Wonder Woman Saves the Day

Comic Books Entertainment
Wonder Woman #11, art by Nicola Scott
Wonder Woman #10, art by Nicola Scott, image copyright DC Comics

There are many good books to choose from this week, including the latest debut from DC’s Young Animal line and the continued excellence of Deathstroke, but there is only one book at the top of the list:

Wonder Woman #10, which is a perfect synthesis of story and art, including the incredible two-page spread seen above.

Also reviewed this week: All-Star Batman #4, Gotham Academy: Second Semester #3, Detective Comics #944, Supergirl #3, Flash #10, Action Comics #967, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #8, Red Hood and the Outlaws #4, New Super-Man #5, Superwoman #4, Batgirl & the Birds of Prey #4, Doom Patrol #3, Earth 2 Society #18, and Scooby Apocalypse #7.


DC Premieres of the Week:

Mother Panic #1 – Jody Houser, Writer; Tommy Lee Edwards, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Celebrity Meets the Gotham Vigilante

Ray: The fourth of the Young Animal line is definitely the most conventional of the books, a hard-boiled vigilante noir with some sci-fi elements and a prickly, unlikable protagonist who inhabits a nastier corner of Gotham than Batman. Violet Paige is also an heir to a powerful family like Bruce Wayne, but a very different kind. Her mother is still alive, albeit suffering from what’s implied to be severe mental illness, and her father is dead – but under mysterious circumstances that fascinate the tabloids and that Violet may have had something to do with. Where Bruce Wayne honed his body through training, Violet relies on mysterious body modifications done in surgery clinics abroad and high-tech that makes her look like a cross between Moon Knight and the Willem Dafoe Green Goblin.

The issue is a bit of a slow burn, letting us learn about Violet through a series of flashbacks and her interaction with the people around her. By the time Mother Panic emerges on the scene in a flurry of violence, it’s dramatic and her first case has some intriguing elements and some genuinely creepy visuals. A corrupt businessman and a mad artist/serial killer who creates horrific works of art? It reads like a bit of a hybrid between Art Ops and the recent Daredevil arc, but Tommy Lee Edwards’ art gives this plot its own eerie vibe. Batman does cameo, as this is very much a story taking place in Gotham and in the DCU, but it’s just a cameo. This issue didn’t grab me right out of the gate the way Shade and especially Cave Carson did, but there’s a lot of promise here.

Corrina: If you’re going to add yet another vigilante to Gotham City, there should be a twist to the origin. For Violet, that’s her mother’s history of mental illness plus her own status as basically the Kardashian of Gotham. (But edgier because this is Gotham, after all.) That adds a fresh angle in which to explore the city. Whereas Batman stalks the Gotham streets, Mother Panic seems to be focusing on the corruption of the 1 percent from within. I’m of two minds about the origin. I’m glad that we spent so much time with Violet out of her costumed identity but I’m also wishing that I had a better idea of what her costumed self can do and what her motivations might be. She seems to be on the side of justice but despite all the time spent with her, she’s opaque to me as yet.

Like many of the Young Animal books, the artwork is the star here and Houser wisely gets out of the way to let Edwards’ work shine, with panels that show a rarefied Gotham that still drips with gritty images. The panels with the serial killer artist are haunting and terrifying. More than anything else, the tone of this series reminded me of Vertigo’s Sandman Mystery Theatre, especially in how isolated Violet seems to be.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #1 – Matthew K. Manning, Writer; Jon Sommariva, Artist; Sean Parsons, Inker; Leonardo Ito, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: The recent Batman/TMNT was one of the most popular inter-company crossovers since the DC vs. Marvel event twenty years ago, so it’s not a surprise that DC and IDW are wasting no time on a sequel – with a twist. This one takes place in a combination of the Batman: The Animated Series verse from the 1990s, and the recent Nickelodeon TMNT cartoon. That means a lighter tone, and some intriguing twists, despite the fact that the overarching plot has a vague sense of similarity. Both center around a mysterious portal taking heroes and villains from one universe and plunking them in the other. This time it’s the TMNT Universe’s turn to play host (which works thematically, as IDW is publishing this time) and the inmates of Arkham have started disappearing and finding themselves in New York.

The Turtles have an exciting battle with Clayface, and Batman finds a returning Harvey Dent more addled than usual by his experiences. While the story is a little light and it takes a while to get going (the reveal of some fan-favorite villains at the end of the issue are going to make people very happy) where this issue excels is in the dialogue. The Turtles’ snarky sibling rivalry is written perfectly, and Alfred is as droll as ever. The title characters have yet to meet, but based on this first issue, this is going to be another fun crossover.

DC Rebirth Reviews:

Wonder Woman #10 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Nicola Scott, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Blown Away

Ray: Easily the strongest issue of the Year One storyline, this issue focuses on the development of Diana’s powers, as well as showing why her compassion and heroism makes her one of the best heroes to have in your corner in the middle of a crisis. In an interesting mirror to the last chapter of The Lies, this comic takes place at a mall as well – and I’m not sure why, but malls tend to bring out the best in both Nicola Scott and Liam Sharp. There’s a fantastic two-page spread by Scott taking place in a shopping plaza (and another exceptional spread later on showing Diana shielding a family with her bracelets), and the first half of the issue is pretty light as Etta, Steve, and Barbara introduce Diana to Earth culture via a day out at the mall. Then, however, things take a very dark turn.

The mall becomes the site of carnage when the mysterious Sear terror group launches a mass shooting attack on the shopping center, and Rucka manages to make this scene incredibly tense. It may actually be a bit uncomfortable for some people to read, as the scene definitely echoes real shooting horrors that have unfolded over the last few years. However, once Diana and Steve get into the fray, it becomes a great showpiece for their heroic teamwork, and for Diana’s heroic spirit as well – especially once you remember that she doesn’t understand how her new powers from the Gods work yet. When she throws herself in front of bullets, she doesn’t know that her bracelets will protect her. While I still think Legend of Wonder Woman is the definitive WW origin story now, this one is quickly finding its footing as a great story in its own right.

Corrina: This comic will likely go onto my list of Top Ten Comics of all time. Everything works, from Diana’s thrilled reaction to the crowd at the mall, to the lunch where Diana, Etta, Minerva and Steve each spill out truths when they touch the lasso, to the tense fight scenes where once again an active shooter disrupts people’s lives. It’s a perfect blend of art and story, even in the smaller panels, such as the little hearts that appear above Steve as he holds the lasso and looks at Diana.

So perfect. Go buy.

All-Star Batman #4 – Scott Snyder, Writer; John Romita Jr., Penciller; Declan Shalvey, Artist; Danny Miki, Inker; Dean White, Jordie Bellaire, Colorists

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Jumping the Shark? It’s Close.

Ray: The craziest road trip in DC Comics history continues, as Two-Face’s master plan starts to take shape, and the only person who may possibly be able to stop him is…Harvey Dent. The issue begins with Batman at Two-Face’s mercy as the madman pours acid over his face. Although Batman’s cowl has a protective automatic shield that protects his skin, the toxic fumes temporarily blind him, leaving Batman reliant on Duke’s help to escape – oh, and on the Bat-echolocation device he has in his cowl. The continuing ability of Snyder to pull cool new Bat-devices out of his hat is probably the best thing about this comic. Did I mention there’s an army of enhanced Court of Owls zombies attacking them? The action doesn’t let up once, and there’s frequent “lead changes” as Bruce and Harvey get the drop on each other. Eventually, KG Beast shows up again, the heroes and Two-Face wind up on a demented carnival island run by the villains, and Harvey’s role in all this is revealed.

It’s another strong chapter in Snyder’s latest story, and the breakneck pace helps it a lot. This story only has one more chapter in it, unlike most of Snyder’s year-long epics, and the pace works. The backup by Declan Shalvey focusing on Duke is reaching its conclusion as well, and while I didn’t find the plot involving Mr. Zsasz and the unfortunate woman who tried to make a deal with him as engaging as the main story, it’s the development of Duke’s story that makes this story great. Duke is very different from Batman in that he’s grieving the loss of his parents, but his are still alive. The closest we saw to this was Tim Drake’s original origin. The way Duke approaches this and finds some semblance of peace does a great job of differentiating him from Bruce’s other proteges and showing why Bruce and Dick make great partners.

Corrina: This is basically an insane comic, a Batman comic pumped up to eleven and it puts me in mind of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Strikes Again in spots. Oh, it’s more coherent than that, more grounded in reality, and Duke Thomas especially is a strong supporting character, but the over-the-top fight scenes, the non-stop pacing, and the unbelievable recovery from injuries by Batman tend to push it too over-the-top for my taste. I like my Batman more grounded, somewhat less insane, and with a more realistic mindset that he’s as yet approached this problem. Maybe that’s it: I want to see more of Batman as a detective, outfoxing his opponents, rather than pummelling them into submission.

But there’s no denying the comic has a lot of energy.

Batman: Detective Comics #944 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Eddy Barrows, Penciller; Eber Ferreira, Inker; Adriano Lucas, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: How Come Victims Never Go After Villains? 

Ray: While the first arc of James Tynion’s run on Detective had the vibe of a non-stop action movie, this arc is going very clearly in the direction of horror. The Victim Syndicate is here, and their powers are more than a little creepy, having power over their victims bodies – one can silence his enemies with a glance, another can poison people just by being around them. Each is the victim of a classic Batman villain and was caught in the crossfire – all except for the First Victim, the gaunt, androgynous, blood-covered figure who presides over the syndicate. The issue begins with a siege of the Wayne gala, as new recruit Batwing joins forces with the rest of the team to get as many people out alive as they can. However, it quickly becomes clear that the Syndicate planned for this, and it’s only due to Luke Fox’s smart guns that it doesn’t turn into a massacre.

I’m still not sure how well Luke Fox fits into this, but that seems to be the point – Batwoman and Batman aren’t sure either, and his entry into Red Robin’s role doesn’t go smoothly. Stephanie Brown seems to get the brunt of the abuse this issue, being poisoned by one of the villains, but putting her through the wringer seems to be the point of the arc, pushing her towards potentially quitting. However, the issue has two great strengths. One is the ambiguity – the villains genuinely do have a point, as Leslie Thompkins points out in a rant about the casualties Batman leaves in his wake. Second is the dialogue, as the team of young heroes banters better than the TT has in a very long time. And man, did I miss Harper Row. With a genuinely creepy last page, this issue is another great one for the Bat-line.

Corrina: I know it’s supposed to be emotionally affecting to me as a reader to read about innocent bystanders whose lives have been ruined by supervillains taking heir destiny in their own hands. But I never quite understand this plot device. Why not blame the Joker for the venom that wrecked one’s life? Why not blame the bad guys who attacked, rather than the people who defended? I know, it’s a “plague on both your houses,” kind of thing, and I get that, and I know Batman’s supposed to be wracked with guilt but what was the alternative in these situations? Do nothing? The math doesn’t work out then for innocent bystanders either. See, the Punisher I understand. But if he somehow brought a crew together to kill all the Avengers because they’re not good enough? It just confuses me? Why? Why not go to the source?

All of which makes me sound like I didn’t like the issue but I did, it’s the premise that bothers me. There are great character moments here, especially between Bruce and Kate. Tynion has taken two characters who never worked together before and made them into an intriguing team, especially with how they defeat the initial appearance of the Syndicate. But the two most intriguing developments are Clayface’s encounter with his past sins, and Stephanie continuing to struggle with Tim’s death, something the Syndicate may use against Batman. (Still wish we’d actually seen Tim/Steph on the page thought)

Supergirl #3 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Brian Ching, Artist; Michael Atiyeh, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: In Which Supergirl Is Smart

Ray: Steve Orlando has done in four issues what I’d been waiting since 2005 to see a writer do – make Supergirl feel genuinely human. Which is ironic, because this run actually doubles down on her status as an alien immigrant feeling like a stranger in the world. And there really isn’t anything more human than that. The issue begins with a great segment where Kara tries to convince her foster parents to let her make a trip to the resurrected Argo City to see what her father has done. The relationship Kara is developing with the Danvers’ is one of the best parts of the series, although I feel like Jeremiah is getting the short shift a bit – maybe because his character is so much less prominent in the show.

With the focus off-Earth as Kara and Eliza travel to Argo City, Catco only cameos, but we get a bit more on Ben, and I can hear Calista Flockhart in every word Cat speaks. Once it gets to Argo City, things get tense and creepy fast, as it’s revealed that Zor-El’s perfect resurrected Argo City is actually full of mindless drones – including Kara’s mother Alura. Zor-El’s not quite done with creating his perfect city, and the last ingredient needs to be harvested from the people of Earth, sacrificing them at the altar of Argo. While this storyline is a bit reminiscent of the horrible H’el storyline from a few years back, it’s written much better and Zor-El makes a compelling and morally complex villain. I’m personally hoping for more of Kara on Earth in the next arc, because the quieter moments are what I find the most fascinating, but this series continues to be one of DC’s strongest.

Corrina: So often super-powered characters are shown as simply running into things, especially when they’re upset. But Supergirl doesn’t do this, despite the tug on her emotions from Cyborg Superman/possibly Zor-el. She ponders the problem, accepts help, attempts to sort through it, and shows an incredible maturity in rejecting the “resurrection” of her mother and her people.

This is a formidable heroine and one I can get behind. I agree, the idea of recreating Krypton is somewhat like that awful H’el crossover, but it’s only the idea that they have in common. The execution is much more effective, the characters better drawn, and the stakes higher.

The Flash #10 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Felipe Watanabe, Penciller; Oclair Albert, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Shade! But…NO!!!

Ray: Josh Williamson is a horror writer at the core, being behind the Image masterpieces Ghosted and Nailbiter. While his first arc dealing with the Speed Force storm was excellent, it didn’t entirely play to his strengths in that way. However, with the second arc, he gets to sink his teeth into the Shade, one of Flash’s creepiest and most morally complex villains. When we last saw Shade in James Robinson’s maxiseries, he was an antihero who found peace, but as the storybook-style beginning makes clear, that is no longer the case. The issue actually doesn’t focus all that much on the Shade, instead dealing more with the growing pains of Barry’s mentor role for the young Wally West.

The first part of the issue focuses on a battle with the new Z-list rogue Papercut (who turns out to be more dangerous than he looks). However, it’s Wally cutting school and operating as Kid Flash without Flash’s supervision that causes most of the drama. I was a bit worried that this was Wally going back to his delinquent ways from his terrible introduction in the Venditt/Jensen run, but instead it rings true as a teenage boy who is just overly excited about his new powers, and isn’t willing to take it slow, pun intended. This kind of cockiness and a fight with Flash leads him to try to solve the mystery of a “shadow man” wandering Central City – and leads to an encounter with a much more terrifying Shade. Great cliffhanger, and the dialogue is particularly strong in this issue. One of DC’s most consistently strong books.

Corrina: Aw, man, I wasn’t looking forward to the Shade as a villain. I love the Shade but I love him as the slightly off-kilter anti-hero, the being full of darkness that can still reach for light when it’s necessary, and I liked giving him as happy of an ending as any anti-hero ever gets. So, yeah, I worried he’d be back to being your basic comic book villain.

This isn’t that. This is a Shade who seems to have been…attacked? Diminished? We’re not entirely sure but we know it’s not good, especially as Shade says “there’s no Hope.” (Hope being a reference to Police Officer Hope O’Dare, who Shade loves.)  That Wally is the first Flash to encounter him makes sense, as Wally is busy fighting his own darkness and his own grief and impulsiveness, and that mirrored in the Shade. I’m hopeful that Hope isn’t gone for good (if you want to know why, go read all of James Robinson’s Starman. Seriously, go read them all. You won’t regret it) but cautiously optimistic that Williamson will handle this well.

Superman: Action Comics #967 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Tyler Kirkham, Artist; Arif Prianto, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Superman & Son, Good. Godslayers? Bad.

Ray: It’s great to have Dan Jurgens still writing Superman, and his handle on the characters of Superman, Lois, and their supporting cast is as strong as ever. That’s where this title’s strength lies – in the quieter moments and dialogue. However, the main plots in this book aren’t quite as strong as the sister book Superman. Case in point, this issue. The main villains are a duo of mythical barbarians known as the Godslayers, who arrive on Earth through a magic portal in pursuit of someone wearing a Superman costume who is prophesied to destroy the world. They come off as generic and their dialogue is laughable at points, but they look like they’re mostly plot devices to set up the real point of this arc – Superman and Lex Luthor forced to team up to stop them.

The best scenes in the issue are the early ones, as Superman and his son bond in the wilderness as they search for the relocated Geneticron building, while Lois meets with Lex Luthor for an interview. While Jurgens is obviously an old hand with Superman and Lois, I don’t think his Luthor gets enough credit – this isn’t the same Luthor he used to write, but he’s bridged the difference so much that the difference is negligible. His Luthor is cold-blooded, cruel, but always pragmatic and a step ahead of everyone else – but his new role as a superhero is something genuinely new to him, and it shows. I’m not sure if the Godslayers are going to develop into interesting villains, but I’d follow the lead characters into any plot under Jurgens.

Corrina: There’s so much good about this series but it’s definitely faltered in the category of villains, who are more of the “punch me” variety. That’s what we got in the early issues, with Doomsday, and that’s what we get here with the Godslayers. I get that it’s epic to write fight scenes for Superman and that we need a big threat for Superman and Lex to finally team-up, but that only makes the Godslayers even less interesting because they’re such obvious plot devices.

Of more interest is Lois’s encounter with the “other” Clark, who gives her a hand as Luthor’s building collapses around them. It’s nice to see Lois back in reporter mode, it’s nice to see Superman investigating the disappeared building, and it’s good to see Lex in over his head. But I hope we get less fight scene padding and more mystery solving next issue.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #8 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Ethan Van Sciver, Artist; Jason Wright, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: So…Moving On? 

Ray: Who knew that what Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps needed was to lose Hal Jordan? (Well, Corrina, maybe) Last issue saw Hal Jordan and Sinestro seemingly go down together as their final battle triggered the explosion of Warworld and seemingly destroyed them both. Now, in the uncertain aftermath, the remnants of the Green Lantern Corps (under John Stewart) and the Sinestro Corps (under Soranik Natu) are forced to create an uneasy truce to defend the cosmos. There’s distrust aplenty, with Guy Gardner trying to bridge the gap, but it’s clear there’s a long way to go. It’s also clear that these two are far more compelling leads for now than the main two.

There’s no time to sit around and talk, though, as major new threats emerge. First, Starro apparently attacks Tomar-Tu’s planet of Xudar, in a spectacular segment that shows exactly why Ethan Van Sciver is and always will be one of the definitive Green Lantern artists. But that appears to be nothing more than a feint, as the real villain behind the story is Brainiac – who winds up bottling both Corps by the end of the issue. Meanwhile, Ganthet and Sayd re-enter the picture to find out exactly what’s happened to Hal. This is the kind of unpredictable, high-octane story that the GLC is great in, and it feels like this book is finally developing into a solid companion book to the more character-driven Green Lanterns.

Corrina: That Hal is missing from this book was just fine by me (as Ray points out) but of more interest is that Sinestro is gone and we might move onto far more interesting plots than “Sinestro must bring the universe order!” Soranik is much better when she gets her own spotlight, rather than coming across as a clueless pawn of her father. I have to laugh, though, at Guy Gardner being the voice of reason.

One thing I agree on with Ray: Van Sciver is one of the definitive Green Lantern artists. That splash page of Brainiac snagging up the world and the Corps in a bottle is spectacular.

Deathstroke #6 – Priest, Writer; Larry Hama, Breakdowns; Carlo Pagulayan, Penciller; Jason Paz, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: So Much Dysfunction. Such a Great Book

Ray: The most improved book in Rebirth continues to surprise, as Priest delivers another great story and finally reintroduces one of the most important characters in the Wilson family to the Rebirth era with some big twists. I’ve sort of given up trying to make any sense of what is and isn’t Rebirth continuity anymore, and I just assume that whatever Priest’s favorite elements of the character are have worked their way back in. But that works, because this version of Jericho is far more interesting than any of the multiple versions we got in the New 52. He’s back to being the mute psychic who seems like the conscience of his family, although there are some minor twists – he now uses a tech-based microphone to speak, in addition to sign language. Oh, and he’s bi. Not so sure about what he does at the end of the issue, though – it feels like fans who were hoping for the original NTT Jericho to be back might be a bit put off, but I can see this new version being very interesting.

As for the rest of the issue, the Wilson family drama continues to fascinate. The truth of who put the contract out on Rose is finally revealed, and it’s far more complex than I was expecting. Slade really is the worst at family bonding. The team of Slade, Rose, and Wintergreen has one of the best dynamics in any comic right now, and there’s a fantastic action segment as Slade and his team break back into the African country they helped to destabilize in the first arc to extract the leader before the rebels get him. The story’s got a lot of twists and turns, and Priest seems to be building a long overarching storyline that is elevating the characters to some of the best in the DCU.

Deathstroke & Wintergreen, snarking at each other, as always. Image copyright DC Comics
Deathstroke & Wintergreen, snarking at each other, as always. Image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Jericho/Joe Wilson seems to be back to his original self and less the hardened cynical warrior that he last appeared before Rebirth. But Priest has added in darkness to Joe. What works about this is that it’s clear Joe’s issues are a result of his dysfunctional parents. We have already seen what happened with Rose, who still has some faith in Slade. Now we see how Slade’s younger son handles being the son of Deathstroke. At first, he seems to have overcome his demons and is engaged and happy. But then it’s revealed he has something in common with his father: he’ll kill to protect what he loves.

For those keeping track of LGBTQ characters in DC, Joe can be added to the list. Though he doesn’t call himself bisexual, he is going to marry a woman and had an affair with a man. However, don’t expect the LGBTQ romance to end well for Joe, as his ex-lover wants him to break it off with his fiancee and threatens to tell Slade about their relationship. Joe has a violent response. I will say that this scene treats the male/male relationship the same as any other in this comic: seriously messed up. So the treatment is equal, there.

Oh, and, yeah, Slade goes off on a mission with Rose and Wintergreen and that goes as well as can be expected, which is to say it’s physically a suceess and emotionally a mess.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #4 – Scott Lobdell, Writer; Dexter Soy, Artist; Veronica Gandini, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: At Least the Undercover Stuff is Done

Ray: The Superhero version of Donnie Brasco continues to unfold as Jason gets in deeper and deeper with Black Mask’s twisted crime family, and the addition of Bizarro to the mix only makes things crazier. The first half of the issue is an odd one, as the enraged, childlike Bizarro is threatening Jason’s life and Jason is only able to survive by appealing to the oddly childlike nature of Bizarro. Seeing Jason’s softer side is a nice change of pace, but the scene is sort of odd and hard to take seriously. Artemis seems mostly on the sidelines this issue, searching for the mythical bow she’s looking for and sneaking around the base while making fun of Jason. As I thought, this book is strongest when Jason is the focus.

And on that note, the second half of the issue is by far the stronger one, as Jason gets pulled deeper into Black Mask’s inner circle after managing to tame Bizarro. Black Mask, like most great crime bosses, has an interesting mix of friendly and threatening, and the reveal about his family add some depth to the villain. However, it feels like things go south in a hurry at the end of the issue for Jason, as Black Mask reveals his master plan, Jason’s cover gets blown, and we’re quickly on to the punching and explosions portion of the Outlaws’ book. I was kind of hoping that the undercover story would go on a little longer, but I hope the second arc manages to maintain the decent momentum this first arc had.

Corrina: Little appeals to me about this comic, save when Lobdell gives us some glimpses of Jason’s inner life and his complicated emotions regarding doing the right thing. No, I didn’t buy Jason being able to calm down Bizarro, at least not that way. I also throw up my hands at what Artemis is doing here in this comic, other than to be impressed by Jason. Black Mask seems like someone an Amazon could take down in her sleep.

Bizarro, perhaps not, but why Bizarro would respond to Black Mask’s commands and why Black Mask isn’t smart enough to realize this could go south fast for him are mysteries to me.

New Super-Man #5 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Viktor Bogdanovic, Penciller; Richard Friend, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Ray: Probably the best issue of the series, as we finally start getting a clear picture of the larger conspiracy centering around Kenan’s father and the various superhero groups in China, as Kenan’s loyalty is tested. The battle is raging in the streets, as the Freedom Fighters of China do battle with the Ministry of Self-Reliance, while Kenan holes up in his apartment with his father – now revealed to be the Freedom Fighters’ leader. But while I was expecting a standard betrayal plotline, what we get here is anything but, as Kenan’s father reveals that their family’s legacy in the Freedom Fighters goes down decades and involves Kenan’s mother as well. The flashbacks are strong and effective, and by the end we’re once again questioning exactly whose side our loyalties are supposed to be on – as is Kenan.

There’s no clear and simple answer, as Kenan winds up switching sides several different times through the issues based on the actions of the two sides. However, before he can effectively win the battle, a betrayal winds up switching him of his powers, and Kenan’s father is forced to cut a deal with the Ministry in order to save his son’s life and take the battle back to the new, larger enemy. This comic started strong, flagged a tiny bit, but now it’s back to being one of the hidden gems of Rebirth. Unfortunately, it’s currently the second-lowest selling DC Rebirth title, so I hope more people check it out so it can stay around. It’s unlike any other comic DC is putting out.

There's an unexpected villain. Image copyright DC Comics
There’s an unexpected villain. Image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: I disagree with saying it’s the best issue of the series but only because this series has been remarkably consistent since the beginning. It’s a high degree of difficulty to write a bully who becomes a superhero and yet the comic has consistently humanized Kenan and the people around him. It’s easy to see where Kenan gets his need to feel important, as it seems his father basically ignored Kenan after his mother’s death.

I loved seeing the tale of Kenan’s mother though I’m a little tired of dead mothers as motivation. Kenan and his dad aren’t quite as dysfunctional as Deathstroke and his children, but it’s not a healthy relationship either. At least we know that these two will put each other first, even when they’re angry with each other.

Superwoman #4 – Phil Jiminez, Writer; Emanuela Lupacchino, Penciller; Ray McCarthy, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Confusing

Ray: I think this book has sort of lost me, and it’s a shame, because the title does have a number of things going for it. One is gorgeous art, whether it’s Jiminez’s writer/artist issues or the art of Lupacchino this time. They both make the comic look great. There’s some great action and a supporting cast that’s very appealing, especially given the return of fan favorite Traci 13 this issue. She and Natasha Irons are two more welcome additions to the broader, happier post-Rebirth DCU. However, there’s one main problem with this book, and that’s Lana Lang. The issue gets off to a bad start when Lana things she’s encountering the new Lois Lane who’s wandering around the DCU, and proceeds to unleash some built-up invective against her (which is completely different from how Lana was written in the recent Action Comics issue).

However, it’s not that Lois. It’s actually apparently the ghost of the Lois Lane who was supposed to star in this issue, which just sort of rubs salt in the wounds of all her fans. She spends most of the issue showing up to Lana at random points, waxing poetic about the nature of death and frustrating Lana. Meanwhile, Lana continues to battle her own depression and the possibility of her oncoming death, and mainly seems to do this by pushing the people around her away. This isn’t altogether unrealistic – people do messed up things when facing depression or mortality – but she’s just not a particularly compelling protagonist right now. I’m looking forward to the upcoming showdown with Lena Luthor, but this title needs some work.

Corrina: When I say this comic is confusing, I mean that literally, in that Lana’s flashbacks/hallucinations in dealing with Lois’s “ghost” are badly integrated with the other storytelling in the book. Several times, I had to flip around the issue and sort out what was going on with the action. That’s frustrating, especially since there are good elements in this comic. One is the supporting cast, as Ray mentioned, and another is the interaction between Ghost Lois and Lana. They have a nice give and take, which was evident in the first issue before Lois died. But that had the unfortunate side effect of making me wish that I’d had more of this before Lois’s vanishing act. (Or death. Hard to tell which right now.)

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #4 – Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Writers; Roge Antonio, Artist; Allen Passalaqua, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Meh.

Ray: The Bensons attempt to pull a saving throw with their weakest character this issue, as we finally get the new Helena Bertinelli’s backstory (expanded from what we saw in Grayson, where she was a much stronger character). Helena’s backstory, including surviving the assassination of her family, is mostly intact from her classic version, but there are a few interesting twists, such as an Uncle who trained her from a young age in fighting, which leads to her eventual career as a vigilante. This completely doesn’t match up with the presence of the Bertinelli clan in Forever Evil, but like I said in the Deathstroke review, I’ve given up on trying to figure out continuity.

The flashback segments are strong, and Helena does come out of them a more interesting character, but the bigger problems are the team dynamic – Black Canary and Batgirl are too overly flip around Huntress and the dialogue is a bit too cutesy in places. It almost feels like a pair of camp counselors trying to recruit a reluctant kid into being a team player at points. Also, it’s five issues into this series, and we’re still mainly watching the Birds battle generic snake-themed villains. It seems like next issue is going to reveal who Oracle actually is, so I’m hoping for some interesting twists there. Right now, though, this story is just not doing anything we haven’t seen done before and better.

Corrina: I couldn’t help comparing this Huntress backstory to Huntress: Cry for Blood and Huntress: Year One and finding this version lacking in depth and emotion. I also have trouble synching up this Helena with the one that ran the school for assassins over in Grayson. I realize it’s a difficult integration, given it’s an unwieldy fit in the first place, but that hardly changes the fact that it doesn’t work. This Helena doens’t feel like her past self in this continuity, nevermind a lot of other past versions.

The clunky dialogue is also part of the problem. I’m a sucker for good dialogue, as its presence will overcome a lot of story flaws for me. (See my love for the DC: Legends of Tomorrow show.) Clunky dialogue in a good book is also tolerable. But clunky dialogue added to the book’s other problems is just one more reason I can’t recommend the series, as much as it kills me to say it, as I love these characters.

Additional Reviews:

Doom Patrol #3 – Gerard Way, Writer; Nick Derington, Artist; Tamar Bonvillain, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Ray: Casey Brinke’s role in the Doom Patrol becomes much clearer in the third issue of Gerard Way’s surreal superhero adventure. Last issue saw Casey pull back the curtain and be escorted into the realm of the surreal by Flex Mentallo, and this issue takes her into “Dannyland”, a bizarre theme park world made entirely out of Danny the Street. Meanwhile, Robot Man and Negative Man are off on their own adventure in the real world, battling a strange army of fractal robots from another dimension. Nick Derington’s art is great, and the battle segments have a genuinely surreal touch to them.

However, it’s the second part of the comic where it really comes alive, as Casey encounters a strange comic book that somehow features her as the lead, a space-faring heroine named Space Case (who was teased in the promotional material). The old-school comic book format of this segment provides an inventive artistic twist to the issue and leads to a bizarre climax where Casey finds her current life and her past life as a comic book hero colliding in some rather uncomfortable and physically impossible ways. This is probably the Young Animal book that’s the most challenging and confusing, but once you get into it, it’s one of the most original books DC is putting out.

Corrina: I may not be the audience for this book. I’ve always prized stories that reveal character and this story just doesn’t. It’s good at metaphor and philosophy and commentary on… ? Well, I’m not sure what but I’m sure the story will get to that point. But the story is also populated by characters who seem to exist solely to live in this literary metaphor,  rather than having much depth. Neil Gaiman in Sandman liked to throw odd concepts out too but those always seemed deeply rooted in the sadness and poignancy of Dream and, in some cases, Death. This story flat out leaves me cold, despite the fact that I can appreciate the artistry behind it.

The best way to describe this series  would be to compare this book to Young Animal’s Cave Carson debut. That book is dripping with loss and despair. This book is dripping with commentary and literary allusions instead.

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #3 – Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Becky Cloonan, Writers; Adam Archer, Penciller; Sandra Hope, Inker; Msassyk, Background Painting; Serge LaPointe, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Literal Witch Hats. Hah.

Ray: The mystery of Witch Club unfolds quickly, as Maps finds herself pulled into the mysterious cult-like group of students. Their villainous leader, Haxan, has organized a mass book burning on the front lawn of the Academy, and the rest of the detective club races to try to prevent the cult from growing out of control. I was a bit surprised to see Olive’s new roommate actually working with her friend and helping to save the day, but it seems like she has some sort of fixation on Olive and is likely going to do whatever she can to get closer to her.

The rest of the gang spends most of the issue chasing Maps around the school, and it soon turns out that the source of the mind control is in the witch hats. Mad Hatter, perhaps? The reveal of the identity of Haxan doesn’t have much impact, as the character’s barely been seen before, but she seems to have some sort of connection to another Gotham Academy faculty member. The main drama of the issue stems from Colton sacrificing himself to Headmaster Hammer to help his fellow students escape, and facing expulsion as a result. We know this won’t stick, and the issue is a bit lacking in drama compared to the excellent first two issues, but it’s still one of DC’s most unique series.

Leave Maps alone! image copyright DC Comics
Leave Maps alone! image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Usually, I’m a little confused by the ton of characters who populate each issue of this series but I finally have them down. I think. It’s ambitious to keep so many characters in focus in this series but that ambition is rewarded in this issue, as the whole team takes down of the witches. Colton had made little impression on me before but he does this issue, both with his unrequited crush on Kyle and his “screw it” decision to take the heat for his fellow students. (For those keeping track, Colton is the second male LGBTQ character to appear in DC this week.)

As for the ultimate villain, is Mad Hatter in here somewhere?

Earth 2: Society #18 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Bruno Redondo, Penciller; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Too Drawn Out

Ray: The latest reboot of Earth 2 continues to be the most interesting the title has been in a while, although the universe as a whole still feels sort of bare due to the number of characters who have died. A select few characters have found themselves in a mysterious sketched-out city formed by Fury’s opening of the casket, and the survivors are separated across the huge expanse. As they try to find each other and figure out their next move, a strange group of Sandman-inspired guards start pursuing them for a mysterious goal. This creates some excellent visuals, as a cloud of dangerous black-cloaked threats cover the sky across a dreamlike city. The mechanics of the world aren’t very clear, as Fury literally punches through dimensions at one point, but then we wind up in a new, retro-modern Metropolis that feels like it’s going to be an interesting setting for the title. I’m not sure how long this title has left, but it’s going out with some interesting stories.

Corrina: This issue is a bit of a churn in that we learn little that’s new and our heroes make only a tiny bit of headway with their stated goal of saving Earth-2. Yes, we now know that the world is being recreated somehow but we kinda knew that already, so this is just more more trip down in the forest of blank backgrounds. The sequences with the classic Sandman ghosts attacking our heroes, and the fine use of light and color to show the differences between the worlds, makes it nice to look at, at least.

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy #6 – Chynna Clugston-Flores, Writer; Kelly Matthews, Nichole Matthews, Pencillers; Jenna Ayoub, Inker; Whitney Cogar, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: Crossover frenzy has been in full swing for DC lately, and while this teen adventure team-up without a superhero in sight has been one of the lower-profile ones, it’s turned out to be an entertaining comic that does justice to both casts. What’s interesting is that the two tones – Lumberjanes is bright, cheerful, and most villains are usually misunderstood, while Gotham Academy is gothic, haunting, and usually involves real danger – the fusion works really well. There’s classic Gotham Academy creepiness in the form of the skeleton bodyguards and Olive’s Calamity powers, but the main threat of Louise’s endless Sweet 16 and the time loop is causes isn’t resolved in battle, but by the friendship of the two crews and their effort to give her the party she was never able to move past. Overall, maybe the cast of characters was a bit too big for anyone to really stand out, but the ensemble is top-notch and this is an unusual but satisfying crossover.

Scooby Apocalypse #7 – Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Writers; Howard Porter, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 3/10

Ray: This isn’t the worst of the Hanna-Barbera line – that would go to the senselessly grim Wacky Raceland – but the big problem with this book is the repetitive nature. The characters drive around, encounter some monsters, hole up somewhere, and blow things up. Velma and Daphne bicker, Fred gets injured and is generally useless, and Shaggy and Scooby talk about food. There’s virtually no character advancement, and the characters barely even feel like friends, let alone the close-knit family they were in the original cartoon. While a few of the action scenes were mildly exciting this issue, the repetition is getting really noticeable – and next issue’s setting of a torture hospital of some kind isn’t making me particularly excited.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purpose.

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