This week, the Justice League is busy teaming up and fighting with everyone!
Well, not quite everyone, but, yes, the Power Rangers and the Suicide Squad, though not at the same time. (That would make for one weird crossover.) Vixen returns in a one-shot as Steve Orlando gathers his Justice Leaguers, the Year One story in Wonder Woman concludes spectacularly in issue #14, which contains an Easter Egg of a promotion for former WW writer Gail Simone and Steve Trevor shirtless for the entire issue.
Plus, the focus shifts to Kate Kane in Detective, Batman is in the deep freeze in All-Star Batman, the Earth’s Lanterns are all together in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, the Batman of China fights for the right to the cowl in New Super-Man #7, Supergirl has had enough of cyborg Zor-El, and Lana Lang is not putting up with any lame explanation from Lex Luthor in Superwoman. Plus, more of the twisty and fun Deathstroke, Flash and Superman race in Titans #7, and the Gotham Academy kids uncover yet another conspiracy with the help of..Bruce Wayne?
As for Batgirl and the Birds of Prey? That one remains the most disappointing book of the Rebirth reboot.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ALL OF THIS WEEK’S DC COMICS BELOW
DC Premieres of the Week:
Justice League/Power Rangers #1 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Stephen Byrne, Artist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: DC has really been going crossover crazy recently, hosting several of their own as well as farming out their characters to other companies including Boom, IDW, and Dynamite for their own events. This is their first major homegrown one since the top-ten debuting Batman/TMNT, and it features Boom’s top property and the future starts of their own major motion picture this year, the Power Rangers. Like Batman/TMNT, this story wastes zero time in getting the story started, opening with a flash-forward of the Justice League comforting the Power Rangers over the ruins of a destroyed Angel Grove. Clearly, this story is playing for keeps, as we then flash back to Angel Grove, where Alpha Five has gone missing, only to be revealed to be transformed into a bomb that blows up the Rangers’ watchtower. This is the first wave of an attack by Lord Zedd – making his comic debut.
From the start, this issue has a surprisingly grim tone, which isn’t a surprise given that Zedd brought a darker edge to Power Rangers from the second he arrives. When Zack tries to take Zedd out of the picture by grabbing him and dragging him into a portal, they both wind up stranded in the DCU, with Zedd disappearing and Zack having a concussion that does him no favors when encountering Batman. This issue very much does fall into the crossover tropes of “heroes meet, misunderstand each other, and fight”, but it’s saved by just how good both Taylor’s dialogue and Byrne’s art are. The last line of the issue is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a comic in a while, and it really drives home how absurd these crossovers can be when you think about it. While Power Rangers fans will probably take a lot more out of the issue than newbies, it sets up its story well from the start and leaves people excited for more.
Corrina: If you ask me how well this issue portrays the Power Rangers, I couldn’t tell you, as I somehow missed this fandome. (Yes, I was probably too old when they first came out to bond to them.) But I can tell you, as a new reader, that I’m intrigued by the Power Rangers as portrayed in this story. Taylor did something smart, which was to focus on Zack, instead of throwing the personalities of all the Rangers at unfamiliar readers. It’s effective, especially since Zack is devastated that he ’caused’ the explosion by bring the fake Alpha Five to his headquarters. That puts the reader on his side when Zack takes an unexpected cross-dimensional trip to Batman’s Gotham City. Again, a smart choice to tell the story from Zack’s point of view because, well, everyone knows who Batman is and what he does. He literally needs no introduction. And, as Ray said, killer last line.
The only problem I have with the story is that flash forward to a devastated city. Flash forwards are a pet peeve of mine, as I feel they’re a narrative trick to dangle in front of readers so they continue to read, whereas I feel if a story is good, the reader should want to keep reading without this kind of trick. That’s true here as well, as I would be interested in the tale without the flash forward. But they’re all the rage now, so I may be in the minority on that one.
Justice League of America: Vixen Rebirth #1 – Steve Orlando, Jody Houser, Writers; Jamal Campbell, Artist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Excellent Re-Introduction
Ray: While not quite as instantly engaging as the brilliantly human Atom issue, this second JLA one-shot reintroduces us to Vixen in a very current tale that gives Vixen a new origin while also showing exactly what motivates her to make the jump from supermodel to hero. When we meet her, Mari McCabe is a worldwide fashion icon and humanitarian, using her wealth to fund programs for disadvantaged kids. However, she maintains a hands-off approach – which backfires on her when she’s confronted live on air by a little girl whose mother is missing and wonders why her former hero has never even been to her after-school program where she could ask for help. Flashbacks show exactly why Mari is so hesitant to get directly involved – she’s in possession of the Tantu Totem, which both her father and mother died to protect so she could inherit it instead of her corrupt warlord uncle.
On the hunt for the missing woman, Mari decides it’s finally time for her to stop running from her destiny and dons the Tantu Totem for the first time. That’s when this issue really starts to sing, as we get to see the web of life show her connection to all animal life in brilliant fashion. I’m not familiar with Jamal Campbell at first glance, but he’s a find and DC would be very lucky to have him on more comics from here. There’s shades of Animal Man’s power set, but Vixen uses them in a more theatrical, vivid way that really conveys the power she has within her. Where the story flags a little bit is in the villain, a creepy guy in an animal mask who apparently has the power to control spiders. He’s angry over losing custody of his kids while he was in prison, and kidnapped the people on his jury. He’s not a very engaging character and seems more whiney than anything else. Still, it gets the main thing right, which is that now JLA is two for two in getting me excited to read about this unconventional Justice League.
Corrina: My history with Mari is somewhat limited, as I was out of reading comics at the time she came to prominence with Justice League International. Sadly, she’s been underused since then, save for occasional guest-appearances and the wonderful Vixen: Return of the Lion, written by G. Willow Wilson of Ms. Marvel fame.
But I know Vixen more from the Justice League Unlimited cartoon show. Television watchers will also know Mari from the Vixen animated series on the web and from season 2 of DC: Legends of Tomorrow. Sadly, in LoT, she seems to be more of a background character with far more attention given to the other new addition, the bland Steel. Boo! It’s a shame because she is compelling and she has a power set that could lend itself to some wonderful visuals, as happens in this reintroduction. About the only down note is the villain but he wasn’t the point of the story, in any case.
One similarity I noticed to the Atom story is that both of these heroes are earnest, not haunted, and straightforward about wanting to do good in the world. No reluctant heroes here–Mari was perhaps in that place once, but no longer.
DC Rebirth Reviews:
Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #4 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Matt Ryan, Inker; Alex Sinclair, Jeremiah Skipper, Colorists
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: WW/Harley Team-Up Is Fun
Ray: It feels odd to call an issue as action-packed as this one a filler issue, but it does feel like that in a way. Aside from a few dropped hints about the Rebirth status quo, this issue is mainly a full-length fight scene as we get to see exactly what these newly returned villains can do. The good news is, the fight scene is so spectacular in places that it more than makes up for it in my eyes. The issue opens with the League and Squad facing off against Waller’s rogue Squad, and things go from bad to worse as Max Lord proceeds to hack June Moone’s mind. With Enchantress off the table, the Green Lanterns face off against Emerald Empress, and while she makes quick work of Simon, something about Jess’ power doesn’t allow her to attack. Emerald Empress drops a hint about Saturn Girl before being neutralized.
Johnny Sorrow provides the main threat of the issue, as the interdimensional madman unleashes his ally the King of Tears and his army of demons. Got to say, though, the fact that Harley can look at his face without blinking because she’s just that crazy is hilarious, and her friendship with Wonder Woman is my favorite part of this issue. Some of the story, like Cyborg vs. Dr. Polaris or Rustam vs. Katana didn’t really hold my interest, but Max Lord’s manipulation of Killer Frost and Batman’s chase of Lobo are much more intriguing. It’s not clear exactly what Lord’s master plan is until the end of the issue, when he has Killer Frost break him into a vault containing a certain diamond – the Eclipso diamond. Taking on the power of Eclipso for himself, he promptly takes over the Justice League’s mind, and sets up round two. Definitely an event comic, but a fun, fast-paced one that delivers all the action I would expect.
Corrina: For some reason, it was Johnny Sorrow who interested me most of all the villains, perhaps because of the visual of his floating mask that adds an air of mystery. As for Maxwell Lord, he’s used effectively but his shtick of basically talking people around to his side has become boring in only four issues. It does give us some insight into his individual victims but this issue is so full of fight scenes that those insights are quickly glossed over. Which is too bad because here was a chance to add depth. But, despite all my issues with this issue being all fight scenes, I found Harley’s crushing and flirting with Wonder Woman absolutely hilarious. Flash also added a fun note with his rescue of Boomerang. I wish there was more of this kind of thing in this series.
So, Max’s plan was always the Eclipso diamond. But…Max is the one big on having control, right? It seems slightly out of character that he wouldn’t realize how out-of-control the Eclipso diamond would make him. Or perhaps he’s just that arrogant and believes that he can control it, rather than having it control him? Anyway, now we have yet another version of an evil Justice League. Um…yay? I guess Eclipso’s defeat will be used by Waller to justify having the Suicide Squad because they will save the day. Or something. That’s forgetting, of course, that Waller created the problem in the first place. The creative team is doing a nice job with it but the premise is uninteresting to me.
Suicide Squad #9 – Rob Williams, Si Spurrier, Writers; Riley Rossmo, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Waller Goes Full Villain
Ray: With the crossover in full swing, Suicide Squad shifts away from its past two-story format – thankfully – and brings on Si Spurrier as a co-writer for this flashback tale. This is the origins of Suicide Zero, Waller’s original Squad that is now the main threat in JL vs. SS. With Dr. Polaris, Johnny Sorrow, Emerald Empress, and Lobo on the team, as well as a mysterious, timid figure known as Cyclotron, the team is to be led into battle by Waller’s trusted right-hand man Rustam. Rustam’s role in the original team was always intriguing to me, because he was never a big-name DC villain. Here, we see there was a reason for that. The team is deputized into a North Korea-like nation to take out their team of custom supervillains that is threatening US soil.
Where the issue is strong is in the slow sense of dread it builds. First the squad shows an utter lack of concern for civilian life, and then they start considering taking advantage of the power available for themselves. There’s also an interesting sense of a beta Squad here – this Squad is being bribed to participate and doesn’t have bombs in their skulls, which is where Cyclotron comes in in a clever twist. At its core, the story is a tale about Waller’s greatest failure and her inherent ruthlessness – and how she built this incident into the seeds of her current success. It’s definitely the strongest issue of the Suicide Squad series so far, and it sets up an interesting subplot for Rustam in particular.
Corrina: One wonders, after seeing what the first effort wrought, why Waller ever put together another Suicide Squad. They say one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result and while the other Squads haven’t been quite this bad, they’ve certainly created many of the same problems too. (And reading this issue again makes me wonder what the heck Waller thought she could do with Zod, with him being as dangerous and uncontrollable as he is.)
But the other problem I have with this version of Waller is that she’s clearly gone over into the land of villains, accepting civilian casualties with a shrug. I liked her better when she was trying to balance justice with protecting America but if she’s willing to accept that level of the death of innocents, there’s no balance at all.
Batman: Detective Comics #948 – James Tynion IV, Marguerite Bennett, Writers; Ben Oliver, Artist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Kate Kane Focus
Ray: It’s the first chapter of “Batwoman Begins”, the prequel arc that will set up Marguerite Bennett’s new Batwoman story in March. Despite Bennett co-writing on this title, it does very much feel like an issue of Detective Comics, picking up on several ongoing storylines while also turning the focus on Kate’s personal storyarc. It seems like this title is giving each character a spotlight in an arc – first time, then Steph, now Kate, and Cass in the next big story. It’s a very effective writing style. The story kicks off with Kate training under her father in the past, tailing Batman on her first few nights on patrol – only to be quickly found out. Jacob Kane comes off as an intelligent and caring mentor here – which is quite the sharp contrast to the man behind bars now. While the flashbacks certainly inform the story, it’s very much grounded in the present day and past stories.
Kate is called in by Bruce solo on a mission to Gotham’s quarantined area in the aftermath of the Monster Men storyarc – an area now called Monstertown and filled with the skeleton of a massive monster corpse. The monster’s flesh creates mutations in anything that comes into contact with it, and in one particularly creepy scene an unfortunate seagull takes a bite and promptly mutates into a hideous ghoul. After taking it down, Batman and Batwoman are introduced to Dr. Victoria October, the scientist in charge of the monster research. While it’s great to see another trans character in comics, her announcing her trans status in her first appearance felt a little forced. It seems the monster blood is being smuggled out of Gotham as a potential bioweapon, and an elite Colony soldier is attempting to steal it for nefarious purposes – along with breaking Jacob Kane out of his private prison. Definitely, an exciting issue that sets up some very good things for a spin-off.
Corrina: Gotham has always been a city on the verge of starring in a horror tale. Like Gotham by Midnight, The Monster Man storyline made that horror overt, with a big over-the-top kaiju monsters. As a follow up, this feels more like a classic horror noir tale from Gotham’s past. It’s truly creepy too, showing the aftermath of what happened after Monster Men and the substance that mutated them. I appreciate the follow-up and the introduction of Dr. Victoria October. (I was psyched to have yet another scientist in Gotham to expand the cast and that she was trans was ‘hey, okay, cool,’ and then I moved on.)
But, while all that background is great, it’s just that, background for Kate Kane’s personal demons and questioning of everything about the way she was trained and how she’ll protect Gotham in the future. Her way won’t be Bruce’s way or her father’s way, but something different. I only wish I could see a proper reconciliation between Jacob and Kate at the end of this story but Jacob’s already stepped over so many lines that I can’t see a good ending.
All-Star Batman #6 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Jock, Francisco Francavilla, Artists; Matt Hollingsworth, Colorists
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: More Horror, More Human Take
Ray: Scott Snyder’s big Two-Face story has wrapped, and now Snyder is going to engage in a series of short stories focusing on less-used Bat-villains. The first up is this two-part Mr. Freeze story with art by the fantastic Jock, Snyder’s co-creator on Wytches. Taking place in the frozen north, the story begins in mid-battle, as Batman has fought his way to Mr. Freeze’s hideout, set in a cryogenics lab where Freeze has resurrected dozens of cryogenically-frozen individuals to serve as his zombie-like soldiers while he melts an ancient ice core containing a potentially world-ending bacteria. Apparently, the only play Batman has is to inject himself with said virus – a hot-burning virus that turns him into Freeze’s opposite number and sets the two against each other in an epic battle.
It looks great, to be sure – Jock is fantastic with creepy, vague visuals and desolate locations, but the problem is Snyder’s tendency to attempt to turn every one of Batman’s villains into a potential world-destroyer. It worked brilliantly with Joker and original adversary Mr. Bloom. With Riddler, it was a lot more dicey, and that sort of repeats itself here. Freeze was usually a tragic, lovestruck villain, not an apocalyptic madman. I’m not sure I’m on board with this new take. The backup, focusing on Duke, is a fast-paced read that contains fantastic art by Francisco Francavilla. As Duke advances through his training, his latest case pits him against the Riddler in a human-sized word puzzle that’s a lot more dramatic than it sounds. The return of a major villain from the Mr. Bloom arc was unexpected, and gives Duke his own major role to play the ongoing storyarc.
Corrina: Yay, the Two-Face story arc is over! I liked this issue better than any of its predecessors. It reminded me of Snyder’s horror work, especially in The Wake, which featured genetically altered beings coming to take over the world. There’s a similar sense of menace with these frozen beings (And that’s two stories this week that remind me how effectively Batman can be used in a horror story.)
It’s the art, however, that is the true star. There’s something special that occurs when Snyder and Jock work together, some sense of creepiness that’s entirely different with Jock than with Snyder’s work with Greg Capullo. As for Freeze, yes, he used to be a sad, lovesick villain and this is a new take, but doctors always have something of a God complex going on, especially ones that want to use their skills to save the world, and I guess Victor is no exception.
The Flash #14 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Confession: Never Been Big on the Rogues
Ray: It’s the start of “Rogues Reloaded”, as Barry Allen’s most iconic villains return to the forefront of Josh Williamson’s run. The issue opens with a retrospective on the Rogues, as Barry thinks back to what makes the Rogues unique as opposed to the rest of his foes. The Rogues always seemed to have a sense of honor that guys like Thawne and Grodd lack. However, the Rogues have been gone for a while, ever since they helped take the city back from Riddler, and their absence has been filled with a group of cut-rate villains with names like “Papercut” and “Bone Dry”. Barry quickly rounds them up and brings them to Iron Heights, where the warden expresses his belief that the Rogues should be hunted down and locked up despite their pardon.
While Barry takes the rest of the day off and enjoys a film festival with Iris and Wally, the mystery of exactly where the Rogues went starts to weigh on him. He looks up several of their old associates, such as Golden Glider’s old skating coach, their costume designer and an old flame, as well as Pied Piper – who now runs a support group for Rogue survivors. Barry’s quest leads him to the Rogues’ old hideout, realized incredibly well in a two-page spread. It soon turns into a fast-paced deathtrap that nearly takes even the Flash by surprise. And despite Barry finding plans to the Rogues’ next heist – it seems it was all a feint, and the Rogues have plans for Central City. Maybe a bit of a slow start, but so much is being set up here that I have no doubt it’ll pay off.
Corrina: Yes, it’s true. I’ve never been a fan of the Rogues. Individually, some of them interest me, but collectively, they seem to be used more for ganging up with their powers and abilities on the Flash than spotlighting the group dynamics that might make them interesting to me. They’re like a Flash-focused Secret Six or, at least, they should be, but every time they show up, I get no sense of the depth of their dysfunctional relationship. That’s the case here too but it’s hardly the story’s fault, as the Rogues don’t come on-screen until the last two pages and, even then, there’s a mystery surrounding them.
Given how terrific Williamson has been with characterization–look at how much I enjoy Wally now–I’m hopeful I’ll enjoy his version of the Rogues as much as I enjoy Cold and Mick’s relationship on DC: Legends of Tomorrow on television.
Supergirl #5 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Brian Ching, Artist; Michael Atiyeh, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Pure Heroism
Ray: As this story enters its penultimate chapter, I feel myself getting a little antsy for the next story to begin, but it’s still a strong story overall. Orlando did an amazing job in his first two issues with setting up a new status quo and supporting cast for Kara, but then everything went off to the side for an arc to cover the big-scale battle with Cyborg Superman and the remnants of Argo City. Last issue had some really strong emotional beats involving Kara’s two mothers and Alura’s ultimate sacrifice. With that over with, though, it’s mainly all-action, all the time this issue, as we open with Jeremiah Danvers facing off against Cyborg Superman. Before Zor-El can kill him, Kara arrives on the scene and proceeds to save him, Cameron Chase, and Ben Rubel in a fast-paced segment that finds her zipping around the city.
Where Orlando really excels – and manages to keep my attention through an issue that’s mainly a fight sequence – is in how everything here is very grounded in a human footing, even though Kara isn’t technically human. The people she’s bonded with on Earth are clearly driving her as she faces off with her evil father, and there’s a very nice contrast with the way she’s driven by love as opposed to how Zor-El’s version of love is essentially one of forced conformity. The end of the issue brings a potential city-threatening event as Argo City – populated by mind-controlled cyborgs – bears down on National City, and that doesn’t hold my interest nearly as well as the rest. However, as long as Orlando writes Kara this well, I’m on board.
Corrina: What I love about this story is that this plot is usually played much more for angst. Not that there wasn’t angst last issue, with Kara’s mother sacrificing herself for her daughter’s foster mother, but while Kara will always be sad about the death of her mom, dad, and Argo City, she’s determined not to be emotionally affected any longer by the being who is a pale imitation of Zor-El. She sees him not as her father but as some twisted, computerized lesser copy.
That allows her to defend Earth with a clear heart and, despite the direness of the situation, that makes her battles with the computerized dead zombies kinda joyous. That Cat Grant gets some good lines is a bonus.
Superman: Action Comics #971 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Stephen Segovia, Penciller; Art Thibert, Inker; Arif Prianto, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Superman Is Smart
Ray: It took a little long to get here, but this issue of the Godslayer arc is a lot more compelling than the last few. Mainly because Superman actually gets to do things and the boring villains are more in the background. When we last left off, Superman had seemed to come around to the Godslayers’ point of view, turning on Luthor, but after an extended speech where he excoriates Luthor as a threat, he reveals all this to be a feint and destroys their execution weapon. He proceeds to distract the villains to give Luthor enough time to set up a boom tube for them to escape back to earth. Nothing can go this smoothly, though, so before they can fully escape, Zade manages to disrupt the boom tube and stop them midway, leaving them stranded on an alien world – and complicating things, an alien world with a red sun. Superman’s powers are quickly leaving him, so the roles are reversed with Luthor having Superman’s fate in his hands.
The best part of this issue is the teeth-clenched teamwork between Luthor and Superman, as Luthor begins to realize that this Superman has been watching him for years and has already found nothing to implicate him in criminal activity. This is actually a bit of a continuity glitch, as New 52 Luthor spent a while in supermax as a mad scientist before Johns and Jurgens returned him to his rightful place as a corporate titan. Still, Jurgens writes a great Luthor, and I was surprised to see someone else remembers the character development he underwent in Forever Evil. The B-plot involves Lois and Jon sneaking into the office of the other Lois so Lois can continue her work (and Jon can’t destroy their house while home alone), but their attempt to stay secret is derailed by the arrival of an awkward guest – the other Clark Kent. Definitely a big improvement over the last two issues.
Corrina: I normally don’t like spending that much time in Luthor’s head but I enjoyed his narration this issue, especially his suspicion of this new Superman. It’s clear Luthor has little respect for Superman but equally clear that Luthor is capable of changing his mind, as Superman proves to him smarter and more capable than Luthor envisioned. For someone who tends to view everyone with open contempt, that was a nice bit of characterization.
Now, if only this plot over on some other planet would connect with the plot of the other Clark Kent and the mysterious building. I mean, it took this long for Jon to tell his mom about that? I chalk that up to the problem of having all these plot elements in the air that will cross over into other stories in the Superman universe. Makes me almost long for the days of the triangle numbers where each Superman-based book was a specific chapter in the ongoing story. At least that made it all mesh together better.
Wonder Woman #14 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Nicola Scott, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Hello, Shirtless Steve (And, Yes, Great Issue)
Ray: Year One comes to an epic close as Diana confronts one of her oldest arch-enemies, Ares, in an epic battle to start the issue that gives Nicola Scott – in her final issue on the title – the chance to show off some genuinely spectacular segments. Ares’ design changes a little with every artist, and I think this one may be my favorite yet. Ares monologues a little too much as he grabs Steve Trevor and attempts to harvest the information about Themysrica’s location out of him, but once the fight actually begins and Diana offers to let Ares take the information from him instead, things pick up. See, she doesn’t know either – and that allows Diana to get the drop on Ares and use the lasso on him, creating a brilliant scene where he evaporates into Ravens.
Ares may be gone for now, but there’s still the ongoing threat of the SEAR terror group, which is planning to deploy its rage gas around the world. Diana is able to find the targets at most sites, but the attack on the UN is unknown. Diana, through her broken English, is able to figure out that SEAR is actually not targeting the diplomats but their children at the UN school. Through a sacrifice play that allows the children to escape but seals her inside with the gas, she’s able to dispel the gas using her lasso and officially establish herself as a hero to the world. The issue’s also got a very clever explanation for just how she got the name Wonder Woman. The flashback arc got off to a very slow start, but once it got going, it delivered just as many spectacular moments as its sister arc.
Corrina: What a great ending to this year-one story, especially since the plot turned the big confrontation between Ares and Wonder Woman into something entirely unexpected–Wonder Woman tricking Ares. Yes, it’s possible to trick someone and yet still be telling the truth. It reminded me of something that might occur in actual Greek mythology: I will agree to what you ask for but it won’t be what you really want. In other words, sometimes gods aren’t too bright.
Wonder Woman rescuing children is a perfect conclusion because if Diana is about anything, she’s about creating a compassionate future, one where children will be safe from war and hatred. Plus, there was this nice nod to a former Wonder Woman creator:
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #12 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Ethan Van Sciver, Artist; Jason Wright, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Lanterns Assemble! (Oops, Wrong War Cry)
Ray: Van Sciver, one of the most iconic Green Lantern artists, returns to close out this arc in epic fashion as two Lantern Corps face off against the combined forces of Larfleeze and Brainiac. When the issue starts, the two corps are down to a skeleton crew and are barely able to hold their own against an army of orange “lanterns” while Tomar-Tu desperately attempts to protect his shrunken homeworld. However, the cavalry is coming, in the form of Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, and the two surviving Guardians. The tide of battle starts to turn when John Stewart realizes that they can’t beat Larfleeze at full strength – but they can if they weaken him by making him scared. And what’s the only thing that scares Larfleeze? Losing his stuff.
As the Lanterns start shattering the jars holding Larfleeze’s specimens, he begins to lose his mind – more than usual. And can I just say how hard I laughed at the fact that not only is Stupid Sexy Lobo in one of the jars, but Hal won’t let Guy smash that jar because “it’s better he stay on the shelf”? DC hates that version of Lobo just as much as most of us do! Once the Corps are reunited, they send Larfleeze on the run – but not before he adds a new Orange Lantern to his collection. For all the action and bombast of this storyarc – and I mean that in the best way possible – it ends on an intimate note as Hal’s abusive childhood allows him to mediate the conflict between Tomar-Tu and his protective mother, and the two Corps are united at last under one banner. For the first time since Johns left, both GL titles are running at full tilt.
Corrina: All righty. Yes, it is a nice punch of happiness to see all of Earth’s Lanterns finally working together again. Go John, Kyle, Hal, and Guy, and Van Sciver’s panel should be made into a poster. (Get on that, DC.) Despite that, it was Soranik who interested me most this issue as she was the one who came up with the solution to defeating LarFleeze.
Or, rather, one of them. Um, hello! Was smashing all those bottles a good idea? I know, they didn’t let Lobo out and that’s good but what was in the others? Wasn’t that dangerous to the things/people in the bottles to have their bottles smashed? That seemed so careless! Not to mention letting free other dangerous things. I know, I know, it got to our villain but, still, that seemed a bad solution. But the plot required it to work out okay, so it does, so…yay?
Titans #7 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Lee Weeks, Artist; John Kalisz, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Superman/Flash RACE!
Ray: After the big Kadabra storyline that dominated the first arc, this issue is almost an anthology, giving several different characters the spotlight. And much like most anthologies, some stories are more compelling than others. The issue opens with the Titans settling into their new digs in Manhattan – based solely on the fact that Wally got that word from Kadabra’s mind. The team fights a giant robot-man who talks like a suburban gangster for some reason, and they don’t really seem to be winning over the cynical locals in their efforts. After winning the day – despite Roy seeming more interested in protecting the invincible Donna than actually fighting the villain – they’re interrupted before they can leave by Superman. While all the Titans are impressed by him, it’s his seeming recognition of Wally that hits the time-lost speedster hard.
This kicks off the best segment of the issue, as Wally and Superman engage in another classic Superman-Flash race that doubles as a therapy session for the last two survivors of the pre-Flashpoint Earth. Abnett turns out to be a great Superman writer, and it really shows that this book – like Titans Hunt – tended to excel in the quiet moments. Less compelling is an awkward first date between Roy and Donna, the two less-compelling members of this team. I was intrigued by the addition of a team lawyer, who seems to be very funny so far, and Mal and Karen’s attempt to figure out the nature of Karen’s powers seems to be leading them into an encounter with a classic Titans villain. After the chaos of the first arc, it’s good to see the title exploring what made these characters work for so long.
Corrina: If this series had started with this issue, it would have been a much better beginning and introduction to our Titans team. That’s because it focuses on the Titans and their relationships with each other. They’re a family, not just another superhero team, and it’s about time we saw more of that.
That said, I wasn’t that thrilled with Donna and Roy’s flirting in this issue. They’re okay as a couple but it read a little off and I don’t buy the attraction. From Roy, sure, but, as Ray pointed out, the whole scene was awkward.
Much better, of course, was Wally and Superman’s talk about being the survivors of dead universes and bonding over it. These two were friends once upon a time and Clark always took a big brother interest in Wally and that continues here. Other people can get their nostalgia from a Green Lantern team-up. I’ll stick with the Flash/Superman race!
Deathstroke #10 – Priest, Writer; Cary Nord, Artist; Jeromy Cox, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: A Parent’s Legacy
Ray: With many issues of Deathstroke being among the most brilliant books DC puts out, a simple “very good” issue like this one almost feels like a letdown. There’s nothing wrong per se with this issue, but it feels like things are a bit in a holding pattern as we wait for the next big twist. The issue opens with Deathstroke in the past, as a young mercenary engaging in a tense standoff to collect the bounty on a Serbian war criminal. In the present day, of course, Deathstroke is still in military custody, and it’s revealed that his current captor is actually a soldier he met years ago on that mission. The tension in the interrogation scene can be cut with a knife, as it’s revealed that the government intends to nail Deathstroke on lesser charges since they still can’t pin his assassinations on him. However, an old friend/enemy from early in the series has other plans.
I found the segments involving Slade’s children to be the most compelling of the issue, however. First, Jericho and Dr. Villain are meeting to discuss the capabilities of the IKON suit and the way Slade’s powers operate. Priest is developing things so Deathstroke’s abilities come from his hyper-advanced brain, and allow him access to natural abilities most people don’t know how to use. Jericho and Rose inherited the same abilities, but manifest them in different ways. Jericho’s actual agenda here is still vague, as we know he is a lot more morally questionable than he used to be. Rose, meanwhile, is among the Hmong community in Minnesota and has found a new, more accepting family in her aunt and cousins. However, this new family setting is plagued with gang violence, and Rose quickly finds herself falling back into old habits. It’s definitely more of a character-setting issue, but it moves the plot forward nicely in one of DC’s best books.
Corrina: I like that this issue slowed down because it’s not always easy to keep track of the various plotlines. They always make sense in the context of the issue but I like being able to see all the layers and that’s what this issue does: digs down into our characters. That mostly applies to Rose, who is trying to learn something of her mother’s heritage, but instead finds out this world isn’t so different than the assassin’s world.
As for Joe, he remains the most interesting in this series. He’s earnest but clear-headed, friendly but also ruthless. It’s hard to predict what he’s going to do next and that’s part of what’s compelling about him. Slade, meanwhile, seems unconcerned about being in government custody. No wonder. He probably figures the worst that can happen is that he’s stuck in Waller’s Suicide Squad and probably Slade could figure out a way to remove a bomb from his neck.
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #6 – Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Writers; Roge Antonio, Artist; Allen Passalaqua, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: I Dislike Plots That Make Characters Look Dumb. This One Does
Ray: The conclusion to the first arc sets up the team, but is still plagues by questionable characterization decisions, and a major twist to Huntress’ origin that takes her character in a very strange direction. Right off the heels of the reveal that the new Oracle is a teenage boy obsessed with Barbara Gordon, this title immediately dropped another bomb by revealing that arc villain Fenice is actually Helena Bertinelli’s mother. The issue begins with an extended battle sequence as the Birds fight their way through a theater filled with snake mutants, backed up by Gus/Oracle’s mafia buddies. This part didn’t hold much interest for me, and the designs of the snake-people leave a lot to be desired.
The story hits a higher gear when Helena is able to confront her mother, but the story behind her return is dubious. It seems she was in love with a member of a rival family, and conspired to kill her husband with him. However, the henchmen of the rival family decided to simply wipe out their enemies – her and her children included. Her lover saved her life and dragged her off, but she escaped to seek revenge. Upon finding this out, Helena chooses to turn both the killer and her mother over to the authorities rather than taking her revenge herself, and Gus becomes a member of the Birds on probation – although the cliffhanger hints he has yet another dark secret. The character just doesn’t work for me, and I’m puzzled that if DC was going to add a new Oracle, why wasn’t it simply Frankie Charles from Batgirl?
Corrina: Unless the next issue reveals that the Birds agreed to make this new fake Oracle a part of the team in order to keep their enemy close, then I’m so done with this book. There have been the uneven pacing issues, the weird dialogue, and the odd characterizations for Dinah and Babs, but to have any of them agree to work with this new Oracle, especially a paranoid ex-spy like Helena…no, no. no. Just no.
None of the charm of the original BoP exists in this book and neither does what I’d consider logical storytelling. I appreciate DC reaching out for television talent to give this book launch a boost but the stories themselves have not been up to par.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #6 – Scott Lobdell, Writer; Dexter Soy, Artist; Veronica Gandini, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Ray: The conclusion of the first arc in Red Hood and the Outlaws shows how scattered this book is. When it’s good, it’s excellent – but unfortunately, that doesn’t happen nearly as often as I would like. The issue starts with Red Hood at the mercy of Black Mask while the mind-controlled Bizarro beats up Artemis. It becomes clear that the corrupted Kryptonian virus bonding Bizarro and Black Mask is negatively affecting Black Mask, making him behave more and more erratically. Jason gains the upper hand, and Black Mask begs Jason for help – but Jason just chooses to let the virus take its course, in a scene very reminiscent of a scene that didn’t work for Batman in Batman Begins, but works here.
The latter half of the issue, focusing on some character-driven scenes in the aftermath, is much better. A mysterious stalker is following the actions of the Outlaws and seems to be getting ready to make a move against them. The team, now that Bizarro’s mind is restored (as restored as it gets), sets out to help Artemis complete her mission next. However, the best scene of the issue is easily Jason and Bruce meeting after the conclusion of Jason’s mission. Somehow, Lobdell manages to write Jason and Bruce better than anything else, and the mix of tension and genuine caring between them feels much more true to life than most Batman and Red Hood comics. This continues to be a deeply irregular comic, but there’s some great moments in there.
Corrina: I’m sorry, was there a confrontation with Black Mask in this issue? I was distracted by the fact Artemis’ breasts were as big as her head in one splash page and wondered if Amazonian physiques were somehow different? No? I guess I’ll chalk it up to a bad page by a normally good artist–because Soy is much better with Jason and Bruce during their confrontation. It would be nice if women could be drawn as realistically proportional too.
So…clearly, Lobdell’s strength on this series is how he writes Jason because that scene with Bruce and Jason had some real emotion in it, with a strong connection between the two of them. It’s nice to have a scene where Jason isn’t determined to jab at Bruce, over and over. As for the inclusion of Bizarro and Artemis in this book? Neither worked that well, even in this plot arc. Heck, Artemis barely did anything. (Well, there was the showing off of those oversized boobs…) At this point, if DC insists on Lobdell writing a Jason Todd book, they should just make it a solo book.
New Super-Man #7 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Billy Tan, Penciller; Yanqiu Li, Inker; Yanfeng Guo, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: After the big events of the last arc, that apparently led to the death of Kenan’s father, this issue is both a breather for the characters and a start of major new arcs for several of them. The Justice League of China is being celebrated at a public festival hosted by Lex Luthor (who is less than comfortable in China, which amuses me), but Kenan can only think of finding out who ordered his mother’s death and getting justice for both his parents. Although his teammates have promised to help him, it’s Chinese New Year and they have immediate plans. Kenan, frustrated, decides to head off on his own and seek someone who can help him access his full powers again. That leads him to Master I-Ching, formerly of Wonder Woman fame. This blind martial arts master sets out not only training Kenan but humbling him a bit too.
However, it’s not Kenan who really steals this issue – it’s Baixi, the chubby, awkward Batman of China. For his holiday, he and Wonder Woman head off to the training academy where he first won the mantle of Batman. There he meets his younger sister and aspiring Robin Jiali – but also finds out she’s been getting into fights because an old rival of his still hasn’t gotten over losing the Bat-mantle to him and has been provoking her. Hoping to settle this feud once and for all and make it easier for Jiali to succeed in school, Baixi challenges his rival to a battle for the mantle in a spectacular danger-room like skyscape of Gotham – one that is apparently being sabotaged from within by hackers. With a break from the main arc, this issue allows Yang to expand the world of this book significantly, and as a result the title has one of its best issues yet.
Corrina: So many great elements in this issue. First, there’s Kenan, determined to hold onto his anger and desire for vengeance but getting short-circuited by being led to Master I-Ching who is the latest in the long line of mentors who needs to knock some sense into Kenan. Someday, that stubbornness will come in handy for our hero.
But, yes, the best scenes are at the “Batman” Academy where the adorable (he is adorable and kinda huggable, in a way that Bruce Wayne definitely is not!) Baixi decides to take on a bully, which is definitely something that Bruce would do. I love Baixi’s reasons for doing it–otherwise his competence will remain an open question–and I’m worried for the guy, especially with the twist of the battle being hacked. I predict Baixi will save himself and his opponent. This series always charms and I’m glad DC took a chance on it.
Superwoman #6 – Phil Jiminez, Writer/Layouts; Matt Santorelli, Jack Herbert, Finishes; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: My Favorite Issue of This Series
Ray: Maybe the best issue since the start of this series, as the plot kicks into high gear and we get a serious of major reveals that throw a lot of what we’ve seen in the series so far up in the air. At the end of last issue, one of the Bizarros that killed Lois and have been plaguing Lana through the run switched sides and saved Lana from death, just as her powers started malfunctioning. This issue, that same misshapen creature gives Lana enough help for her to get back to the Steelworks – and more significantly, seems to be able to see the ghost of Lois Lane as well. So those who speculated Lois may not be entirely gone from the series may be right after all. It may be too late to get a lot of those angry fans back on the book, though.
The best part of the book, though, is in the complex series of high-tech cells where Luthor and the other prisoners are being held. While Jiminez has done some good work with Lana, Steel, and others, it feels like it’s his Luthor that really shines the most. In the opening segments of this issue, we see a proud, arrogant Luthor who still seems to have some honor. However, as the story of Lex’s relationship with Lena unfolds in flashbacks, we see what makes Luthor a villain – pride. This is a man who will never allow himself to be wrong, to fail, no matter who it hurts in the process. He ruined Lena’s life and turned her into his tool, only to still think he was the benevolent savior in her life. I do think this issue’s success has something to do with the fact that it was characters other than Lana who took the focus, to a degree, but as a whole this title has come a long way to winning me back.
Corrina: Hah! I was hoping that this Lois wasn’t dead and was trusting in Jimenez. I’m glad that trust was rewarded, though, I admit, the pacing of this series has been somewhat off-putting. Like with the other Superman stories, I suspect those pacing issues are due to trying to keep all the inter-related stories on the same page, rather than any writing flaws.
But what I loved most about this issue is Lex giving Lana the history of his relationship with Lena, all ‘hey, I did my best! I love her!’ and Lana completely calling him out on his self-serving justifications. Lana is all out of whatevers to give about Lex feeling sad about his sister and instead challenges him to take responsibility for creating the conditions that caused Lena to evolve into, well, some sort of evil mechanized thing. Maybe that’s what I’ve been missing from other stories about Luthor: someone to call out his b.s.
Gotham Academy: Second Semester – Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, Karl Kerschl, Writers; Adam Archer, Penciller; Msassyk, Background Painting; Serge LaPointe, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: This series continues to be one of the most compelling all-ages books put out by the big two, as we get back to the main plot after last issue’s haunted carnival interlude. When we last left off, Colton was facing expulsion from Gotham Academy after being caught in the act of a map theft. Expulsion works quickly in GA, as he’s supposed to be escorted off campus in an hour – but this is delayed by the arrival of Pomeline’s high-powered attorney mother, who manages to get a stay and convene a trial to determine Colton’s fate. The hearing hinges on the map, and the differing stories of Colton and the friendly but suspicious Mr. Scarlet, one of many weird teachers at the Academy. It strikes me that everyone’s oddly concerned about Colton’s minor theft given that another teacher was just outed as a cult leader, though.
As usual, the mundane slice-of-life events are interspliced with a good deal of Gotham weirdness. While Colton’s trial goes on – complete with a surprise Bruce Wayne appearance that sheds a little more light on his relationship with Olive – Pomeline and Man-Bat Tristan investigate the map’s meaning an abandoned Gotham Academy house. But with a long-time supporting character turning into an obsessed villain, a seemingly benevolent teacher potentially being a corrupt figure, and new student Amy continuing to do whatever she can to destabilize the main cast’s dynamic, it feels like this relaunch is almost turning into “Gotham Academy: Disassembled”. I’ll end by giving this my standard plug for a series that doesn’t have the sales it should – give it a try, and give a trade or two to your friends! This is a DC book that absolutely deserves more support.
Corrina: Like many of the GA stories, I find the cast charming but I become confused as to the plotting, especially as I’m not sure in what time frame the events are happening. Is Bruce there just to show up? Is he involved in the investigation? Seemingly not, meanwhile, all those elements Ray loved converged in this issue but I have to re-read the book several times to untangle them all.
However, I loved the glimpses into Gotham’s past, as always, and the appearance of Pemeline’s mother. One wonders if she’ll bring up the disproportionate reactions to petty theft versus running a cult.
Earth 2: Society #20 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Vincent Ciufuents, Artist; Rex Lokus, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: Such Potential Unrealized
Ray: The art situation on this book seems to have sorted itself out as this series enters its final act (it seems to conclude in March, assuming we don’t get a third straight final issue solicitation), and Vincent Ciufuentes actually does a very good job on art here, delivering some spectacular action sequences and splash pages. The problem is, as good as the action is…there’s not all that much going on. The few remaining Wonders are now in a new world that seems to have a retro aesthetic, but it’s also under the control of the Sandmen, a ruthless superhuman militia in the service of Ultra-Humanite designed to track down all unauthorized metahumans.
The heroes spend most of the issue running from them, or fighting them, although there are a few good dialogue bits mixed in along the way. I was glad to see Red Tornado/Lois Lane get more attention this issue, as it seems like she’s been in the background for a while. I’m still not really connecting to Fury or Tommy Grayson, though, and Dick Grayson is a poor substitute as Batman for Thomas Wayne. The ending reveals where one of the missing metas is, and it feels like this character has spent the entire run getting jerked around. Time to send this universe out to pasture and move on to the JSA, I think.
Corrina: What I want from this issue is for this version of the JSA to feel like a family and…it never has. It got close to the end of James Robinson’s run but that was about it, and Power Girl and Huntress have never felt like the same characters from their short-lived series. Lois/Red Tornado has been the most compelling character for me but, as Ray noted, she’s been in the background for a while. We need more of her and more of the teamwork and camaraderie among the JSA. But I’m not too hopeful at this point.
But, yes, amazing visuals. I could wish for a better use of Wesley Dodds and this Dodds seems more secret agent than haunted dreamer from the Sandman Mystery Theatre. That seems the waste of a character but, then, I could say that of the whole series.
Scooby Apocalypse #9 – Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Writers; Ron Wagner, Bill Reinhold, Artists; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 3/10
Ray: For once, an issue of Scooby Apocalypse isn’t really about monsters and mayhem. In fact, there’s very little for the gang to fight this issue, as they’ve holed up in an abandoned development and are now just hoping nothing finds them, at least until Fred recovers from his injuries in the last few issues. The problem with this, though, is that nothing we’ve seen so far makes me want to see a character-driven story with these characters. Fred, Shaggy, and Scooby are very one-note, the same as their cartoon versions only in a darker setting. Velma and Daphne, meanwhile, are different but seem locked in a constant back-and-forth where they hate each other, suddenly start to understand each other, and then snap back to disliking each other again. Oh, and Velma is either dying or transforming into a monster, one of the two. The issue ends with a Scrappy-Doo story that involves him killing a lot of monsters and euthanizing a starving puppy to keep it from becoming a monster like him. Hey, kids – comics!
Disclaimer: GeekDad received digital copies of these comics for review purposes.