This week, while both Ray and Corrina like the Superman issue, Corrina goes into full rant mode about the misuse/lack of use of Lois Lane over the last few years. Yes, even though Lois & Clark are back for good.
Batman has his final showdown with Bane and his mortality, Deathstroke shows some compassion (we think?), Simon and Baz continue to be the best Green Lanterns team, Nightwing still isn’t sure if he’s going to be a father, and Oliver Queen officially wins “Worst Mentor Ever” in Green Arrow.
Plus, reviews of Shade the Changing Girl, Cyborg, Justice League, Aquaman, Flintstone, The Fall & Rise of Captain Atom and Harley Quinn, in which the cannibal plot produces a split decision between Ray and Corrina.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ALL OF THIS WEEK’S DC COMICS
Superman #20 – Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Patrick Gleason, Penciller; Mick Gray, Inker; John Kalisz, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Lois Should Be Investigating, Not Baking
Ray: It’s a new status quo and a new mystery for Superman and co. in this arc that picks up directly from the ending of Superman Reborn. Superman and Lois are now back to being exactly who they should be – Clark Kent and Lois Lane, married couple and parents to Jon, and according to the world they always have been. It’s a pretty effective saving throw to make everyone forget about the oddball New 52 Superman and the two-Superman issue, although it does feel a bit too much like a handwave. I’m just glad to see that the Hamilton status quo and supporting cast are sticking around, but it seems like part of that status quo may not be what it seems to be. The first half of the issue seems to be fairly quiet, with Jon and Kathy having fun, and then the Kent family hiding out in the basement to wait out a storm. But then, as night falls, things take a surprising turn.
Things always get better in this book when Batman and Robin show up, so I was pretty excited when it’s time for another World’s Finest meet-up. And I was particularly amused by Lois insisting that they all come inside and have pie instead of skulking around the barn, However, the key mystery here is the nature of Jon’s powers. Batman seems to think his powers should be growing far faster than they are, but they’re not at all. Despite Damian’s amusing theories about why this is the case, Batman believes there’s something environmental affecting him. And that’s where the issue takes a bizarre turn – because Kathy’s kindly grandfather, the local dairy farmer, apparently is keeping a mutant cow of some kind whose milk is actually a terrifying symbiote that attacks Batman when he investigates. ‘Kay. But the bizarre stuff is part of this book’s charm, and this title continues to be one of DC’s strongest.
Corrina: This is ranty, led by my disenchantment over the use of Lois Lane for, well, years.
First, I’m thrilled Lois and Clark are back together. I love that they’re parents as well. It is cool to see them as parents. I’m glad the whole weirdness with Lois outing Clark as Superman is done. All good.
LOIS LANE IS NOT MARTHA KENT.
Yet she’s being written that way far too often.
Note to writers: not all mothers do the motherhood thing the same way. Lois should not be making pies. Lois should be researching the heck out of the best pie makers in the country, ordering them, and having them delivered so she can spend more time investigating, researching and writing.
Also, why do we need Batman as part of this mystery? Lois Lane is the biggest snoop in the entire world. SNOOPING IS LITERALLY HER THING. And here she has information about perhaps Jon not being completely healthy and she sits back and lets Batman do the investigating for something that affects her son while she serves the men dinner?
No, no, no, no, and hell, no.
We don’t need Batman in this story at all. Everything he does, Lois can do just fine. Sure, it’s fun to see Damian and Jon together but that’s another issue too: why does young Jon Kent have more agency and more screen time than Lois? Especially when she’s relegated to SERVING PIE TO THE MENFOLK?
I hoped THAT when the mailbox that had “Lois Lane Kent,” on it was shown, the issue would be about a discussion of the family life with Lois working, and maybe why she decided to use her married name for reporting. (Which is out of character for Lois too.) But, nope, it seems to merely be shown to indicate the world has been reordered due to recent events.
Over in Action Comics, Superman gave a great speech to Jon about why it was important that his mother worked. Yet over in this book, Lois is in Martha Kent-mode most of the time.
This Lois provides DC with a chance to show a working mother, one of the few opportunities in mainstream superhero comics to do so.
But it’s never gonna work if Lois becomes the one who serves the pie while the menfolk talk and investigate.
P.S. If anyone can make pie in that household? It’s Clark Kent.
P.P.S. Yes, I’m a stay at home mom who makes pies and cakes. I like doing that. And moms who do that are great. But that is not Lois Lane.
Harley Quinn #17 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Paul Dini, Writers; John Timms, Artist; Bret Blevins, Penciller; Jay Bone, Marc Deering, Inkers; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Corrina: Harley Vs. Cannibals!
Ray: This issue, at least in the first part, commits the cardinal sin of a Harley Quinn story – it’s just not funny. It’s actually a very dark and serious story that tries to tie in with some real-world plagues, namely the way homeless people are treated by society and opportunistic criminals. I just don’t think a Harley Quinn story is really the best place to explore those issues, as it tries to thread a line between these serious topics and the violent absurdity that characterizes most of Harley’s issues. The issue begins with Harley trying to catch up with some of her homeless friends in Coney Island, only to find out that one of them has been missing for a while. After meeting with the police, she finds out this is something going on across the city, and decides to set up an undercover sting.
Posing as a homeless person, she lures some punks out of hiding to attack her, and promptly delivers them a brutal beating after they attempt to burn her tent. Then she’s grabbed by the authorities – the actual culprit behind the kidnappings – and dragged off to whatever horrible fate they’re taking the homeless to. Meanwhile, the less said about the Harley Sinn segment, the better. That character really should have stayed in the mediocre mini she came from. The good news is, this issue is partially saved by the backup. Paul Dini returns to his most popular character, with a short six-page segment focusing on Harley trying to cheer up the Joker in what feels like the BTAS-verse. I’m not usually a fan at all of Harley/Joker, but the animated version, while still abusive and kind of disturbing, has an almost frantic vibe that makes their interaction a lot more fun. Plus, this Joker is less of a monster. It’s a lot more entertaining than the main segment.
Corrina: I disagree! I was just thinking that cannibals preying on the homeless are perfect villains for Harley Quinn. First, you know she’s going to kill them and you don’t care because, hey, they’re murderous cannibals and they’ve surely earned any comeuppance or grisly (but funny) fate that Harley will impose on them. I also thought Harley’s speech about why people are homeless suited it–I live for those moments when Dr. Quinzel comes to the forefront. Also, we know the Mayor is behind this, ultimately, or his evil aide is, so it fits into the overall plot.
On the back-up, it’s definitely Dini in his trademark style. Lots of people seem to like Harley/Joker stories. I don’t. But, for those who do, it’s good.
Batman #20 – Tom King, Writer; David Finch, Penciller; Danny Miki, Trevor Scott, Inkers; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: I’m Batman
Ray: Twenty issues in, the interesting thing about this run is that it all comes back to Batman’s mortality. The first arc opened with Batman staring down his death as he rode a 747 into the harbor, a scene repeated here. The second arc revealed that Bruce Wayne contemplated suicide in the past. And this arc, Batman is pushed past his limit in a fight with the man who nearly killed him in the past, Bane. And the fact that Batman has faced death so many times, in so many ways, actually turns out to be his strength here. This issue intersplices scenes from the past with Batman’s brutal, no-holds-barred fight with Bane, and shows exactly why Batman is so determined to save Gotham Girl. Although I have to say I’m amused by Batman reflecting on all his proteges who died in the past – yet no one ever seems to consider that Tim may not be dead or stay dead.
This Bane, broken by almost being free of Venom and having it pulled away from him, is darker and more vicious than any we’ve seen before. He’s sadistic, almost needlessly so in his boasts about exactly what he plans to do to everyone Batman loves. The narration of the issue is very driven, at first making the reader think it’s Bruce talking about himself in the second person. However, that’s actually not the case, and the reveal has a nice emotional punch to it. It’s a fairly poetic issue, showing a side of Batman that we rarely see. However, in the end, there’s something about the resolution of the story that feels a bit…abrupt. Batman and Bane pummel each other, while we recap the series, and then Batman delivers a surprise knockout blow out of nowhere and the issue is over. It looks great and has some excellent moments, but I’m ready to move on from Bane. Next issue – the Button!
Corrina: Aside: the juvenile in me is amused by “the Button” being the name of the miniseries. Unfortunate or fun? You decide.
But on the issue, this whole run has been a showcase for Finch and the rest of the art team and this time is no exception. The fight is brutal, with Batman taking enough punishment that he probably should be dead several times over.
And, once again, King uses an unknown narrator effectively, to explore Batman’s psyche as a contrast and compliment to the action on the page. Right about the point that I started to disagree with the narrator’s view of Bruce Wayne, Bruce Wayne himself contradicted it. From the start of King’s run, his version of Batman is “Gotham’s Protector” and more like Denny O’Neil’s version of the Dark Knight as Gotham’s Guardian than any version since the 1970s. I’m glad to see that Batman back.
And I’m gonna handwave all those physical injuries as Batman somehow having a psychic healing power as part of his supernatural manifestation of Gotham’s Guardian, as was hinted at in the end of Scott Snyder’s run on this book.
Deathstroke #16 – Priest, Writer; Larry Hama, Breakdowns; Carlo Pagulayan, Roberto J. Viacava, Pencillers; Jason Paz, Sean Parsons, Inkers; Jeromy Cox, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Does Deathstroke Have a Heart?
Ray: Priest really knows how to play with the audience. That’s what you get when you’ve been telling great stories for twenty years already. And in a twisty comic like this, I know better than to expect for anything to be what it seems. A blind Slade and his guide dog are a compelling enough set-up for this comic, but then things take a surprisingly dark turn – even for this book – when Slade’s nemesis Deadline apparently murders Tanya/Power Girl in cold blood with an experimental laser to get back at Slade. I could feel the internet explode mid-issue from here, and the issue hasn’t even been released yet! But I also knew that not everything is what it appears to be with this book. It pulled the title back into the very stark film noir vibe it had from before Tanya’s first appearance.
We catch up with Jericho’s desperate attempts to save his former lover Dr. Ikon with the help of Dr. Villain, but I was far more interested in the battle of wills between Etienne and Rose this issue, as Etienne drops a bomb on Rose that radically changes the way we’ve viewed the last few issues and makes Slade a serious candidate for the most despicable lead character in the DCU, if it turns out to be true. Slade’s rampage of revenge against Deadline is exactly as brutal as you’d expect it to be after what Deadline pulled, and by the time Tanya appears again, alive and well thanks to her regeneration abilities, Slade has gained the upper hand despite his blindness. This continues to be one of DC’s most entertaining books, and if the teaser is any indication, it’s not slowing down from here.
Corrina: One, I applaud Priest’s decision to “kill” Tanya and yet resolve that “shock ending” inside the same issue. If it had been a cliffhanger, it would have felt manipulative. Instead, it was a plot point inside the issue that’s resolved and resolved in such a manner that it empowered Tanya instead of making her a victim. Tanya has no use for your angst over her fate, people.
The interesting part of their relationship is that Slade is being so stubborn about Tanya needing to be protected. Did he do it out of a sense of loyalty? (We know he has one.) Did he do it because he sees she has something (heroism) that he never will? (Slade would never admit that.) But that’s the best part of this book: Slade is both predictable and unpredictable. Like with Rose. Just when we (and Rose) thought Slade might have some redeeming value, Rose gets the bomb dropped on her.
Which makes Joe’s struggle to save Dr. Ikon all the more poignant. He’s tried so hard to do the right with so little guidance as to what that might be. I wonder what happens when he realizes that he killed Ikon to protect Etienne because he thought she was an innocent and yet she’s…totally not. Oopsie. Which way will Joe jump in response?
Green Lanterns #20 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Eduardo Pansica, Penciller; Julio Ferreira, Inker; Blond, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Great Teamwork
Ray: Starting off with a beautifully tense segment in a crumpled up car hundreds of feet under the water, this issue once again shows how Simon and Jessica’s unique strengths and weaknesses make them the most fascinating team in the DCU. Trapped under the water, Simon’s rage is actually weakening him and making it impossible to escape. However, Jessica’s intimate knowledge of her own fear makes her able to control herself in ways he can’t and full off an escape. The concept of fear factors heavily into this issue, as Neal Emerson’s determination to save his brother from cancer allows his alter-ego Doctor Polaris to control him and make him far more dangerous. The show going on in Polaris’ head, as his various influences duel, is fascinating.
Doctor Polaris is…not a great villain on his own. He’s campy, over-the-top, and essentially a stock 80’s supervillain. But that’s because he’s not his own character, and that’s why he works. He’s Neal Emerson’s twisted vision of what strength looks like, of what he wants to unleash on the world in revenge for being treated so shabbily when he tried to cure cancer. He’s the worst influences in Emerson’s mind, while his brother Seth plays the role of the good angel on his shoulder. There are some interesting parallels between Emerson and Simon, as we learn a bit more about Simon’s criminal past too. In between all of this, it seems like the other Green Lanterns are coming to Earth to deal with the rogue Guardian, so this title’s scope is about to expand. Both GL books are excellent right now, and I’m hoping they both maintain their unique character.
Corrina: The concept of fear factors have weighed heavily in this series since the beginning, which is appropriate for a Lantern comic, where the heroes are supposed to be “without fear.” It’s the reason this run has been so interesting and why placing someone with anxiety issues at the center has worked so well. It’s not about having no fear, it’s about overcoming that fear. While, usually, it’s Simon cheerleading for Jessica as she struggles, it’s a nice change to see that reversed.
Doctor Polaris/Neal is the first villain in this run I’ve bonded with and that’s because his desires are so human and relatable. Who wouldn’t want to save their brother, especially since that brother is the only one who ever believed in him? Doctor Polaris is a character out of Shakespearian tragedy, with his good aspects finally overridden by his own toxic view of himself. Simon is the flip side, the one who won’t let his toxic view of himself take over.
That’s pretty literary for a comic devoted mostly to a superhero fight.
Nightwing #18 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Minkyu Jung, Artists; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Great Villains
Ray: Was Professor Pyg always a former member of SPYRAL? Because that’s an interesting twist to open the issue, and makes the somewhat irksome gimmick criminal more of a personal villain for Dick. I haven’t liked the character since his initial appearance in Batman and Robin, and I still really don’t, but that’s an interesting wrinkle. This issue jumps around quite a bit in time, opening with Dick and Damian breaking into Pyg’s deranged “art studio”, where he rants before beginning his experimentation on Shawn (which fortunately doesn’t happen). Then it flashes back to Dick and Damian dealing with the strange Nightwing and Robin dollotrons. The Nightwing one is evil and has been apprehended, but the Robin is more confused, locked into some idealized version of the Batman and Robin relationship.
As Dick helps Shawn escape, the evil Nightwing tricks his brother into releasing him – and then promptly snaps his neck for betraying him and escapes. Meanwhile, Dick is injured stopping Pyg’s plan for a massive shower of molten lead over the “gallery,” and is finally reunited with Shawn. I was glad to see Shawn get a major role in taking out Pyg here – she’s a costume herself, not a damsel in distress – and even more glad that her kidnapping story is over with a good ending. However, the Dollotron Nightwing is still out there, and he has plans for Damian – that are in collaboration with the actual big bad of this arc, Simon Hurt. I wasn’t a huge fan of this Pyg plotline, but things have taken a major step up now and this book looks to be back to firing on all cylinders.
Corrina: Shawn didn’t so much play a major role in her rescuing, not really, she has one good moment but this has been a damsel in distress story all the way through, unfortunately, as it’s not a favorite type of mine. Glad it all ended well for her, though we are up in the air as to whether she’s pregnant or not. This is nothing against the writing but I have to note that pregnancy or babies in superhero comics never end well. See: Helena Kyle whose father was Sam Bradley and no one remembers because it was a bad storytelling. Babies inevitably get killed, aged-up, written out of existence (Lian, you had a good run) or otherwise made disappear. So it’s hard for me to get invested in the idea of a pregnant Shawn, if that’s where this is going.
Pyg was tolerable, which is a huge improvement over the last time he was used, and the confrontation between Deathwing and fake Robin was touching and sad. Simon Hurt showing up? That I didn’t expect. Excellent.
This comic has so many good things going for it. But those couple of things are holding me back.
Shade the Changing girl #7 – Cecil Castellucci, Writer; Marguerite Sauvage, Dan Parent, Artists; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: The Humanizing of Loma
Ray: Continuing a strong rebound after a few awkward issues, this story is both bizarre and surreal – and yet entirely human, which is where this issue finds its strongest suit. Loma Shade, in Megan’s body, has finally found her groove on Earth, and for the first time feels comfortable enough to share her history with the two friends she’s made in her new body, River and Teacup. Her story, despite taking place on a bizarre multispecies planet, is as classic teenage rebellion as it gets. She was a member of a flying species who was placed with a humanoid foster family on her planet, and they tried to suppress her natural instincts from an early age. This only led her to become more obsessed with getting off the planet and exploring as is her species’ instinct. Meeting with the poet Rac Shade, who had visited Earth, only kicked these urges into overdrive.
On Earth, Loma/Megan’s story is interspliced with her preparing for a major school dance with her friends. These segments are sweet and funny, with just the right veneer of odd over them. The title’s finally found the right balance of human and weird, and I think a lot of people will relate to the thoughts Loma has these issues as she contemplates whether to truly trust her new friends or to start running as is her instinct. Of course, happiness and stability tend to make for boring storytelling, and by the end of the issue a Carrie-esque betrayal of Megan by one of her closest friends leads her on the run again. The backup, focusing on the bizarre atomic-age sitcom Loma was obsessed with, is odd and doesn’t quite land, but the art by Archie’s Dan Parent is great.
Corrina: I had decided this series, for all its quality, just wasn’t for me. The weirdness, at times, became impenetrable. But this issue pulled me back in. It’s part origin story and part Loma realizing that her current situation has not helped her nearly as much as she thought it would. It definitely contained more emotion than the last few issues combined.
DC Comics Bombshells #25 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Aneke, Artist; Wendy Broome, Artist
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: Another strong issue from one of DC’s most intriguing alternate universes, as two of the universe’s less explored corners set off some intriguing new stories. The first story, twenty pages, follows up on the recent annual which introduced a horror-accented version of the Suicide Squad led by a vampiric Barbara Gordon as a former WWI hero. Now with her team of misfits including Killer Croc and Enchantress, Barbara heads into the belly of the beast – Nygma’s underwater battleship, as he drives towards a ruthless sacrifice designed to give him ultimate power. This story finally gives closure to Barbara and Luke Fox/Fuchs’ doomed affair (although I still question Luke Fox, black pilot for the Kaiser). I’m not all that interested in the goings-on involving the Tenebrae, but the overall story is strong.
I was more intrigued by the shorter segment, a flashback focusing on Frankie Charles and two of her students, Qadir and Nadmiah. Bennett may not be the writer on the Batgirl of Burnside title, but her love for that status quo shines through and uses some really deep cuts from that series. As the three young archaeologists explore an ancient tomb, they uncover a massive secret that may just reveal the next big bad of the Bombshells-verse. This is a major game-changer that brings one of the most powerful female villains in DC history into this universe and implies she’s been pulling the strings for a long time. It seems like the third big Bombshells story is about to begin, and I can’t wait.
Green Arrow #20 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Eleonora Carlini, Mirka Andolfo, Artists; Arif Prianto, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Oliver Queen: Worst Mentor Eve
Ray: So, man, Roy and Ollie really do not like each other in this version, huh? The dialogue between them in the opening pages would be the most passive-aggressive thing I’ve ever read, except it’s really not even passive! And this is after they’ve had a chance to talk things out and repair their relationship a bit. But soon enough, that part of the issue is over, and it’s all action, all the time as Ollie, Roy, and Dinah take their battle to the corrupt sheriff and his Wild Dogs that are enforcing Cyrus Broderick’s hold over a dangerous pipeline on Native land. It’s a very timely story, sure, but it’s also extremely on the nose. Much like the similar story in a recent Champions special, it doesn’t have anything new to say, it’s just giving us satisfying targets to watch get punched.
The bigger problem, though, is the flashback that shows Roy’s descent into drug addiction. This shows us a teenage boy strung out and obviously very sick – and then his former mentor and foster dad finds him, berates him for being a disappointment, and abandons him again as Roy weakly begs for help. How are we supposed to see Ollie as redeemable, to say nothing of heroic? That leads Count Vertigo to prey on Roy, and it’s revealed that he wiped Roy’s mind and gave him the peace he needed – but what exactly did he plant in there in the process? The reveals about Roy’s criminal past are interesting, and the truth about the Sheriff’s role in Roy’s history is pretty strong as well. The issue ends stronger than it began, but its version of Roy and Ollie still have a lot more rough edges than they used to, and it turns an already fraught story pretty ugly.
Corrina: I don’t mind the pipeline story although having the same person who murdered Roy’s foster father and ruined Roy’s life be the current villain is obvious and therefore uninteresting. There isn’t a great deal of urgency to that storyline because it is so on-the-nose. So the politics are okay, the execution is just lacking.
On the flashbacks, I’m with Roy. No one should ever yell at Batman for being a lousy mentor again. Ollie is so much worse. So much worse. Oliver is literally a toxic influence for Roy. Why would he ever speak to him again? I thought Rebirth would give us a chance to show a callow Oliver but one who tried but sometimes lacked the tools before he became Green Arrow. Instead, we have actions almost as bad as causing an explosion that killed people, in the worst GA issue of the new 52.
What does Dinah see in this guy, anyway? I’m still waiting on that.
Justice League #18 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Matt Ryan, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Double Cross!
Ray: This book continues to be basically full-on action from minute one, as the powerful time-altering forces that have splintered the JL across time are now targeting their interests on Earth – starting with Lois and Jon, who are surrounded by Tempus’ soldiers. I like that Jon is not at all intimidated and ready to fight everyone. Tempus doesn’t seem to actually have evil intentions, though, trying to compel Superman’s cooperation by promising to take him and his family to the end of time. Meanwhile, Batman is in Infinity Corp, interacting with Lex Luthor’s daughter and the rest of the scientists. We’ve got a lot of chaos, as all of the JLers are suddenly being attacked by Tempus’ soldiers in their timelines. There’s hints of a reveal about Vincent’s link to Tempus, but nothing concrete.
Ultimately, this story as a whole doesn’t quite come together. Pasarin’s art is great and there’s a genuine sense of a huge threat, but none of it really feels like it has any stakes. By the time the identity of the real villain of the story is revealed and the final issue is set up, we’re treated to some great visuals. But I wonder if this lack of consequence is, in fact, more a natural consequence of “big guns” teams like this. The characters all have their own titles, where the big events in their lives will take place. Thus, the best we can hope for out of this book are some dramatic and compelling stories without any real stakes. Sadly, over the course of this book’s major arcs, there haven’t been many compelling foes save the unintentional adversaries of the previous arc.
Corrina: Note: once again, Jon is the active one in the Lois/Jon scenes. Just pointing out the pattern. As you were.
I’m enjoying the overall story and Pasarin’s fight scenes are awesome with all the beings that the JLA must fight through. It comes across as overwhelming, thanks to the art. As to Ray’s point about big actions having no consequences in the characters’ own titles, I view Hitch’s run much like the 1970s JLA runs, where such threats were dealt with frequently and then everything reset. They read as in a separate universe and, since they’re good, I don’t mind.
Aquaman #20 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Philippe Briones, Artist; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Dead Water Horror Plot Continues
Ray: Another tense, compelling issue as the Dead Water story picks up again. Dan Abnett is at his best on this title when he can get weird, and this story allows him to transform Aquaman into a full-on sci-fi/horror comic that reminds me vaguely of the Alien series. When the issue picks up, Dead Water – who was seriously, really dead when the Rebirth story began – is back, and is tearing up a military base and picking off members of the Aquamarines (who, as an aside, I am not at all sorry to see go and I kind of hope he gets them all). There’s some great visuals in this segment as the primordial beast is unleashed, and it’s only due to Mera’s control of water that anyone gets away. The maimed Scavenger is in a panic, and the Aquamarines want to finish off the creature using what turns out to be a tactical nuke.
Needless to say, no one is really thinking all that straight besides the two leads, and after some dialogue, it doesn’t take long before Dead Water is unleashed again. This time, the Aquamarines are prepared for him and manage to trap him in an experimental technology that separates him from his water and reverts him back to human. It’s a new person, who seems to have no clue how he became a monster – but before they can interrogate him, one of the Aquamarines executes him for killing his friend last issue. With no further way to get answers, Aquaman and Mera decide to descend into the mysterious new water – or, as it’s been nicknamed, H2.0 – just as the scientists make a genuinely horrific discovery about what lurks in that water. This series has been hit and miss, but this arc is definitely winning me back.
Corrina: As a one-shot, this is interesting, though the Aquamarines are terribly disposable and thus their deaths tend to decrease the tension. Dead Water itself iasa terrific menace, something that can get to you through any kind of water (though some of the characters seem to be clueless about this!). This menace worked in his original appearance and it works here, save for the fact I don’t care who he kills this time.
But Aquaman and Mera heading off together to solve the mystery is an excellent idea, as they haven’t demonstrated much teamwork lately. It’s nice to see them in sync.
The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #4 – Cary Bates, Greg Weisman, Writers; Will Conrad, Artist; Ivan Nunes, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Who’s Fooling Who?
Ray: This continues to be a solid series, getting into the interesting history of one of DC’s most underused but powerful heroes. There’s a strong setup to this issue, as Captain Atom – reviled in the present day as a destructive force that killed innocents before reappearing – is being rebranded by the government as a successor to himself, with an assumed identity. While he despises his government handler, the knowledge of his son as revealed by a secret informer last issue compels him to go along with it. After an obligatory propaganda appearance, followed by demonstrating his energy powers by absorbing an atomic bomb, he meets with a PI he’s hired to find out more about his son – only to find out that any goverment records of the boy seem to have been erased.
The conspiracy element of the series is intriguing, but it’s not long before we hit some big action. When Atom detonated years back, his energy hit a prison and trapped a death row murderer in a stasis bubble on the brink of death in the electric chair. There’s no way that removing that bubble could possibly go wrong, right? Sure enough, as soon as Captain Atom absorbs the energy, the murderer gains new energy powers and proceeds to tear his way through the prison and easily handle Captain Atom. The book is kind of a slow burn besides that action scene, with General Eiling and Dr. Megala conspiring in the background, and Adam getting closer to the truth about his son. Nothing groundbreaking here, but some intriguing mysteries and a solid, old-school plot.
Corrina: It strikes me as a long way to go to explain the “new” Captain Atom. Not so much for the government, I suppose, as for the readers, to establish a new status quo.
I’m remembering that the first time I read a Captain Atom story, in an old Charlton Comics reprint. It was also an origin story of sorts, in which it recapped how Nathaniel Adam had been irradiated and sent to the future, where everyone’s lives had gone on without him, including the woman he loved, who was married to someone else. In that issue, he also gained a new suit of armor that better controlled his nuclear abilities. In many ways, it was very Dr. Manhattan-like and it’s easy to see where Alan Moore drew his influence for the character in The Watchmen.
This origin story also touches on the “man out of time” origin but with a twist, in that it’s his son that our hero needs to find, and that the government is actively working against him, at the same time it employs him. And vice versa, so it lends the present-day story some intrigue. But I was far more interested in the condemned man trapped in the time bubble. One, because it was unpredictable, and, two, because I was vastly amused by the exchanges between the prison warden and the prisoner’s lawyer.
The Flintstones #10 – Mark Russell, Writer; Steve Pugh, Artist, Chris Chuckry, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Ray: As Flintstones reaches its final act, it gets more political than ever, with some plots starting to click and others continuing to drag. The reign of Mayor Clod the Destroyer is…very topical, as some would say. An inexperienced buffoon who gets into office on big promises and has no idea how to actually run his governance? I’m sure everyone has someone that reminds them of, and that’s all I’ll say. His pointless war against the lizard people for stealing Bedrock’s ferns continues to get out of control, as his drones go rogue, he cuts more and more necessary services, and eventually the citizens start getting restless. The resolution of exactly how he’s dealt with is one of the funniest bits in the comic.
Meanwhile, the slow building subplot of Wilma’s art career takes off, as she’s cruelly dismissed by the art gallery she applied to – only to have an eccentric filmmaker take interest in her work and hire her to design his sets. That ties nicely in with the main plot involving Clod by the end, too. I was less enthused with the plotline involving the animal appliances, as one of them meets a horrible end courtesy of a movie theater floor, and the others mourn him and move closer to revolution. This plot isn’t really funny or topical, and kind of just makes the Bedrockians look…monstrous. Like with all satire, it’ll work for some people and not for others. On the balance, this is still a clever and entertaining book.
Cyborg #11 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Will Conrad, Artist; Tom Derenick, Penciller; Tony Kordos, Inker; Ivan Nunes, Guy Major, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Good Single Issue Story
Ray: Although Cyborg’s improved as a title since its first arc that focused way too heavily on a group of villains with no compelling motivation, its pacing continues to be its biggest weakness. Last issue set up an intriguing new status quo, with Cyborg and his hacker friend on the run in Detroit, bringing them into contact with a new street-level Detroit heroine and a rat-themed supervillain who ran the crime scene there. So naturally, this issue decides to do…something completely different! Cyborg boom-tubed to safety at the end of last issue, and this issue picks up with him zipping from dimension to dimension, seeing glimpses of other worlds, until he lands in what looks like an old-school video game – that he soon realizes he created with a friend when he was a teenager.
In another one of those memories that his father erased, he realizes that he and that friend were hackers back then, and a pulled a prank on his father at STAR Labs. However, his friend went further and got involved with DeepWeb terrorists, which landed him in Juvie Hall while Vic became Cyborg, and he always blamed Vic for abandoning him. He eventually became obsessed with this fictional video game world they created, and eventually turned it real and restyled himself as the villain “H8-Bit”. Yep, it’s exactly as ridiculous as it sounds. Despite the terrible name, this segment has some really fun moments and good visuals, and the themes of teenage abandonment hit home. There’s a surprisingly dark twist towards the end (that was done better in this week’s Backstagers) that took me by surprise. Overall, decent issue, but it feels more like a distraction from the main story.
Corrina: As a one-shot, this works great, especially to showcase Cyborg’s Boom Tube powers. It’s a terrific one-in-done story about Vic and his childhood friend, though, once again, a villain blames a hero for something he himself did, and that can get frustrating, especially since the hero always feels guilty about it. What happened to personal responsibility?
But the conclusion? I didn’t expect and hit harder than I thought it would. However, it does seem unconnected from the rest of the series, as Ray says. It’s hard to establish any continuity in a series when it introduces characters and then doesn’t follow up on them. Maybe next issue.
Injustice: Ground Zero #9 – Christopher Sebela, Writer; Daniel Sampere, Tom Derenick, Pencillers; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, J. Nanjan, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Ray: This series continues the cardinal sin of the original series in later volumes – it’s just boring. One wouldn’t expect that to be the case for a series about a post-apocalyptic nightmare world, but here we are. This miniseries mainly seems to be killing time until the launch of Injustice 2 in a few months, which means nothing of significance is really going to happen. The plot involving the Resistance is essentially the same every issue – Superman pursues the remaining members of the resistance, as well as the doppelgangers from the main DCU. He always gets close to wiping them out, but never quite pulls it off.
The latter story is the bigger problem, though. The Harley Quinn issue led me to say that Joker/Harley rarely works except when it’s in the Diniverse and this is a great example of this. Their interaction is nothing but a depressing spree of sadism and masochism. Harley is clearly unhappy, talks a lot about how unhappy she is, and plans to abandon this new Joker. Then he intimidates her, kills another of her friends, and she’s right back where she started. I said a while back that this story had promise as a story of kicking addiction but now it seems it’s a story of endless relapse, and that’s not a fun one to read.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.