DC This Week – A Batman Instant Classic

Welcome to Batburger! Image via DC Comics

Of all the comics this week, Batman #16 and Midnighter & Apollo #5 are the ultimate standouts, earning our highest grade. They led a pretty good slate of DC Comis. We found a few that were just average, but unlike last week, we didn’t find any pure failures. Check out all the reviews, including a Green Lanterns/Planet of the Apes crossover, and the first meeting of Superman and the New Super-Man, Kenan. After they help save the Multiverse, that is.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW FOR ALL OF THIS WEEK’S DC COMICS

 Grade A+

Kickstarter Alert: SwapBots Augmented Reality

Batman #16 – Tom King, Writer; David Finch, Penciller; Danny Miki, Inker; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ray – 10/10

Corrina: Instantly Became One of My Favorite Batman Issues

Ray: Tom King may be the most versatile writer in comics at the moment. His Bat-run, from the start, has been incredibly dense and dark, from the psychological thriller of the first arc to the no-holds-barred prison break of the second, and then there was the noir romance of his Catwoman arc. So imagine my surprise when this issue turns out to be one of the funniest Batman comics ever written. It opens at Arkham, as Bane’s agents are trying to get Psycho Pirate out of Arkham. Batman needs him to cure Gotham Girl’s psychosis, while Bane is absolutely desperate to get free of his Venom addiction. Knowing Bane has declared total war on him and everyone he loves, Batman gathers the team…in their civilian guises. At a fast food restaurant. A fast food restaurant named Batburger, where you can get Joker seasoning on your fries.

The subject of the meeting is dark, of course, especially with the recent “death” of Tim Drake hanging over the group. But at the same time, it’s essentially about four brothers bickering and annoying the hell out of their dad. There’s jokes about how all of them have been dead, Damian annoying Jason, and Jason having a guilty pleasure in Joker seasoning. It’s almost surreal, seeing these characters in this situation, but everyone winds up staying in character, and the central question of whether the Robins (and Duke) take Bruce’s advice/orders or not leads to a very compelling argument. Bane isn’t seen in this issue, but he looms over the entire story as a powerful presence, one who makes himself known in a horrific way in the final scene. It’s obviously a fake-out, but even that sends a deeply disturbing message that snaps the title back to a grim reality immediately. Brilliant.

Corrina: There are two tones in this book and one is sad and horrible and the other funny as hell, and they work well together. Batman just wants all his children to be safe–enough to agree to meet them at Batburger instead of in the BatCave or somewhere that Bruce can be Batman and all growly and intimidating. (I assume Damian came becaue Dick asked him.) It’s interesting to see the dynamic between Duke Thomas and Dick, Jason, and Damian. Duke is another sort of costumed partner, not exactly jumping to team up with the other former Robins, perhaps because he’s remembering how badly that worked out with the We Are Robin group. Or perhaps because the original Robins weren’t helpful to the new gang of Robins that helped Duke.

But it’s also entirely possible Duke is right that maybe, just once, listening to Batman is the way to go. The end, as Ray said, is obviously a fake-out meant to throw Batman off his game. My only quibble: why not keep Gotham Girl near Psycho Pirate for her treatments, as moving her back and forth is dangerous. But that’s such a minor quibble in a terrific issue, one that instantly became a favorite. I predict many Tumblr posts featuring panels from it.

Midnighter and Apollo #5 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Fernando Blanco, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Also Classic

Ray: The more I read of this comic, the more I’m struck by the similarities to classic Samurai and Western movies, as well as their modern-day cousin, Tarantino’s Kill Bill. All of them focus on a single, implacable protagonist on a one-man mission towards rescue, revenge, or both. And Midnighter’s journey into hell has taken him to his final destination – the throne room of the sadistic Neron, where he fully intends to pick a fist-fight with the devil. The reveal of exactly what Midnighter was carrying in that candle all this time is suitably epic (in a brilliant two-page spread) and evens the playing field just enough for a no-holds-barred brawl between Midnighter and Neron, leading to one of the most brutal beat-downs of the series.

Of course, things are rarely as clear as they appear, especially when the devil is involved. Midnighter’s victory is short-lived, leading to a shocking gut-punch of a twist as Neron proves that he was three moves ahead of everyone. Or was he? The end of the issue has yet another twist, seemingly reversing the series’ dynamic just in time for the final issue. The original Midnighter series was brilliant, and the supernatural twist in this miniseries takes it to yet another level. Steve Orlando has done great work on many books, including the upcoming Justice League of America, but this is clearly his most personal work, and one of his best. The Wild Storm will be looking to reinvent other Wildstorm heroes later this month, but they’ll have a hard task to top the great work this book has done.

Corrina: Somehow, it’s fitting that after everything Midnighter does, that he falls to Neron in battle. Or does he? Someone who thinks 20 moves ahead might surely realize that Apollo would have something to say about all of this in the end, despite Neron’s boasts. But either way, the end of this battle will come down to Midnighter’s blind faith in Apollo; and Apollo’s love and faith in Midnighter. One will walk into hell for the other and the other will somehow bring lightness to hell. That is, if that’s what I think will happen but, then again, Orlando is good with surprises.

Heck, this creative team is good with everything.

Grade A

Green Lanterns #16 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Neil Edwards, Writer; Jay Leisten, Keith Champagne, Inkers; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Nice Twist  To the Mystery

Ray: Taking place almost between the pages of the current Batman arc – literally, Batman references what a hurry he’s in to get back to dealing with Bane – is this team-up arc of Green Lanterns. There’s an odd fear-plague sweeping Gotham, causing ordinary citizens to turn into crazed, violent, fear-driven maniacs trying to kill Batman. Bruce is at a loss as to the cause, and he calls in Jessica and Simon to investigate. Bruce thinks it may be the Sinestro Corps behind it, while Simon is sure it’s the Scarecrow. This leads to a huge argument between the two alpha-male heroes, over the identity of the villain – as well as over Simon’s gun. It’s entertaining, but I have to say it feels like Simon’s characterization has been set back a few issues here. He’s back to being a hot-headed rookie hero.

Jessica’s fangirl nature is the most charming part of the issue, especially when she winds up in the Batcave and reacts to it like most of us would. She might be older than most fangirl heroes like Kamala Khan, but given that she’s just pulling herself out of her self-imposed exile for the first time, it makes a lot of sense. Of course, the story takes a darker turn when Alfred winds up infected by the fear plague and has to be restrained by the GLs before he tries to kill Batman. Alfred doesn’t seem like a particular threat, but the fear plague turns even an ordinary old man into a danger. As for the reveal of the villain – well, given the argument between Batman and Simon, there’s a nice irony to the fact that both were both right and wrong. Overall, not on the level of the last arc, but still a unique twist on the classic GL format.

What is a gun between friends? From Green Lanterns #16, image via DC Comics

Corrina: I found the most charming part of the issue is Gordon deciding to pull rank on Simon and demanding that the Lantern hand over his gun, since he doesn’t have a carry permit in Gotham. Gordon’s sense of humor has gotten dryer and his “I don’t care who you are attitude” has gone up a notch since he wore the Bat Bunny suit.

Okay, hmm…maybe charming isn’t the right word. But it’s always nice when characters across the DC universe are written as their essential selves like this. Oddly, it’s Simon’s characterization that is the issue here because, as Ray said, he seems quite the hothead and that’s not like his recent self. We’ve seen a ton of Simon’s family and Jessica’s personal struggles. Now might be time to flip it, and focus more on Simon’s personal growth and Jessica’s family? But that will have to wait until they tackle Scarecrow using Sinestro Corps tech. It’s yet another way this creative team will make Jessica and Simon confront their fears.

Superman #16 – Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writer; Tony Daniel, Clay Mann, Pencillers; Sandu Floea, Seth Mann, Inkers; Dinei Ribeiro, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Love Letter To Grant Morrison

Ray: This huge-scale storyline involving the Supermen of countless dimensions comes to a head. Having sacrificed himself to protect his fellow Supermen, our Superman finds himself drained of his powers and at the mercy of the massive Prophecy, a cosmic villain who seems to believe his actions are necessary to prevent a greater disaster from coming. Superman attempts to confront Prophecy about his actions, but is thrown into a pit with a large group of depowered Supermen, forced to work as a slave. He’s soon joined by Kenan, who’s been captured as well despite Superman’s efforts. Meanwhile, the Justice League Incarnate regroups, trying to figure out a way to save Superman. Superman rallies his fellow Supermen and Superwomen, and with the help of a sacrifice from a member of the JLI, he manages to get their powers back.

Once the Supermen are repowered and reunited, this issue takes a huge level-up. I didn’t know I needed Captain Carrot punching a cosmic villain in the face, but, apparently, I did! The death in the JLI lacks impact, both because it’s a character we didn’t know too well, and because it parallels a very iconic DC death a little too closely. However, the epic final battle is well worth the price of admission on its own. My favorite moments are probably the ones after all the dust has settled, though. I’ve been waiting to see Superman and Kenan interact, and it seems being a dad has made Superman a bit more effective with young heroes. Hoping to see him bond with Supergirl next. Also, we get a Mr. Oz cameo, and it seems Prophecy may just factor into his plans.

Corrina: You know how I complain that some crossovers take forever? Like Darkseid War? Those are standard in the industry. Rare is the massive story that could have been a years-long crossover, like this one, and is instead only two-three issues! This feels most like a Silver Age tale where Superman crosses timelines, find awesome new people, fights a big scary foe and parts as friends with all those heroes. This is he kind of story from the 1960s and early 1970s that contained ideas that writers like Geoff Johns built whole careers on.

All of which is to say that I liked this very much. It pulled from the best of Morrison’s work on Multiversity and Final Crisis, deftly handed a huge cast, showcased why Superman is Superman, and even had a great moment at the end with Kenan and Clark. Well done.

Solid B

The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #2 – Cary Bates, Greg Weisman, Writers; Will Conrad, Artist; Ivan Nunes, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: What Is a Man’s Destiny?

Ray: After a lackluster first issue that focused on Captain Atom’s powers going out of control and detonating, seemingly leaving him powerless, this second issue takes a major level up with a big twist. It seems that the detonation didn’t just leave Atom human – it catapulted him through time, leaving him stranded in the 1990s with no way to get back. It’s odd to think of the 90s as history, given that I grew up then, but it is. And it also happens to be a world without superheroes at this point, as the first superheroes only emerged in the current DCU about a decade ago (at least, once Doctor Manhattan messed with the timeline). The first part of the issue focuses on Nathaniel Adam trying to acclimate to this strange world – and making efforts to be a hero without powers, which usually land him in the hospital.

It’s an oddly endearing take on the character, usually one of the coldest and most distant members in the DCU stables. His friendship with a college professor who’s an expert in time travel allows him to make decisions to his advantage while not messing with the timeline or creating a paradox, while his friendship with an ER doc who is amused by his frequent visits results in him changing his own future and finding love. However, as time goes on, Adam’s powers and unique physiology start making a return – and eventually come back in force when a group of punks decide to ambush the wrong man on the road. There’s a lot of unanswered questions, and it seems like next issue might very well change up the entire series again. But for right now, this issue sold me in a way that the first didn’t. A Captain Atom series needs to be unconventional to work, and this fits the bill.

Captain Atom looks forward to his new life. image via DC Comics

Corrina: I didn’t expect this twist but it makes sense in retrospect because Captain Atom has always been a time lost character. That he gets a chance to live his life again, one that he was robbed of because of his powers, is lovely. Or is it, because perhaps all his choices back then eventually led to Captain Atom happening in the first place? Which came first, him becoming Captain Atom or him being lost in the timestream making choices that led to….Captain Atom?

Timey-whimey stuff but this issue pulls those questions down to the human level, with Atom desperately hoping he can make something of his new life and the new person he loves. Fingers crossed for the poor guy. He deserves better than destruction.

Green Arrow #16 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Otto Schmidt, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Still Lacks Memorable Villains

Ray: One of the rules of this comic seems to be that if things are going too well for the hero, expect the other shoe to drop any second now. Last issue saw Ollie come closer to proving his innocence as the Vice Squad was exposed, plus Emiko came back from exile now renamed Red Arrow (a name she is very enthusiastic about, as she reminds people of several times in this issue). There’s no time for reunions, though, as Notting and his men are waging total war against the Seattle PD and Green Arrow, leading to an explosive final showdown in which Chief Westberg chooses the right side and Notting meets a fiery end. In the immediate aftermath, Ollie’s name is seemingly cleared and the family is reunited at last.

The aftermath of this battle, halfway through the issue, almost seems like Ollie might be getting a break. Emiko and Ollie sort out their issues and bond, everyone gathers at their hideout in the woods (which Diggle may be a bit too enthusiastic about tricking out with defenses), and Ollie stages a clandestine meeting with Chief Westberg where he chooses to expose his identity to gain his trust. It seems like Westberg – a clear allegory for Detective Lance – is on his way to becoming Ollie’s Commissioner Gordon. That is, until he heads into the background and is promptly murdered by an arrow from Dark Archer. So Ollie’s likely going to be framed for this as well. The issue is pretty solid, with good characterization all around, but it does feel slightly like we’re going in circles if Ollie’s going right back to being a fugitive.

Corrina: You know, I get tired of characters written as showing personality just so readers are bummed when they’re killed off. That’s the case here with Westberg. On the one hand, I didn’t see the twist coming. On the other hand, it seems a waste of a character who could have been an interesting member of the book’s cast. But I guess we have enough people in the Arrow clan already, with Dinah and Emiko and Diggle and their tech guy, whose name I keep forgetting.

I still wish the villains of this series had more depth. And bringing back Merlyn hasn’t helped so far.

DC Comics Bombshells #22 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Mirka Andolfo, Pasquale Qualano, Richard Ortiz, Artists; J. Nanjan, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: One of the things I enjoy the most about this book is how Marguerite Bennett digs deep into DCU history for heroines and villains in this alternate universe. I knew something was up with the Nazi that Selina had captured in the last issue, but I didn’t expect “him” to rip off his skin and be revealed as Whisper A’Daire, the obscure snake-themed assassin from the Bat-books. Overall, this is one of the most action-packed issues of the series, as Cheetah and Baroness Von Gunther have gained the upper hand and taken control of an army of robotic assassins. After a brief scuffle, Hawkgirl is injured and the group is captured, with the intention by Cheetah that they’ll be forced to create more war machines for her.

There’s a short but strong flashback for Hawkgirl, explaining her origin and the nature of her relationship with Vixen, and some interesting developments in the relationship between Kate, Renee, and Selina. However, that’s just a pause before the issue returns to its focus – which is giant robot action. The final battle has some great visuals, and it’s been a while since we caught up with Wonder Woman, but it seems like that gap’s about to end. This current arc isn’t the most compelling of the series for me, as it seems to have narrowed its focus, but the overall universe is as compelling as ever.

Nightwing #14 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Marcus To, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Nicely Blended Conclusion

Ray: The conclusion of Dick’s first adventure in Bludhaven turns out to be an entertaining story, albeit one with a bit too many moving parts to really gel entirely. When we last left off, Defacer had been offered a deal by the semi-corrupt Detective Svoboda, and she had used her and Dick’s connection to capture him. Now the three of them are in an uncomfortable alliance as they try to track down Mr. Nice before he kills again. Nice has kidnapped government official, Cherry, and is currently tormenting her and ranting about his master plan while switching masks regularly. Cherry, however, is anything but a sitting duck, and she manages to go on the run long enough for Nightwing and co. to catch up to them.

The final battle is entertaining, definitely, although it all seems an elaborate build-up to giving Nice a…unique visage when an explosion seemingly welds a broken mirror to his face. Nice was an interesting villain, although his motivation – guilt over a tragedy he causes motivates him to make sure no one can get away from their past sins – is a bit vague at times. Where the issue really excels is in its character work. Svoboda’s corrupt-cop routine is genuinely funny at times, and Defacer makes for an intriguing potential love interest and ally for Dick. I’m glad the story didn’t try to rush Dick out of Bludhaven after the initial crisis – this new status quo for him has some promise.

Corrina: Sometimes in Seeley’s previous work, he hasn’t connected all the dots of the plot as much as I’d like. I love his individual scenes but the flow can be halting from one plot point to the other, especially when he was working with complicated spies/counterspy tales in the Grayson series. Here, though, the pieces of Dick’s first adventure in Bludhaven fit together without any gaps, from the role of Cherry in the travel office to Detective Svoboda to Defacer, who makes a nice new love interest.

In a way, Svoboda is Dick’s Harvey Bullock–at least Harvey as he was originally conceived, a competent but semi-corrupt cop,  and I applaud her creation because we don’t often see women created for “character” roles like this one. I agree with Ray that Nice’s motivation was more than a bit off but, then, he wasn’t exactly a stable person before his girlfriend died.

I must talk about the art. Nightwing’s previous series in Bludhaven had a distinctive gritty visual style. This artwork is 180 degrees from that, featuring not only lots of colors and bright palettes but approaching the city’s worst elements as grime hiding under the glitz. A bow to the entire art team.

Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern #1 – Robbie Thompson, Justin Jordan, Writers; Barnaby Bagenda, Artist; Alex Guimaraes, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: It feels like DC has been crossing over everywhere lately, and the Green Lanterns have been getting around in particular. Makes sense, since space franchises lend themselves to crossovers. The Planet of the Apes franchise, riding a hot streak with the recent movies and just coming off the “Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes” crossover, was a natural hit. This is very much based off the original movie series, with a focus on characters like Dr. Zaius, Cornelius, and Nova, with references to Charlton Heston’s character as well. So fans who have gotten into the recent Andy Serkis series may be a bit lost. However, the writing team of Thompson and Jordan deliver an entertaining story.

I’m wondering if the “Universal Ring” that drives this story is supposed to be the Phantom Ring because the two of them seem very similar and function in similar ways, flipping between the emotional spectrum. There’s a lot of mystery in this story, with a hooded villain seemingly preying on powerful members of the emotional spectrum, and an ape-world on the brink of war with classic villains from the movie playing a major role. Barnaby Bagenda’s art is excellent as always, although he has a different inker from his time on Omega Men and it shows. I’m not sure that the merge of the two universes works quite as well here as it does in Star Trek/Green Lantern, but it’s a strong enough start for me to get on for the ride.

Grade C

Death of Hawkman #5 – Mark Andreyko, Writer; Aaron Lopresti, Rodney Buchemi, Pencillers; Livesay, Inker; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Sorry, No Hawkgirl!

Ray: Gotta love when the cover team and the writing team aren’t in sync – the cover of this comic has Hawkgirl returning and seemingly fighting Hawkman. But Hawkgirl isn’t even in this issue! That aside, though, this is a fairly compelling issue as things go from bad to worse in the battle between Rann and Thanagar. My biggest lingering problem with the series – Alanna Strange’s increasingly unstable behavior – is finally resolved as we actively see Despero messing with her head, explaining why she’d be willing to shoot down her husband’s ship rather than talk to him, and then order airstrikes on her own city to kill him. Despero’s power is increasing, even allowing him to target Earth and influence Cyborg’s mind to keep the JL from bringing in reinforcements.

If this series has one big weakness, though, it’s the back-and-forth timelines. I’m not really sure what purpose this serves anymore, except to disorient the reader on occasion. The comic is fast-paced, although a fairly major character in GL mythology dies in an off-hand scene leading to the naming of a new Green Lantern from the book’s supporting cast. That seemed handled in an odd way. The title of the comic, a cryptic giveaway that something bad would happen, finally starts coming into play in the final pages, as Despero’s master plan involves dealing a devastating blow to Hawkman that will be vaguely reminiscent to 90’s X-fans. Overall, a fun comic for space action fans, although nothing groundbreaking.

Corrina: I like reading this comic but it fails at times to be coherent in juggling its myriad elements: several planets/moons/timelines and multiple characters. When the story zones in on Adam and Katar, it works, and I like the relationship between Katar and his partner, our new Green Lantern. Well, for now, he’s a Green Lantern. It’s an ambitious story and it has a lot of what I love with DC space-based characters but I wish it would settle just a bit so I could get a hold on it.

I’m glad there’s an explanation for Alanna’s over-the-top actions, though her role now is more puppet than anything else. But, overall, it’s been more enjoyable than I’ve expected.

Justice League #14 – Bryan Hitch, Writer/Artist; Daniel Henriques, Inker; Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Family Therapy Time!

Ray: A distinct change of pace issue after two action-packed arcs in a row, although it doesn’t start like that. It starts with explosions and chaos, as the League finds themselves barely alive and stuck deep under the Earth after a showdown with a massive, powerful alien vessel that blew up a chunk of Canada. I’m kind of amused that the villain’s motivation is literally the same as Independence Day – they’re harvesters, here to wipe out other planets and take their natural resources. However, the issue isn’t about them, despite the fact that Hitch’s art on the alien ship is amazing. No, what this actually boils down to is an extended group therapy session for the Justice League.

Trapped underground, with several members injured and Superman rapidly losing his powers from the lack of sun, all the issues the League has come out of the woodwork. Simon and Jessica both suffer from inadequacy issues, with Jessica not feeling like she belongs and Simon wondering if he really brings anything to the table. Superman is still a misfit of sorts, stepping into the shoes of their dead friend, while he rightly points out that Batman doesn’t trust any of them and likely keeps defenses against them. Some of the dialogue is strong, such as Cyborg’s call-out for the older heroes, but other scenes feel like they’re rehashing old stuff. Really didn’t need a reminder of the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship. Still, it’s an interesting change-up that does a good job of reminding us that these heroes are people under the cowls and masks.

Corrina: Not what I expected from the issue but I liked the downtime for the heroes, as each had a chance to show why they’re in the Justice League. I give Hitch credit for writing this Superman so well. This classic Clark Kent/Superman is basically a good guy, a family man and a protector, and that’s what he remains. DC’s attempt to “modernize” Superman with the angry loner who was later shelved failed because, hey, we have plenty of angsty loners. Superman is supposed to be the guy other heroes look up to, not the one pushing them away. It’s also interesting to see the dynamic with someone like this Superman who has so much more experience as a hero than any of the others. Look at this attidue toward Batman, for instance: ‘Eh, yeah, Batman has a way to defeat us all. That’s what he does because that’s who he is, but he’s a hero and I trust him and what are you gonna do, really?’ This Clark picks his battles.

All of the other heroes calling out Batman for having a secret way to defeat them all was great, though. I would have liked to seen more from Wonder Woman and Aquaman but this issue, basically a therapy session without the trappings of a therapist, was an unexpected but fascinating look at the team.

Aquaman #16 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brad Walker, Penciller; Andrew Hennessy, Inker; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Get Married or Break Up Already!

Ray: Much like Justice League, Dan Abnett takes advantage of the breather after a non-stop action run since Rebirth began to re-establish his characters and explore the complex relationship between Aquaman and the rest of the world. The threats aren’t taking a breather, though, as a new villain emerges. Aquaman is seeking to repair Atlantis’ image after the recent war, and has directed Atlantis to help in the reconstruction from NEMO’s attacks. He’s starting with Amnesty Bay, where Atlantean forces are rebuilding the town – and where his old friend Erika still lives. The most interesting parts of the issue are probably seeing Arthur’s new ally Kae on land for the first time, and seeing the small moments of Atlantis and Amnesty Bay interacting.

That being said, there are a couple of elements in this book that didn’t really work for me. Mera apparently breaking off her engagement with Arthur over the prophecy felt a bit out of character, and more importantly, it seems like a thinly veiled way to push Arthur and Erika together – especially given their intimate moment in this issue. Meanwhile, there’s an ongoing subplot about Arthur getting strange telepathic pulses, much like the ones he gets from sea life. This is inter spliced with scenes of a mysterious villain taking hostages and seemingly killing them with his psychic powers. This new villain, Warhead, seems to be tech-based and is already looking to be a rather dark and violent foe. Very different from most Aquaman foes, but I’d rather this title return to Atlantis and explore that story a bit more.

Time for rebuilding. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Mera’s plotline has been dangling so long that I wish they’d broken up already because I’m tired of the back and forth. Either pull the trigger on this or let it go because it’s dragging the book down. What I do like in this issue is watching the Atlanteans help repair Amnesty Bay and having the creative team showcase Atlanteans other than the usual Garth, Tulu and Vulkos. If the issue had stuck with that, it would have been my favorite of this run. But there’s also Mera, still turning down marriage proposals, and there’s Erika, an interesting character but plopped into what could be a dull romantic triangle.

Shade the Changing Girl #5 – Cecil Castellucci; Marley Zarcone, Chynna Clugston-Flores, Artists; Ryan Kelly, Inker; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: We Are All Mad

Ray: Much like Doom Patrol, this is a title that takes its time in revealing its master plan instead keeping the reader focused on a strange stream-of-consciousness fantasy world that is full of fantastic visuals but not much sense. Cecil Castellucci’s story is intriguing, but it’s really Marley Zarcone’s bizarre, Allred-esque art that sells the issue. This issue finds Megan/Loma, as she attempts to settle into her life on earth, taking a field trip with her classmates to a nature sanctuary. While most of her friendships on Earth are either tentative or sort of creepy, she finds herself bonding not with the humans, but with the birds. The idea that to someone like Loma, there isn’t all that much difference between humans and animals is intriguing.

The other segments of the issue don’t work quite as well. I’m still not particularly interested in the goings-on on Loma’s homeworld, which seem to go in a circle. By the end of the issue, Loma is planning to end her experiment and head back to her homeworld, but her attempt to return is derailed by a series of strange, creepy visuals, and at the end of the issue it seems Megan’s spirit may not be quite as gone as Loma thought. Interesting twist, but it maybe took a bit too long to get there. The backup this month is actually tied into the main story, a take on the in-universe sitcom Life with Honey, a strange nuclear-age show set in Los Alamos. Just like the main series, surreal and entertaining, but a bit vague in its point.

Some of the art of Shade the Changing Girl, image via DC Comics

Corrina: I think if you study the artwork in the book, it would make surrealistic connections across issues, with similar images turning up over and over, along with the color palettes and the skewed angles. That is intentional. Art students probably could learn much by reading it all in one sitting to make note of how the image continuity is integrated into the story.

But, for me, story is king, and I’m simply not invested in Megan/Loma’s story, despite the ambitious art. Perhaps it’s because each time Loma interacts with her high school “friends,” it feels like the same thing each time. Megan’s reappearance at the end was interesting. Is she yet another sign of madness or the real Megan? Or what is real?

Super Powers #4 – Art Baltazar, Franco, Writers; Art Baltazar, Artist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: It Is Odd. But Fun

Ray: This oddball all-ages take on the DCU continues to deliver a good number of laughs, although I’m not quite sure about the current incarnation’s attempts to combine an ongoing dramatic plotline with the jokey tone. The issue starts with Black Manta joining the Legion of Doom at their regular meeting at Luthor’s Kryptonite fortress, while Superman and Brainiac fight on New Krypton. Brainiac persuades Prym-El to leave with him to discover the truth about his heritage, and they join the Legion. As Superman and Lara head to the Fortress to communicate with Jor-El, the Justice League arrives to take on the Legion.

This Justice League includes Ch’p, the squirrel Green Lantern, which I particularly liked. After a fast-paced fight, Luthor introduces the Legion’s newest member, Starro, which promptly possesses half the Justice League until Superman shows up and fights it off. However, during all of this, Brainiac has been manipulating Prym-El and getting him over to his side – just in time for the boy to get another growth spurt, turning him into Superman-Pryme. Fun and exciting, sure, but it’s sort of lacking a bit of the humor that made Superman Family Adventures the best work Baltazar and Franco have put out yet.

Corrina: With a different artist, this whole story could be gritty and depressing. A new baby grows into a villain. Jor-El dies again. Lara is attacked. The return of Superman’s family is basically a bust. I can see the blood-soaked panels now. But Baltazar is more interested in having fun with the concepts, zipping past the part that are tragic to get to where our heroes take control. I have no doubt Superman will win but I sure hope Prym-El is redeemed.

The Flintstones #8 – Mark Russell, Writer; Steve Pugh, Artist; Chris Chuckry, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Ray: Flintstones is slowly but surely settling more into the groove of a social satire as it goes on, becoming more and more topical with each issue. While that’s provided some great moments, it can also occasionally veer in the direction of being too on-the-nose with its satire. That’s the case with this issue, which splits its action between one story that works very well and one that doesn’t. The former involves Wilma and Betty taking a trip back to Wilma’s family’s farm, where we learn how Wilma came to Bedrock and how the society developed from hunter-gatherers to farmers to city life. The look at the evolution of Bedrock is pretty fascinating, and I also enjoyed what we learned about Wilma’s mother.

The ongoing story of Mayor Clod the Destroyer, though, is obviously a take on current events, and his attempts to shut down the Children’s Hospital to buy new dinosaur armor to take on the lizard people (and his use of celebrity spokesmen) drive the point home in a very obvious fashion. There’s all sorts of little digs at the current society. Some, such as the “Fighting Tree People” mascots, are gold. Others take me out of the story a bit when they seem more interested in poking at our world than at the one Russell has set up. I appreciate the ambition in this series, but satire is a tricky game.

Corrina: People on my feed keep saying “What’s this I hear about The Flintstones? The comic did WHAT?” and I say “have you not been paying attention to Russell’s writing on this and the late, lamented Prez? But it’s all good, because more people should be reading this insightful satire of modern living set in the Stone Age.

Fair to Middling

Harley Quinn #13 – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers; John Timms, Chad Hardin, Artists; Bret Blevins, Layouts; Hi-Fi, Alex Sinclair, Colorists

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: As expected.

Ray: This deeply strange Harley Quinn arc comes to a close in a way that ties everything together and sort of makes sense of everything that’s come before. It opens with a bizarre fantasy segment that shows Harley’s fantasy life of what her marriage to Joker would have been like (the best part is Ivy’s obvious annoyance at the wedding), followed by Harley explaining all this to the tied-up Joker – who she makes clear she knows is NOT actually Joker. After more creative violence – including subjecting him to being pecked half to death by an army of parakeets – he confesses that he’s actually an impersonator.

Harley then chains him up in an electric chair and makes him give a full confessional to her circle of friends. It seems that his story ties way back to the original Palmiotti/Conner Harley run – he’s the stalker who attempted to kidnap her way back when, and she sent him to Arkham and promised to visit. Seems she forgot, and he did not take well to it, getting into a demented pen pal relationship with Joker. Joker helped the guy impersonate him, with the intention of him getting under Harley’s skin. It all ends exactly as well as you’d expect for Harley’s stalker, in a segment that turns deadly serious for a minute but doesn’t really faze Harley’s friends. Definitely the best issue of the arc, but that’s weak praise for what was one of the weakest arcs of the series. Points for continuity, though.

Corrina: It’s not that I object to the Joker stalking Harley Quinn via proxy. And it’s not that I object to Harley taking out her revenge on the proxy agent. It’s just that it’s all…not funny or amusing in any kind of dark, sick way. Instead, it’s grim and ends exactly as expected, with Harley putting a bullet into fake Joker’s head. (What? You think Harley would let him live?) But it’s so straightforward and there’s no twist to how Harley does it. Perhaps the point is that Harley has lost her sense of humor when it comes to the Joker and his minions. Seen through that lens, the issue is more interesting.

Cyborg #9 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Paul Pelletier, Penciller; Tony Kordos, Inker; Guy Major, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Good Villain Origin, Still Pacing Issues

Ray: It’s finally the big fight with the mysterious villain that has been stalking Cyborg and impersonating his father since the start of the series. Revealed last issue as an AI named OTAC, he has become twisted and now calls himself Anomaly. Now that his Silas Stone disguise as been removed, he’s exposed as a jumbled mess of flesh and cybernetics, like an Escher version of Cyborg himself. His main MO, though, seems to be sticking his probes into Cyborg’s head and forcing him to view flashbacks. Seems OTAC was an experimental effort by Silas Stone to create replacement body parts, but the experiments gave OTAC a functioning AI. Despite this, Stone pushed forward, causing an explosion that eventually poisoned his wife.

The reveal that Silas Stone was responsible for the incident that caused his wife’s death should be a big one, but Anomaly’s offhand, taunting reveal doesn’t give it all that much impact. Most of the issue is spend with Cyborg fighting Anomaly while his new ally Exxy cowers in the background. Eventually, the two of them stage a daring escape and wind up on the run, with Anomaly having access to their data wherever they run. The main plot is lacking, but what does elevate certain parts of the issue are Cyborg and Exxy’s interaction. Scenes like Exxy riding on back of a blinded Cyborg and aiming his weapons, or an awkward conversation about Cyborg’s “machinery” have some genuine laughs. Overall, though, the main story is still less than compelling.

Corrina: When I say ‘pacing issues,’ what I mean is that while this is a multi-story arc, some scenes exist only to explain what’s going on, rather than moving the story forward. For instance, Silas as prisoner has been used for our villain to gloat these last few issues, so each of those scenes is the same. But those scenes could have teased bits and pieces of what led to Anamoly’s creation, and Silas’ growing horror that this is his fault. Instead, we get this revelation in one big infodump (literally, as Anomaly dumps the information in Vic’s head.) And it’s not that surprising, either, that Silas was driven and disregarded rules that led to injury and death. That’s how Victor came to be Cyborg after all, so the revelation lacks the impact.

There are some great visuals, especially with Victor serving as a “weapon” for Exxy, and the banter between Vic and Exxy is good, especially them talking each other online aliases. I feel as if this is a good run that with a few tweaks, could have been great. That wasted potential is probably why I’m so hard on it.

Injustice: Ground Zero #5 – Brian Buccellato, Christopher Sebela, Writers; Tom Derenick, Jheremy Raapack, Artists; J. Nanjan, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Ray: When this was first announced, I expected it to be a brief interlude miniseries, but much like Injustice as a whole, it seems to be dragging out way too long and not giving us much original content. The alternate Justice League is now on the Regime’s world, and Batman is briefing them on their mission to take down the evil Superman. Meanwhile, Harley’s formed a gang and she seems to think her best strategy is to pick a fight with Superman’s most trusted minions. Her battle with Shazam is pretty funny, and the best part of the issue, given that she beats him essentially by treating him like a teenager with poor impulse control – baiting him until he shows his weakness. Nightwing, on the other hand, has never really developed much as a character in this world and his battle with Harley is just really a series of insults and punches. The quality of the writing is decent, but it feels like this series isn’t going to get going again until Taylor returns.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.

Get the GeekDad Books!

   

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.