DC This Week – Aqualad: Rebirth

Reading Time: 25 minutes
Teen Titans #6, page 5.

This week sees the return of the new Aqualad, who will be very familiar to fans of the animated Young Justice series, in the strongest outing yet for the new Teen Titans series.

It’s kinda hard to list our other favorites among a strong weeks of stories, including Ra’s Al Ghul and Shiva versus the Bat-crew in Batman: Detective Comics, Wonder Woman regaining herself, Superman and Lois Lane regaining their full selves too, in Superman: Action Comics, Barry Allen revealing his true self to Wally West in The Flash, the reconstituted Green Lantern Corps gaining ground in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, Deathstroke is the blind leading young Power Girl into trouble and all the Hanna-Barbara characters team-up in an epic battle in Future Quest.

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

GRADE A

Teen Titans #6 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Koi Pham, Penciller; Wade Von Grawbadger, Inker; Jim Charalampidis, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Best issue of this series.

Ray: The first arc of this title was very plot-heavy, pitting a just-formed team against an army of new villains, with Damian dominating the storytelling. So we haven’t really gotten to get a look at how the team functions until now. And now that we have…it’s good. Very, very good. This is easily the most fun I’ve had reading a Teen Titans comic in close to a decade. There’s a central mystery – in San Francisco Bay, a mysterious villain is killing sea life, kidnapping people, and seems to have broken an army of criminals out of a floating prison. However, this is just a side story to much more character-driven plots. For instance, Beast Boy has decided to help with the team’s promotion by inviting a reporter to profile the team, leading to some really amusing scenes. This scene gives off a vibe that’s very similar to the original cartoon (not the TTG spin-off, thankfully).

While the newly formed team gets some great development here – and Damian continues to be the team leader from hell, natch – the character who will likely get people talking the most this issue is Jackson Hyde, aka the new Aqualad. Young Justice fans will be very happy to see him, and I’m instantly intrigued by his story. Growing up with an overprotective mother who is secretive about his father and neither approves of him being gay or using his metahuman powers, he tries to open up to a boyfriend – only to find out that his meta abilities are a dealbreaker. That leads him to decide to head out on the road and try to make a fresh start for himself in San Francisco, just as King Shark begins haunting the bay. It’s a very different book from the first arc, and in every way a stronger one.

Corrina: I agree, this is my favorite issue of this run so far and it’s no coincidence that it allowed the other team members to come to the fore instead of solely being focused on Damian. That was the joy of the original Teen Titans series: how they were friends, and that included being able to annoy each other. It’s early yet for the bonding of this team but that they’ve put together a headquarters is a good sign, and, naturally, Gar is the least retiring among them.

I’m also glad to see Jackson Hyde. He was popular in the cartoon and he had a short run in the comics that was cut off for some reboot or another. He already carries an intriguing power set and the plot seems to set up a proper adversary for him. (King Shark is a Shark!) It’s a different twist that his powers are the deal breaker between him and his boyfriend, rather than concerning any issues of being closeted or and I think it’s a good twist. About Jackson’s parentage, which was different in the television show and the comics, there’s no clear answer on whether Black Manta is still his father. Of Percy’s two titles, he seems to be handling this one far better than

Of Percy’s two titles, he seems to be handling this one far better than Green Arrow.

Superman: Action Comics #976 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Doug Mahnke, Penciller; Jaime Mendoza, Christian Alamy, Trevor Scott, Inkers; Wil Quintana, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Superman & Lois Are Back

Ray: A strong crossover on its own, this Superman-line event ultimately feels more like a teaser for the coming big event than it does an event in itself. Mr. Mxyzptlk, while the big villain of this arc, is nothing more than an opening act and makes very clear that he is in fact terrified of whatever lurks behind the scenes – be that Mr. Oz, Doctor Manhattan, or someone else. However, as the story opens, he’s definitely a threat himself. Jon Kent has battled back from limbo and seemingly reunited with his parents – but the energy from the post-Flashpoint versions have left Lois and Clark with no memories of him. Much like the opening of this story was essentially a hardcore adult fear, these segments call back to a child’s deepest fear of being forgotten and abandoned by their parents.

The story is at its weakest when it deals with the mystery of what exactly the post-Flashpoint Superman and Lois were. It seems like they’re some flip-side of the current ones, a red-oni, blue-oni thing. Or, in the case of comic books, a callback to Superman Red, Superman Blue. Doug Mahnke somehow manages to take Mxyzptlk and make him a genuinely intimidating foe at points, especially when he grows to surreal heights and starts destroying the corner of the universe they inhabit. He is essentially a god, and this story has remembered that. By the end, the energy of the two worlds’ Superman and Lois are reunited, and the family is whole again. Mr. Oz seems vaguely impressed by this, but what his master plan is has yet to be revealed. How this plays out in the coming books will be interesting, but it feels more like a step forward than a conclusion.

Two Supermen become one in Action Comics #976

Corrina: I’m assuming that the creative team can’t delve too much into whoever is manipulating world/time/space behind the curtain and instead save all that for the next big crossover. While I’m still scratching my head at the reveal that Mxy was the fake Clark Kent, I have to say that the follow-up to that reveal has been excellent, from Mxy’s banter with Jon, to how Mxy reveals his essentially selfish and evil nature. It is chilling to see Clark and Lois reject their son and each other but I’m pleased the mystery of the duplicate Lois and Superman has finally been solved. So, time is rewritten again? Just in time for the big event, naturally.

It was an interesting way to fold the New 52 and Convergence Lois together, and, once again, brings a dead Superman back kinda alive, more neatly than I could have anticipated when this started.

Batman: Detective Comics #953 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Christian Duce, Fernando Blanco, Artists; Alex Sinclair, Allen Passalaqua, Colorists

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Gut Punch

Ray: James Tynion continues to pull off a master-class in combining high-octane action with strong characterization for every member of his cast as the League of Shadows arc reaches its halfway point. In a fantastically tense issue, there’s a rare moment of levity at the start as a cranky Jim Gordon who just had his vacation interrupted liaises with Batman and Batwoman in his helicopter as they discuss the latest attack on Gotham. However, once again the heart of this comic is Cassandra Cain, as she’s been benched in the Belfry (we saw how well this worked with Steph last arc!), which allows her to reflect on a very painful memory of her father. Clayface attempts to help her through it (and who thought Clayface would become team therapist?) but eventually lets her go chase after her mother.

As the League begins to hunt down members of Batman’s team one by one, taking out Clayface and Batwoman to start, the second half of this issue is a series of fantastic battles – first a one-sided fight between Batman and Orphan as he tries to get her to pull back and won’t fight her, followed by an equally brutal beatdown from Shiva toward her daughter. Cassandra’s struggle to find her identity and discover if there’s something, anything good in her legacy is incredibly well-written, playing on themes that were there for the character from the start but never spelled out quite this extensively. As for the end of the arc, which brings in Ra’s Al Ghul, I’m thinking he’s here as a potential ally, rather than a villain this time, which is definitely a dynamic I’m interested in seeing.

Corrina: Big epic stories, like Batman vs. the League of Assassins, only tend to work if there are the small character moments that invest a reader emotionally in the story. Even fight scenes that are drawn well (as this book definitely is!) will leave me cold if there’s no emotional investment in the fight.

But there are gut punches all over the place in this comic. Gordon snarking about losing his one vacation to cover his concern; Clayface and Cassandra’s conversation; Cassandra and Bruce’s fight, where he is trying to reach a desperate woman; Clayface’s sacrifice; Batwoman being stabbed before her father; and Cassandra’s utter loss of faith in letting Shiva hurt her. These are the moments that make this book work, not the over-reaching plot of the Big Bad vs. the Batman allies.

Though I have to wonder why anyone lives or builds in  Gotham these days, with how often it is attacked. I’ve decided that the Gothamverse lends itself to these kinds of epics and rather than worrying about yet another “plot to destroy the city,” I should focus on what are the best aspects of this particular tale. I still have a few niggles with it–the citizens that rallied around Batman in Batman: Eternal seem quick to condemn him without much evidence–but I care about what happens to the people inside the story and that’s the bottom line.

The Flash #19 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Jesus Merino, Penciller; Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artist; Andy Owens, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Again With the Gut Punches

Ray: An overall satisfying issue that starts out fast-paced and action packed, and ends with an emotional gut punch. When we pick up, an Australian criminal gang named the Weavers have captured Flash, Kid Flash, and Captain Boomerang. With the three of them facing death, Boomer is able to talk them out of it by setting up a race to test the Weavers’ new technology. While Flash and Boomer are on the run, Wally is able to short-circuit their restraints and take out the Weavers. I’ve always been a big fan of Boomerang’s unique brand of fast-talking con-man villainy, although it’s a little hard to enjoy him here given the last time we saw him was in Suicide Squad where he was doing something genuinely awful. Perils of a shared universe.

However, once the Weavers are defeated, Boomerang comes through with information and reveals that Daniel West was killed in action as a member of the Suicide Squad. This sends Wally spiraling, and as Barry attempts to convince his protege that his father’s actions don’t reflect on him, he decides to give Wally his trust and reveal his secret identity to him. The two have a great conversation that seems to deepen the relationship between them – but then Wally realizes that Barry has been lying to Iris as long as they’ve known each other, and things go downhill in a hurry. Given my issues with the way revealing the secret to Iris was dragged out so long on the show, it’s good to see someone call out some of that meta context here. However, I’m hoping this rift doesn’t drag out too long, as the Barry and Wally team is written really well here.

Corrina: I had thought the Weavers couldn’t possibly take a whole issue to defeat. On that, I was wrong, but the story draws out the action nicely, and it works as a showcase for this Wally West. Boomerang is also more tolerable in this book than in Suicide Squad, by far, and that helps as he gives Wally the news that his father is dead.

Wally’s reaction is predictable and poignant and, like Ray, I was glad to see Barry reveal himself to Wally, but also glad to see Wally call out Barry on not telling Iris. I mean, c’mon. We’ll see how that goes but true love is not going to run smoothly for this pair for a while and that’s okay because keeping that secret should cause a big rift.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #17 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Ethan Van Sciver, Artist; Jason Wright, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Excellent Green Lantern Comic

Ray: It’s been a while since the Green Lantern books had this level of unpredictability and excitement to them. Between the character-driven Green Lanterns and this wild, jam-packed ensemble book, this is the best the family’s been since the Johns heyday. This is, in a sense, a bridge issue between big arcs, but it’s still packed with character development, setup for future stories, and big reveals. Ethan Van Sciver may be a controversial guy in the industry, but there’s no question he draws the best Lanterns out there, whether they’re in the Oa Sciencells or in a wide-open vista. The issue begins with Guy and Arkillo both being brought back to Oa in critical condition, which leads to a great scene where Guy visits his nemesis’ bedside and seems to hope they’ll be…partners?

However, it’s Kyle Rayner who plays the starring role this issue (and in a frustrating move, has his big end-of-issue moment spoiled by the cover). After meeting with Hal to get a pep talk on the way to his top-secret mission, he’s brought in with Saint Walker by Ganthet and Sayd in a risky attempt to resurrect the Blue Lanterns. I’m not sure exactly how this was supposed to work – was it going to generate new rings, or actually resurrect the dead Lanterns? – but that turns out to be irrelevant, as someone or something sabotages the process from beyond. This tense segment even gets the attention of Mr. Oz in the first tie to Rebirth in this line. As part of the sabotage, the white lantern ring is destroyed, and Kyle reverts back to his classic Green look. That’s not even getting into the scenes involving Space Cabbie, or Tomar-Tu. Few books pack more in every issue than this one. What a great turn-around since the first arc.

Corrina: If I were a big Lantern fan, I would be as thrilled as Ray has been with this book. It’s still not close to my favorite DC properly but the upturn in quality since the first arc has been striking. Whether it’s allowing the other Lanterns to shine as much as Hal, or acknowledging that Hal can be a dumbass or just the overall cohesion between plot and character, I don’t know. But it’s good. Not enough to make me love Hal, but good.

I’m not sure what to think of Kyle back as a Green Lantern, save that this was inevitable. It’s a good use of the character, and of Saint Walker, but I hope that, having reconstituted all the beloved Lanterns, that Venditti doesn’t start killing them off again. 🙂

Wonder Woman #19 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Liam Sharp, Artist; Laura Martin, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: D’aww….

Ray: Wonder Woman gets closer and closer to the truth about her homeland in this issue, as the present day segment continues in a big way. On one hand, Rucka is very good with the quiet, talky segments. The opening scenes with Diana getting her memories back with the help of Ferdinand are incredibly powerful, and I loved the little coda of her stunning the doctor by walking out in full costume. However, in case you thought this was going to be a calm issue, it’s anything but. Rucka has put together essentially an all-star gang of Diana’s worst human enemies. Veronica Cale, Doctor Cyber, and Doctor Poison are all aligned, and they’ve got Cheetah back under their control, albeit under duress.

Part espionage comic, part fantasy comic, it’s at its best when it’s exploring the complex mythology of Wonder Woman. The segments on Themysrica are gorgeously drawn and mysterious, as readers are introduced to the real Themysrica for the first time. I will say that I was probably least interested in the segments focusing on Steve Trevor and Etta Candy. They’re decent supporting characters for Diana, but seem to come from a different, more down-to-earth comic. I’m also not sure how Sasha Bordeaux really fits into this comic. However, once the battle with Doctor Cyber that wraps this comic begins, Liam Sharp really hits his stride with fantastic visuals. This comic suffers a bit from each story being monthly, but at this point both stories are carrying their weight and weaving together to deliver a satisfying picture.

Wonder Woman #19.

Corrina: So far, Rucka has done a remarkable job balancing a spy comic with superhero mythology and the Year One segments have added great depth to the current story. I realize that, at times, the mythology and the spy worlds don’t always come together but I see Diana as the character who can bridge that gap, meaning now that she’s back in action, they should mesh as well as they ever did.

My heart is kinda breaking for Cheetah.

Deathstroke #15 – Priest, Writer; Larry Hama, Breakdowns; Carlo Pagulayan, Penciller; Jason Paz, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: The Geeky Leading the Blind

Ray: Easily the most comic-booky issue of this series so far, although that’s not really a criticism. Priest has embraced the absurdity of the situation Slade finds himself in this issue, and as such the issue is looser, with more jokes and ridiculous situations. However, naturally that causes it to lose a little bit of the hard-boiled vibe the title usually excels with. There’s a few other scenes, such as Jericho stealing his ex-lover’s comatose body with the intention of resurrecting him, and Rose saying goodbye to her Minnesota family as she heads off to deal with her brother’s breakdown, and those are both strong. However, the focus of this issue is undeniably Slade – Blind and even more out of his element than usual.

Finding himself in the care of Power Girl and Dr. Villain (whose interplay is one of the highlights of the issue), he soon finds himself heading into unfamiliar territory, undercover at a gala with Tanya as his “date”, when assassins come calling. Tanya’s peppy teen superhero routine still sticks out like a sore thumb in this title, but that feels intentional this issue. Little details like the fact that Slade was so easily able to convince her he’s a superhero named Raptor really drive home that she’s a teenager and a professional like Slade will have an easy time manipulating her. Slade’s new identity as a blind superhero at the end of the issue is hilarious, and feels like at least partially meta Daredevil commentary. Overall, easily the strangest issue of the series, but one that’s still highly recommended.

Deathstroke #15, page 5.

Corrina: I don’t see Tanya as that peppy. She comes across more as geeky to me, and, thus, not always able to discern the outside world perfectly. But I’m not so sure she’s unaware that Slade is Deathstroke. I suspect Tanya might be playing ignorant in order to find out what he wants. Slade is, after all, fairly obvious, and she’s managed to disarm him in a way where he’s not an immediate threat to her.

Yes, the Jericho and Rose segments are strong. I’m hopeful that Jericho can bring back his dead lover and thus wipe that guilt away from his psyche. I want to hope that he’s a hero at some point too but he and Rose seem too damaged emotionally by their respective upbringings to ever become that heroic.

Future Quest #11 – Jeff Parker, Writer; Evan “Doc” Shaner, Artist; Veronica Gandini, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Epic

Ray: Original series artist Evan “Doc” Shaner returns for the two-part finale to the best of the Hanna-Barbera line, and the result is predictably spectacular-looking. Shaner’s unique cartoony art was one of the biggest draws for this series when it debuted, although Ron Randall did a very good fill-in job with a similar style. Shaner’s take on Omnikron in its final form is suitably horrifying. Given how big the cast is, it sort of makes sense that Parker and Shaner do a cast recap at the start – although the fact that it’s done in the form of Johnny Quest making what could be a farewell video if they fail sort of drives home the stakes of this series. This is followed by a government recap of how Omnikron works, done in retro filmstrip style, and then we’re off to the races.

Potential world-ending situations are routine in comic books, so I like that this title treats this one with appropriate gravity. These are kids facing the apocalypse, and it makes sense that they would struggle to deal with it. Space Ghost’s pep talk is a bit corny, but effective. Once the final battle begins, we see all sorts of characters use their unique powers to set an elaborate trap for Omnikron before it arrives. What sets this title apart from the rest of the Hanna-Barbera line is that it not only stays faithful to the original, but it takes the source material seriously. These characters would be a genuinely fearsome team if they were working together, and here they’re as effective as any Justice League team at their peak. It might be a bit of an infodump at points, but I can’t wait to see the final showdown unfold next issue.

A quiet moment before the battle. Future Quest #11.

Corrina: This issue reminded me of how much I loved the first couple of issues of the series. It’s been consistently entertaining but now it feels epic again. Heroes gearing up for a desperate plan, a villain that never seems to die, and then the human moments, especially with Jonny’s video at the beginning.

I also cannot wait for the final showdown.

SOLID Bs

Batgirl #9 – Hope Larson, Writer; Chris Wildgoose, Penciller; Jon Lam, Inker; Mat Lopes, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Babs User Her Smarts

Ray: The third chapter of “Son of Penguin” is yet another comic that gives away its cliffhanger on the cover – namely, that Barbara is going to wind up facing off against the actual Penguin by the end of this comic. However, this comic continues to be an interesting look at the double-edged power of technology. This issue even introduces a new Pokemon Go-type app that’s being used for nefarious purposes. I have to say, I love the idea of Barbara teaching coding to kids – it’s the most classic-Barbara thing she’s done in a long time, and it’s a great side story for the character. In general, I found the stuff in this issue focusing on Barbara Gordon and her supporting cast to be the most effective, especially the scenes with Alysia and her anxiety over becoming a parent.

However, I was slightly less enthusiastic about Ethan Cobblepot’s part in the story. Yes, he’s wealthy and mysterious, and may or may not be evil. We know that much. This issue took the 50 Shades parallels a bit too far with the addition of the creepy masquerade ball he takes Barbara too. Thankfully, Ethan is a lot more…well mannered than that other guy, but it felt like his character development stalled this issue and he became much more generic “Creepy rich guy”. Batgirl has relatively little to do this issue, actually, foiling some petty crooks using a delivery app to their advantage and then investigating Ethan only to come across his dad instead. Overall, my least favorite issue of the arc, but still a good read.

Corrina: This series has changed shape with each creative team, from Gail Simone’s PTSD-fueled initial story and rebirth of Barbara as Batgirl to the Batgirl of Burnside that took a much more positive, fun tone (though I found it too shallow at times), and now I begin to see a meshing of those two approaches to Barbara Gordon in Larson’s run.

Her Batgirl is physically the Batgirl of Burnside but the characterization has been more layered, with such elements as Babs teaching kids how to code, and she uses her brains more to figure out things rather than rush into situations. She also seems a bit more cautious and careful than in the original Burnside run and, given how much of a planner Babs has always been, I’m happy with that change. I am a bit tired of Ethan–and I’m not sure what she sees in the guy–but I’m good with Penguin showing up as the villain, and that reminded me that Penguin was the original villain in the two-part Batman ’66 episode that introduced Barbara Gordon. I believe he wanted to marry her or something. A little trivia that I thought was interesting, given how Ethan is romancing her.

Page One of Doom Patrol #5

Doom Patrol #5 – Gerard Way, Writer; Nick Deringto, Artist; Tamra Bonvillain, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: This continues to be a gloriously surreal comic, with some of the best visuals of any book on the stands. It starts with Casey Brinke’s friend Sam being essentially drafted into the bizarre team that’s being formed by Casey and Danny, while he reacts with utter confusion to everything that’s going on. That’s kind of my reaction as well, honestly, especially when it gets to the segment where Larry Trainor is transformed into the Negative Man. I get that the classic bandage look is iconic, but it did seem like the narration for why it exists was a bit forced. It only gets more confusing from there. Dannyland is in chaos, an iconic Doom Patrol member is apparently dead, and Casey’s cat is transformed into a were-cat by an astronaut. This is all in the first third of the comic, mind you.

This book is all supremely meta, as Casey finds herself living out the plot of old comic books that she apparently starred in but has no memory of. An evil alien conqueror father? A dark and edgy replacement clone? Check and check! This segment is essentially a strange space-opera pastiche with copious actions and whip-fast dialogue. and then suddenly, we’re in a parallel timeline focusing on Niles Caulder and a comatose alternate Larry Trainor. Ultimately, the comic is a little too strange to fully follow, but there’s a great message about taking control of your own life and not living someone else’s story that shines through. The ending brings in another classic Doom Patrol character that a lot of fans will be happy to see. Is it a great comic? No, it’s a bit too deliberately weird for that. But it’s definitely a fascinating and addictive one.

Mother Panic #5 – Jody Houser, Jim Krueger, Writers; Shawn Crystal, Phil Hester, Artists; Ande Parks, Inker; Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Trish Mulvihill, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Ray: The biggest problem with this series so far has been Violet Page herself, who comes across as a blank slate of an edgy “90’s” anti-hero. This issue goes a bit further in establishing who she is beyond that, and the series is better for it. Between showing a bit more of her personal life and her relationship with her mother, and contrasting her with a distinctly less-stable fellow escapee from the evil Gather House. This fellow escapee, who was apparently made so beautiful that people can’t even look at him, is a bit generic – he looks like an emo bandboy more than anything unusual, but he’s subtly creepy in just how far he’s willing to go to strike back.

By far the best scenes of the issue are the ones taking place in the strange, Wonderland inspired room that Violet’s mother lives in. Her mental break appears to have left her believing it’s over a decade ago, with Violet still in school before her unwilling trip to Gather House. The fact that Violet is willing to work to keep that illusion safe in her mother’s mind is the first real flash of humanity we’ve seen in her. The overarching problem is that places like Gather House are a dime a dozen in comics, with Violet’s transformation being very reminiscent of what was done to both Wolverines. The backup, by Krueger and Hester, finally syncs up a bit with the main story as it delves deeper into the strange underbelly of Gotham.

Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 #3 – Mark Andreyko, Jeff Parker, Writers; David Hahn, Penciller; Karl Kesel, Inker; Madpencil, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: Another fun issue in what’s quickly becoming the best use of the ’66 line since it started. While the first two issues take place primarily in flashbacks, now we’re in the present day, as Batman and Robin head over to Themysrica to get Wonder Woman’s help against Ra’s Al Ghul. There’s just one hitch – men can’t go to Themysrica unless escorted by a woman – so they have to spring Catwoman from prison and get her to take them. This leads to a lot of funny banter – as well as a ridiculous number of cat puns. Maybe too many. This issue goes a bit further with the ’66 vibe than previous issues, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Then we get to the second half of the issue, as things pick up in a big way. It seems Themysrica has a Lazarus Pit at the center of a labyrinth, and Ra’s and Talia are in search of it before Ra’s life expires. The heroes have to get there first – but that means going through a no-holds-barred mythological gauntlet, complete with mazes, griffins, and Cyclops. There’s some really clever use of both Greek mythology and classic Bat-gadgets, and Batman riding a griffin is probably the best bit of comic book nonsense in the line so far. Fans of either of these shows are going to be very happy with this title.

Star Trek/Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds #4 – Mike Johnson, Writer; Angel Hernandez, Artist; Mark Roberts, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: Easily the most action-packed crossover I can remember, this series essentially rockets from battle to battle with nary a break, but it has enough levity and absurdity to keep people interested. The issue opens with Guy and John buried in rubble as Khan confronts the rest of the Lanterns armed with Atrocitus’ ring. Eventually the Enterprise is able to fire on him and chase him and his Augments off, but he’s far from defeated. Meanwhile, the series’ other main villain, Sinestro, has a different and far more subtle tack to take over this new universe.

Sinestro’s arrived on Oa, which is far behind the times here and has not yet created the Green Lantern Corps. So Sinestro figures…why not lead the charge there? It’s an interesting, forward-thinking approach to villainy that shows why Sinestro is easily one of the better villains in the DCU. However, it seems like the stories are going to collide as Emperor Larfleeze – as he has so crowned himself – gets a visit from Khan, and Sinestro takes advantage of the Guardians to steal the power of Parallax. As an aside, that guy gets ahold of Parallax the way some people eat chips, am I right?

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #5 – Matthew K. Manning, Writer; Jon Sommariva, Penciller; Sean Parsons, Inker; Leonardo Ito, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: This is an odd issue, as it’s essentially the concluding chapter of this miniseries – but there’s still one more to go, which should make for an odd conclusion. On its own, though, this is a satisfying story. Mad Hatter’s been revealed as the main villain behind the dimension-hopping plot. He used his trademark devices to open portals for the villains to “Wonderland” – aka the Turtles universe – which will then be used to create a mind-control wave that will take over all of Gotham.

Hatter is rarely a great villain, essentially coming off as a cut-rate Penguin or Scarecrow depending on the story (except in the excellent recent All-Star Batman issue), but the real appeal here is in the interaction between the two teams. Batgirl’s deadpan reaction to Ice Cream Kitty, Donatello’s ridiculous attempts to impress her, Mikey’s overenthusiastic superhero routine – all come together into a very entertaining story. However, I’m really confused by where this will go with the last issue. The main plot is resolved and it seems like Scarecrow is the new main villain, but there’s only one issue left.

Batman Beyond #6 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Bernard Chang, Artist; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Nice to See a Classic Villain Back

Ray: With the Joker and Brother Eye stories finally out of the way, this title can finally get back down to restoring the classic Batman Beyond status quo. So far, though, it’s a pretty good go of it. Bruce Wayne is back in the Batcave, and he’s less than amused with the way things have changed under Terry. Namely, the fact that the Batcave is now open to friends and family. Between Matt, Max, and Dana, Terry’s built a network of support that Bruce never really had. While Bruce is naturally cranky, it does seem like he approves of Terry as Batman and the way he’s running things. I have to say, I was less interested in Terry and Dana’s relationship drama. It’s natural they’d have a lot to work out, but Dana is still a very flat character compared to the rest of the cast.

This is also the most action-packed issue of the series so far, as classic animated series villain Curare returns and brings the League of Assassins with her. She’s not the villain of the issue, though – in fact, she seems to be running from them. The art can be a tiny bit confusing at times in the action segments, as Curare moves too fast to easily track. However, she’s suitably mysterious and her temporary alliance with Barbara Gordon has some potential. While the Brother Eye status quo still lurks around the background, this title seems to be getting back on track by focusing on the conflict between Terry’s personal life and his career as Batman. Lots of missteps along the way, but it’s looking up.

Corrina: I will never not love cranky old Bruce and it’s good to see him lending his seal of approval to Terry’s plans for Batman. But the real action was over with Barbara Gordon and the Gotham police and Curare, even if, as Ray said, the art was confusing.

I was a bit frustrated with the inevitable “I’m going to take time for my regular life” leading to Terry missing a life-or-death situation, and I’m not much for the Dana/Terry drama but this comic finally feels like a continuation of Batman Beyond, and that’s great.

The Hellblazer #8 – Simon Oliver, Writer; Philip Tan, Artist; Elmer Santos, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Beautiful Landscapes

Ray: A fairly quiet issue, as Constantine’s war with the Djinns gets closer to exploding. The best segments in this issue are the flashbacks, as an unfortunate team of explorers encounters something ancient and evil in the desert. Constantine, meanwhile, is in a far less precarious but no less uncomfortable place – jail, after the incidents of last issue. He greets this situation with his trademark charm, antagonizing the officers and generally being a massive pain in their butts until Mercury comes to bail him out. Mercury, meanwhile, is apprenticing under an ancient djinn who promises to help her unlock her hidden powers. There’s a lot of hints about where these powers come from, but nothing conclusive yet.

From there, the issue segues into an effort to track the leader of the djinns with the help of yet another shady former ally of Constantine – who is none too happy when he shows up, naturally. The dialogue between the two feels a bit same-old, same-old this time, although I did have to admit I was very amused by the way they track the villain – using an enchanted shoe. That’s the kind of absurdist magical stuff that makes a good supernatural comic work. I just wish there was a bit more of it, because too much of the comic feels like a routine con artist story. Constantine works best when he’s fairly down-to-earth, yes, but he does need a little more flair than this issue provides.

Corrina: Looks like Mercury is stuck with a whole bunch of powerful, untrustworthy people giving her advice. It’s a measure of her difficult situation that Constantine may be the one she can trust. Ack. But I have to love the girl’s snark.

The beautiful, barren landscapes pulled me into the flashbacks. I’m not sure how they fit in but they were great eye candy.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #24 – Sholly Fisch, Writer; Dario Brizuela, Artist; Franco Riesco, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: Martian Manhunter and the Mystery Machine crew? A fun team-up that I’m kind of surprised hasn’t happened yet, and the introduction of J’onn – impersonating Shaggy, which is given away by Shaggy NOT acting like a coward for a change – is hilarious. This title often walks a fine line between funny and over-the-top silly, and the introduction of a secret government agency known as the Persons in Plaid that is tracking aliens is a bit over that line – was Men in Black copyrighted by the Will Smith movie? J’onn is wanted by the government because someone is impersonating him, making it look like he’s setting up an alien takeover of Earth.

The government, reacting level-headed as always, has ordered the rounding-up of all alien heroes. The remaining alien heroes who have escaped justice include TT cartoon Starfire, as well as some deep-cut heroes like Jemm, Son of Saturn and the blue Starman. Although the government agents chasing them continue to be slightly irksome when they appear, this motley crew of alien heroes provides a lot of fun scenes and even some clever callbacks to past issues of this book. The reveal is a bit predictable if you know your Martian Manhunter lore, but this is overall one of the most enjoyable issues of the series in a while, with another last-second twist that throws the plot for a loop.

Unfortunate Fs

Suicide Squad #14 – Rob Willams, Writer; John Romita Jr., Eddy Barrows, Pencillers; Richard Friend, Eber Ferreira; Inkers; Dean White, Adriano Lucas, Colorists

Ray – 4/10

Corrina: Harley Quinn Segments Okay

Ray: A violent and ultimately senseless issue that essentially drives home all the things wrong with this book, it starts with Harley Quinn taking the helm and bringing the pain to the villains. Rustam and his band of generic villains is laying waste to Washington DC while Rustam spouts half-baked political rhetoric, which is just as entertaining as it sounds. While he had potential in his origin story, Rustam is quickly becoming a major drag of a villain. Harley, meanwhile, is out for revenge after the death of Hack. Yep, in case you were wondering, this book’s only likable character is dead.

Harley attempts to murder Harcourt, holding her responsible, but then sends out a message to the rest of the Squad telling them to take revenge and goes to beat Rustam with a giant mallet. It goes about as well as you’d expect. The second feature focuses on Captain Boomerang, seemingly attempting to explain what went into his mind that caused him to turn traitor and murder Hack. Problem is…it really doesn’t do that. It shows him first as a pathetic drunk, then battling Croc and Enchantress (by the way, this universe really needs to decide what Croc is, because here he’s basically a Kaiju). Eventually, he turns on Rustam…only to find out that Waller is still alive. Not only is this book not very good, it’s not very coherent either.

Corrina: Rustam is maybe some sort of political commentary but he’s so one-note that I’m not interested, whatever he’s supposed to be commenting on.

The best parts are Harley Quinn calling on her teammates to kill in revenge, something that fits nicely with Harley. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters suffer from plot manipulation. That Waller is really alive is no surprise but that she let things go this far to reveal a traitor, even including Hack being killed, is another black mark on her record. Similarly, I cannot find any interest in Boomerang after he murdered Hack. (Though I think she’s still partly alive and now lives in the internet, thus giving the team an Oracle again.)

Blue Beetle #7 – Keith Giffen, Writer; Scott Kolins, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Corrina: Where’s Jaime?

Ray: Easily the weakest issue of the series so far, and that’s for one simple reason. The one thing this book has going for it is that Jaime Reyes is a very likable character, and yet he’s barely even in this issue. He spends most of the issue submerged in a giant alpha-scarab, or unconscious. While the scenes involving Milagro Reyes, Ted Kord, and Brenda and Paco can be fun, they’re the exception, and the vast majority of the issue is devoted to a senseless action sequence between the Scarab, Doctor Fate, and Arion. This ancient Atlantean sorcerer has been a long-time DC wild card, but here he’s simply a generic, rambling villain.

Where the issue primarily goes wrong is in its portrayal of Doctor Fate. Who even is this Doctor Fate? It’s Kent Nelson, sure, but it doesn’t match up at all with the one we saw in the excellent Doctor Fate series that wrapped a few months back. Instead, this Kent Nelson is a deranged man, praying for release from the vaguely evil Nabu. Nabu, who was a mentor to Khalid in that series, here seems to want to eradicate Jaime for the good of the world, and Ted is barely able to get Jaime out of the Scarab before it destroys him. The ending creates a hybrid of Arion and the Scarab that seems to be the new main villain. I’m not sure what this comic is supposed to be, but it’s not the Blue Beetle I loved.

Corrina: Arion? Doctor Fate? I guess we’re rewriting the entire idea of the scarab being part of some alien invastion force? Or something. What I do know is that I loved the original run of Blue Beetle and while this book has some elements of that–Jaime’s family, Paco, his friends–and Jaime himself, it doesn’t seem to be truly interested in them. Frustrating.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received digital copies of these comics for review purposes.

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