DC This Week — Super-Sons!

Cover to Super-Sons #1

This week brings three new books this week from DC, ranging from the bright and fun Super-Sons #1 to the grittiness of the Wildstorm world, to the anticipated relaunch of Kate Kane/Batwoman’s comic series.

We had a split decision on The Wild Storm #1 and Batwoman #1, but can unanimously recommend Super-Sons, especially as an entry point for younger readers into this DC Universe. Also this week, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye continues to be a must read, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz solve a mystery in Gotham in Green Lanterns, Raven’s miniseries concludes in excellent fashion, and the Justice League faces another crisis in time-space in Justice League. 

Unfortunately, we cannot add Odyssey of Amazons to the plethora of excellent books lately set in Wonder Woman’s universe.

Check out reviews of these plus all of this week’s DC comics below.

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

CONTENT WARNING: one image contains graphic language, another graphic violence. 

DC Launch Week Specials:

The Wild Storm #1 – Warren Ellis, Writer; Jon Davis-Hunt, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Confusing To New Readers

Ray: Wildstorm had a very rough run in the New 52, being trotted out in a quartet of poorly thought-out reboots that attempted to tie the characters into the New 52. Most of them were quickly gone, and the characters didn’t show up again until Steve Orlando struck creative gold with his original takes on Midnighter and Apollo. However, the rest of the Wildstorm cast were stuck in creative limbo – until now, when Wildstorm veteran Warren Ellis returns to the property to reinvent them in this Young Animal-like thriller. So, does he manage to revitalize these 90s mainstays? The answer is…kinda. It’s hard to tell based on this first issue, which is a fast-paced infodump that doesn’t fully work as an introduction to the universe. If you know these characters, you’ll be amazed by just how much Ellis manages to work in. If not, you’ll be trying to keep up with a fast-moving conspiracy thriller with dozens of moving parts.

This is an Ellis book through and through, with fast-paced, often vaguely irritated dialogue and intense, bloody action segments. Ellis is embracing the sci-fi elements of Wildstorm, and it feels like it has much more DNA in common with something like V or Battlestar Galactica than it does with the 90s versions of Wildcats or Deathblow. It’s hard to describe all the heroes and villains that jump in and out of this story, but it often feels like every character is starring in their own drama, and characters who seem innocuous one minute turn out to be a major villain the next. If there’s a main character, it’s Angela Spica, aka the Engineer, who is reinvented as a brittle, vaguely insane military woman who is bonded to either an experimental tech or a techno-organic being, which lets her transform into a cyberpunk transformer of sorts. Zealot, Deathblow, and a duo of iconic Wildstorm villains are along for the ride as well. Am I sold on this series yet? Not quite, but I am definitely along for the ride.

Wild Storm #1 cover, copyright DC Comics

Corrina: I don’t know the characters, so my reaction to this relaunch is obviously colored by that. First, yes, it’s an Ellis book, and it has his signature style, and he tosses in any number of intriguing elements into this first issue. But is it enough to get me hooked on the series, going in blind as I am? No, not really. Nothing here blew me away which, I admit, is a high standard for any first issue but the disjointed plot here didn’t help. What did help was the art, where Davis-Hunt is magnificent.

I suspect the real problem is my total unfamiliarity with the characters, so certain scenes with familiar characters go way over my head. I’d have liked it better if the entire issue focused on Angela Spica, who is obviously confused, brittle (as Ray says), but also manages to do the one heroic thing in the book. No, these were never black and white characters but when so many of them are shades of gray with unknown agendas, it makes for a confusing plot of the first story, and Angela is the one with a clear “I want this!” (In her case, to understand what is happening to her.) What do the others want? No idea at all. If you liked the Wildstorm universe or need to collect everything Ellis writes, this is for you. If you’re a newbie, you may want to wait for the trade where, I suspect, this will all make more sense.

Super-Sons #1 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Jorge Jiminez, Artist; Alejandro Sanchez, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Up, Up, and Away

Ray: My personal favorite of this week’s new launches, this is a spinoff of the recent Superman arc teaming up Damian Wayne and Jon Kent – much to the stress of their dads. The issue starts in kind of a wonky way – first with a bizarre segment involving a little girl terrorizing her family in what seems to be some creepy sitcom pastiche, and then jumping ahead to a random fight where Jon and Damian are up against an army of robot doppelgangers. Neither segment has anything to do with the rest of the issue. However, once it gets going, this comic is very good – if not quite as charming as that recent Superman arc. There’s a distinct Silver Age vibe to the affair, with such absurd little details as Damian impersonating an old man and essentially hijacking Jon’s school bus.

There are some really good character-driven touches this issue, such as Jon’s struggle to stand up to bullies without using his powers, or Damian’s apparent alienation while being home-schooled – it’s been a while since we saw exactly what Damian’s living situation was, and this issue shines a little light on it. It’s good to see Bruce actually being a dad to Damian while training an assortment of other kids too. Superman and Lois are written really well too, and it’s interesting to see the differing ways DC’s two most iconic heroes handle parenthood. Damian and Jon’s banter is fun and snarky as always, and the plot gets going with a seeming confrontation with Lex Luthor next issue. The issue doesn’t grab you with plot right out of the gate, but if it succeeds, it’ll be because of its lead characters – and on that note, it is off to a good start.

Damian and Jon: opposite personalities. From Super-Sons #1, copyright DC Comics

Corrina: The fun of this book is the interaction between the sunny and determined Jon and the serious and arrogant Damian. And it is a ton of fun—which is sorely needed when over 75 percent of stories about superheroes nowadays are mired in gloom and doom. And, of course, it also sheds new light on Clark and Bruce, spotlighting how they parent, and the differences between them. Clark has great parenting role models in Jonathan and Martha Kent, so his style suits him. Batman has, um, Alfred as a parental role model and Bruce’s interactions with Damian remind me of how Alfred handles the various members of the Bat Family.

And, yes, this series will be judged by how much the reader likes spending with these characters. It’s also a good entry into the DC Universe for younger readers.

Batwoman: Rebirth #1 – Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Writers; Steve Epting, Artist; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Fine Start

Ray: Given the creative wattage on this book – particularly Steve Epting’s fantastic art – I’m surprised to be giving this book such a comparably low score. The fault isn’t with the writing, per se – we already know Tynion has a great handle on Kate, and Bennett showed she could write her very well in the recent Tec’ arc. The problem is simply the same as befell quite a few of the first wave’s Rebirth issues. It works as an introduction for the character, but it doesn’t quite work as a comic on its own. It’s more glaring with Batwoman because she’s had her origins told by several brilliant creative teams already. We’ve seen her kidnapping and the aftermath. We’ve seen her come out of the closet while in the military. It’s all well-trod territory by now.

There is some new material here, of course, as this book is primarily interested in chronicling the “lost years” in between when Kate was out of the military but not Batwoman yet. We get glimpses of a new past romantic interest for Kate – who may be rather dangerous, and seems destined to recur in this run. But it’s almost halfway through the comic before we’re seeing any scenes we’re not already familiar with. The issue ends with a three-page series of images that covers Kate’s history up until this point, followed by a series of images that show what’s to come for her – including Kate Kane, leader of the Colony? This is some great bait for the rest of the series, which I expect to be excellent. The problem is, I’m guessing this Rebirth issue will wind up being completely skippable, and that’s a problem for regular readers. It serves its purpose as a recap comic, but not as a comic on its own.

Kate Kane’s formative tragedy in Batwoman #1, copyright DC Comics

Corrina: To you, Ray, it’s familiar territory. But Batwoman: Elegy was published six years ago, in 2011. While it was a critical success, I’m not sure it was a big commercial success, and Batwoman’s last series crashed and burned at the end, due to creative changes that seemed dictated by editorial.

Because of that, I like the fresh start, I like the origin recap, particularly since Kate’s past contains a great deal of emotion. Those who only read Batwoman in Tynion’s run on Batman: Detective Comics may have had no knowledge of her mother’s death, or her sister’s supposed death. I, for one, like the reminder, so long as it was interesting, and this was. (Compare this to the Wildstorm relaunch, where I was lost as a new reader.) Everything you want to know about Kate Kane is here.

The only thing I didn’t like were the flash forwards. I know, they’ve become part and parcel of storytelling now but I feel like if a creative team can’t hook me by what’s on the page, then using a flash forward to tease what’s coming is a narrative trick.

GRADE A BOOKS:

Batman #17 – Tom King, Writer; David Finch, Penciller; Danny Miki, Inker; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Not Fully Convinced Yet

Ray: After a brilliant first issue in this arc that weaved together disturbing and tense images with some of the funniest scenes we’ve seen in the entire Rebirth era, this issue is pure, unadulterated adrenaline as Batman prepares to go to war against Bane. The issue can be a bit jarring at points, with characters working multiple steps ahead of others and surprising even us. The issue opens with Bronze Tiger being ambushed and captured by unseen enemies and then flashes over to the Fortress of Solitude, where Bruce has apparently taken Dick, Jason, and Damian and placed them in stasis tubes as the only way to truly keep them safe. The identity of the three hanging bodies in the Batcave isn’t discussed, but, apparently, Bruce is done taking chances.

Meanwhile, Alfred pulls off a brilliant acting and disguise maneuver with countless moving parts in order to get Claire into Arkham safely for her first session with Psycho Pirate. Alfred is always a great character, but it’s rarer for him to be able to play an active, key role on the field, and King manages to work him in perfectly. New villains start popping up, first ambushing Catwoman at the site of the orphanage attack, and then teaming up against Duke and Gordon (I can’t blame Gordon for not wanting to stop smoking, all the stress the poor man puts up with). In the end, though, none of them are a match for Bane, as the villain collects all of Batman’s remaining allies to set up a spectacularly dramatic battle next issue. It was going to be tough for King to top his previous arc, but he is off to a very good start on this one. Each arc is bigger and more intense than the last.

Corrina: Every few issues, King writes something that doesn’t work for me. Previously, it was the mystery surrounding Catwoman being a mass murderer all of a sudden, where the resolution absolutely worked. This time? It’s that Bane, whose been portrayed as totally focused on getting to Psycho Pirate, decides to instead track down all of Batman’s allies in Gotham and taunt Batman with their fate. It makes for a classic-type of Batman dilemma, with all of his friends being held hostage but it makes me uneasy because it seems like Bane would better spend his time finding his quarry.

I also frowned at Batman’s stasis tube solution to keeping his “boys” safe, how easily Selina was taken, and, well, the whole setup on the rooftop, even if I did love Gordon’s snark in his sequence, particularly him talking to Babs on the phone while handling a criminal. (Speaking of which, why isn’t Bane going after Babs?)  But I did like knowing where Psycho Pirate is and how Claire is transported for her cure. Go Alfred. We’ll see how this works out.

Superman #17 – Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Sebastian Fiumara, Artist; Dave Stewart, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: A Super-Son Story

Ray: The big “Superman: Reborn” crossover begins in March, so this issue is a done-in-one breather issue before the big event. Great breather issues may not push the story forward, but they give insight into the characters, and that’s definitely the case with this Stranger Things-influenced thriller. Jon is home alone watching scary movies when his friend Kathy comes knocking on his door, telling him that her grandfather and their prize cow have both gone missing. Their search leads them into Dead Man’s Swamp, a local haunted location that even Jon is scared to go into. There’s some great subtle details, such as Jon’s guilt when he comes across an area he scorched, but the real chills don’t begin until the second half.

Once the kids wander into the swamp, guest artist Sebastian Fiumara’s art takes over as the star, as an increasingly surreal array of perils threaten them. Giant owls, raccoons, and porcupines. A seemingly living house that transforms itself as it chases them and attempts to swallow them whole. And above it all, a mysterious giant shadow man, looming over them for unseen purposes. By the time they find Kathy’s grandfather, there’s a seemingly sensible explanation for everything – but is it to be trusted? The whole affair is very ambiguous, and feels like it would have fit more as a halloween special than a regular issue. The ending leaves some unanswered questions, as a story like this should, but on its own, it’s a great issue.

Corrina: Definitely a filler issue but it’s a fine story about Jon which matches up nicely with the debut of his own series, so I have no complaints. (Well, I have on complaint which is that young Jon has gotten far more screen time in Rebirth than either version of Lois Lane.)

But since the art is amazing and perfectly suited to this tale, it works well. Those visuals that Ray mentions are amazing. Also, I’ll not that Jon can’t resist a good mystery. Much like his mother. And, like both parents, he’ll jump in to fight for what’s fair. Seeing him battle the instincts in order to keep his powers secret makes for the most compelling part of this book.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #5 – Gerard Way, Jon Rivera, Writers; Michael Avon Oeming, Artist; Nick Filardi, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Whoa.

Ray: The runaway best of the Young Animal line continues to fire on all cylinders, as Cave’s past comes back to haunt him in his late wife’s kingdom. When we last left off, Cave and Chloe were reunited with his in-laws, while the identity – and grotesque face – of the main villain was revealed. Michael Avon Oeming’s art continues to be the star here, as the past of this mysterious subterranean kingdom is revealed in a series of hallucinogenic flashbacks to the visitors. Meanwhile, the infiltrators – led by the sadistic and ancient Borstein – make their way down to the kingdom under the shale, as Borstein preys on anyone foolish enough to help them. We don’t know much about this villain yet – except that Cave thought he was long dead – but the series wastes no time in making us hate him.

Chloe, the outsider just discovering her Muldroog heritage, continues to be our eyes into this title, and her open-minded approach to this new world provides some great scenes – especially in the stunning splash page where she goes swimming in subterranean vents, and the art goes a little wonky to great effect. Of course, the peaceful moments aren’t going to last, and soon enough there’s a series of invasions, betrayals, and reveals that throw the last act for a loop. But no matter what’s going on, the writers never lose sight of what this book is about. It’s about a grieving husband and parents, a father trying to bond with his daughter, and a mentally ill man (Wild Dog, in one of the issue’s best scenes) trying to do the right thing. I’m not sure what to make of the strange Tom Scioli backup, but it looks great as always.

Cave has regained his mojo. Just in time. image via DC Comics

Corrina: Hands down, this is my favorite of the Young Animal books, with a perfect synthesis of art and story. By that, I mean the art serves to enhance and expand the themes of the story—showcasing all those awesome and psychedelic visuals but also moving in close–for the personal moments with Chloe, or with Johnny and his crew being attacked. I feel Cave’s rage at the needless death, I feel his father-in-law’s sadness at his daughter’s death, and I feel the entire society’s melancholy at having failed in their responsibilities.

And, of course, Cave’s determination, so different than the broken man we met in issue #1.

Green Lanterns #17 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Eduardo Pansica, Penciller; Julio Ferreira, Inker; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Fight the Fear, Simon!

Ray: The conclusion of the big team-up between Batman and the Green Lanterns delivers some great teamwork and dialogue, a genuinely creepy villain plot, and some serious character development for Simon Baz. When we last left off, Alfred had been possessed by the viral video that turns normal people into fear-bundles that attempt to kill Batman. And he’s stolen Baz’s gun, which has Batman…less than happy. One of the best running gags of the issue is how Batman refuses to answer when Baz talks to him, leading Baz to go off on tangents. Batman’s silence often says more than his words do. As for Scarecrow, the issue does a great job of showing the psychological impact that losing the ring had on him.

Having lost the ability to feel fear from his overuse of the fear gas, and the ability to inflict it when he lost the ring, Crane has become obsessed and created a synthetic machine that can replicate fear energy in small bursts, allowing him to manipulate people’s reaction to the video. The actual plot is probably the weakest part of the issue, but it’s really just serving the actual point of the issue – which is Simon confronting his own inadequacies that make him hold on to the gun. By the end of the issue, he’s let it go and fully embraced his future as a Lantern – which seems like what Batman has planning all along, as he has some secret plans for Batman. Eight months into this run, it feels like both members of the main cast are finally where they need to be.

Corrina: We’ve seen a great deal of Simon’s family, and much of Jessica’s struggles with her anxiety disorder, but we haven’t seen much of Simon’s inner struggles (or Jessica’s family beyond her sister). This issue flips those trends to focus on Simon, whose struggles with heroism have always been symbolized by his gun. Everyone points out that a gun is unnecessary when you have a power ring and everyone kinda knows why he keeps it. Having Simon finally admit that it’s not the ring he doesn’t trust but himself is a good turning point for their character, and the moment when he hands over the gun is a powerful image.

It’s a nice touch for Batman to give his seal of approval to the team. Or maybe I just like it when someone disses Hal Jordan.

SOLID B:

Green Arrow #17 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Otto Schmidt, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Love the Art

Ray: In the aftermath of the murder of Chief Westberg last issue (who is acknowledged as one of DC’s few Jewish characters – sadly posthumously), Ollie is a fugitive once again, assumed to be guilty of the murder-by-arrow committed by Malcolm Merlyn. He hides out in the woods, plotting his next move and building a new bow. The issue is at its strongest when Otto Schmidt’s brilliant art is able to shine, in pages with large panels showing off the wilderness. Percy’s dialogue is also fairly strong, especially in the scene with Ollie and Emiko where we start digging into the still-raw wounds between Ollie and Roy Harper (who will be returning to the book soon).

Less strong? Things involving the villains. The newly elected Mayor Domini finds out the hard way that he’s gotten into bed with the Ninth Circle, but the scene in which Cyrus Broderick “inducts” him is a bit too over-the-top and Clive Barker-esque. When Malcolm Merlyn finally shows up in the woods to resume his feud with Ollie, we get some intriguing backmatter that explains the long-standing family enmity, but Merlyn’s dialogue as a whole is a bit too soap-opera esque. There’s an intriguing twist in the end that reveals that one of Ollie’s closest allies owes a blood debt to Merlyn, which allows the villain to get away. The series still has some overall narrative problems, but it’s character work and art tend to be across-the-board top notch.

Corrina: Ollie creating his new bow, complete with his monologue about why he choose this wood, and why he keeps returning to archery, is the strongest part of the issue. Everything else pales in comparison but, if you’ve been reading these reviews, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of Percy’s overall writing style. It works in some spots for me, not in others. Where it doesn’t work is the villains, especially Merlyn, because this issue seems to rely on the plot of the television show, rather than anything that happened in the story. (I know Tommy right now only from television, for instance, so all this talk of father/son issues only works if you’ve watched the show. There’s nothing in the comic to support it.)

But, hey, everything looks amazing thanks to Schmidt.

Nightwing #15 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Minkyu Jung, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Great Issue, Unhappy With the Ending

Ray: Part done in one issue after the action-packed previous arc, part scene-setting for the next arc, this issue focuses on Dick Grayson’s love life as he and Shawn Tseng go on their first date and, over the two months that follow, develop a passionate and surprisingly functioning relationship. The series unfolds in an interesting way, chronicling a day in the life of the new couple, and then showing the fallout from that as Dick interacts with a member of his larger supporting cast. He calls Wally after the first date, discusses Shawn’s anger issues with Jason (who can relate), and discusses things with Starfire and Batgirl when it seems like things are starting to get serious.

What makes this issue work so well is that Shawn gets her say too. We see how she interacts with her friends in the former-villain community, and we get a good look at her interactions with her father and stepmother. She even contacts her old boss Pigeon when she starts self-sabotaging and worries that she’s going to destroy her new happiness. The issue’s surprisingly light and optimistic – until the ending, when the grim narration about Hercules and Megara makes sense, as a mysterious assailant (likely the mysterious red Nightwing) sneaks up behind Shawn at home. If she’s just been kidnapped, okay, but the increasingly ominous tone of the issue makes me worried about her – and that would take this title down quite a few notches in my book. But overall, this issue was a pleasant surprise and I hope it stays that way.

Corrina: ARGH. I was loving this issue, which is one of the better-written comics about how a romance evolves, along with some absolutely gorgeous art that makes both Dick and Shawn look good. I especially love the background about Shawn, as her early villainy seems based more on immaturity than any evil nature. The scenes with her family are powerful. Much credit must be given to Jung, who makes me not miss Marcos To.

But, eh, the ending! After such a nuanced issue, Shawn is kidnapped/dead? That’s like having a great date with someone, only to find out the person you’re beginning to adore is already married. ARGH. If Shawn is indeed dead, well, then, I’m going to be one unhappy reader, not just for the loss of a fine supporting character, but because it’s such a cliche. Don’t disappoint me, Seeley.

Trinity #6 – Francis Manapul, Writer; Emanuela Lupacchino, Penciller; Ray McCarthy, Matt Santorelli, Inkers; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Bonding Session End

Ray: It’s the conclusion of the first major arc of Trinity, as the heroes find themselves at the Mercy of Mongul. The alien tyrant has taken over Superman’s body and used it to escape back into the real world, leaving the Trinity trapped in the Black Mercy’s hold – along with the mysterious White Mercy, a little girl who may be Poison Ivy’s daughter, or Mongul’s daughter, or both. She narrates the opening part of the issue, as we learn what she’s found out from her time shadowing the Trinity in their personal dream worlds. Meanwhile, outside the dreamspace, Jon is holding off his possessed father as best as he can, but Mongul/Superman is gaining the upper hand.

White Mercy takes over Batman’s body with his consent so she can escape into the real world and that allows her to get back into the battle and help her “mother” gain the upper hand. I like that part of this plan is assuming that Batman would have had a plan for this exact situation. The ending has some really nice moments, although it kind of sucks that Poison Ivy seemingly gets the rug pulled out from under her yet again when it comes to parenthood. (Although a cliffhanger seems to indicate not all may be what it seems here). A fun storyline with great character moments for all the heroes involved. By the way, am I the only one who was reminded a lot of Eleven from Stranger Things when it comes to White Mercy’s character?

Corrina: Well, I didn’t watch Stranger Things (not my thing…), but White Mercy is a character type, the innocent but uber-powerful being who must choose whether to be on the side of good or evil. Where this story worked is how it examined the emotional life of the three leads, and how they’ve all become stronger by facing what they truly are. (Though given WW’s current series, she’s not quite sure of that but Diana does know what she is, and that’s enough.)

This adventure succeeded in creating the bonds needed between the Trinity for what I assume is the upcoming Rebirth event. And it’s also a nice showcase for Poison Ivy as well.

Raven #6 – Marv Wolfman, Writer; Diogenes Neves, Penciller; Ruy Jose, Inker; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Solid Conclusion

Ray: The conclusion to this surprisingly strong character spotlight miniseries ends with a bang, as the ill-defined threat that has been haunting Raven’s new life in this story reaches its explosive climax. When the story opens, Raven finds herself in a strange carnival made out of white light, as all the people who have been taken by the light find themselves trapped in a horrible endless loop of carnival games, until they go completely insane. The strange evil energy wipes their minds, again and again, and attempts to do the same to Raven until she fights back and winds up getting kicked out of the dome while everyone else is trapped inside. That’s where this story takes a very strong turn.

Raven’s aunt, who is seeking the return of her daughter from the dome, doesn’t take the easy route of blaming Raven for this strange turn of events. Instead, she works with her niece to give her the strength to re-enter the dome, where Raven is able to confront the evil force and banish it, freeing everyone inside and removing their traumatic memories. The issue ends with Raven and her family reunited, and the Teen Titan finally finding a normal life she can enjoy. Everything involving Raven and her family is the strong point here, while the villain – revealed at the end to be some sort of soul-devouring alien – was the weak point, but it sure did look good. Probably the best Raven story I’ve read in a while.

Corrina: Yes, the alien soul-sucking reveal at the end is the worse part of the issue, but I suspect maybe this threat appears again in Teen Titans? We’ll see.

But the rest of the issue is terrific. I am a sucker for “everyone can be a hero if they just believe” trope, so I loved the way the crowd supported Raven and helped her drive off the alien, and I loved the happy ending, and it’s good to see Raven’s family accept her. A fine miniseries that I’d recommend to any Titans fan.

Justice League #15 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Matt Ryan, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Ambitious But Sometimes Confusing

Ray: The second major arc of Bryan Hitch’s Justice League kicks off with a bang – literally by ending the world – and it feels more like a direct sequel to his Justice League of America run than anything else. However, just like that run and the first arc of this title, it’s got a lot of interesting ideas that all sort of collide into each other and create an exciting, beautifully drawn mess. The story begins with Clark and his family at a gas station – just in time for a mysterious white wave to hit the Earth and consume the family. Superman is meeting Batman at the time and is spared, and Batman tells him there may be a way to save his family from something that seems to be eating all of time – and it involves the mysterious Infinity Corporation (one of many plot threads from Hitch’s JLoA that felt unfinished).

The bulk of the issue finds all the members of the Justice League in peril from various disparate threats, all tying back to some sort of time paradox. Aquaman finds himself at the mercy of a mysterious group of Atlantean cultists called the Thrones of Atlantis. Wonder Woman is teaming up with a young Zeus and Rhea against the all-powerful Greek Titan Cronus. Cyborg finds himself in the 31st century meeting someone who looks a lot like Brainiac 5, while Simon and Jessica face off against a seemingly endless army of techno-organic soldiers in the 26th. It all ties back to a mysterious young woman who seems to know what this time-wave is, and collects the Justice League seconds before they’re obliterated. It’s ridiculously fast-paced with a lot going on, and I’m intrigued, even if I don’t quite get exactly what’s going on yet.

Corrina: The plot is ridiculous, in a Grant Morrison sort-of-way, and it does seem far much like a sequel to the JLA run than anything else. Time-travel! Hints of the Legion of Super-Heroes! More of those Atlantean cultists! Batman asking Superman to trust him. All are great moments, even if they don’t last too long. This is so imaginative that I wish Hitch were in charge of writing the conclusion to the Rebirth event rather than these stories that seem to run parallel to it.

But, if you’re reading all the Superman titles, you have to wonder if Superman has any free time, between parenting, saving the multiverse, saving Luthor from intergalactic assassins, saving Lana, and farming. Well, he is Superman.

Aquaman #17 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Scot Eaton, Penciller; Wayne Faucher, Inker; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Skeptical of the New Villain

Ray: Another arc, another new threat as Aquaman can’t seem to go a few days without something working to turn the public against him. He’s already defeated Black Manta and stopped war between Atlantis and the US, and now he’s getting the opportunity to address the United Nation as Atlantis is allowed into the international community for the first time (good luck with that). However, a new telepathic villain named Warhead is influencing his mind, as well as the minds of civilians around him. We first saw signs of this villain last issue, but now Aquaman starts feeling his influence on the floor of the UN, which nearly derails his speech. There’s also a mysterious possessed man lurking around.

That leads to Aquaman going rogue from his Secret Service handler and chasing the mysterious man, eventually leading him to a college campus where he comes under attack by possessed individuals, each begging for forgiveness as they try to shoot him. There’s something creepy going on, but Warhead’s design isn’t very intimidating, making him look something like a Cyberman as opposed to a genuinely threatening villain. Still, I like the idea of a tech-based villain as a threat to Aquaman, rather than Atlantis or one of his old standbys. I’m hoping this new villain clicks as we find out more about his origins.

Corrina: I liked the “Aquaman as hero” adoration twist in this comic but the plotting still has issues, including a number of dangling plot threads. But instead of following up on them, there’s Warhead. His design is creepy, especially how he can jump from person to person, and how only Arthur can “hear” him but, again, his motivations are unclear, so it’s hard to tell whether he’ll make a decent villain or not. Perhaps I’m being churlish, perhaps Warhead connects to some of those dangling plot threads. I hope so.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #4 – Matthew K. Manning, Writer; Jon Sommariva, Penciller; Sean Parsons, Inker; Leonardo Ito, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: This series has been pretty entertaining as it tours around the Batverse and mixes it up with most of Batman’s most iconic villains. This issue lets Scarecrow loose on the Turtles. Scarecrow’s always one of the most intriguing Bat-villains, as his effect on every character is unique. We know what scares Batman and his family, but the Turtles? This is something we haven’t seen before. There’s quite a few interesting segments as we discover what they’re hiding. The rest of the plot isn’t quite as interesting, but it’s got some great moments too. Shredder being Jokerized and Joker wandering around wearing his helmet? Less than interesting.

However, Harley’s hyenas being mutated and joining the ranks of Bebop and Rocksteady is a fun twist that makes up the best action scenes of the issue. There’s a big twist at the end of the issue that reveals the apparent main villain, and it’s something I didn’t see coming. However, it’s a character who has a lot of potential as a main villain and had some great episodes in the Batman animated series. This issue – much like the Batman/TMNT crossover from DC – seems to be heavier on the Bat-characters than the turtles, but that makes sense given the strength of the franchises.

Injustice: Ground Zero #6 – Brian Buccellato, Christopher Sebela, Writers; Marco Santucci, Artist; Daniel Sampere, Penciller; Juan Albarran, Inker; J. Nanjan, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Ray: This series has mainly focused on Harley so far, and that’s made it a little monotone. However, this issue broadens the focus to look at two of the less-used members of Superman’s regime – Shazam and Black Adam. Harley’s kidnapped Billy Batson and has him gagged in the backseat when the convoy is attacked by Adam. Even with Harley on whatever these green pills are, it seems like Harley vs. Black Adam should be a curb-stomp, but then so would Superman vs. Alfred. I guess these power pills are pretty OP in this world. However, while the fight scene may be a bit ridiculous, the central conflict is strong. Out of all the members of the regime, Shazam remains the only one with an intriguing reason for sticking with Superman’s side. I was less interested in Batman searching for yet another secret weapon that probably won’t work, but overall this is one of the better issues.

Harley Quinn #14 – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Writers; Khari Evans, John Timms, Artists; Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Terra, Yes! Harley Sinn, NO!

Ray: A new arc and another bizarre start in Harley Quinn, as this title digs up past subplots from quite a few of Palmiotti’s and Conner’s past works. It opens with a group of mysterious assassins taking on a top secret contract, which involves breaking Harley Sinn out of her captivity in Arkham for a top-secret mission – which later turns out to be the assassination of Harley’s former love interest Mason and his mother, who fled justice after Mason accidentally killed the corrupt Mayor’s son. This plot never held much interest for me, and I absolutely hate Harley Sinn, so that’s not promising.

More intriguing is the A-plot this issue, which involves a group of insectoid aliens taking over Coney Island in an attempt to perform a ritual that will awaken their mysterious God. Harley, being Harley, accidentally helps with the awakening and is met with a mysterious naked blue villain named Zorcrom, who immediately begins spouting “take me to your leader” lines and killing large numbers of civilians. He’s definitely a stock villain, but where he’s from intrigues me – he’s a terrible villain from Strata, home of Atlee from the recent Starfire title. While Starfire and Terra got along famously, she and Harley seem like a…less natural match. I wasn’t a big fan of this issue, but the return to Strata as a whole has promise if the book stays away from too much over-the-top violence.

Corrina: I was a big fan of half of this issue, the part that didn’t include Harley Sinn. I rather like the idea of Harley not trying to stop Zorcrom because it’s a threat beyond her capabilities. That showcases why she’s an anti-hero rather than a hero, and there are some amusing fight sequences when Zorcrom first appears.

But tying this into Strata? I like that very much! Let’s see what happens.

Mother Panic #3 – Jody Houser, Writer; Tommy Lee Edwards, Artist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Not Distinguishing Itself From the Other Gotham Books

Ray: The other three books in the Young Animal line have a distinct aesthetic – strange, surreal weird science stories set in obscure sci-fi DC properties. This title sticks out like a sore thumb, delivering a violent, R-rated Gotham City vigilante that seems to be in continuity here but not reflected in any other Gotham titles. The idea of a vigilante equally as damaged as Batman, but who chose cybernetic enhancement over training, has potential. Unfortunately, the execution is just way off and seems to give us a vigilante who acts more like a petulant child than a superhero. This issue explores the Bat-family’s reaction to Violet Paige’s arrival in Gotham much more closely, with Batwoman being tasked to track her down and figure out what her agenda is.

The confrontation between the two female vigilantes, though, has some good fight scenes, but the dialogue is way, way off, and that’s all on Violet. She’s not just a “doesn’t play by the rules” vigilante, she’s abrasive and crude. Her response to Batwoman mainly seems to be to curse at her at every opportunity. The issue picks up a bit when Violet confronts the villain behind the bizarre “art installation” crimes that have been set up, but the fight is brief and mainly seems set up to allow Violet to rescue some kidnapped civilians. The art is great and the clear highlight of the series, but it suffers from an unlikable hero (with a frankly laughable costume that looks much too much like Willem Dafoe’s Goblin costume) with a generic backstory. The backup focusing on Gotham reporters doesn’t leave much of an impression either.

Mother Panic meets Batwoman, image via DC Comics

Corrina: I like the costume! Mostly. But the real problem is that in a city full of superheroes with myriad skills, plus villains who sometimes act heroic, a new hero/anti-hero has to stand out from the crowd to be memorable. Violet isn’t unique enough to do that and I think that’s because of the familiar setting. If this had been done in a city without heroes, without the baggage of Gotham, it might come across better.

As it is, the series reads more like a villain-focused arc in a regular Batman story, where a sympathetic character turns to crime ad makes Batman (or one of the Bat-cast) reflect on who they are and why they do this. It makes me wonder what this creative team could do on a Batman title. (That would be great, DC!) But what’s happening in this series isn’t compelling enough to stand alone.

Odyssey of the Amazons #2 – Kevin Grevioux, Writer; Ryan Benjamin, Artist; Don Ho, Richard Friend, Inkers; Tony Washington, Colorist

Ray – 2/10

Corrina: Not Enjoying.

Ray: Two issues in, it’s very clear that this miniseries just isn’t working on any level. The art by Ryan Benjamin is decent, but not strong or memorable enough to overcome a story that manages to be both painfully generic and oddly distasteful in places. The oppressive narration that pervades most of the issue kicks off immediately, in a seven-page battle segment against violent Trolls that further thins the ranks of the Amazons. They’re joined in battle by Viking warriors, who help the Amazons turn the tide of battle and welcome them to their village, where the Amazons have it out over Hessia’s decision to risk the Amazon forces to rescue the few kidnapped Amazons.

Speaking of the kidnapped Amazons, they’re being held by the Jotun, and the Jotun’s female leader intends to use them for forced breeding purposes – a grossly cliched plot point that adds a nasty touch to this series. Once the Amazons and Vikings are on their way to rescue their comrades, the interaction between them mainly consists of arguing over whether women should be fighting, and at one point an Amazon nearly maims a Viking for essentially mansplaining swordfighting to her. It’s a scene that doesn’t really make either side look good. Much like the rest of the issue. This doesn’t add anything meaningful to the Amazon history, and while I like the idea of a more diverse Amazon population, that idea deserves a much better book than this one. The addition of Valkyries at the end has promise, but the execution will likely be dubious.

Corrina: Amazons being held for breeding purposes is, yes, a grossly cliched plot point. But by the time we got there, I was already eye-rolling about the Vikings saying they had no female warriors. While I know we’re in fantasy territory, if you’re going to use Vikings, be accurate. Shield maidens were not rare in Viking society (see: the whole reason for the term “shieldmaiden” existing). True, most women weren’t warriors but neither was seeing them fight unusual. Not to mention the Viking society overall was fairly equalized: a woman had rights of property ownership and could get divorced. They weren’t seen as second-class citizens as implied in this comic. But, history aside, what bothers me is that the writers relied on the easy and shallow cliche of Viking warriors instead of nuance.

The Amazons themselves are subject to that same shallowness in their portrayal. I like the concept of this series but the execution is severely lacking.

He-Man/Thundercats #5 – Rob David, Lloyd Goldfine, Writers; Freddie E. Williams, Artist; Jeremy Colwell, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Ray: We’re very much in the “throwing toys at each other” segment of this event, as the penultimate issue puts all the pieces in place for a huge final showdown. The forces of the Thundercats and Grayskull meet on the battlefield to fight an army of unbeatable undead monsters, who easily handle the heroes. Virtually every major player from the two franchises gets a moment to play the hero, with the best moment of the issue definitely being Snarf growing to giant-size and fighting Godzilla-style with an evil minotaur (even thought the art makes this a bit unclear). I’m surprised He-Man and Lion-O basically have nothing to do this issue, but I guess that’s saved for next issue. The ending of the issue has Skeletor and Mumm-Ra merging into one being with the unintimidating name of “Mumm-ator”, which, really, is exactly the kind of silliness I’d expect from this book.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received review copies of these comics. 

Reviewer, comic book writer, and soon-to-be-published novelist. Feels very strongly about Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and Young Justice. DC superfan who is cautiously excited for Rebirth. Can also be found on Graphic Policy doing sales analysis with Glenn Matchett, and on the Rabbitt Stew Podcast with Glenn and Brandon James.