DC This Week – The Super-Sons Steal the Show

From Superman #10, copyright DC Comics
From Superman #10, copyright DC Comics

This week, DC tries to get topical just in time for the election and fails miserably. However, if you ignore that one misstep  (and that’s our recommendation), you’ll find one coolest issues of the year featuring the Super Sons of Batman and Superman.Meanwhile, Catwoman gets confessional in

Meanwhile, Catwoman gets confessional in Batman #10, Nightwing finally takes Raptor apart, Green Arrow feels like a good episode of Supertrain, our favorite new Green Lanterns, Jessica and Simon, are back, the DC Bombshells Batgirls ponder the nature of vengeance, Cyborg gets hacked (again), and Midnighter sets off on a mystic search to save his lover, Apollo.

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

DC Premieres of the Week:

Catwoman: Election Night #1 – Meredith Finch, Mark Russell, Writers; Igor Vitorino, Artist; Shane Davis, Ben Caldwell, Pencillers; Michelle Delecki, Mark Morales, Inkers; Gabe Eltaeb, Jeremy Lawson, Colorists

Ray – 2/10

Corrina: I Feel Like the Story Behind the Greenlighting of This Comic Would Be More Interesting Than the Comic

Ray: Hands down the most puzzling major comic book released from the big two in a while back, this combined with the strange “DC Universe: Decisions” from eight years ago that implied Wonder Woman was backing the far-right candidate shows that DC should probably just stay out of the politics business, at least when it comes to commenting on ongoing elections. Catwoman, who was the only character to make it to #52 in the New 52 and then lose her title, has been mostly MIA since Rebirth began (although much, much more on her later today), and the decision to make this her first solo title since then was ill-advised.

Part social satire, part flashback tale, the issue dives into Catwoman’s past at an orphanage run by a kindly woman known as Miss Kitty. Although Miss Kitty cares for the children in her charge, young Selina is tormented by a pair of vicious bullies, one in particular who seems to be involved in the mysterious disappearance of another girl to ensure she gets adopted. In the present day, that former bully of Selina’s is running for Mayor of Gotham City against Penguin, and that’s where things get really bad. Election parodies are fine, but this is probably the laziest one I’ve ever seen. Penguin spouts verbatim lines from Trump’s speeches, coming off as massively out of character. Meanwhile, the female candidate is hiding a bizarre number of secrets and has blood on her hands that she’s covering up. Who is this exactly trying to appeal to? It seems like it plays into the worst accusations against both candidates who have analogues here, and given how fraught this election is, that seems like less than a smart move on DC’s part.

The cliffhanger in the Catwoman story involves a young Beth Ross watching the election coverage with an older Miss Kitty and vowing to run for President one day. This really makes no sense, because Prez takes place in 2050 or so and that Beth Ross wasn’t from Gotham and wasn’t an orphan. The Prez story that follows…well, whether you like it or not will depend heavily on how you feel about the original mini. It’s a very broad satire on America’s obsession with gun and the anti-birth control puritanism that still lurks around. There’s a few puns, but overall I found the satire fairly obvious and unfunny. Ben Caldwell’s art is really the only highlight in the entire issue, although I should say that the Prez story is still significantly the better one of the two.

This image may be the best thing about this comic. copyright DC Comics
This image may be the best thing about this comic. copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Yes, the Prez story was definitely the better of the two, if only because the creators have a good idea of how laws are actually passed and become law in the first place. The classic “I’m Just a Bill,” song from SchoolHouse Rock skipped the whole “and then we met with lobbyists” verse. Someone needs to get on that, stat.

But the Catwoman story? I…? Well, the art is good! Yes, the art is just fine! At the very least, this issue was a decent payday for talented artists. But the story…aside from the political commentary, it’s a very “obvious story is obvious,” without any subtlety, which is a problem I found in Finch’s work on Wonder Woman as well. Of course, Finch may be hampered by the editorial direction which seems to have been “write a comic about an election for mayor in Gotham that satirizes contemporary politics.” Oh, DC. You’re going to have to do so much better than this to make it relevant. Stories about politics become relevant to real-world events because they dig deep into motivations and say something about the human condition. See: Hamilton.

They’re not relevant because you pull the worst rumors surrounding the two political candidates into a comic and give them different names. Even Trump isn’t running a criminal enterprise which includes drugs, hookers and murder. (He’s too busy putting his name on random things.) But, as I said up front, being a fly on the wall of the editorial meeting where this was approved would have been a lot more entertaining than the comic. Something like “It’s an election, we ought to do something.” “Uh, Catwoman is a cynical character, let’s use her. Plus, somebody is always running for Mayor in Gotham, though that job comes with a short lifespan.” “Great! Let’s just use the two candidates for President for our mayoral race.” “Perfect! Print it! Oh, and toss that bit of Prez we have in the drawer into it as well, so we can charge more for it.”

DC Rebirth Reviews:

Batman #10 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; June Chung, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: More Fine Janin Art; Action Is Metaphor

Ray: This is a really interesting issue, because it’s essentially two stories in one, told in a very unconventional fashion. On the surface, it appears to be a fairly straight-forward action issue that borrows quite a few beats from The Dark Knight Rises. Batman only speaks a few sentences for most of it, a speech that becomes a mantra as he serves notice to Bane that he’s not leaving without Psycho Pirate. He doesn’t waver from it as he flies into Santa Prisca and is shot down by its forces, or as he fights off a swarm of Santa Priscan soldiers. He doesn’t break as he confronts the Venom-less but no less deadly Bane, or when the villain dislocates his back and throws him into the same deathtrap of a cell that Bane grew up in. It’s all very dramatic, and Mikel Janin’s brilliant art perfectly captures the intensity and claustrophobia of the comic.

The second half of the issue is told entirely in the form of a letter. At first, it’s not clear who it’s from – I almost thought it was Bane to Bruce, early on, but then it became clear that this was Selina, addressing exactly what turned her from the generally benevolent thief to an apparent mass murderer. The story adds an interesting flourish that she grew up in the Thomas and Martha Wayne House, an orphanage that the Wayne family founded – until a terror group of some sort bombed it, killing countless children and staff. Seeing the one piece of stability she had in her childhood destroyed sent Selina over the edge and she went on a massacre, hunting down every member of the terror group she could and killing them in bloody fashion. That’s certainly more justified than most of Gotham’s serial killers – but it makes the death sentence hanging over her head make no sense. Are we thinking any jury would have convicted someone who killed 200 ISIS operatives after a massive terror attack? I’m guessing there’s a lot more to be told here, but all the same, this issue does a great job of letting us know where both Bruce and Selina are right now, and this arc continues to be off to an excellent start.

Corrina: King is never satisfied with a straightforward story, even when an issue clearly requires action. He uses a narrative device I’ve seen used before, with a letter narrating the issue and it’s only tangentially related to the action sequences. But, it all works, especially because Janin’s art more than handles showing the action effectively. I’ve written before about Janin’s gift for drawing handsome men but he’s also talented with backgrounds and action sequences. Indeed, this story could have silent save for the words Batman keeps repeating about not leaving without Psycho Pirate and it would still have been effective.

But because King is King, we have the letter from Selina. I don’t trust it. Maybe because I don’t like the retcon creating a bloodbath in Selina’s past–surely, the recent events of her title as mob boss was enough of a crime to get her behind bars–or maybe it’s because Catwoman’s origin story keeps changing and this adds yet another layer to track. But, mostly, this seems like something Helena Bertinelli would do, not Selina Kyle. Selina would rob them blind and set up a con in which the terrorists would take each other out. Perhaps that’s just my read on Selina, which doesn’t match King’s and that’s fine. But if there’s one thing constant about Selina, it’s that she lies, even to herself, so I’m not convinced that she’s telling the truth in this letter–nor am I convinced King, who often has swerves in the plot, meant for us to take it as gospel either.

Superman #10 – Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Patrick Gleason, Penciller; Mick Gray, Inker; John Kalisz, Colorist

Ray – 10/10

Corrina: It’s the Mini Odd Couple!

Ray: If anyone was wondering why Tomasi was moved on to write Super-Sons a few weeks back, this issue should make that very clear – because this issue, essentially a backdoor pilot to the new book, may be the most enjoyable comic released so far in the New 52. Essentially a no-holds-barred chaotic team-up/fight between the Super-Family and Pat Gleason’s recent Son of Batman series, it manages to be both a fantastically exciting and hilarious comic without a villain in sight. Jon and Kathy leave school, Jon takes a shortcut through a spooky area of Hamilton, only to be ambushed by Damian, Maya, and Goliath, who are all working to carry out Damian’s plan to capture and test Jon to figure out the extent of the young Kryptonian’s powers. Naturally, being Damian, he is REALLY bad at getting this across, essentially calling Jon a ticking time bomb and making clear that he doesn’t trust him. For those who thought Damian was softening a bit…not so much.

It’s once they get to the Batcave that things get really great. Superman, naturally, is outraged once he finds out that Jon’s been taken and bursts into the Batcave looking to fight. Then he and Batman actually talk things out, realize Damian was acting on his own, and bond over their mutual Dad-ness. Can I just say how much I love this Superman? He can be brash and angry, but always to protect his family. He’s genuinely disarming despite his strength – his scenes with Maya are surprisingly sweet and I never expected these two characters to have one of the best scenes of the issue. Damian, meanwhile, continues to dig every hole he possibly can, provoking the normally sweet and calm Jon until Jon punches him, setting off a Super-kid brawl that causes massive destruction, scares all the Bat-pets, and draws a VERY angry Superman and Batman to the site. It’s very different from any Superman or Batman comic I’ve seen in a while, and that’s a very good thing. DC has done wonders when it comes to creating the Superman and Batman comics I want to read ever since Rebirth began, and this may be the best of the lot.

Corrina: I wouldn’t say it’s the most enjoyable comic of Rebirth but it sure is fun. It’s even more fun than the classic 1970s Super-Sons stories that I loved as a kid. In those stories, all we had were Bruce Wayne Jr. and Clark Kent Jr. getting into trouble, like the time they stumbled into a Western town that was cursed with immortality. (My favorite.) In those stories, the emphasis was on plot, not characterization, and we never saw the sons interact with their parents nor did we ever find out who the mothers of these children were.

But in this issue, we get it all. Batman and Superman interacting with their different styles of fatherhood. (Admittedly, Batman is a bit behind the curve but that’s because he was kept from Damian most of his life. Which only makes him more protective.) Batman’s not the world’s worst dad by any means but for someone raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent, Batman’s parenting has to seem unusual. This Superman wants to give Jon as normal a life as possible. This Batman wants to make sure his son survives to grow to adulthood.

But the sons? They’re busy trying to one-up each other. Damian, always convinced he’s right, and Jon, always trying to do the right thing, even if he makes a mistake. It’s a good mix, as their strengths and weaknesses are opposite, and adding in Maya as the one in the middle is a stroke of genius. The Super Sons comic should be awesome.

Nightwing #8 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Excellent. My Worries Were Unfounded.

Ray: Ever since this new title began, the focus has been firmly on the ruthless Raptor, the agent of Kobra with mysterious ties to Dick Grayson’s past. This issue finally brings that plotline to a head, as Dick and Raptor finally face off for the fate of Bruce Wayne. Now, Bruce Wayne isn’t really an easy kidnap target – but Raptor seems to have gotten the drop on him, forcing him to play along with the kidnapping to prevent his secret identity from being revealed to the world. Raptor’s motivation may be the one flaw I see in this story – this issue essentially turns him into a bootleg communist radical, hating Bruce Wayne for being the face of wealth and privilege and taking Dick away from what Raptor sees as the noble struggle of poverty.

Raptor’s origin story is fairly intriguing, with his history as a leper who was left to die by the French government and only survived thanks to the efforts of Mary, who became a fugitive with him after he was cured. The final showdown between Dick and Raptor with Bruce strapped into a deadly “silver spoon” contraption packs a lot of great action, although I thought Dick was a bit brutal at one point (or maybe that was just the art making a broken arm especially graphic). However, what I liked the most about this issue is the final scene, which makes clear that despite their differences, Bruce puts all his faith in Dick and would trust him with his life. By far the best thing about Rebirth has been the return of Batman as family man, and every title that emphasizes this is one that makes me happy. This arc gave Dick his first legit solo archnemesis in a decade and re-established several key parts of the character’s world, so definitely a great start. Bring on Bludhaven.

Corrina: Yep, I was worried that Raptor would turn out to be Mary Grayson’s long-lost brother or lover or somehow, Dick’s half-brother. It’s what a less talented creative team might do with the character. But I should have trusted more in the creative team. Instead, when Raptor is fully revealed, he becomes a more much piteable character, one stuck in past tragedies, something that Dick calls out.

All this, of course, comes out during wonderful art sequences with Dick soaring through the air. Raptor is not so much monologing as trying to get Dick to understand his pain. Bruce Wayne is just being his cool Batman self. Death traps? Really, Raptor? But that probably just shows off his desperation. As for Dick being a bit brutal, well, Raptor stirred up some buried tragedy for Nightwing, kidnapped his father-figure, and then ranted about how he lived his life all wrong. Dick’s entilted to a little temper at that point. If I have a niggle, it’s that Raptor was set up as a seriously nasty opponent yet he went down in the fight fairly easily.

Green Arrow #10 – Ben Percy, Writer; Juan Ferreyra, Artist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Cool Sequence

Ray: Since Rebirth began, Ben Percy has pulled off the amazing feat of turning Green Arrow into one of the most consistently entertaining action comics in the DCU. With a combination of spectacular set-pieces, great fight choreography, and a trio of fantastic artists – Juan Ferreyra, Otto Schmidt, and Stephen Byrne – it seems to up the ante with every arc, and this issue is no exception. Set on the Trans-Pacific Railway, a fictional underground bullet train developed by Robert Queen, the trio of heroes – Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Diggle – infiltrate the train to get off the island, only to find that it’s currently being used as the site of a business summit between powers from around the world, as an attempt to create a peace deal. Unfortunately, someone on board wants someone dead, as GA discovers when he finds a cocktail of toxins.

The three heroes wind up splitting up, with Diggle’s security background allowing him to infiltrate the base (and encounter an old face from GA’s past who turns out to be the big bad), while Dinah’s celebrity status allows her to get in with the boldfaced names on board and get a look at the inner workings of the summit. Ollie, meanwhile, doesn’t have those connections, so he’s left to lurk around the hallways and bring the boxing-glove arrow back from obscurity. Percy even comes up with a clever use for the tool! The ending finds someone dead and the heroes being blamed, so you know next issue will jack up the intensity even more on this spectacular-looking locked-room adventure.

Supertrain! From Green Arrow #10 cover, copyright DC Comics
Supertrain! From Green Arrow #10 cover, copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Percy’s Green Arrow stories seem to be more leaping from setpiece to setpiece without always convincing me of how the characters arrived there. Some of the time, the setpieces aren’t to my taste, such as the big battle on the boats and the subsequent explosions a few issues back. But this? This is an excellent one, on the underwater train, in the tunnel, with each character doing what they do best. (Though Canary is awfully callous about assuming neither Diggle or Ollie need her help. She has known heroes to die.) But, one big question: since Canary is the one yelling at people not to drink the champagne and intervening, why the heck is she assumed to be the bad guy at the end? Again, that seems necessary only to set up next issue’s setpiece. Which is my problem with Percy—I can’t always follow his story logic.

Green Lanterns #10 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Eduardo Pansica, Penciller; Julio Ferreira, Inker; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Simon & Jessica Continue to Shine

Ray: The Phantom Ring is in the wild, and Simon and Jessica find themselves up against the wall as a new villainous power emerges. The issue opens with a great segment as Simon tries on the Phantom Ring and winds up cycling through the seven emotional powers before he’s knocked out of it by Rami. Meanwhile, Frank Laminski continues his plan to get ahold of the ring, and quickly proves himself to be one of the most loathsome villains the GL franchise has seen in a long time. I’ve got to say, one of the best things about the character is his creepy motivational narration as he does horrible things like setting fire to a home with a little girl inside to get Simon and Jessica’s attention. He’s like Gil from the Simpsons if he was a sociopath.

There isn’t all that much action in this issue, at least not in the traditional sense – there isn’t all that much to battle. However, Simon and Jessica’s high-risk rescue at the burning house is great, as is the way their doubts start playing on each of them and tempting them with the easy way out of the Phantom Ring. The addictive nature of a power like that is likely to factor into this story a lot in the future. Surprisingly, it’s Nazir, Simon’s brother, who winds up being the one to face off against Frank when the villain comes to claim the Phantom Ring, and although he fights valiantly, Frank quickly gets ahold of the ring’s power and sends Nazir into a panic with the power of fear. This continues to be a massively improved title from its first arc, with great heroes and now a great villain. DC’s hot streak continues.

Corrina: Jessica has moved to the top of my list as my favorite Lantern ever, even pushing out old-school Alan Scott. Whatever Humphries’ flaws as a writer, his characterization is always consistent and he always has human moments in his stories, like Simon and Jessica’s discussion over that they should do with the Phantom Ring. These two have each other’s measure now and are coming to trust each other.

I love, love the art sequence when Simon grabs the Phantom Ring to attempt to use it, with the panels of his face flashing by in the different Lantern colors. It also sets up the question in the reader’s mind of exactly what the Phantom Ring will do eventually to Smeagol’s–I mean Laminski’s–mind. Of course, of more worry in the short term is how much damage he and Volthoom will do in the meantime.

Aquaman #10 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brad Walker, Penciller; Andrew Hennessey, Inker; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Inconsistent

Ray: This issue takes a break from Aquaman’s many battles to focus entirely on Mera, and I think it’s improved for it. The issue opens with Mera in the sanctum of the Widowhood, as their seer has a traumatic vision about a famous Atlantean prophecy – that of the Fatal Queen. It tells the story of a queen with Xebel blood who loses her husband, and that sends her into a rage as she takes the throne of Atlantis, leading her to call forth a deluge that brings about the end of the world. Although Mera is horrified by the idea that this could represent her, the Widowhood is firm that they can’t take the risk and they disavow the possible marriage between Mera and Arthur.

Furious and confused, Mera decides to try to relax by heading to the surface. While visiting the Lighthouse, she sees a letter from Joanna Stubbs, the young British soldier she met during the attack on Spindrift. She meets her at a restaurant, and that’s when the issue takes a bit of a downturn for me. They discuss NEMO’s plotting against Atlantis, but they’re soon under attack by a thoroughly generic NEMO assassin trying to kill them and blow up the restaurant, and the issue turns into just another fight scene. Aquaman continues to suffer from an utter lack of good villains besides the big two, always a problem for the franchise. Things take an interesting turn once Stubbs reveals that Aquaman is in critical condition after his fight with Shaggy Man – and the prophecy starts to make a lot more sense. Not a perfect issue, but once that made me a good deal more interested in the series.

Corrina: This book seems to specialize in plot swerves. Look, he’s an above-ground embassy for Aquaman! Let’s blow it up. Look, here’s a focus on the Dark Water terrorists and that guy with the creepy power. Nah, he’s put aside for yet another iteration of Black Manta out for revenge. Look, Mera can’t marry Aquaman because the Wise Women of Atlantis feels she’s a bad fit. But, hope, it’s because they don’t trust her not to give into revenge if Aquaman dies.

My problem as a reader is that these feel less like swerves and more like lurching from one plot point to another, rather than a complicated story where the pieces are laid out carefully and will come together in a coherent whole. It took three issues for us to learn about this prophecy for Mera? That means all the other stuff that took place with the plotline was basically irrelevant. And that seems the case with other plots, too.

Justice League #8 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Neil Edwards, Penciller; Daniel Henriques, Inker; Tony Avina, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Enough With the Cyborg Hacking!

Ray: Justice League continues to be a title that doesn’t do any major things wrong, but it makes probably the least impression of any major Rebirth title for me. With the departure of Jessica Cruz last issue, the title is completely lacking its emotional center and what we get this issue is an action-packed story that doesn’t really draw the reader in. There’s an interesting hook, as it’s revealed that the world is mourning the one person who the League was unable to save in the Kindred story – although that kind of stretches belief, given that the Kindred devastated large parts of the world. We close in a lot on the family of the woman who died, which makes me think the threat of the issue has something to do with them.

The threat, meanwhile, is pretty generic. Cyborg gets hacked. Again. A malicious code enters his system, then enters the JL watchtower and tries to send it crashing down to Earth. It also hacks the Batcave, which leads to the best segments of the issue as Bruce and Alfred have to battle an out-of-control cave, and Alfred in particular gets some great scenes. The rest of the issue, though, is just pretty much standard comic boom destruction, and Simon’s ring getting hacked at the end of the issue provides some nice visuals but is also sort of predictable. The idea that this could all be the work of a husband or child trying to make the world feel their pain is intriguing, but that’ll have to wait till the next issue. Overall, not bad, but mostly forgettable.

Corrina: This plot by Hitch seems the least imaginative since he took over the title. I like the hook, that even one death is too many for the Justice League but it doesn’t seem enough for the emotions invested by the team, particularly after what they’ve been through in DC continuity in the past year. (Didn’t the Crime Syndicate create widespread destruction and death?)

If the next issue, as Ray supposes, puts the hacking down to the work of someone in mourning, that’s a good emotional angle. But I don’t buy that Cyborg can get hacked again or even that someone can do that to Green Lantern’s ring. I know, this is superhero comics but that strains my suspension of disbelief.

Cyborg #4 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Timothy Green II, Penciller; Joseph Silver, Inker; Guy Major, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Okay, Cyborg Can Get Hacked In His Own Title

Ray: This continues to be an intriguing look at Cyborg’s world, never staying still long enough for the reader to get bored. When we last left off, Cyborg had gone rogue, rampaging through STAR Labs with his mind dormant while he was trapped in a bizarre nightmare with the Justice League attacking him. As Dr. Morrow and Sarah try to free him or knock him out before he destroys the entire lab, Cyborg figures out how to break the dream and outwit the “League” by teleporting them to Apokalips in his dream. Once he does this, the illusion of the League begins to fade and it’s revealed that they’re actually some sort of techno-worms placed in his mind by Malware in the Rebirth issue. This sets into motion Cyborg’s journey through his mind as he tries to hunt down these worms and free himself.

Cyborg’s mind takes the form of a maze, which leads to all sorts of interesting “rooms” as we learn more about Cyborg’s relationship with his parents, with his ex-girlfriend, and other things. There’s also an interesting reveal that the reason Cyborg broke up with the girl we met last issue was because he was already in love with someone else. The reveal of who that person was at the end of the issue is semi-predictable – a mystery with really only one suspect – but also satisfying. Timothy Green II’s art is decent enough, but it’s not quite as dramatic as Pelletier and as such it doesn’t quite make Cyborg’s mindscape as visually intriguing as it could be. Overall, though, this continues to be a more interesting take on Cyborg than the previous run.

Corrina: The difference in art style is jarring. Green’s art isn’t bad, it’s just different enough that it doesn’t seem to fit well in this title. Art changes sometimes signal a sales problem with the book. I hope that’s not the case with Cyborg because even though I make fun of how often he’s been hacked, this is a promising series and it has a terrific supporting cast built up by Semper. It’s the action sequences that are unimaginative, not the characters.

Silas’s duplicate finally arriving at STAR Labs should drive the plot for some time and it’s inevitable that Vic someday remembers being in love with Sarah but I hope that moment is saved for when it has the most emotional punch.

Harley Quinn #7 – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers; John Timms, Artist; Alex Sinclair, Hi-Fi, Colorists

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: You Knew That Was Coming

Ray: The latest bizarre Harley Quinn story comes to an end, and despite a few interesting scenes in the last few issues, this run overall isn’t really working for me. The concept of Harley going undercover as a punk rocker to catch a gang of evil punk thieves has promise, but that seems like it’s shoved off to the side pretty quickly once Harley finds her way into an underground superhero/villain S&M club. There’s a lot of gross-out visuals, and Tony and Red Tool’s side story involving them trying to break into the club isn’t particularly funny – as most things involving Red Tool are.

Then comes the reveal that Penguin is the big bad behind the heists and the club, and he intimidates gang leader Billy Blood into trying to kill Harley. That sends the story into a very predictable, action-heavy direction as Harley battles her way to Penguin and smashes up his room. I suppose the biggest problem with this series so far is that it feels very low-stakes on any level. Something happens to Harley, she gets angry, and carnage ensues. This is probably due to the absence of Poison Ivy, partially – her relationship with Harley has always been the strongest point of the series – but it also emphasizes that what makes Deadpool work so well right now is that there’s always a human story under the wackiness. Right now, it doesn’t feel like that’s really there for Harley.

Corrina: The joy of most of this issue is in the art, trying to find out how many “fake” superhero cameos they can fit into each panel and just how dirty Sinclair can make each sequence without going over the line. (Apparently, it crossed that for Ray, given his ‘gross’ comment.) Also inevitable would be the kink portion of the superhero sex club. Once you go with superhero sex club, you can hardly expect the writers to stop there. Bisexual Harley fans take note: she’s happily flirting in this issue except, well, nothing good happens to bad people who flirt with Harley.

The stakes seem fine to me. Harley is always interesting when she’s trying to right a wrong–in this case, the death of her favorite postal worker–and somehow managing to commit several other wrongs in the course of finding justice for the original one.

I’m really getting to like Tony and the Egg dude. Red Tool, not so much.

Additional Reviews:

Shade the Changing Girl #2 – Cecil Castellucci, Writer; Marley Zarcone, Artist; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Strong Second Issue

Ray: The second issue of Cecil Castellucci’s cosmic sci-fi adventure/high school drama is almost as strong as the first, as Loma Shade/Megan tries to settle into her new life. After an early statement that she was done with such petty human things as High School, she winds up re-entering the world where Megan was largely feared and hated. And then the strangest thing happens – this other dimensional mystery being/mean girl winds up being oddly sympathetic. The awkwardness in the high school scenes is brilliantly realistic, as Megan reacts with indifference to people who cared about her, attempts to reach out to people who hate her, and forges a strange friendship with someone she had previously completely ignored. The book actually captures just how strange it would be to step into someone’s life, which is a rare thing for this concept.

Slightly less interesting are the segments back on Loma’s homeworld, as the council there debates what to do about the missing Madness Vest. These segments can get a bit too exposition-heavy, but they’re so visually interesting that it doesn’t matter. Much like last issue, the fantastic art by Marley Zarcone is one of the highlights here. There’s a distinct Mike Allred Vibe too it, but maybe brighter and more colorful, with softer edges on the humans. Altogether, it’s an incredibly fun, puzzling package that proves that the Young Animal line can zigzag genres brilliantly. I’m not sure what to make of the shapeshifting animal superhero backup, but it was an intriguing bonus feature.

shade-2Corrina: I found the first issue somewhat scattershot and too ambitious, trying to fit in every single element and weirdness that possibly could be smooshed into the panels. It ended up being a visually arresting book but somewhat cold in execution. This second issue relaxed a bit, allowing us to sink into the emotions and mindset of Megan/Shade and that’s much more interesting to me. It’s also darkly funny, as Megan/Shade reacts to the alien environment of high school in her unique/somewhat insane mind and yet the other students are like “weirdo” and basically go on with their lives. That seems accurate enough.

The reveal (or perhaps emphasis) on the fact that the vest drives people insane adds to the stakes of Megan/Shade’s confusion. What happens when she goes truly insane? Will she hurt anyone? Will she make anyone’s life better somehow? This book could go in any of those directions.

midnighter-apollo-2Midnighter and Apollo #2 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Fernando Blanco, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Stellar

Ray: Last issue set up Midnighter and Apollo’s relationship nicely, and this issue proves that happiness can’t last in superhero comics. After a tense segment in which Midnighter gives Henry Bendix a new hole in his neck and escapes from his lair by kicking everything he finds in the face, he arrives back on the surface to see Apollo dead at the hands of the demon Mawzir. Days later, Midnighter’s friends are trying to help him deal with his grief – but Midnighter isn’t grieving, because Midnighter is meta. He doesn’t believe Apollo is dead. The body is being kept under sun lamps to help him regenerate, but he’s not relying on natural means entirely either.

I thought the reinvention of camp gay caricature Extrano last issue as a suave sorcerer was just going to be a one-off cameo, but it seems like Orlando actually has extended plans for the character. Midnighter seeks Extrano – now a happily married adoptive father – out for help communicating with Apollo’s spirit and pulling it back, and that launches us into a genuinely creepy segment involving exactly what Apollo’s going through in hell. The return of Neron as a genuinely threatening villain, instead of the Donald Trump parody from the last Hellblazer run (where he paled in menace compared to the other villains) pleases me as a fan of the character since Underworld Unleashed, and there’s no way that Midnighter stomping his way through hell is not going to be amazing. DC deserves kudos for showing faith in both the characters and the writer, and it looks like this is going to be just as good as the original Midnighter series.

Corrina: I was afraid we’d get grief and angst this issue and then I realized: when has Midnighter ever wallowed in those things? Never.  Of course, he looked to actions and solutions to save the seemingly dead Apollo. Why should he accept the supposed wisdom of moving on from a death when he knows that death is so impermanent in this world of his?

Apollo offers a nice contrast in his scenes in hell, as stalwart in his own way as Midnighter is in his. As Ray said, there’s no way Midnighter stomping through hell will not be good and it will give the art team even more of a chance to show off their considerable talents.

Death of Hawkman #2 – Mark Andreyko, Writer; Aaron Lopresti, Penciller; Livesay, Inker; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Still An Adam Strange Story

Ray: Two issues in, this is a competent but fairly predictable space adventure. Last issue focused heavily on Adam Strange, who’s probably the more compelling of the two heroes. This issue turns back the clock to focus on the title character, and he’s…less so. I’m not sure the time is right for a character who’s essentially Police Brutality: The Superhero, but his establishing character moment in this issue is beating the hell out of a criminal who has already surrendered, leading him to receive a reprimand from his commanding officer. It’s clear Hawkman is bristling under being back on Thanagar as opposed to a hero on Earth.

Meanwhile, on Rann, Adam Strange arrives in the middle of the chaos to find Alanna alive, but Sardath dead and the entire planet blaming Thanagar for the attack. As protests mount in the street demanding an all-out assault on their rival planet, Adam notices some evidence that doesn’t match up with a Thanagarian attack. However, Alanna is too consumed by her grief and essentially considers any questions of the official story by Adam to be a betrayal. This leads Adam to seek out Hawkman for help – which leads to an odd attempt at comedy involving naked Hawkman. Nothing particularly wrong here, but it feels like we’ve seen most of this before.

Corrina: I thought I’d been grounded in this series with the first issue and yet the first pages of this book had me flipping back and around. I thought at first that Hawkman had been assigned as security on Rann to keep down the native rebels but after reading this, I can’t tell if we’re on Thanagar or Rann at times. It seems like Thanagarians are running the show on Rann and in some places, it seems like Rann is independent? This might be due to the creators’ assuming I’d read previous issues on the war between Thanagar and Rann but if you add that to the Zeta Beam’s ability to make Adam jump around space, and I have to double check settings. That threw me out of the story.

Meanwhile, of course, Alanna seems to have lost the ability to reason along with her father, so Adam has to work around her back. I’m not in love with that plot development. So far, the series is okay but not great.

DC Comics Bombshells #19 – Marguerite Bennett; Writer; Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Pasquale Qualano, Sandy Jarrell, Artists; Jeremy Lawson, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: So Many Batgirls!

Ray: As always after the conclusion of a big battle in Europe, it’s back to the United States for a story focusing on the Batgirls! These are consistently my favorite issues in the series, and the family of Batgirls has grown beyond the original Gotham girls to include characters like Felicity Smoak and Lois Lane (and, oddly, Mayor Harvey Dent, who is oddly young here). This issue picks up from the fallout of the last issue dealing with these characters, which introduced a plot by Penguin, Hugo Strange, and Killer Frost to brainwash Dent and take over Gotham. However, the threat isn’t by them this issue – it’s to them. Courtesy of one of my all-time favorite DC villains, The Phantasm.

Sure, she’s technically called Reaper (the character’s original inspiration here), but this is definitely the Mask of the Phantasm version, a young woman named Andrea who lost her family and is out for revenge. Unlike in the original movie she comes from, though, this version of the character isn’t treated like a villain. The Batgirls are smart enough to realize she’s just as much of a victim of the Nazis as anyone else, even if her methods are far more extreme than they approve of. There’s a lot of interesting twists (including a heroic version of Two-Face by the end of the issue) and a general optimistic vibe that sums up why this is one of my favorite alternative versions of the DCU. Wish the Batgirls had their own spin-off so we got more than one issue of them every six months!

Corrina: I like these fun stories featuring the Batgirls but after reading three of them, I’ve figured out why they seem so light to me: there are so many characters that it makes it hard for any of them to shine or dig deep emotionally on any of them. They all sort of blend together.

But, hey, Lois! That’s always good, and always good when there’s a callback to something like Mask of the Phantasm. I also worried that we’d go down a dark path with Harvey Dent but it seems like we’re avoiding that so far in this Storyverse. It’s odd that a series set in World War II should be one of the most optimistic ever produced by DC but that’s the magic of Bombshells.

Batman ’66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel #5 – Ian Edginton, Writer; Matthew Dow Smith, Artist; Wendy Broome, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Ray: Finally after five issues, we get some much needed absurdity in this penultimate issue. Chasing the villains to their lair, the heroes quickly find themselves in dual deathtraps set by Mr. Freeze and Fogg – Steed and Robin find themselves over a pit of liquid nitrogen set up by Freeze, while Fogg has Batman and Peel suspended over a giant vat of boiling pea soup. Because pea soup fog, haha. These villains and their overly specific gimmicks. These segments, and the way the heroes get out of it, are genuinely inventive. Overall, though, the central villain is lacking something and the dialogue is just a little bland to really work as well as past crossovers. I’m hoping the upcoming Batman ’66/Wonder Woman ’77 has a bit more of the anarchic energy of the best issues of the Batman ’66 comic.

The Flintstones #5 – Mark Russell, Writer; Steve Pugh, Artists; Chris Chuckry, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Intense

Ray: Quietly and subtly, this has been doing what Wacky Races and Scooby Apocalypse have been utterly failing at – creating a dark, edgy version of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon that actually works. This issue is set up as an election satire, with both the Mayoral election of Bedrock and the school President election at Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm’s school being at the center of the issue, and there’s a fairly strong anti-bully message without being too topical about it (as well as a hint that kids may be better than adults at seeing bullies for what they are), but it’s the flashback segments that really sell the story. Finally telling the tale of the Bedrock Wars, it reveals that it’s not quite the story of heroism we were led to believe – rather a first strike against a peaceful local population whose elimination was needed for the expansion of Bedrock, and the outcome of which has a tie to the origin of Bamm-Bamm. Who knew there was a story about the horrors of war to be told in The Flintstones? This is definitely the boldest of these relaunches, and one of the most intriguing.

Corrina: I thought this issue would be about the election as well, especially given Russell wrote Prez, but this issue has something deeper in mind, a rumination about war, what drives men to war, and the losses suffered on all sides when there’s no way around war. That’s intense for a Hanna-Barbara revamp.

The handling of the bully subplot is done well, too, and not only shows the typical “bullies are bad,” but why people end up sometimes putting the bully in charge–because they seem confident and sure of themselves.

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.