DC This Week – The Justice League of Diversity

JLA Rebirth #1 cover

Justice League Of America Rebirth #1 arrives this week and it’s not like any past Justice League. For one, it is deliberately diverse, not only featuring people of color but a gay man, but in personality as well, with a mix of veterans in the superhero game, Black Canary and Batman, those seeking redemption, like Killer Frost, and some newbies, like Ryan (Atom) Choi and The Ray. Lobo is the wild card, while Vixen’s role is less certain, though Batman believes she’s the glue of the team, the one who will bring them together.

Batman: Detective Comics #950 is another stellar comic this week, a landmark issue that features stories worthy of celebration.

Also receiving high grades this week are Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #3, the conclusion to the gothic horror prestige series, New Super-Man #8, Wonder Woman #16, All-Star Batman #7, and Supergirl #6. We split over Superwoman #7, which Corrina likes and Ray thinks is too busy. Alas, the new Batgirl & the Birds of Prey series continues to founder, and the less said about Scooby Apocalypse, the better.

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Read the full reviews below.

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

GRADE A

Justice League of America Rebirth #1 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Ivan Reis, Penciller; Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Inkers; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: A Most Interesting League

Ray: The pattern for success was clearly set up with the four one-shots introducing us to The Atom, The Ray, Killer Frost, and Vixen, but I hadn’t quite realized just what a blast this book would be when it was all put together. This issue takes elements from multiple different incarnations of the League (including, surprisingly, the Detroit league with a A-lister bringing together a bunch of rookies in a ramshackle old hideout). This is an almost entirely character-driven issue that brings out the best in almost the entire cast as Batman recruits them. When it starts, it’s just Batman and Killer Frost, as Caitlin continues to battle against her worse natures and Batman makes clear why he picked her. From there, it’s on to recruit Batman’s second in command – Black Canary, who is less sympathetic to Frost than he is, which might create an interesting dynamic. Likewise, Lobo doesn’t exactly make a smooth introduction to the team, and he and Canary are set up as instant rivals. But he’s hilarious – easily the best-written version of the character in decades.

Ryan Choi was actually never supposed to be a member of the team at all – Batman wanted Ray Palmer, and is ready to duck out when he finds out Ray is gone, but Ray speaks for all of us when he makes the hard sell for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a member of the Justice League. He then turns out to be the key to recruiting the Ray, as the two rookie heroes bond over their crash-course introduction to the hero field. Orlando’s dialogue is the issue’s strongest suit, especially when it comes to these two. Vixen sort of gets short shrift this issue, being introduced last and being the most skeptical of the team, but there’s potential there too. Essentially, in this first issue ,this feels less like a Justice League book and more like Batman and Canary chaperoning a Breakfast Club-type group for superheroes. It ends with a preview of future issues that promises big things. In only one issue, this is the best Justice League issue of Rebirth, and I think I already like it more than most of Johns’ run. A home run.

Recruiting Black Canary, image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: You say Breakfast Club, I say it reads more like the original Batman and the Outsiders, another band of misfits that Batman assembled after he left the Justice League way back when. That team, too, was a mix of ages, young heroes with veterans. This team, however, is more diverse, and immediately has more of an independent feel to it. Given his recent characterization, it makes sense for Batman to take new heroes under his wing, though I wonder how long it will be before one of the kids (say, The Ray) realizes that Batman also wants to keep an eye on them as well.

Ray covered most of the specifics of this issue in his review and I agree with all of his praise. This is a home run. Rather than repeat what he said, I have to address to the one element that bothers me: Lobo. There are some characters I hate. Lobo happens to be one of them. But, what’s more, I remain baffled by Batman wanting to include him on the team. Batman can’t be certain Lobo will keep his word. Perhaps Orlando has plans for Lobo or perhaps he’ll grow on me as comic relief. We’ll see.

But, so far, that concern is overridden by my pleasure at having Black Canary on the team and the overall quality of the book.

Batman: Detective Comics #950 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Marcio Takara, Artist; Alvaro Martinez, Eddy Barrows, Pencillers; Raul Fernandez, Eber Ferreira, Inkers; Dean White, Brad Anderson, Adriano Lucas, Colorists

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Stellar

Ray: Before we get into just how good this comic is, I just want to point out the size a second. This is 38 pages for $3.99, a double-sized comic for one dollar more. Marvel regularly releases $4.99 comics that are 28-30 pages, so this is very welcome. Even more welcome? This may be James Tynion’s best issue of the series so far. It kicks off with a regular-sized story setting up the next big arc of the book. While there’s a few subplots involving the rest of the cast – Mayor Hady attempting to broker some sort of deal with Batman, Batwing and Clayface bonding as Luke attempts to help Basil with his powers – this story belongs to Cassandra Cain, as we get inside her head for the first time. Using her love for dance as a framing device, this is probably the best Cassandra Cain story in a very long time, as we see exactly how she sees the world, in terms of motion rather than words, and how this affects her relationship with Harper, Bruce, and others. The story ends with the return of a figure that promises to be very critical to her origins. It’s about time she got her moment in the spotlight.

This is followed by two shorter stories. The first focuses on Batwing and Azrael, two newer members of “Batman Boot Camp”. The two make an interesting pair, as Azrael is a religious, spiritual man who has experienced great pain but come out an even stronger believer. Luke, meanwhile, is a deeply practical guy who trusts in technology and knowledge. The story is framed around a battle between the two of them in the Mud Room, with some really interesting reveals about how Azrael’s suit works. I don’t feel like either of these two have quite clicked with the audience yet the way Cass, Steph, Harper, or even Clayface have, but this issue is a promising start to changing that. The final, short story is a flashback with art by first-arc artist Eddy Barrows, and focusing on Tim Drake, as he discovers the truth behind Batman’s plans – and exactly what he’s planning for. There’s a lot being set up in this book, and only one week after Tom King delivered the best Bat-issue of Rebirth, James Tynion answered back with a powerful contender of his own.

Cassandra Cain dances. image Copyright DC Comics

Corrina: For years now, Cassandra Cain fans have been waiting for a great story. It’s here. Yes, Tynion has done a fine job with Cassandra/Orphan since her reintroduction in Batman & Robin: Eternal but she’s never had the spotlight, given Tynion’s first arc was Kate Kane’s story. Finally, we get into Cassandra’s head. Her story features her unique ability to read body language and express herself through movement. Having her study a ballerina is perfect. The art has to carry this kind of tale and it does, beautifully.

The odd couple of Luke and Clayface also works. Basil is such a perfect horror movie monster, a misunderstood soul trying to do good but losing his humanity, and Luke is so grounded and angst-free, for the most part. Azrael’s story even had flashes of the Jean-Paul Valley who had enough readers for a lengthy solo run some years back. This is such an unusual group of Bat-characters, who do what they do for such different reasons, and that’s one of the elements that makes the book so rewarding.

All-Star Batman #7 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Tula Lotay, Francesco Francavilla, Artists

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Best of the Series

Ray: The structure of this story is going to take a lot of people by surprise, because we left Batman in a pretty tense battle with Mr. Freeze, and that is definitely not where we pick up. That battle’s over. Batman won, but now another threat tied to that has emerged. And that leads Batman to the middle of Death Valley, where Poison Ivy has made a yearly pilgrimage to a mysterious, ancient tree. Seems this tree holds ancient organisms, both benevolent and destructive, that could save humanity or damn it. And now Batman’s come, seeking a last hope against a plague that Freeze unleashed that is spreading rapidly. There’s a great battle between Batman and Ivy – or rather, Batman and her plant – but Ivy’s not the villain of the story. This book actually gives a very nuanced look at her character, showing her as both villain, hero, and victim.

The story shifts focus as a new enemy, with ties to last issue, arrives on the scene, and one of the things that amuses me about this arc is that it seems partially like an excuse to break out all of Batman’s alternate costumes from 90s toylines. Yet, despite that, it’s giving us a unique look at both Batman and his enemies. With some fantastic art – it’s impossible to read this without noticing Tula Lotay’s brilliant, slightly surreal art. She’s a star in the making, and this might be the best-looking issue of the series yet. The backup is top-notch too, as Francavilla’s brilliant art details Duke’s ongoing struggles with finding his place in the Bat-family. The outcome of – and explanation for – his battle with the Riddler may give us our first hint to his codename, if rumors are correct, and as a character piece, this continues to be a backup that very much adds to the main story.

Corrina: Poison Ivy has never been a flat-out villain, just a person whose priorities and values are off-kilter from the rest of humanity. In the past, she’s provided a haven for lost children in Gotham, created/grew her own children with limited success, but, always, always, she has felt plants have as much or more right to exist than people.

No, Ivy’s not the villain of this story. Neither is Batman, though he tries to trick Ivy into helping because he doesn’t trust her concern for humanity. This story again reminds me of Snyder’s horror work where no one is as they seem, everyone has hidden motives and sometimes very little separates the good from the bad guys. Except, clearly, both Batman and Ivy want to honor the little girl who was sickened by the plague that Freeze released.

Wonder Woman #16 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Bilquis Evely, Artist; Mark Morales, Andrew Hennessey, Raul Fernandez, Inkers; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Complex Villains

Ray: Greg Rucka’s original Wonder Woman run was brilliant in a lot of ways, especially in its use of Greek mythology, but if it had one weak spot, it was Rucka’s attempt to create a new arch-nemesis for Wonder Woman in Veronica Cale. She never had all that much characterization back then, but he’s making a second go at the character, and it’s going much better. This is the second flashback arc, and Wonder Woman sort of takes a backseat to the villains this issue. While Diana has quickly taken the world by storm – and now there’s a mythical Chimera in the National zoo thanks to her – Veronica Cale is less than enthralled by her, and she and her scientist Adrianna are more interested in their Cyber project, a robot-human mental interface.

However, when the demigods Phobos and Deimos kidnap Kale’s daughter’s soul (in a rather creepy segment) to blackmail her for information on how to find Themysrica, Cale and Adrianna hatch a plan to use the Cyber setup to ambush her and download Wonder Woman’s mind. However, Phobos and Deimos set up a dangerous situation in the Chimera pit, which results in tragedy for Adrianna and seemingly sets Veronica on an obsessive quest for revenge against Diana. The story is tense and effective, and Rucka’s done a great job of beefing up WW’s rogues’ gallery with villains both natural and supernatural. However, I’ve got to say that Bilquis Evely’s art here is the hidden star, as she picks up the baton for Nicola Scott and does a great job. This continues to be one of the best runs since the start of Rebirth.

It does not go well for Veronica Cale. image via DC Comics

Corrina: Yes, one of the elements that distinguished the first arc of Wonder Woman was Cheetah’s complexity, from friend to enemy and back to ally again. I never though much of Veronica Cale but that changed this issue. Not only does it give Cale a compelling motivation–she’s being used as a pawn to get to WW–but it also makes excellent use of Phobos and Deimos as well.

I, too, worried the art would suffer in the flashback issues with the departure of Nicola Scott but Evely shows off why she was picked to replace Scott. I love the Chimera, love the battle at the zoo, and Cale cradling Adrianna in her arms after it all goes sideways has emotional impact. So far, this WW series is one of the best I’ve read.

New Super-Man #8 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Billy Tan, Penciller; Haining, Inker; Gadson, Colorist

Ray: 9/10

Corrina: A Series That Needs More Attention

Ray: A second excellent issue in a row as this title takes a break from the main plotlines to delve deeper into the lives of its lead characters. Kenan’s struggles to master his powers have been a frequent theme in the series, and he’s finally taking charge of those by seeking out I-Ching, the blind master of the martial arts who once trained Wonder Woman. I-Ching puts Kenan through his paces, testing him to see if he’s worthy before agreeing to train him, and Kenan’s arrogance and inability to control his powers causes him no small amount of problems. However, when his hearing leads him to save people in danger, I-Ching eventually shows him how to understand his powers in a slightly confusing but visually interesting way.

The B-plot, involving Baixi and his attempts to prove himself worthy of the mantle of the Batman of China, is probably the best part of the issue. Baixi’s old rival proves to be far more than just an old bully, turning into a rather dangerous villain as the arena collapses around them. Although he doesn’t really look or act like Batman, the way by which Baixi defeats his rival is one of the most Batman-like things I can remember. However, the big twist comes in the reveal of the identity of the hacker Alpaca, which adds a dark tinge to the ending. I’m not quite as interested in the return of the fake Superman from the “Last Days of Superman” arc, but overall this series continues to be one of DC’s hidden gems.

Corrina: While all sorts of multiple Superman and Clark Kents and Lois Lanes are busy in the main Superman storylines, this book and its lead, Kenan, have been running under the radar. That’s a shame because it’s been quality from the start and that’s only getting better. When Kenan was first introduced, he was the bully who wanted to prove himself. Now that he’s suffered losses, he’s still arrogant but he’s become unsure of how to read the world. In other words, he’s growing up, in a subtle way, and I-Ching takes advantage of both Kenan’s arrogance and his uncertainy in order to get to him.

But where the series has improved most is with the supporting characters. Baixi has so grown on me. He’s just an adorable, squishy and competent Batman. I long for a team-up with the regular Batman.

Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #3 – Sarah Vaughn, Writer; Lan Medina, Artist; Phil Hester, Breakdowns, Jose Villarrubia, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Great Gothic Tale

Ray: The conclusion to this unique and chilling miniseries cements this prestige-format series as one of the best DC experiments of the last few years. It really feels more like an experimental series that DC would have put out during the DC You phase. With brilliant, moody art by Lan Medina, it perfectly sets the tone of this locked-room murder mystery that puts Deadman in the middle of a fascinating human drama. It is a bit odd that he seems to be a supporting character in his series, but it works here, because the characters of Berenice and Sam are more than fascinating enough to carry it on their own. The story works because while it’s definitely a supernatural thriller, but it’s primarily a character-driven story.

The story deepens the mystery of the manor that Deadman finds himself locked in, as Berenice’s fiancee Nathan seems driven closer and closer to madness. It’s Sam who really comes into their own this issue, turning into a hero instead of just a fun supporting character, and getting an ending they definitely deserve. The reveal of the villain is a bit predictable at first, but the how and why is one of the best twists I’ve seen in a while. As the story descends into a flaming, ghost-filled horror show in the last act, it delivers with the scares and creepy visuals, and reminds me of some of the best classic ghost stories. With a powerful and poignant ending, this is definitely one of the most unique comics DC has put out in a while.

Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #3, image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: The moody, horrific, and atmospheric art by Medina cannot be undersold. It permeates the entire mood of this miniseries. I don’t find it a bit odd that Deadman is more of a supporting character in the series. Boston Brand works best when he’s placed into an already complex story, and the haunting of this house, with the mystery surrounding its mysterious power, is a perfect vehicle for him.

Yes, the villain reveal was one that a reader could see coming but not the how or the why. Neither did I see coming Sam’s turn into a hero, or how fascinating Sam and Berenice would prove as a couple. The skeptic and the woman who sees ghosts. They would make great characters for a supernatural detective series.

SOLID B

Supergirl #6 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Brian Ching, Artist; Michael Atiyeh, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Supergirl Accepts Her New Future

Ray: This first arc – seven parts to kick off the series – has displayed strong characterization but maybe a bit too much of a focus on high-octane space action while we’re still getting to know the characters. Fortunately, this final chapter sticks the landing and delivers a thoroughly satisfying conclusion that leaves Kara and her supporting cast in a great place. As the issue opens, Argo City is descending on Earth with thousands of robotic Kryptonians looking to drain the lifeforce of humans. Cameron Chase and Cat Grant play their parts to help fend off the invasion (Cat in particular gets some very good scenes that remind me of the character from the TV show at her best), but it’s really Kara’s face-off with her father that defines this issue.

In past stories, Zor-El was portrayed as a warped idealist, trying to resurrect his home planet. This issue, though, lays him bare as a maniac, not only willing to kill a whole planet to correct his mistakes but to sacrifice his own daughter if need be. Also, Kryptonian mythology is kind of messed up. Despite the dark themes in this issue, I love the way it emphasizes that Kara’s defining trait is her compassion, both in her focus on protecting the citizens of National City and her decision in what to do with her father. The issue ends with some great scenes involving Kara, the Danvers, and other supporting characters, which makes me think that now that the crisis is behind us, this title is going to get even better.

Corrina: Krypton’s survivors seem to only include two kinds: idealistic heroes determined to help others and, well, everyone else who wants to use any means to the end of recreating Krypton. The second kind are obviously far more numerous, though Allura in this arc was more nuanced, wanting to live up to the ideals “she” infused in her daughter. It’s not a complaint, just an observation since, obviously, superpowered Kryptonians make great villains. Add in Zor-El’s twist, who wants to recreate what he’s lost via machine, and he becomes something of a tragic figure, forever reaching to create something that is long dead.

Despite the angst of the situation, and the horror at seeing what her ‘father’ has become, Kara has moved into the acceptance phase of her new life. She could become what Zor-El is and maybe have something of her lost world back. But she won’t. Forward is the way to go from here.

Deathstroke #12 – Priest, Writer; Larry Hama, Breakdowns; Joe Bennett, Penciller; Mark Morales, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Very Good But Not Great

Ray: After last month’s detour into Chicago for one of the best comics so far in Rebirth, this issue takes us back to the main plot – or rather, the main dozen or so plots that fill this incredibly complex and engrossing book. We open with a great hook, as Slade meets with the mother of Rose’s fake boyfriend – and is revealed to now be fully blind, due to events that happen in the future. In the present day, Slade’s been recently broken out of prison by his frenemy the Red Lion, who is sort of a more corrupt Black Panther pastiche. As they pull off a daring escape, we cut to Minnesota, where Rose is bonding with her mother’s family and encountering the local gangs. This story feels out of step with the rest of the book, but in a good way – it’s amazing how different Rose seems when her father isn’t manipulating her.

Slade’s other living child, Jericho, isn’t having the same luck. Although on the surface he seems to be happy, in a healthy relationship, his mind is falling apart and he’s seeing the ex-boyfriend he apparently killed in the mirror. It’s a great depiction of mental illness in vivid comic book form. Meanwhile, Slade’s next stop is with Adeline’s new husband, as he uses a rather clever legal tactic to get the government off his back – and discovers a shocking truth about Adeline’s role in everything that’s been going on. I did not expect the addition of Raptor, Nightwing’s new arch-nemesis to this title, but it makes total sense – both globe-trotting, corrupt anti-heroes with their hands in multiple deadly pies. This feels less like a superhero comic and more like a Wire-esque drama. Definitely the most unique book in DC’s stable right now.

Corrina: The minute I saw someone else’s name in the writing credits along with Christopher Priest, I became worried, not only about the quality of this issue but also about the future of the comic. But this partial fill-in looks to be an aberration from solicits. I’m glad because Priest is clearly close to being not done with the story of Slade Wilson and his family.

As for my concerns about issue quality, they were mostly unfounded. This issue feels more surface than some of the others, meaning it’s straightforward, and that’s not bad, it’s just a shade different. I sometimes have to remind myself about the character’s relationships to each other, especially keeping who is who to Slade straight, but that’s part of what makes the book so rewarding. In any case, it’s good to get more background on the fake boyfriend, and more with Adeline. She’s a character I would love to have appear more, because she’s as much a complex mess as Slade. About the only complaint I have with this storyline is that the Red Lion is less interesting to me than everything else going on. But I’m invested in Rose bonding with her mother’s family, and Jericho’s guilt about the death of his ex-boyfriend.

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #6 – Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, Karl Kerschl, Writers; Msassyk, Artist; Adam Archer, Penciller; Sandra Hope, Inker

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Fine Issue

Ray: So, I don’t know if I was supposed to pick up on this earlier, but I’m starting to suspect that Olive’s toxic friend Amy isn’t what she appears to be. Only Olive interacts with her. She always urges Olive on to make bad life choices. She usually appears to Olive when Olive is alone. Could she be a fragment of Olive’s mind sabotaging her? If so, good twist – I hated the character when she first appeared, and this could be a reason why, if she’s literally just there to make Olive’s life worse. But this plot is just lurking in the background, as the Gotham Academy kids struggle to save Colton from expulsion. This is complicated, though, by Colton running away and Pomeline stealing a key piece of evidence to investigate Millie Jane Cobblepot with Tristan.

Where the story excels is in the quiet moments. The subtext between Colton and Kyle comes to the fore in a really powerful moment, and it’s great to see a story involving same-sex attraction that might not end in the two getting together, but also involves mutual support and understanding by the (likely) straight character. On a darker note, Amy’s manipulation of Olive as events get out of control is chilling and very realistic when it comes to the type of toxic personality traits she displays. The weakest point of the issue is the villain, the Symbolist, although it seems this obsessed and possibly possessed boy is more an impetus to push Olive to the breaking point when a friend of hers is put in mortal peril. This continues to be one of DC’s more unique and enjoyable books.

Corrina: I’ve been hard on this book for being more about the admittedly interesting plot elements than the characters but there are several gut-wrenching emotional moments in this issue, especially between Colton and Kyle. As Ray said, it’s a good thing to see same-sex attraction that is handled in a satisfying manner, even if the pair involved don’t get together–and it’s especially key that the straight character knows how precious Colton’s heartfelt confession is.

The addition of Amy has also been helpful in that it provides pushback to Maps, an eternally sunny personality. She’s the heart of the series and now she has a mirror image in Amy, who sees the bad in everything, and longs to bring it out. I hadn’t thought she might be a figment of Olive’s imagination, ala Fight Club, but that’s an interesting theory. Now I want to go back and check her introduction, to see if Amy has ever spoken to anyone but Olive.

Justice League/Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #2 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Stephen Byrne, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Good Crossover For Power Rangers Fans

Ray: This continues to be one of the more entertaining crossovers DC has put out in recent months, wasting no time in sending the two groups of heroes crashing against each other. Despite the necessary fight between the JL and the Rangers, it’s done in a much smarter way than in most books. There’s a genuine sense of confusion in the air, and it doesn’t help that half of the heroes are teenagers who are naturally going to act impulsively. Really, though, the spectacle of the Justice League going up against the original Zords is such a great scene and a treat for fans of the original series. And Stephen Byrne’s art pulls it off brilliantly before the heroes eventually talk things out.

However, it’s not the heroes who really steal the issue – it’s the villains. Lord Zedd has found himself in the DCU as well, and he lands not in a city, but in Brainiac’s zoo of stolen cities and aliens. Using his growing ability (great callback, BTW), he breaks out and proceeds to broker a deal with Brainiac to steal an Earth city – but not one from the DCU Earth. That would explain last issue’s flash-forward of a destroyed Angel Grove. The issue ends with a massive giant monster invasion courtesy of Zedd and Brainiac, and setup for a great battle next issue. It’s action-forward, fast-paced, and delivers some of the best pure crossover thrills yet. Let’s hope it finishes as strong as it started, because it’s delivered in spades so far. At least this OG Power Rangers fan is very happy.

Corrina: I liked this but felt the fighting between the teams went on a little too long. Or perhaps that’s the fun that those who love these crossovers want–their favorites against the Justice League. If so, the Power Rangers acquit themselves well and it’s a nice touch that Wonder Woman is the one to make peace between the teams.. Taylor writes the Justice League well and it’s too bad his skill has been languishing in the Injustice comic, where the League has mostly become villains.

Oh, and, yes, seeing someone easily break out of one of Brainiac’s bottle cities is a treat.

The Flash #16 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Carmine DiGiandomenico, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Rogues Spotlight

Ray: Is it just me, or are DC covers becoming really unrepresentative of the issue again? This issue’s cover shows Barry trapped in “the reflective hell of Mirror Master”, but Mirror Master barely even appears in the issue! Rather, it’s a fairly dramatic, deliberately paced issue about Barry dealing with the aftermath of a massive Rogue heist. They’ve hit many of the most valuable sites in Central City, cleaning them out for billions of dollars – and Heat Wave has decided to burn down the city’s largest bank in the process. Barry feels like he’s failed and is a step behind the Rogues, but after a talk with Iris, he manages to get back on the trail and track Heat Wave to the site where his family died in a fire years ago. Figuring out that the Rogues are planning to retire after this score, he heads to catch Heat Wave as he says goodbye.

Of course, the Rogues are well ahead of Flash’s game this time, and Heat Wave is setting a trap. In fact, the story Barry thought he knew about Rory’s past is in fact much more disturbing (which may startle people who like Dominic Purcell’s more lovable Heat Wave in Legends of Tomorrow), and this issue becomes a compelling back-and forth as the Flash and the Rogues take the advantage back from each other. This is the first time in a while we’ve seen someone meet Barry on the battlefield using his detective skills rather than his speed, and the final showdown at the Rogues’ boat has some great twists. I’m not sure what to make of the new gun Cold is sporting – nothing to do with the mad scientists from the first arc interests me much – but the Rogues’ dysfunctional family vibe is what sells this story.

Corrina: This is a great issue-long battle sequence between Barry and the Rogues, with a particular emphasis on Heat Wave. I know Mick Rory’s backstory best from his portrayal on television but I’m not surprised with the reveals about Mick’s past. He seems more than a little unhinged–but Legends has used that to make him interesting, and used his brainwashing to essentially gave him somewhat of a fresh start.

But, back to the comic. The need of the Rogues to make one last score works. That they had to do it while taunting Flash kinda makes less sense to me, since they would know there’s a distinct possibility that he would catch them. He tends to ALWAYS catch them. So I conclude that they pulled their heists in Central City just to have another go-round with Barry, not to line their pockets. The Rogues and the Flash are connected, in their dysfunctional way, and the heist is sort of a love/hate letter to the Flash.

The question at the end: is Cold willing to kill Barry?

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #14 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Rafa Sandoval, Penciller; Jordi Tarragona, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Corps Together?

Ray: Unlike his previous run on Green Lantern, what’s really making this run shine is the way Robert Venditti is doing a deep dive into Green Lantern lore to find stories to tell. For instance, who expected to see Space Cabbie show up in this title? Reinvented as a highly effective space smuggler who transports the scum of the galaxy with speed and discretion. Guy shakes him down for information on the rest of the Sinestro Corps, and brings him in as a confidential informant. Somewhere between Han Solo and Joe Pesci, he’s immediately one of my favorite characters in the title. I’m also intrigued by the fact that John Stewart’s plan seems to be to offer the Sinestro Corps holdouts the choice of joining up or jail, and I’m glad that there’s no real rivalry between Hal and John over leadership – they both realize that John’s the natural leader.

With John working on rallying the forces of the two Corps, Hal is sent off on a secret mission with Kyle, to locate the last Blue Lantern Saint Walker. The utter destruction of the Blues at the hands of Relic was one of the worst moments of the previous run, so I’m hoping this title finds a way to walk that back eventually. Hal and Kyle make a natural team, with Kyle being the younger one but by far the more sensible one, and putting them together on a flaming death planet definitely delivers some great visuals and one-liners. There are some genuinely creepy monsters, and a last-page reveal that indicates exactly what they might be feeding on. This is a fast-paced comic that manages to do justice to all four original Earth Lanterns. That’s all I could ask for from a GLC book.

Corrina: The art shines this issue, from the big monsters that attack Kyle and Hal to the scenes in the council room with John and the Sinestro Corp to Space Cabbie. I didn’t know he was a thing but I love it. Now that all the pieces are back in place with the Corps and the focus is off Sinestro, I’m enjoying this comic more and more. Hal has been used effectively and there are more possibilities now for John and the other Lanterns. (I do like the meta comment about Hal’s plan to take on all the blame for the GLC being stupid, too.)

So, I’m with Ray. This current arc is a definite uptick in quality.

Superman: Action Comics #973 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Patch Zircher, Artist; Stephen Segovia, Penciller; Art Thibert, Inker; Arif Prianto, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Lois!

Ray: Now that things are back on Earth, this title has taken a major upswing again, feeling much more like a sequel to Superman: Lois and Clark than it has in a while. The story cuts between two very distinct stories, one following Superman and one following Lois, but they may have more to do with each other than it seems. The Superman plot is more routine, but very entertaining, as it becomes clear that someone’s broken into his secret Fortress of Solitude. It’s not a hostile break-in – it’s actually Steel seeking help for Superwoman’s decline due to her powers killing her – but it gives us the chance to see more of the Fortress and this Superman’s arch-nemesis Blanque. Plus, the cliffhanger promises to reintroduce one of Superman’s most iconic enemies, in a new form.

I was more intrigued by the Lois plotline, though, which starts with her deep undercover trying to expose crooked Metropolis politicians. Lois in reporter mode is always a blast to watch, but her focus soon turns to another mystery in Metropolis – the other Clark Kent, who is unaware that she’s married to his doppelganger and has quickly developed an interest in her. Although she’s initially horrified by his interest, she soon realizes that this might be the best way to find out the truth, and her investigation soon leads her to some rather eerie reveals about what this Clark does when he’s not around people. The mystery here keeps getting more intriguing, but really, the strength of this issue is its two lead characters (one could argue Luthor is in there too), and when Jurgens can keep them front and center, the book excels.

Lois Lane has not lost her touch. Image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: I, too, was more intrigued by the Lois plotline but I’m a Lois fangirl. It was great to finally see her in action but the twist that this Clark Kent is more of a stalker-type is a both a nice meta-comment on Lois’s damsel in distress image and an interesting take on what would happen with a non-powered Clark Kent. It’s becoming more and more likely that he’s some sort of created person, either through cloning or magic or something. Of course, Lois would agree to a date to dig into his background. It’s kinda long past time for Lois to investigate him, in any case. (I doubt her Clark would be upset either.)

On the Superman plotline, it’s more a continuation of the Superwoman plot than anything else but I’m glad to see all that being tied together, and I’m hoping for some big conclusion to all this. And soon. But I bet I have to wait until a big, big, event that settles many of the mysteries of DC’s Rebirth.

Red Hood and the Outsiders #7, writer, Scott Lobdell, art by Mirko Colak

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: It’s Consistent, At Least.

Ray: Now that the Black Mask plotline is over and the team is complete, this title shifts to focus on Jason and his odd relationship with Bizarro, and it’s better for it. Artemis is basically MIA this issue, only appearing in one brief scene (although next issue is all about her). The issue opens with Jason attempting to intimidate Black Mask’s drug dealers out of town with Bizarro’s help, but a battle ensues involving a robotic Killer Croc that causes Jason to worry about whether Bizarro is controllable. Research into the history of the Bizarro program shows that past Bizarros have gone violently wrong and the project creator worried that they could possibly end the world. However, Jason sees some parallel between himself and the creature.

Jason’s worries about whether Bizarro can be controlled takes him to the Batcave, where he meets with Alfred and steals a Kryptonite bullet that Bruce prepared as a just-in-case for Superman. He’s planning to pull an “Of Mice and Men” on Bizarro – something that is telegraphed by the cover – killing him before he can go rogue, but in the end, he can’t go through with it in a scene that has more emotion than one would expect. This book continues to be the strange outlier to Lobdell’s recent work, in that his Jason and his Bizarro are both compelling characters, and he’s got pretty decent characterization all around. Maybe it’s just Teen Titans and Titans characters that are his weak points?

Corrina: I find it on the higher end of what Lobdell can do, writing-wise, while I’ve found the art only kinda middlin.’ But even the higher end of Lobdell isn’t very compelling because he can only seem to write one good character–Jason–in any of these issues. Artemis has been one-note, Black Mask has been dull, and Bizarro only kind of so-so, verging between sad Frankenstein monster and not-too-bright child. If I cared more about this Bizarro, I might have found Jason’s decision to let him live more emotional. As it was, it seems like deliberate murder of a sentient being is a line that even Jason wouldn’t cross, so his final decision was never in doubt.

SPLIT DECISION!

Superwoman #7 – Phil Jiminez, Writer; Matt Santorelli, Jack Herbert, Pencillers; Josh Reed, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Fine Ending

Ray: The first major arc comes to a close in an exciting but jumbled fashion, as Superwoman finally takes on Ultrawoman. The entire cast of characters is united, as we get to see characters like Natasha Irons, Maggie Sawyer, and Traci 13 shine on their own while Superwoman takes the fight directly to Lena. It’s good to see Luthor get humbled by Atomic Skull in the beginning of the issue, but I’m not sure that any of his character development here will stick. A few of the same themes have been explored in Action recently. Lena’s final form is suitably impressive, if a bit over the top, but she makes a pretty good villain, and seeing Lana take her down verbally in the battle was great.

The big problem this issue has, though? It’s just too busy. It’s full of double-page spreads with close to 20 panels. One really gets the feeling this was written for Phil Jiminez to draw, and while Santorelli and Herbert do a decent job, they don’t have quite the same relationship to the script that Jiminez would. There’s also just a lot of random twists and turns over the course of the issue that have potential but are just too brief, such as Lana’s transformation into a new Insect Queen outfit, a power change that is never fully explored. Her health crisis at the end of the issue is telegraphed, and we know she survives, so I’m hoping that plot is resolved for good soon. This series as a whole has potential, but a lot of weak points.

Corrina: On the contrary, I felt this wasn’t jumbled at all but an ending that tied up many of the dangling questions and plot lines from Lena’s transformation into Ultrawoman. I felt Lana finally hit her stride the last two issues, with her verbal takedowns of the Luthor siblings, and then the conclusion with each of the team members working together to finally bring down Lena.

Yes, I found the Insect Queen costume a little too brief but I loved the glimpse of how Traci 13’s magic can be used in a traditional type of superhero fight, and the supporting cast on this book has been used well. I love the cast so much that I wish this could be spun off into a new miniseries, with Steel, Natasha, Traci, and Lana. Maybe a Steel series?  Now all that’s needed is to sort out how to make this Earth’s Lois corporeal again.

C: FAIR TO MIDDLIN’

Suicide Squad #11 – Rob Williams, Writer; John Romita Jr., Eddy Barrows, Pencillers; Richard Friend, Eber Ferreira, Inkers; Dean White, Adriano Lucas, Colorists

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: So, Will Waller Stay Dead?

Ray: As this series begins its second act in the aftermath of the JL vs. SS crossover, it keeps its two-story format, although the stories mesh a lot better than they used to when the latter story was an origin recap. It seems like Rustam, who didn’t really get much to do in the JL vs. SS storyline, is going to be a recurring villain for the Squad, as this issue he sets out breaking out various prisons around the United States, setting them up as an army against Waller. Waller, meanwhile, has been removed from command of the Squad by the hard-nosed Colonel Harcourt, and the Squad’s latest mission takes them deep into Russia to try to find intel on the forgettable supervillain team they encountered in the last arc. It’s only when they request shore leave from the more-reasonable Harcourt that things get interesting.

The second story, with art by Eddy Barrows, follows the Squad on their much-needed break. Some segments are more interesting than others – I don’t really care much about Captain Boomerang’s dating problems, but Deadshot and his daughter is always a good subplot to pick up on. However, the character who really shines in this segment is Waller, as we see how she struggles to adjust to being out of command for the first time in a long time. Her narration here reminds me a lot of Annelise Keating (who, incidentally, is played by Waller’s on-screen actress, so it may be intentional) and the cliffhanger is very reminiscent of that as well. Definitely an improvement, although too many of the Squad remain blank slates.

Corrina: I’ve been complaining for almost a month that they’ve made this version of Waller into a flat-out villain. When I hit the cliffhanger at the end, I wondered if that was deliberate, so I would be less upset at Waller’s “death.” (It’s a comic book death, so that means, whatever the reveal is next issue, she’s only mostly dead.) Does the book want me to be on Harcourt’s side? Because I kinda am. The whole idea of a Suicide Squad controlled by bombs in their heads is a tough sell, and this comic has done nothing to make me buy into that premise as much as the story demands.

Titans #8 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brett Booth, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Settling In

Ray: Now that the big overall threat of Kadabra is over, the Titans are settling into their new routine in New York with an story that doesn’t seem to focus on Wally West for a change. Wally’s still involved, of course, as he tries to rekindle his relationship with this world’s Linda Park, and we get glimpses of other interactions – Garth and Lilith sparring and bonding, Roy and Donna discussing her past – but the main story this issue belongs to the two Titans who aren’t really Titans at all. Mal and Karen, happily married and new parents, are dealing with her new and increasingly hard to control powers.

That leads Mal and Karen to a mysterious new corporation specializing in meta powers. It’s revealed that Mal already went there and got his powers removed, not wanting the dangers he encountered during Titans Hunt to threaten his family. Karen is more looking to train her powers, but this is complicated by the fact that is company seems to be run by Psimon, and their old enemies in the Fearsome Five now all have corporate jobs – including Mal’s nemesis Mammoth. The debut of the Bumblebee costume will likely make people very happy, but overall, this issue doesn’t leave as much of an impression as I would have hoped. It’s very much a setup for the rest of the arc.

Donna remembers her past. copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Highlights: the Titans just hanging out, being friends, is always going to be the most memorable part of any Titans issue. The reason this group is so well remembered is that they meant something to each other, on the page. These were true friends, and that’s why Donna unpacking with Roy has such resonance, as did Donna’s realization of how much she liked being a photographer. Of course, we haven’t yet figured out how Donna fits into this new universe–she’s as timelost as Wally West–but that was a nice callback to the Donna Troy people remember best.

I’m glad to see Mal and Karen back but less enthused to see Psimon and the Fearsome Five make an appearance. Of all the traditional Titans villains, they were the least interesting.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #7 – Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Writers; Claire Roe, Artist; Allen Passalaqua, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Get Rid of This Oracle. Now

Ray: Now that the first arc is over, a lot of people were hoping that this title would find its footing and gel more into something like the classic team. The answer is…not really. This is a low-stakes issue, as Huntress comes back to Gotham with Barbara and Dinah, and winds up crashing on Dinah’s floor. This leads her to look for a place of her own, which leads to a conspiracy involving…evil realtors? Yep, that’s right, the villains of this issue are real-estate agents who specialize in renting out former villain hideouts. It’s an amusing concept, but it’s not one that stands on its own as a leading story for a full issue. Dinah and Helena undercover does have a few fun moments, but Helena is too relentlessly humorless for it to fully work.

The biggest problem with the issue remains the new Oracle, who is so relentlessly shifty that it’s puzzling why anyone would trust him. He stalked them, manipulated them, and now every time he’s seen he’s doing something vaguely untrustworthy. He’s also a fairly annoying character. There are a few good scenes, such as the interaction between Barbara and Jim, but overall the plot just doesn’t seem to have any forward momentum. The ending is trying to force a camaraderie that just doesn’t exist with these versions of the characters. And it’s kind of disturbing to see Helena talking about becoming a teacher like her pre-Flashpoint version – this version is kinda kill-happy!

Corrina: This title remains an odd fit. The use of the “new” Oracle isn’t working. He doesn’t intrigue me, he annoys me, plus it annoys me that none of the Birds see through his act in the least. Maybe they’re planning something, maybe not, bit I cannot wait to get rid of this character and, were I buying this series, I’d have long since dropped it.

Other odd fits: suddenly Helena is a teacher again? Yes, I know, old continuity, but at least attempt to make it part of her personality. She was a headmistress for a school of assassins! Just what will she teach these kids? I know, this character needs to become like the old DC Huntress but this is akin to Bobby waking up in the shower and going “see, I’m back to my regular self now.” Um, no. For me to buy it, I need you to show me this on the page.

What I did love: the lunch date with Babs and Jim, reminiscent of other lunch dates in Gail Simone’s run on the title. But it works, which is more than I can say for most of this series.

D: NOT RECOMMENDED

Earth 2: Society #21 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Vincent Ciufuentes, Artist; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Forgettable

Ray: Long past its expiration date and ending next issue, this alternate universe has essentially completely devolved into a brutal, nihilistic place where it seems like every good person has a ticking time bomb in them. The Ultra-Humanity, the main villain of the last few arcs of this book, has unleashed a possessed Alan Scott on the remaining heroes, and he quickly defeats Val-Zod, Fury, Red Tornado, and Power Girl, nearly crushing the latter in a cage of green light.

Meanwhile, the non-powered and low-powered heroes take the fight to Ultra-Humanite, who beats them just as brutally, leaving the remaining Bat-heroes near the brink of death. Eventually, Batman is able to beat Ultra-Humanity until his control weakens, but Ultra-Humanite manages to get the upper hand and fatally injure him before being taken out by GL. So this title buries its third Batman, and at a certain point it just loses all impact. The art is good, but the story has fallen so far from this universe’s glory days as one of DC’s best books.

Corrina: This is a readable book but it seems to have no point to it, no cohesive theme to pull all the heroes’ struggles together. Which means it produces interesting moments here and there, but the stories themselves are forgettable.

F: FAILS ON EVERY LEVEL

Scooby Apocalypse #10 – JM DeMatteis, Keith Giffen, Writers; Howard Porter, Artist; Chris Batista, Penciller; Rob Hunter, Mark Deering, Inkers; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 3/10

Ray: This issue throws you into a bizarre new world, seemingly jumping forward months to a dystopian world where Velma is the evil, sadistic queen of all monsters, and has kidnapped Daphne to try to force her and her friends to submit to being transformed into monsters. Meanwhile, back in a walled human city under constant assault, Fred, Shaggy, and a more-intelligent Scooby hold the line and serve one of Velma’s evil brothers, now the city’s military commander.

When Daphne goes missing, Fred wanders out into the wilds to try to get her back and is joined by a reluctant Shaggy and Scoob, and they encounter more intelligent monsters who lead them to their former friend. What ensues is a violent, depressing, and confusing mess – until it turns out that the entire thing is a fever dream of Velma’s that she’s determined to avoid. A whole-issue dream sequence like this needs to be earned by a series, and this book has given us no characters to connect with and nothing in this world to care about.

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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.