Then things turn distinctly strange when a member of his wife’s species shows up – and promptly turns into a grotesque tentacle monster that tries to kill Cave. After killing it, he makes a call to a friend of his – and another DCU hero who has been missing for a long time shows up, and you’ll never see this one coming. Although the writing here is exceptional, I need to give a shout-out to Michael Avon Oeming’s art as well, as strong as it was on Powers back in the day. We also get a bonus Tom Scioli backup focusing on the Wonder Twins and Commissioner Gordon. Strange, fascinating book that I can’t wait to see continue.

Corrina: Once upon a time, I saw an interview with Neil Gaiman in which he said comics are the easier medium in which to convey emotion basically because art shows so much that words fail to do. That’s the case with this comic and Oeming’s art. Pages 2-3 are set at Eileen’s funeral and they’re stark and beautiful, with the top third dedicated to silhouetted figures at the graveside, then sparse panels of Cave driving home alone, to a house where he’s again, home alone, and the final image on these pages is Cave alone with the milk carton. But all that is a prelude to what Oeming does on the following page, which is Cave alone in his office, flipping a novelty pen up and down, staring a highlighted photo of him and his late wife. “Well, you were always good at figuring things out, Eileen…What am I supposed to do now?” The interplay of shadow and light and the spotlight on Cave as he says those words is brilliant.

The story is good but the art raises the first issue to brilliance.

DC Rebirth Reviews:

Batman #9 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; June Chung, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Batman Assembles His Own Suicide Squad.

Ray: After the chaos of Monster Men and the superhero intensity of the Gotham arc, King’s second major story is a quintessential Batman story, pitting him against one of his most iconic villains – Bane. The bone-crushing tyrant is holed up in his old home of Santa Prisca holding court in his old prison cell, with the Psycho Pirate at his service. King does a great job of making Bane both intimidating and yet oddly fragile. Meanwhile, in Gotham, Gotham Girl is still declining psychologically and Batman decides to take Amanda Waller up on her offer. Bruce’s dialogue with Alfred here is surprisingly funny, but the tone here is overall deadly serious. And I love how Batman’s compassion is what shines through here, forcing him to make a deal with something he deeply disagrees with to help someone he feels responsible for.

That quest takes him to Arkham, where he recruits his own Suicide Squad for a secret mission into Santa Prisca to get back the Psycho Pirate. With the help of Jeremiah Arkham and Commissioner Gordon, he hand-picks his team. Arnold Weskler, free of Scarface and seemingly a broken man that Batman sees some use for. Bronze Tiger, either the world’s best assassin or the world’s biggest fabulist (and oddly, a seeming friend of Batman’s on some level). Punch and Jewelee, the twisted clown-themed couple (who are introduced with a very cool twist). And the most feared murderer in Gotham at the moment…Catwoman? What turned Selina from honorable thief to mass murder on death row (supposedly)? I have absolutely no clue, but that’s the kind of shocking cliffhanger that makes the two-week wait between issues unbearable. King is very quickly establishing himself as a future great in the world of Batman writers.

Bane struggles to survive in Batman #9. Image via DC Comics
Bane struggles to survive in Batman #9. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Is it wrong that after the final page of this book that I wanted Janin to draw the definitive Selina/Bruce love scene? I hope not because if so, I don’t want to be right. As for the rest of the cast, King never forgets a character, whether from his own run, or whether they’re obscure from not have appeared in a long time.

And he gives all his characters depth. The opening sequence, with Bane remembering being trapped in a hole in Santa Presca for his entire childhood is a reminder of where this character, so often used as a brute, comes from and why he does what he does. The tragedy of Bane is that you do feel for him and you don’t want him not to suffer. (Which is why he fit so well into Gail Simone’s Secret Six.)

Another writer might have spent an entire issue on Bane and Psycho Pirate. Not King. We quickly move to Arkham and Batman’s choice of “outsiders.” (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) It’s good to seen Bronze Tiger back, as he’s been severely underused. The fascinating element of this sequence is that Batman is being ruthless (Arnold is nearly cured) and compassionate (he needs to save Gotham Girl) at the same time. Cool twist with Punch and Jewelee but the last page left me rather more confused that anything else. One, how did Catwoman get captured? And, two, why did she stay captured and how did she get convicted? In absentia? Plus, she’s had more identities than, um, a cat. Despite my questions, I’m glad to have Selina along for the ride.

Superman #9 – Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Doug Mahnke, Penciller; Jaime Mendoza, Trevor Scott, Inkers; Wil Quintana, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: The Losers Stick Together

Ray: The introduction of the island where the Losers met their end last issue was one of the most dramatic twists I can remember so far in Rebirth. It really seems like Rebirth is devoting itself to bringing every corner of DC’s history into the main DCU, from Watchmen to New Frontier. However, as this issue quickly reveals, not every member of the Losers is gone. Captain Storm, minus one eye and one leg, is still alive on the island and not exactly friendly, shooting at Superman and son when he first meets them. They quickly realize they’re not enemies, and Storm reveals how he and his unit got there, and that he’s the last man standing. While the action later in the issue is genuinely spectacular, it’s the quiet scenes hiding in the cave that really sell the issue, from Storm’s pain over the fate of his men to Superman’s attempt to comfort his scared son.

Once they set out to escape from the island (and Superman gets Captain Storm more mobile in a pretty amusing way), the issue turns into a full-on old-school action extravaganza, as the three heroes head to the center of the island and battle dinosaurs, lizard monsters, and a giant rampaging white ape to get the transporter device the ape’s hiding in his eye. Of course, as anyone who knows the history of The Losers knows, this story doesn’t end with Captain Stone getting off the island, so his ultimate sacrifice delivers a punch. This comic is a great example of how a book can combine strong character moments with fantastic old-school action, and come together as a totally satisfying read. While the Bat-line is probably the best overall, no line has taken a bigger leap in quality than the Superman line.

Captain Storm in Superman #9, image via DC Comics
Captain Storm in Superman #9, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Superman and son battle dinosaurs with the help of a crusty and savvy war vet? There is nothing to dislike about this comic and Gleason clearly has fun with all the battle sequences. But it’s the smaller moments that work, with Superman trying to keep Jon from seeing the worst of the carnage on the island and Superman making a new prosthetic leg for Captain Storm.

Were I to ponder why Dinosaur Island showed up in this comic, I’d conclude it would be more than to provide an homage to Darwyn Cooke’s epic tale. We already had Rebirth hinting that the universe is broken and fracturing, and we know from Cooke’s story that the Island that Time Forgot is actually a sentient being that sends out waves of insanity, until it grew big enough and large enough to menace the entire world. I  conclude that this will come into play down the line, especially since this comic is already closely tied to universe-spanning shenanigans, like this Superman and Lois and Jon being refugees from another world.

Trinity #2 – Francis Manapul, Writer/Artist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: So Much Better Than a Dream Sequence

Ray: The first issue of Francis Manapul’s team-up series ended with a strange and unexpected cliffhanger, bringing Clark Kent face to face with his younger self in the Smallville of the past. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go well when the two Clarks come face to face for the first time, as the young Clark flips out, attracting his father, and when Jonathan Kent sees three strangely dressed adults approaching his son, he has a minor heart episode and collapses, assuming that the strangers are there to take his son back where they sent him from. Young Clark, in a panic hearing his father’s heart stop, flies off in tears. This all unfolds in a few pages and sends the trio of heroes on a pilgrimage into the mountains outside Smallville to search from the boy, accompanied by the recovered Jonathan Kent.

There isn’t all that much in the way of action in this issue, and that’s just fine. There’s some peril when a lake with Kryptonite fragments proves dangerous to both of the Clarks, but much like the first issue, this isn’t a story about supervillains. This is a story about the challenges of raising a kid with superpowers – something that the adult Clark Kent is dealing with himself now. Also very happy to see Jonathan Kent, based more around the pre-Flashpoint version, get an issue in the spotlight. As for how all this is actually happening? Well, the end of the issue makes that clear, and this was not the villain I expected to be behind it. Guess Batman will be more involved in future issues. Amazing art as always, and Manapul writes some of the best, most human Superman stories we’ve seen in a while.

Corrina: Strange visitors were always dropping into Smallville in all my old Superboy & the Legion of Superheroes comics. Sometimes it was the members of the Legion, testing Superboy, sometimes escapees or aliens. I wanted to take Jonathan Kent aside and explain to him that these three people would be the first of many but the poor guy was already more than a little overexcited.

Which is to say that this comic had an old-school vibe for me, until about halfway through, when I thought “dream sequence,” because some things weren’t adding up. But the reason for the Smallville excursion turned out to be far more interesting than that. Aside: I wonder what Martha Kent was doing during all this? Cooking, cleaning? Being invisible? One hopes Lois is more useful in solving the current problem.

Nightwing #7 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Love the Cover

Ray: After Nightwing played a big role in “Night of the Monster Men” and became a werewolf briefly, it’s back to his own plots as Nightwing continues to delve into the mysterious past of Raptor. The issue starts with Dick and Agent Tiger working together to take down a Parliament of Owls cell, but the mission goes very wrong when a Kobra sleeper cell attacks and turns into a giant snake monster that massacres the Owls. Snakes eating birds. Poetic. Dick quickly figures out that Raptor set them up and targeted the cell, and goes to confront his former mentor. Also, really glad Seeley is keeping around a good number or the Grayson cast in this book, as Tiger is always welcome.

When Dick takes the fight to Raptor, the book takes a tiny slide for me. Raptor this issue seems a lot more overtly villainous than he used to, delivering monologues about how Nightwing is naive and foolish. He drops more hints about the connection between him and Dick’s mother and then puts the next stage of his plan into effect – targeting Dick’s personal life by kidnapping Bruce Wayne. Now, Raptor knows Bruce is Batman and lets him know this, leading to the very amusing scenario of Bruce being forced to play the damsel in distress to keep his secret identity. The reveal of who Raptor used to be in the circus made me laugh out loud, as well. Overall, another very strong issue of one of the Bat-line’s elite titles.

Corrina: It’s a strong issue and I was prepared to love it wholeheartedly just for the cover, which reminded me of one of the covers during the Batman: The Lonely Place of Dying, introduced Tim Drake and basically explored Batman’s relationship with Dick and the late (at the time) Jason Todd. However, I had issues.

One, going after BATMAN to prove some sort of point to Dick Grayson is the stupidest idea ever and made me roll my eyes at Raptor. He’s too clever to be that arrogant that he can think he can handle BATMAN.Now, perhaps next issue it’ll be some sort of plan that sets something else into motion when Raptor lets Batman win but I’m not ever going to buy this guy outfoxing Batman for any length of time. The references to Dick’s mother made me think this is leading up to Raptor being Dick’s half-brother and hence the obsession, signaled by one of Raptor’s walls being Nightwing stalker material. That seems such a simple motivation for Raptor, who’s been presented as a complicated man.

At this point, I would kinda like Midnighter to show up and take out Raptor. I mean, there are only so many dark vigilantes who should be obsessed with Dick.

Raptor's wall of Nightwing obsession. Image copyright DC Comics
Raptor’s wall of Nightwing obsession. Image copyright DC Comics

Green Lanterns #9 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Robson Rocha, Penciller; Jay Leisten, Inker; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Missed the Title Characters

Ray: An interesting change of pace, as Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz take a backseat this issue so we can focus on the series’ new big bad – Frank Laminski. Who? Exactly. Frank Laminski is a nobody, a third-string pilot who was rescued at one point by Hal Jordan when his plane malfunctioned and developed an obsession with the power ring. Ever since then, he’s been chasing it, getting more and more resentful as new power ring bearers emerge. At first, Laminski is mainly focused on proving himself to be fearless, and even makes a go of being a vigilante himself, but soon his resentment and insanity grow. It’s not until the events towards the end of the Johns run that things really spiral out of control.

It may be a bit too much of a coincidence that the malfunctioning ring that Hal Jordan sent out when he was dying at the hands of Black Mask zeroed in on Laminski, tempting him and taunting him with the ring he would never have before moving onto Simon, but that’s the push he needed to become dangerously obsessed – and it makes him a prime target for our mystery villain, Volthoom, to push towards the Phantom Ring. I’m not sure how I feel about Volthoom, arguably Johns’ weakest big bad, being back, but I’m hoping that Humphries manages to turn him into a compelling villain. Laminski seems like he’s going to be an intriguing adversary for our very human lead characters, and this run continues its strong second act.

Corrina: I don’t know Volthoom, though his name is fun, but I’m not sure why he needs a loser like Laminski to help him. I guess after this issue that I’m supposed to view Laminski as a threat but the character struck me as yet another in a long list of characters who become supervillains because they resent superheroes have the power and they don’t, and thus they feel inferior. Man, there are a lot of villains with serious inferiority complexes out there.

But on the good side, it’s a nice trip back through Green Lantern history, which is going to catch up new readers on the many and varied Lanterns, from Hal to John Stewert, Kyle, Guy, and etc. It is a well-written issue and I sound churlish mostly because I thought I was going to get my monthly fix of my new favorite heroine, Jess, and I didn’t.

Green Arrow #9 – Ben Percy, Writer; Stephen Byrne, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Percy Really Likes His Horror Stuff

Ray: As Island of Scars continues to unfold, we learn more about the mysterious island Ollie has landed on. Dinah and Ollie are staking the island out and come across a mysterious man named Ata, who Ollie accidentally injures in a pre-emptive attack. It turns out that he’s the husband of the mysterious scarred woman who captured John Diggle last issue, and the purpose of the island is a lot more complex than it originally appeared to be. Via a devil’s bargain with the Ninth Circle (who is also responsible for the scars on the female villain’s face), she runs a massive drug ring on the island, while he uses the resources to create technological and humanitarian innovations.

The issue is strong as a whole, and Ollie and Dinah’s banter is getting more and more natural by the issue. While I think the series started out by rushing Dinah and Ollie together a bit much, it’s working really nicely now. Stephen Byrne’s art is as strong as always, and I’m really impressed by how the DC offices have found a team of stylized, unique artists (Schmidt, Ferreyra, Byrne) that work together so smoothly despite not resembling many other artists out there. While the issue has some great scenes and some moral complexity in the plot, it feels like this issue is more of a teaser for next issue’s spectacular action segment on the Queen Industries bullet train next issue. That scene was teased at NYCC, and I am very excited to see it.

Corrina: The banter would seem natural if these people hadn’t met each other just a month ago! Yes, I know, universes converging and buried memories and all that. But seeing this kind of relationship grow is half the fun and I feel a bit cheated that we’ve jumped from “I feel pulled to you, let’s have sex,” to hand signals in battle and calling each other out on their issues.

Percy sure does love his oddball horror stuff with these tribes people and the Ninth Circle, and the scarred female villain, plus the presence of the undersea tunnel. I love hidden tunnels but how many people are in on this? And the secret is not out? But, then again, I have issues with all “secret society controls everything” plots. People can’t keep that big a secret once you’re past the number of 3.

The art is outstanding and keeps me invested in the story. It all works: in the fight scenes, in the facial expressions as Ollie and Dinah are talking, and in the depiction of the secret underground drug tunnel/train. That will look spectacular next issue.

Justice League #7 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Jesus Merino, Penciller; Andy Owens, Inker; Adriano Lucas, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Got my Jess/Lantern Fix

Ray: The aftermath of last issue’s fear demon infestation finds the Justice League turning against each other and themselves as the infection takes root. When we last left off, Superman’s insecurity over Batman refusing to accept him as a member of the League led to paranoia, which led to him breaking into the Batcave and threatening to kill a defeated-looking Batman. This issue…Superman breaks a few things, and then the two just sort of give up and realize that something is very wrong. I was slightly amused by how casual they were about the whole thing. Meanwhile, Simon Baz continues to feel isolated by society and Cyborg worries about people being disgusted by his appearance, while Aquaman and Wonder Woman discuss how the world would be so much better off if they ran things.

The bulk of the story takes place between Jessica Cruz and Barry Allen. While Barry is mainly expressing issues with how he moves so much faster than everyone else, all of Jessica’s normal anxieties come racing back to the surface and she winds up withdrawing into herself – only for her to be the one who is able to break through and defeat the growing shadow demon. Unfortunately, she then decides to leave the Justice League to sort out her issues, which seems like a massive wasted opportunity. A vague threat and a lot of the scenes (especially Simon and Cyborg’s) being rehashes kept this story from really clicking for me as a whole, and Jessica leaving the team will take away a lot of the enjoyment I’ve been getting out of it.

Corrina: The reason I liked this more than Ray is simple: this is essentially a Jessica Cruz story, and it features yet another angle on her dealing with her anxiety, both in a social setting like a date and in a superhero setting, where the fear demon tries to overcome her again. The neatest part of this, though, might have been Barry Allen and his internal thoughts about longing to live life at full speed and, yet, for human connections, he must slow down his natural speed. (This is why I thought his relationship with another speedstar in Flash worked.)

Superman and Batman were funny! A little confession here, a little more there, and the two of them are like “well, this is how I feel but I’m not going to act on it because even if it’s true, it’s a villain thing. So let’s call Alfred and have some tea, okay?”

Aquaman #9 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Scot Eaton, Penciller; Wayne Faucher, Inker; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Aquaman’s Back On the Surface

Ray: Aquaman’s at its weakest when dealing with Aquaman being hated and feared by the surface world, and at its strongest when it’s dealing with undersea mystery and adventure. This issue finds itself somewhere in the middle, as Shaggy Man lays waste to Atlantis on his way to destroy Amnesty Bay at the behest of Black Manta. Shaggy Man, a near-invincible simulacrum that destroys everything in its path, shrugs off everything Atlantis throws at it and evolves to defeat it – which reminds me more of Amazo than anything. Was Shaggy Man always this OP, or did he get upgraded for Rebirth?

Besides a subplot involving Mera’s ongoing training with the Widow’s Council in Atlantis, this issue is almost entirely action and reminds me a bit of Superman’s initial fight against Doomsday, as you have a hero desperately trying to slow an unstoppable monster by any means necessary, including his own body. I was a bit bored by people blaming Aquaman for the attack in Amnesty Bay, or Aquaman’s hesitance to call the Justice League because of his falling out with Superman. All of this is tired stuff, but the action is exciting throughout and the art makes Shaggy Man an intimidating monster. I’m hoping that the series knows where its strong points are and continues to focus on them as it moves forward.

Corrina: Is it a rule that every Aquaman comic written by this team must contain mass destruction of property? It seems to be because, so far, the embassy was blown up, various undersea military equipment was destroyed, Aquaman and Mera almost wrecked the U.S. army, and now Shaggy Man is after Amnesty Bay.

I’m not familiar enough to answer Ray’s question about Shaggy Man versus Amazo but I can say that Shaggy Man is more one-note a personality than Amazo and his search for meaning. I liked Aquaman using his superior intelligence to solve the problem. I’m less fond of Mera and her “schooling.” The idea of an ancient order of “nuns” or like Rome’s Vestal Virgins is an excellent one but the execution hasn’t worked for me. Hit and miss, as Ray says about the next book.

Cyborg #3 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Will Conrad, Artist; Ivan Nunes, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Twisty

Ray: This book continues to be very hit and miss for me, and this issue was one of the hits. Sometimes it’s the same generic techno-action that dragged down the previous series, but sometimes it’s a fascinating psychological study of exactly what being half man, half machine would do to a person. This issue opens with a new take on the introductory story of the New 52, with the Justice League fighting Darkseid, that goes horribly wrong when Cyborg’s role in it suddenly changes. It’s all a dream – but that’s concerning in and of itself, because Cyborg isn’t supposed to dream when he’s in off mode. Trying to get his mind off this mystery, Cyborg takes Sarah out to the Jazz club – only to encounter a mysterious woman who claims to know him from before his accident.

It turns out that Dr. T.O. Morrow, with the approval of Vic’s father, hid chunks of Victor’s memories from him to minimize the trauma. The memories are still locked in his mind, and, apparently, his entire knowledge of his high school girlfriend were among them. Enraged, Vic orders Morrow to unlock them – but when he’s put under, another nightmare about the Justice League turning on him begins, and this one essentially makes Cyborg sleepwalk, tearing through the lab in an unconscious panic. With the real Silas Stone being held hostage by a malevolent techno-clone, and Vic’s programming going haywire, there’s a lot of interesting stuff unfolding here, and I hope it stays as strong as this issue.

Corrina: I’m not so sure I accept the whole “missing memories” at face value. Given his enemy can basically rewrite code, I wonder exactly what’s going on here: the truth or another layer of lies. The fact that Vic can dream when he’s in off-mode is another clue for me.

Are we supposed to believe that Vic’s enemy is someone made up of his missing memories? I’m not sure but the idea of the Silas-clone further screwing with Vic’s head is a scary one. The layers of mystery had me riveted.

cover copyright DC Comics
cover copyright DC Comics

Harley Quinn #6 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Writers; John Timms, Jill Thompson, Artists; Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ray – 6.5/10

Corrina: Another Great Cover.

Ray: Ever since Harley relaunched for Rebirth, the title’s been missing something. It feels like a lot of the amusing character interactions and emotional beats have been replaced by cheap comedy and ultraviolence. The concept of Harley going undercover as a punk lead singer to try to break up a punk rock thief ring has promise, but the execution is sort of lacking. Harley gets on stage, is a horrible singer, gets booed, and then wins over the crowd by engaging in all sorts of debauchery and brutally beating a heckler. That gets her into the good graces of the manager of the club, who gets her closer to her goal.

There’s something interesting of note in the story, though. After Harley sees a memento from her time with Joker that startles her, she flashes back to her time as an Arkham doctor, in a segment by the always brilliant Jill Thompson. Although the segment doesn’t really illuminate anything new about Joker’s cult-like hold over Harley, Thompson’s art is always impressive. Then we’re back to the main story, and you have strange discussions about what Egg Fu really is, and the gang gets introduced to a superhero/supervillain fetish club, which is about the kind of randomly bizarre stuff I expect out of this book. It still needs much less Red Tool and much more Poison Ivy, for the record.

Corrina: The concept of punk Harley is great and should inspire cosplayers but, like Ray, I expected something even more outrageous that basic tricks of hurting someone and slinging poo. I was distracted, though, by trying to figure out the mystery of the sentient Egg, now that it’s been raised.

But any issue that contains Jill Thompson’s work is a step above and seeing the flashbacks, with the quiet menace somewhat oozing in the scenes with Joker/Harleen is freakier than many a horror comic. I guess this is leading to yet another confrontation between the Joker and Harley. We’ll see.

As for the superhero fetish club, I have a suspicion that one already exists. I might have accidentally stumbled across and image of…well, you don’t want to know. But know that the Batman costume was well crafted.

Additional Reviews:

Raven #2 – Marv Wolfman, Writer; Alisson Borges, Artist; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Good Pacing

Ray: Marv Wolfman created Raven 36 years ago, and he’s still her primary writer today, which has got to be pretty close to a record. That’s impressive enough, but even more impressive is the fact that he still seems to have some new tricks up his sleeve when it comes to the character. Last issue saw Raven finding a new family and a new city where she tried to get away from her past and her father’s influence, and it was a really well-done issue that set up the character and her new status quo effectively. This issue doesn’t have quite as much character development, but the ongoing threat that’s building is intriguing as well.

Raven’s new family is so aggressively normal and understanding that I’m not sure whether to trust them or actively distrust them. The high school setting is a great staging ground for mystery and the visuals by Alisson Borges are excellent. Wolfman clarifies Raven’s powers, giving her what essentially amounts to astral projection, which provides some great visuals as well. Where the issue falls a bit flat for me is in the growing energy dome that makes up the main threat, as it comes off as a fairly generic doomsday threat and we don’t really know any more about the villain than we did last issue. Also, why is Raven’s horrible bird costume still appearing in any capacity? Still, overall, this remains an intriguing fresh start for one of the Teen Titans’ best characters.

Corrina: We do know that some sort of menace is there and we know that it has the ability to hurt Raven, and we learn more about how Raven became so popular right away. I like that a superhero finally decided not to be miserable in high school and used her power to end the isolation. She is being a good friend to her new circle as well. Please nix that awful bird costume, though.

Wolfman is kinda on a role recently. Created by “Wolfman/Perez” appears in Deathstroke, Cyborg, and the comic that he’s writing.

DKIII: The Master Race #6 – Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Writers; Andy Kubert, Frank Miller, Pencillers; Klaus Janson, Inker; Brad Anderson, Alex Sinclair, Colorists

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Confession: It’s Kinda Compelling

Ray: Man, everyone at DC wants to get those Trump jokes in before the election, huh? This issue doesn’t so much have a joke as just an appearance by Trump saying we should surrender to the Kryptonians. That’s not really in character! He’d be yelling that he’s the best Kryptonian fighter, and the only reason why we’re losing is because he’s not President yet, and he’s not President yet because media is rigging! Anyway, that aside, this issue is essentially a no-holds-barred action issue, as Batman and Superman – both heavily armored, with Superman looking more like a Superman Robot than anything else, take on the army of Kryptonian cultists who have taken over the world. There are some great action scenes, but there’s a bit too much in the way of blood and guts as opposed to story. The ending, while dramatic, implies something that’s been teased two previous times in the DKR trilogy.

The less said about the mini-comic, the better, though. Focusing on the battle between Wonder Woman and her daughter, it’s marred by ugly art and a lead character who has always been the weakest part of the entire series – ever since she showed up in Dark Knight Strikes Back, I’ve been puzzled by this take on Lara, and she is consistently the worst part of this series. I’m hoping the final few issues come in a timely fashion and deliver a satisfying conclusion to this series.

Corrina: Well, if Trump ever came to power and he wanted to save his life, he might say to surrender. Hard to tell but it’s beside the point of this comic, written probably at least 6 months ago, when Trump wasn’t even the Repubilcan nominee. I guess the writers thought having him as President might be darkly funny?

Batman and Superman fighting alongside each other against an army of Kryptonians adds an epic feel to this issue, and my favorite sequence is Carrie Kelley following in her mentor’s footsteps and being able to take out one of the big guns herself using a slingshot and a sliver of Kryptonite.

Final note: Like Ray, I don’t get why Lara is against her father. She hasn’t had enough personality growth for me to understand it and this story added little to that.

Suicide Squad Most Wanted: El Diablo/Killer Croc #3 – Jai Nitz, Chris Sebela, Writers; Cliff Richards, Brian Level, Artists; Hi-Fi, Beth Sotelo, Colorists

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Croc on the Loose!

Ray: Two stories once again, and while El Diablo’s story continues apace, we get a new story in the second half. El Diablo’s tale continues to be the weak link in this series, as it doesn’t really have a consistent tone. Jai Nitz co-created this version of El Diablo, and he does have a strong handle on the character, but it’s everything around him that doesn’t work. I’m not sure how long this book has been sitting on the shelf because there’s a lot of bizarre elements that don’t really mesh with the rest of the DCU. The random appearance of Vulcan, an obscure pre-Flashpoint hero whose miniseries did not go over well at all, surprised me, although the appearance of Cluemaster with an Apokaliptan weapon was even more confusing – he died pretty conclusively in Batman: Eternal. It was kind of a big thing. The scene where El Diablo and Azucar get handsy with each other while arguing was bizarre and random as well. This story just doesn’t work.

Fortunately, the second story works. It works very well. Chris Sebela, a recent graduate from the DC Writer’s Workshop and a long-time indie writer, turns his focus to Killer Croc, in a story that explores the fine line between the man and the monster beneath Waylon Jones’ green skin. Croc wakes up on an island full of monsters, having been sent there by Amanda Waller to clean the island out and break into the secret base the monsters are guarding. What ensues is a story that reminds me more of a Hulk book than anything else. Even if Croc is portrayed as a lot stronger and more intimidating than he usually is, it works for the issue, and there’s elements of the more anti-heroic Croc that I really liked from Tim Seeley’s stories. It’s just a shame that this story is only two issues, because I’d read a full miniseries of this.

Corrina: El Diablo is a new character to me and I’ve been waiting to read a story that defines him and makes me a fun. Because it only takes one great story for a character to make an impression. (Heck, I’ve been a Karate Kid fan since the 1970s because of one back-up story.) This is not that story for El Diablo.

Croc, however, does make that impression. Casual fans know him best from Batman: The Animated Series, as a freak who does have some good qualities. His struggle between wanting to kill everything and feeling sorry for himself is always worth reading and watching him tear through the island of monsters produces great visuals, though I felt there were perhaps one or two pages too many of those. What also worked was the banter between him and Amanda Waller, cynics to the end.

Wacky Raceland #5 – Ken Pontac, Writer; Leonardo Manco, Artist; Mariana Sanzone, Colorist

Ray – 3/10

Corrina: Did Not Finish.

Ray: No character is safe from the dark and edgy! This issue, the starving racers come across a crop of mushrooms and chow down, which makes them incredibly sick and gives them horrible flashbacks to being tortured in a mysterious laboratory at some point in the past. This sends them off the race path and towards the “butcher shop” as it’s called. The announcer tries to warn them off the path, but they ignore them and encounter a giant sandworm along the way, along with several more gruesome flashbacks of the lab. They eventually break into the lab – and reveal that kindly old Professor Pending is actually the big bad behind everything. This wraps up next issue and seems to have firmly established itself as the most poorly conceived of the Hanna-Barbera books.

Corrina: This reader is safe from the dark and edgy because I couldn’t finish it. But Ray took that one for the team. Go Ray!

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Five #20 – Brian Buccellato, Writer; Mike S. Miller; Artist; J. Nanjan, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Ray: After more than five years, the original run of Injustice: Gods Among Us ends with a whimper as the leaders of the two factions finally face off. The events of the final issue are set into motion when Catwoman betrays the location of Batman’s hideaway in an attempt to bring the showdown to a peaceful end. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that won’t end well. There’s a few interesting moments as Batman uses every psychological trick in his book to unnerve Superman and stall him long enough for Batgirl and Batwoman to pull off a trick using Apokaliptan technology that scatters Superman’s armies to the far corners of the globe and gives them the opening they need to put their parallel Earth plan into effect. Overall, though, this is a grand finale without a finale, as it spins off into a miniseries centering around the story of the game next month, and then a new series by original writer Tom Taylor in 2017. I’m hopeful he’ll be able to give this franchise a new burst of life.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes. 

Reviewer, comic book writer, and the author of Alex Actonn, Son of Two Seas - novel available on Amazon now! DC superfan who is loving everything about Rebirth. Feels very strongly about Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and Young Justice. Can also be found on Graphic Policy doing sales analysis with Glenn Matchett, and on the Rabbitt Stew Podcast with Glenn and Brandon James.