DC This Week – “The Button” Teases the Watchmen/DC Crossover

Flash #22, 2017, Jay Garrick
Yes, there’s a spoiler on the cover. Sorta. But it is a great cover. image via DC Comics

This week is the end of ‘The Button” crossover with Batman and the Flash in Flash #22. But, of course, this is only a lead-up to the eventual big universe-spanning crossover, though DC has done a good job thus far in not letting that bleed over to its quality books.

Meanwhile, a soon-to-be-classic story explores the personal history of the Swamp Thing in Batman #23, the Lazarus Contract guest-starring Deathstroke rolls forward in Teen Titans #8, Jess and Simon undergo Lantern training in Green Lanterns #23, and Batwoman #3 continues its noir spy tale with Kate on the trail of seriously creepy twins.

But we have multiple split decisions on other comics this week, including Superman #23, which contains one especially gory scene in which a main character gets a limb chopped off;  Green Arrow #23, which features a city-wide swath of carnage; and Nightwing #21, which is a boy’s night out with Wally and Dick.

Plus, reviews of the rest of this week’s DC Comics.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS RESIDE HEREIN.

The Flash #22 – Joshua Williamson, Tom King, Writers; Howard Porter, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Main Plot Is Nowhere But the Personal Stories Make This Worth Buying

Ray: By its nature, a story like “The Button” is not going to have a totally satisfying wrap-up. It’s essentially a way station, dropping more hints and teasers before we hit one of the biggest events of all time. What makes it work is that it’s essentially a great character piece for two of DC’s best heroes, accenting the unique similarities that these detectives forged in tragedy share. If anything, that’s the most engaging part of this issue, not the big reveals and cosmic moments. The issue opens with Eobard Thawne racing through time, in possession of the mysterious button, as he plans to use it to rewrite time once again and destroy Barry as a hero. Thawne makes a great sadistic villain, and his death when he encounters an off-panel Doctor Manhattan is thoroughly satisfying and even more disturbing from his perspective.

With Thawne gone, Barry and Bruce are still stuck in time with the Cosmic Treadmill unraveling around them. They’re only saved from being lost in time forever by a mysterious voice that Barry keeps hearing – who turns out to be Jay Garrick, lost in time just like Wally. He pulls them back to solid ground, but it’s clear that he’s fading away and he tries to get Barry to remember him – but Barry isn’t the “lightning rod” he needs. That’s almost definitely Johnny Thunder, and Jay is soon swept away, back into the timestream. I was a bit surprised at the lack of a certain reveal that DC changed the last issue of Detective Comics to avoid, but the ending with Bruce questioning whether to continue as Batman was strong – if a bit of a foregone conclusion. And the epilogue, with Doctor Manhattan and the prelude to Doomsday Clock? Chills. So on its own, The Button may not feel like an event. But as part of a whole, I thought it worked very well.

Corrina: I said when this started that the reason I hate event crossovers is that they never seem to end but just continually roll into something else. Such is the story with “The Button.” For all it’s teasing about using the Watchmen characters, all we get are glimpses, like at the end of this book. For those who wanted answers to questions about what’s plaguing the DC universe and changing its history, you are completely out of luck with “The Button.”

However, if you like a story that features a true friendship between Barry and Wally, one that makes Bruce Wayne re-examine his life, and one that brings a tiny bit of closure to Barry Allen’s quest for justice for his mother, then this is the story for you. What will stick with me are the conversations between Thomas and Bruce Wayne, and Barry and Bruce over the graves of Thomas and Martha Wayne.

And, of course, if you want a glimpse of Jay Garrick, he’s here. Garrick and the JSA have always been a favorite of Geoff Johns, who’s part of the creative team on “Doomsday Clock,” so I’m not shocked his appearance was just a tease.

And, eh, on the whole “Doomsday Clock” idea. As I said, crossovers are so not my thing.

Batman #23 – Tom King, Writer; Mitch Gerads, Artist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Outstanding Single Issue Story

Ray: The creative team behind the brilliant Catwoman two-parter in this title – and the just announced Mister Miracle book coming this summer – reunites for a twisty, dark, and ultimately very human story teaming up Batman and Swamp Thing. The issue opens with a random disheveled old man being executed gangland-style in a seemingly random murder that Batman is soon called to investigate. As Batman and Gordon are discussing the case, Swamp Thing manifests himself out of a package of…some sort of organic plant matter and proceeds to give Jim half a heart attack. C’mon, Jim, you fought a giant plant monster last year already. This is a friendly one. It turns out that the old man was actually Alec Holland’s father, who he barely saw since he was a child. As Batman, who relates deeply, tries to feel Swamp Thing out, Swamp Thing seems to view the affair in a fatalistic way, seeing his father as simply returning to nature.

After a brilliantly drawn conversation between the two in the Wayne Manor parlor, they head out to investigate and track the killer back to Kite-Man, who sold the killer a kite a few days ago that allowed access to the victim’s apartment. After Batman shakes down Kite-Man in a free-fall segment – and can I tell you how much I love that King is determined to make Kite-Man a thing? – they track the kite to a pawnbroker, who points them to a Z-list big-game themed villain known as the Huntsman. What happens from there is unexpected, brutal, and yet totally in character. Ultimately, this run on Batman seems to be about leaving Batman emotionally exposed in a way he has never been before, and the end of this brilliant done-in-one rips open old wounds and ends in a way that finds Batman in a very unusual position for him. I’m not sure what King’s endgame is for Batman, but I can’t wait to find out.

Batman, Jim Gordon, Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing crashes the crime scene, image via DC Comics

Corrina: When they start to make a list of “best single issue Batman” stories of the 21st century, this one needs to be included.

This reads as it is labeled: a perfect updating of the old 1970s Brave & the Bold stories, which were frequently intense one-and -done stories that used other heroes/villains to reflect on Batman’s life. We see the world from the perspective of Gotham (Gordon) and Batman, and while Batman is dedicated to logic and detective work, those he encounters are frequently beyond those kinds of rules, no one more so than Swamp Thing, the former Alec Holland.

Swamp Thing is sometimes portrayed as a man trapped inside a monster with incredible power, rather than an otherworld consciousness which has bonded with the soul of a man. He’s never seemed so, well, inhuman than in this story, where he struggles to process Alec’s human emotions. I suppose the ending was inevitable but I did not see that coming.

Psst…Ray, maybe Gordon’s so touchy over plant life because he just fought a near-unstoppable plant monster!

Teen Titans #8 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Priest, Dan Abnett, Plot; Phil Hester, Breakdowns, Khoi Pham, Penciller; Wade Von Grawbadger, Inker; Jim Charalampidis, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Everything To Do With Deathstroke Is Great

Ray: Although he’s in the background here, this issue drives home exactly what makes Deathstroke such a deadly villain – he’s a long-gamer. Last issue, we saw that he had already captured the young Wally West alongside the older one. This issue, we see how he took advantage of Wally’s current emotional state, distrusting Barry over his secrets. Pretending to be a friendly old man who needed help with his car, he had soon lured Wally into his trap and proceeds to play him like a fiddle, using Wally’s anger over losing his father to make him sympathetic to Slade’s desire to fix his past and resurrect his son. The older Wally’s presence only makes the young one more upset, and that gives Slade the opening he needs to get him to give him what he wants.

The segments with Wally and Slade are pretty great, although I was a little less satisfied with the segments involving the rest of the team. Damian’s general prickliness makes an enemy of the adult Titans almost immediately as they work together to find both their missing speedsters. However, Nightwing’s secretive nature and the mystery of the deal he made with Deathstroke sets the two groups against each other, and also sort of accents the odd makeup of the teams. Roy dated Starfire, but now she’s a Teen Titan and he’s a Titan. Raven and Starfire are heavily associated with each other in the mainstream public’s eyes, but they’re different generations now. Odd. I did like some of the character beats throughout, especially anything involving Raven, although Donna Troy continues to be an odd character who doesn’t really work. It’s the cliffhanger involving Slade’s real plan – to steal the Speed Force – that sets up what’s sure to be a great third chapter with Priest at the helm, though.

2017 version of the Teen Titans
The Teen Titans need to find their Wally. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: It is an odd mash-up of teams, isn’t it? Especially since the new team includes so many members of the old team and the ages don’t always mesh. I fail to understand why Starfire and Nightwing wouldn’t have their teams talk it out or why Damian would be so hostile to Dick or why Raven wouldn’t be glad to see her old teammates? (I forgot Roy had an affair with Starfire–I thought that was gone but her history with Dick remained? Ah, who knows anymore?)

But…Deathstroke. He even had me going, believing that he wanted to go back in time to save Grant. It’s always hard to tell with Slade just where his mercenary instincts begin and where his compassion for his children end. Like any great con man, Slade uses truth–Rose and Joe injured–to sell a lie to young Wally. Man, you’d think Wally would be more careful after Damian captured him at the beginning of this series.

So why does Slade want the Speed Force? Hmmm…….

Green Lanterns #23 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Eduardo Pansica, Penciller; Julio Ferreira, Inker; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Not Thrilled With Jess’s Training

Ray: It’s training day for the two newest Green Lanterns, as Jessica gets Guy Gardner as her basic-training drill sergeant, while Simon Baz goes in for advanced training with the deceptively zen Kyle Rayner. It’s a tale of two stories here, as the two trainers are about as different as you’d expect. Jessica and Guy’s segment is a bit hard to read, honestly, but that’s not necessarily a criticism. Guy is in full-on R. Lee Ermey mode as he both tests Jessica’s skills and her inner fortitude, berating her ruthlessly and expecting her to pass difficult tasks in dangerous situations under extreme stress. This is the exact WRONG way to train someone with anxiety, but that’s sadly not unrealistic for the way many actual drill sergeants train. The ending of this story is both inevitable and very satisfying.

Kyle, meanwhile, gets to play the “good” drill sergeant to Simon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an easy day. Kyle very quickly zeroes in on Simon’s insecurities and the reason he hangs on to his gun and sets him a task that doesn’t allow him to rely on brute strength. Kyle’s always been the Green Lantern with the most unique and clever uses of the ring, and this is no exception. He sets up almost passive tests for Simon to figure his way out of – which he does not, at least not this issue. Besides this, there are a few interesting subplots involving Volthoom and the very dawn of the Green Lantern Corps – including an extremely early Lantern from the world of the New Gods. It’s both a strong issue for mythology and for characters, as the GL universe rebound continues.

Corrina: I suspect next issue, Guy will say that he was riding Jess to see how far he could go before she snapped and now that she did go after her tormentor instead of giving up, he knows she’ll be fine. This is in-character for Guy but this is a lousy, lousy way to effectively train a new Green Lantern that the rest of the corps seems worried about. I don’t know, wouldn’t you want training to HELP your newbie Lanterns so they can do the job better? This is even hard and uncomfortable to read. Fail, Lantern Corps.

Kyle does better, with his training forcing Simon to move his thinking from brute force to something more outside the box, and expand his thinking. It’s effective for Simon and would have been effective for Jess, too. So why are they split up when they have to work as a team? Darned if I know.

As for Volthoom’s subplot, it is quickly becoming “how dumb are the Guardians?” Well, given they created two sets of corps with powers that turned evil (Manhunters, Alpha Lanterns), they’re pretty dumb.

Batwoman #3 – Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Writers; Steve Epting, Artist; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Intense

Ray: Four issues in, it’s clear that the creative team’s vision for this title is essentially turning Kate into a female James Bond, crossing the globe and battling colorful international villains, terrorists, and assassins. It’s a good concept for a character who’s often struggled to find her own unique slice of the Gotham story. Now she doesn’t have to – the whole world is her playground. And shadowing the entire arc is the mystery of Kate’s former lover Safiyah, a fascinating new character who serves as an absent presence. A flashback shows the recruitment of the brutal Tahani, who is quickly becoming the most dangerous villain of this arc and stalks Kate throughout as an implacable assassin. But really, above all, this comic is about Kate perfecting her spycraft.

The issue’s main plot opens with Kate infiltrating the Kali Corporation for a meeting with the mysterious ringleaders, a creepy band of vaguely incestuous half-siblings who consider themselves “twins”. This leads to the best gag of the issue, as Julia Pennyworth has a bingo card for these weird villains. Must say, adding Julia to this cast has been a great move, giving Kate an equal with a clean slate to bounce off. The full scale of Kali’s plot is revealed, but not before Tahani makes a return and kicks off another great fight scene as she and Kate descend into a hidden underground cave filled with weapons. I know Brubaker has nothing to do with this, but I get strong vibes of Epting’s last property, Velvet. A must-read for Kate fans and spy comic fans alike.

Batwoman, Kate Kane
Kate walks into the den of the creepy twins, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Julia and creepy twin bingo for the win!
I love the atmosphere of this comic and the hints of Kate’s past and the artwork is all that a noir spy story should be. Kate’s personality comes through in the opening sequence, as she enters the offices of the Kali Corporation. (That name is not subtle, by the way….) There is also that chilling opening sequence, which is a perfect blend of art and story.

But you heard a “but” coming. Three issues in and the villains remain opaque. Ideally, Kate would have something to push back against other than Tahani. She is a good physical match for Kate but she’s such a bundle of rage that it’s hard to discern anything else. Also, why would the creepy twins want to blow up the entire island?

Hopefully, the next issue will pull it all together.

SPLIT DECISIONS

Superman #23 – Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Doug Mahnke, Artist; Jaime Mendoza, Keith Champagne, Inkers; Wil Quintana, Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: I’m So Done With This Plot

Ray: Easily the weirdest, trippiest issue of the series as Superman’s entire new life in Hamilton comes crashing down around him and his family, and one of his deadliest villains returns with a sadistic plot. The issue opens with Lois at the mercy of the mysterious Mr. Cobb, as she attempts to fend him off with Batman’s gauntlet. It doesn’t go well, and he nearly winds up crushing her hand in the process. That’s when Superman shows up, and I never thought Superman fighting an old farmer would be this exciting. Meanwhile, Jon finds himself trapped below ground in a bunker, strapped into a torture chair of some sort and forced to watch the brutal fight going on up above. Anyone who has problems with seeing kids in bad situations will probably not like this segment because it’s fairly emotionally intense.

That’s nothing compared to what’s waiting for the characters in the second half, though. After fighting off Mr. Cobb, Superman winds up fighting the giant monster from last issue as it tears apart the town. That’s when things start getting really strange. One by one, the citizens of the town start emerging – not as themselves, but as costumed superheroes themselves, helping to fight the monster – and urging Superman to cut loose and kill the creature. Their name as a team should give a clear indication as to who the villain is. The creature is eventually defeated – but not before Lois is apparently maimed in the process, losing her leg. This segment is treated deadly serious, but I can’t imagine it’s going to stick. Although I’m guessing Lois could rock the gun-leg from Planet Terror, this feels like an illusion or dream sequence. Something that makes a lot more sense with the introduction of the villain putting Jon through this ordeal – Manchester Black, one of Superman’s deadliest enemies. A weird issue, to be sure, but one that sets up an epic final showdown.

Corrina: Weirdest, Ray says. Worst, I say, and I say that even in comparison with the issue that had Lois serving everyone dinner while she showed no interest in the overall mystery.

One, it is way too graphic and gory for an all-ages comic, so if you want your younger kids to read about young Superboy, this is not the comic for them. And the graphic nature of it seems so random. Hey, let’s cut off Lois’s leg! No, let’s put it back. (Ewww….) I guess the creative team is going for some sort of “small towns can be evil” vibe but for that to have resonance, the small town needed to be fleshed out in the first place.

As for Manchester Black, that’s a blast from the past. And his presence promises more gory violence. Ick.

Green Arrow #23 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Juan Ferreyra, Artist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Meaningless Carnage

Ray: I know Corrina and I have a consistent disagreement over this book because she can’t get into the characters or story, while I find the high-octane action and tension engaging enough on its own. In fact, I felt like the weakest arcs were the slowest ones, like the recent Roy Harper focus. However, this story keeps your heart in your throat the whole time and never gives you time to breathe as Ollie and his allies wage a desperate attempt to keep the 9th Circle from claiming Seattle as their own. While Dinah researches the history of the 9th Circle and Ollie hits his despair event horizon with the seeming death of Henry Fyff and the destruction of his headquarters, it’s up to the younger members to keep the fight alive. I was naturally happy to see Emiko again, but it’s actually Roy who shines the most in this issue.

The five-year timeline of the New 52 seems to fully have gone by the wayside now, as Roy refers to having worked with Ollie ten years ago. More importantly, he seems to have a history with Cheshire again – could Lian be alive somewhere out there now? I hope so. The fight scenes are great, Ferreyra continues to draw one of the best-looking books in the DC stables, and the tension is through the roof throughout. Cyrus Broderick’s manipulation of Henry Fyff as he attempts to lure him back into his orbit is a great scene – Broderick makes for a suitably evil villain to center this arc. The massive attack that caps off this book will be a bit uncomfortable to view due to parallels, but it feels like this book is definitely playing for keeps with this arc. The Arrow family will have a radically changed status quo when this wraps.

Corrina: Carnage only works as a plot device if you give a damn about the people being hurt. Right now, I have a generic city being attacked with loads of people dying as collateral damage. That does not engage my emotions and seems to me more like the needless carnage at the end of the Man of Steel movie. Henry’s possible death does get to me a bit but not much because I have no idea why Henry and Ollie are even friends! I’ve never seen them share an inside joke or a quiet moment. All they’ve shared is work commands. (And I have no idea, btw, why Henry would switch sides because I have no idea why Henry wanted to work for Ollie in the first place!)

This comic gives me no idea of the internal motivations of anyone. Sure, Dinah wants the truth but I’ve no idea still why she’s so into Ollie, other than some hot sex. There’s zero basis for their relationship still, plus Roy’s forgiving Ollie comes out of nowhere too. Emiko is kinda my bright spot.

TL;DR: I get zero feels, positive or negative, from this comic. It looks amazing, though. I particularly want to point out the terrific lettering sequence when Ollie finds out Henry is probably dead.

Nightwing #21 – Michael McMillian, Writer; Christian Duce, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Boy’s Night Out

Ray: A disappointing fill-in issue as DC Writers Workshop graduate Michael McMillian takes a break from the main story and gives us a team-up between Dick and the original Wally West. On the surface, that’s not a bad concept, but the problem is that it basically rehashes a lot of the concepts already explored in Titans. Dick and Wally have always been best friends, but the current dynamic is definitely not what it used to be. The issue opens with Dick failing to save a suspect from his victim’s revenge – only to have Wally pluck the bullet out of the air. Dick and Wally then go for a night out, as Wally confesses that he’s not exactly sure where he belongs in this world. Dick tries to get his mind off his troubles, including his unrequited love for Linda, but their evening is soon derailed.

The concept of the villain – a thief who has stolen an experimental harness that allows him to freeze time and steal things – is kind of interesting. It’s sort of the opposite of Wally’s powers, in a way. But the problem is, the personality is just kind of obnoxious. The villain is essentially a jerky frat boy who doesn’t seem to have any real motivation beyond wanting to hurt people for the lols. Also, this doesn’t really seem to be a Nightwing comic at all. Wally feels much more like the POV character here, and as such it feels like it would have gone much better as a fill-in in Titans. The issue does end with the return of a villain that Nightwing faced back when he was Batman, which I hope is followed up on in Seeley’s run.

Corrina: Here’s one that Ray doesn’t like but I do. It’s not the brilliant one-and-done story that this week’s Batman story is and it seems a bit off, dialogue-wise, from the way Dick and Wally are usually portrayed, especially Nightwing in this current run. Not to mention there’s no mention of Shawn when Dick could have used starting over with her after breaking up with Barbara as an example that sometimes you can move on and be happy.

And yet, the story is basically a night on the town with two friends, two young heroes who care a great deal for each other, even though they have vastly different approaches to life. And I’m a sucker for those kinds of stories, that show our costumed heroes as real people. I enjoyed reading this comic far more than the pointless violence (or so it seemed to me) in either Superman or Green Arrow this week. These two are a team and buddies, and it’s fun for the reader to hang out with them for the night, too.

SOLID B-GRADE MATERIAL

Trinity #9 – Francis Manapul, Writer/Artist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Manapul Puts On a Show

Ray: Manapul returns to Trinity as writer/artist, and it looks as great as ever. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like the story in this issue really lived up to the black-mercy inspired epic of the first arc, which gave every player – Trinity and supporting – a great role to play. The issue opens with a stark visual of the Justice League watchtower destroyed and Cyborg, Simon, and Jessica floating in space. It’s a great shot, but the Watchtower gets blown up so often that it’s sort of lacking in impact. From there, we cut to Earth for the best scene of the issue as Clark, Bruce, and Diana decompresses from the events of the first arc and discuss the fate of White Mercy, who it is implied is still alive in some form. That subplot is more intriguing than the rest of the issue, and I hope it’s picked up on soon.

The Trinity then receives a distress call from the Watchtower and finds the place destroyed. They investigate and find Cyborg having his robot limbs ripped apart by mysterious green aliens. Rescuing him, they battle to the center of the ship to find a stasis pod that can keep him alive – only to be attacked by alien Green Lanterns who are actually Simon and Jessica. It’s very reminiscent of the Brood, another comic book alien that likes to infect superheroes and turn them into monsters. The comic has a bit of a Gravity vibe at points, with the heroes battling against not only their alien enemies but the collapsing environment. There are great visuals, but ultimately the main threat has a bit too much similarity to other stories and doesn’t fully click yet.

Corrina: This is more of a Justice League story than a Trinity story, complete with the trademark destruction of the watchtower. Still, it contains that wonderful scene of Bruce, Clark, and Diana simply hanging out with each other, and the hint about White Mercy.

As with Ray, while I found the spectacle of the action part of the story terrific, that part of the issue felt more mundane than the rest.

Super-Sons #4 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Jorge Jiminez, Artist; Alejandro Sanchez, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: A Little Too Much Damian

Ray: A solid finale to the first arc, which relied a bit too heavily on action and a follow-up to the Amazo Virus arc in Justice League, and didn’t quite let the two leads banter to their full potential. The issue opens with Lois and Alfred finding out that their respective boys have wandered off in the middle of the night. Alfred’s line is my favorite – show a little flair at least, Damian. From there, it’s off to the battle, where Kid Amazo has Damian and Jon chained up and their bickering is keeping them from working together well enough to get free yet. Although Kid Amazo is a definite little bastard, it’s worth noting that Tomasi definitely writes him as a kid who doesn’t quite understand what he’s doing, which gives him some sympathetic elements. It’s his kid sister Sara, though, who the audience is most invested in as she struggles to survive.

The second half of the issue is livened up by the presence of Lex Luthor, who has been dogging the two boys since the second issue and has less than zero tolerance for their antics. Here, though, he’s the hero and wants what he sees as his property – the Amazo Virus – back. That allows him to whip the two young heroes into a well-oiled fighting unit that allows them to take on Kid Amazo and eventually strip him of his powers, sending him off to a safe prison. Luthor then convinces Sara to come with him so he can help her family and potentially turn them into superheroes – working for him, of course. And still bickering, the young heroes head home – only to find Alfred and Lois waiting for them. I think angry parents are a much bigger worry for them than killer robots.

Corrina: This is still a cute title and I want it to survive. There is nothing like else like it from DC. But it needs improvement, from the amount of gore in the first few issues, plus all the good moves are being given to Damian and hardly any to Jon. Yes, I know Jon is the rookie but he’s also the son of two reporters. I’d like to see his curiosity and intelligence come into play a bit more, instead of having Damian ordering him around or Damian coming up with the plan that saves them or Damian complaining. Yes, Jon was right about calling for help, but otherwise, that was it.

That said, Kid Amazo was a great villain for the first arc, on the same level as the Super-Sons, and his defeat was clever, even if it needed an assist from Luthor. I’m also glad to know Amazo’s family isn’t dead. And the last panel is great, though one would hope Lois would realize her son was missing before morning. (Also, the Kents have animals? I do not see Lois happy with caring for animals…especially since she’s missing her poor fried kitty.)

Justice League #21 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Daniel Henriques, Artist; Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Detective Work and Compassion Save the Day

Ray: Several of the past Justice League arcs have gone on way too long, so it was great to see this wrap up in two tense, tight issues. There’s a great setup – Barry is essentially trapped in a thriller version of Groundhog Day, living the same few hours over and over as he desperately tries to expand the timeframe and save Jessica Cruz from a villain’s revenge, only to find out that he may be responsible for the disaster that sets everything off. This issue veers and turns the focus on the man who will become the villain who kills Jessica due to a tragedy that wipes out his family – only to show that he’s actually a decent, completely normal guy. A bit of a workaholic, but a loving family man who has forgiven his wife for an affair with his boss. JL seems to be leaning hard on the idea that villains are people too, with themes in several arcs touching on this.

The reveal of the villain is sort of predictable – as soon as his oily boss enters the picture and our unintentional villain tells him that he’s leaving the division and taking his invention with him, you know who has motive. But it’s still great to see Barry get to play Detective, and the team-up with Batman is well done. The Bruce and Barry friendship is something that’s been touched on a lot in Rebirth (see The Button for another great case of this), and it drives this issue. There’s a clever twist involving the source of the energy that’s powering the rogue device and a few interesting hints towards future stories. However, this arc indicates that JL might be best served by doing fast, exciting stories like this as opposed to longer epics. Hitch is good when you have no time to catch your breath.

Corrina: Oh, this was fun! It’s a clever use of all the powers of the Justice League, with Batman using his intelligence to discover the real villain, and Wonder Woman sensing something was wrong with their monstrous foe, and Flash and the others evacuating the facility before anyone could be killed.

I love a happy ending.

Injustice 2 #2 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Bruno Redondo, Penciller; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Can Taylor Write Green Arrow?

Ray: Two issues in, it’s clear that the change-up in writer – bringing back original series writer Tom Taylor – and the new status quo are exactly what this bleak alternate universe needed to become interesting again. Last issue, Superman and his allies were locked up in a top-secret prison, and the resistance trying to rebuild – only for Amanda Waller to make a play to capture reformed criminals including Harley Quinn for the Suicide Squad. She was taken out by a mysterious, gun-toting Batman who is clearly revealed to not be the genuine article. He wastes no time taking control of the nascent Suicide Squad – and wiping out several weaker members like Killer Moth to show he means business. The real Batman shows up to confront him and liberates Harley – only for this imposter to brutally beat him and leave him bleeding in the dirt.

I’m not sure who this new Batman is supposed to be yet, although several candidates come to mind – Slade Wilson? Jason Todd? Alternate Universe Damian Wayne? However, it’s interesting that Bruce immediately zeroes in on the fact that this isn’t a meta or anyone with an advantage, it’s someone who’s simply younger and better. The introduction of Lucius Fox to Batman’s team as a successor to Alfred is a good move, and Luthor’s final gift to Bruce is an intriguing new element. I also really like what we’re seeing with Green Arrow and Black Canary here – the romance between these two other dimensional refugees is a nice bit of light in a sea of dark, something that was sorely missing from the previous run. However, this mysterious new Batman has a plan of his own – and part of that involves taking out the security at the resistance HQ, and possibly freeing Superman. This is easily the best this series has been since the first run.

Corrina: I read this because I read Ray’s review and it contained praise for the portrayal of Dinah and Ollie and their son. I’m glad I checked it out because there are more concentrated Dinah/Ollie feels in this one comic than in the past ten issues of Green Arrow. Their classic playfulness is there, and Dinah proposing to Ollie instead of the other way around is note perfect, plus Ollie’s bluster remains intact but is somehow less annoying than in his current comic.

As for the other stuff, the plot of this comic that’s attached to the video game, evil Superman takes over the world, does not interest me at all. I suspect Ollie and Dinah might be goners at some point, too, and I don’t want to see that. But I would love to have Taylor write the pair in the regular DC book.

Justice League/Power Rangers #4 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Stephen Byrne, Artist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: The Rangers As DC Heroes

Ray: It’s been a while since the last issue of this crossover, due to unknown delays, and it picks up right where it left off with the Justice League and de-powered Rangers trying to find a way back to their dimension. The Rangers have mostly been stripped of their powers, but Tommy still has the Dragon dagger and is able to use it to create a portal as the Justice League borrows the large hadron collider to create a path back to their world. Stephen Byrne, previously of Green Arrow, does the heavy lifting on this issue, delivering some fantastic artwork in the big battle and chase segments. However, there’s also a few good emotional beats throughout. Zack Taylor, not usually the Ranger to get the most development, has a strong subplot about wanting to get back to his parents, who he fought with that morning.

That plot pays off in the issue’s best scene once the Rangers arrive back in their dimension to find Brainiac already getting ready to harvest Angel Grove and destroy the world. That’s where the issue flags a bit, for me, as it becomes pretty much a straight segment of the Rangers and League battling killer robots. I will say that the de-powered Rangers using the costumes of League allies and villains to protect themselves for the final fight was clever, although I could have done without the cliffhanger, which falls back on the most tired plot in the JL stable – Cyborg being hacked by something, in this case, Brainiac. Is Cyborg running on Windows or something? Still, this is a fun comic and I’m very much looking forward to Lord Zedd actually entering the fray here.

Power Rangers, Justice League
Science is the way to a solution. Plus superpowers, of course. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: How many Easter eggs from the DCU did you spot in that collection of weapons and costumes, Ray? More than I could count or place, for certain. I almost thought they’d pull out the old Jim Harper Guardian uniform but the Atomic Axe was better.

There is a terrific use of the powers of the entire Justice League to move the collider from underground to outer space. Yes, that’s the kind of epicness I love in my JL stories. (Can Taylor write, say, John Stewart Green Lantern for a while too?) Since the Rangers aren’t my fandom, I can’t answer for how well their fans would like this but I liked the kids in this story, especially Zack.

DC Comics Bombshells #27 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Carmen Carnero, Artists; J. Nanjan, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: This WW2 AU for DC’s female heroes continues to hit strong as it broadens its focus and enters a new battlefield of Russia. This issue turns the focus on Raven, the teenage sorceress who has been plagued by visions and has been feuding with her protective foster parents Zatanna and Constantine (who is a surprisingly good dad in this verse). Plagued by visions of her father, she decides to set out on her own and discover what’s happened to him. In a flashback, we discover that she’s not the child of a demon cult in this version, but a product of love between a human (Jewish) woman, and Trigon, a fierce but overall peaceful forest beast. Definitely less creepy than her usual origin. There is a villain here, but it’s not Trigon – it’s Captain Cold, here a ruthless ringmaster capturing mythical creatures to serve the Nazis.

Running away from Atlantis, Raven winds up teaming up with Harley and Ivy, who are on a secret mission and crashing into the evil circus train in epic style. It’s the kind of frantic old school action that really works for this book, plus the Jewish representation in this title is really top-notch. The issue also features a third segment involving Kara, as she makes a desperate attempt to escape the trap she’s found herself in thanks to Luthor. The introduction of Kryptonite here makes for a very tense escape, although Luthor once again proves himself to have many sides and an agenda of his own. A really solid issue, with a great introduction to a new corner of this alternate DCU.

The Wild Storm #4 – Warren Ellis, Writer; Jon Davis-Hunt, Artist; Steve Buccellato, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: “Nothing Resembling a Coherent Story So Far” (Hey, that’s Ray’s quote, not mine!)

Ray: Four issues in, I still have no clue what the long game is for this comic. It’s a strange, slow-moving cyberpunk mystery with brilliant art and nothing resembling a coherent story so far. I’m not even entirely sure who the main character is – it changes by the issue, and a character who seems like the protagonist may only get a few panels the next issue. But despite its vaguely confusing nature, it still has a lot going for it. The 90’s aesthetic is nicely dialed back – unlike rival 90s relaunch Youngblood from Image – leaving an alien conspiracy techno-thriller. Certain characters like Grifter are still pretty much the same as they were back then, while others are radically different. Grifter and his team are the least interesting part of the issue for me, as their MO seems to mainly be ultraviolence meets exposition.

Angela Spica, the focus of the first issue, is on the run with her cyber-armor and remains public enemy number one, but the issue picks up a lot with the introduction of our big bad, Henry Bendix. While he was always a fairly standard evil scientist villain, this is where Warren Ellis’ talent for dialogue comes in. Bendix is vile, sure – but he’s also hilarious, a foul-mouthed misanthrope who despises Earth and the very nature of humans on Earth. His interaction with his long-suffering assistant is the clear highlight of the issue and provides some great moments. Michael Cray, the future Deathblow who featured prominently in previous issues, only appears briefly and shows the first sign of powers. This is apparently a 24-issue series, so the slow burn makes sense. But it’s picking up a bit with this issue.

Corrina: Four issues in and I gave up two issues ago, simply because I do not have the background with these characters that might entice me to get past what’s so far a confusing mess. Hopefully, WildStorm fans are getting more out of this than I can.

Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman #4 – Andy Mangels, Writer; Judit Tondora, Artist; Roland Pilcz, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: This DC-meets-Dynamite crossover continues plugging along. It’s definitely more of a Dynamite book, unlike the Mythology-packed Batman/Shadow crossover that just began, but it still provides some good fun for fans of the two shows. I think this might have been the best issue of the run so far because it nicely focuses on Paradise Island as Jaime Sommers joins Diana for a trip there. This allows for the title to focus much more on the mythology of Wonder Woman, which is its strength. There are Kanga games, sure, but there’s also an interesting look at the nature of Themysrica’s redemption/refugee program. I didn’t even remember there were two Wonder Girls on this show, but they’re both here.

There’s also some really good characterization for the two leading ladies, as they look at what their unusual lives have given them – and cost them. Judit Tondora’s art is at its best when dealing with the island, providing some really impressive spreads. Unfortunately, my attention started flagging as soon as we left the island and went back to the villains, an unfortunate band of kidnappers and weapons dealers with no interesting characterization among them. The stars here are our heroines, but maybe 70s villains just weren’t all that great.

Aquaman #23 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Scot Eaton, Penciller; Wayne Faucher, Inker; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Back to Atlantean Politics

Ray: After an arc heavily dealing with the supernatural and the monstrous, this arc pulls back to focus on Atlantean politics, and the comic is overall better for it. The culture of Atlantis is probably the most interesting part of this book overall, but it feels like being absent from this part of Aquaman’s status quo for so long has given it a bit less impact than it should have. Aquaman and Mera are returning to the kingdom after their fight with Dead Water, and they come to a suspiciously empty palace hall – only to be quickly ambushed by the forces of the Deluge and their leader Corum Rath. A big fight scene ensues, as Rath declares his intent to dethrone Aquaman as king and make Atlantis isolationist again. Rath is a fairly stock villain, but it’s what comes next that gives this an interesting twist.

It seems Rath isn’t alone, far from it. Rather, all the councils of Atlantis are backing this coup. Council Elder Leot is leading the call for a peaceful transition, and the Widows are backing it as well. Although Murk and Tula remain loyal to Arthur, Murk sees his first loyalty as to Atlantis and the King and will only back a side after the eventual winner emerges. I was most intrigued by Vulko, a traitor to Atlantis but a loyalist to Arthur, escaping from prison along with a fellow criminal for his own purposes in the chaos. The issue ends with Arthur facing an ultimatum to resign the crown, and choosing to fight for Atlantis. It’s not a great issue, suffering from a bit too much exposition, but it’s a promising enough start.

Aquaman #23, Mera, Aquaman
Aquaman has some competition for the Throne of Atlantis, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Well, after blowing up the porthole to another universe last issue, Arthur certainly seems to be in a forgiving mood. But his subjects are not.

Once upon a time, when I went through my comic collection, I realized I’d collected almost all of the Aquaman series over the last 40 years. So I can tell you that I’ve seen this particular plot point, that of Atlantis wanted to get rid of their king, and Arthur torn between superheroing and duty, in all of them. And I’m not interested in reading it again. New readers might just like it better.

Harley Quinn #20 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Paul Dini, Writers; Joseph Michael Linsner, John Timms, Artists; Bret Blevins, Penciller; J. Bone, Inker; Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Breather Issue

Ray: It’s the start of a new arc, as the time travel plot that’s been teased in segments by Joseph Michael Linsner for months now finally comes to a head. This issue has a lot going on, and the contrasting art styles between Timms and Linsner in the main story are really noticeable. The issue starts with the victims of the last arc’s cannibal villains being buried by Harley and Chief Spoonsdale, and as they head back Harley encourages Spoonsdale to go after the Mayor’s job. From there, she heads home and patches up Red Tool, while planning for her parents’ upcoming visit. Then things get sort of crazy, as she gets a call from Harley Sinn informing her that Mason and his mother have been kidnapped. And before she can process what’s happened, it’s time travel time!

The mysterious Devani, the Batgirl of the future, is here in a suit of armor and is looking to get the drop on Harley after raiding the Batcave. The fight is quick, brutal, and exciting, and ends with Devani being loaded into Harley’s poop-a-pult and sent for a ride. It’s entertaining enough and kind of frantic, but this arc is definitely looking more promising than the last right out of the gate. The backup, focusing on Diniverse Harley and Joker doesn’t really work for me quite as well as the previous ones, because it seems to muddle Joker’s characterization. He seems genuinely nice here? Like he loves Harley? There’s a few funny bits, including Harley and Joker scamming their way into a hotel, but this story feels like it would be better as a Harley and Ivy escapade, really.

Corrina: Kinda a breather issue, though, yes, dealing with a heroine from the future and catapulting her away is what stands for a quite day for Harley. Still, she makes sense about going after the Mayor. (At some point, we need to kill off this Mayor, yes?) Bummer on Red Tool being around but I’m truly interested in meeting Harley’s parents next issue.

The Joker and Harley back-up is classic Dini and really has to be taken as its own thing.

Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye #8 – Gerard Way, Jon Rivera, Writers; Michael Avon Oeming, Artist; Nick Filardi, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: What Was That?

Ray: Coming off the heels of the best issue in this series’ run, we get the worst, a bizarre start to a new arc that throws readers into a new status quo that doesn’t entirely make sense. After Cave’s bizarre dark night of the soul – complete with strange Superman guest shot – Cave and his supporting cast wake up in another world, literally. It’s a post-apocalyptic Earth, where he and his daughter visit his wife’s grave – or where it should be – and then go off to confront a world that has fallen under the thrall of a parasitic being unleashed by the Borsteins last issue. This thing is essentially a tentacled hivemind right out of Lovecraft, and its depiction by Michael Avon Oeming. However, what this thing actually is, and where it comes from, is kept pretty vague. It’s a monstrosity in search of a story.

Seeing Cave and his team thrown into this kind of apocalyptic scenario has its appeal, and this is probably the fastest-paced issue of the series. But it’s also the hardest to follow, zig-zagging from plot to plot and taking a two-page spread for a metaphysical speech about the nature of time and space from Cave’s old mentor. There’s a surprising amount of blood and gore, and a bit of gross-out humor to boot, which doesn’t really feel in line with the silver age pulp vibe this comic has been going for until now. The tone of this arc, with a flawed father and his daughter jumping dimensions looking for answers, reminds me a bit of Black Science, but the transition is a bit abrupt. The Young Animal line is dedicated to being experimental, but not every experiment is going to hit.

Corrina: The art on this is glorious but I cannot make sense of the plot. Now, in some cases, that’s okay, but when I can’t tell reality from illusion and crazy headspace from trippy delusions, then I cannot grok what the creative team wants me to get from this issue except things are really, really messed up. I guess I’ll make sense of it next issue. This series has been so good so it seems churlish to complain about this one issue.

Odyssey of the Amazons #5 – Kevin Grevioux, Writer; Ryan Benjamin, Artist; Don Ho, Inker; Tony Washington, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Ray: The penultimate issue of this poorly designed series has only one thing going for it, and that’s that it’s slightly fascinating to see these DCU versions of the Norse Gods and monsters. This is such Marvel territory that there’s a uniqueness to it, and Ryan Benjamin as artist provides the issue’s highlight in his depiction of creatures like Surtr the dark god of fire. There are some battle segments that do have some genuine energy to them, but they’re few and far between…and the larger problems still remain. Namely, there is nothing of note to either the heroes or the villains in this series.

The villains are one-dimensional evil cartoons, some of which have barely any setup before appearing, and the heroes are a generic band of wandering warriors. One Amazon dies in graphic fashion this issue, but due to the poor design of the series there’s zero emotion. You can’t care about someone you were never given a reason to care about. Expanding the mythology of the Amazons is a good idea, but the execution of this miniseries lets Wonder Woman and her legacy down.

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.