This week in DC, Supergirl gets a new series that seems designed to attract new readers, All-Star Batman finishes up its first arc, Deathstroke continues to feature twisted and compelling storylines, Hal Jordan returns to life (again!), Stephanie Brown is having a bit of a meltdown in Batman: Detective Comics, Steve Trevor fights alone in Wonder Woman and, oh, Harley Quinn and Superman get into the boxing ring with an unexpected result.
And if you see an homage to Superman vs. Muhammed Ali in Superman vs. Harley, that is entirely intentional.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ALL OF THIS WEEK’S DC COMICS
DC Premieres of the Week:
Supergirl: Being Super #1 – Mariko Tamaki, Writer; Joelle Jones, Penciller; Sandu Florea, Inker; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: I’m always a bit puzzled by how DC manages to do a new official origin and a new unofficial origin for prominent characters close together. It just happened recently with Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman: Year One and Renae De Liz’s Legend of Wonder Woman, and now Steve Orlando’s reinvention of the main universe’s Supergirl competes with this YA-oriented take on the character. Fortunately, while it doesn’t quite explode out of the gate the way LoWW did, Supergirl: Being Super gets off to a promising start.
It’s an odd comic, more like an early 2000s WB/CW take on the character, albeit with some modern twists. One thing that’s noticeable early is that this version doesn’t seem to resemble any other in the supporting cast. Superman doesn’t seem to exist in this version, at least not in any references. Kara is confused by the S crest on her ship and isn’t a superhero yet. The Danvers’, who adopted her in a manner similar to the Kents, are a farm couple – her dad is gruff and conspiracy-prone, but kind, and her mom is maybe a bit smothering, but they both seem to provide Kara with a loving home.
There’s some nice diversity in Kara’s supporting case, as of her two best friends, one is a brown-skinned lesbian (albeit I’m kind of surprised DC let one word in this book past editorial). Kara’s powers are mostly kept in the shadows this issue, only coming out in bursts that she’s not entirely comfortable with. The creative team seems to be treating the full emergence of her powers as an analogy for alien puberty, and while the analogy works, it’s also the one weak link of the series – a segment involving Kara getting an alien zit descends into some weird gross-out material that I could actually see turning quite a few people off this book immediately. It sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise charming title. There’s no villains to be seen this issue, with the main threat being a mysterious earthquake at a track meet that endangers Kara’s friends and forces her to potentially reveal her powers. It feels like a slightly odd beginning to Kara’s start of heroism. This feels very different than any other Supergirl story on the stand. It doesn’t always work out, but, on the balance, it’s a very intriguing start.
Corrina: For tweens/young readers who want to read about Supergirl in high school, this may be the series for them. That’s where the lack of continuity is an advantage: everything you need to know about Supergirl is in this book. As someone who reads a lot of comics, the multiple versions of Supergirls is confusing but I suspect a new reader wouldn’t have the same problem, save that they might expect the Supergirl from the television show and this isn’t that.
In many ways, this is a comic version of Smallville, centered around Kara’s friends, her school, and the track team. She’s not a loner–giving her two close friends was a smart idea–but she does feel like an outsider, which is something every high school student likely feels at one point or another. I like the coming sense of menace, the possible mystery surrounding Jeremiah Danvers’ conspiracy theories, and I will never look at a zit the same way again. (I’m not sure it sticks out at all, though, as Ray does because zits are already pretty gross.) Bonus points to the issue for not introducing a romantic subplot. We need to find out who Kara is before we care about who she might love.
If you want to introduce your tween to Supergirl, this is likely the book for you, especially for the art with it’s clear, crisp lines and realistic proportions for teenage girls.
DC Rebirth Reviews:
Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #2 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Tony Daniel, Penciller; Sandu Florea, Inker; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Part 2 of a Big Crossover
Ray: The second week of this fast-forward event promises lots of action, and it doesn’t disappoint. When we last left off, the Justice League and the Suicide Squad were pitted against each other by Amanda Waller, with the Squad being all too willing to take part in the battle. Meanwhile, Max Lord was revealed as the mastermind gathering a group of villains from outside the New 52 DCU – including OG Lobo, Johnny Sorrow of the JSA, and Emerald Empress of the Legion. The issue begins with Lord recruiting these villains for a strike on Amanda Waller. His long game isn’t quite clear yet, but it doesn’t seem right off the bat that he’s going to be 100% evil. Amanda Waller is giving him some pretty big competition in this category, and this is arguably her most ruthless appearance in the New 52. I’m not sure I like that, and it’s probably the event’s biggest weak point. The meat of the issue, clearly, is the League and the Squad facing off, and the Squad figures out that the best way to compete against the League is to split them up, and that leads to some really interesting one-on-ones that get to show off the individual personalities of the characters.
Some of them don’t get all that much to do, like El Diablo mainly spends his fight with the Green Lanterns complaining that they send the second string GLs after him. Enchantress makes short work of Superman due to his weakness to magic, and Cyborg tries to appeal to Killer Frost’s humanity – and fails, but we know this is a temporary situation. On the other hand, Batman and Deadshot have a very tense battle both in action and words, while Aquaman and Killer Croc do battle in a fight that’s much more about predator and prey than hero vs. villain. Flash and Captain Boomerang seem like old friends reuniting, while Wonder Woman and Harley engage in a hilarious game of cat and mouse – with more explosions. It’s Killer Frost that turns the tide of battle, though, when she realizes she can absorb Superman’s energy – and leads to the JL waking up in Waller’s base, in specially designed cells, and being told they’ve been drafted into the Suicide Squad. This is a fast-paced issue that sets up a lot of good stuff for the next four issues.
Corrina: I said when reviewing the first issue that anything less than a quick JL victory would cause an eyeroll here. And, yep, I rolled my eyes because this battle took an issue when it should have taken a page and it gives the Suicide Squad a victory, even. I know, I know. It’s part 2 of a crossover and, eventually, the League will win out and that last page is probably meant to get you to buy part 3 and it’s a good cliffhanger for that. But still…c’mon.
Take, for example, the Wonder Woman/Harley Quinn fight. It was amusing to read, especially the banter, and Harley’s crush on Wonder Woman, but it should have taken one panel for Diana to grab Harley. Maybe it’s because I’m not that interested in any member of this Suicide Squad or the one that Max Lord has brought together?
But, hey, if you like this SS, the battles are well-drawn, and it’s a likable enough issue.
Harley’s Little Black Book #5 – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers; Neal Adams, Artist; Paul Mounts, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: This pastiche of the classic Superman vs. Muhammad Ali story manages to work both as a good Harley Quinn story and a good Superman story, which is always the mark of a great team-up book. Harley and her friends are enjoying a day at the beach when a particularly rude and spiteful alien tyrant crashes the party. As Harley bickers with him, Superman notices an alien fleet parked overhead and investigates. The alien orders one of Earth’s champions to face one of his champions in battle for the fate of Earth – but after Superman takes out some alien ships, he and Harley can’t agree on who should fight for Earth. This leads the alien to declare a no-powers fight in space between the two of them as the preliminary bout.
After an ill-advised attempt at training, Superman and Harley square off in the ring – and it’s kind of a curb-stomp for Harley, but this is by design because Superman has plans of his own to neutralize the threat and stop the aliens threatening Earth. The final act has a giant monster being kicked in the nuts by Harley, Superman battling aliens, and everyone realizing that they really shouldn’t be listening to an evil alien tyrant who seems mainly to organize bloodsports and threaten to blow up planets. Once again, I think this book is much better at capturing the spirit of Harley Quinn in its strange team-ups than the main book usually is. Much like the previous four issues, a must-read for Harley fans.
Corrina: And let’s not forget the Neal Adams art, which fits nicely into Harley’s bizarre world. Though I’ve enjoyed numerous artists on the various Harley titles, there’s something that clicks here between the writing and art and that’s not just because Adams is doing an homage to himself (as the artist in the classic Superman vs. Muhammad Ali story.)
The story is trippy but Harley works best as trippy, and she still gets all the best lines, and I love the twist involved about the big boxing match, as Superman goes back to what he does and Harley goes back to, well, what she does. In a way, Harley is the DC equivalent of the Incredible Squirrel Girl, that one weirdo who always seems to have an answer for everything. (Or Squirrel Girl is a less homicidal version of Harley…:)
All-Star Batman #5 – Scott Snyder, Writer; John Romita Jr., Penciller; Danny Miki, Tom Palmer, Sandra Hope, Richard Friend, Inkers; Dean White, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Still Too Over-The-Top
Ray: The conclusion to Scott Snyder’s first arc on All-Star Batman is a high-intensity battle that raises as many questions as it answers and potentially throws a huge element of Batman’s life into chaos. The issue opens with Batman, Duke, and Two-Face escaping from a burning riverboat containing an army of criminals and heading right towards a giant waterfall. Those first eight pages are the most action-packed of the issue, and then the story gets surprisingly melancholy as it heads towards its conclusion. Batman, Duke, and Harvey head to the old boy’s home where Bruce and Harvey were held for a few months as kids, and that’s where Harvey has stashed the mysterious cure that will supposedly tear him and Two-Face apart for good.
Meanwhile, the GCPD is on the verge of breaking into the Batcave due to the information that Two-Face has leaked to compel Bruce’s cooperation. Jim’s role in all of this isn’t clear at first, but by the end of the issue it becomes clear that he’s very much still on Batman’s side. After all, he was Batman a few months back. He doesn’t really want to see Batman slapped in cuffs. While this segment is strong, it also leads to a confession from Alfred about his role in the whole ambush that threatens to drive a rift between Bruce and Alfred – which I very much do not want to see. The fallout between them over the reveal isn’t seen this issue. The resolution of the cure, and the long-game Bruce plays with Harvey, is slightly hard to follow and fits in with the general strange, slightly surreal vibe of the arc. It’s a good Two-Face story, for sure, but the entire plot feels a bit jumbled at times. I do love how well it set up Duke for a much bigger role in Batman’s circle, though.
Corrina: These first five issues were basically a chance to throw Batman’s entire line-up of villains at him during a cross-country chase. If you like that constant battle and escape, you probably had a blast reading these, and some of the segments, like in the sewers, were masterpieces of action. But the plot on which the action rests is still paper-thin, and the resolution of the secret “formula” to cure Harvey should have added poignancy but instead seemed to turn the story into yet another standard villain-take-city-hostage plot.
Overall, I found the characterization of everyone decent enough, with Duke Thomas a stand-out, the choice of villain, Two-Face, excellent (especially as it gave me a break from the Joker), the artwork stellar and, bonus, the KGBeast’s return worked great. But the plot of Batman on the run and constantly injured and nearly broken, issue after issue, was repetitive and ridiculous to me, in turns. I guess there’s a point where I lose my suspension of disbelief about the punishment that Batman can take and this series went over that. (To be fair, that’s also been a problem for me in the last few issues of Batman, too.) It’s a decent series so far but by no means close to Snyder’s best work.
Batman: Detective Comics #947 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Alvaro Martinez, Penciller; Raul Fernandez, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Grief and Stephanie Brown
Ray: In an arc that set up multiple new villains for Batman, it’s ultimately none of them that poses the biggest threat. It’s actually Stephanie Brown who threatens everything that Bruce Wayne has built and cuts to the core of every flaw in his operation. She’s clearly unstable due to Tim’s “death” (More on that later) and driven by grief, but it’s impossible to say she doesn’t make a few decent points. The Victim Syndicate is mostly neutralized from last issue, and while the other members don’t get much to do, the First Victim is still on hand to try to inflame the situation as much as they can. Stephanie doesn’t need much help, though – she came prepared with all of Batman’s tools to take out his own team. Although she reserves gentler measures for Cass, she handles most of her teammates with ease.
Then it’s just Stephanie and Batman, and rather than try to fight him, she instead cuts him with words and threatens to expose him and his organization to the world at large. It later turns out that she’s bluffing, but even if this is essentially her “heel turn”, it’s very clear that while she’s got her father’s skill at trickery, she’s definitely not a villain. She’s setting herself up as a check on Batman in Gotham, the principles of the Victim Syndicate without their murderous instincts. The Syndicate winds up in Arkham, where Clayface gets a great scene as he tries to show compassion to the woman whose life he ruined. If I have one issue with this arc, it’s that the First Victim essentially turns out to be a prop, never being revealed or explained (although it’s implied there’s something horrible under the mask). As for Tim, he manages to pull off a daring escape from Mr. Oz’s prison, trying to put out a call for help – only for Oz to teleport him back into his cell without a word. There’s a lot to still be revealed here, and this continues to be one of DC’s best books.
Corrina: One the good side, Stephanie shows how formidable she can be when she’s focused and intent. Steph has always operated best with a cause and we see that in this story, albeit one that’s at odds (or she believes is at odds) with Batman’s mission.
In many ways, Steph’s anger at Batman echoes my own concerns with this storyline, in that I’m frustrated that people view Batman as the problem in Gotham City, rather than part of the solution. In the real world, the idea of Batman would be ridiculous. In the world of the DC Universe, especially in Gotham, we already had the Court of Owls running things secretly behind the scenes, as well as vast corruption in the police department and the business world. A guy in a cape busting heads trying to help makes perfect sense in this world. In some ways, Steph even knows she’s being irrational, but she’s hurting so bad that she doesn’t care and rejects Batman’s attempt to console her.
The good part is that Batman realizes this is Stephanie working through her grief, not some sign of future and horrible corruption. Now, he wants to prove to Stephanie (and perhaps to Tim?) that he can make Batman into a force for good. I hope we see those Batman Damage Control and Batman Paramedic Corps grow in future issues. On a last story note, I, too, am a little disappointed that the First Victim’s identity wasn’t revealed. Perhaps the creative team though she worked best as a symbol. But if you’re talking about Gotham’s first victims, apparently, you’d have to go back several generations.
The Flash #13 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Neil Googe, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: An Excellent Wally West
Ray: Williamson has already done a lot of great work turning the new Wally West – an awful stereotype of a character in the previous run – into a likable and compelling teen hero in his run, but this issue should put to rest any lingering doubts. A done-in-one breather issue in between major arcs, this story finds Wally patrolling the city solo on Christmas Eve, determined to keep things at peace while Flash is busy – because Barry Allen is taking Iris West on their third or fourth first date. It’s a classic set-up for an issue that gives as much attention to the characters’ inner thoughts as it does to action. Wally does face a villain in the form of Tar Pit, but this Clayface-style monster was never much of a threat, and in the classic Christmas special style, isn’t actually the bad guy here.
Meanwhile, Barry and Iris’ date is awkward in the best way, as the two stumble over themselves and try to fight against their workaholic nature to make the night work. It’s not exactly smoot, but, by the end of the issue, you can see exactly why they keep being drawn back to each other. Wally’s frantic attempts to keep things running smoothly so no one will be pulled out of their date are a clever subversion of the old trope of the hero whose date gets interrupted by villains. And in case you thought this story was a bit too sedate…the epilogue has Captain Cold showing up, ready to raise some new hell in Central City. This title has barely slowed down since it started – pun intended – so this issue works really well. DC has really been killing it with the holiday specials this year.
Corrina: When the issue focuses on Wally West standing in for Barry and helping everyone in Central City, it’s terrific. This Wally is earnest and fair, and, what’s more, he seems to listen to people. It’s the “date” between Barry and Iris that fell flat for me. Perhaps it was meant to read awkward. If so, mission accomplished. But it reads more like Barry and Iris reciting their history for the reader rather than two people attempting to talk to each other. I’m not sure I saw the connection Ray did between Barry and Iris but they both are passionate about their work, so there’s that. It would have been more interesting for me to hear them debate physical evidence versus investigating with human sources, or maybe their favorite records albums, or…well, something more than about why they’ve never gotten together before.
Superman: Action Comics #970 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Patrick Zircher, Artist; Ulises Arreola, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: A Weird Detour
Ray: The second major arc of this series suffers from many of the same problems as the first – namely, it has weak villains and goes on way too long. After last issue flashed back to cover the origins of L’Call and Zade, this issue finally picks up with Luthor on their planet, facing trial, as Superman flies to the rescue. Naturally, Superman is kind of iffy about all this, given that Luthor’s intentions are suspect in any dimension. However, the bigger problem with this story is that L’Call and Zade are kind of bad at their jobs. They claim to have all-knowing proof that Luthor is going to become a tyrant and take over for Darkseid, but they don’t seem very interested in sharing it. They’d rather pick a fight.
While the story on the alien planet is fairly bland, punctuated by more flashbacks to L’Call’s tragic history – Darkseid paid a visit to his home planet and harvested strong males to join his army, killing L’Call’s family in the process to make an example of him for resisting – it does seem to be moving forward. Eventually, Superman starts to get some doubts about Luthor’s innocence, but we know he’s not going to leave Luthor there. I thought the segments back on Earth were far more effective, as we get a good glimpse of Lois’ struggle to step into her counterpart’s life, and Jon gets the chance to act like a genuine kid in one fun scene. I think Jurgens is far better at writing ensembles and character-driven scenes than he is at villains, so I hope he gets the chance to write more laid-back, done-in-one issues in the future.
Corrina: Like the first of the tales with this new Superman, which featured a lot of punching of Doomsday and slooow plot development, this arc introduces yet another new alien race that’s been wiped out. (Man, there are a lot of planet-killers in the DC Universe.) Bringing in Darkseid as that villain ties in Lex’s role, though how that connects with what Lena Luthor is doing with her minions in Metropolis right now, I don’t know. (Maybe it doesn’t? But it feels like it should…)
In any case, focusing on the backstory of the aliens serves only to drag out the story, and we know Superman won’t turn over Lex to them. Mostly, I’m impatient for everyone to get back to Earth and solve the myriad mysteries that have been teased all along.
Teen Titans #3 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Khoi Pham, Penciller; Wade Von Grawbadger, Inker; Jim Charalampidis, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Damian Wayne’s Story So Far
Ray: It feels like this title is still trying to find its footing a bit, setting up a new status quo for the Titans while establishing characterization for several members of the team. However, it’s got quite a few very strong characters at its core, which is where this series is at its best. The story begins with a flashback to Damian’s youth, when he and Mara, the leader of the Demon’s Fist, duel with swords as children. Mara is determined to prove herself against Ra’s favored grandchild, but Damian shows his cousin no mercy and scars her. That goes a long way towards explaining exactly why she seems to hate him so much, but she’s still really the only member of the new rogues’ gallery who makes much of an impact.
The bulk of the issue is spent with the Teen Titans on the run, camping out in the woods and trying to survive – as well as to gel as a team. It seems like the campout issue has become a rite of passage for teen super-teams, as there was a recent issue in Champions with the same scene, and, of course, there’s that classic issue of Young Justice. Damian and Wally really steal the show here, as the two start to bond a bit, but Raven and Beast Boy mainly seem to rehash their pasts. Starfire still sticks out like a sore thumb in this title, though – she doesn’t gel with the rest of the team at all. It’s Goliath who really steals the show, though, as he does in most stories he appears in. Damian’s decision at the end of the issue shows how far he’s come as a hero, and even if the main plot of the first arc isn’t totally clicking with me, as long as the character work is solid this title is far better off than it has been in a while.
Corrina: Ray, that going camping as a team thing also dates back to the classic New Teen Titans. I think even the Justice League of Detroit did that too. So it’s a time-honored superhero tradition!
It’s the pacing that is off to me. The first issue basically was setup leading to a fight. This third issue reads like more setup and background of the villains and I’m not sure I needed all that. I understand that the focus on Damian is probably because he’s the best known and most popular character but, bringing in Ra’s as a villain makes this read like a Batman book than a Titans book. Damian is always going to be arrogant but he deserves to have grown a bit more beyond the “boy who wants to make good on evil up-bringing.” As the Titans themselves point out, they could all claim that as motivation. I love the whole “uh, sorry, it’s my parent that’s the embodiment of evil, Damian” vibe from the conversation around the campsite. After all, Damian does have Bruce (Batman) Wayne as his father to counterbalance the evil.
I also liked the glimpses of humor among the cast. They’re an interesting group. But I’m still waiting for a great story to be told with them.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #11 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Rafa Sandoval, Penciller; Jordi Tarragona, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Go John Stewart!
Ray: Another fast-paced, exciting issue that continues to introduce an all-star cast of villains to menace the Lanterns. Last issue revealed that the mastermind behind Brainiac’s capture of the Lanterns was none other than Larfleeze, obsessed as always with capturing anything shiny and unique in his collection. The opening to this story reveals that how – as Larfleeze was searching through space junk for anything interesting, he came across a Brainiac drone damaged in one of many battles with Superman. Once it reactivated, Larfleeze found that they both had a mutual interest in capturing shiny things, and a beautiful non-friendship was forged. Where the issue excels is everything that takes place in the bottled city, and I love the vague contempt the Lanterns view this particular enemy with.
The clever gambit John and Soranik pull to trick Larfleeze is what more heroes should do – understanding their villain’s psychology and play to it. Larfleeze plays right into their hands and lets them free to keep them from “damaging his unique specimens” and the fight is on. I thought the Hal Jordan segment was the weaker one this issue, something I bet Corrina agrees with. His return to the series last issue was great, but once he’s back, after a brief reunion with Kyle, Ganthet, and Sayd, he spends most of the issue chasing after the once-again missing GLC – something he’s been doing for well over a year. Essentially, it’s pretty clear now that the weak link of the series is its title character. When he’s out of focus, it’s the most exciting this franchise has been in a long time.
Corrina: I always tend to find Hal’s segments the weakest but readers of these reviews expect that. So, Hal’s fine or, as fine as he always is in these stories. He seemed to fly off far too fast, though. Didn’t he want to hear what the heck was going on? Guess not. Or guess the plot required Hal to wait to find out.
John’s leadership, however, in helping the Green Lantern Corps and the Yellow Lanterns under Soranik escape their trap, is perfect and far more in line with what I want from a GL story. The issue for me is the villain. LarFleeze is one-note for me (not sure why he’s so popular) but that one-note works here as it becomes his fatal flaw. So, what’s next? The GLC is put back together? (Please, no more Sinestro…..)
Wonder Woman #13 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Renato Guedes, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr.; Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Steve Trevor Spotlight
Ray: Following up on last issue’s cliffhanger that revealed to Diana that the Themysrica she knew was never Themysrica at all – and in fact, she’s never been back to Themysrica since she left – this is a done-in-one issue focusing on Steve Trevor. Steve is the focus because Diana is really not in any shape to be the lead this issue, being essentially catatonic and wounded from a mysterious bracelet that cut her. She spends most of the issue essentially muttering to herself about the things she’s trying to understand, and Steve tries to get through to her without any real success. This would be enough of a problem – if it wasn’t for the fact that Veronica Cale has sent a brutal team of mercenaries to capture them while Diana is weakened.
The story is decent enough, although Renato Guedes’ art is nowhere near the level of Sharpe, Scott, or Evely on the previous issues. The bigger problem is that Steve Trevor, for all of Rucka’s work on the character – and he’s far more interesting than he ever was in Justice League – is really not ready to carry the title on his own yet, and it shows. He spends most of the issue running for his life and talking about how much Diana means to him, and, as a result, the issue feels like it lacks the depth of previous issues. Where it is strong is in the tense action sequences. You can see Rucka is falling back on the spy/military comics he writes for this one. The issue ends with Diana in a mental asylum, certainly an odd place to start the next arc. This is sort of a bizarre interlude, but it certainly leaves a ton of unanswered questions to mine in a month.
Corrina: I enjoyed the focus on Steve because it brings in the other elements involved in the story and thus gives readers a nice overview. Diana would have needed an explanation for why her friends are her enemies. Steve doesn’t and acts accordingly, so the reader can see the full scope of this conspiracy (if not the one caused by the problem of her missing heritage.). It’s a good change of pace to see Diana from the outside and, hey, at some point she was going to need help to solve a problem.
I agree the art is not quite on Sharp or Scott’s level but it works for this focused story. This still remains one of my favorite Rebirth titles.
Titans #6 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brett Booth, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Another Wally West Story
Ray: Seven issues into this series, it’s become clear that it’s a pretty good Wally West comic but not exactly a great Titans comic. Fortunately, this issue is a Wally West spotlight – but the bigger issue is that this is a Titans comic, and they can’t rely on Wally West to carry it forever. Sooner or later we’ll have to see the other Titans take the lead, but for now, the conclusion of Wally’s arc is solid. When we last left off, Wally had managed to save all his teammates and Linda Park, but seemingly at the cost of his own life, as he disappeared into the Speed Force. As Kadabra taunts the rest of the team that Wally is gone for good and they fight him (without much effect) Wally finds himself in a dreamscape where his old house and the Linda Park from the old universe are waiting for him.
I’m kind of amused that Wally’s perfect heaven doesn’t include Irey and Jai, but I think that sums up how most people feel about Wally’s status quo as well. Jon and Damian they are not. The thrust of this issue is that Wally has to let go of his old world – much like Superman did in the recent annual – in order to fully embrace and return to this one. That allows him to slide into reality and punch Kadabra square in the face. Really, I’m just glad Kadabra’s story is done by now, as he was kind of an annoying villain. Still, anything between Wally and Linda is strong – in both worlds. The whole “I was in love with your otherdimensional counterpart” story could have been really creepy, but it’s rather endearing here. As long as this book is character-driven, it’s at its best, and I’m hoping it gets to give the same treatment to the other Titans soon.
Corrina: It does seem like we’ve spent the first six issues of the series with Wally trying to convince everyone, even himself, that he belongs in this world. The other Titans have been supporting characters with little chance for the small moments and connections between them that made this team so endearing years ago–mostly because the issues have been so crowded with their fake magical counterparts and action sequences that didn’t allow the characters to breathe.
This issue focuses again on Wally and worked better than any since issue #1 of the series because of that. I’m guessing the conversation with Speed Force Figment (say that five times fast) Linda is basically to reset Wally’s obsession with Linda so he can dial it back and behave like a man after a date instead of a man convinced a woman he’s never met is his soulmate. (Not Wally’s fault but still, Linda finding it creepy made sense.) I hope the promise of New York next issue means we’ll see more of the Titans bonding with each other. Maybe they’ll go camping. 🙂
Deathstroke #9 – Priest, Writer; Cary Nord, Artist; Jeromy Cox, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Pay Attention ‘Lest You Miss Something!
Ray: The twistiest, most mindbending book in DC Rebirth continues to travel down the rabbit hole as its hard-boiled story of family, crime, and revenge unfolds over multiple timelines and locations. The story opens with the return of one of Priest’s most obscure original characters, Dr. Arthur Villain (pronounced will-hane, as he will often remind you). Originally a wild-card corporate rogue in his Steel run, he is now Slade’s personal physician and just as imperious as ever. From there, it’s on to a trippy action segment where Jericho takes on a knife-wielding bum while hopping from body to body. Slade, meanwhile, is in a top-secret supermax facility after being captured after his fight with Superman, and is wasting no time getting the psychological upper hand on his captors.
Rose, meanwhile, is off in Vietnam, testing her skills against an army of local criminals before being pulled out of the fire by a mysterious older woman who may just be her relative. And just as we think we’ve gotten the handle of this issue, we flash back decades to Slade’s top-secret mission to capture a war criminal from the wars stemming out of the collapse of Yugoslavia. Just like that, the issue slips into a completely different tone as it becomes a military conspiracy thriller, with Slade and his cohorts pulling off multiple gambits to get their quarry out of the place alive when the relatives of the people he murdered try to get their hands on him for revenge. This issue doesn’t slow down for a second, and it continues to establish itself as one of the best books Rebirth has to offer.
Corrina: I often complain about pacing in stories–either too much is thrown in or there’s not enough. Priest always has a master plot going on behind-the-scenes in each story and each issue peels back yet another layer, until this issue, where I basically needed a scorecard for the cast, along with being able to write their motivations down underneath their photos. But, see, it’s the kind of pacing and storytelling I love, the kind that challenges my intelligence instead of confusing or talking down to me.
One must always pay attention to everyone in an issue of this series. Everyone. Because no one is as they seem. Keeps me on my reader toes. Plus, there are also some amazing visuals, like Slade charging into the fray on a horse. (So long as the horse makes it, anyway….)
Batgirl #6 – Hope Larson, Writer; Rafael Albuquerque, Artist; Dave McGaig, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: After five issues of Batgirl traveling the world and fighting everyone in sight, this issue is essentially a bottle episode that puts her on a plane back to Burnside, fretting about an application she’s put in for a mystery new job and looking forward to returning to her friends. Of course, this being a DC comic, that bottle episode is not any less exciting than the others thanks to the presence of Poison Ivy. Ivy’s not actually the villain this episode but she’s still a threat to everyone on board – courtesy of a prehistoric plant she’s trying to transport back to Gotham. First, it lets off a horrible smell of rotting flesh through the plane, and then its vines start expanding into the ducts and destroying the plane’s machinery, causing massive damage that threatens to send the plane crashing down.
Batgirl is ready to destroy the plant, of course, but it’s the last of its kind and Ivy tends to value plant life more than human life under most circumstances already. So their “teamwork” becomes particularly tense as they’re racing through the plane to try to calm the plant down before it sends them down in a fireball. It’s a fast read, kind of a thin read at times, but it has the feel of a fun action movie, and Batgirl and Ivy’s team-up is a lot of fun. I’ve missed their dynamic since the early New 52 Birds of Prey days. They get to the ground safely, Barbara is reunited with Frankie and gets her mystery new job, while another passenger – Ethan Cobblepot – gets off the plane as well with other plans. I’ve got to say, I’m glad to see this book back in Burnside – I don’t think Batgirl’s world was ever stronger than in the previous run.
Corrina: I’ve said before that Larson’s storytelling struck me as old-fashioned, in a good way, and, by that, I mean that her stories are told in a way that has somehow grown out of style but never should have. Like this team-up on a plane. So many writers would use it as an excuse to fight. Larson uses it as an excuse for a reluctant team-up with characters with two different motivations and even tosses in humor along with the danger. Or maybe it’s the sense of fun in the storytelling, even though the story concerns a plane that may crash at any minute, that makes me call it old-fashioned. Whatever the case, I wish more writers would do this.
Batman Beyond #3 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Bernard Chang, Artist; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Bruce Wayne? Oh-Kay
Ray: With Terry deep undercover and Dana captured by the Jokerz, this is the tensest issue of the series yet, with a dramatic reveal at the end that will hopefully set the series back to a better status quo. As Max and Matt work behind the scenes to deliver a mysterious new costume they found in the Batcave to Terry so he’ll have some support inside the hideout, Terry works overtime to try to ingratiate himself to the villainous Terminal, while also trying to keep Dana safe from the villains. Dana narrates the issue, having picked up Terry’s voice early on, and this does some vital work in making her a more interesting character. However, too much of the issue seems to go in circles, with the Jokerz threatening Terry and him trying to talk his way out of it in character.
The issue picks up in the second half, with Terry having to think fast to protect Dana after her escape attempt fails, and Max and Matt being detected as they try to break into the Jokerz’ headquarters. However, Terminal quickly clues in to Terry’s ruse, and Terry and Dana are captured to face a death by acid slingshot (it makes sense in context). The issue ends with Terminal monologuing to himself as he addresses what people think is the dead body of Joker that he’s trying to resurrect – but is actually the unconscious body of Bruce Wayne, kept in stasis and painted like the Joker as a sick joke. I’m not really sure what the explanation is here, but I will be glad to have Bruce back. The more this series starts feeling like the original, the better.
Corrina: This should be a tense couple of issues, as Terry works out how to rescue his friend/lady love and be Batman again. Except I’m not at all worried for Terry, Matt, Dana or even unconscious Bruce Wayne. I should be–these Jokerz are fairly brutal, as is this post-apocalyptic Gotham, but instead it feels like one more step that the series has to take to get us back to Batman Beyond as normal. Maybe once that happens, I’ll be more invested in the stories.
Blue Beetle #4 – Keith Giffen, Writer; Scott Kolins, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: This issue pulls back the cover on what came before the first issue, as we learn how Ted Kord, Jaime Reyes, and even Dan Garrett all factor into the story of the Blue Beetle in this universe. The opening segment features Doctor Fate causing a mysterious man to get into a car crash, plunge into the water, and die – because Fate explicitly refuses to save him. This man, a drunk who seems to be in a very bad place, looks a lot like the Dan Garrett who appears later in the book, but I’m not sure because of the art if it is the same person. In the present day, Paco and Brenda argue a lot while Brenda introduces Jaime to her friend Naomi, who has a crush on him. Whoever Naomi is, she and Jaime seem to hit it off quickly.
Jaime has other concerns, though – namely getting the Scarab off his back. At Ted Kord’s lab, he learns from Teri that she has a niece who goes to his school and has been keeping tabs on Jaime. He reveals to her the story of how he got bonded to the Scarab, which is a bit different from how it played out originally. Here it was actually Brenda who got to the Scarab first, but it bonded with her in a dangerous way, which led Jaime to try to get it off, creating the bond between them. In another flashback, we also learn how Ted Kord became the Blue Beetle via a chance encounter with his neighbor Dan Garrett and the Scarab. This book definitely seems to have a lot of respect for the whole Blue Beetle mythology, even as reveals towards the end of the issue indicate that things may not be looking rosy for Jaime.
Corrina: I talked about pacing and needing a scorecard for Priest’s Deathstroke series and how I like being challenged as a reader. In some ways, that’s what this series wants to be–a slowly unfolding story of how Jaime deals with being basically possessed by a supernatural or alien thing. Unfortunately, instead, it reads more like a narrative mess, with Ted Kord a one-note blabbermouth with little other characterization, and hints at the supernatural that are confusing rather than intriguing. I’m all for a Blue Beetle book that has Kord in it but the focus on him has diluted and bogged down Jaime’s story and that’s a problem.
The Hellblazer #5 – Simon Oliver, Writer; Pia Guerra, Artist; Carrie Strachan, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: Simon Oliver’s take on John Constantine becomes a lot clearer in this done-in-one issue drawn by Y: The Last Man artist Pia Guerra. The story opens with Clarice and the leader of the Djinns talking about his plans. He believes she’s been in league with Constantine and nearly tortures her to death by draining her energy. Meanwhile, while Swamp Thing recovers from his close call in the Rot last issue, Constantine takes Mercury on a road trip to continue their search for Abigail Arcane. I’m not sure if this is the end of Swamp Thing’s participation in this comic, but I hope not – he’s added a nice dose of mystical surrealism to the pretty grim book.
Although the segments with Swamp Thing are excellent, I felt like the issue really takes off once Constantine and Mercury are sharing a car (Chaz is along too, but Constantine plans to cut him loose and return him to his wife soon). This is a Constantine who seems to have some genuine affection for Mercury, and it shows in his attempts to make her warm up to him – albeit awkwardly. We know Constantine and friendship usually ends with tragedy for the friend, but it’s still effective. The visit to the asylum where Constantine spent some very uncomfortable months in the past – now a much more healthy institution, where Mercury’s mother is being held – is easily the most dramatic part of the issue. As this book heads into its second arc, it’s not quite the electric run of the Tynion/Doyle book, but it’s coming into its own.
Dark Knight III: The Master Race #7 – Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Writers; Andy Kubert, Frank Miller, Pencillers; Klaus Janson, Inker; Brad Anderson, Alex Sinclair, Colorists
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: Amazons, Yay! But Lara Needs a Personality
Ray: This series is getting closer to its conclusion as a new issue finally hits, and it’s starting to feel a bit like it’s moving in circles. Bruce Wayne has been dead and not dead over the course of the series so many times that it’s lost any impact this time, and sure enough, the mortally injured Bruce isn’t allowed to expire – Superman takes him to a Lazarus Pit and restores him to a young man, albeit causing him to be gripped by madness in the process. It seems like the friendship between Bruce and Clark may have been finally restored in this trial by fire. Meanwhile, Carrie and the Police Commissioner discuss the aftermath of the Kryptonian invasion, complete with a gratuitous Donald Trump cameo.
Where the issue completely loses me, though, is in the subplot involving Lara, who seems to be turning this issue from anti-hero to full-on villain as she reunites with the defeated Kryptonian army and they hatch a plot to kidnap the infant son of Superman and Wonder Woman. Lara’s been by far the weakest cast member of this series, and her motivations remain unclear and poorly thought out. The art looks great at points, but the issue is sort of slow and seems to have resolved its main conflict with two issues to go. The mini-comic, featuring Hawkman and Hawkwoman, plus a mysterious handless man who turns out to be Hal Jordan, has a few scenes, but like all of these mini-comics it feels more like a story fragment than anything.
Corrina: I’ve mostly enjoyed this series–even though I expected to hate it–and seeing the bond between Bruce and Clark did make me feel a little verklempt and happy. I also loved seeing the ordinary people defeat the invading Kryptonians, though Commissioner Yindel is a poor substitute for Jim Gordon. The big problem, as Ray says, is Lara, who has no motivation to do what she does, other than she’s basically wrong and evil, and while the idea of seeing Amazons and Kryptonians battle has potential, any storyline containing Lara is dragged down by her cardboard characterization.
Mother Panic #2 – Jody Houser, Writer; Tommy Lee Edwards, Artist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: So, I Guess That’s Worse Than “My Parents Are Dead.”
Ray: The most conventional Young Animal title is quickly becoming its weakest, an edgy take on Gotham City vigilantes that seems determined to drive home just how disturbed someone would have to be to take on this line of work. The problem is that it seems to try to get that across by making Violet Paige a caricature whose tale of woe seems almost cartoonishly tragic and disturbing, and has left her an unpredictable mess. Flashbacks reveal that her father died at her own hands, after Violet found out that he had been pimping out his wife/her mother for a while to his business associates, and he was planning to pimp her out as well to a sick man with tastes for younger types.
In the present day, Violet is a violent, unpredictable vigilante whose methods for crimefighting verge on the sadistic and nonsensical. She’ll track down a vicious criminal, beat him within an inch of his life, destroy his car, and then leave him behind. She’ll have sex with a random guy she meets, cut herself, and then paint a message in her own blood to scare him off. It’s almost like she’s a Gotham City goth OC created for an edgy fanfiction. There are a few nice touches, like a gala for Gotham victims of supervillains – complete with super-morbid cosplay – but at its center, the core character just doesn’t work. The art is great, and I am intrigued by Violet’s mother and her story, but overall this is the one of the Young Animal line that really hasn’t clicked yet. The backup, focusing on murders in Gotham that lead a young reporter to be paired with a hardcore conspiracy theorist to investigate it, has promise, but with only three pages it leaves more questions than it answers.
Corrina; I never expected traditional storytelling from a Young Animal series and even though this one is set in Gotham, I expected it to be off-kilter. That’s not the issue. The issue is that Mother Panic/Violet has no consistent personality. I know, she’s supposed to be slightly insane, like her mother, but people who are suffering from psychiatric disorders are still people and still have a base personality. Is Violet a planner with a revenge agenda? Or does she just want to smash things? The fact that she used to be a cutter is dropped in randomly, on top of all the other issues. (Did we need that? I think it’s pretty clear that anyone who wants to put on a costume and hit bad guys in Gotham has a masochistic streak.) Nor does it explain where the random sex fits in. I can’t tell if she did that as part of a plan to make everyone believe she’s crazy so no one will suspect her or because she likes sex with random people. Which is fine if she does but it’s like Violet is a ping-pong ball without any purpose in this second issue.
Future Quest #8 – Jeff Parker, Writer; Ariel Olivetti, Artist
Ray – 7.5/10
Ray: The first thing you’ll notice about this issue is the art. Ariel Olivetti is a talented artist, for sure (recently coming off the enjoyable Venom: Space Knight for Marvel), but he’s maybe too realist for this epic cartoon adventure. The various Shaner-style artists who filled in for him on past issues maintained a very similar vibe, but this time the art shift is glaring. I think that creates a tonal shift as well, as the villainous Omnikron emerges and starts devouring the world. This issue features some pretty dark scenes, including a trio of unfortunate policemen being absorbed into the monster, and Olivetti’s art makes it horrific and in your face.
There is some very good stuff in this issue, though, such as the awkward alliance between Benton Quest and the evil Dr. Zim, which is made more complex with their discovery by one of Zim’s fellow villains. The alliances in this comic shift quickly as it moves from being an adventure comic to a potentially world-destroying epic. I do think this book’s biggest weak point is its overwhelming cast, as every time the Impossibles appear, I’m wishing we were instead focusing on other characters with bigger fanbases. However, the action segments are big and dramatic, and the mysteries surrounding Space Ghost and his allies are intriguing. The issue ends with bringing some other players that were long thought dead back into the frame, as well.
Vigilante: Southland #3 – Gary Phillips, Writer; Elena Casagrande, Artist; Moritat, Inker; Giulia Brusco, Colorist
Ray – 3/10
Ray: Three issues in, I’m not really sure what this comic is going for, as we still know very little about Donny Cates, the villains he’s facing, his supporting cast, or the point of this comic. Last issue saw Donny being framed for the murder of his prime suspect in Dorrie’s murder, and now he’s on the run, beating up what I think are policemen in the opening pages? One thing I note about the art in this comic is that it doesn’t often have identifiers on its opponents, so it’s hard to tell at times whether they’re police, enforcers, or what. The opening segment is tense and fast-paced, but then the issue has a fairly rough transition to a sleazeball getting poisoned. In general, the pacing and structure of this comic is all off.
Donny’s father is lurking around the background, our mysterious dominatrix villain from last issue disposes of a troublesome client, etc. And we still get not much closer to finding out about the main mystery. Donny’s interaction with his mentor/trainer is weirdly stilted, with them flinging cliched insults at each other until they get broken up by Dorrie’s mother. I am amused by Donny’s constant string of failures – this really is how it would go for an untrained vigilante – but it’s not enough to make for a compelling read.
Super Powers #2 – Art Baltazar, Franco, Writers; Art Baltazar, Artist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: This is quickly becoming one of the strangest books DC is putting out, and I mean that in a good way. A gonzo silver age pastiche that gleefully embraces every odd bit in the history of the DCU in a kid-friendly format, it’s the culmination of Baltazar and Franco’s wacky take on superheroes. After a brief prelude involving Wonder Woman saving Superman from Lex Luthor and a chunk of Kryptonite, the next major threat emerges in the form of the Composite Superman, the bizarre Superman-Batman Frankenstein. This allows Flash to enter the picture as the focus expands beyond the trinity. Meanwhile, on New Krypton, Lara is ready to give birth to her second child, but before Jor-El can get her to the hospital safely, Zod shows up to warn them that something is up with their child in a cryptic message.
Zod and Brainiac seem to be in league, and we find out why in the cliffhanger – after an appearance from the Unknown Superman, who defeats the Composite Superman. It’s like All-Star Superman for kids, and it’s great. As for the newest El, he bears a resemblance to a member of the family – Brainiac. Looks like the first member of the Legion was just born into this universe. This run so far has really embraced the strange and wacky, and it’s great to see how this universe has grown since the earliest days of Tiny Titans.
Scooby-Doo Team-Up #21 – Sholly Fisch, Writer; Dario Brizuela, Artist; Silvana Brys, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Ray: The prospect of Harley Quinn teaming up with the Scooby Gang is definitely one that has a lot of potential, especially as it’s wacky meets wacky, but unfortunately I didn’t feel like this Christmas-themed issue lived up to the potential of the concept. The issue starts with the Mystery Machine crew investigating a Christmas Carol-themed haunting at a department store, when Harley shows up with her giant mallet and applies to join the crew. They’re not sure, but she horns her way in and shows off her investigative skills – aka threatening to hit people with her mallet if they don’t confess.
Unfortunately, the mystery sort of gets short shrift when Joker shows up and attempts to get a detonator back from Harley. The two repeat their frequent dance of fighting and getting back together, which is probably my least-favorite Harley related thing. This is based pretty heavily on the Batman: TAS versions, but the Harley/Joker pairing was sank pretty hard for me with Mad Love. The strongest thing in this issue is the way Harley shows off flashes of genius here and there, like solving the mystery in an off-handed comment as she’s being taken to Arkham. Would have liked to see more of that Harley and less of her bickering with and mooning over Joker.
Six-Pack and Dogwelder: Hard Travelin’ Heroez #5 – Garth Ennis, Writer; Russ Braun, Artist; John Kalisz, Colorist
Ray – 3/10
Ray: Corrina’s bowed out of reviewing this comic, so I’m flying solo here. Spoiler alert: It’s still not good. This issue is blessedly free of the grotesquerie that characterized the rest of the series, but it makes what might be an even bigger error – it tries to make us feel sorry for terrible characters like Dogwelder and Six-Pack. Most of the issue is the two bickering and angsting as Dogwelder wants to know his purpose and Six-Pack wants to be a hero. Then they break into NASA and steal a space shuttle to stop the Dog Star from expanding and killing all of Earth. It’s all very weird and random, but maybe the worst part of the issue is John Constantine’s bizarre, over-the-top accent that makes it hard to understand anything he’s saying.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.