DC This Week – The Fake Clark Kent Is…..[SPOILER!]

Superman and Lois search for their son in Action Comics #975.

Last week, we were treated with the disappearance of young Jon Kent, son of Superman and Lois Lane. Was it an interdimensional anomaly? A villainous plot? A timey-wimey thing? This week, readers get a definitive answer. No, we didn’t see that coming either.

In other books, Deathstroke features an unusual guest star that brings some humor to the book, we find out how Dr. Minerva became the Cheetah in Wonder Woman, Lady Shiva and Cassandra Cain battle in Batman: Detective Comics, and the New Super-Man, Kong Kenan, meets Lex Luthor.

Plus, the end of one comic that’s a complete disappointment and the latest chapter in another that continues to drop in quality.

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

Superman: Action Comics #975 – Dan Jurgens, Paul Dini, Writers; Ian Churchill, Artist; Doug Mahnke, Penciller; Jaime Mendoza, Inker; Wil Quintana, Mike Atiyeh, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Random?

Ray: This double-sized anniversary issue gives us two stories, essentially two sides of the same coin. One reveals the identity of the mystery Clark Kent, and the other gives us his side of the story. On the surface, the reveal feels a bit like an odd anticlimax – but the backup sort of sells me on it. It starts with regular series writer Dan Jurgens and guest artist Doug Mahnke putting Superman and Lois on the trail of the mystery Clark Kent who kidnapped their son. They find an abandoned apartment, with a fridge full of food barely for human consumption, but “Clark” soon ambushes them. He soon flies into a rage, coming off as a jealous child who believes Jon ruined his relationship with Superman and led Superman to abandon him. This led me to think of Superboy Prime, Conner Kent, and Chris Kent, all past Superboys. But after an elaborate segment where “Clark” transforms into all of Superman’s iconic enemies, he’s revealed as…Mr. Mxyzptlk? Who proceeds to erase Lois’ memory of Jon and make Superman the only person who remembers his son.

However, then we get into the backup, by former Superman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini, and that’s where this issue takes off. Dini is probably the best Mxyzptlk writer, and those episodes were highlights of the classic animated series. This issue focuses on Mxy and Jon, as they find themselves together in the 5th Dimension. Jon only knows Mxy as “the man in the purple hat” from his father’s bedtime stories – a fact that will cleverly come into play later in the story as Jon attempts to escape. This story manages to be both charming and funny, and rather intense at the same time as we see Mxy’s captivity at the hands of Mr. Oz. Mxy’s feelings of abandonment when Superman doesn’t notice that he’s absent for their 90-day “date” is amusing, but actually works nicely to explain his actions. He’s not really a villain here – there’s only one great Mxyzptlk villain story, and this isn’t it – but it works much better than the preceding story. Great to see Dini writing for DC again.

Corrina: I had assumed that the mystery surrounding this Clark Kent, which has existed since the Superman Rebirth stories started, would somehow be connected to that overall mystery. Why create this double if it wasn’t connected? And, yes, Mxyzptlk is tangentially connected to this plot, having been imprisoned by our mysterious hooded bad guy, but the reveal of him as the Clark Kent double (under his own spell of memory loss), feels utterly out of place in the story that’s been building for almost a year now. It feels like yet another diversion before the main Rebirth story is resolved.

Diversions aren’t always bad, and, as Ray says, the Dini story featuring Jon and Mxyzpltk is charming. If this were a one-off comic, I’d be happily amused. But it’s not, it’s part of this big tale and it feels out of place. Plus, I would hope that Lois would be in investigative-mode rather than utterly scared mom mode. That’s Lois’s go-to coping method and yet we’ve seen very little of it since Rebirth. Sometimes I feel writers see this Lois as only one dimension–defined only by her role in a family–rather than as a whole person.

GRADE A Reading

Batman: Detective Comics #952 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Christian Duce, Artist; Alex Sinclair, John Rauch, Allen Passalaqua, Colorists

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Assassin vs. Assassin

Ray: How you feel about this issue will largely depend on just how attached you are to Lady Shiva. Me, not really, so I took some of the reveals in this issue in style. However, anyone particularly attached to her “noble demon with a conscience” routine in the pre-Flashpoint verse will likely be horrified by some of the things she gets up to. This Shiva is a monster, though and through. We’re introduced to her in a meeting between Shiva and Ra’s Al Ghul which he sees as a Parley between their guilds – and she sees as an excuse to show him that she views him and his men as nothing. In the present day, in Gotham, Batman and his team do their best to hold off the League of Shadows’ countless sleeper cells. They win the day thanks to Clayface, but Azrael and Batwing are taken in the process.

However, Cassandra Cain is more interested in tracking down the mysterious woman spying on them, and when she finds Shiva, it is confirmed that Shiva is her mother. Something that doesn’t remotely stop her from putting her into nerve shock with the likely intention of killing her. It’s only thanks to Batman and Batwoman’s intervention that Cassandra survives, although Batman nearly gets his arm broken in the process. The theme that defines this issue, more than any other, is fear. We see exactly the kind of terror Shiva inspires in multiple characters. Jacob Kane, a rather ruthless man, makes clear exactly what pushed him to extreme measures, while Cassandra – normally the most unflappable member of the team – literally breaks down in Batman’s arms after her encounter with Shiva. Overall, a very strong issue with great characterization all around and a genuinely fearsome enemy. Was also happy to see Duke enter the fold in this book for the first time.

Shiva and Ra’s Al Ghul in Detective #952.

Corrina: First, let’s take a moment to appreciate the opening sequence with Ra’s and Shiva, which is sublime.

Now, back to the story. On the one hand, it’s great to see the story spotlight Cassandra and her complicated parenthood. On the other hand, this Shiva is a bit less complex than has been in the past. It’s not a huge difference, as Shiva always wore her motherhood lightly and even threatened to kill Cassandra before. But a few people meant something to her and there’s no sign that anyone means anything to her in this story. Perhaps what I’m missing more than anything is Shiva with her own code. It’s not a moral one but she certainly seemed to have rules for herself, after a fashion, and that’s missing so far.

Note: Batman and crew are running up against a lot of fighters better or equal to them, eh? At some point, I’d like to find out how a man who can stand up to a Venom-influenced Bane can be equaled/beaten by Lady Shiva. I suppose that is a question for those who like their comic book rumbles. It’s clear, however, that Clayface is something of a Trump card. As for Jacob Kane, no, it’s not a good idea to become what you fight. Even under that extreme.

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #9 – Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Becky Cloonan, Writers; Msassyk, Artist; Adam Archer, Penciller; Sandra Hope, Inker

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Who Is Amy?

Ray: The many mysteries of Olive Silverlock start coming to light this issue, as the teens descend further into the ruins under Gotham Academy. What began as a mission to stop Colton from being unfairly expelled has turned into something so much more, as all the shady people around the school start to converge to stop them. Tristan’s apparent death last issue sends Olive into a panic, and she apparently kills the insane Eric, shoving him to his death, on the orders of her sadistic “friend” Amy. Although Tristan and Eric are proven to be fine, it soon comes out that no one else has ever seen Amy. And as the twisted invisible girl makes clear, she’s only in Olive’s head and all the awful things she did were actually Olive.

That’s a big, pretty dark twist for a comic like this. However, it’s not quite that Olive is just losing her mind and has a split personality. No, this ties back to Calamity, her mother’s villainous alter ego. It turns out that “Amy” is actually none other than Amity Arkham, the vicious spirit who has been possessing her bloodline for maybe centuries. The other characters are mostly spending the issue running around the catacombs in a gorgeous-looking Indiana Jones adventure, but it’s Olive who steals the show this issue. By the end, we see whatever fragments remain of her stability shatter in the face of what she sees as a betrayal by Batman and the one person she trusts most, and Calamity is unleashed again. Cannot wait to see where this title goes next.

Gotham Academy Second Semester #9 Page 1

Corrina: I generally dislike multiple personality stories because there’s enough wrong information already out there about mental illness. So, once it was clear that Olive was being, well, haunted or possessed in some fashion, I enjoyed this story much more. (And kudos to Ray for calling the Sixth Sense-style twist ahead of time.) All along, Olive’s been worried about her “inheritance” and all her fears come to pass this issue. Poor kid. Here’s hoping Batman turns out to be more of a savior and not an enemy.

The art is always strong but particularly so this issue, especially with the contrast of panels with and without Amy/Amity, and showing Olive’s frantic realization that her hold on reality is slipping.

Wonder Woman #18 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Bilquis Evely, Penciller; Scott Hanna, Inker; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Terrific

Ray: While Diana has had some great, introspective storytelling in the current-era story, it’s the villains who seem to be shining in the flashbacks. Namely, Veronica Cale and Barbara Minerva. We’ve seen a lot of Minerva in this flashback, and while she seems to be a decent person who is loyal to Diana, she’s also obsessed with discovering Themysrica and redeeming her reputation – to the point of it consuming everything else about her. Although Diana tries her best to deter her from this course of action, she can’t see anything else, and that makes her easy prey for Veronica Cale. It’s been a year since Veronica Cale essentially had her life destroyed, and her rage hasn’t dimmed a bit.

She’s resurrected her friend Adrianna as the artificial intelligence Doctor Cyber, but she has yet to get her daughter back from the scheming demigods who stole her soul. The visual of the faceless little girl is certainly creepy, but I must express a little puzzlement at how she’s still alive in this condition. Magic, I guess? Desperate to fulfill the terms the demigods who did this laid out, she manipulates Barbara by bankrolling her expedition to the Amazon, and then has Doctor Cyber sabotage Barbara’s communicator with Diana so she’ll fall prey to the dark god lurking within. The sabotage is depicted in a fantastic two-page spread by new regular artist Bilquis Evely, which shows multiple disasters occurring at the same time. Another strong issue, as this series continues to slowly unfold its mysteries.

Dr. Minerva heads to her fate in Wonder Woman #18

Corrina: ::shudders:: What happens to Cale’s daughter is enough to give any parent nightmares. (I assume the girl is surviving this way because she’s under an enchantment and that has its own rules.) Storywise, it certainly provides Cale with a great incentive to obey the gods but one wonders why she trusted them in the first place.

Minerva does seem a bit too willing to be obsessed with her quest but perhaps that is her fatal flaw. A better story question is why Cale needed Minerva to became the Cheetah for the first time and why she needs Minerva to become the Cheetah again in the present. But I believe that will be answered in good time. Meanwhile, I will marvel at the art by the new regular artist. The artists on this title–Sharp, Scott, and now Evely–have made this book a visual treat.

Deathstroke #14 – Priest, Writer; Joe Bennett, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Nice Injection of Humor

Ray: Another great issue, marred a tiny bit by the addition of a new character who doesn’t really seem to fit into this book’s world. As usual, the story jumps around a good deal, with Rose and Jericho getting their own plots. While Jericho is still very much enmeshed in Slade’s world, as Slade continues to manipulate – and sleep with – his fiancee Etienne, Rose has sort of broken free from her father’s orbit. Her smaller-scale story set in the Hmong area of Minnesota continues to be one of this series’ most intriguing stories, as she slowly discovers her family heritage and takes a stand. I have a feeling this whole area is going to suffer when the chickens come home, though.

Slade, meanwhile, gets back to work taking contracts, and his latest mission takes him in the Bronx to track down a tech thief. While the guy is a bit weak compared to some of Slade’s marks, he manages to be very evasive and gets the drop on Slade, infecting him with some sort of poison. This leads to the introduction of Tanya Spears, aka the new Power Girl last seen in Teen Titans, and while she’s a decent character, the addition of a teenage girl with the powers of Ms. Marvel, the hair of Moon Girl, and who sings in a church choir is just…odd for this intense film noir of a comic. She mainly seems to serve to clue in Slade that the poison has blinded him at the end of the issue, as last issue gave away. Still, overall, this continues to be one of DC’s best.

Corrina: I suspect the sunniness of the new Power Girl was used to contrast against Deathstroke’s nihilism. Tanya provides a breath of fresh air to the title and she also seems to confuse Slade, knocking him off-balance for a change. I wonder if it’s also a way to contrast his well-known affair with Tera, another teenage girl, with this one, who obviously is not intimidated (or interested) in the least by Slade.  I cannot see Tanya falling for any of Slade’s BS, now or later. I look forward to more of this very odd couple working to solve Slade’s blindness.

As for Etienne, I should have suspected that Slade wouldn’t corrupt an innocent. For him, taking Etienne to bed was a way of proving she wasn’t good enough for his son and had a hidden agenda. A totally skeevy way to do that but Slade is Slade.

Solid B Reads

Justice League of America #2 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Felipe Watanabe, Penciller; Scott Hanna, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Strong Characterization, Villains Still Need Work

Ray: The first issue didn’t make exactly clear why Orlando chose The Extremists as his first villains for his new, modern Justice League. They seemed very much like a cliched band of Marvel pastiches created solely to be beaten up. However, this issue shows that there’s some life in the old concepts yet, and they’re actually set up as some of the more socially relevant villains in the DCU. The issue starts with a face-off between Batman and Lord Havok, with Batman volunteering to surrender for the sake of his team. He takes the opportunity to try to reason with Havok, which causes Havok’s partner Dr. Diehard (these are real names) to go rogue and try to wrest leadership away. Havok kills him and teleports the Extremists away to move to the next stage of his plan.

That is where this issue gets really interesting. Because Havok’s initial salvo may have been violent and simplistic, but his second is actually quite smart. He heads to a small European country that is in upheaval after the death of its king – the same country, mind you, that Dr. Doom pastiche Havok was the heir to in his world – and takes out the military strongman who is currently oppressing the people. Within hours, he has been recognized as the legitimate ruler of Kravia, and the Justice League is dealing with a humanitarian crisis as countless Kravians attempt to flee the border into a neighboring country that doesn’t want them. The other Extremists continue to be generic villains (including the new Bat-woman mutant who appears this issue), but it’s a compelling conflict and the limited screentime the JL gets continues to pay off, as most of them are getting established as excellent characters.

Corrina:  I have enjoyed practically everything that Orlando has written for DC, including the one-shot issues featuring members of his new Justice League. Ah, but these first two issues of this series have not been as strong. The characters in them are, as Orlando juggles myriad personalities from Batman to Vixen to Lobo well, providing an interesting look about how the new team sees itself.

But those villains? This issue added some depth to them and provided justifications to their tactics of taking over a small country but I have read this story before (See: Latveria and Dr. Doom), and we’ve even seen Black Adam take over a country in the DCU. These villains are smart but so far their actions haven’t been compelling enough to hook me. But the characters will keep me reading.

The Flash #18 – Joseph Williamson, Writer; Jesus Merino, Penciller; Andy Owens, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Tell Iris, Barry

Ray: A slower-paced but excellent start to a new art in the aftermath of the previous showdown with the Rogues turns the focus on the young Wally West and his recent discovery that Reverse Flash Daniel West is his father. Haunted by that reveal, Wally opens the issue with a creepy dream before heading off to a breakfast with Iris, Barry, and Henry Allen. Although everyone has a good time, Wally seems uncomfortable with Henry’s attempt to reach out to him, likely because of his own father issues. Sensing this, Barry tracks him after the meet-up and finds out that Wally’s been trying to find his father – and knows he’s been transferred to Belle Reve. Given Barry’s own encounter with Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad, Barry knows this is bad news.

Love the “couple Wednesdays ago” gag, by the way. Clever. There isn’t all that much action in this issue, but there doesn’t need to be. Wally and Barry’s break-in at Belle Reve is both exciting and funny, such as when they strip a group of robot machine-guards down to the men inside. They eventually encounter Waller, who is cagey as always (and I suppose this is before her “death”, unless I should have read Suicide Squad first?) and gives them no information before sending them on their way. With no other leads, Barry and Wally decide to head down under to interrogate Daniel’s fellow Squad member Captain Boomerang – only to stumble into his mission and get captured by the villains he was tracking. Williamson’s done an excellent job of making this new Wally West a major part of this title, and this arc is off to a strong start.

Corrina: I suspect that the Flashes will not be trapped for long. When one is hunting Captain Boomerang and nets two speedsters instead, that has to be more than they ever planned. I almost feel story for the bad guys. While I didn’t expect this story to turn into a “let’s break into a prison” tale, it works, primarily because of how well the relationship between Wally and Barry is working. Williamson has been writing Barry in mentor-mode for much of his run and now he shifts even closer to being paternal.

Of course, it’s not fair to keep secrets from Aunt Iris. Barry is going to have to reveal this soon unless someone finds a way to keep Iris ignorant without making her look stupid. (Which is generally my problem with the love interest being kept in the dark in these kinds of stories.)

Supergirl #7 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Matias Bergara, Artist; Michael Atiyeh, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Kara’s compassion is the focus

Ray: An intriguing done-in-one issue that picks up on one of the running plot threads from back in Supergirl: Rebirth, before the huge Argo City storyline. That would be the fate of Lar-On, the feral Kryptonian werewolf who Kara was able to calm down and get into stasis back in this series’ debut. Dr. Veritas has been unable to cure him so far and has found no actual physical link between the moon and his condition. Kara speculates that it may not be physical but psychological, and volunteers for a procedure where she’ll be astral-projected into Lar-On’s mind so she can see his past and help him come to terms with it, despite risks – such as the fact that he could hijack her body.

Once inside, it becomes clear that Kara was right. Lar-On as a child was always fascinated by the moon and dreamed of joining the science guild and traveling the stars. His father, however, was a humble craftsman still mourning the loss of his scientist wife, and discouraged his son from any ambition. Partially it was believing his son was born under an ill omen, partially it was his own inadequacies. This issue does a great job of covering how Kara’s greatest strength is her compassion and her ability to find common ground with her foes. The issue ends with Kara dedicating a memorial to the victims of Argo’s attack, and then encountering the new Superman for the first time. Strong issue, although I’m still looking forward to spending more time with Kara’s supporting cast.

Corrina: Orlando has made Kara’s compassion the focus on his run and that provides a solid foundation for her in this series. I love that the plot circled back to Lar-On and his need for a cure. So far, Kara showcases the best traits of the idealist: compassion, hope, and faith that people are good underneath. We saw that in her speech to his “mother,” a few issues ago and it’s the same with Lar-On, as she appeals to his best self.

My only complaint so far for this series is that we haven’t seen much of Kara in her ordinary life.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #16 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Rafa Sandoval, Penciller; Jordi Tarragona, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Poor Guy

Ray: This issue has some of the most glaring mood whiplash in a comic book I’ve seen in a while. On one hand, most of the stories here are fairly standard Green Lantern stuff. The Lanterns, now with their new partners the Sinestro Corps, are rounding up Sinestro Corps refugees and it’s going about as smoothly as could be expected. Meanwhile, Kyle and Hal have returned with Saint Walker in tow, and the Guardians have a secret mission for him. John is still annoyed with Hal but has bigger things to worry about – namely, Guy Gardner, who has gone off to chase after Arkillo on his own. And that’s where the second main story of the issue kicks off, and things get VERY dark.

See, while on the surface, Guy Gardner’s decision to go after Arkillo may seem like standard Guy craziness, it soon becomes clear he’s trying to exorcise some demons. Guy challenges Arkillo to a one-on-one fight, no rings or powers, to determine whether Arkillo surrenders. Flashbacks show that Guy was rather brutally beaten by his father as a child, and was never able to stand up to him. He did, however, learn how to take a beating like a pro. That allows him to play possum, let Arkillo get the upper hand, and then take his move when he needs to. It doesn’t come without a price, though, as by the time John finds him, Guy has won but is already near death. Venditti’s done a very good job in this run of adding a necessary human touch to the Lantern Corps.

Guy takes on Arkillo, from Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #16

Corrina: I know Ethan Van Sciver is the current definitive Lantern artist but I preferred the art this issue, with its clear, concise lines, Somehow, even the blood seemed less gory than I’ve seen in Sciver’s art, even in the Guy/Arkillo duel, which is brutal. (Aside: Arkillo’s name is not subtle.)

I also liked the focus on Guy. I know he’s close to his siblings but this is the first time I’ve seen his abusive father appear, so this part of his backstory is new to me. Also, his “W” t-shirt is a nice nod to his Warrior days. Meanwhile, John seems to be getting a handle on his new role as head of the GL Corps, and I cracked up over Saint Walker’s supposed ignorance regarding Guy. Oh, I think Hal was in this somewhere and he didn’t say much, so that’s a plus.

New Super-Man #9 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Viktor Bogdanovic, Artist; Jonathan Glapion, Inker; Mike Spicer, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Kenan’s Ego May Be a Match For Luthor

Ray: This issue takes Kenan out of China for the first time, as one of the other Supermen comes calling for his help. Not Clark Kent, though – it’s Lex Luthor, who as always had his own agenda. The issue starts strong, with Luthor seeking Kenan’s help to deal with a speedster saboteur at his labs – one with ties to China, who seems to have gotten her powers from somewhere else than the Ministry of Self-Reliance. I-Ching, who has become Kenan’s mentor and frequently insults his new pupil (usually deservedly), comes along to serve as a translator since neither Kenan or Luthor speak each other’s language (or so it seems). Luthor is at his oily best here, manipulating everyone around him and leaving even the reader guessing as to his true intentions.

Luthor seems to know a lot about the block Kenan has in his powers, and has gotten ahold of artifacts that could change that. I-Ching, however, is deeply suspicious of any shortcuts being used. However, that becomes moot when our young criminal speedster shows up, with a grudge against Luthor – followed soon by Superman himself. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Baixi’s adorable Robinbot, although the reason he has it is tinged with sadness from last issue’s reveal. The issue’s weak point? The art. Bogdanovic is a strong artist with all the characters he’s used to drawing, but his Luthor is…grotesque, with a strange Joker grin in many scenes. It’s distracting from what is otherwise a great issue in this always strong series.

Corrina: Yeah, I know. A Luthor appearance probably ups the profile of this series. I suspect that might be needed for sales. But it doesn’t make me, as a reader, thrilled to pull Kenan out of China, away from most of his supporting cast, and into what is more like a generic Superman story.

The saving grace is the humorous asides due to the supposed language barrier and I Ching, who makes an excellent addition to Kenan’s supporting cast. Now, if they can just go back to China so Kenan can argue with the RobinBot….

Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern #2 – Robbie Thompson, Justin Jordan, Writers; Barnaby Bagnenda, Artist; Alex Guimares, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: After a first issue that focused very heavily on the Planet of the Apes mythology, this issue brings the Green Lanterns in with a bang, as Hal Jordan finds himself living out the same story as Charlton Heston’s character in the original movie. He wakes up in a cell surrounded by apes, and while he tries to communicate with them they assume he’s just mimicking ape speech. Despite trying to warn them that Sinestro is on the loose on their world, their only response is to blast him with the hose. Meanwhile, Cornelius has gotten ahold of the Universal Ring – later explained by the Guardians as a flawed beta of the Phantom Ring – and is seesawing between Corps irregularly.

On Oa, Guy Gardner is finally able to get the truth out of the Guardians – it seems Hal and Sinestro aren’t the only ones who have gone missing. One of every Corps is missing, and they can’t be tracked. Among the Apes, Sinestro lays in wait and eventually announces himself with a rather brutal murder. Hal pulls off a daring escape from his cell, while General Ursus and Dr. Zaius begin plotting an invasion of the Forbidden Zone. However, the thing about this book that excited me the most was the cliffhanger. As the Lanterns begin plotting a rescue, Guy decides they need a specialist in talking apes. Grodd vs. the Planet of the Apes? Yes please.

Justice League/Power Rangers #3 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Stephen Byrne, Artist

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: As this event hits its main thrust, it turns into a bit more of a standard action comic than the first two issues. The main strength of this comic is the way it plays off the cool, professional superheroics of the Justice League with the excitable, innocent Power Rangers. There’s not all that much room for that kind of fun this issue, as Lord Zedd attacks earth with an army of Cthulhu-like creatures, sending them to cities around the world. With the two teams overwhelmed, Batman calls in all the Justice League reserves from around the world, giving artist Stephen Byrne an opportunity to draw the whole DCU (including his usual heroes, Green Arrow and Black Canary).

However, the Octopus monsters – creepy as they are – are actually just the first wave, and Brainiac’s actual plan is to send drones down to Earth to hack the Zords. Soon enough, the Rangers find themselves without their Zords and without their Power Coins. The Justice League manages to pull off an emergency rescue, but soon the Zords have teleported out and back to the Rangers’ dimension, leaving them stranded. The Rangers and Justice League then heads to the Large Hadron Collider to open a black hole. That was sort of out of nowhere, but I did enjoy Superman literally charming his way into one of the most secure sites on planet earth. Overall, the story is engaging enough, but the art is the real star this issue.

Superwoman #8 – Phil Jiminez, Writer; Jack Herbert, Penciller; Stephen Segovia, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: I Like Lana (There, I Said It)

Ray: Now that the first big arc is concluded, this done-in-one issue focuses on exactly what is going on with Lana and her powers. She seemingly wakes up in John Henry’s lab, her powers back under control, but it soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems. She’s met with Lois Lane, back in physical form – except that she’s soon joined by the deceased Superman, as well as her late parents and brothers. Yep, it’s a dream sequence. These ghosts seem to be pretty bad with communication, as they tell Lana how disappointed in her they are – only to finally reveal that they just want her to realize how strong she is. Lana soon finds herself confused and losing her stability again as she’s haunted.

In fact, she’s actually still unconscious in the lab, going through her own personal trials. Meanwhile, John Henry is trying to figure out how to stabilize her powers. Lex Luthor pays one final visit to his sister before sealing her away in his vault full of dangerous super-criminals, and Atomic Skull seems to be working his way towards redemption. The main plot point of the issue, though, is hints towards what is going to come out about Superman in Superman Reborn. There’s a lot of hints that the two Supermen may have been one and the same and that Lana and Lois hold fragments of his power. I’m a bit puzzled by these hints, but the characterization has gotten stronger in this title and I’m hoping Jiminez’ run finishes strong.

Corrina: I’m not so sure whether it’s a dream sequence or Lana’s energy powers accessing a different plane of existence, as it’s hinted that this energy connects her, this Earth’s late Superman, and Lois somehow. Or maybe she’s creating energy constructs of some sort. It’s unclear.

I’ve enjoyed the focus on Lana, however, something I didn’t expect when I first started this series. She’s not an easy person to love but she has become a decent lead character, most likely because she is flawed and complex. She works best bouncing off John Henry and the rest of the cast, and her uneasy relationship with Lois strikes me as realistic. (Well, except for Lois being a ghost.) I will miss this book whenever it’s gone.

Titans #9 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brett Booth, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Good Story, Less Pleased With the Art

Ray: This second main arc seems to be turning the focus away from the main Titans and onto the lesser known Bumblebee and Herald. The central concept, of an organization of reformed supervillains – led by Psimon of the Fearsome Five – offering tech help for metas to either get rid of or hone their superpowers, is a clever one and it raises some interesting questions about ethics in a metahuman world. The bigger issue with a story like this, though, is that we know from minute one that the villains are up to no good and we just have to wait until they’re exposed. Thus, that takes a lot of the suspense out of this story.

Overall, this issue’s greatest strength is its dialogue. Some of the characters are written really well – Mal and Karen come off like a genuine, loving married couple that cares about each other’s individual concerns. Wally and Dick continue to be the best buddy team in the DCU and their break-in of the creepy organization provides some of the issue’s best scenes. Abnett does a great job with Roy and the way he views reformation in the aftermath of his drug addiction, too. Other characters…less so. Garth has basically been reduced to a one-joke character, and Donna barely has any characterization at all. No real suspense in this issue, but overall an entertaining read that sets up Bumblebee’s big hero turn next issue.

Corrina: I love it when heroes think first instead of simply jumping into a fight. I love it when they’re proactive rather than reactive and that’s exactly what happens here, as the Titans back off from a fight so long as Karen gets to come out of the figurative lion’s den with them. Not to mention the breaking and entering plan as well. Sure, it goes awry but at least they had a plan. (Plus, having the fastest man alive with you is a good safety net under any circumstances.)

The Fearsome Five has always been something of a joke and I like the change here. They’re being proactive as well, planning and looking at the long game, rather than being just another bunch of supervillains causing mayhem. However, I remain unhappy with Booth’s art. I can’t tell if it’s just garish or not to my taste but its hurting my enjoyment of the story.

Split Decision:

Red Hood and the Outlaws #13 – Scott Lobdell, Writer; Kenneth Rocafort, Artist; Dan Brown, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Eh

Ray: The first arc of this surprisingly enjoyable relaunch of Lobdell’s Red Hood series focused heavily on Jason and Bizarro, with Artemis being limited to being background muscle. This arc seems like it’s going to make up for it, making her the focus in this prequel miniseries. Artemis has always been a sort of ersatz Wonder Woman character, as we saw when she took over the mantle briefly in the 90s. This new origin emphasizes that, taking the same general concept of a young woman seeking to become champion of the Gods and twisting it in a dark direction. Artemis is now from Bana-Mighdall, the desert city of Amazons estranged from Themysrica, and legend says that one of them will rise to become the Shim’tar, a champion chosen by the Gods.

Artemis is a firm believer in this legend, but her best friend Akila (and their friendship is super-gay, for anyone wondering) is a skeptical non-believer. Naturally, irony does its thing and Akila is eventually chosen to be the Shim’tar, a decision that drives her and Artemis apart – and eventually leads to a tragic end for Akila when the neighboring nation of Qarac invades. A confrontation with Wonder Woman in the middle of this carnage only deepens Artemis’ skepticism of Themysrica. This flashback issue was definitely essential to reintroduce us to Artemis, and there’s a decent foundation here. The story was a bit predictable, but this series continues to exceed expectations.

Cover to Red Hood & the Outlaws #8

Corrina: I’ve been praising the art thus far in this week’s reviews but this issue does not fit with that trend, starting from Artemis having boobs bigger than her head on the cover, to an absolutely awful rendition of Wonder Woman in a full-page portrait later in the issue. It’s not so much sexist as it is just plain awful. Another artist might have made this story go from “decent” to “very good,” and caused me to actually recommend an issue of a title that I’ve so far not enjoyed at all. But I can’t recommend this one either.

Failing Grades:

Suicide Squad #13 – 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

Corrina: Last Page? BAD

Ray: This series continues to be fairly slow-moving, only saved from being an outright bad book by some strong characterizations and growing camaraderie among the members of this group. As with the last two issues, the story is still split between Romita Jr. and Barrows, but the book functions as one ongoing story with each segment picking up directly from the previous ones. When it opens, the Squad is at each others’ throats and everyone believes Deathstroke was responsible for killing Waller. They brawl until Harcourt nearly kills them with the brain bombs to calm them down. At this point, Djinn from the villains shuts down the brain bombs and sends the Squad on the run. Meanwhile, Rustam – the weakest part of this book – has Flagg and Katana hostage so he can yell at them about how bad Waller is.

The second, shorter story is probably the more endearing one of the two. With nothing keeping the Squad prisoner anymore, they simply walk out of Belle Reve and try to figure out their next move. This leads them to a small bar in the Louisiana bayou – or in the case of Croc, to the swamp behind the bar. The friendship between Harley Quinn and Hack is probably the best part of this issue, as the two start to realize important things about themselves and that sets Hack off on a more heroic path. She attempts to figure out the mole in the Squad and eventually accuses Harcourt before the real traitor is apparently revealed. The ending…let’s just say it’s not good to get attached to non-franchise characters in this book, but I’m hoping it’s a fake-out.

Corrina: That ending is an extremely unfortunate visual, with a heroic young African-American girl being skewered by the looming white villain, complete with blood splashed all over the place. It kinda turns my stomach and while I know this is not a comic about heroes, and people die, but this is bad even for this comic. I’ve read adult noir where everybody dies that doesn’t revolt me the same way this particular scene does.

That the friendship between Harley and Hack is the best part of the issue only makes that last page worse. Maybe it’s a fake-out but that doesn’t make that panel any better.

Mother Panic #4 – Jody Houser, Writer; Shawn Crystal, Artist; Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Better

Ray: Even with a guest artist, the art is by far the standout in this book. The bad news is, that’s about the only thing that stands out, as it completely lacks a compelling lead character. Violet Paige has elements of a lot of other vigilantes, combined with more instability and an almost meme-like tendency towards irregular behavior. And an odd disregard for her own blood. The issue starts with a mogul running an auction at his museum only for a mysterious supervillain with an oddly waxy face to target the place and blow it up. Violet, meanwhile, is busy with talk show appearances and bashing Batman on them, but when she sees the mogul, she recognizes him as the man behind the creepy boarding school her brother sent her to.

This launches us into a series of flashbacks that show the disturbing treatment she was subject to in what essentially seems like a secret laboratory for creating child soldiers. These segments are disturbing, but they seem very much out of similar books – I’m reminded of Deadly Class in places, only without the feeding frenzy of jockeying for position there. Once Violet finds out that the villain is from there, she seeks him out – and actually winds up teaming up with him to help destroy the mogul’s business. This book continues to not really fit in at all in tone or style with the rest of the Young Animal book. It feels like a Gotham vigilante book – the closest in tone is probably the last Azrael series – and in a Gotham City brimming with fascinating characters, Violet just adds nothing new. The Phil Hester-drawn backup looks great, but is extremely slow moving as the reporter protagonist tries to unravel the murder of her co-host three days at a time.

Corrina: I’m not as down on the series as Ray is, nor do I find Violet as dull as he does. What I like: Violet’s care for her mother, the serious look at her mother’s mental illness, and that Violet recognizes she’s become unhinged. And, of course, the art, which adds so much.

What I don’t enjoy: the plotting thus far has been less than clear and Violet’s backstory in the home for child assassins seems so similar to other child assassin academies, even in DC Comic stories. There was Mother, and then Spyral, and Ra’s raises assassins too…I wonder, is there a “Harvard For Assassins” as well? Mostly, I feel this book would be better if it was in its own world, instead of inevitably having to be compared to all the other characters in Gotham.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #8 – Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Writers; Roge Antonio, Artist; Allen Passalaqua, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Unremarkable Despite the Guest Star

Ray: A Nightwing guest-appearance and a new villain can’t hide the fact that this comic is just…boring. The team dynamic really doesn’t work, and none of the villains so far have been distinctive. The issue opens with Nightwing on a mission, cooperating with Oracle and the Birds when he encounters Gemini, a stretching supervillainess who now has shape-shifting powers. She’s able to wound Nightwing and he only gets out of the situation with the help of the Birds. This issue is pretty big on Nightwing fanservice and he spends most of the issue as a damsel-in-distress, but that amusing little bit isn’t enough to make a full comic work.

The big problem, again, is this new Oracle. Gus is just a boring and off-putting character who comes off as alternately incompetent and unstable, and it’s still puzzling as to why Barbara actually took him under his wing. The main plot seems to be setting up Black Canary going undercover with the main villain, Blackbird. Blackbird appears to be some kind of power broker who helps villains enhance their powers, only to then steal them for their own purposes. It’s all very generic superhero storytelling and none of the characters are clicking half as much as they did in other books. This is probably consistently the weakest book in the Rebirth line.

Corrina: This comic seeks to recreate the fun dynamic with Helena, Babs, and Dinah and instead only succeeds in making them look silly and sometimes stupid, like with their “trust” of the new Oracle, who continues to suck up page time for reasons I cannot fathom. How can a comic with Nightwing as a guest-star be this unmemorable? I don’t know, but it is.

And just how does someone as famous as Canary is in this world (hello, rock star!) go undercover? I’m so bummed for Canary. After a fascinating title series (which people should have read!), she’s dull here and definitely reduced to a sidekick in Green Arrow’s book. This execution is such a vast waste of potential.

Earth 2: Society #22 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Vincent Ciufuentes, Artist; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Such a Waste

Ray: For several months in a row, DC solicited final issues for Earth 2: Society, only to then continue it for another month. This month, though, the end finally seems to be here as the world makes way for the eventual return of the JSA starting in “The Button”. So how does this comic end? Well, it barely ends at all, with this issue simply taking us on a tour of the new Earth 2 as the heroes fly around and save the day. Power Girl narrates the issue as the patrols the new Metropolis, and the art is very pretty in what tends to be big splash pages. However, a lot of the story is a flashback and it’s a very quick read.

The sad thing is, this comic sets up some interesting details. Helena Wayne as a female Batman who refuses to take on any name changes? Dick Grayson as this world’s Oracle? Lois Lane as Red Tornado, going back to being a reporter and a superhero? All interesting concepts that I would have liked to see explored. However, they’re all just tossed out there as the world fades to black. This universe started incredibly strong in the first year of the New 52, but by the end it was a shell of its former self. Now, this just feels like a tease of what could have been.

Corrina: This whole series is one of lost potential DC gave it a long chance to catch-on and I mostly enjoyed the original James Robinson/Nicola Scott run up until the world was utterly destroyed. Then there was the weird diversion to the Telos planet that seemed to forget the strength of the series was in the characters, not the situation, and, finally, the status quo is reset to something kinda interesting in this last issue. I mean, all that lead up to Power Girl and Helena going back to their world and it was hardly explored until this end. ARGH. That’s emblematic of the problems. Bummer.

Scooby Apocalypse #11 – Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Writers; Dale Eaglesham, Jan Duursema, Artists; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Ray: One of the better issues of the series so far, as we finally get some decent resolution to the many emotional subplots running in the book so far. The problem is, the execution of those stories so far has been so lacking that the resolution has little to no interest. Velma’s gone on the run to try to find the cure for the plague she helped create solo. Scooby and Shaggy are tracking her, and Daphne and Fred have found Velma’s confession on her computer and are debating what to do when they find her. Velma, meanwhile, is running from Monster Trucks. Literally, monsters in trucks. The comic makes little sense, but it sure does look pretty this month, mainly due to the always excellent art of Dale Eaglesham.

By the time the group is reunited and Daphne finally settles on the fact that she doesn’t want Velma to die, the reunion feels a bit over the top – given how nasty Daphne has consistently been, her turnaround feels a bit rushed. However, if that means no more bickering or at least less of it, I’d be happy. The backup, on the other hand, left me completely cold. It’s the story of one of Velma’s brothers, a corrupt, obese businessman with terrible hair and a massive ego. Sound familiar? He’s so cartoonishly over-the-op evil that it lacks any real impact. So far, the series still has a long way to go to establish any compelling heroes or villains.

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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.