DC This Week – Batwoman Delivers

Batwoman #1, page 5. Look at the Steve Epting art!  image via DC Comics

The new Batwoman series leads our reviews of this week’s DC Comics but there’s a lot happening on the Superman Reborn front, including a possible conclusion to who/what the new 52 Superman actually was. The Super-Sons tangle with Luthor, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye concludes its first arc with an epic battle, and our favorite Green Lanterns fight their best villain yet.

For Arsenal fans, Roy Harper and Oliver Queen work out their issues in Green Arrow (hint: it’s Ollie’s fault), and Batman is relentless in both his books this week. This and more reviews below.

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

GRADE A

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

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Excellent First Issue

Ray: After a Rebirth issue that felt more like a clip show than an actual comic, this new entry in the Bat-family wastes absolutely zero time in getting down to business and establishes itself as a serious contender for the best female-led Bat-title in the DCU right now. Essentially a high-octane international spy thriller, this title deftly weaves in threads of continuity balanced with tidbits of information from Kate Kane’s past. It features a strong supporting cast, and while I’m unsure if any of the writers are Jewish, they’ve done their research about Kate’s faith. And then there’s the phenomenal art by Steve Epting, maybe a bit less polished than it was on Velvet but still gorgeous and distinctive. The plot spins heavily out of Night of the Monster Men, which means Kate gets to open the issue by battling a Kaiju terrorist. I approve.

However, while the action is great, the dialogue is just as strong. I put a lot of the credit for that on the fact that Batwoman is paired with a proper foil in the form of Julia Pennyworth. Julia was a great character during Snyder’s run, but sort of fell by the wayside for a while. It’s great to see her make a comeback in a regular title.

The most intriguing element of the issue is the mystery centering around the island of Coryana, and the mysterious woman named Safiyah who shared a past with Kate. The scenes of Kate’s previous time on the island are particularly gorgeous, and it feels like we’re getting just enough information with each issue to pull us back for more. This is an incredibly strong proper first issue that gives Kate the book she’s deserved ever since the aborted Williams/Blackmun run.

Corrina: Julia was not a supporting character I anticipated with this book. That’s she’s not been forgotten is a pleasant surprise, and that Tynion and Bennett use her well in tandem with Kate is even better. The opening action sequence gives us a look at what Kate can do without bogging it down with too much backstory, and the foreboding is strong with Kate’s return to Coryana. New readers looking for a way in should find this an easy entry.

Character-wise, what struck me was Julia’s comments to Kate about not being another brooding Batman-type hero. Tynion did a terrific job bringing Kate back full-force in Detective. Now it’s time to show what makes her so special.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #6 – Gerard Way, Jon Rivera; Writers; Michael Avon Oeming, Artist; Nick Filardi, Colorist; Tom Scioli, Backups

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: A Feast for the Eyes

Ray: The undisputed star of the Young Animal line wraps up its first arc with a huge bang, as Cave and his family make one last stand in Muldroog against his evil former business partner and the horrific beings that lurk under the surface.
The issue opens with a flashback to when Edward Borstein first encountered the mysterious power below the surface that turned him into the fungal monstrosity he is today. In the present day, Cave and his allies are pitted against an army of strange alien creatures, using every tech they have at their disposal to fend them off. However, the real threat is yet to come as Borstein manages to unleash a gigantic God-worm from its cocoon, which sets up a Kaiju-esque battle with some of the best visuals of the series.

It’s Wild Dog that gets some of the best scenes this issue, as Way and Rivera manage to give the Punisher-esque vigilante some genuine development and pathos. After a gross but satisfying battle, the monster is defeated and Cave is reunited with his wife’s family – but then the issue takes a shocking turn, as Borstein’s true plan is revealed, and Cave’s eye enters the picture in a shocking way that threatens to upend the whole series. While I’m sure the ending is a cliffhanger, I do have to say it feels more…real than a cliffhanger like this would in a more mainstream series. And I can’t end this review without mentioning the masterpiece that is Tom Scioli’s surreal Super-Friends comic, which comes together this issue into a meta silver age masterpiece.

Here come the evil god worshippers. From Cave Carson #6, image via DC Comics

Corrina: This series has been a delight, led by Oeming’s amazing and creative artwork. It helps that Cave is clearly the lead character, that after issue #1 he’s had a specific goal: to find out what’s wrong underground and save his daughter, and that there’s a discernable villain. That grounds the story. We care about Cave, his daugher, the aptly named Wild Dog, Cave’s in-laws, and some of his allies as well. Having a clear story line and characters to root allows allows some of the most insane and glorious art I’ve seen in Young Animal.

This series has been an unexpected gift.

Split Decision:

All-Star Batman # 8 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Giuseppe Camuncoli, Penciller; Francisco Francavilla, Artist; Mark Morales, Inker; Dean White, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Ambitious But Not Working For Me

Ray: The gloriously surreal world of All-Star Batman takes another turn as Batman returns to civilization to confront the Mad Hatter. This is an issue Snyder has talked up extensively as one of his all-time favorites, and I can see why. It’s a direct continuation from the last two issues, but like the Poison Ivy issue it’s a massive change in pace and tone. Mr. Freeze’s virus continues to spread and threatens to overrun the world, although Ivy’s cure is holding it at bay for now. Batman is seeking to make the cure permanent, but his man on the ground, Duke, is taken by the mysterious Blackhawks. This sets him up into a fight with his own team, who think he’s gone rogue. This segment is bizarre, and culminates with Batman clocking Nightwing with a Flamingo. It makes sense in context.

Not surprisingly, it’s all a feint by Jervis Tetch and his mind control tech, who are revealed to have ties to the earliest days of Bruce’s return to Gotham. This launches the series into a genuinely bizarre series of surreal visuals as Tetch plays on Bruce’s deepest fears. There’s a similarity to the surreality of Superman this week, but while that one was almost giddy in a Silver Age way, this one has a Morrison-esque haunting vibe and reminded me a bit of the classic Mental Hospital episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a bit hard to describe the entire plot, but it comes together in the end and leaves a lot of questions for the final chapter. The backup focuses on Duke, as he tries to come to terms with his role in Batman’s network and returns to the place where it all began for him. These backups may be slow-paced, but they provide some vital character work for Duke in the middle of the chaotic main story. One of the series’ best issues.

Image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Snyder is a brilliant writer. Camuncoli, Francavilla and Morales are amazing talents, and White makes these surreal sequences pop.

And yet…despite knowing that this is objectively good material, this issue left me cold, as has most of the series, save with the exception of the Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy issues. Perhaps it’s because this Batman’s defining trait is simply being relentless. I haven’t seen much of his intelligence or pre-planning and his compassion has been intermittent. Instead, he’s portrayed basically as a singular force of nature. If that’s what Snyder was going for, he’s achieved it. But where Ray sees things making sense in context, and the chaos as brilliant, it only left me puzzled.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that Snyder and all the creative teams are taking chances with this series. I admire the ambition but can’t always recommend the end result.

SOLID Bs

Superman #19 – Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Patrick Gleason, Penciller; Mick Gray, Inker; John Kalisz, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Improved Over Chapter One of Reborn

Ray: In the aftermath of last issue’s bizarre reveal that the new Clark Kent was none other than Mr. Mxyzptlk, this issue is about as surreal as you’d expect. With Jon Kent MIA and Mxy having erased Lois’ memory of her family, Superman is forced into an elaborate, twisted board game to try to restore his family. Gleason’s a great artist who can really do some unconventional panel layouts when he cuts loose like he does here, and Mxy is far more genuinely creepy than he was last issue. The character only works as a villain when he’s portrayed as a genuinely unhinged man-child with infinite power. His cries of “cheating” when Superman finds unconventional ways to win drive that home – this is essentially a silver age story with far bigger stakes.

However, the strongest part of the issue is probably the segments with Jon Kent in the strange empty pocket space that Mxy has created for him. While he doesn’t seem particularly scared and nothing is actually threatening him, there’s something odd around him. A pair of mysterious red lights that seem to be interested in him, and are communicating with him in an unusual way. Putting the clues together about this and some comments of Mxy’s, it becomes clear – these are actually the energy essences of the New 52 Superman and Lois. The indication seems to be that they were never actually different people, but rather some sort of cosmic mistake caused by Flashpoint, and by the end of the issue, Superman and Lois seem to be restored fully. We’ll see what that means next issue, but I’m intrigued.

Corrina: This level of bizarre makes sense to me, unlike my comments on Batman earlier. As Ray said earlier, it’s more like a surreal Silver Age homage than anything else and it’s enjoyable on that level. The revelations this issue about the New 52 Superman and Lois, which seem to provide the answers readers have been seeking ever since Convergence, make sense and they even make revealing Mxy as the Clark Kent imposter a little more interesting that I originally thought.

Tomasi is great at writing Jon and his discussions with Mxy are the heart of the issue. (And he does well with Jon in Super-Sons as well.) It’s just that I’ve been hoping for more from his Lois and I’m not quite getting it.

Super-Sons #2 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Jorge Jiminez, Artist; Alejandro Sanchez, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Weird Tonal Shift

Ray: This is a fast-paced blast of a comic with surprisingly dark tones hiding under the surface as Damian and Jon’s rough team-up uncovers some interesting secrets. The issue opens with a disturbing game of hide and seek as our young “child star” terrorizes his family, seemingly killing most of them (although his little sister escapes) before dubbing himself Kid Amazo. Later reveals in the issue indicate that his powers are the result of the Amazo Virus, a mostly forgotten issue from the pre-Rebirth era. However, as soon as that’s over, the next segment is essentially a screwball comedy as Damian and Jon raise the ire of Lex Luthor – complete with Superman armor. Damian wants to break into Lexcorp and steal files, and he’s not above using Jon as a distraction.

This segment, particularly Damian’s snarky banter with Luthor, are some of the funniest scenes in any comic released this week. Damian and Jon’s teamwork still has a way to go – Jon is timid and doesn’t really want to be there, while Damian is gruff bordering on abusive. But they’re slowly growing into it, even if Damian feels more like a kidnapper at points than a partner. If this comic has one issue, it’s mood whiplash. At one point Damian and John are bantering, the next they’re observing a family of corpses as they investigate their case. Batman and Superman are going to re-enter the series next month – but apparently teaming up with the other hero’s son, which is a surprise. It’s a bit too early to say about this series’ longevity, but what I’m seeing so far is very promising.

Corrina: I was praising this comic last week for being a great all-ages introduction to the current DC universe but this issue starts with a kid slaughtering his family and it’s pretty darn graphic, so…I kinda take that back because the first part of this issue is definitely not all-ages. Maybe ages ten and up? It’s not that murder is necessarily going to make a comic not suitable for younger children but the way this is written, it could be out of an adult novel.

Now, Damian and Jon breaking into Luthor’s company and basically messing with him are exactly the sort of thing that I hoped for from this series. Luthor has no idea what’s he’s dealing with, which frustrates him more than it should. But Luthor has always relied on intellect and planning and implusive Jon and devious Damian are outside his norm. I’m glad the series exists but I wish it would settle on a tone.

Batman #19 – Tom King, Writer; David Finch, Penciller; Danny Miki, Inker; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Relentless

Ray: This series is consistently strong in terms of art and characterization, serving up a constant array of high-octane battles combined with surprisingly strong characterization. However, as Batman and Bane march ever closer to their third showdown, this issue may be the weakest of the run. It’s a showdown between Bane and the villains of Arkham Asylum – all of whom have been apparently hired by Batman in exchange for improved conditions in prison – as they use every tool at their disposal to slow Bane down long enough for Batman to secure Psycho Pirate. This means Finch gets to draw the entire rogues’ gallery, including a few lesser-known ones. It’s not quite as inventively bonkers as Gerads’ array of Bat-foes in the recent Catwoman arc, though.

The best segments are the one where the villains are just sort of taking the piss of Bane. Maxie Zeus reciting lines from ancient Greek plays in Bane’s way? That’s funny, and I can’t say I ever thought I’d see that guy playing a role in an a-list Bat-story. Also loved Grundy and Amygdala’s dialogue. A bit too much of the issue consisted of Bane beating seemingly impossible odds and yelling slogans about how unstoppable he is, though. The villain who really steals the show, though? Riddler, who Bane employs to crack the final vault. Riddler’s always been one of the most multi-layered Bat-rogues, and I’d love to see King get a crack at him for a full story. However, overall this issue is essentially an extended prelude to next issue’s big showdown.

Page 5 from Batman #19, image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: This issue (and all of Bane’s arc in Gotham) is an obvious parallel to Batman invading Bane’s home turf to find the Psycho Pirate. I cannot say enough good things about Finch’s art in this series and he’s particularly fine this issue. Perhaps he’s pleased to draw all of Batman’s Rogues Gallery. And, aw…look! Calendar Man! (Now, if Signalman had been thrown in, I’d have know King was really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Poor Signalman. No one remembers him.)

So Bane goes through the villains, unstoppable. And now we’re back to another confrontation between Batman and Bane, perhaps the final one. Like the driven Batman in All-Star, this Batman seems to be incapable of sustaining any serious long-term injury. I know, it’s always been unrealistic that Batman can take the kind of physical blows he does and recover so quickly, but this arc has strained my suspension of disbelief on that. At least Bane has the venom excuse. (And, hey, your mileage may vary on this one.)

Green Lanterns #19 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Ronan Cliquet, Artist, Blond, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Most Interesting Villain So Far

Ray: The fallout from Justice League vs. Suicide Squad hits Green Lantern, as one of the most powerful villains from that series emerges to finish its mission. That’s Doctor Polaris, the mad scientist with a split personality who used to be a Flash villain. Now given a far more compelling motivation than he used to, he’s the GL team’s first villain not tied to the Lantern Corps, and he provides a high-octane new test for the heroes. When we open, we see a battle of wills between the brilliant, haunted Dr. Neal Emerson, who dreams of curing death itself, and the sadistic Dr. Polaris – who are, of course, the same person. Emerson wants to cure his dying brother, while Polaris wants revenge on the people who mocked his theories.

Amid the backdrop of Simon having increasing fights with his brother-in-law, the Lanterns are called into action to help Director Harcourt – the woman now in charge of the Suicide Squad – round up Polaris. However, the partnership is not what it used to be, as Simon’s own issues are causing him to snap at Jessica, and she doesn’t care for him trying to bigfoot their partnership. This is the most conventional superhero comic of the run so far, but it still works because it’s very much grounded in the characters and their personal foibles. As for Polaris himself, this issue does a better job that JL vs. SS did of selling us on exactly how big a threat he is, leading to a fantastic visual cliffhanger. Another strong outing for one of Rebirth’s biggest surprises.

Simon deals with his family in Green Lanterns #19. Image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: I had no idea I found Dr. Polaris so interesting until this issue. Combine one-part need to save someone, one-part unhinged man, and one part uber-powerful, and Polaris is a serious threat to our two Lanterns. Simon’s family problem is down-to-Earth, especially as since Simon himself found it so hard to accept his new role, and stands to reason that his best friend would as well. And while Jessica’s anxiety will always be there, it’s also good to seeing her calling out Simon on his bad behavior.

I’d love for them to somehow calm Dr. Polaris in the next issue and save Seth.

DC Comics Bombshells #24 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Richard Ortiz, Laura Braga, Artists; J. Nanjan, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: The conclusion of the great African adventure in Bombshells delivers slam-bang action with a surprisingly personal core, as Cheetah and Baroness Von Gunther unleash their metal beast-soldiers on the Bombshells. However, as we found out last issue, things are hardly what they seem. What seem like Nazi super-weapons on the surface are actually the remnants of an ancient Thanagarian war machine. And while the villains are in control of them, it’s Hawkgirl who has a secret connection to them. There’s a great flashback to the initial arrival of the Thanagarians on Earth that sets up exactly how powerful these things are.

I was inwardly cringing when Selina appeared to betray the team to the Nazis, and while I’m still a bit iffy about the way that scene was executed, if there’s anyone who would be able to pull a con like this off, it’s Selina. Things seem to go just a bit too fast at points, and that results in certain story points being rushed. However, when the battle is over, we get some great scenes as the Bombshells decompress from their adventure and head into a new chapter – one that will apparently take them back to Russia. This series has its ups and downs, but overall it’s one of DC’s most enduring AUs.

Nightwing #17 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Enjoyable, Despite Plot

Ray: You ever read a comic that gets your hopes up so much that the actual reveal is a disappointment? That would be this comic for me, where the villains had the distinct appearance of the title character from one of my all-time favorite comics, Simon Dark. This creator-owned Frankenstein pastiche by Steve Niles and Scott Hampton was one of the underrated Gotham titles, and for a second I believed the character was making a comeback linked to the new Deathwing. Wasn’t to be, and the actual villain, Professor Pyg is, unfortunately one of my least favorites. The idea of Shawn in his clutches is…less than appealing, but at least we have confirmation that she’s still alive and untouched for now. Hoping this title won’t go the gross route of maiming her.

However, this issue does have quite a few high points. I did think Deathwing and the surprise Robin “dollotron” that shows up later had a distinctly creepy, surreal vibe to them. This issue took a distinct turn into horror, and it worked in a lot of places. However, the most enjoyable part of the issue was the continued banter between Dick and Damian as they attempt to figure out the mystery of the strange creatures haunting them. Damian’s pettiness, while funny last issue, becomes a bit more meaningful this issue as we see how protective he is of Dick when they’re in danger and how he’s haunted by some of the things he saw when he was just starting out as Robin. While the plot in this arc isn’t quite to my taste, it has some very strong characterization to balance it out.

Deathwing is back! Sorta. Also, dude, eww…. image via DC Comics

Corrina: Hah! You wanted Simon Dark, I was thinking all the way back to the Deathwing who first appeared in Teen Titans, who was first an older Dick Grayson, then a warrior brainwashed to think he was Dick Grayson, and then evil. Or something like that.

Either way, I was not expecting Professor Pyg. Who I have never liked either. Plus, we’re in the middle of a plot–girlfriend in distress–that is not my favorite. With all those strikes against it, you’d think I didn’t enjoy the issue but I did, mostly because of the young false-Robin, who tugged at my heart, and because of the relationship between Dick and Damian. I have no comment on the pregnancy. I am not opposed to the concept of a hero becoming a father or mother but I can think of only one time where a plotline with a baby has ended well. (Okay, Damian. But he was fully formed, not a baby.) Young Helena never stuck around pre-new 52. Poor Sin was written out of Birds of Prey (despite being older and bad-ass), and then there’s dead Lian Harper. (Who apparently never existed now?) In any case, I remain skeptical of any pregnancy storyline, this one included.

But the issue itself was enjoyable.

Justice League #17 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Matt Ryan, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Universe Ending Drama!

Ray: Less a coherent story than a series of really cool visuals masquerading as one, the Timeless storyarc contains an interesting collection of side stories that hint at future plotlines but has yet to come together for this story. The issue starts with an angry Superman confronting one of the arc’s main adversaries, the powerful giant baby (seriously) Tempus, who has an elaborate plan to save humanity from a coming threat by teleporting all of Earth to the end of the universe and keeping it there in stasis. It’s unique, for sure, but the character of Tempus reminds me more of Marvel cosmic villains like Living Tribunal than a JL foe.

The more interesting part of the issue comes from the various segments involving the time-lost heroes. Wonder Woman was absent last issue, but her team-up with the ancient Greek Gods this issue is probably the issue’s best segment. I also really enjoyed Cyborg in the 30th century, working with the young boy who will become Brainiac 5 and getting to test out a beta version of the Legion Flight Ring. Flash racing his own lightning bolt was a fun action sequence, while Aquaman and the Green Lanterns’ segment didn’t leave all that much of an impact. Former JLer Lex Luthor seems to play into this as well, given the link revealed between him and a member of Infinity Corp at the end of the issue. It’s an entertaining, fast read but it’ll be interesting to see whether it comes together in the end.

Corrina: This is sort of a prelude to the Superman Reborn saga, where we find out exactly why this Superman is an anomaly, but it works just fine on its own, driven as it is by the human desire of Superman to get his family back. I love the way Hitch writes Superman. His Clark is always human, despite, all his powers, and focused on the small picture as well as the big. And by small, I mean people. He values them as much as he values any universe-spanning consequences and he’s all out of whatevers to give for those who don’t consider the human cost.

Tempus reminds me far too much of Telos but he’s drawn in a creepier fashion, which works for this story. Nice nods to the Legion, the Greek Gods, and…hmm….do we have a Luthor child in the mix? Interesting.

Harley Quinn #16 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Writers; John Timms, Joseph Michael Linsner, Artists; Alex Sinclair

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Return To Form

Ray: An amusing if slightly jumbled issue as the Strata storyline comes to a close this month. The issue opens with Harley being tossed through the air by the crazed Stratan villain Zorcron, after Harley’s attempt to show him the beauty of Earth failed when the deli ran out of Pastrami. After another elaborate fight scene, it becomes clear that what Zorcrom actually wants is to be fixed up on a date with Power Girl, due to his fascination with strong partners. Power Girl is deeply skeptical, but once the date begins, once again things quickly go south. Zorcrom is fascinated with Earth ways, but once he proposes they get down to creating “strong heirs” immediately, PG decides the next move is to punt him out on the lawn.

The ensuing battle is fast-paced and surprisingly violent, especially once Zorcrom’s weakness is revealed and he meets an untimely end, but the banter of the three lead characters this issue is a blast to follow. Palmiotti and Conner are old hands at writing all three, and it really shows. Less strong are the other segments in the issue. Linsner’s story about superhero MMA in the future is drawn very well, but it’s a very long-game setup for a plotline that still hasn’t been fully explored yet and is starting to drag. Then there’s the cannibalism subplot which also involves Harley Sinn, I believe, but the less said about that the better. Overall, this arc has been an improvement but there’s still a lot of weak spots.

Corrina: This was the most fun Harley Quinn has been in a while and her irreverence and dark humor workds on all levels this time, from her flirting with Power Girl, her banter with Atlee, and her assessment of Zorcrom too. It helps, I suspect, that there is no Red Tool this issue. In tone, this is much like the early issues of the series, rather than the later ones. And, yeah, I laughed at Zorcrom’s end. Heh.

Even the Cannibals were okay. Icky, but okay.

The superhero MMA thing in the future is odd, like many things in this comic, but I’m not as against this as Ray was. Maybe I just like that it’s not about the Joker?

Not So Great C-List

Aquaman #19 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Philippe Briones, Artist; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Confusing

Ray: This is a comic that zips all over the place in terms of genre. First it was a war/espionage comic. Then in the last arc, it took a sharp turn into hard sci-fi with the new adversary Warhead. Now, with this issue, it returns to the vibe that the run had shortly before the Rebirth relaunch – horror. It takes a while to get there, but once the villain Dead Water returns, the story takes on an incredibly tense vibe with some great visuals. Getting there, though…there’s some weak points. Starting with the main characters besides Aquaman and Mera, the Aquamarines. The US government is investigating the mysterious, seemingly sentient water Aquaman found, and the research base where they were examining prehistoric lifeforms found in the water has gone dark.

To investigate, Aquaman and Mera are teamed up with the government team of sea mutants that tried to kill them only a few issues ago. Mera is hesitant to work with them, but Aquaman sees it as a sacrifice worth making for the trust of the US government. As for the Aquamarines, they’re essentially generic red shirts with creepy appearances when they transform. Their only real purpose in this story is to wander around the base – really, by horror rules, there’s no way anyone should have gone into the empty base – and then get picked off by the incredibly creepy Dead Water. The series still doesn’t have much in the way of a supporting cast, so it’s heavily based on the strength of its villains. Based on that, this issue is an improvement.

Aquaman is having one of those days. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Tone and pacing have been issues for the past year and this is no exception. One, the Aqua-Marines are kinda terrible. Perhaps that’s the point but, if it is, it removes any emotional involvement when they start to get slaughtered. Then there are the various conversations that take place in a deserted labewhen people should already know that Dead Water can manifest in any amount of water.

So I guess at some point, we’ll head down to where the prehistoric creatures are coming from. But Dead Water went from creepy in his original appearance to over-the-top in this comic and I find myself disconnected from the story.

Trinity #7 – Cullen Bunn, Writer; Clay Mann, Miguel Mendonca, Pencillers; Clay Mann, Johnny Desjardins, Inkers; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Not Bad

Ray: After the conclusion of Francis Manapul’s big-scale first arc, it’s an interlude issue as the “Dark Trinity” takes center stage. That would be the villains of the trinity with the widest scope – Lex Luthor, Ra’s Al Ghul, and Circe. The two male villains arrive at an ancient ruin in Khandaq, with Ra’s quickly massacring some masked guards to enter the temple and soon being met by Luthor. The two make very clear that they don’t trust each other and make a lot of thinly veiled threats as they make their way to the center, where they are met by Circe.

It seems that what they’re all after is tied to the now-deceased Pandora, who has left a legacy in the form of the Pandora Pits, Lazarus pit-like objects that contain unspeakable evil. What comes out of those pits, though, sort of takes the issue into rather silly territory. A composite being that resembles parts of all of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman? That’s silver age material, which can work sometimes, but here the tone and color is just a bit too dark to really sell such an over the top concept. The issue doesn’t quite explain what the Pandora Pits can actually do, although the end of the issue has a cool twist regarding the three villains’ role in Pandora’s legacy. A decent fill-in issue, but nothing that’s going to bring new readers to the title.

Corrina: I opened this comic with trepidation, as I disliked Bunn’s work on Sinestro and Lobo. But I like Clay Mann’s art a great deal, so I put that aside. Unexpectedly, the issue turned out okay, providing a nice difference in worldviews between Ra’s, Luthor and Circe. As I hoped, the art was excellent, especially in the opening sequence as Ra’s travels down to some unknown Egyptian cavern and is attacked by living statues.

Less thrilling was the creature with parts of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and the Pandora Pits themselves. Why do they exist? Plus, Pandora was one of the least interesting characters created by DC in the last five years (only Telos is worse), and that was enough to cause my skepticism. We’ll see.

Injustice: Ground Zero #8 – Christopher Sebela, Writer; Derlis Santacruz, Marco Santucci, Artists; Andy Owens, Inker; Rex Lokus, J. Nanjan, Colorists

Ray – 7/10

Ray: As this bridge miniseries reaches roughly the two-thirds point, it takes a jump in quality as we finally start seeing the point of Harley’s current storyarc. It’s essentially a story about relapse and recovery, as she finds herself in the thrall of this sadistic new alternate Joker. She takes his abuse, lets him insult her, and pretty much does anything he orders her to. However, it’s only when he starts threatening her gang that she starts realizing that she’s stronger than he is and eventually faces off with him in a deeply satisfying finale.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story is not nearly as engaging. Too much of it is various versions of DCU heroes flying around and fighting each other, with the Regime finally facing off with the dimension-hopping heroes. Overall, it’s just sort of boring, and it revisits my least favorite part of this entire universe – Batman disowning Damien over Dick’s accidental death and essentially driving him to the regime. Given what’s come since, it’s makes Batman look pretty awful and not the sympathetic rebellion leader he’s supposed to be.

Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman #3 – Andy Mangels, Writer; Judit Tondora, Artist; Roland Pilcz, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Ray: When this comic is focusing on the two heroines, it’s at its strongest. There’s a great dynamic between Diana and Jamie, as the two veteran heroines complement each other nicely and both come off as fangirls of the other at different points. The opening segment featuring Jamie driving the Invisible Plane was a delight, and Judit Tondora’s art is a big part of the appeal – when she’s allowed to cut loose and the page isn’t too crowded, she’s a fantastic artist.

However, there’s a pretty significant issue with this comic, and that’s the villains. There’s a lot of them – an alliance of villains from both TV shows over the years – and few of them have distinct motivations or origins. In addition, am I the only one tired of generic Nazi villains that seem to be nothing but standard mad scientists? There’s nothing wrong with using that era for comic book villains, as Bombshells shows nicely, but these characters seem like nothing more than funny accents in evil uniforms. It feels sort of cheap, and a lighthearted crossover like this might have been better without villains with ties to such a horrific era.

Doesn’t Quite Made the Grade

The Wild Storm #2 – Warren Ellis, Writer; Jon Davis-Hunt, Artist; Steve Buccellato, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Not For New Readers

Ray: Two issues in, Warren Ellis’ reinvention of the Wildstorm universe is definitely not the second coming of Young Animal. While Gerard Way’s gonzo take on the weirdest characters in the DCU wasted no time throwing you into a bizarre world and letting you catch up, Ellis’ return to Wildstorm is a deliberately paced conspiracy thriller that is taking its time getting started. Jon Davis-Hunt’s art is brilliant, but the big problem is that this doesn’t feel so much like a genuinely new take on Wildstorm. Unlike Way, Ellis is returning to a universe he helped define. It was a universe that didn’t exactly have a host of great characters, and at first glance that hasn’t changed.

The two POV characters, such as they are, are probably Angela Spica and Michael Cray. While Angela/Engineer spends a decent amount of time in action this issue, searching for a secret base, Cray only appears in one scene where he reveals to his therapist that he’s apparently dying. The rest of the issue continues to bring characters like Spartan, Zealot, and New 52 refugee Grifter in and out, while villain Henry Bendix lurks around the fringes. Ellis’ writing style takes a bit of getting used to, and he definitely has his fans. But it feels to me like for something like Wildstorm that has been to the well so many times, something slightly bolder and more immediately engaging was needed.

Corrina: Sometimes, you can pick up a revival of a series and get invested right away. This is not one of those times for me. It feels like I’m missing so much of the conversations because I haven’t read all the previous issues. There’s stuff going on that may excite readers of Ellis’s previous run but it’s doing nothing to gather a new reader like me.

I had a momentary hope that this wouldn’t be the case with the no-dialogue opening with Angela/Engineer entering the run-down base. Davis-Hunt’s art sells her pathos and confusion. But after that, a lot of conspiracy talk involving characters talking over my head, save for Grifter’s appearance. Him, I know. And that makes me want to compare this to Ed Brubaker’s Point Blank miniseries, which lead to his brilliant Sleeper Wildstorm series. In those stories, I was tossed into an unfamiliar universe but instantly found my way in. I was hoping for that with Ellis’s work but it’s obviously not to be.

Green Arrow #19 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Eleonora Carlini, Mirka Andolfo, Artists; Arif Prianto, Hi-Fi, Colorists

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Emotions Aren’t Earned

Ray: After a strong start to the arc, this issue seemed to go off the rails in a lot of ways, making both Roy Harper and Oliver Queen look like unlikable parodies of themselves. The main plotline, reuniting the former partners and current rivals against the backdrop of a protest against a DAPL-esque oil pipeline funded by the current corrupt leadership of Queen Enterprises, is strong. However, the tension between Ollie and Roy is jacked up to a level that it feels almost like a parody at points, with Roy openly attacking Ollie in the middle of the issue. The action segments at the protest are fast-paced, and the Wild Dog gang makes for a decent villain – although they’re clearly not related to the heroic Wild Dog in Cave Carson.

The big problem with this issue, though, is the flashbacks. Dinah does her part in the present day to try to convince Roy to reconcile with Ollie, but the flashbacks indicate she may be kind of out of line here. Because originally, Ollie had a very bad reaction to Roy essentially destroying his life and nearly killing himself with drugs. That’s not the case here. Here, Ollie is portrayed as insulting and degrading Roy, eventually hatefully kicking him out of the house and telling him he’s a worthless mistake for…throwing a wild party while Ollie was out of the house? That seems extreme. It’s then revealed that Roy wound up on the streets, with Ollie seemingly not caring at all what happened to him – and that’s how he wound up on drugs. Turning Ollie into the literal worst mentor ever seems an odd way to turn the character around after a strong run.

Corrina: I’m not sure what separates writing that makes me instantly care about a character and writing that doesn’t but, so far, Percy lacks the ability to have me care about a character. Perhaps because emotions are so rarely earned. The backstory between Roy and Ollie is presented is just awful and makes me side with Roy, and Ollie’s protests that he’s a different man are…well, not backed up by anything save his words. I mean, he did rush in. He did start arguing. He’s not doing anything but saying “I’m sorry and you have to accept it, okay?” This is not a way to make amends. No, I don’t feel worse because it was your company, Oliver, you dumbass.

Similarly, all Dinah ever does in this comic is play peacemaker and emotional touchstone for everyone else. Nothing in her appearances here have been about her and what she wants. Sure, she shows up to kick ass a few times but she’s so clearly a sidekick and without her own emotional space that it continues to make me sad.

Then there is Roy’s issue with his Native American brother. There’s a murder mystery which Roy never tried to solve? Or his brother? And somehow Roy thinks his brother will forgive him? This makes no sense. But, then, I’ve not been a fan of anything but the art in this run.

He-Man/Thundercats #6 – Rob David, Lloyd Goldfine, Writers; Freddie E. Williams II, Artist; Jeremy Colwell, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Ray: The conclusion of this oddball cartoon crossover mini finishes up essentially as it began – with a lot of garishly colored action figures hurling themselves at each other in an endless battle. There’s a few interesting details in this issue, more than previous ones. With He-Man and Lion-O traveling dimensions to try to escape the power of “Mumm-ator”, they encounter strange parallel worlds, including a Superman pastiche where He-Man and his cast of characters exist in the present day, and a permanent “fusion” world where the Thundercats are Masters of the Universe.

Particularly for fans of these series, these bits are a lot of fun, and there’s some scenes towards the end of the issue that hint at what fun a genuine crossover between these properties could be. The problem is, “Mumm-ator” overpowers everything, literally stalking the characters from scene to scene and speaking in cliched supervillain threats constantly. He’s an overbearing presence, and the mechanic by which the heroes eventually banish him is kind of predictable. Overal, it in general lacks the charm and fun quiet moments of the other, stronger crossovers DC has been offering in recent months.

Odyssey of the Amazons #3 – Kevin Grevioux, Writer; Ryan Benjamin, Artist; Don Ho, Inker; Tony Washington, Colorist

Ray – 2/10

Corrina: Great Concept, Lousy Execution

Ray: This miniseries continues to be a depressing combination of bland and ugly, as the Amazons get closer to their kidnapped comrades but encounter a powerful band of fellow women warriors along the way. That would be the Valkyries, who show very little patience for their would-be compatriots. When one of the Amazons seemingly betrays the group and gives away their location to the Jotuns (it later turns out to be a Jotun shapeshifter), the Valkyries kill an Amazon in retaliation and then challenge the rest of the Amazons to a hunt where they will be tracked by the Valkyrie-like wild animals. The Valkyrie are basically shown as blood-crazed warriors here, and given very little nuance.

That’s still better than the other subplot, involving the Amazons who have been captured by the Jotun. What is being done with them is fairly vague – some indications are that their blood is being used to create some sort of artificial creation when mixed with Jotun blood, but other implications are…less savory. The old Amazon who has been trapped there for ages has nothing to do but scream that everyone is doomed, and the scene as a whole is rather distasteful and cliched. With so many brilliant expansions of the Wonder Woman mythology in recent years, it’s a puzzle to me why this one was greenlit.

Corrina: I wanted this to improve. I love the concept. But, so far, it’s consisted of bland characters yelling at each other, fighting for no reason because the characters just refuse that to be the case.. but, hey, they fight. Also, there is torture porn.

Not working on any level for me and I found it unpleasant to read.

Dislclaimer: GeekDad received digital files for review purposes. 

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.