3 Can’t-Miss Comics This Week From DC

From Deathstroke #11, copyright DC Comics

The formation of the new Justice League continues this week, with Batman adding two new members. At this point, the League looks more like a combination of Batman & the Outsiders and Justice League International, not that this is a bad thing.

But the diamond in this week’s DC issues is clearly Deathstroke #11.

Meanwhile, Kamandi returns in a new anthology series, with a guest appearance by late creator Jack Kirby, Batwoman takes hold of her mission in Batman: Detective Comics as a prelude to a story in her own title, Deathstoke drops an issue that is not only entertaining, intense and thought-provoking but is probably one of the more important comic stories of the year, the Justice League vs the Suicide Squad crossover ends, Lois Lane and Clark Kent’s double meet in Action Comics, the new Titans make like a Team in Teen Titans, Batgirl returns to Burnside, and Future Quest brings back Corrina’s favorite Saturday morning pastime.

There are a few failures, including a new book starring ancient Amazons but, overall, a good week for DC.

Grade A Must Reads

Deathstroke #11 – Priest, Writer; Denys Cowan, Penciller; Bill Sienkiewicz, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Color

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Instant Classic

Ray: Maybe the best issue of the series and the best comic Priest has written since his Black Panther run twenty years ago, this done-in-one story taking place in gun-plagued Chicago isn’t a Deathstroke story, not really. It’s a story about a plague of killings, and a group of mothers so desperate to stop it that they make a literal deal with the devil. It starts with another tragic gun death – a young bystander shot dead by a woman trying to defend herself from rapists. Or is he a drug mule killed in a misunderstanding when his buyer panicked? Either way, one more body, and now some people have had enough. As a policeman and a reverend try to make sense of the chaos, a group of bereaved mothers have apparently hired Deathstroke to wipe out the gangs that are killing their children.

In the middle of this pitch-black mystery – with brilliant art by the classic art team of Cowan and Sienkiewicz – comes Jack Ryder, a shady journalist who is after the truth like a dog with a bone – and has his own dark secret. Deathstroke is barely in the issue, mostly working in the background to complete his mission – and there’s a reason for this, a great reason that’s revealed in the final pages. The one element of this story that maybe doesn’t work quite as well? The Creeper, once he emerges, feels a bit out of step with the rest of the story. It’s at most a minor distraction, though, from a brilliantly topical and compelling story. It reminds me a bit of some of Garth Ennis’ best Punisher MAX stories, in that it’s a superhero story that every bit reflects our world. One of the best single issues since the launch of Rebirth.

No easy answers in this issue of Deathstroke. page copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Not only one of the best single issues since the launch of Rebirth but it’s in the top ten of single issue stories I’ve read in superhero comics. What makes it so special? Comics always start with the artwork and that art team is not only made up of two legends but ones that work well together. Second, the story is dripping with desperation and sadness in every panel. There are no easy answers. The mothers who hire Deathstroke see no other alternative than violence to combat violence. Jack Ryder is after the truth and points out, rightly, that there may seen be another group seeing revenge on the mothers. But the truth provides no solution either to the problem of young men dying needlessly.

At the edges of all this is Deathstroke, a destructive force no matter who hired him, no matter if he’s fighting on the side of good or evil. This is a story that will stick with me for a long while. And it’s an example of what can happen when a big company reaches for creators who can bring in a distinct point of view. Marvel has been getting all the publicity lately for hiring creators of color and they’re to be commended but, quietly, Priest is turning in some amazing and classic work on a character who should be just another comic cliche.

Justice League of America: Killer Frost Rebirth #1 – Steve Orlando, Jody Houser, Writers; Mirka Andolfo, Artist; Arif Prianto, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Great Character Study; Leery About Waller

Ray: All the Justice League of America issues have tackled some pretty weighty issues, and the comics have benefited from it. Atom was rooted in immigrant culture and social anxiety. Vixen tackled complex issues of celebrity philanthropy and forgotten victims. Ray, probably the best of the three, was a complex exploration of LGBT identity, disability, and abusive relationships. With the final installment before it folds into the main JLoA book, Killer Frost’s solo story tackles the prison system and the way it sets convicts up to fail in a very compelling way. Killer Frost has been cleared for release in the aftermath of JLvsSS (more on how we got here in that review), but Amanda Waller is determined not to let her go so easily. So thanks to an engineered bureaucratic snafu, she gets to keep Frost in Belle Reve for another few days – and uses those days to try to break her and turn her back into a killer.

First, she arranges for the already starving Frost to be given a new roommate and taken out of her controlled environment. Then she engineers an encounter with the violent Mr. Toxic, who taunts Frost over her apparent “betrayal” of the villains. Then she places her in a cell with Heatstroke, a heat-powered villain, apparently to push Frost over the edge. Before Frost can either snap or die, though, a group of villains breaks in with the intention of killing Heatstroke, forcing Frost into a no-win situation. The look at the screwed-up prison culture – it’s well known that guards and wardens do use many of these same tricks on inmates up for release – is very effective. What’s less effective is the use of Waller at probably her cruelest. This isn’t even machiavellian, ruthless Waller who will do anything for her goals – she’s needlessly sadistic and seems to hate the prisoners under her purview. So, all in all, a great issue for Killer Frost – but not a great issue for Amanda Waller. Fortunately, it’s Frost who Orlando needs to be concerned with in the future.

page copyright DC Comics.

Corrina: Orlando is hampered in this story more than his other League intros simply because events in another comic have set the boundaries of what he can do and can’t do with Killer Frost. That said, it’s disturbing to me that the Machiavellian Waller continues to be transformed from a gray figure to a purely black figure. At the end of the Justice League Unlimited television series, Waller arranges for Bruce Wayne to “father” a son (artificial insemination) so she can recreate Batman and thus, the world will have a protector when Bruce is gone. Television Waller planned to kill Terry McGuinness’ parents, too, to recreate the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. But she can’t bring herself to go that far.

This version of Waller? Terry’s parents would be dead the minute Waller believes they’ve outlived their usefulness. She’s basically Lex Luthor now, with any and all means to an end being just fine. (Which is why the ending of the JL/SS makes no sense but we’ll get there in that review.) I love that Waller is back to her original look and how formidable she is. I hate that she’s been reduced to a one-note ruthless figure. Hate it.

As for Killer Frost, the story does an excellent job of laying out why Batman gives her a second chance and it continues Batman’s recent trend lately of trying to rehabilitate numerous heroes. An excellent issue only marred by the sadistic Waller, and the inability to riff that’s evident in Orlando’s other JL books.

Kamandi Challenge #1 – Dan Didio, Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett, Writers; Dale Eaglesham, Artist; Keith Giffen, Penciller; Scott Koblish, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Fun, Fast-Paced Adventure

Ray: The revival of this classic silver-age reverse anthology – one ongoing story, but with every chapter told by a different creative team – is one of the boldest ideas DC has put out in some time, especially given the a-list creators involved. And based on this first issue, it delivers on its promise in spades, with a fantastically exciting old-school adventure. The story kicks off with a story by the creative team of the sadly short-lived OMAC – the best thing Dan Didio has ever written – as Kamandi’s journey begins with him seemingly a modern-day teenager in small-town America, just trying to get to school on time. However, as he races to school – a segment with some great shout-outs to creators no longer with us – things go strangely wrong and the story descends into a futuristic Kirby-esque nightmare before the truth is revealed, and Kamandi finds himself in a world ruled by man-beast warriors.

The second story, by Dan Abnett and Dale Eaglesham, isn’t as committed to the classic Kirby-esque vibe – that’s because it’s committed to no-holds-barred action, as Kamandi finds himself in the Tiger Prince Tuftan’s sadistic gladiator arena, up against a massive, vicious ape in an electrified arena. Abnett’s writing is at its strongest when he’s telling epic fantasy, so this is one of the best things he’s done in a while. After using his human smarts to defeat the gorilla, Kamandi winds up a favored pet of Tuftan and under the study of the overall benevolent Doctor Canus – but things take a turn for the dangerous and world-threatening when the vaguely mad King Caesar returns with a new weapon, and it’s revealed that the animals have taken all the wrong ideas from humanity’s fall. There’s a lot of interesting layers in this comic, to say nothing of the spectacular visuals. With many more creative teams to come, things could obviously go in either direction, but this is an early favorite for one of my favorite DC books of 2017.

Jack Kirby, playing himself, in Kamandi. page copyright DC Comics.

Corrina: Remember Wednesday Comics? That was an ambitious weekly anthology put together in 2009 which featured some well-known characters (Flash, Wonder Woman) and some not so well-known, like Kamandi. Wednesday Comics made a Kamandi fan of one of my sons and it was, indeed, one of the best storylines in what was a stellar anthology overall. (You can find a collected edition in hardcover.)

This Kamandi book had much of the same feel as the Wednesday Comics version. There are the obvious nods to creator Jack Kirby, including the artwork and the actual appearance of Kirby himself. (My second favorite Kirby-in-comics appearance, the first being Kirby as God in Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo’s run on Fantastic Four.)  And there’s a sense of fun in it all, despite the creepy opening of the fake town and the gladiator setup in the second tale. In fact, it reminded me that people who like Kamandi might also like The Only Living Boy, as Kamandi displays the same pluck as the hero of that story and both can be enjoyed by all-ages.

Grade B-Solid Reads

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #6 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Howard Porter, Artist; Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Good Story, Meh Epilogue

Ray: With a lightning-fast pace and a weekly release schedule, this is one event that definitely didn’t outstay its welcome like so many others. Feeling more like a great action movie set in the DCU, the scale of the threat has escalated until Eclipso – now puppeting Max Lord’s body – has taken control of the Justice League and most of the world. Batman’s ragtag Justice League composed of former Squad members plus Lobo is the last thing standing between them and the world. It doesn’t take long before Batman’s group starts falling apart, as Deadshot’s attempt to shoot Eclipso soon results in him getting possessed, and Boomerang, Croc, and Harley soon join him. That just leaves Killer Frost and Lobo to hold the fort with Batman, and they need a way to cure the group quickly before they’re wiped out.

That involves Killer Frost creating a prism with her ice powers, and using Superman’s heat vision to distribute it across the field, curing the rest of Eclipso’s prisoners. However, that requires far more energy than Frost has. Batman is willing to offer up his life force, but the entire group then offers up a little bit of theirs, allowing Frost to power up without killing anyone. I’ve got to say, Frost’s story arc here reminds me a little bit of Jessica Cruz’s in Darkseid War, but it’s still done well and I think Williamson and Orlando have set her up as an effective hero. The ending maybe goes a bit too far with making the League and Squad chummy now, especially since the League is okay with Waller taking back everyone but Frost, but I did love Batman manipulating Lobo into joining his new League, and there are some really interesting tidbits about future plans here as well. What is Task Force XI? Color me intrigued. Definitely an above average event comic, for me.

Eclipso seems unstoppable in this conclusion. Image from #6 cover copyright DC Comics

Corrina: A bit too far? From what we’ve seen of Waller, she’s a black hat and she’s a murderer numerous times over, despite her justifications. Batman, in particular, shouldn’t be willing to give Waller a free pass and I have no idea why I have to stomach Lobo in the new League but I have always hated Lobo, so that may be just me. Yes, I know, this ending is not Williamson’s fault. It’s not like DC is going to let any writer dismantle the cash cow that has become the Suicide Squad property, but still.

The rest of the story, with Killer Frost taking center stage. Batman, then the Justice League, then even the Squad, offering to give up their life force to defeat Eclipso was a wonderful moment and terrifically drawn too. It’s definitely the highlight of a fast-paced, if not perfect, miniseries. The creative team did a nice job handling so many characters and that it was over so fast was a definite plus. Overall, a good read, which is far better than many company crossovers.

Batman: Detective Comics #949 – James Tynion IV, Marguerite Bennett, Writers; Ben Oliver, Szymon Kudranski, Artists; Gabe Eltaeb, Hi-Fi, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Great Showcase For Kate Kane

Ray: A satisfying, if unspectacular, conclusion to Batwoman’s prequel arc, this issue feels more like a typical action comic than the last one did. However, it’s got a truly great fight sequence and some solid character work at its core. The issue opens with a flashback to Kate’s training and her first encounter with Batman, who has detected her attempts to monitor him and has had quite enough of a wannabe tailing him. While Kate and Batman are having their face-off, Jacob is discussing his plans for the Colony and whether Kate fits into them with his second-in-command, Samuels. So it’s no surprise when Samuels shows up again – this time as a highly-trained Colony soldier in experimental armor, looking to liberate Jacob from his cell in the Belfry.

Samuels fights his way to the center of the building where he thinks he’s freeing Jacob – but he’s actually in the Mud Room, where he’s met with dozens of clone copies of Batwoman, which try to overwhelm him. With no way out, he tests the experimental monster venom on himself and transforms into a monstrous beast that reminds me vaguely of the classic horror monster Pumpkinhead. Once monster-Samuels escapes, the issue gets much better, as Bruce and Kate talk over the differences in their agenda, and Kate reveals how she’s actually known Bruce was Batman for years now. The solo series is nicely set up when Kate makes a deal with her father for information – it reminds me a bit of The Blacklist, in places – and heads off on her own mission. A good interlude setting up a promising series, but I can’t wait for Cassandra Cain’s spotlight in the next arc.

Batwoman confronts her father’s other trainee. page copyright DC Comics

Corrina: I tend to say this a lot but for those who are new to Batwoman from Tynion’s run, this has been a terrific introduction to the character. While I still would urge everyone to read Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III, everything you need to know about Kate Kane to start her solo series has been in the Rebirth Batman: Detective Comics arc.

The idea of contrasting Samuels with Kate, both as disciplines of Jacob Kane, is a good one but the story seems a bit rushed. Perhaps it’s tossing in a villain who will be key to Batwoman’s story in her own book but feels out-of-place here or perhaps it’s the quick set-up to the status quo of Kate working with her father in her own book. Either way, the best action sequence is in the Mud Room, where Samuels’s over-confidence takes a serious hit. I remain a little unhappy with Jacob Kane as a villain (though Amanda Waller far surpasses his villainy lately) only because I felt his loving relationship with Kate was one of the best elements of Batwoman. But this perhaps lays down the foundation for Jacob to somehow redeem himself after all the civilian deaths and the supposed death of Tim Drake.

Batgirl #7 – Hope Larson, Writer; Chris Wildgoose, Artist; Mat Lopes, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Good Return

Ray: Batgirl returns to Burnside, in the best issue of the new series yet. This story actually tackles a lot of the same themes as the story that kicked off the new Ms. Marvel series, but I actually think it does a better job of taking on the issue of gentrification. Ms. Marvel portrayed gentrification as an evil force, complete with a HYDRA mastermind taking over a neighborhood. Here, it’s portrayed as a natural force, one often driven by good people coming in and wanting to help a neighborhood (such as Barbara and Alysia and their tech company), but that creates consequences that selfish people can exploit. That’s the case here, as Burnside is having a tech boom, and many of the new residents aren’t a fan of the old Burnside.

The issue catches up with both Frankie and Alysia, who are both going through major changes in their lives (it’s great to have these two fantastic supporting characters back), and introduces a new wild card in the form of the charming Ethan Cobblepot, a seemingly legitimate businessman seeking to escape his father’s shadow – but with ties to a shady app that removes homeless people from the neighborhood and supposedly transports them to shelters. Those “shelters”, though, include a supervillain seeking people to experiment on, via a loophole. This is a great issue because there really aren’t any easy answers, or any clear heroes or villains (well, besides the actual mad scientist) yet. It’s a socially conscious comic that doesn’t take the easy way out and even makes its hero confront her role in the problem. Now that Barbara is back in Burnside, this series seems to have found its groove.

From cover to Batgirl #7, copyright DC Comics

Corrina: I agree it’s the best issue of this new creative team. The first arc was fine but felt a bit disjointed. This tale begins us a much more solid and centered Barbara Gordon, with Batgirl home with her friends, observing the changes in Burnside, and getting involved to help others in a proto-typical Batgirl story where the villain isn’t so much a superhero as someone who manipulates and steals–in this case, lives. I wonder if this is a comment on Uber? But it’s certainly a comment on the good and the bad sides of technology.

Meanwhile, there’s Ethan. Is he really a Cobblepot? Unclear as yet but anyone who takes the name who isn’t Penguin’s son can’t have good motivations. It’s sorta like giving yourself the last name “Capone.” I see why Batgirl wants to keep an eye on him. Less clear is why Barbara might be interested in him, romantically, as there seems no spark to me. We’ll see.

The Flash #15 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Just What Do The Rogues Want?

Ray: As the Rogues Reloaded storyline kicks off, we see exactly what this reorganized villain team is capable of. This issue is almost entirely an action segment, one that starts early and doesn’t let up until the final page. The Rogues faked Barry out last issue and that gave them a head start on their invasion of Corto Maltese. This small European nation holds some of the world’s greatest treasures, and the Rogues seemingly launch a full-on assault on it to get ahold of a legendary statue. It doesn’t take long for Flash to catch up, though, and the Rogues are seemingly already coming apart with tension. Heat Wave is unstable, Cold and Mirror Master have a rivalry, and no one likes Trickster. Despite that, the Rogues give Flash a run for his money – until he realizes that something is wrong, and they’re behaving a bit off.

None of the Rogues are actually there besides Mirror Master. The entire thing has been an illusion, and once Flash figures things out, things get really out of control. Mirror Flashes. Giant Mirror Monsters. Portals sucking civilians into the Mirror Zone. Mirror Master has always been the most powerful member of the Rogues, and this is one of the first issues in a while that’s really captured that. By the time Mirror Master has managed to escape and Barry’s gotten out of the traps set for him, it’s too late – the Rogues have divided and conquered, and they’re pulling off heists across Central City. The Rogues are sort of old-school villains, and it’s been a while since they came off as legitimate threats. This issue turns that around in a big way.

Teamwork! The Rogues in action in Flash #15, image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: So, a Rogues story. I approached with trepidation but, as with most of Williamson’s work, found myself entertained instead. I even fell for the same trick as Barry, that of the Rogues’ attack in Corto Maltese. Yep, should have seen the trick coming but I didn’t.

This issue is also an excellent showcase for the Rogues’ power set, too. I’ve always thought Mirror Master is the most dangerous of them and I didn’t change my mind this issue but it’s also clear why Cold is their leader. My one problem? What do the Rogues want? To win over Flash? To gain riches? (They could do that easily and retire in peace.) So what keeps them being Rogues? I hope to find out.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #13 – Robert Venditti, Writer; V. Ken Marion, Penciller; Paul Neary, Dexter Vines, Inkers; Alex Sollazzo, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: My Favorite Among Venditti’s Entire Run

Ray: An odd, done-in-one breather issue after the two huge-scale arcs that kicked off this book, this is a tale taking place sixty years in the future on the planet Xudar, the home of Tomar-Tu, who played a key role in the last arc. It’s at once the most laid-back issue of the run and maybe the most consequential, if certain pages are to be taken literally. It starts with an old couple, Zumol and Somar, who are babysitting their grandkids. They clean up after dinner, and the grandmother goes to tell the grandkids one of her stories. It’s a story about how she survived a Starro invasion when she was a little girl, and how the Green Lantern Corps saved her. Although the kids are scared, she makes clear that this is a story of hope and heroism.

The story continues, and that’s when it sort of morphs into a “coming attractions” issue, as this old woman tells of the future battles the Green Lanterns faced in a series of impressive double-page spreads. There’s one showing a host of future villains, including what looks like Celestials and an army of…evil crystal birds? Another spread shows not one but an army of Phantom Rings heading out into the universe, and yet another shows what looks like a second round in the War of Light. All intriguing, but the heart of the story comes in the final few pages, as it’s revealed just who this old woman is and what her significance to Xudar’s history is. It manages to pull off the significant feat of working both as a slice-of-life story and a significant piece in the buildup to the next great GL stories.

Corrina: Stop the presses! I liked a Hal Jordan Green Lantern issue! Um, but that may be because Hal is barely in it. Well, you can’t have everything. I liked this bedtime story a great deal because it’s the kind of old-school story that a kid might pick up, read, and become a Green Lantern fan for life. It has that vibe, that sense of wonder, that sense of morality and the heroism that I so loved and so reached me as a kid and still does. It’s likely my favorite thing Venditti has ever written and I thought the art change added to its atmosphere and so didn’t miss Van Sciver’s work at all.

Wonder Woman #15 – Greg Rucka, Writer, Liam Sharp, Writer; Laura Martin, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Spy Stuff!

Ray: As we veer back to the present day, Greg Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman seems to be turning into a pretty compelling conspiracy thriller. When we last left off, the reveals about Themysrica had left Diana completely catatonic, and when we pick up, she’s in a mental asylum in England. For once, the asylum isn’t really a house of horrors – no one there seems to be threatening Diana or abusing patients – but it’s still rather jarring to see Diana in this position (ironically, this makes her the third member of the trinity to wind up in an asylum in modern stories). However, unlike the other two, there is something genuinely wrong with her mind, as we see when she hallucinates a talking snake coming out of her arm.

On Themysrica, we get our first glimpse of what’s been going on there since Diana left – and never returned. Rucka seems to be going with the Hippolyta/Philippus relationship that Gail teased a long time ago, which makes me happy, and the scene between them as Hippolyta reflects on losing her daughter is powerfully written. Meanwhile, as Veronica Cale leads what’s becoming a who’s-who of WW villains, Steve Trevor, Barbara Minerva, and an injured Etta Candy hole up in a hotel room and try to figure out their next move as tension between the three grows. While Diana is obviously the focus of this run, Rucka’s always been great at fleshing out the supporting cast, and the last page brings back one of my favorite supporting characters from his past run. This continues to be the best of a lot of different WW runs, bringing back the classic epic vibe of the Perez run combined with the grittier Azz run.

Diana is not in a happy place. From WW #15, copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Is Diana hallucinating the talking snake? I thought perhaps it was Diana in touch with some other dimension, a bit lost, and trying to find her way home somehow. Hallucinations somehow so mundane for Wonder Woman. And, yes, it is rather jarring to see Wonder Woman so seemingly helpless but, oddly, seeing what she sees in her mind while in the asylum helps, as it allows her to seem proactive.

The rest of the issue plays to Rucka’s strengths as a conspiracy/spy thriller writer, with Steve and Etta paranoid about who they can trust and where might be a safe space, and Barbara’s need to redeem herself for past actions. This also plays to Sharp and colorist Laura Martin’s strengths, as the colors in this sequence are muted, dark, and somewhat terrifying.

Teen Titans #4 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Koi Pham, Penciller; Wade Von Grawbadger, Inker; Jim Charalampidis, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Titans Together (Finally)

Ray: This issue is Damian’s story, more than anyone else’s. When we last left off, he had surrendered himself to Ra’s Al Ghul as a way to protect the rest of the Titans from the Demon’s Fist. However, if he was expecting a warm welcome from his grandfather…not so much. Ra’s makes clear that he doesn’t trust him and expects him to prove himself – a sentiment shared by Mara. The leader of the Fist proceeds to attempt to kill him, but Damian challenges her to a trial by combat to lead the League instead. Ra’s is all in favor, driving home just how little he cares about his own flesh and blood. Meanwhile, Beast Boy reports back that he saw Damian surrender himself, and the rest of the team starts to gel as a unit as they plan to rescue their erstwhile leader. Starfire still seems to have nothing to do besides make ill-timed alien analogies, though.

The best part of the issue is the fight between Damian and Mara, which takes place in Ra’s idea of an arena – an underground volcano, complete with flowing lava. Koi Pham’s art isn’t quite as instantly compelling as Jonboy Meyers was, but he draws one hell of a villain lair, and the action is great. Damian manages to beat Mara fair and square – but that only works when the villain isn’t waiting to literally stab you in the back. Wounded, Damian is captured and taken to a cell to await a ritual where Maya will murder him and drink his blood – because the League of Assassins has apparently gotten really freaking goth in recent years. Naturally, the rest of the Titans are along soon to perform a rescue. This isn’t the most original run, but the team is starting to become a lot more endearing as the series goes on.

Corrina: The most enjoyable issue of this series so far. Yes, it still centers on Damian but it also draws in the other Titans and, finally, gives them something more proactive to do than ponder Damian’s manipulations. Ray found the best part of the issue the fight between Damian and Mara. That was also well done, especially how casually Damian initially defeats his rival, but I’m a little concerned about his injury.

Like his father, Damian is only human, and while I can shrug across most injuries, a sword strike that causes series blood loss, left untreated, should kill Damian. I know, comics, but that was just a shade too far for me. I also have some issues with still using basically one-note members of Mara’s assassin group but, hey, all that is overshadowed by the fun of seeing this group of Titans come together for the first time.

Superman: Action Comics #972 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Stephen Segovia, Penciller; Art Thibert, Inker; Ulises Arreola, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Not Bad.

Ray: A solid conclusion to the overly long Godslayer arc. The two main villains are still the weakest point – a flat bunch of 90’s-esque bruisers who remind me a bit of Lobo with Stryfe’s armor. However, at its core this isn’t really a story about them. It’s a story about Superman and Luthor, and when we left them last, they were trapped on a red sun planet where Superman was quickly losing his powers as the Godslayers closed in. Luthor narrates the issue, and winds up having to take the heavy hitter role as his armor is the best chance to survive. However, Superman proves to not be a sitting duck, as he was without his powers for a year during Convergence and has picked up more than a few tricks in that time.

While the battle rages, there’s another interesting subplot going on, as Lois and Jon encounter the mysterious Clark Kent for the first time. Next issue is going to bring that plot full-circle, apparently. The ending of the Godslayer plotline is pretty strong, as Superman figures out a way to beat L’Call’s prophecy by offering him an alternative perspective through a prophecy of his own future. It’s a very Superman-esque way to resolve this, although I’ll be happy not to see these villains again. What really works, though, is the fire-forged teamwork between Superman and Luthor, as it seems the two are forming…if not a friendship, then at least an understanding. I always found Luthor more interesting as a rival/supporting cast member than a straight villain, so I’m kind of hoping Luthor’s semi-benevolent approach sticks for a while.

Corrina: The best part of this story was Superman’s solution, which was basically to turn the tables and allow L’Call to see his own future. It’s very Superman, in that it not only defeats the villain but forces him to reconsider all of his own “villainous” actions. Ah, Superman, always spreading the hope everywhere in the universe.

Luthor’s narration is fine, though not as good as in the last issue. I was more interested in Lois, Jon and not-Clark. I would have thought Lois could lie better after all these years in hiding but perhaps not-Clark throws her a great deal. it’s kinda hard to meet your husband’s doppelganger–worse when he might be an enemy. When will we get answers to this mystery? Soon, I hope.

The Hellblazer #6 – Simon Oliver, Writer; Pia Guerra, Penciller; Jose Marzan Jr., Inker; Carrie Strachan, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: The Djinn Plot Is Finally Moving

Ray: Constantine comics are usually dark, seedy, and moody. That makes this comic, which seems to take place in bright and open spaces, a little jarring. The main character here isn’t Constantine, but Mercury. The young mage, who is just returned from a sojourn in the Rot with Swamp Thing, has been having weird visions. They take place in an odd, pastoral landscape filled with strange beasts. Some, like a giant furry thing with fly eyes, are cute, while others…are less so. While there, she encounters a mysterious old man whose origin is tied to the main villain of the art – the ruthless Djinn Marid. Marid, meanwhile, is holding a summit of the who’s-who of the magical community, attempting to rally them behind his Djinn coup.

If there’s one complaint I have with this excellent comic, it’s that Constantine feels a bit…defanged. The recent Tynion/Doyle run was great at working Constantine into the DCU while still keeping his mercenary nature. Here he spends most of his time babysitting a teenager and solving mysteries. That being said, the story centered around him and his supporting cast is pretty great, with a lot of interesting magical elements that aren’t normally used in Constantine stories. And I’d be missing the point if I didn’t mention the best selling point of this issue – the fantastic art of Pia Guerra, who has been much missed since Y: The Last Man ended. It’s not Vertigo Hellblazer, sure, but it’s a pretty great comic in its own right.

Corrina: Constantine did start off this run by risking the souls of everyone in London, yes, and that’s hardly defanged. But, I agree, he seems more a supporting character in this run than he did in the Tynion/Doyle comic. The good news is that I love his supporting cast so far, especially Mercury and Swamp Thing. Guerra does a terrific job with the odd, pastoral landscape. As villains, the Djinn hold the promise of being formidable foes–one is already ruthless, as we see–but I’m more intrigued by the other one who seems to be on the side of the good. But no one is ever truly good in a Constantine story, so we’ll see.

Future Quest #9 – Jeff Parker; Writer; Ron Randall, Artist; Veronica Gandini, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Race to the Rescue! 

Ray: Another strong issue of Future Quest, as all the heroes unite to battle the monsters of Omnikron. Ron Randall – who has become the most regular artist on this series – as always does a capable job with art that isn’t too far off from Shaner’s and has an appealing old-school style. The story opens with Dr. Quest and Dr. Zim, along with one of Space Ghost’s partners, making a daring escape in a high-tech plane from their secret base, returning to the battlefield. Meanwhile, the kids have a mission of their own – resurrecting Frankenstein Jr. in the body of the massive robot Gargantuan. Frankenstein is soon back among the living, and that’s where the kaiju-fighting piece of the comic begins.

The Impossibles are already on the case, as monsters start taking over the coast. Great design on the creatures by the art team, by the way – these don’t look like giant animals, they look like something genuinely otherworldly and horrific. There can be a bit too many characters roaming around at time, and it’s still kind of hard to keep track of a few of them each issue, but once the big action set piece begins – Gargantuan facing off against an army of giant monsters – this story accomplishes exactly what it wants to. It feels like there’s a lot to still wrap up in three issues, but right now this series is delivering a fun, old-school adventure that’s easily the best of the Hanna-Barbera line.

Corrina: We all have our characters we love. Ray has Emiko in Green Arrow and he’s almost guaranteed to like a comic where she’s handled well. Race Bannon is like that for me, one of the first characters I ever watched and adored. So, all this comic had to do was give him an awesome heroic sequence and I would love it to pieces. Which I do.

But that’s not all that happens in this comic. The ever-expanding cast has been nicely integrated, to the point where I like watching them work together, especially how Jonny and Hadji help Frankenstein Jr. steal the fancy new robot, Gargantuan. (Well, not steal, just take without permission.) At the same time, the monsters are scary, the heroes are heroic, the action sequences are great, and I love the nods to all the original properties, since as the confusion when the others realize Zinn and Dr. Quest are working together. (And, by the way, this comic does nothing to dissuade people that Dr. Quest and Race are a romantic couple.)

Crossover Corner:

Star Trek/Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds #2 – Mike Johnson, Artist; Angel Hernandez, Artist; Alejandro Sanchez, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: The best thing about this crossover is the genuine fusion of the worlds, the way the GL universe starts intersecting with the Star Trek status quo and how the various characters interact. The fact that this is a permanent status quo in this crossover means there’s a lot more meaning to the events than in most, and we see things develop such as a relationship between Carol Ferris and Montgomery Scott – which throws Hal for a loop. Of course, there’s bigger issues, such as the fact that Sinestro has gotten his hands on a Manhunter that may lead him to this world’s version of Oa.

Hal expends the last of his energy trying to stop him, and is left powerless while Sinestro heads off to his secret base with Larfleeze – the two always one step away from backstabbing or killing each other. Meanwhile, the GL’s other arch-nemesis, Atrocitus, finds a powerful source of rage – only to come up against an enemy whose rage outstrips even him. My excitement over the arrival of the greatest Star Trek villain of all time, though, is blunted by which version it is. Missed opportunity here on that last page!

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #2 – Matthew K. Manning, Writer; Jon Sommariva, Penciller; Sean Parsons, Inker; Leonardo Ito, John Rauch, Colorists

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: This is definitely the lighter of the two DC/IDW crossovers this week, which makes sense since it’s based on two popular cartoon series. Still, it has a good grasp of the two casts of characters and provides some fun battles. The combo of Snakeweed and Poison Ivy is inspired, as it turns the normally weak Snakeweed into a legitimate threat. He was always one of the coolest designs for a Turtle villain. The team’s rapport continues to build, and I especially liked Robin and Raphael trading barbs as Dick gets under Raphael’s skin by pointing out his own insecurities.

I’m not usually a fan of Joker stuff, but I have to admit, Joker and Shredder playing off each other was a lot of fun – mainly because of just how little tolerance Shredder has for Joker’s antics. You could not find two villains with less similarities. The next villain, Scarecrow, is set up at the end of the issue and seems likely to take the story to a slightly darker place as he preys on the Turtles’ worst fears. Not a groundbreaking crossover, but one fun for fans of both characters.

Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman #2 – Andy Mangels, Writer; Judit Tondora, Artist; Roland Pilcz, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Ray: Unlike the other two crossovers, I don’t think readers are going to get as much out of this one unless they’re already a fan of both properties. Given that neither of these properties have been active outside of comics for a long time, this series seems like it’s for a more limited audience. It’s a good comic on the merits – Diana and Jaime have a good rapport, and the best scenes of the issue are when the two of them are alone, just talking about the different ways they choose to approach their superhero careers – Jaime as a public figure, Diana by keeping her identity a secret. There’s too many villains by half, though – Dr. Cyber is the only really recognizable Wonder Woman villain, and the others are obscure villains from both TV shows. The action is fun, but forgettable. This comic is recommended highly for any fans of the original properties, though.

Split Decision!

Blue Beetle #5 – Keith Giffen, Writer; Scott Kolins, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Not a Good Revival

Ray: This is the most action-packed issue of the series so far, as the biggest threat of Jaime’s arc so far emerges. A massive, green beetle-like villain named Mordecai attacks the clinic where Jaime’s mother works, targeting the members of the Posse who are being treated there. The Posse puts up a good fight, but they’re quickly overwhelmed and some are killed. Jaime is busy with his friends, waiting for word from Ted Kord on whether the Scarab can be removed when he’s alerted to the attack. Once he finds out what’s going on, Jaime takes the fight to Mordecai. There’s a definite influence here from the YJ series villains in Mordecai’s design, although he’s bigger and more intimidating.

There’s some really interesting reveals with the villains, and it’s good to see the rest of Jaime’s family (although, can we give Milagro some more lines? She’s a fun character). What doesn’t work as well? Just how many characters there are in this story. The bizarre new take on Sugar and Spike, especially. I’m not really sure what their role is here and I doubt too many people were clamoring for their return. Ted Kord’s role in this story is limited, only appearing in a few scenes. I’m intrigued by some of the things going on in the background of the story, such as the possible identity of a bigger threat that Mordecai is working for, but the comic as a whole still has a lot of odd spots that don’t really work.

Corrina: I don’t find odd spots that don’t work. I find a comic that doesn’t work

The original Blue Beetle series was one of my kids’ favorite introductions into comics. But I’m sad to say that after five issues of this series, I cannot recommend it. I love the characters, particularly Jaime, but the action is all herky-jerky, the dialogue clunks when it’s trying to be clever, and especially the villain seems so one-note here in his quest to separate Jaime from the scarab.

Plus, there is the use of Sugar and Spike. Who I hated the last time they were used. I dislike them here too and they add nothing to an already crowded cast.

C- Just Okay:

Doom Patrol #4 – Gerard Way, Writer; Nick Derington, Artist; Tamar Bonvillain, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Pass

Ray: Ultimately, this comic is a mess. A spectacular, brightly colored, fascinating mess. Gerard Way is going completely off the beaten path here, telling a story that traverses dimensions, genres, and weaves together multiple characters into an acid-trip of a space opera that is grounded by having one of the most intriguing lead characters in comics right now. The story opens with a father and son having an odd conversation over the son’s choice of hobbies. This isn’t ballet or bug collecting, though – it’s occult rituals that started after losing his mother. Then, it’s off to the Negative Space, where Larry Trainor is put on trial for supposedly violating the laws of negative space – only to choose to embrace his destiny and become the Negative Man by choice.

Niles Caulder, still a weird sideshow in all of this, is spying on Casey Brinke, who remains the most fascinating part of the book. Stranded in space and missing her leg, with only an odd little space-furby of sorts to keep her company, she quickly goes from being an ordinary paramedic to embracing her destiny as a space hero. Along the way, she discovers the secret of Danny the Street and winds up getting pulled into an interstellar war with a mysterious new villain. Does it all work? No, a lot of it is so bizarre to be obtuse, and it occasionally veers into shock visuals and gags. That being said, what does work is so visually intriguing that I find myself already anticipating the next issue.

Corrina: I will have to defer to Ray from now on with this series as I can only say “yes, I see that there is a lot of creativity in this but I don’t enjoy reading it and it’s not for me,” so many times. If it’s telling a coherent story, it’s one that has lost me. It is a story that doesn’t seem to value coherence. That’s okay but, as I said, not for me.

Batman Beyond #5 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Pete Woods, Artist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: More Like a Reset Than A Story

Ray: This title’s definitely gotten a bit better since the return of Terry McGinnis to the book, but that’s really the only plus it has at this point. It’s competently written, sure, and the art is always good – this issue has guest art by Pete Woods, who has made a lot of mediocre-to-bad comics look great over the years – but the problem is, we’re still playing out the first story after six months, and it’s a story that hasn’t held much interest for me from the start. Terry undercover with the Jokerz is actually a semi-intriguing idea, but the problem is that he’s not very good at undercover work and the Jokerz aren’t very good at villainy. Thus, Terry winds up exposed, and the Jokerz capture him and Dana – but the only thing that winds up happening is that they chuck acid balloons at them while Terry and Dana try to escape.

Matt is mainly here to dart around and try to help his brother, although he’s actually more competent than Terry. The big problem here is Dana. She was always a bit of a flat character in the original series, but here she’s every cliche of an annoying girlfriend who distracts the hero by fighting with them while they’re trying to get out alive. It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with her character, it’s that she’s used poorly. The highlight of the issue is probably Terry getting a new, souped up future Batman costume, complete with some very cool features. The design is a bit too 2099-meets-Blue Beetle, but it does what it’s supposed to. The original Batman Beyond design was such a masterfully simple design that it feels unnecessary. The end reveal continues to set the status quo back to normal, which is a plus sign, but the book needs to move on from this arc soon.

Corrina: There’s nothing terrible about this story. In fact, the creative team is doing a great job trying to reset the Batman Beyond world back to the way it was. Apparently, the sooner we forget about the adjectiveless Futures End, the better. I’m all for that, big time, but the story does feel far too much like a means to an end than a tense tale.

Does anyone believe that this Bruce Wayne won’t be reanimated and talk his place as Terry’s mentor/guiding force again? I don’t think so. I have hope once this is done, we can see the future of Batman Beyond, with Terry as a grown-up, navigating the world as a young adult rather than a high school student, and seeing the rebuilding Gotham of the future. That’s a comic I’d like to read.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #22 – Sholly Fisch, Writer; Dave Alvarez, Artist

Ray – 6/10

Ray: Scooby-Doo Team-Up is at its strongest when it’s digging through obscure corners of the DCU and introducing them to young readers in creative, all-ages stories. It’s at its weakest when it’s using Hanna-Barbera properties that aren’t really relevant anymore for team-ups with the Mystery Machine crew. Unfortunately, this issue is definitely the latter, teaming up both the Impossibles and Frankenstein Jr. in an adventure that’s set off when Frankenstein Jr. goes rogue after being possessed by the Mad Inventor (a Fu-Manchu-esque villain) and attacks the concert stadium being played by the Impossibles’ band – and attended by Scooby and crew. With no mystery in sight – the best part of Scooby Doo stories – it’s only really a story for die-hard fans of Scooby or fans of these two obscure concepts. The deliberately old-school style and straightforward plot make it feel rather out of step with the rest of the series.

Fail!

Suicide Squad #10 – Rob Williamson, Si Spurrier, Writers; Giuseppe Cafaro, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Unhappy With Waller’s Characterization

Ray: The final Justice League vs. Suicide Squad tie-in, this issue serves as an epilogue of sorts that ties up one of the loose ends of the event – that of Amanda Waller’s former partner Rustam, who she betrayed rather viciously. He escaped from Eclipso’s rampage and is on the run seeking revenge against Waller. Worrying that he’s going to strike against one of her weak points, she acts first and sweeps up a trio of young men and women who are later revealed to be her adult kids. My first thought was that this doesn’t square at all with the last issue of Suicide Squad Most Wanted, which gave Waller a dead husband and two dead kids. It actually seems that that happened too – Waller had five kids and basically just abandoned the remaining three.

Arguably my least favorite part of anything Suicide Squad-related is Waller family drama. She’s a fascinating, machiavellian figure, and her personal troubles are not where her strengths lie. The bulk of the issue is just Waller arguing with her three kids, trying to convince them that she’s acting in their best interests while they yell at her that she abandoned them. There’s a reveal that one of Waller’s kids is going to become a parent – thus making Waller a grandmother – but they want nothing to do with her. It’s implied that Rustam – who is barely in the issue – is not targeting her family, but rather wanted her to be confronted with the damage she did to them. It’s a lackluster scheme in the range of things, and ends Rustam’s storyarc with a whimper rather than a bang.

Corrina: Again with the Waller as evil. This is not a repressed woman who cares deeply about her family, this is a woman just one shade from being a sociopath. Only a sociopath would cut herself off from her other children in order to go under. Did she arrange for counseling for them? Housing? Care by relatives? These are things that might mitigate her decisions and give her ammunition to use when talking to her grown children but we never hear about any of them because, so far as we know, Waller “died” and simply left them to fend for themselves. Callous as heck, Waller, and yet another nail in the “Waller is evil” coffin.

So, no, didn’t like the issue, didn’t find any reason to find the villain compelling either.

Odyssey of the Amazons #1 – Kevin Grevioux, Writer; Ryan Benjamin, Penciller; Richard Friend, Inker; Tony Washington, Colorist

Ray – 3/10

Corrina: Doesn’t Work

Ray: The idea of a story looking at the Amazons long before Wonder Woman came into the world is an interesting one. After all, they had a long and thriving culture on Themysrica since time immemorial, with many great characters present. The problem is, this book is not that story. Taking place far away from Themysrica and focusing on original characters, there is an interesting hook – the Amazons are searching for fellow immortal women around the world who were separated from their group before they headed to their island – that allows Grevioux to diversify the core group of Amazons nicely. However, the story that surrounds it is simply not compelling, nor are the original characters in this book memorable.

The story begins with an elaborate battle sequence against some monstrous giant warriors somewhere in Africa, followed by a lengthy celebration in the kingdom of their new allies that mainly serves for various groups of Amazons to talk among themselves. Many of the Amazons have an issue with their general’s world-faring strategy, worrying that she’s risking their lives unnecessarily. The problem is…they’re right. Amazons seem to get picked off left, right, and center this issue. When a group of younger Amazons get captured by Norse giants, the leader orders her Amazons to embark on a pilgrimage to the North to get them back – and loses like two thirds of her women on the way just from storms! The art by Ryan Benjamin captures the battles nicely, but at its’ core, this is a plodding, bloody comic with no familiar characters and no characters to immediately latch on to. With the history of the Amazons being explored in the main title, this one is likely to struggle to distinguish itself.

Corrina: The narration of this story is obviously a nod to Conan the Barbarian and his tales of fantasy. It’s a nice idea, except it doesn’t quite work. Conan has one central character as a focus, for one, and the story is filtered through his eyes, which makes it easy to follow and makes the narration specific to one person. Here, the narration is hampered by having to explain the Amazons, their mission, and everyone in the battle.  It’s too much. Plus, there’s a fine line between homage and parody and the narration slides close to the parody line at times, which is unfortunate.

Overall, the issue is too ambitious, tossing in many characters without much grounding, including the Amazon leader, though she does have the most lines, I don’t get a sense of her personality other than “fight and follow orders.” Ray liked the art but I thought it muddled in spots, plus, I couldn’t tell each of the characters from the others, despite efforts to give them distinctive features. Again, I think this is a product of introducing too many people, too fast. I wish I could have liked this more but it sinks, much like the Amazon fleet at the end.

Hard Travelin’ Heroez: Six-Pack and Dogwelder #6 – Garth Ennis, Writer; Russ Braun, Artist; John Kalisz, Colorist

Ray – 1/10

Ray: So, yeah, this is a comic where John Constantine has sex with a sentient pile of organs, and then it’s implied gets sexually assaulted by her husband. It’s also a comic where Dogwelder uses his enchanted welding tool to fuse two different stars together and save the universe, but sacrifices his life in the process in some demented pastiche on Hal Jordan’s sacrifice in “The Final Night” twenty years ago. It’s such a puzzling book, full of gross-out humor and supremely unlikable characters, but it genuinely wants us to care about them and cry when they sacrifice themselves. It’s not just a bad comic, it’s a spectacularly confused one that remains one of the most bizarre and puzzling books I’ve ever seen from a major publisher. This strange, gross experiment ends exactly as it began – with a vaguely nauseating whimper.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.

Reviewer, comic book writer, and the author of Alex Actonn, Son of Two Seas - novel available on Amazon now! DC superfan who is loving everything about Rebirth. Feels very strongly about Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and Young Justice. Can also be found on Graphic Policy doing sales analysis with Glenn Matchett, and on the Rabbitt Stew Podcast with Glenn and Brandon James.