DC This Week – Midnighter, Apollo and Deadman Deliver

Midnighter & Apollo #1--the power couple. image copyright DC Comics
Midnighter & Apollo #1–the power couple. image copyright DC Comics

This was one of those weeks with DC where 90 percent of the books were good reads. For Corrina, the book of the week has to be Superman, in an old-style adventure story that includes a loving tribute to the late, great Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier.

Ray loved Midnighter and Apollo, we  loved this new Deadman by the co-writer of Alex & Ada, and we’re enjoying the Monster Men crossover in the Batman Family of books.

Oh, and Black Canary and Green Arrow get up to sexytimes on an island only to be interrupted, alas, by a mechanical bear.(The animal kind, not the other kind). Note to self: find some Otto Schmidt art to purchase.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW FOR ALL OF THIS WEEK’S DC COMICS

DC Premieres of the Week:

Midnighter and Apollo #1 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Fernando Blanco, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: It’s the Little Moments That Mean the Most

Ray: If you missed Midnighter as much as I did, Orlando scratches that itch in the first few pages of the issue with a spectacular action sequence. Captain Half-Beard and his subway pirates from the old Seven Soldiers event are back, and they’ve kidnapped countless children to pirate an evil living train. While Apollo deals with the big threat of the train, Midnighter cuts through the goons on board in a spectacular segment that proves that Orlando writes the best fights in the business – and then does a 180 by proving himself to be one of the most compassionate heroes in the business when rescuing the kids. It’s that dual nature that makes Orlando’s take on Midnighter work so well, and the best parts of this issue deal with Midnighter’s relationship with Apollo (the killing issue never quite goes away) and a really well-written dinner the couple has with Tony and Marina, two fan-favorite supporting characters from the previous run.

I felt like the story took a tiny bit of a dip with the return of Henry Bendix, Midnighter’s arch-nemesis. Orlando’s Midnighter is a great character in his own right, but the Wildstorm universe never held much interest for me, and I find Bendix is more of a generic arch-nemesis. Still, I do like that he actually seems to learn unlike most comic book villains, and he clearly can’t beat Midnighter with technology, so he’s turning to magic. His plan goes through some of the DCU’s lesser known magic-based villains before he sets up an elaborate trap that literally teleports Apollo to hell in an attempt to force Midnighter to surrender. Somehow, I feel like that’s going to backfire on him. I would be fine if Midnighter was distanced from Bendix after this, but it’s great to have the two lead characters back, and I’m hoping this mini finds an audience that the original series didn’t.

Corrina: There’s a cartoon making the rounds which basically says DC is only into LGBTQ characters so the fanboys can read about attractive lesbian or bisexual women. That bugged me because while I’ve had many issues with DC’s editorial direction over the past few years, they’ve certainly made efforts on this front. There was Midnighter’s previous book, there were Midnighter’s guest appearances in Batman & Robin Eternal, along with Cullen Row, and there was Bunker from the Teen Titans though, admittedly, that character was caught in an ugly mess of a title.

And now we have Midnighter and Apollo headlining a comic together again and that’s progress. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. As much as I loved the scene at the beginning with Midnighter’s joy in taking out the weird terrorists of transit (goofball choice for a god, there, guys) and saving the kids, the dinner sequence was my favorite by far this issue. We don’t see enough of this kind of scene in superhero comics, perhaps on the theory that action needs to take precedence. But if we never care about them as people, we’re not going to care about the fights. If all Midnighter and Apollo did in this comic was team-up in a battle, the ending where Apollo is sent to hell wouldn’t nearly have the resonance it does. (One wonders if Midnighter will grab Constantine to help?)

Death of Hawkman #1 – Marc Andreyko, Writer; Aaron Lopresti, Penciller; Livesay, Inker; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: An Adam Strange Story

Ray: It’s good to have Andreyko back writing main-line comics for DC, as his classic Manhunter series was well ahead of its time in many ways. Using a combination of obscure golden-age and revamped characters to tell a superhero story that blended law drama and family drama, it was also one of the most progressive and diverse series DC put out at the time. While Andreyko’s strong dialogue is still present here, I don’t feel like this space-faring team-up really plays to his strength. The new title came about only a month ago, but Hawkman plays a fairly small role in this issue, only appearing in the opening segment where Adam Strange and a wounded, bleeding Hawkman are wandering around a destroyed Rann, trying to stay alive as Hawkman pulls arrows out of his body.

From there, we flash back to Earth, where Adam Strange is keeping busy in his day job, waiting for the Zeta Beam to return so he can get back to Rann and be a superhero – and be reunited with his love, Alanna. Adam is a likable character, and him trying to while away the time in a DMV is the issue’s funniest scene. Then he gets an alert about the Zeta Beam, races to meet it – and finds nothing. As he tries to unravel the mystery of what’s wrong with the Beam and tracks it to various locations including LexCorp and Belle Reve, things take a turn for the worse on Rann, as Alanna and Sardath come under attack by Thanagarian terrorists that blow up their tower. With Cyborg’s help, Adam is finally able to find the Zeta Beam – only to arrive on Rann to find the planet in ruins. Some intriguing elements so far in this mini, but it didn’t quite grab me yet and I’m not sure how Hawkman figures into Adam Strange’s story at all.

Corrina: This title is a bit of a misnomer, considering it’s an Adam Strange story with a small portion of the tale dedicated to Hawkman. One of my very first DC comics featured Adam Strange catching a Zeta Beam to Rann to fight some weird monster menacing the city and I’ve kept that fondness for the character. This book’s Strange seems close to that one, a guy who lives more on another planet than he ever does on Earth. I enjoyed all the scenes with Adam’s quest to get back to Rann.

But the flash-forward scene with Hawkman bleeding did little for me, especially since Hawkman just pulled that barb out of his shoulder which is a no-no if you’re worried about bleeding to death. It’s unclear as to what happened in the meantime, and I thought the bombing of Alanna and Sardath’s office by Thangarnian terrorists was one of the least interesting ways to go with that part of the story. I’m annoyed I have to wait an issue for that to be resolved, rather than having an answer this issue.

Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1 – Sarah Vaughn, Writer; Lan Medina, Artist; Jose Villarubia, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Haunting In the Best Way.

Ray: The most unlikely entry in DC’s new wave of miniseries, I don’t think anyone was really expecting to see Deadman reinvented as a gothic romance set in a haunted mansion by the co-writer of Alex + Ada. However, sometimes the most unexpected comics turn out to be the best, and this turns out to be yet another pleasant surprise coming out of DC post-Rebirth. The biggest winner here is Lan Medina’s lush, gothic art, which makes the mansion and its inhabitants come alive in brilliant fashion. This double-sized comic (48 pages of story for 4.99 in a prestige format) introduces us both to Deadman, who has found himself trapped in the mysterious mansion surrounded by a mystic barrier and to Berenice, the young woman who has recently moved into the mansion with her husband. We’re introduced to her passion for antiquing, her best friend Sam – and the fact that she’s seen ghosts since her first memory.

The issue switches narrations between Berenice and Deadman, and amusingly their interaction is anything but smooth. While Boston Brand usually jumps from body to body without anyone knowing, a potential host who can actually see him makes his modus operandi a lot more complicated. This issue takes a very different approach to ghosts and possessions than most comics do, seeing the haunting as a case to solve and a person to help, rather than a threat to be vanquished. Vaughan, of the critically acclaimed AI romance from Image, also makes a serious effort at a diverse cast here, albeit with slightly mixed execution. The fact that Berenice is biracial and bisexual is dealt with organically, although the introduction that Sam is non-binary was a bit clunky. This comic is diversifying the DCU in both characters and genre, and it’s a fascinating and successful experiment so far.

page from Deadman, image copyright DC Comics
page from Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Writers take on Deadman in two ways. One is the traditional way, which is to focus on Boston Brand’s frustrations with being dead and having a crime of the week to solve. The other is to delve into the mythos of gods, ghosts and bring in a lot of the mysticism of the DC universe.

But I’ve never seen a take which combines the mystical elements of Deadman with a gothic horror sequence in quite this way. That makes it fresh and it especially makes it fresh to see the first part of the tale through Berenice’s eyes and see how Deadman’s “possession” of living beings affect those people. It’s not an issue that bugged him before but it likely will now. Then there’s the mystery of the husband’s headaches (is he the source of that black evil ooze?) and the ghost trapped in the mansion. It’s all way spookier than the average Deadman story and should satisfy horror fans who’ve never read the character before. That’s where the art that Ray gushed over shines and it certainly looks great in prestige format.

Also, see my point above about DC trying to diversify its comics in regards to Berenice’s bisexuality and Sam’s character, who is foremost an interesting friend but is non-binary.

DC Rebirth Reviews:

Batman #8 – Steve Orlando, Tom King, Writers; Riley Rossmo, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Fine Chapter in the Monster Men Saga

Ray: Maybe the best chapter of “Night of the Monster Men” yet, the Orlando/King writing team manages to carefully combine huge-scale kaiju action with surprisingly personal character moments. As has often happened in King’s run on Batman, it’s Duke Thomas and Gotham Girl who steal the show here. When we last left off, Nightwing and Gotham Girl had been transformed into monsters via contaminated blood at Blackgate prison. While Batman is occupied with a gigantic six-headed monster, Batwoman is trying to keep the two feral heroes busy long enough for someone to come up with a cure. Meanwhile, Spoiler and Orphan are trapped underground with a horde of people turned into savages by monster mold, and are forced to pull off a high-risk move to burn the mold out of them without killing them.

Batman has been pretty firm for the entire story that Duke needs to stay in the Batcave and continue working behind the scenes, as his training in All-Star Batman is just beginning. However, with the field vigilantes overwhelmed or corrupted, and Gotham Girl’s life at stake, he finally decides he can’t listen to Batman’s orders anymore. Got to say, one of the things I like most about Duke is the way he’s perfectly willing to disregard Batman’s orders when necessary. He’s not rash like Jason was – he just doesn’t take Batman’s orders blindly, and when he decides breaking them is worth it, he’s usually right. Clayface gets a fantastic spotlight turning himself into a living body armor for Batman, but it’s Duke who steals the show when he faces off with Gotham Girl and risks his own life long enough to cure her. Nightwing is still corrupted as we head into the next issue, but this was a great spotlight for King’s characters.

Corrina: It’s hard to review each chapter of this crossover, as the storyline builds on the whole, but it definitely feels like the chapters King has co-written have been focused on the emotional fall-out of Gotham’s death and Duke Thomas taking on the mantle of the Bat, which is why the focus in this particular chapter isn’t surprising.

But Batwoman is who I want to talk about. She’s a character who was cherished for a while by DC, even scoring acclaim outside comics but then fell into, well, I don’t want to say ruin, but certainly her storylines suffered after J.H. Williams III left her book. She’s been back in Detective Comics since Rebirth and she made a terrific showing in that first arc, as well as in “Night of the Monster Men.” She’s the one willing to stay calm and cool and provide Batman with the help that he doesn’t always believe he needs.

This group of characters around Bruce Wayne–Batwoman, Clayface, Nightwing, Batwoman, Duke Thomas, Spoiler, Orphan, Gotham Girl–is a confident group, one that works with Batman not because they need him all the time but because they’re close to being a family of sorts.

Nightwing #6 – Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley, Writers; Roge Antonio, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Nightwing Flies. For a While.

Ray: As “Night of the Monster Men” hits its penultimate chapter, the stakes are literally high as a monsterized Nightwing soars through the skies over Gotham with Batwoman along for the ride and the antidote delivery system broken. That causes Batwoman to ride Nightwing in for an up-close delivery as Duke sticks the raging monster with the antidote – and successfully cures Nightwing. With the team back together, they’re able to turn their focus back to the kaiju rampaging around Gotham – including a new one, a horrific reaper-like beast that spawns out of the mold that was discarded by Spoiler and Orphan in the cave. As Batman attempts to reign in this new monster, Nightwing and Spoiler take to the rooftops and attempt to hack into Hugo Strange’s records. Tim’s apparent death still looms large over this scene, as it seems like Stephanie may be getting ready to leave the vigilante life.

What they discover is that Strange has been grooming these four specific patients for some time with intention of turning them into monsters. More interestingly, their flaws and struggles all parallel what Strange has personally diagnosed Batman with. He’s using these monsters as a way to create his own perfect enemy for Batman, which manifests when the various destroyed monsters start combining into a final super-kaiju (which honestly, isn’t quite as impressive as the one that appears before it). Meanwhile, Batman gets ready to confront Strange personally as the insane doctor dresses up in a Batman costume and awaits his rival. Strange has been in the background for most of this event, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the final showdown plays out next week.

Nightwing #6 cover, image copyright DC Comics
Nightwing #6 cover, image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: It’s inevitable that Hugo Strange would be revealed as the mastermind, though he’s never quite used these kinds of monsters before. The kaiju has definitely allowed the art teams on the various books to go nuts with their interpretations, and there’s a terrific sequence with Gotham’s buildings actually going on the offensive.

It seems that after the first chapter. Steph and Cass Cain’s story has been more in the background but perhaps that’s on purpose, as Steph is struggling hard with Tim’s “death,” and wondering if she’s doing any good at all. I’d like to see more of her emotional struggles in future issues, as there’s no time for them here. Similarly, Cass has basically only been in action sequences. But, most of all, this is a showcase for Batman and how he protects Gotham, and it’s been a fun ride.

Superman #8 – Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Doug Mahnke, Penciller; Jaime Mendoza, Inker; Wil Quintana, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Darwyn Cooke Homage. ::feels::

Ray: After a slightly awkward start, this book has really found its groove by focusing on Clark and Jon and turning itself into a fun father-son adventure. This issue pays tribute to the great Darwyn Cooke with an old-school adventure that calls back to some of DC’s older, odder properties. The story starts with Superman and Superboy working in the fortress of solitude on Jon’s science project, a drone that quickly malfunctions and opens a portal to a mysterious new world. Father and Son (along with Krypto) find themselves swept in and appear on a mysterious island where their super-vision can’t detect anything beyond. What’s more, the island is populated by dinosaurs and filled with the remains of what looks like WW2 soldiers who met their end battling the beasts.

After a spectacular action segment involving carnivorous Pterosaurs that keep trying to eat Krypto, and Superman getting swallowed by an ancient giant fish, they find refuge in a cave on the island. Superman’s protectiveness of his son feels genuine, and I like the acknowledgment that emotional scars may be more damaging than any physical harm Jon could come to right now. One of the best portrayals of a father-son relationship in comics. Then the comic takes a very interesting turn as more and more about the soldiers they find on the island comes to light, and it turns out that one of the lost fighters left behind a message – that tells the story of The Losers. That’s a crossover I never expected to see, and it continues to show how DC is really drawing on every corner of their history for great stories right now. Huge fan of this issue.

Corrina: I was going to complain about Lois only being used as the “supportive wife and mother,” in this issue but, one, I’ve read next week’s Action Comics and it was all I could want on the Lois front, and, two, I cannot complain about any story which includes a tribute to Darwyn Cooke and his DC: The New Frontier. Seeing the panels recreated from the first chapter of New Frontier featuring the Losers made me tear up.

It’s wrapped in a good story as well, as Superman is far more comfortable cast in the role of supportive Dad than he ever was as an angsty loner. After that misfire of having Jon fry the family cat, the kid has become much more interesting–essentially a happy boy glad to have his father’s attention and having a ball learning to be a superhero. As Ray points out, Clark trying to shield his son from seeing a corpse was also a nice touch. Jon may have powers but he’s still only a child.

Green Arrow #8 – Ben Percy, Writer; Otto Schmidt, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: I Should Love This

Ray: After the two-issue interlude focusing on Emiko’s backstory and attempts to free her mother, this issue takes the focus back to our title character, as Ollie is back on an island alone, struggling to survive. His solitude doesn’t last long, though, as his friends waste no time in tracking him down. Dinah is the first to find him, surprising him on the island in such dramatic fashion that he’s at first sure that she’s a mirage. Surprisingly, she’s not, and the two superhero lovers reconcile. If I have one significant complaint about this book, it’s that it seems to rush things. It’s only been a short time in continuity since the Rebirth issue, and Ollie and Dinah are already acting like they’ve been in love for years. Ollie’s also resuming his previous characterization very quickly, right down to looking older and really liking to cook chili. This version of the character works very well, though, so that’s not a problem.

Diggle is on the island as well, but he doesn’t get to find Ollie – instead he’s captured by a robot bear (yes, really) and taken to the lair of the main villain lurking on the island. I’m not sure who she is or what her motivation is, but I’m getting rather tired of Percy falling back on grotesque facial scarring when it comes to his villains. As Ollie and Dinah discover that Diggle was on the island and was taken, their search takes them to the villain’s base, and there’s some really interesting character development for Dinah as well. And once again, Otto Schmidt’s art is one of the highlights of the series. Not quite on the level of the previous two issues, but this continues to be one of Rebirth’s most improved titles.

Black Canary in GA #8. Can I get a print of this?
Black Canary in GA #8. Can I get a print of this?

Corrina: I should like this. I like Ollie and Dinah together, at least when Ollie isn’t written as the cheater (which he never was in Mike Grell’s run.) The art is spectacular, exactly the kind you’d want for loving sex scenes on an island and it reminded me of Cliff Chiang’s work.

But I have the same complaint as Ray: this is rushing things. One, as far as been shown, this Ollie and Dinah have had only one night together, and a couple of adventures, and suddenly, they’re the world to each other. Relationships have to build in some form. I’ve no objection to the sex but I hoped for some acknowledgment that sex doesn’t always mean emotional intimacy. These two can be drawn together and yet realize that the pull they feel to each other is a little overwhelming than their history should warrant. Yet there’s no confusion here, it’s all “we’ve been together for years, right?” No, they haven’t.

I also became confused about how Dinah got to the island but I’ll go with Ray’s explanation that Dinah came looking for him. As to what the robot bear is, I don’t know, but Percy has a pattern of taking the strange and bizarre and tossing it into his stories.

Green Lanterns #8 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Ed Benes, Artist; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: I Heart My Lanterns! 

Ray: Another strong issue as Green Lanterns settles into its second arc. The rogue Guardian is missing with the Phantom Ring, and Simon and Jessica aren’t the only ones looking for him – a group of Dominator mercenaries has landed on Earth determined to kill the Guardian and claim his ring. Complicating this? It’s Halloween, and everyone is out in force in costume. A lot harder to find aliens in this environment, and it allows for a lot of funny scenes as Simon and Jessica try to balance their Lantern duties with escorting Simon’s nephew (dressed as the Flash) around town. The Dominators don’t provide the biggest threat, but Ed Benes draws some creepy aliens and I really like how powerful Jessica’s constructs are getting now that she has confidence.

Once Jessica and Simon find the rogue Guardian, we learn the backstory of the mysterious figure. He created the Phantom Ring at the dawn of the universe and was exiled from the Guardians for destabilizing the balance of power in the cosmos. Ordered not to return until he had found a way to completely destroy the ring, his creation continues to outfox him even as it survives the fire pits of Apokalips. He’s a wild card in Jessica and Simon’s mission and serves as an entertaining foil to them. The ring, and the mysterious villain obsessed with finding it introduced on the last page are intriguing, but it’s once again the dialogue and Jessica in particular who stand out here and prove to be the most likable GL leads in years.

Green Lanterns #8
Green Lanterns #8

Corrina: Jessica and Simon search for the One Ring of Power that cannot even be destroyed in Mount Doom as the hobbits around them play, unaware. Okay, that’s not the description DC gave for the book but it should be. Despite the stakes, the whole issue has a wry tone around it, much like the fun of taking E.T. out trick-or-treating was in his movie.

The Dominators are weak villains but they’re funny and that works for this story. And look at Jessica, still managing to steal the spotlight. She’s my favorite new DC character in years.

Justice League #6 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Matthew Clark, Tom Derenick, Pencillers; Sean Parsons, Trevor Scott, Inkers; Adriano Lucas, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Simon & Jessica Steal the Issue

Ray: After the epic-scale first arc of The Kindred, which had great visuals but slightly unclear storytelling, this second arc takes on a more psychological approach to threatening the heroes. Unfortunately, I don’t think the storytelling got any clearer and this issue really suffers without the great visuals to back it up. The issue begins with us thrown into the middle of a battle scene against a mysterious, shadowy enemy. We don’t see it too clearly, but it’s got some sort of intense fear effect that leaves several Leaguers, especially Flash, barely able to function until it’s vanquished. It’s defeated, and the League goes their own way with things still chilly between Superman and Batman, and Flash asking Jessica out on a date.

After the battle is over, we follow the League in their own life, but it’s soon clear that the heroes have been affected in a major way by the events of the fight. They’re all acting in strange, unpredictable ways. Jessica’s anxiety is through the roof, while Flash starts acting hyperactive and disrespectful to her personal space. Batman starts getting more and more withdrawn, ignoring Alfred and cutting himself off from his allies. Superman becomes paranoid that Batman is plotting against him, even accusing Lois of being in league with him, before deciding that the appropriate course of action is to kill Batman. It’s clear there’s some alien power here, but a whole arc of the JLA acting paranoid and obnoxious isn’t really a promising prospect.

Corrina: This is one of those JL stories that focuses on the people behind the masks rather than the superhero battles. As such, I viewed the opening sequence as mostly filler, so it didn’t bother me that the villain was unclear or dispatched easily enough. (Especially since the villain comes back with a vengeance by the end of this.)

But it’s Jessica and Simon who made me love this issue, first with Jessica leading the way with her ability to overcome fear. That she asked Barry on a date is intriguing. I don’t know if Hitch is going anywhere with this or not, but their awkwardness and concern about their first date was endearing. But given how Jess’s anxiety kicked in, manipulated by the villain, I’m not sure if they’ll ever date again.

I’m less thrilled that Superman now wants to go kill Batman. Do we have to see these two fight yet again?

Aquaman #8 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Scot Eaton, Penciller; Wayne Faucher, Inker; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Atlantean Politics Work

Ray: This title has markedly improved now that the action is back under the sea. When we last left off, Black Manta had unleashed a new super-weapon against Atlantis in the form of some sort of unstoppable shambling monster that is slowly making its way towards Aquaman’s home. The creature appears to be some sort of mud monster, which at first made me think of the Millennium Giants from my childhood. It seems like the creature can be taken down pretty easily, but no matter what is done to it, it gets right back up. It soon turns out that the monster is actually none other than the Shaggy Man, the government-created mutation (who is not General Eiling in this world, unfortunately), and it’s not heading for Atlantis – it’s heading for Amnesty Bay.

While the rest of Atlantis is fighting off the Shaggy Man, Mera has a different task on her hands – beginning her trials to prove herself worthy of joining the royal family of Atlantis. Overseeing her trials is a mysterious council of Atlantean widows who hold an honored position as scholars and archivists. I’m kind of surprised that Mera’s trials so far seem to mainly consist of studying poetry, but I’m sure the high-octane part of the story will come soon. Overall, this book has always been far more interesting when it’s focusing on the mythology of Atlantis, so it’s good to see Abnett get back to what makes Aquaman unique.

Corrina: Yep, now that we’re back in Atlantis and all the conflicts that it brings, this title reads much better though I’m still bitter about the tease of the surface embassy and it’s quick destruction, which seemed all too random. The battle sequences with Shaggy Man are wonderful and allow Eaton to show what he can do.

But this subplot of Mera’s is bothering me. Yes, I understand being a Queen Consort has responsibilities but it reduces Mera’s story to being all about Aquaman and their marriage, rather than giving her a plot in her own right. I, too, expected physical trials, and I love the idea of scary Atlantean nuns as keepers of tradition, but the whole story falls flat for me.

Cyborg #2 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Paul Pelletier, Penciller; Tony Kordos, Tom Palmer, Inkers; Guy Major, Hi-Fi, Colorists

Ray – 6.5/10

Corrina: Kilg%re Should Be Interesting. But He’s Not

Ray: After a very promising previous issue, Cyborg falls right into a lot of the traps that plagued the previous volume – namely, an overreliance in complex cybernetic villains and conspiracies, and not enough effort into fleshing out Cyborg’s world. Kilg%re, the evil alien robot who attacked Vic and Sarah at the end of last issue, wastes absolutely no time delving into every single villain cliche. First he attempts to get Cyborg to join him, then he throws Sarah off something tall (Vic catches her with relatively little in the way of drama), and then he forces the hero into a sadistic choice.

Kilg%re traps Vic’s father in a chamber where he’ll slowly suffocate, but the chamber is filled with gas that will dissolve Vic’s cybernetics. Vic makes the decision to save his father, but it turns out Kilg%re was only testing him for some reason, and the gas won’t fully destroy Vic. As the villain disappears, we discover that the Silas Stone that Vic saved from the chamber isn’t actually the real one, but likely the evil cyborg one that we saw at the end of the Rebirth issue, and he’s holding the genuine article hostage. A few interesting twists, but unlike the previous issue it doesn’t feel like it’s really building on what we know about Cyborg. It’s more treading in place.

Corrina: The terrific issue before this, which featured a Vic who’s human despite his alterations, quickly makes way for yet another maching/Cyborg fight. Vic is basically fighting his version of a Terminator machine except this one brags and makes fun of his as it attacks.

I had thought that perhaps it would be revealed that the villain is another version of the AI that Silas Stone used to reboot Victor’s life, thus being a clone or an inferior version of whatever system kept Vic alive. But, instead, it seems to be yet another self-aware AI, like Ultron, who’d convinced they’re superior and that people don’t matter. I long for the Machine from Person of Interest.

Harley Quinn #5 – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers; John Timms, Artist; Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Improving Over the Last Arc

Ray: It’s a classic Harley adventure, as we’re back in a non-zombie filled Coney Island and trouble has once again found Harley and friends, this time in the form of a murderous band of robbers who like to dress up as knights and commit their robberies on horseback. When Harley’s favorite mailman is killed in the process, she becomes determined to stop them. The police commissioner has identified the robbers as a local punk band named Purple Satin, but he doesn’t have enough evidence to arrest them. Harley, naturally, decides that the best way to stop them is to form her own punk band and take them on at one of their gigs.

The concept of Harley as a punk musician (complete with fashionable mohawk) is definitely amusing, and most of her band promises to be amusing, but the addition of Red Tool (who is introduced this issue via a rather distasteful segment involving a female slaver) makes me think that this comic really needs to get a better handle on what people like about the book. Egg Fu? Yes. The Gang of Harleys? Yes. Creepy Deadpool analogue with a murderer’s hand? Not so much. Still, definitely a step up from the first arc.

Corrina: Harley is somewhat bulletproof at this point, as her popularity only goes up and up. I understand the appeal: she’s crazy and gets to do what she wants. Plus, this series has been darkly funny for the most part, a great showcase for the independent Harley. But Ray and I have talked about the last two arcs not meeting the original standard of the series, perhaps because the creators have been spread too thin.

This, however, is a promising return to the tone of the first stories in the series. Of course, Harley will come after you if you kill her mailman! That this also involves becoming a punk rocker, well, hey, Harley sure loves that. (And I love band getting together discussions as well.) Back on track.

DC Comics: Bombshells #18 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Laura Braga, Mirka Andolfo, Artists; J. Nanjan, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: A strong end to the latest act of Bombshells, as the Bombshells who participated in the battle of Berlin flee the demon-plagued city and seek refuge in France. Although it seems like the Nazi-occupied country is perilous ground, it soon turns out that they have an ace up their sleeve – in the form of Mera, who along with her sister has raised Atlantis to the surface as a new safe haven. A flashback shows how Mera and Siren’s battle eventually reached a stalemate and the sisters found a peace between them. With Siren’s bomb-armor about to explode, the two sisters use their magic to take the city out of harm’s way.

The danger is far from over, though, as Joker’s daughter and her army of demons arrive to finish what she started in Berlin. The battle is fairly quick and ends with Zatanna giving the Nazi-fetishizing villainess a kinder fate than she deserves – stripping her of her magic but leaving her alive in the hope she’ll find redemption. With the Nazi forces retreating and Miri Marvel able to free Raven from her corruption, the team is able to retreat into their safe haven and regroup for the next battle. Some couples, including Harley and Ivy and Zatanna and John, find their happy endings. Others, like Kate and Renee, find that there’s too much bad blood between them (although Kate wasn’t looking for a reconciliation, being in love with Maggie, but they still part on bad terms). Looking forward to seeing what Bennett has planned for this world in act three.

Corrina: I’m at a disadvantage reading this because I’ve missed a couple of chapters in the Bombshells saga. But given my rant about amore LGBTQ representation, I wish people would talk much more about this series, which is overall a queer series, and written by a writer who identifies as LGBTQ. That this book, based on fun cheesecake WW II pin-up idea, has become a queer version of the DCU and that DC has been fully behind this book is cause for celebration.

Bonus: it’s also a fine story, featuring so many DC ladies who never get a chance to shine otherwise. Like Mera, who I was complaining about in my Aquaman review, who faces a challenge to her rule of Atlantis, or like Kate and Renee, who get to have the kind of conversation rarely seen in superhero comics, and their emotions feel raw and real.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received these items for review purposes.

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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.