DC This Week – A Kirby Character Returns

Wonder Woman #22
Wonder Woman raises funds for charity, image via DC Comics

This week, we have a strong debut Bug: The Adventures of Forager #1, the latest in the Young Animal comic line from Gerard Way. It’s simultaneously a terrific homage to Jack “King” Kirby’s Fourth World and trippy action comic.

Alas, we say goodbye (for now) to Future Quest with Future Quest #12, with the final showdown between all our characters and Omnikron, which features incredible visuals and includes the idealism of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons on which the story is based.

Also this week, strong issues from the first part of the “Lazarus Contract” guest-starring Deathstroke in Titans #11; Batman: Detective Comics #956, with the final showdown between Shiva and her daughter, Cassandra Cain; Wonder Woman #22, where Diana is auctioned off as a date (see above panel); All-Star Batman #10, with the spotlight on Alfred; New Super-Man #11, with an homage to the classic Superman/Flash races; and Superman: Action Comics #979, where apartment hunting takes a back seat to the formation of the Superman Revenge Squad.

Plus, reviews of all of this week’s DC Comics.

Alas, Suicide Squad is lagging behind by somehow making these characters even less honorable than they were before, especially Amanda Waller.

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

A BEGINNING….

Bug: The Adventures of Forager #1 – Michael Allred, Lee Allred, Storytellers; Laura Allred, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Terrific

Ray: The fifth and latest Young Animal book takes the focus back to the Fourth World, with a story that’s far more bizarre than any Young Animal book before it. Focusing on an obscure New God who is apparently a member of a strange hive-mind species from New Genesis, he was killed in battle against Batman while believing himself to be nothing more than a simple bug – but this being comics, that’s not the end of the story. He awakens in a cocoon, in a creepy old abandoned house. Exploring the strange location, he encounters an odd little ghost girl and follows her upstairs to a haunted house where he’s attacked by all sorts of ghouls. An elaborate chase sequence, a creepy room full of dominos, and a menacing talking teddy bear ensue. And that’s where things REALLY get weird.

Once the ghouls attempting to capture Forager are seemingly defeated, a new player enters – a classic version of the Sandman, one who has not been seen in a very long time. This guardian of the Dream Stream knows more about Forager’s past than he does,and reveals that Forager is in fact trapped in a dream cycle. This leads to the arrival of a classic villain named General Electric, complete with a robot brain, and the heroes soon find themselves trapped in a bottle. How does this all tie into an ancient, seemingly extinct form of metal? No way of knowing yet, but it’s a very entertaining – if incredibly bizarre – first issue. The Allreds are doing a full-on tribute to the world of Jack Kirby here, and while I’m not sure it’ll entirely come together, it’s a great start.

Allred's Young Animal Comic, Bug
Bug: The Adventures of Forager #1, page 5, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Like many readers, I’m familiar with some of King Kirby’s DC work and not at all familiar with the others. But this issue surprised the heck out of me, fusing Bug, one of the lesser-known residents of Kirby’s Fourth World, with the Jack Kirby Sandman. (I’m guessing that perhaps the House in Dreaming was the House of Secrets?) The question is whether that’s the long-lost Hector Hall as the Sandman or the original Wesley Dodds, or Dream in another incarnation? I suppose it doesn’t matter because what matters is that the Dreaming provides the basis for a trippy comic with visuals that are worthy of Kirby, with a special nod to the coloring. All those bright bold colors. Perfect.

Where is this story going? I have no idea save that Bug seems essential to hidden corners of the DCU. And it should be one trippy ride. And, by the way, I find this book far less bizarre than Doom Patrol or Shade the Changing Girl.

AND AN ENDING…..

Future Quest #12 – Jeff Parker, Writer; Evan “Doc” Shaner, Artist; Veronica Gandini, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Nailed the Landing

Ray: Original series artist Evan Shaner has returned for this grand finale to the best of the Hanna-Barbera line, pitting the entire cast of the company’s adventure shows against a cosmic villain from beyond space and time. Shaner draws some great monsters, and the shapeless beast Omnikron has overrun most of the battlefield, creating a seemingly endless threat. The battle is taking place on more than one plane, though, and Benton Quest is attempting to fend it off on the psychic plane as well. As he’s overwhelmed by his personal demons, other heroes share the pain and put on the helmet themselves, experiencing personal nightmares in the process. At the same time, Frankenstein Jr. has grown to giant size and is doing much of the heavy lifting in the fight. There are a lot of heroes on the fringes, like Birdman and the Impossibles, who are seen as well.

In the end, though, everyone gets their shining moment. The Herculoids have a surprisingly big role, fighting to save one of their teammates from the literal belly of the best. However, this is ultimately a story about the kids. Johnny, Hadji, and Tye were how this story began, and they’re how it ends. Tye has the power, Johnny has the experience, but I was pleased to see Hadji, who has been a sidekick in the original canon and this book for too long, get to rise up as a hero, face his fears, and deliver one of the final blows to Omnikron. The issue is fun, action-packed, and chaotic – maybe a bit too chaotic, as it throws so much at the reader that it can be easy to get lost. But it’s wildly entertaining, with a satisfying wrap-up and farewell at the end that ties everything up, but leaves room for more adventures. I would definitely be happy with a volume two, but I think I’d prefer this brilliant creative team to move on to another property and begin the magic anew. Shazam and Legion are calling!

Benton Quest, Future Quest
Dr.. Quest relives the past, in Future Quest #12, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Of all the revamped Hanna-Barbera properties, this one has been the most enjoyable and, perhaps not coincidentally, the closest to the spirit of the originals. It’s been a full-bore action story with an appropriate worldwide and galactic threat, full of epic moments that showcase some of the best fusions of art and story in the last decade. But that’s the glory of Shaner and Parker.

It’s exactly what I wanted from a story that contained one of my favorite cartoons as a kid, Jonny Quest, and updated a ton of others that I had no idea even existed. It gave Space Ghost majesty, Dr. Quest and Dr. Zin a backstory, a new friend for Jonny and Hadji, and a wonderful moment in this issue that shows exactly why the original cartoons were so much fun: innocence and belief in oneself can truly save the day.

GRADE A ISSUES

Titans #11 – Dan Abnett, Script; Dan Abnett, Benjamin Percy, Priest, Story; Brett Booth, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Excellent Start

Ray: It’s time for the great Titans-verse crossover, as the two books and Deathstroke come together for a story that will reveal some of the hidden histories of the older Titans team. The issue opens with a flashback to the Titans’ fight with Grant Wilson, the first Ravager. This ruthless villain had the Titans at his mercy but was eventually undone by the experimental serum coursing through his blood, which cut him down on the battlefield. In the present day, Deathstroke has just had a cornea transplant to restore the sight in his remaining eye, and Wintergreen informs him that Rose is in stable condition after being injured by Jericho. However, Deathstroke’s mind has been occupied by thoughts of Grant and has become obsessed with a plan to undo his greatest failure. This issue feels much more like a Deathstroke title than a Titans title, actually.

By the time the Titans actually show up in the present day, they’re busy trying to round up HIVE Agents to interrogate them on how to get Bumblebee’s memories back. However, they soon discover that this is just a feint, and Deathstroke uses the opportunity to capture the adult Wally West. Wally wakes up, dosed with truth serum and trapped in some sort of energy web that restrains his speed. After Deathstroke interrogates him, he comes to Wally with a deal – use his abilities at time travel to go back and save Grant, and Deathstroke will retire. It’s an intriguing offer, but Wally declines, saying the risks are too high. So Deathstroke reveals his contingency – he’s kidnapped the younger Wally, and the two come face to face for the first time. It’s an intriguing setup to a quick crossover that will deliver all four chapters this month, and Priest’s influence on this issue is very felt on the Deathstroke scenes.

Corrina: I worried about this crossover’s quality, given I’ve enjoyed some titles more than others, but this is an excellent start and this Deathstroke reads exactly like Priest’s Deathstroke. And instead of Deathstroke being focused on trying to kill the Titans, the focus is much more intriguing: Deathstroke wants help to prevent his son’s death. Bringing the two Wallys together is a terrific twist and has me on board with the entire story. I only wish I enjoyed Booth’s art more, as it still hits me as too garish.

All-Star Batman #10 – Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone, Writers; Rafael Albuquerque, Sebastian Fiumara, Artists; Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Colorists

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Terrific Concept For This Arc

Ray: It’s the launch of a new arc, “The First Ally”, which promises to shed light on the mysterious ally of Batman’s who went dark, as well as delve into the secret history of Batman’s bond with Alfred, and this first issue is an epic mind-bender. Part flashback, part James Bond thriller, it’s easily the most satisfying launch to an All-Star Batman arc yet. It begins in Gotham, with a young runaway in Britain performing heists and acts of petty vandalism, as police chase him with the intention of sending him back to Wayne Manor in Gotham. In the present day, Batman and Alfred are in Miami, battling Hush in an epic high-speed chase through the city and eventually crashing into the middle of a game in Miami’s stadium. After catching Hush, they interrogate him to get the location of the secret criminal organization he’s infiltrating – and this is a nice use of Alfred’s MI-6 training as well.

From there, they hatch a plan, with Bruce infiltrating the organization by pretending to be Thomas Elliot pretending to be Bruce Wayne, but the scheme falls apart when the criminals come to believe that Bruce Wayne is actually Tommy Elliot pretending to be Bruce Wayne. Cosmic. Reminds me of Charlie Chaplin losing a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest. From there, another disturbing reveal going back to the beginning of Bruce’s career – and another twist in the flashback segment – the angry young youth in Britain of the past isn’t Bruce Wayne, but a young Alfred Pennyworth. Looks like the butler has secrets of his own. There’s a backup feature by Albuquerque, Scavone, and Fiumara, focusing on another of Bruce’s undercover gigs, going deep as a criminal prizefighter in Moscow. It’s a slow start, but it has promise. Batman and crime comics are always a good match.

All-Star Batman #10, First Ally arc
The Batmobile makes an entrance, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Psst….just so readers know, Alfred is one of Ray’s favorite characters so any issue told from Alfred’s point of view would automatically win his approval, so long as it was halfway decent. This one is far more than that, a great action comic with Alfred’s droll commentary. That Alfred considers Bruce his son has been obvious in Batman comics for years and I’m pleased to see it spelled out here. I’ve always loved Albuquerque’s art and it’s well-suited to this tale. The panel where the Batmobile enters the stadium is a beautiful use of light and shadow.

I’m less thrilled that somehow Hush is involved in all this mess but it seems like he might be a side issue, since Alfred is convinced that the mystery circles back to him and what he used to be. I also like the hints here that Alfred is more ruthless than Bruce. (I’m not sure if Bruce knows this….) As for the back-up, it reminds me of some of the missions of Matches Malone. I’m a sucker for when Batman goes undercover.

Batman: Detective Comics #956 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Marcio Takara, Artist; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Great But Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

Ray: Fair warning – this issue was supposed to come out after the final chapter of The Button, and next issue will apparently reflect the outcome of that event. That aside, this is a fantastic conclusion to what has been one of Detective Comics‘ best issues since the start of Rebirth. The issue opens with Cassandra Cain and the rest of the Bat-family facing off against Shiva and the League of Shadows. Meanwhile, Jacob Kane – who has been proven right in most ways, and seems to be evolving back into an anti-hero – faces off with Ulysses as he desperately works to track down his daughter and get revenge against the people who nearly killed her. However, while there’s a lot of players in this issue, this story belongs to Cassandra Cain and her struggle to find out who she is. The fight between mother and daughter is a tense, gorgeous ballet of violence.

There are some great scenes in between with other characters, including tech bros Azrael and Batwing working together to defuse a nuke, and Clayface helping Batwoman escape as only he can. But the battle of fists and wills between Cass and Shiva dominates the issue – until it comes to a sudden, tragic conclusion, with Ra’s killing Shiva with a gunshot to the back, removing his competition for control of the society he built. I kind of doubt Shiva will be gone for good – she’s a very important long-term character – but the odd goodbye she has with Cassandra is powerful nonetheless, as is Batman’s face-off with Ra’s in the aftermath. I kind of wish we had gotten more closure for Cass’ story and her place in the Bat-family in the end – adopt her already, Bruce you jerk – but it was a great showpiece for her character either way. And the end of the issue teases some interesting things about Bruce’s past and exactly why Zatanna is joining the team next issue.

Shiva, Cassandra Cain in Detective Comics 956
Shiva and Cassandra Cain face-off, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Yes, Tynion has handled the Bat-Family well, even the odd additions like Clayface and Azrael. There are some who’ve yet to have a spotlight–Clayface, Azrael, and Luke Fox–but all have worked seamlessly in the title. I said about last issue that while I enjoyed Cassandra cutting a swath through the League of Shadows, it was against the “no one dies tonight” aspect of her personality. However, this issue is quick to point out that Cassandra’s defeated opponents are alive, if damaged, so that’s a nice bit of characterization added to her insistence that her respect for life makes her stronger, not weaker, than Shiva. I’d have liked to delve a little bit more into Shiva’s personality but this issue is so stuffed with amazing stuff that it feels churlish to ask for more. And Shiva will surely be back.

Questions are also left about Ra’s true role in all this and the fate of Jacob Kane. How did he become involved in this and what makes his group any better at protecting people (especially when he wants to detonate the bomb) than Batman and family? And he did agree to “collateral damage.” I don’t see him as redeemed as yet.

Superman: Action Comics #979 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Patrick Zircher, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: The Future of Superman?

Ray: The bizarre thing about this run is that essentially, Dan Jurgens is picking up on a twenty-year plan for Superman here. While most writers are dancing around the questions of what exactly is and isn’t in continuity post-Rebirth, Jurgens is simply acting like no time has passed. Old family relationships are still intact, and old grudges burn as hot as ever. The issue opens with Mongul destroying Superman in battle – only for it to be revealed that this is nothing more than a dream of the Black Mercy. Eradicator soon frees him from the Mercy and lures him into the Superman Revenge Squad. Meanwhile, Clark and Lois are picking up where they left off as well, getting a new apartment in Metropolis and planning to resume their careers at the Daily Planet. I like that Jurgens isn’t glossing over the fact that what is resuming their old lives for them will be a huge upheaval for Jon. Good bit of reality in a comic full of supervillains.

The villains then descend on the ruins of Superman’s secret fortress and pull off a heist of the Oblivion Stone – or at least half of it. Despite being united in their hate of Superman, the villains don’t necessarily get along, and this is only brought into focus by the addition of the ruthless, quick-to-anger Mongul. A pair of alien refugee friends of Superman’s actually try to defend the stone but are quickly disposed of by Mongul and Blanque, leading Superman to find their bodies when he investigates the wreckage. The villains bring the stone back to Henshaw – who proceeds to use it to peel off his own skin and reveal the Cyborg Superman underneath. So now there are two Cyborg Supermen in this world? A bit confusing, but Henshaw is one of the all-time great Superman villains, and the last panel was a fantastic callback. Next up – Zod!

Superman: Action Comics #979, Clark Kent, Lois Lane
Lois and Clark get a new place, image via DC Comics

Corrina: The family discussion was the most interesting to me, simply because I find Clark and Lois fascinating as a couple. Jurgens doesn’t forget the essential contrast in their styles: Lois likes change and Clark is a homebody. Remembering that Lois is an Army Brat and thus feels comfortable that Jon will be okay is a terrific use of her history. I do wonder if Bruce Wayne had something to do with them finding such a perfect apartment, however. (And, aside, why did Jurgens ever stop writing Superman? Because he’s clearly excellent at it.)

And, ouch, the death of Superman’s friends hurt, bringing an emotion to the title I’ve not seen since Rebirth. This promises to be a tense arc, with much at stake for Superman and the world.

Supergirl #9 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Brian Ching, Artist; Michael Atiyeh, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Fun But a Bit Confused

Ray: I’m of two minds on this issue. On one hand, it’s a lot of fun with great characterization for both Supergirl and Batgirl, and the return of one of my favorite villains from the Morrison era of Action. On the other, it also guest-stars one of my most hated DC characters of all time. The issue starts with Ben Rubel attending a clean energy exposition on behalf of CatCo, when he meets another young innovator – Barbara Gordon. Kara Danvers didn’t make the cut, but she’s showing up as Supergirl nonetheless. I was a bit surprised to see the reference to Tychotech, the corporation whose shady CEO was the first villain of the New 52 Supergirl title? Is that all still in continuity, then? Many questions! But Katrina Bissell is an intriguing new character. Naturally, though, her attempt to harness Phantom Zone energy is not going to go well.

That’s when Magog shows up, and my interest in the issue takes an unfortunate hit. This hulking, brutish 90s antihero should never have left Kingdom Come, and his every dialogue about how the JLA killed his family bores me. This isn’t really Orlando’s fault – every single writer, down to Geoff Johns himself, has failed to make this caricature of a character remotely interesting. I’m just wondering why he keeps on coming back. However, his actions lead to dozens of people – including Ben – being sucked into the Phantom Zone, leading Kara and Barbara to mount a rescue mission into the hopeless bleak realm to get them back. Kara and Barbara already have a great dynamic, and the reveal of Xa-Du, the Phantom King, as the main villain here has me very excited. This will likely pick up on Hope Larson’s story from the Batgirl annual as well. Good start to the second arc, but it’ll be tough for this series to top last issue’s near-perfect outing.

Corrina: This is a tale full of interesting elements that didn’t gel as well as I would have liked. I ended up backtracking a page or two several times to make certain I hadn’t missed anything. (I find I have to do this with digital copies more than print copies. You would think they would read the same but they don’t to me.) Not having read the new52 Supergirl, this new company, Tychotech, came out of nowhere for me, and Magog as a villain seemed a bit of a random choice, as he’s never been that well-connected to Supergirl. (So far as I know.) And readers new to him are likely not going to be that impressed by his first appearance.

But what works is the camaraderie between Batgirl and Supergirl, which definitely has a classic vibe going all the way back to Pre-Crisis days. It feels like an old-school team-up where the fun is seeing the characters work together, rather than anything that’s going on around them. Still, this is the second appearance of the Phantom Zone this week. (The other is in Suicide Squad.) Is DC planning to do something with that soon?

Wonder Woman #22 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Mirka Andolfo, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: I’ve Run Out of Superlatives

Ray: It’s the penultimate issue of the flashback story in Rucka’s 25-issue run on Wonder Woman, and this done-in-one with art by Bombshells’ Mirka Andolfo puts the focus firmly on the complex rivalry between Diana and Veronica Cale. Opening with Circe as the emcee of a charity auction, one of the most wanted “items” on bid is a private date night with Wonder Woman herself. Despite strong bids from both Wayne and Luthor, the winner is none other than Veronica Cale, who introduces herself as a benevolent genius doctor who is honored to be meeting Wonder Woman – as if she hasn’t been hunting her for years on end. The two actually hit it off and become fast friends, deciding to do their night together on the spot. On one hand, their interaction is actually kind of sweet – and then you remember that Cale is a sociopath who is playing the audience just like she is Diana.

As the two talk over dinner, Diana carefully deduces that the reason Cale has top-tier security led by Doctor Poison is because she’s had threats on her life. Sure enough, Cale plays into this belief and casts herself as a martyred hero who is paying the price for her efforts against human trafficking. Their attempt to get out of the city is soon interrupted by an attack by Veronica’s enemies, who stage a shooting assault on the car. With Diana present, though, they don’t stand a chance. As it turns out, this was all so that Cale could capture Wonder Woman’s powers in action, recording the energy resonance so that Doctor Cyber can analyze it. After a VERY shippy ending to the date, they’re reunited later once Diana has figured out exactly what Cale’s plan was, and the last scene is fantastically tense. An excellent issue that gives Veronica Cale the spotlight she needs in anticipation of the final battle in WW #25.

Corrina: What I like about this issue is that it’s truly a battle of wits, rather than any show of physical force. Cale flirts with Diana, Diana flirts back, and it’s not clear until the end that Diana realizes Cale is pulling a fast one. This also goes back to Cale’s tragic flaw: she cannot ask Diana for help. She’d rather spend millions on a plan to draw Diana into a date and then test out her powers than confide in her. I know, I know, Cale’s original encounter with the Amazon resulted in the death of her friend but that was certainly partly Cale’s fault.

This is why Cale makes such an intriguing villain. She’s so close to being redeemable but continues to make wrong choice after wrong choice.

Plus, the issue also has the joy of the auction and all its cameos.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #20 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Rafa Sandoval, Penciller; Jordi Tarragona, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Spectacular Space Visuals

Ray: It’s another strong issue, with the Green Lantern Corps under assault from a powerful villain out of time that appears to be able to neutralize their powers with ease. As John Stewart leads the troops into battle, Hal Jordan is stuck in deep space fighting off an endless army of green robotic monsters. Although the Lantern Corps trains their most elite shooters on the creatures, they soon shrug off the assault and are back to full strength. Meanwhile, Sarko continues to interrogate the duo of Space Ape and his partner Gorin-Sunn, ranting about how he’s there to destroy the merger of the two Corps before the Sinestro Corps can be absorbed fully. Have we talked about just how much Sarko looks like Sinestro? Because I don’t think that can be a coincidence, the way comics work. Soranik have a brother or a time-traveling descendant?

Although the Lanterns energize Mogo, allowing the largest Green Lantern to fire a massive beam at the creatures, it has no effect and they’re soon back on the attack. It’s only then that Hal realizes what they are – they come from the gauntlet of Krona, which he used in lieu of a ring for a while before Rebirth. He abandoned that Gauntlet when he became a Green Lantern again, and where it was buried it became sentient, generating these monsters. Realizing that they can’t fight against their own ring’s energy, the Lanterns seemingly have no choice but to lay down their wings and surrender. The reveal that the gauntlet has now become a giant space samurai of some kind is a bit silly, but really, that’s part of the charm of Green Lantern. No other comic does over-the-top action better.

John Stewart rallies the GL Corps
The Corps in battle, image via DC Comics

Corrina: For all we know of Sarko, he could actually be some sliver of Sinestro that grew in the yellow force and would be snuffed out when the yellow power battery is gone. I suspect that’s most likely as these iconic villains never stay dead for very long. (But Sinestro’s death and the shifting of focus away from him has definitely increased the quality of this series, so I’d hate for him to be back so fast.) Also, I can’t help thinking “Hal, you screwed up again.” This is why he’s my least favorite Lantern. 🙂

What I’d like to talk about are the visuals, from Hal’s lone stand in space with warring constructs to the Yellow and Green Corps standing together. Constructs fly past the reader so fast it’s hard to absorb them all but on a second read, one can see the amazing artwork for what it is.

Justice League of America #6 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Andy MacDonald, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: The Characterization I Crave

Ray: Justice League of America tends to keep its arcs short and sweet, in contrast to its sister book. This Greek supervillain arc with ties to the US financial crisis wraps up in only two issues, and this finale delivers an action-packed, satisfying finish. The issue opens with Aegeus seemingly having taken out Lobo as he consolidates his power over the town. However, it’s Ryan’s time to shine as he’s cast the entire Justice League in powerful light armor that allows them to hold their own against the enchanted weapons. It’s the sort of perfectly comic-book crazy act that really makes a Justice League book work, but it’s nicely grounded in some human elements that show off Orlando’s strengths. In one of the issue’s best scenes, an odd friendship seems to begin between Ryan and Lobo that starts with Ryan literally knocking out Lobo’s heart. As a favor.

I really like Orlando’s take on Killer Frost, as well. Most of the time in comics, reformed villains either become edgy anti-heroes or are quickly forgiven and it’s never mentioned again. Frost is still very much dealing with her transformation into an energy leech and the fact that she’s seen as a monster by most people. These characters and their unusual friendships that form create a great team dynamic. Aegeus is sort of a weak villain, who is defeated thanks to some cleverness from Atom, but he’s not really the focus of the issue. That’s the team dynamic, as well as the desperation of the town that led them to let him in. There are some great visuals fusing superheroics with Greek mythology, and I’m surprised to see Lobo slowly becoming the uniting force of the team – his “dolphin” analogy for Atom is one of my favorite bits of dialogue. The villains of the first two arcs have been a bit iffy, but this is easily my favorite JL book right now.

Corrina: The pacing has certainly been fast for this series, rather than settling into the long story arcs that seem to be a hallmark of other comics these days. I like that, as it makes these first two missions a warm-up to whatever Batman is planning to confront in the future. (Is it related to the mysterious time mastermind that abducted Tim Drake and made everyone believe he’s dead?)

And I finally get what I’ve been wanting for the past several issues: personal moments between team members. Not only is there Lobo’s dolphin analogy with Ryan (which I agree is brilliant) but there is also the talk between Killer Frost and Black Canary. Canary is the best friend you can have in the DCU, so Frost will have a fierce ally there once Dinah comes to trust her. I want more of that!

New Super-Man #11 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Billy Tan, Penciller; Tako Zhang, Inker; Ying Zhan, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Aw…Super-Man/Flash RACE!

Ray: This book continues to be one of the most fun new properties in DC’s stable, balancing an original mythology and a full country of new superheroes with a great slice-of-life vibe and a likable young hero. This issue brings us a new villain or two – with the addition of a mysterious gang known as the China White Triad, and a ruthless ancient Sorcerer with ties to the origin of China’s Wonder Woman. However, the focus in this issue is really more on Kenan and his friendship with the newest member of the Justice League of China, Avery Ho, aka the new Flash of China. Avery seems a lot more rebellious than she did in the first arc of Flash, but that makes her a good foil for Kenan. As Kenan manages to get his super-speed back under I-Ching, he challenges Avery to a classic Superman-Flash race, thus kicking off the most entertaining segment.

This Superman and Flash are younger and more immature than the originals, which means lots of dirty tricks and fake-outs along the way. However, the race has to come to an end when the idiots in the Triad manage to crack the stone coating on the sorcerer, and soon enough he’s woken up and transformed himself into a giant Chinese equivalent of a Kaiju. It turns out that he’s infected with the Doomsday virus, and begins destroying the city. This nicely sets up some mood whiplash, as Kenan and Avery spring into action, their jokey nature takes a back seat, and they save some lives. Add in some interesting reveals about Wonder Woman, the continued use of Robinbot, and some intriguing developments with Lex Luthor and Amanda Waller, and this book is fast becoming one of the most enjoyable underdogs in the line.

Super-Man races a version of the Flash
And the race begins! image via DC Comics

Corrina: This whole issue is an homage to the classic Flash/Superman races, even to a splash page that’s clearly meant to evoke a Flash/Superman image from the 1970s. It brought a smile to my face and should remind readers that Kenan, for all that he’s Super-Man, is still a teenager. We’ve seen him broody and angry and petulant, and now we see him full of joy. It’s a lovely moment. I thought the switch to fighting the Doomsday-infused monster worked well, as the creative team has always been open about the tragedy in Kenan’s life.

Now, what role Waller and Luthor will play in the book, I’m not sure. I would hope for more Luthor dealing with an unpredictable and frustrating teenage Kenan, as that was great fun in earlier issues. Given Waller’s current cold-blooded villainous characterization in her own title, I would like to see her gone from this one.

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

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Harvey Dent…Savior?

Ray: What is it about the Gotham Academy kids that makes Batman villains suddenly act like nice guys? Maybe they find these kids as likable as we do. Either way, this kickoff to our final arc finds the Gotham Academy crew splitting up, as Olive has gone rogue and embraced her destiny as Calamity, following the instructions of Amity Arkham as she tries to track down the bloodlines that betrayed her family hundreds of years ago and condemned her to the Pyre. Her first target? The Dent mansion, which has been empty since Harvey Dent became Two-Face. She lures him back to his home but is shocked to see what he’s become. Surprisingly, though, Two-Face doesn’t seem like he wants to kill her immediately, and even attempts to lead her to safety when she accidentally sets the house on fire with her powers – although he makes dark noises about the coin deciding her fate.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Academy kids aren’t sure how to proceed with Olive gone. Maps is more determined than ever to rescue their friend, and Colin is on board – but Kyle is tired of trying to save Olive and decides to transfer to Metropolis to finish his education. However, we soon find out that he’s actually spying on Olive – for what purpose, we don’t yet know. Maps and Colin, meanwhile, continue to investigate the catacombs of the school to find clues to how to save Olive, but beneath the school, they encounter an odd group of masked villains who leave them to die in a flooding basin before a narrow escape. Fans of Batman: The Animated Series will recognize these new villains as the Terrible Trio, and it seems with only a few issues yet, Gotham Academy still has a lot of reveals to go. A fantastic start to the finale of one of DC’s best series.

Gotham Academy Second Semester #1
Gotham Academy Second Semester #9, page 1

Corrina: Harvey Dent is not what anyone would call a savior or the person to call when you’re possessed by a fire-starting ancestor but he does extend Olive something like help, at least so long as his coin comes up on the good side. Bringing in all of Gotham’s villains is a nice way to end this, and show what the Gotham Academy Detective club is made of, especially the irrepressible Maps.

So what will happen next? Are those masked villains the professors at Gotham Academy? Will the facility close down after the kids save Olive? (I’m assuming Olive will be saved because her becoming a villain for good is simply too sad.) Also, bonus points for the Sky High reference.

Shade the Changing Girl #8 – Cecil Castellucci, Writer; Marley Zarcone, Audrey Mok, Artists; Ande Parks, Inker; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: A Gotham Travelogue

Ray: Maybe my favorite issue of this offbeat series, this issue takes Loma Shade out of her small town on Earth for the first time and sends her on a classic teenage adventure – running away from home, in the aftermath of a humiliating school dance where Megan’s old sins came back to haunt her. Megan’s adventures in Gotham City are equal parts universally relatable to everyone who’s been in a big city for the first time, and new and unique due to her status as an alien wearing a human body. She’s the ultimate tourist, and her interactions with such routine things as homeless people, tourist destinations, and souvenir vendors are surprisingly charming. However, at the same time she literally warps everything around her. She creates bizarre scenes of surreal art everywhere she walks, and in the process, people around her start seeing Gotham in a new way. It’s a great fusion of the mundane with the surreal.

The other plots take a bit of a backseat this issue, as Megan’s human friends and enemies are only seen in a brief segment back home. Her parents are desperate to find her, while Teacup struggles with her decision to take part in Megan’s humiliation, and River calls out Megan’s former friends for being just as bad as the girl they sought revenge on. Meanwhile, on Meta, the evil Mellu Loran subjects Loma’s old friend to a sadistic test to try to find her location. Really, though, this issue is a trip through Loma’s strange, oddly kind and idealistic mind as she paints Gotham City in surreal shades of neon. It’s the least plot-heavy and dialogue-heavy issue yet, and yet it may be the best in getting to know our main character. This is Loma Shade’s world, and it’s a fascinating place to visit. I don’t quite know what to make of the “Life With Honey” backups, but they make an interesting contrast to the main story when you see how they influenced Loma.

Corrina: This issue is far less confusing that previous issues, more of a “tourist does Manhattan” story than anything else, and Loma’s unique viewpoint provides the reader with a fresh look at ordinary life in Gotham. There are some great lines as people respond to her sometimes odd questions, but my favorite is “Don’t stare, some people’s brains work differently.”

For those familiar with Gotham City, the mixing of Manhattan landmarks and Batman-mythos may be confusing. I’ll just chalk that up to this comic being its own thing (which it is) but it did stop me a few times thinking “hey, the Statue of Liberty isn’t in Gotham!” But that’s what happens when you read too many comics over the years. Most readers won’t care.

It does seem like, at some point, we will go back to Loma’s homeworld or Loma’s friend will come here. Not sure which I prefer at this point.

GRADE B-/C+

Red Hood and the Outlaws #10 – Scott Lobdell, Writer; Dexter Soy, Artist; Veronica Gandini, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: ::deep sigh::

Ray: The Outlaws are still split up in Qurac this issue, as Jason and Artemis are forced to confront their old demons, while Bizarro winds up becoming not the hero Qurac wanted, but maybe the one they needed. The issue opens with Artemis being toasted by her sisters in the Bana-Mighdall, including her long-dead friend Akila. The end of the last issue made it look like Akila was going to be the villain of this arc, but at first it doesn’t look like it. She holds no ill will towards Artemis for killing her, and makes clear how happy she is to have her back. Jason, meanwhile, is having a much less happy welcome to Qurac, finding himself chained up in the prison where he was murdered as a boy, watching his younger self be brutally murdered by the Joker. Although he knows that this is all his illusion, he still finds himself being pulled in.

It’s only when he realizes that he’s caught in a trap of his own making that he gets the mental fortitude to step away and abandon the memory of his younger self, making his escape – only to find himself in the clutches of the ruthless ruler of Qurac. Bizarro, meanwhile, has found himself accompanied by a large group of villagers who have been displaced by the General’s forces. As he attempts to get the refugees to safety, they’re besieged by helicopters and blocked by a mountain – that Bizarro decides to move through sheer strength. Bizarro’s segment is easily the most enjoyable here, a testament to the good work Lobdell has done with this oddball character. However, the real plot meat comes in the other two segments, as Akila and the General both have their stories on what happened to the Bow of Ra – and the last page makes clear who the big threat is. This title has been telling new stories that don’t feel like the generic adventures Red Hood and Arsenal had in the previous run, and that’s its biggest strength. Not a great series, but consistently solid so far.

Corrina: I’m about as tired of seeing Jason Todd be killed by the Joker as I am Barbara Gordon being shot by the Joker. Jason’s mental wanderings do add depth to his character and, I admit, it’s compelling for him to realize that he’s grown up since he was killed. As for Artemis, it’s so obvious her former friend/sister/lover is conning her that it made me sigh. I wanted Artemis to return with a good storyline. This is not it.

Bizarro, yep, he definitely is the most interesting in this issue, determined to help people even if ordered to stay away. It’s not the traditional Bizarro but it works. Still, overall, there’s nothing remarkable about this comic.

Star Trek/Green Lantern: Stranger Worlds #6 – Mike Johnson, Writer; Angel Hernandez, Artist; Mark Roberts, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: A strong finish to the second chapter of this epic cosmic crossover, as enemies and allies converge for a final battle on what will become the home of the Green Lantern Corps. With Khan powered by a Red ring, and Sinestro having stolen the power of Parallax, the Green Lanterns are up against the wall even with the help of new recruit Kirk. There’s a lot of big splash pages as the action unfolds, and Angel Hernandez does a great job of covering the scope of the story. While the Lanterns battle against these enemies, the Starfleet crew attempts to fend off the Klingon army and join their allies in the field. I rolled my eyes a little bit at how Carol gets her Sapphire powers back, but it’s a fun read.

Kirk makes a great Green Lantern, putting his natural risk-taker instincts together with a more pragmatic approach to defeat Khan. As for Sinestro, a bigger effort is called for as the Lanterns call in a massive strike-force to take him down. He gets away, setting up a potential chapter three as he heads off to the Antimatter universe where he came from. Kirk keeps his Green Lantern ring and becomes the newest member of a resurgent Corps, partnering with Ganthet and the Guardians once again. The ending even teases the potential of another major DC hero emerging in this universe. This is the only crossover I can remember that doesn’t just set up a brief battle, but a full new universe. I’m definitely rooting for a part three.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #6 – Matthew K. Manning, Writer; Jon Sommariva, Artist; Sean Parsons, Inker; Matt Herms, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: After fairly neatly wrapping up its main story last issue, this series concludes with a done-in-one flash forward…to the New Batman and Robin Adventures era of the animated series. Batgirl and Nightwing are adults now, there’s a new and younger Robin, and the turtles…well, they haven’t changed at all. Seriously, I’m not sure if they’ve actually aged or if they’ve been pulled back from the same time to meet the older Bat-family. The only difference I can tell is that Raph has an edgier-looking mask. But the main crisis this month is a Kraang invasion set up by the leftover technology from Mad Hatter’s plot. Without many of the Batman villains this issue – save Scarecrow, whose technology is the key to defeating the Kraang – this issue is much more TMNT plot heavy.

That doesn’t mean the Bats don’t get the best scenes, though. I actually thought the dialogue was far stronger for that side of the story, especially Tim’s snarky dialogue about the sci-fi concept and Batgirl and Nightwing’s rapport through the battle. Of the Turtles, it’s Raphael who gets the best scenes, battling through a wave of fear gas to defeat the last of the alien hordes. Everyone gets their own good moments, and the two sides head back to their universes having saved the day. It lacks the stakes of other crossovers in the main continuity, but it’s a fun read for fans of either property.

Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern #4 – Robbie Thompson, Justin Jordan, Writers; Barnaby Bagenda, Artist; Alex Guimaraes, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: As two other crossovers wrap up, this one prepares to enter its final act as multiple enemies converge. Planet of the Apes isn’t the universal property that Star Trek or Ninja Turtles is, especially if you’re talking about the 1960s version that this is based on. Still, it’s pretty easy to get into the world of Cornelius, Zaius, and the rest. Like any good Green Lantern story, there’s no shortage of cosmic threats, the most present being the Universal Ring, created by a mad Guardian eons ago and shepherded by a doomed Lantern.

While incredibly powerful – able to channel any ring and shut down the similar rings around it – it’s also hard to control, and it soon becomes clear it’s driving Cornelius insane and turning him into a cult leader. Meanwhile, Sinestro and Zaius have their own agenda, one that takes Sinestro back where he began – to being a Green Lantern. However, my favorite subplot doesn’t make a comeback until the end, and that would be Grodd vs. the Planet of the Apes. It’s a little slower than the other crossovers, but it’s still a fun read with great art by Omega Men artist Barnaby Bagenda.

Injustice: Ground Zero #11 – Christopher Sebela, Writer; Marco Santucci, Tom Derenick, Artists; J. Nanjan, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Ray: A satisfying penultimate issue to this miniseries, as we see the events that lead up to the new status quo in the Injustice 2 series by Tom Taylor. Last issue saw multiple deaths, including Lex Luthor and Shazam, leaving the Injusticeverse bleaker than ever. That horror pushes Flash to finally defect from the regime, realizing that he can never justify helping Superman at all, even by trying to be his conscience. He heads to the Resistance – and oddly, the person most angered by his presence is the other-dimensional Green Arrow, who has no real stake in this. Harley picks her side, kisses Poison Ivy, and leads the survivors of her gang into battle. Wonder Woman heads to Themysrica and takes on her evil doppelganger for control of the Amazons. And Batman finally decides to bring in the big guns – the heroic Superman from the main universe. All in all, it’s good to see the heroes finally win one, although I doubt it’ll last.

SPLIT DECISION

Superwoman #10 – K. Perkins, Writer; Stephen Segovia, Penciller; Art Thibert, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Intrigued by the Characters

Ray: This title has some interesting ideas at play, but it lacks any real sense of pacing or central plot. Last issue spent an unusual amount of time dealing with Atomic Skull and Maggie Sawyer in Metropolis, but they don’t appear at all this issue. It’s all about Lana’s quest to get her powers back, which winds up being handled in a rather anticlimactic way, and an odd amount of Irons family drama. You know the second a younger brother for Natasha that’s never been mentioned before is introduced, there’s going to be some dark reveal that’s telegraphed all throughout the issue. The story flashes back and forth, opening with a newly re-powered Lana fighting a mysterious villain at the start. But then we flash back to a pre-teen Natasha and her baby brother years ago, followed by a family dinner in the modern day with John and Natasha.

Some of the dialogue can be pretty strong, especially between Lana and Natasha about the desire to control their own minds. However, the reveal that Natasha has a younger brother who’s been missing for a long time sort of comes out of nowhere and lacks the emotional impact it should have. Then it’s on to an experimental chamber where Lana uses the Insect Queen suit in some sort of trial that digs up her personal demons and throws them at her. By the end of the issue, Lana has powers again thanks to the suit, which she’s now bonded to, and she’s off to Metropolis to fight the creepy Skyhook, an inhuman villain of some sort with a penchant for kidnapping children – including young Zeke, Natasha’s brother. It’s a way to add some stakes to the issue, to be sure, but it hasn’t earned the dramatics and it just falls sort of flat as a result.

Lana Lang as Superwoman
Lana Lang is trying to find herself, image via DC Comics

Corrina: I find Lana’s struggle to sort out how she can be the hero she wants to be interesting, where Ray does not, and that might account for my enjoyment of this comic, despite what Ray points out are pacing issues. There seems to be a conclusion coming for Lana  down the line, probably related to the big summer crossover, so the creative team is a bit stuck in how far they could move forward.

I also like the supporting cast. I guess I assumed Clay Irons was a character from a story I missed, and that the tragedy of Natasha’s brother had been mentioned before, so I rolled with it. Anything that gets more screen time for Natasha and John Henry is a good thing.

#FAIL

Suicide Squad #17 – Rob Williams, Writer; Tony Daniel, Penciller; Sandu Florea, Le Beau Underwood, Inkers; Tomeu Morey, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: More Senseless and Gory Death

Ray: With the official addition of General Zod to the Squad, this issue brings big action and lots of violence but not all that much else. It opens with the Squad, Zod included, launching an assault on a dam in Zimbabwe where they’ve got the word that the Russian superteam The People are hiding out. Tony Daniel’s art is big and flashy, and it’s at its best with the big splash pages. Less so in the tight action segments. The problem, though, as always, is with the story. We have not been given any real reason to care about these characters (save Harley) and less reason to be invested in the villains. They have ridiculous designs and little else going for them. As Zod tears through the battlefield and nearly gets them all nuked, his characterization seems to have been reduced to “simple madman”, which is a disappointment that will hopefully be rectified in the upcoming Action Comics arc. The cliffhanger, bloody as it is, makes it seem like his Squad tenure will be brief.

Eventually all the People but one (the one with a giant hammer for a head) are dead, and that one is captured. However, the real drama this issue isn’t in the Squad’s fight sequence. It’s in Amanda Waller’s battle of wills with Harcourt. We’ve been waiting for a while to see what Harcourt’s purpose in this title is going to be and now it’s clear – she’s been working for the People all along, and is planning to destroy Belle Reve prison from the inside. This could be a shocking twist, except that she’s been a flat character from her first appearance. Sure enough, her plan to ambush Waller and destroy her life’s work fails miserably and she’s soon killed off by Captain Boomerang. There’s a few interesting tidbits in the issue, like that there’s bootleg Suicide Squads around the world, but they tend to get blown up before they can be fully explored.

Corrina: I need a reason to care about what happens to the people in this comic. But I don’t. Waller is just flat out villainous, even allowing Harcourt the chance to kill more of her employees. At this point, Waller’s hands are so covered in blood that I wish she’d stayed dead. This transition to out-and-out villainy just makes me sadder and sadder. And the fact that Waller has no idea Boomerang killed Hack is ridiculous.

As for the A-plot, more hitting things, more explosions, more deaths of random characters who I should care about but don’t. The fact that other governments use Suicide Squads is kinda interesting, I guess, but I was distracted by how ridiculous the villains fighting the Squad this issue were and didn’t want to see any others. Also, Flagg and Harley? Um, what?

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #10 – Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Writers; Roge Antonio, Artist; Allen Passalaqua, John Rauch, Colorists

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Best Issue So Far But…Low Bar

Ray: The conclusion to the Blackbird arc continues to not push this title in any direction that really works, as for the second arc in a row, it feels like it pushes the heroes to the background and focuses on new characters who don’t make much of an impression. Last arc added Gus Yale, aka the new Oracle, to the cast permanently, and he’s been a load on the team in more ways than one. This arc doesn’t seem to add any unnecessary members, at least, but it spends too much of its time on Blackbird’s generic minions. The issue opens with the remaining Birds, with guest-stars Nightwing and Green Arrow, going to rescue Black Canary from her undercover mission gone wrong. Blackbird has stolen multiple powers, including mind-control and shape-shifting, and has hit her power peak just as Black Canary is ready to confront her.

After interrogating one of Blackbird’s former minions, the Birds find her location and track Dinah to the base. A battle involving mistaken identity, mind controlled allies, and way too many metas throwing ill-defined powers around follows. In the middle of this, Gus shows once again why adding him to this book was a big mistake, as his dependence on some sort of pill comes into play and he winds up being blackmailed by a mysterious hacker of some sort who wants him to set up a meeting with the Birds in exchange for his pills. Gus, desperate, agrees, meaning that thus far in this book, he has stalked the Birds in one arc and betrayed them in the next. I support the portrayal of characters with mental illness in comics, but Lana is a much better example. Frankie Charles should have been Oracle, and this book remains a massive missed opportunity.

Corrina: This comic has tried to emphasize the friendship between the characters that was such a hallmark of previous runs but only to mixed success. That feeling of friendship is strongest in this issue, with Babs and Helena almost desperate to save her, added by help from Green Arrow and Nightwing. Their guest appearances help somewhat but it reminded me that I still have no idea what Dinah sees in Ollie (but that’s more of a failing of the GA comic.) Nightwing is always a pleasure but having so many people kinda crowds out the essential trio. Still, if this had been the first issue of the comic I picked up, I might be intrigued.

Except for one thing. Gus. The Birds trusting Gus makes zero sense and has for several issues. All his story does is drag this book down hard, as it makes all three main characters appear stupid. Isn’t Helena a former secret agent/spy who was once controlled by outside forces? Wouldn’t she be especially skeptical of someone’s motives? But, nope, they all seem to trust Gus. This book needs to fix this black hole, stat.

Scooby Apocalypse #13 – J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen, Writers; Dale Eaglesham, Tom Derenick, Jan Duursma, Artists; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 3/10

Ray: Two stories, both driving home that this version of Scooby Doo is one of the most puzzling things DC has put out in quite some time. The first chunk of the issue focuses on the deeply unpleasant family reunion between the Dinkley siblings. The idea of Velma’s evil brothers is an intriguing one, and the issue focusing on her past was probably the best of the series, but this issue’s take on Rufus is even more insufferable at length. I get that Trump mockery is hot right now, but it can easily become a cartoonish cliche, and that’s what happened here. He’s such a caricatured hateful figure that the issue becomes a conga line of humiliation for him and while it’s vaguely satisfying, it still falls flat. Shaggy’s sudden massive crush on Rufus’ wife sort of comes out of nowhere as well.

The monsters look great, yes – Dale Eaglesham is an amazing artist and it sort of puzzles me that he’s on this book, of all things. But they have no personality and essentially are just more grotesque zombies in a Walking Dead pastiche. Then there’s the backup, focusing on Scrappy-Doo and his new human “pet”. Fans of Guardians of the Galaxy will see some shades of Yondu and young Peter in this relationship, but done without any of the charm and subtlety. One minute Scrappy is cajoling the boy to eat, the next he’s threatening to eat him, and in general it all falls flat and feels like not much thought was put into the actual dynamic. Much like most of this book.

Corrina: Yeah, this book stopped being mildly interesting a long time ago. :sigh:

Disclaimer: GeekDad received review copies of these comics.

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.