DC This Week – Why You Should Be Reading ‘Deathstroke’

A new crop of heroes in Justice League of America #1, image via DC Comics

There is no overriding theme with this week’s DC Comics but there are more than a few gems to be found. We say every time we review Christopher Priest’s Deathstroke that you should be reading this book and we’re putting it at the top of the list this week. Wonder Woman has a double release: the release of the collected volume of the Rebirth run, Wonder Woman Vol 1: The Lies that we highly recommend, and her regular monthly issue, in which a friend makes a sacrifice for the team.

Plus, it’s Hanna-Barbara versus the Omnikron in Future Quest #10, Clark Kent turns stalker in Superman: Action Comics, Rebirth Teen Titans ends its first arc on a high note, and Batman’s new Justice League of America begins. However, sour notes are sounded by Blue Beetle, one of the few Rebirth titles that is not working at all, and the second issue of Supergirl: Being Super.

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

Kickstarter Alert: SwapBots Augmented Reality

Grade A

Deathstroke #13 – Priest, Writer; Joe Bennett, Penciller; Mark Morales, Inker, Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Yes, It Is Consistently Excellent

Ray: There’s a case to be made that this is the most consistently excellent book DC is putting out right now. At least, it’s definitely in the mix – and it’s the one that seems like it’s most primed to break into the mainstream. This complex generational assassin thriller feels like it could easily be a prestige drama aka Legion or Jessica Jones. Jumping around in time and place, we see Jericho’s fiancee freaking out as her wedding gets closer, and Jericho seeking counsel from a Priest. These segments don’t come into play until later, as the focus of the issue is Deathstroke’s intense battle with Raptor over the fate of the Ikon suit. Between Red Lion’s playing both sides and Jericho’s increasing squirreliness as he tries to conceal Dr. Isherwood’s fate, no one is playing less than two angles.

The tug of war between Slade and his ex-wife is one of the key elements of this issue, as Slade’s attempt to get revenge for her betrayal of him several issues back is part of the reason he needs his suit back. Got to say, Adeline’s new husband – who is also an assassin, but very much isn’t one of these crazy people – is quickly becoming one of the best scene-stealers in this comic. Rose is sadly missing from this issue, as her walkabout in Minnesota is a fascinating storyline. However, Jericho – easily the most complex character in this series – makes up for it, as his mindset continues to unravel piece by piece due to guilt and suspicion. And the end of the issue reveals one more betrayal on Slade’s end that guarantees that things are due to explode very soon. Now come on, AMC. Option this series ASAP.

It’s not a good idea to get involved with the Wilson family. Page 1 of Deathstroke #13, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Concerning that final reveal: one of the most talked about elements of the original Teen Titans run was Slade Wilson’s relationship with the underage Terra. That relationship was never portrayed as healthy. Wilson was well past the line sleeping with a teenager, while Terra herself seemed to be almost eaten up with resentment and anger. (And, yes, eventually, it was that anger that killed her.) That left Slade with all sorts of questions about the kind of man he was. This was explored somewhat in his own title later but that complexity (which did not condone being with an underage teenager) has largely been forgotten in favor of “Deathstroke uber assassin.”

Until this run.

This Slade is not that original Slade who had sex with an underage girl but he’s definitely as messed up. He’s more flawed and more damaged and there have been echoes of his personal corruption throughout this series, most memorably on the road trip with his daughter in which he was more than inappropriate with her. (Dads shouldn’t walk around nude with their grown daughters.) That was played for dark humor but it was a glimpse into a Slade Wilson who’s either oblivious or it was a hint at some darker elements. And I thought of that with the reveal at the end of the issue that Slade is sleeping with his son’s fiancee. This is all kinds of sick on a human level, though interesting on a story level. It’s clear from the authorial voice that this is not condoned but yet another part of the corruption that allows Slade to kill—and a corruption of Joseph’s soul that also comes from Adeline, and that they’ve passed onto their children. Is Joe damned by being forever pulled into his father’s world? He’s beginning to think so. It’s not that the book says “children of villains are destined to be villains,” but that continual parental involvement of the negative kind has serious awful effects.

Wonder Woman #17 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Liam Sharp, Artist; Laura Martin, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Emotional Gut Punch

Ray: Another packed issue, as all the major plots in this run converge and Diana finally gets her identity back – but it may be too late, as one of her friends makes a potentially deadly sacrifice. The issue starts on Themysrica, as Hippolyta converses with her Oracle to try to find the fate of her daughter, who has never returned to the island. Diana, meanwhile, is in a mental institution unable to fully remember who she is, with her only companion being a strange little snake that lives in her arm. Diana has odd, surreal, dreamlike tea parties with that snake, as she tries to piece together her fragmented memories. These segments don’t make sense, but they’re both gorgeous and highly entertaining.

The real meat of the issue comes in the segments focusing on the non-Amazons, though. Steve Trevor has risked his life to track down Rucka’s fan-favorite character Ferdinand, who may be able to help Diana recover her memories. However, the group winds up pinned down by ruthless attackers working with Veronica Cale. Cale, meanwhile, has summoned Barbara Minerva and has a devil’s bargain for her – be transformed back into the Cheetah in the service of Cale, or her friends will die. I’m not thrilled to have Minerva become the Cheetah again already, but the scene where she gives in is great, and it seems like she’ll be a very different character this time. This slow burn title continues to be one of DC’s best.

Wonder Woman #17, art by Liam Sharp, written by Greg Rucka

Corrina: I suppose it was inevitable that the Cheetah’s villainous identity would return but I have to hope that, at some point, Cale will pay for that act of blackmail. Minerva’s sacrifice hurt my heart to read, which is indicative of the quality of this run.

But I was most interested in Diana’s surreal dreams. I suspect that the snake that lives in her arm is her gods talking to her, much as the gods came to visit her when she first left Paradise Island. Gods, at least of the Greek-type, tend to speak in riddles and pose questions and all that happens in these dream sequences, as Diana finally comes back to herself.

I found the action sequence the least of the three subplots in this issue but it still was highly entertaining, thanks to Ferdinand.

Future Quest #10 – Jeff Parker, Writer; Ron Randall, Artist; Veronica Gandini, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Woo-Hoo!

Ray: If you had told me a year ago that “Hanna-Barbera heroes vs. Cthulhu” would be one of my favorite comics coming out of DC, I would have laughed at you. But here we are! As we enter the final arc of what is hopefully act one of Future Quest, Ron Randall (who seems to have become this series’ main artist, although Shaner will be returning for the finale) delivers a packed, no-holds-barred story where several minor players turn into major ones. I wasn’t expecting Gleep, the Herculoids’ little blob critter, to wind up being the key to defeating Omnikron, and it seems like the Impossibles – whose genes have been altered Fantastic Four style – share in its strength. Omnikron remains an imposing and creepy villain.

However, the best segment of this issue belongs to its only original character, Tye – now the new Mightor – as he travels through time and encounters the first Mightor in prehistoric times. It seems Omnikron has been hunting heroes and destroying worlds for eons, and Mightors through the generation have been the key to stopping it. Space Ghost, who has spent most of the series unconscious, finally rejoins the action and has some big information. I’m also enjoying the teeth-clenched teamwork between Dr. Zim and Benton Quest. If you’re a fan of any of these series, you’re going to love this series. If not, it works incredibly well on its own with no prior knowledge.

Future Quest #10 page one, image via DC Comics

Corrina: You say “Cthulhu,” I say this seems like a space-faring version of that big, sentient island from Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier. Or maybe inspired by? It doesn’t matter in any case because, yeah, this is one of my favorite comics of the last year, because it’s fun, the pacing in the main story moves, and yet still manages to give us some nice character moments, like with the two Mightors!

Ah, poor Race! Now that Zim and Dr. Quest are working together, at least for now, he has a rival. 😉 But, mostly, it’s the artwork and the action that carry the series, and it’s glorious old-school fun.

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

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Strong Characterization

Ray: As this new series begins its first full arc, it becomes very clear that the strength here is definitely its characters. The team dynamic is always highly enjoyable, even when the storyline doesn’t quite live up to it. That’s the case here, as this new team settles into their new dynamic and faces their first major challenge – which, unfortunately, comes in the form of some rather flat villains who took apart another Justice League team once upon a time. The issue opens with the heroes on patrol, as Batman and Vixen discuss whether the team is working, and Ray and Black Canary stop a fire from engulfing the town of Vanity. Killer Frost and Atom are bonding back at the base thanks to their mutual science knowledge – while Lobo is beating up a sea-based villain because no one hurts a dolphin around the Main Man.

There’s a lot to like in this first half of the issue – and then the tone shifts abruptly as the scene shifts to Saratoga, New York, and a portal opens bearing the Extremists, ruthless dimension-conquering villains from another reality. The redesigns are suitably creepy, and Ivan Reis draws some fantastic battle scenes. However, the Extremists’ MO is simply to announce themselves and start killing random civilians to get the attention of the world’s heroes. Lord Havok, a Doctor Doom analogue of sorts, seems to be a fascist who believes that a world needs a dictator to function effectively, but he doesn’t get to be a compelling fascist villain like Doom. He and his team are really there to be punched – which is fine, because that’s what a lot of villains are there for. But it’s only due to Orlando’s unconventional team and great dialogue that this JL title rises above its sister book.

Corrina: I didn’t like the Extremists. At all. Perhaps because there was little lead-up or perhaps because teams of inter-dimensional villains are a dime a dozen lately. I’d kinda hoped that perhaps the team would find out what happened to Ray Palmer first. But I’m invested in the characters and that will always trump everything for me.

Ryan and Frost bonding reminded me of Caitlin and Cisco on The Flash television show. They’re a great science couple and I hope their interaction continues. I remain skeptical about Lobo’s place on the team though he wasn’t as annoying as I found him in the special issue, and Black Canary and Ray make an interesting team (also an interesting Easter Egg for DC readers, considering their previous relationship in Ray’s first origin story, written by none other than Christopher Priest, the current writer of Deathstroke.)

So, team dynamics working on all cylinders. Let’s hope the villains come around too.

Batman: Detective Comics #951 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Christian Duce, Artist; Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Conspiracies Abound!

Ray: The second brilliant chapter in a row of this new storyline, this issue shows how deft Tynion is with balancing intense, plot-driven action with surprisingly endearing character-driven moments. This is a violent issue, as we get quite a few good looks at what the League of Shadows can do to their victims, but it never feels gratuitous. Much like with the Victim Syndicate arc, it feels like it’s supposed to startle and it does. The issue begins with Shiva – as intense as ever, and her ill-advised appearance in the New 52 Nightwing series forgotten – torturing a Colony soldier to find out what Batman knows. We zigzag from that to Batman and Batwoman discussing how best to help Cassandra adjust to civilian life. This scene essentially reads like parents discussing what’s best for their kid and I love it.

Things then take a turn for the very serious, as Batman heads to a meeting with the seemingly repentant Mayor Hady – and finds the man essentially crucified by the League. I’m kind of amused by the police officers determined to arrest Batman and take him down to the station – is this their first day on the job? Batman was literally telling them “call your boss”. But this is just the start, as we get our first glimpse of how the League of Shadows operates, and it’s terrifying – using other villains’ MOs as “false flags” to throw everyone off balance while their sleeper cells get into position. As an aside, now that Jacob Kane’s been proven right, my feelings on that first arc are much better. Once Tim is revealed to be not-so-dead, Jacob will essentially be redeemed. The tension just keeps building through this issue, and left me wanting more immediately. We’ve got two all-timer runs on Bat-books going on right now.

Corrina: That anniversary issue certainly set a high bar and this story doesn’t quite reach it. I suspect because it’s more plot-based rather than character-based, getting all the pieces into play the Colony, the group Jacob Kane was after when he created his shadow organization.

It did set me pondering, however: what makes one shadow organization any better than another? They all operate outside the law and are held accountable only to themselves or by others who also operate outside the law.

Why is Shiva’s group so different from Jacob’s group? And what separates Batman’s new allies from the rest? Batman is certainly willing to go outside the law and tolerates those who do. (See: Jason Todd.) In a way, Tynion’s entire work at DC has been part and parcel of this question. In Batman & Robin Eternal, he was part of a core of writers that saw the fall of “Mother’s” organization. Then there was the Victim Syndicate, another group, and Jacob Kane’s people, and now the Colony. Tynion not only likes working with lead characters in groups, he’s created villain groups that are in opposition to them.

Yet all of them are outside the law. So does the law even mean in Batman’s universe? Jim Gordon is usually the personification of the law but that’s shifted too, with even Gordon having spent time as a vigilante. Is this theme of never being able to trust the system a sign of the time?s Or simply a theme Tynion likes to work with?

Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 – Jeff Parker, Mark Andreyko, Writers; David Hahn, Penciller; Karl Kesel, Inker; Mad Pencil, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Ray: This surprisingly exciting and charming alternate-reality digital first title continues to be one of the best uses of the old TV shows DC has put out yet. Shining a light on a much-less-seen era of Batman’s life – before his parents were killed (although I was sure they died before he was 10 years old) – this both allows Wonder Woman to play the hero here as Bruce is still a child, but also allows us some insight into Bruce’s formative moments prior to the famous trauma. With Nazis as the villains and Ra’s Al Ghul as a mysterious adversary, the story has the exciting vibe of an old-school pulp adventure.

Ra’s is distinctly less intimidating in his ’66-verse debut, but that works. It’s amusing to see this ancient warrior get played repeatedly by a ten-year-old boy, but the situation becomes very real for Bruce when he finds himself down in the famous caves with a vengeful Nazi. Diana maybe gets a little less screentime this issue, but she, Steve, and Etta all get some notably fun moments – and I love how more and more writers are using Diana’s ability to talk to animals for fun. Ra’s and Talia remain the most intriguing element of this book for me, and I’m kind of sad to see the title exit the flashback segment to follow up on the book theft in the present day, but I hope this book will remain just as strong in a new setting.

Split Decision:

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #15 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Ethan Van Sciver, Artist; Jason Wright, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Decent For a Hal Book

Ray: The return of Ethan Van Sciver to the universe that made him famous has made this one of the most visually memorable books in the DCU, but where the book has really benefited is in Robert Venditti taking advantage of a new status quo to put characters in intriguing new dynamics. The team-up between the GLC and the Sinestro Corps is leading to a new arrangement for Sector partners, in which one Green and one Yellow is paired to hunt down a specific Sinestro Corps fugitive. Some of these teams set up have a lot of promise and I already want to see more of them. Meanwhile, the other three space-based human GLs are missing, off on their own missions – something that vexes Corps leader John Stewart to no end.

Hal and Kyle, obviously, have the biggest and most visually interesting storyline of the issue, as they aid Saint Walker against a monstrous villain called the Misery Mound. This parasitic creature feeds off other beings’ suffering, and Saint Walker has essentially sacrificed himself to it, engaging in an endless battle to keep it at bay. When Hal and Kyle engage it in battle, they’re given glimpses of their ideal futures before they’re ripped away. And man, does EVS draw a great monster. My favorite story of the issue, though, focuses on Guy Gardner stealing Space Cabbie’s cab to track down Arkillo for a one-on-one no-powers brawl. It’s the ultimate Guy Gardner move, and there isn’t a moment of downtime in this issue. Bringing all these GLs under one title was exactly what this franchise needed.

Corrina: Anytime the issue focuses on the Corps, I’m interested, and this sets up a fascinating status quo that should allow readers a look at characters who usually don’t receive a spotlight. I could wish for John to be more involved in the action, still, however, especially since what Ray loved about Guy doing the ultimate “Guy” move bored me because, hey, male posturing. The best take on Guy, for me, is when they show that his way of doing things isn’t always right and his blustering hides vulnerability. But Guy going full macho doesn’t do it for me.

However, Saint Walker’s whole “hey, I was handling things” speech to Hal and Kyle after they defeat the monster is priceless. Where did Saint Walker learn to throw shade? I would love more of that.

B-Grades This Week

Batgirl #8 – Hope Larson, Writer; Chris Wildgoose, Penciller; Jon Lam, Inker; Mat Lopes, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Enjoyable

Ray: As Barbara’s new investigation/potential romance heats up on both ends, this issue continues the title’s resurgence in its second arc. Much like the previous Batgirl of Burnside arc, this is a very tech-savvy title, but this arc seems to be about the dark side of apps and social media, as a corrupt executive or shady participants can easily turn it to evil. And Barbara’s decided that the best way to get the intel on app developer Ethan Cobblepot is to…date him. Their first date in a supervillain-themed Escape the Room game is a blast, one of the funniest segments this week. There’s a bit of a mood whiplash when Ethan then explains what it’s like to grow up with Penguin as a “dad”. He’s starting to become pretty likable – if it wasn’t for his obvious sketchiness.

It’s good to see Alysia and her wife again, although the segment where Barbara and her friends are in a club tries a bit too hard to tackle some very real issues. There’s working these themes into an issue organically, and then there’s stopping the issue dead in its tracks. This scene, while well-written in terms of the issues it addresses, definitely felt like the latter. It soon resumes the main plot, though, as another app – this one a “safe escort” service for people worried about getting home – is again taken advantage of by supervillains. Whether Ethan is directing this criminal activity or just doesn’t care, it’s clear that Burnside is becoming less safe thanks to his tech, leaving Barbara with a tricky situation. I’m definitely hooked on this title again after a slightly rough first arc.

Corrina: I have been enjoying this second arc more than the first one. Babs feels more like herself; the situations feel more organic as well. This is the most I’ve enjoyed this version of Batgirl since before the soft reboot to the Burnside adventures. I’ll always prefer the older-more experienced take on Babs Gordon better, I think, but this version works too, at least when written well, and this is.

Now that my crankypants complaint is out of the way, I’m glad to see Babs using more of her intelligence to sort through the problem, especially since that opening scene can be read on several levels. One, it’s a nice fake-out to her “date” with Ethan. How much should she reveal of herself? Plot-wise, the trouble with the abuse of the apps is well-done and timely, though it seems a bit much that they’re all tracked back to Ethan. Now that we know he’s a bad guy, I wonder if he’s even the Penguin’s son?

I’m also grateful to see Babs spending time with her supporting cast, especially Alysia. I know what Ray means when he says the story is trying too hard but I suspect it would read that out of place even they hadn’t been addressing concerns specific to this couple. That’s because Babs’ superhero and personal selves haven’t been fully integrated as yet on the page, so I expect a few bumps here and there.

Kamandi Challenge #2 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Neal Adams, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Kirby-like Nuttiness

Ray: A fairly sizable drop in quality from the phenomenal first issue, as is always the risk when an anthology switches creative teams. Pete Tomasi is a very strong writer and is doing some of the best work at DC right now, but he’s partnered with Neal Adams, and it seems like Adams’ bizarro aesthetic of recent years is creeping in, affecting the dialogue and giving the comic a much campier vibe than last issue. That being said, it’s still a pretty entertaining issue as Tomasi opens up the world a little more and lets us see what lays beyond the borders of the Tiger kingdom. When we open, Kamandi is trying to stop the mad Tiger king from destroying the world with a nuclear bomb – but when the bomb hits zero, it’s not an explosion, but a Trojan horse containing Gorilla warriors.

It seems the Gorilla kingdom is invading, and what follows is a crazy chase scene through the city as Kamandi battles evil crow monsters and eventually finds and hijacks the Mobius chair. He teleports out of there, taking Prince Tuftan and Doctor Canus out of there with him. They find themselves on the outskirts of the Wild Human Reserve, and before Kamandi can learn any more about the location they’re in, they’re attacked again – by Manhunters? This story is really throwing everything at the wall only two issues in, and it’s one of the most entertaining books DC is currently putting out. Quality will waver with different creative teams, but the overall vision is one I can’t wait to follow.

Corrina: I like it! I thought Adams’ art was restrained compared to his other recent work, and I give credit for that to the teamwork between him and Tomasi. Besides, if you can’t have a little bit of campiness when dealing with talking tigers, attacking gorillas and someone maybe accidentally blowing up the world with a nuclear bomb, when can you have it?

Tossing in everything but the kitchen sink keeps the pacing fast and, in only two issue, the reader also has some sense of who Kamandi is. This is sorta old-fashioned crazy Kirby action and it’s refreshing.

The Flash #17 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Carmine DiGiandomenico, David Gianfelice, Neil Googe, Artists; Ivan Plascencia, Chris Sotomayor, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Solid. Not Wild About the Ending

Ray: One of the weird things that occasionally happens in Rebirth is that a title that’s been very consistent art-wise will suddenly go completely off the rails and have three artists on a single issue. That’s the case with this otherwise strong conclusion to the Rogues Reloaded story. All the artists are strong and have done work on this title before, but having all of them in a single issue without a story reason is a bit jarring. That being said, this story comes to a satisfying conclusion and sets up an interesting new status quo for the Rogues. The issue kicks off with Cold having Flash at bay thanks to his much more powerful cold gun. Cold attempts to get the edge on Flash psychologically, but it doesn’t work and Flash is able to shatter his new gun.

The issue then turns into a five-against-one no-holds-barred battle with the Rogues, with Golden Glider proving herself to be one of their deadliest members. Williamson does a great job of capturing both the Rogues’ powers and their personalities, as well as their ultimate failings. There’s an interesting contrast between how the Flash operates and how the Rogues do that comes into play towards the end. Despite sending the Rogues back to Iron Heights at the end, it seems like Barry may have actually learned something from them. And the new status quo – the Rogues as crime kingpins of Iron Heights – has a lot of promise. Williamson’s done a great job with both Speedster villains and the Rogues so far. Hoping he heads to Gorilla City soon!

Corrina: Turns out the reason for this Rogues story is so Williamson can show the true difference between the Rogues and Barry Allen or, perhaps, the differences between heroes and villains. The trend lately has been to show the Rogues as outlaws but not quite evil, just a little too gleeful in working outside the system.

Not anymore. These Rogues have no problems crossing the line and their parasitic/symbiotic (which is it, eh?) relationship with the Flash turns a corner as Flash realizes that it’s time to stop futzing around and hoping the Rogues will change. I wanted the ending of this story to put the group on the shelves for a while but, instead, it sets them up as lords of Iron Heights. Okay, I guess, though it proves once again that the DC Universe has no idea how to keep super villains locked up.

Teen Titans #5 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Khoi Pham, Penciller; Wade von Grawbadger, Inker; Jim Charalampidis, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Great Ending To The Arc

Ray: It’s the conclusion to the first major arc of Teen Titans, and in the processs we get the first semblances of an actual team forming. The rest of the Titans rescue Damian from his captivity and Raven heals his injuries, but now they have to get out of Ra’s Al Ghul’s fortress. While the rest of the Demon’s Fist ambushes the team, Ra’s Al Ghul continues to put Mara through a sadistic test to make her prove herself worthy as his second. While Ra’s showed a few layers and some humanity in Batman and Robin when Damian was dead, that’s not the case here – this take on Ra’s is a sadistic monster, who views his grandchildren as nothing more than tools to be used and disposed of. That plays into the way the Titans eventually handle the rest of the Demon’s Fist.

See, Ra’s has lied to all of them. While most of them believe they were abandoned, cast out for society for being freaks, in fact most of them were kidnapped by Ra’s and turned into living weapons for his purposes. Once they find this out, they start rethinking their choices and wind up becoming allies to the Titans in the final battle with Ra’s. Even Mara seems to be rethinking her allegiances, but she’s grabbed by Ra’s and taken away before she can switch sides too. In the end, the rest of the Fist goes their own way, while the Titans head to the Titans Tower in San Francisco to officially begin their chapter of the legend. There’s also a great scene with Bruce and Damian towards the end. While the plot in the first arc may have been a bit familiar, this team has a lot of promise, and I’m particularly excited for the addition of Aqualad next month.

Corrina: While the pacing has been off in this first arc and  the series began with unnecessary conflict, the conclusion made it all worthwhile. Nice use of Raven’s powers to heal Damian, nice use of Ra’s as the sociopath that he has become, and an excellent use of the rest of the Teen Titans in showing off their abilities. Though I believe Kid Flash could have ended things super-fast. But I always complain that the speedsters aren’t used up to their full potential.

Nice turnaround too, with the mirror-image versions of the Titans realizing that they’ve been abused all their lives. If they’d been a less generic bunch, I might have been interested in what happens to them next but since they’re not, I feel like the Titans in the story: thanks for being there, not in a big hurry to see them again.

It is admittedly a low bar, considering how awful the last few Teen Titans reboots have been but this one is the best TT in years.

Superman: Action Comics #974 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Patrick Zircher, Artist; Stephen Segovia, Penciller; Art Thibert, Inker; Ulises Arreola, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Stalker Clark

Ray: Two artists and two very different stories this issue, as things heat up in anticipation of next week’s Superman: Reborn crossover. In the main Superman-related plot this issue, Lana Lang is dying as a result of her powers, and Steel and Superman are teaming up to use the fortress to try to save her. As an old-school Superman fan, it was great to see things like the giant Kryptonian healing-robot from Reign of the Supermen again. Lots of cool easter eggs in the fortress. Meanwhile, Hank Henshaw and his team of government agents have found their way to the Fortress and are planning an attack – only to have their minds affected by the evil Blanque, who turns them into his pawns.

The bulk of the issue, though, is devoted to the conclusion of Lois’ investigation into the mysterious new Clark Kent. While this Clark seemed like a perfect match – almost too perfect – this issue reveals that something is very, very wrong with him. His attempts to win Lois’ heart are clumsy and out-of-character, and he seems almost programmed to move in fast forward – proposing to her in the middle of their first date. When this goes about as well as could be expected, he starts to break down, almost as if his programming was breaking down. He the proceeds to stalk Lois, finding out about her secret family, and it seems like the truth about him will be revealed next issue. This is an odd, slightly confusing issue, but with a lot of interesting mysteries set up. How they play out, well, that’s up to the crossover.

Corrina: I hope after a year that we get an explanation and conclusion for Lana and (Not Dead) Lois, and that what Superman’s doing solves the problems. We’ll see.

What’s good: that the weird new Clark Kent issue is being resolved. I’m glad this Clark is finally showing his true colors. He almost seems like a pre-programmed version of Clark Kent, perhaps one of Luthor’s clones with memories impressed on him. Or he may be an energy leftover manifesting from the previous Clark Kent/Superman. If that’s true, he is kinda of ghost. What I liked about the date is that it rather flipped the tables on the old Silver Age stories with Lois trying to trick Superman into marrying her. Instead, it’s Clark who’s obsessed and determined that they’re destined to be together and that’s a nice meta-commentary on Lois’s comic book past.

Star Trek/Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds #3 – Mike Johnson, Writer; Angel Hernandez, Artist; Mark Roberts, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: This high-octane crossover continues to deliver some entertaining twists and great visuals as the two huge-scale sci-fi universes unfold. The idea of the Green Lanterns exploring the universe they’ve been stranded in – some for good and some for evil – is intriguing, and the issue opens with a huge-scale battle against the Manhunters. However, in the issue’s most clever twist, these Manhunters are not the genocidal war machines of the DCU, but still the loyal servants of Oa, keeping the peace. Although they’re quick to the trigger – their instant assumption is that the Lanterns have stolen Oan technology – they soon become allies of sorts.

With two different groups of villains, this story doesn’t leave much time to breath. Khan and his enhanced soldiers – who dispatch with Atrocitus quickly – are fairly bland, just like they were in the movie, but Sinestro and Larfleeze’s odd-couple banter as they scheme to find Oa and exact their revenge on the Guardians are often as interesting as the heroes. The Star Trek heroes get surprisingly little attention this issue, but what we see of them is well-written. Overall, this is a huge-scale ensemble action epic, and I’d be happy to read an ongoing series in this hybrid continuity.

The Hellblazer #7 – Simon Oliver, Writer; Philip Tan, Artist; Elmer Santos, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Confused But Interesting

Ray: A new arc begins as John Constantine heads to Paris to investigate the origins of the Djinn before returning to England to confront them. And with the change of setting comes a new artist. I’m not sure if it’s a new colorist or an evolving art style, but Philip Tan is at his best here, telling a story that neatly veers from the light and bright to the dark and imposing, much more smoothly than he used to. Constantine and Mercury are the focus here, with most of the other characters back in the UK or trapped in the Rot, and their banter is one of the highlights of the series. Constantine is there to investigate the tale of an old man named Jacque Henry, who has apparently encountered the Djinn before.

The best segments of the issue take place in flashback, in the 1930s as Henry retells his encounter while traveling through the Arabian desert in an oil expedition. This segment has the best visuals of the issue, although in the present Henry is an old man with not much longer to live. Less than he expected, in fact, when a misunderstanding involving a single father who gets mixed up in crime leads to his untimely death. However, his journal seems to be enchanted, and that pulls this accidental criminal into Constantine’s orbit. This segment of the comic is unfortunately a bit hard to follow, but it sets up a promising new arc.

Sub-Par Cs

Suicide Squad #12 – Rob Williams, Writer; John Romita Jr., Eddy Barrows, Pencillers; Richard Friend, Eber Ferreira, Inkers; Dean White, Jeremiah Skipper, Adriano Lucas, Colorists

Ray – 6.5/10

Ray: Now that Romita has replaced Lee on the lead segment, there’s much more connection between the main story and the backup. This is likely because Lee worked months ahead before anyone even knew what the backups would be. Essentially, the two stories are now interconnected, but usually from different perspectives. There’s basically two comics in one going on here. The first, and more interesting of the two, focuses on Amanda Waller’s mysterious assassination. The first segment is told from her perspective, defiant to the end, as she apparently bleeds out on the operating table. Unfortunately, the story surround her isn’t nearly as interesting, as Rustam unleashes another team of generic villains – including Manticore and a bunch that I believe are new – and the Squad gets digitized by Hack.

The second segment is told from Harcourt’s perspective, as the new commander of the Suicide Squad tries to make sense of her predecessor’s murder and investigates the Squad. There’s some strong segments at Waller’s funeral, although I still have no interest in Waller’s estranged family at all – they seem unnecessary attempts to humanize a character who works best when she’s implacable and ruthless. The Squad’s interviews are intriguing, but the mystery ultimately fails because no matter how much the book tries to convince us otherwise, we know Waller isn’t dead and likely orchestrated her own “murder”. There’s only so much intrigue that can be wrung out of a false flag mystery.

Corrina: I almost forgot Waller was shot and killed last week and that’s probably not good because I should’ve felt something when she died. Instead, I took it as yet another plot point in a series that somehow has yet to grab me. I compare this to Deathstroke, where basically everyone involved is, on some level, despicable, if not outright evil, and yet I care about what happens next. But these characters somehow feel as disposable as Waller thinks they are and that’s not good for the reader.

Rustam has so far failed to make an impression and giving him more cannon-fodder villains doesn’t help.

Batman Beyond #5 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Bernard Chang, Artist; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Bruce Is Back

Ray: The first act of Batman Beyond‘s restart concludes by setting as many things back in place as possible. Jurgens – who was the writer on the previous incarnation featuring Tim Drake vs. Brother Eye as well – clearly understands that the editorially mandated status quo there didn’t work, but the problem is that the story here still isn’t very compelling. The issue opens with a flashback to Bruce’s death in the opening days of the Brother eye war. It’s a lot different and less violent than what we saw back in Futures End a few years back and leaves things a lot more open than Bruce getting torn apart by killer robots did. In the present day, Terry – in his slightly ridiculous new suit – is trying to keep Bruce’s unconscious body from being used by Terminal.

It seems that Terminal’s fanboy obsession with the Joker was nothing but a ruse, and Terminal’s master plan was to use Bruce’s DNA to unlock a secret chamber in Wayne-Power to get access to a technology that will give him control of Gotham. The plot is kind of vague and Terminal remains a fairly bland villain, but the issue has an entertaining, slightly frantic energy to it as Bruce’s chamber nearly falls off buildings multiple times. By the end of the issue, Bruce is awake and the initial Batman Beyond team is back together, while Terminal meets an unpleasant end at the hands of his loyal janitor – who is actually an elderly Joker in disguise. I’m not really thrilled to have Joker back, but I’m hoping now that the search for Bruce is over, this title will get back to a bit more of the vibe of the original series.

Corrina: The Good: Bruce is back in reasonable shape. The Bad: So is the Joker. The Good: With Bruce back, the stories might move forward into something resembling the old Beyond-verse. The Bad: I worry that instead of character development, we’ll have a big Joker fight. Or a world-altering something related to older Tim Drake’s disappearance.

I just really want some fun adventures in the Batman Beyond series, with all the gang back together. Hope that’s not too much to ask.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #23 – Sholly Fisch, Writer; Scott Jeralds, Artist; Franco Riesco, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Ray: One thing I admire about this book is its ability to find the deep cuts when it comes to Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Not everything that appears here is a mainstay, and the book has featured some obscure characters from DC continuity like Deadman and the Hawks at times. So on that note, it’s pretty cool that they dug up offbeat Western-themed hero Quick-Draw McGraw, a horse who serves as sheriff of a small western town – and for some reason, also dresses up as a masked vigilante at points. He’s also got a tiny donkey sidekick who speaks in broken english. It’s all silly fun, but unfortunately it’s not all that much of an engaging series, with the mystery revealed halfway through (and I’m pretty sure this exact character model was also the villain in the Secret Squirrel issue a year or so back). This series is a gem when it’s dealing with the Scooby Doo crew helping DC heroes solve mysteries. When it ventures from that perspective, it’s strictly for kids – which really, is still a bit above a lot of kids’ comics.

Supergirl: Being Super #2 – Mariko Tamaki, Writer; Joelle Jones, Artist; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Ray: The idea of a young-adult geared Supergirl origin retelling is a great idea, and one that has a lot of potential. Steve Orlando’s been toying with elements like this in his run, but it’s pretty busy with big comic book plots. So a comic more concerned with small moments and character development is something I could see definitely finding a market. The problem is, well, this is a very strange book and one that doesn’t really work as a Supergirl origin. The first issue was a quirky tale including some odd diversions as a super-zit, but had an overall lighthearted tone. This issue…does not. It starts with a mysterious earthquake that puts Kara and her friends in jeopardy. While trying to rescue an injured friend, Kara’s powers fluctuate – seemingly related to an unseen villain – and she loses her grip, resulting in her friend’s death.

This sets the issue on a very dark, slow-paced tone, as Kara and her surviving friend (the one who had more development in issue one, no surprise) grapple with this tragedy in odd text messages. Kara’s parents attempt to help her cope, but both are very thinly sketched out characters – her mom tries to offer her food, her dad speaks in cryptic life lessons. There’s an odd quirky tone to the issue that doesn’t really match up with the tragic issue at stake – should this conversation really include a poop emoji when discussing a death that happened that day? Or maybe I’m just old. The cliffhanger seems like it might answer the question of exactly what happened to Superman in this world (and the possible resolution reminds me of Flashpoint), but overall, halfway through this miniseries I’m not really connecting with this odd take on one of DC’s best characters, despite some great art.

Blue Beetle #6 – Keith Giffen, Writer; Scott Kolins, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Ray: Probably the weakest issue of this series so far, as the title falls back into New 52 relaunch patterns of having people act unlikable and yell past each other, making bad decisions that lead to situations getting worse than they need to. I will say that I enjoy seeing Jaime’s parents get actively involved in the fact that their son is a superhero – and Jaime’s mom yelling at Ted is massively in character – but in general everyone in this series seems angrier than they should be. In the aftermath of last year’s attack by likely Reach agent Mordecai, Jaime confronts Ted about what he’s been hiding, and Ted reveals – among other things – that the Scarab may not be able to be removed. Ted also fills them in on the unfortunate fate of Dan Garrett, and Jaime flies off angrily.

One of the biggest weak points of the series is the way Paco, Brenda, and Milagro have been marginalized. The former two have had virtually nothing to do except yell at each other over the phone, while Milagro barely appears at all. Jaime, not in a particularly good place, finds Mordecai and somehow transforms into a new, more powerful Mega-Beetle form that lets the two Scarabs go toe-to-toe. Kolins’ art has an appealing old-school style in the action segments, but overall the story is just sort of lacking and I’m not really sure what Doctor Fate’s role is in this story. This book really doesn’t have any momentum at the moment and solicits make it seem like a candidate for an early exit.

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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.