DC This Week – Batman Presses the ‘Watchmen’ Button

Batman and Reverse Flash in Batman #21, the Button
Batman takes it on the chin in Batman #21, image via DC Comics

There are a number of strong stories out this week from DC Comics but most of the attention will focus on Batman #21 and the beginning of DC’s new big event, The Button, which will explain the world-altering events of Rebirth and the mastermind who’s been stalking in the shadows of the DC universe over the past year. Given what happens this week, I’m switching my vote for the mastermind from Time Trapper to Dr. Manhattan, though the presence of Saturn Girl in the present-day DCU might be a considering for Time Trapper. (Yes, the button of the title is that button from Watchmen.)

But if crossovers aren’t your thing, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #7, All-Star Batman, Batwoman #2, All-Star Batman #9, and Deathstroke #17 are all excellent choices, though Deathstroke features a particularly brutal act of violence. That book is not for the faint of heart but it’s a brilliant look at a fascinating character who never fails to be a villain, despite the efforts of those around him.

MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW FOR THIS WEEK’S DC COMICS

SPLIT DECISION

Batman #21 – Tom King, Writer; Jason Fabok, Artist; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Decompressed

Ray: It’s finally here, arguably the most anticipated storyline since Rebirth hit, and this first issue does not disappoint at all. Unfolding in a comic mostly consisting of tight, close-up nine-panel grids in the style of Watchmen, it packs more twists and turns into one issue than many comics do in an entire arc. It opens with a group of inmates watching a hockey game in Arkham Asylum. This is notable because one of the viewers is Saturn Girl – currently assumed to be a mentally-ill random girl. I question Gotham’s mental health care if a relatively harmless young woman accused of disorderly conduct has been locked up in Arkham’s maximum security division for a full year because she believes she’s from the future, but that’s comics. She flies into a panic because she knows from the future that this is the game when one player brutally murders another – an event she sees play out on screen, helplessly.

Saturn Girl isn’t the only person watching this game, though. Batman is as well, as he turns the famous bloody button over and over in his hand. It comes near the Psycho Pirate mask from the previous arc – and something weird happens. There’s a sudden surge of energy, Bruce is hit by lightning, and he looks up for a second to see Thomas Wayne’s Batman from the Flashpoint world standing over him. The father-son reunion lasts only a second, and Bruce places in a call to Flash to help him investigate this mysterious button. Flash is busy dealing with an invasion of…Samurai robots? Okay, that’s awesome. He tells Batman he’ll be there in a minute, only for Batman to hear a burst of super-speed in the cave – and turn around to see the presumed-dead Eobard Thawne waiting for him. Mysteriously resurrected, bent on murder, and Batman is one minute away from safety.

What unfolds here is one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen in comics, as each panel slowly ticks down sixty seconds, leaving Batman alone to try to survive against a super-speed maniac. Writers often love to pit Batman against super-powered villains or heroes gone wrong, to show just how badass he is, but they rarely show just how utterly outmatched he would be. This is a villain who can land one hundred blows on Batman in the time it takes Batman to plan his next move. We see every move as Batman methodically tries to survive, outthinks Thawne at multiple points – and is still brutally beaten and barely alive as the clock hits zero – and Barry is nowhere to be seen. Batman is finished, staring into his own death – until a mysterious force suddenly teleports Thawne away. He returns in a minute, rambling about having seen God – and proceeds to disintegrate into nothing, joining Pandora, Metron, and Owlman in oblivion courtesy of Doctor Manhattan. And Barry finally shows up to find his unconscious friend and dead arch-nemesis. A spectacular beginning to an event that looks like it’s going to totally live up to the hype.

Corrina: I will leave the gushing to Ray because I was underwhelmed.

The fight scene he loves is basically several pages of Batman being pummeled, something that has happened a lot lately, both in King’s Batman and Scott Snyder’s All-Star Batman. It’s happened so often that Bruce should be retconned to having Wolverine’s super-healing. Or access to a Lazarus Pit that heals him without making him crazy.

But, aside from that, the fight scene takes up a lot of space, with Eobard monologing happily, and I hoped that instead of a big fight scene, I would read some of Batman being a detective and sorting out what was wrong in the universe, especially since Superman told him some entity is playing with reality. Batman tries but he seems to be reactive here, not proactive.

Granted, it was pretty fun to watch Eobard die again, so soon after his final fight with the Legends on the DC: Legends of Tomorrow television series. But why would a batarang tie Eobard to a floor when he can vibrate through it? I thought we would see some cool BatCave defense mechanisms, perhaps with some whimsical angle. No, it’s just brutal.

I guess this works as a beginning to a big story. It certainly contains action and terrific artwork. But as far as anything to do with the overall mystery, I closed the issue knowing very little that I didn’t know already.

GRADE A READS

Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye #7 – Gerard Way, Jon Rivera, Writers; Michael Avon Oeming, Artist; Nick Filardi, Colorist

Ray – 10/10

Corrina: WHOA

Ray: If there’s one thing that this comic is great at, it’s surprising the reader. That’s what makes this issue so amazing. This isn’t just the best issue of the series, it may be the best single issue DC has published in years or at least a serious contender for that title. It starts out seeming like a done-in-one issue, picking up in the past after Cave lost his cybernetic eye and nearly died in the battle against his arch-nemesis in the last issue. Picking up with one of Cave’s favorite classic adventures “the time he saved Superman”, it starts with Cave’s classic crew of explorers entering a cavern and finding Superman in the fight of his life against a massive crystal beast. Kryptonite is weakening Superman, so it’s up to Cave and his crew to come up with a strategy to beat it. At least, that’s what this issue is supposedly about. As the battle goes on, it gets…weird. People die, others start seeming self-aware, and Cave becomes aware that this isn’t how it happened.

And that’s when this issue takes a turn for the distinctly surreal, turning into a dark night of Cave Carson’s soul, as it’s revealed he’s deep in the clutches of his own mind and forced to face his own demons. Oeming, whose are is usually crisp and clean, lets loose and turns Cave’s world into a surreal hellscape with some massively disturbing visuals as all of Cave’s worst fears are brought to light. Is Superman even really in this title? It’s not clear, but this issue has a segment towards the end that features a vision of Superman that is written better than many people manage with the real thing. This is clearly a DC book written by people with a great love for DC, even if it is a bit…sideways. And then, Cave wakes up, into a world that’s far more disturbing than the one he left. It looks like Rivera and Oeming are blowing the comic’s world wide open for next arc. All the Young Animal books have interesting worlds to explore, but this is the only one that feels fully formed and ready for years of story already. Bring it on.

Superman in Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #7
Cave and the gang help out Superman in Cave Carson #7, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Yes, this comic fooled me too as I thought it was a guest-starring issue, a break from the main plot. That was fine because this Superman is wonderful, especially Oeming’s beautiful renditions of him. But, then, the twist. And, hey, how many times have we seen a “dark night of the soul” for a main character? If you’ve been reading comics for a while, the answer is “a lot.” But this one…is incredible, partly for the amazing visuals and partly because you care so much about Cave and his friends. Seeing them demolished in this fantasy world hurts.

Unfortunately, waking up into reality only makes things bleaker for Cave and crew but one hopes after his emotional journey that he’s more than able to handle it. With help from his friends.

This is a must read book.

Deathstroke #17 – Priest, Writer; Joe Bennett, Penciller; Joe Prado, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Slade Is Unredeemable

Ray: In case everyone forgot, Slade Wilson is actually a complete rat-bastard and most definitely still a villain. This issue makes that crystal clear as his oddly sweet friendship with Tanya Spears comes to a CRASHING halt. Still blind, he and Tanya are sharing an apartment while she vaguely tries to reform him, and this leads to an amusing segment when her former Teen Titan friend Beast Boy shows up to try to get her on the new TT team – and recognizes Deathstroke in the next room. Tanya is horrified to find out that the man she thought was a vaguely amoral anti-hero is actually a notorious supervillain, and they have a confrontation that ends with her trying to take him to the police and him snapping his own dog’s neck in an attempt to intimidate her. This leads to a wild chase as Slade tries to outrun an enraged size-changing teenager bent on justice.

Meanwhile, Rose confronts her Hmong “Family” and confirms that they are in fact impostors hired by Slade. I did like that they weren’t professionals – they’re a Hmong family pulled from squalor for this purpose, and they have come to genuinely care for Rose. It doesn’t stop her from leaving, though, as she calls Wintergreen for a heart-to-heart. I like Wintergreen’s boundless optimism about Slade’s actual intentions, but he probably gives his old friend way too much credit. Meanwhile, the most intense segment of the issue has got to be Jericho’s confrontation with his fiancee as the truth about both their top-secret affairs is let out into the open – and the last page hints that this will definitely not end well for Etienne. Next issue is the finale, before The Lazarus Contract and then the title’s shift to monthly. As it hits the last act of its spectacular first year, it remains arguably DC’s best book.

Deathstroke #17, Power Girl
That moment when you realize Deathstroke is in your apartment. Poor Tanya. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: This book has never forgotten that Slade is a villain and to be reviled, rather than admired. Priest has made it clear what kind of destruction Slade leaves in his wake, among lovers, children and those who might be his friends. It’s not that Joe and Rose have inherited being evil from Slade but rather than his and Adeline’s choices in parenting have warped them.

What Slade does with Tanya by killing her dog is a perfect example of that. If pressed, Slade will say he killed the dog to teach Tanya a lesson in evil, and that he did her a favor, because now she’ll be more careful and have the skills to survive. This, of course, is only a rationalization because Slade is warped, with no idea what to do with affection or caring. Another example: Rose and her “family.” Slade did do something right to bring the family to America for a fresh start and it’s true that Rose’s mother would have thought of them as family–which means he didn’t need the deception at all. Rose would have accepted the truth up front. But, of course, no.

This whole book has been a brilliant portrayal of an evil man and how he makes the choices that keep him a villain, while never once endorsing his actions. (Something that a lesser writer surely would have done.) Another example: sleeping with Etienne. Again, Slade would see this as doing Joe a favor because it shows how evil his fiancee is. But, naturally, he combined personal corruption with what was “best” for his son.

And now…have Joe and Rose been ruined by these kinds of mind games? We’ll see.

And, yeah, this is DC’s most complex and fascinating book on the stands.

All-Star Batman #9 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Jock, Francisco Francavilla, Artists; Lee Loughridge, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Brilliant Ending

Ray: This elaborate world tour of Batman villains comes to a suitably epic close as the mastermind is revealed, and one thing is clear when it comes to All-Star Batman – Snyder’s villains are his own, and he is allowed to fully unleash his wild imagination on each one of them. Sometimes this doesn’t work so well, as we saw with Riddler, but this time it does, in spades. The eco-terrorist destroying the world with a quickly growing “death spot” is none other than Ra’s Al Ghul, arguably Batman’s most powerful and furthest-reaching villains. While he’s usually portrayed as this ostentatious Asian warlord, here he’s reinvented as a cold-blooded master tactician, who feels more at home in a Bond movie than a Batman comic. With the world – not to mention Duke’s life – at stake, the opening segment of this issue is an elaborate chase segment with brilliant art by Jock. Snyder makes great use of Batman’s supporting cast as well, especially Alfred and Selina.

Then it comes down to the final showdown between Bruce and Ra’s, atop the Washington Monument as the two brilliant minds square off. While the showdown is great, I must say, this issue is a bit hard to square with the recent Detective Comics storyline. That Ra’s is a brilliant, pragmatic rogue, capable of working with his enemies for the greater good. This Ra’s is a madman, a monster on every level who would love to see the world burn. The twist ending delivers, calling back to the three previous issues of this arc incredibly smoothly and delivering a thrilling conclusion. Francavilla’s backup focusing on Duke concludes this month as well before this title slides back to being a $3.99 book. Duke faces off with Darryl, and some interesting things are hinted at about Duke’s true origins. Is he not fully human? And how do the odd changes he undergoes at the end of the issue factor into the upcoming Metal event? More questions than answers, but I can’t wait to follow Snyder to where he goes next.

Corrina: I’ve been hard on this series. I like Batman when he’s more grounded as Gotham’s Guardian whereas this series has made him into an unstoppable force of nature and tossed impossible odds against his survival. Rather than seeing that as a truimph, I shook my head because winning against these odds should be over his head.

And yet, this ending ties all the threads of this arc together perfectly, with a fake-out that is pure Batman and relies on his intelligence, not brute force, which is why I love it so much. Ray had issues with Ra’s but I suspect this Ra’s is just another face of the one in Detective Comics right now: willing to do whatever he deems needed to mold the world in his own image.

As for Duke’s back-up story, I’m puzzled. The art is brilliant, and I’m thrilled that Duke’s became his own person, but the hints that he’s somehow supernatural somehow take away his down-to-Earth attitude about being a superhero. I know it’s likely better for Batman’s partners to have super-powers because then they’ll be safer. But this twist with Duke was unwelcome for me. We’ll see what happens next.

Green Lanterns #21 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Robson Rocha, Penciller; Daniel Henriques, Joe Prado, Inkers; Alex Sollazzo, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Best Villain Yet

Ray: A strong finish to the current arc that firmly establishes Doctor Polaris as one of the Green Lanterns’ most compelling villains. When the issue picks up, Doctor Emerson has kidnapped his brother Seth, dying of cancer, out of the hospital where he was being kept alive. This, naturally, causes Seth’s condition to take a turn for the worst just as Emerson attempts an experimental procedure to cure his cancer with magnetic power. The scenes where the Lanterns try to minimize Polaris’ chaos are split with effective, touching segments where we see the two brothers alone in the mindscape – with Polaris lurking around the background, always ready to emerge and manipulate Neal for his own purposes. With Seth slipping away, Simon desperately attempts to heal him in the same way he healed his brother-in-law, but he’s too exhausted and loses his link, as Seth slips into oblivion in a very strong mindscape scene.

To say Neal doesn’t take it well would be an understatement, and this issue very quickly shifts from low-key to explosive action as the villain attempts to crash the JL watchtower onto the city below. Seems like the Watchtower has this happen every few weeks – maybe the JL should invest in better security and less metal on their base? But this allows Simon and Jessica to shine as they work together to maximize their willpower and push it off-course. The title really excels with the voices of the two characters, as even amid all the chaos, they never lose sight of what drives them. The ending has Simon and Jessica’s time on Earth being rudely interrupted as they’re summoned by their rings and transported to Mogo for what is likely orientation and training in the Corps. Cannot wait.

Green Lanterns #21, Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz and Doctor Polaris
Simon and Jess try to save a life. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: I suspect that the JL should invest in some carbon fiber-type materials? Or perhaps whatever Garth/Aqualad used to build the new Titans Towers? Because, yeah, it does become imperiled too often. One would think that Polaris might grab a different satellite, one without the means to defend itself? But this allows Cyborg to guest-star and that’s nice, especially as I realized that Simon, Jess and Vic are all people of color. It’s a footnote in the story but I feel as if that’s something to be noticed and praised, especially given one Marvel executive’s recent comments about how “diversity doesn’t sell.”

Polaris is the best villain that has appeared in this title and that’s because he’s so close to be a hero but stops himself before he can ever trust anyone. Is Polaris/Neal a split personality created by the magentic power or is it simply Neal’s arguing against his worst self? If it’s the latter, he definitely loses.

I’m less than thrilled about the Lanterns being summoned against their will to Mogo. The Lantern Corps tends to take a heavy-hand with recruits, which is part of why I usually dislike GL stories, plus I liked keeping Simon and Jess Earthbound, as it made their adventures distinctive. But if it makes new readers pick up the book, then it’s all good. This book deserves more readers.

Batwoman #2 – Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Writers; Steve Epting, Artist; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Fine Story, Brilliant Art

Ray: Kate Kane’s past comes back to haunt her as Steve Epting settles in to do what he does best – high-octane action starring badass women. Ed Brubaker isn’t at the helm of this title, but you can definitely see the DNA of his work in this book – the multiple time periods and colorful assassins definitely remind me of Velvet. What we see of Kate’s time on the island of Coryana as the lover of the mysterious Safiyah is idyllic. Safiyah, the leader of a band of outlaws that she has tamed into a force of good, is an intriguing new character, but in the present day she’s a ghost, completely missing as the island she once ruled falls to pieces. Kate, while a lot more methodical than some of Batman’s partners, is no less frustrating to her partners, as her interaction with Julia – one of my favorite characters in this book – makes clear.

In the present day, the action comes fast and furious, as Kate’s return to Coryana and her attempt to save the life of her old friend Rafael is interrupted by a ruthless assassin who Kate at first assumes is Safiyah. However, it’s actually Tahani, a younger cohort of Safiyah’s who feels especially betrayed by what’s happened to the island. It seems like when Kate left the island, things deteriorated rapidly from there. Safiyah’s empire fell, and the island’s resources fell prey to a ruthless multinational corporation that makes their money selling WMDs to both sides of global conflicts. Called the Kali Corporation, they’re a bit too 9th Circle to really stand out, but between fantastic Epting art and some strong expansion on Kate’s backstory, this book is definitely worth reading.

Corrina: Two issues in and it’s clear this is a stylish international noir thriller, a change of pace for Bennett, who has been doing more playful work in DC: Bombshells. Not that I’m complaining, especially since Epting’s art is perfectly suited to this genre. The shadows in several panels are perfect and the fight scenes shown are brutal and effective.

However, sometimes I would like the flashbacks to be better integrated into the whole story. What happens in the past is clear, somewhat, but I’m only catching implications of Kate being foolhardly and courting death before being rescued by Safiyah, and I wish we could see more of how much Kate valued her intervention. Perhaps that will happen over the next few issues, as I hope that our villains who are international arms dealers become more distinct as well.

GRADE B TALES
Superman #21 – Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Patrick Gleason, Penciller; Mick Gray, Joe Prado, Ray McCarthy, Inkers; John Kalisz, Hi-Fi, Colorists

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Oh, Look! A Reporter In the Story. Still Not Lois.

Ray: Okay, this issue opens with Damian and Jon having a sleepover. I’m unreasonably happy about this, especially given that Damian is seemingly very much NOT enjoying his unnaturally cheerful new roommate. The only problem is, Batman is missing after a very bizarre cliffhanger last issue. The family and their guest get another visit from their neighbors, with Kathy and her grandpa Branden delivering more fresh milk – an action that seems distinctly less friendly than it did last month. I don’t know what Branden does to Krypto, but it can’t be good. However, then comes a cameo of a mysterious mustached smoking villain spying on Jon with a giant squid-monster of some sort in the picture…and my mind is suitably blown? Comedian? It’s out of nowhere, but immediately pulls my attention away from the main story towards a potential huge new twist.

Sure enough, that squid is soon unleashed on Hamilton. Not only does it destroy the Hamilton County Fair, but it soon spits out a mysterious black ink that proceeds to turn into ink-men that begin attacking the three heroes. The boys fend them off while Superman traps the monster squid, but when one of the squid’s tentacles injures a beloved local woman, Jon loses his temper and there’s barbecued squid in Hamilton. Jon’s anger issues and power explosions are a recurring issue in this book, and this use is more organic and less gross than him barbecuing his mom’s pet cat early on in this book. Soon enough, after Jon’s been benched, he and Damian get into another fight, which is interrupted by Kathy – who starts displaying some creepy powers of her own. And just like that, the kind and happy Hamilton setting becomes a lot creepier. This book is the king of mood whiplash, but it’s really hitting a good stride right now.

Corrina: From last week’s issue of Action, we know this resolves in the Kents leaving the farm for the big city. That takes some of the suspense of the mystery away. Besides, I’m still steaming about the misuse of Lois as a Martha Kent-like stand-in from last week. I thought perhaps that would improve this week as the mystery deepens but….nooooo!

The men go off to find out what’s happened to Batman but get distracted by the giant octopus. Meanwhile, there is a reporter doing her job at the fair but…it’s not Lois because I guess she’s home doing the dishes or something. Or maybe they didn’t want to put Lois in peril. You know, there are more things to do with Lois than keep her off the page or put her in peril. Just saying. I like this reporter–it’d be nice if we’d seen more of her as Lois’s co-worker over the past 20 issues rather than introducing her here. But to do that, this title would have to acknowledge that Lois has a life outside being a wife and mother.

Yeah, still bitter. I still enjoyed the banter between Damian and Jon, however, and Superman’s speech to Jon about choosing the kind of hero he wants to be.

Superwoman #9 – K. Perkins, Writer; Stephen Segovia, Penciller; Art Thibert, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Frustrating

Corrina: Where Do We Go From Here?

Ray: Almost a year into Rebirth, this is the first title to change writers (as we now know, Wonder Woman will be the second once it hits #25). K.Perkins, who has mostly written short stories in anthologies for DC until this point, does a capable job with her first ongoing series, easily jumping in on the series’ ongoing plotlines and the characters’ personalities. The problem is, this has always been a series in flux – starting as a Lois Lane vehicle, then becoming a joint Lois-Lana vehicle, and then killing off Lois and becoming a solo Lana title. Now, as we know, the dead Lois was just a facet of the real Lois, who will be rejoining this title (although that big reunion is not shown this issue, unfortunately). However, as this issue opens, Lana is healed of the effect of her powers that was killing her – but the Kryptonian matrix removes her powers in the process.

So that leaves the question – what is this title now? We went from two Superwomen to zero with this issue, and the story is split between Lana’s attempts to adjust to being human again, and Atomic Skull and Maggie Sawyer hunting down criminals in Metropolis. The latter segment has some good scenes and the villain they hunt down is creepy, but it feels like a distraction from the story. As for Lana, the title continues to have a hard time dealing with a depressed character without making her massively unlikable. Her lashing out at John seems like a weak attempt to cause drama, but I did like Superman’s interaction with his old childhood friend. It seems he’s trying to convince her she can still be Superman, but the question is how. He doesn’t seem like the type who would want a non-powered friend to Batman it. The title is definitely missing Phil Jiminez’ specialized super-dense style, but it’s a perfectly acceptable comic on its own. I’m just not sure how much the title has in the tank without its top creator.

Corrina: I guess I’d thought in the back of my mind that when DC “fixed” or solved the issue of the two Supermen, this title would end. That would be a shame because while I originally wanted it to star Lois (and I still want a book for her), it turned into a Superman Family book, with Lana, John Henry Irons, Natasha Irons, Traci Thirteen and even Maggie Sawyer representing the MPD.

So, glad to see this title continuing but also confused as to the concept going forward. Yes, of course, Superman would point out that everyone can be heroes in their own way, without superpowers. But I’m confused as to what Clark is asking Lana to do now that her powers are gone. Obviously, she’s not Batman and lacks the training or inclination to be a non-powered hero. I would have expected Clark to go with “small acts of kindness” are what change the world, influencing what you can to the best of your abilities. Instead, this book hints that Lana can still put on the costume, which makes little plot sense because the book hasn’t established Lana’s skills in other areas. And, no, I have no problem with Lana being at loose ends and unhappy, even hostile, to John Henry. She’s been through an ordeal, lost her best friend, wait he’s back, and lost her powers. I’m glad to see her processing.

Equally glad to see Maggie Sawyer as a part of this book and, yes, Atomic Skull does amuse me, for some reason.

Super-Sons #3 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Jorge Jiminez, Artist; Alejandro Sanchez, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Not As Much Fun As It Could Be

Ray: After two very promising issues to kick off this series, this one felt like more than a bit of a letdown. While the characterization is still strong – although Damian and Jon’s animosity is starting to feel a little less like a friendly rivalry and more like a genuine hatred – the bigger problem is the type of threat they’re going up again. The central villain is interesting. In brief flashbacks, we see the story of the “Super-Duffys”, a family that gained superpowers in the Amazo Virus. Unfortunately, one of their sons was a sadistic little punk, and wound up taking his family hostage and eventually wiping them out except for his younger sister, who escaped. He’s now evolved into a sentient computer virus and is hopping from robot body to robot body, stalking his sister and her protectors.

There’s a lot of similarities between this week’s issue of Superman and this book – same writer (or co-writer), Jon and Damian teaming up, and a mysterious little girl with creepy powers. The difference is, the events in Superman feel like they’ll actually have a long-term impact on Jon. This issue, which mainly consists of Jon and Damian bickering and fighting robots, feels sort of full of filler. I wonder if this is a consequence of it being a team-up book when the characters are “property” of other books, Superman and Teen Titans respectively. It’s a problem that Justice League and Trinity face regularly – they can’t tell stories with major events because those are supposed to unfold in the primary book. It’s an amusing little diversion with fun leads, but this issue felt sort of inconsequential.

Super-Sons #3
Sadly, things don’t end well for the Super-Duffys…image via DC Comics

Corrina: So the gory slaying of the entire family in a previous was not as brutal as it seems. They’re clones formed by the now-mad Duffy brother? That’s a cool twist except it is buried under too much arguing between Damian and Jon. Yes, I love their banter, but I’d also like to see more of how they can work together to complement each other. I love their tackling the robots/clones at the end and hope for more of that.

As for having a long-term impact on Jon, well, unless DC starts arging its heroes again, Jon and Damian will stay the same age for at least a decade, and that means slooowww personal growth.

Nightwing #19 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Minkyu Jung, Artists; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Shawn & Dick Team-Up

Ray: This newest arc has given Nightwing an intriguing horror vibe, as the threat of Professor Pyg is neutralized for now – but the true villain is revealed, in the form of the sadistic, insane cult leader Simon Hurt – better known as the man who broke Batman down psychologically and led to the events of Batman RIP. While Nightwing has rescued Shawn, Damian has now been taken by Hurt, in an attempt to lure Dick to his desert lair. This leads to a great segment set in the Sahara, as Dick and Shawn travel in disguise to get to Hurt’s secret temple. The dynamic between the two of them is great, as both get the chance to be protective of the other. Dick is worried about Shawn’s possible pregnancy (which has not been confirmed either way), while she has the powers and Dick is still hobbled from an injury last issue.

I wasn’t thrilled with yet another fake-out about Shawn being in danger, but this one was thankfully resolved very quickly (and I didn’t realize quite how powerful Shawn’s powers were) and it leads to an intense battle with Deathwing. This creepy doll-o-tron has a great Simon Dark vibe, but he’s actually given a fairly sympathetic portrayal. He was something else before he was made into a monster, and Shawn can still see that. Where the issue is at its weakest is in the cliffhanger. Essentially, while the Shawn cliffhanger before this arc started was cheap, it definitely created some real suspense. This one…does not, because we know the character is alive. That being said, I was highly entertained by the team-up this issue, and I’m starting to think Shawn could be a long-term mainstay in this title.

Corrina: I’m a sucker for super-couples tackling a bad guy together and this issue worked for me perfectly. I only wish we would have gotten to this place faster and without the damsel in distress storyline that preceded it. I’m also still leery of the pregnancy storyline but I’m glad to have Shawn be proactive and insist on going along to rescue Damian. She’s involved now and she should have a chance to strike back and fight her tormentors.

Deathwing continues to be fascinating, much more than a simple warped double of Nightwing, but a pathetic and sad creature in his own right. I remain worried about his seeming turn to the good, however, far more worried for Shawn than for Damian, who is clearly not dead.

Overall, I’m enjoying this comic more than I did the Grayson comic. Brilliant as that could be, superheroing suits Dick better than spying.

Star Trek/Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds #5 – Mike Johnson, Writer; Angel Hernandez, Artist; Mark Roberts, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: As this blockbuster-style crossover reaches its final act, the various elements of both good and evil converge on the planet Oa for a thoroughly satisfying showdown. After a brief debate, the Starfleet crew agrees to take the fight to Sinestro. The Manhunters still being loyal to Starfleet in this world is a clever touch, and adds a much-needed heavy weapon to their roster. Meanwhile, Khan has taken his war to the Klingon empire, brutally making his way through their ruling class as he declares himself their new emperor. Kind of wish Larfleeze had more to do in this series than get beaten up, though. The big action takes place on Oa, as Sinestro – bolstered by the power of Parallax – unleashes his full fury on the Guardians in a brilliant segment that shows him more powerful and deadly than ever before.

Starfleet tries to intercept, but the ship comes under attack by the Klingon armada led by Khan. They’re quickly shot out of the sky, and Kirk finds himself at Khan’s mercy – just in time for the Guardians’ of this world to put their final touch on the prototype for the Green Lantern ring. To no one’s surprise, it picks Kirk as its first bearer, and the playing field is once again even. A predictable choice, maybe, but a wholly fitting one. Hal and Kirk are two sides of the same coin, which is why their banter in these two miniseries has been so much fun. As they team up to take on Sinestro and Khan next month, this miniseries seems like it’s headed for a satisfying conclusion.

SPLIT DECISION, PART 2

Green Arrow #21 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Juan Ferreyra, Artist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Where’s the Emotional Impact?

Ray: This series has been on and off since the start. Sometimes it completely misses the mark, like in the recent Roy Harper story which somehow made Ollie an even worse person than he was in the original story. But when it works, when it’s firing on all cylinders, it’s something genuinely spectacular. That’s the case with this issue, as Juan Ferreyra returns to the title for an issue that packs incredible, creepy visuals and countless reveals into 20 jam-packed pages. The issue is divided in half, every page, with the top half following Oliver Queen in the cemetery where his father is buried, and the bottom half following the chaos in Seattle in his absence. The top half gives some great insight into Robert Queen, an enigmatic figure whose parenting bordered on abusive – and, as this issue revealed, may have had ties to the 9th Circle.

It’s the bottom half, though, that delivers on all fronts, as a quintet of villains assembles to bring Seattle to its knees, destroy everything Oliver Queen represents, and take control of the city now that Green Arrow is thoroughly discredited. Cheshire, the mistress of poison, wages a silent war and successfully poisons exactly the right people to cause a horrific plane crash. The manipulative Eddie Fyers, last scene in the train storyline, sabotages Seattle’s finest hotels and infests them with vicious insects. That’s nothing, though, compared to Daniel Brickwell, who uses his immense strength to bring a populated apartment building down in flames. Meanwhile, Mayor Domini ruthlessly manipulates and blackmails his rivals into supporting his efforts to sell Seattle to the highest bidder, while Cyrus Broderick oversees it all. It’s a fantastic start to what promises to be a brutally intense new arc. Two weeks can’t get here soon enough.

Corrina: Over the past year, Ollie started a romance, lost his money, was thought dead, was marooned on an island with Canary, had more adventures on an underground superspeed train and even overcame possibly turning into a wolf.

I keep hoping to see these adventures emotionally impact Ollie more. Yes, he built a treehouse, which is nice, and yes, the romance is continuinng with Canary but Oliver still seems opaque to me, someone I don’t know. And then when I get to know him, as in the adventures with Arsenal, he turns out to be a jerk.

All this means that while these villain moves in this issue that Ray loves are a great setup, they fall flat for me because I feel nothing. Oh, look, another big crisis for a character I don’t care much about to solve, with a huge body count that makes me want to turn away from the story rather than embrace it. So as much as this particular issue is well-done, especially the art, the fact that it’s emotionally unconnected to the rest of the series messes it up for me. (Much the same way I’ve lost any interest in Arrow the television show.

Trinity #8 – Cullen Bunn, Writer; Emanuela Lupacchino, Penciller; Ray McCarthy, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Interesting But Setup

Ray: The latest issue dealing with the fallout from Superman Reborn, this one raises more questions than it answers. The question of Superman’s relationship with the rest of the Trinity post-Reborn is one that gets rather…confusing. Namely, did he date Wonder Woman, or has that been blessedly written out of continuity now that New 52 Superman seemingly never existed? If it’s still in continuity, it hasn’t been mentioned, which makes me happy. However, what is clear is that Superman is haunted by memories of another Superman, having the same nightmare every night. He and this other Superman are locked in battle, each determined to defeat the other and not let their life be stolen by an impostor. The battle spills out into the streets, nearly destroying Metropolis in the process. The Trinity joins the fray to separate them, but the two Supermen turn on their friends.

None of this ever happened, of course. It’s all an allegory for Clark’s fracturing mental state, and the Trinity are the first people he’s brought in on it besides his closest family. Clark lays out the bones of the conspiracy he’s beginning to unravel – namely, that someone is out there that’s far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced, and he may be manipulating their past as they speak. The best visual of the issue comes in the form of a two-page spread that reveals the finale of Superman’s dream – untold Supermen, Batmen, and Wonder Women from all different timelines, most of whom will be very familiar to long-time fans of the DCU. By the end, the Trinity has formed a pact to keep this secret, even from the JLA, as they unravel the mystery piece by piece. It doesn’t have the visual flair of Manapul’s run, natch, but Cullen Bunn is telling a pretty compelling Trinity story here.

Corrina: Yes, it’s one of the talkiest issues that I’ve read in a long time, with all sequences clearly party of Superman’s fractured mental state and not actually happening in his world. But aside from that, I love that Clark did what he should do: talk to his two closest and most trusted superhero friends to sort this out. (And I’m hoping that cursed Superman/Wonder Woman relationship is now a figment of a writer’s imagination….)

This all fits into the big Rebirth/the Button story, of course. It’s not essential but it is good issue if you like the characters.

The Wild Storm #3 – Warren Ellis, Writer; Jon Davis-Hunt, Artist; Steve Buccellato, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Did Not Finish

Ray: Part straight-forward sci-fi conspiracy theory, part action movie in comic form, part gonzo sci-fi Ellis adventure, The Wild Storm is not easy to pin down. It’s also not easy to fully understand. Enjoyable, yes, but I’m not sure it comes through as a cohesive whole. The issue opens with Angela Spica going about her daily life, trying to stay under the radar. This segment contains all sorts of strange references to the pop culture of this world, which includes a ton of DC references. This segment feels the most Ellis-like, with lots of surreal bits. There’s also an engaging bit that shows the Byzantine system she had to go through to get security clearance, which made me laugh. However, the way the story jumps around makes it a bit hard to follow, and it’s only the halfway point or so when the actual main plot for this issue begins.

And once it does, hoo boy. Angela is waiting in her living room, fully anticipating being assassinated by the evil IO corporation, she’s instead surprised by the arrival of Grifter, Voodoo, and Void. The three WildCATS members attempt to brief her on who they are, but it’s not long before IO forces burst into the room. This then launches the bloodiest, fastest-paced action segment of the series, with a mix of high-tech, Matrix-esque bullet time, and some gorgeous fight scenes. This Grifter, in particular, is the pre-eminent badass he should be, although his partners don’t get half as much to do. It’s all gorgeous, of course, but three episodes in and I still feel like I know little to nothing about what this world actually is. That’s often the case with Ellis, dazzling you with so many elements you don’t even notice that the actual comic is missing something. So I’m intrigued, but so far I’m not fully sold.

Corrina: Definitely not easy to understand if you’re only vaguely familiar with Ellis’s Wildstorm universe like me and, so far, nothing here has dragged me into the story so I’m tapping out.

Perhaps Wildstorm fans will like this when it’s collected in a trade.

Justice League #19 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Matt Ryan, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 6.5/10

Corrina: Story Seems To Be Stalling

Ray: I think this is the conclusion of the Timeless storyline, although the semi-abrupt ending and the cliffhanger make it unclear. Either way, this issue continues the pattern that’s been plaguing Justice League since the beginning of the run – great-looking action and huge-scale threats, but virtually no stand-out moments for the characters and a constant barrage of dangerous but generic villains. When we last left off, the time-keeper Molly was revealed as the main villain of the arc, working against Tempus to eradicate the Justice League and all supernatural beings. While the rest of the Justice League is tossed across time, working to destroy Tempus’s time pillars to keep him from packing Earth off to the end of space, Superman, Batman, and Jane Luthor face off against Molly.

Tempus, who is basically a more sociopathic version of Zordon, gets hacked at one point by Vincent, in the issue’s most amusing segment. However, he mainly floats in the air and yells at people to stop wrecking his stuff. Molly, meanwhile, is turned into a cartoonish villain who wants genocide of superheroes for some vague reason, and is perfectly willing to threaten to wipe a child out of existence for her own purposes. Where the issue succeeds is when we briefly see genuine camaraderie between the Justice League, most noticeable with Batman and Superman, and Simon and Jessica. Where it’s at its weakest is when the characters are spouting techno-jargon at each other as they smash into technology. This book may have the bigger-name team, but Justice League of America is the book telling the JL stories I want to read right now.

Corrina: One thing for certain: Hitch writes the most awesome splash pages and his artists are doing an amazing job making them come to life. As a writer, he thinks big as well, like with his Rao storyline that spanned space-time, and with this storyline that’s doing the same. The only problem is that it’s quite similar to the Rebirth story going on, with Superman being seen as an anomaly who should be erased, and a lot of jumps to past/present/future/alternate worlds. Sometimes it all hangs together, sometimes not.

It’s fun to read but the pacing is slow.

Aquaman #21 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Scot Eaton, Penciller; Wayne Faucher, Inker; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 6.5/10

Corrina: Half-Good, Half-Bad

Ray: This is a book with some interesting elements at play, but unfortunately, the majority of it is bogged down with a supporting cast that really just doesn’t carry its weight. Last issue set up Aquaman and Mera descending into a mysterious, sentient body of water that appears to be the source of the supernatural Dead Water. The water induces great fear in any person near it, and that causes Dead Water to be able to sneak into their bodies and possess them. However, when Aquaman touches it, he winds up getting communications from it, telling him its name – Tethys – and letting him into this mysterious world filled with surreal alien beings. These segments are actually very strong, but they should be the main feature. Instead, they’re just a few pages that leave you wanting more.

The majority of the issue takes place on the research vessel with the Aquamarines and Scavenger. While the team is willing to give Aquaman a chance to research the mysterious realm, Scavenger is in a panic and wants to set off a tactical nuke and seal off Dead Water – as well as Aquaman and Mera. When the commander of the Aquamarines denies this, Scavenger reveals he’s been faking his injuries and sneaks off to do it on his own. Aside from some catching up with Tula in Atlantis, where it’s clear Atlantean politics are still as fraught as ever, the majority of the issue is building up to a twist ending that anyone can see coming a mile away. The main problem with this series is pacing, and not knowing where its strengths lie.

Corrina: Anything with Aquaman and Mera interacting this issue is gold. Anything else is boring same old/same old. And I have trouble believing that the government would let any of the Aquamarines carry around a portable nuke in a suitcase. C’mon. They might sit offshore with a nuclear sub ready to fire and destroy the whole shebag but give a suitcase nuke to a group where Aquaman and Mera are the strongest members and could take it away from them? I don’t buy it.

I love the sequence on the other side of the gateway and Eaton makes it look exotic and fascinating, while the colorist does a terrific job of making the colors pop off the page.

This book remains a frustrating mix of the excellent and mediocre.

Harley Quinn #18 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Paul Dini, Writers; John Timms, Joseph Michael Linsner, Artists; Bret Blevins, Penciller; J. Bone, Inker; Alex Sinclair, Jeremiah Skipper, Colorists

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Less Red Tool, More Harley

Ray: This series continues to be a mix of elements that work and elements that really don’t, although I enjoyed this issue a bit more than the previous one. Harley gets more to do this issue, and more to say as well. The issue opens with more details of the young woman who is being sent back in time to fight notorious war criminal Harley Quinn. This subplot has gorgeous art by Joseph Michael Linsner, and I’m looking forward to seeing it pay off. However, it feels like it’s been building for a long time without any payoff in sight. The main story is more occupied with the current cannibalism plotline, as Harley’s been captured by the roving band of thugs targeting the homeless. I did enjoy the brutal fight scene in close quarters as she gets the drop on her captors, but the following scene has a gruesome, humorless vibe that didn’t really work.

The bigger problem with this plotline is that it gives Red Tool way too much to do. The character is a thinly disguised Deadpool knock-off with an annoying gimmick, and he’s never really been more than an ineffectual stalker of Harley’s. Making him one of her main allies drags the book down. I do, however, enjoy just how cartoonishly evil the mayor is becoming. It’s a good fit for a book like this. I was definitely partial to the backup, which brings in Paul Dini on classic Harley. This issue focuses on what passes for date night with Harley and Joker – robbing a department store. While Joker here is still an uncaring, vaguely abusive jerk, he’s not the complete monster he is in the DCU, so it’s possible to enjoy the dynamic a lot more. Still kind of wish Dini would follow this up with a Harley + Ivy story! Their team-ups were more fun than Joker ever was.

Corrina: I’ve said it before: Deadpool is already a parody of superheroes so having a parody of a parody…doesn’t work at all, though now maybe whoever is writing Deadpool will introduce a parody of Harley Quinn called Marley Zinn who is stalking Wade and is vaguely attractive to him. (Though I’m not sure that would work any better…..)

But, anyway, yes, because they’ve evil cannibals, it’s quite satisfying for Harley to go to town on this group, and I might complain the mayor is too evil to be a mayor of New York City except I look at current politics and just think “okay, roll with that.”

Dini’s stories are always welcome but I’m with Ray: Harley and Ivy are the way to go.

Injustice: Ground Zero #10 – Christopher Sebela, Writer; Jheremy Raapack, Artist; Daniel Sampere, Miguel Mendonca, Pencillers; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Ray: A thoroughly bleak issue that puts a number of long-time Injustice staples out of commission, this story is essentially two plots in one. The first closes out the story of Joker and Harley, with Harley – who has been waffling between loyalty and rebellion for the whole miniseries – finally choosing to side with her new friends and throw off the Joker’s yoke. It was satisfying seeing her beat him and deliver punishment to him with a giant mallet, sure, but the impact is kind of lessened by the fact that his murder of her friend wasn’t enough for this – it took seeing Superman murder Lex Luthor for standing up to him, for some reason. And yeah, that happens. Luthor’s dead, almost off-handedly via a neck-snap.

He’s far from the only death this issue, though, as this story seems to want to drive home that Superman is completely irredeemable on any level. He murders Shazam for standing to him and mentioning Lois’ name while trying to talk him out of mass-murder. Again, this is a child who Superman murders for talking back to him. Until this point, Superman in this world has been an extremist driven by grief. Now he’s a sadistic maniac with absolutely no morals left. It’s essentially a micro version of the distasteful “Secret Empire” story kicking off this week at Marvel, and I have no real interest in this kind of tale.

Odyssey of the Amazons #4 – Kevin Grevioux, Writer; Ryan Benjamin, Artist; Don Ho, Inker; Tony Washington, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Corrina: Did Not Finish

Ray: This is probably the best issue of this series yet, but that’s damning with faint praise. This is still a title without anything in the range of interesting or engaging characters. Last issue saw them seemingly all being killed off, and this issue they wake up, apparently just fine – because they’re in the afterlife, in Valhalla. Now seemingly immortal, they’re inducted into the realm of the Valkyries and take part in violent tournaments in the halls of Asgard. The issue is most notable for getting into the Norse mythology and featuring Thor and Odin – who, for obvious reasons, DC is a bit shy about dealing with.

The problem is, the story has no forward momentum. The characters slowly become more suspicious of Asgard, but nothing is revealed about this new realm they live in. Frigga goes a little into the secret link between the Amazons and the Valkyries, but it feels like an added convoluted twist to a part of Wonder Woman’s origin that seems to be falling out of favor anyway. The segments involving the villains and the captured Amazons are still distasteful, and overall this book is probably the weakest Wonder Woman-related project DC has put out in a long time.

Corrina: This book lacks any character to pull me in or any character motivation that might keep me interested in the story. I’m not sure what the creative team intended but it’s certainly not coming across on the page.

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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.