DC This Week – The ‘Deathstroke’ Family Wedding

Deathstroke #18, Bill Sienkiewicz cover
Bill Sienkiewicz cover, image via DC Comics

The biggest drama this week is to be found in Batman, where Thomas Wayne of Flashpoint meets the DC Universe Batman. There was much anger and manly feels to be had. (Though not much plot development regarding the mystery of ‘The Button.’) Meanwhile, the Deathstroke family throws a wedding and it’s as murderous as could be predicted, and Dick Grayson, Shawn and Damian ponder the meaning of family bonds in Nightwing #20.

The creators of Bane, Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan, return to the character with the first issue of a new miniseries. Injustice #2, the comic based on the DC video game, also returns with the original series writer this week. If an evil Superman is your thing, you may want to look. Meanwhile, in the regular DC Universe, Lois Lane actually gets to do something (shocking, I know!) in Superman #22.

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

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW FOR MAY 3RD DC COMICS

Injustice 2 #1
Of course this kid is Ollie’s son. Image via DC Comics

BANE RETURNS

Bane: Conquest #1 – Chuck Dixon, Writer; Graham Nolan, Artist; Gregory Wright, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Muscular Action Story

Ray: There’s been a resurgence in recent years of classic writers returning to properties they defined ten or even twenty years later. Some of them feel like no time has passed, while others stumble a bit. Now into this pit we throw the always-controversial Chuck Dixon, reuniting with his artist partner Graham Nolan to return to the villain who broke the Bat. And in this case, if you’ve read his Bane before, it’s like stepping into a time warp. This is absolutely the 90s Bane in every way. He’s accompanied by his classic minions, Zombie, Bird, and Trogg. Instead of the mad, almost feral villain we saw in “I Am Bane,” this Bane is a cunning mastermind prone to monologuing. Still, Dixon knows his action scenes, and the issue is at its best right from the start, where Bane brutally intercepts a ship bound for Gotham with weapons intended for a terror attack.

Bane has always seen himself as a hero in his own right, not a traditional villain, so pitting him against a worse villain is usually the best way to do a solo story. However, I felt the issue slowed down a bit when he was analyzing the information he got, as there were a lot of flashbacks to his traumatizing childhood and vows of vengeance. This is all well-trod ground for Bane, and it falls a bit flat. I did laugh my butt off at Bane talking to his old teddy bear, though. Bane works pretty well as a villain protagonist, as he tracks down the people behind the attempted attack and beats information out of them by any means necessary. Dixon seems to be patterning him a bit after a rogue cop on a TV drama. I have to say, though, my Bane will always be Scandal Savage’s awkward self-appointed dad, so I’m not sure taking him back to his earliest characterization is for me.

Corrina: This is exactly what I expected from a Dixon/Nolan Bane story. This creative team always depicted terrific, tense action scenes and Bane crawling up the side of a ship would rank up there with their best work. If the 90s Bane is what you want, that is what you get here. It’s not so different from Gail Simone’s Secret Six Bane, simply because there was always something of the protector with Bane. There are no surprises in this issue but there is solid storytelling.

There are those who won’t buy this issue due to Dixon’s statements regarding LGBTQ rights, which is their right as a consumer and I won’t gainsay it. I suspect Dixon and Nolan’s return would be a bigger deal to readers if not for that controversy.

Bane: Conquest #1
Bane is back in classic ’90s style, image via DC Comics

GRADE A COMICS (That’s most of them this week.)

Batman #22 – Tom King, Joshua Williamson, Writers; Jason Fabok, Artist; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: First Time I’ve Liked Thomas Wayne

Ray: After the first issue, which was basically all-action from beginning to end, “The Button” has surprisingly been a very low-key, character-driven event. And if it’s all as good as the last two issues, I’m more than fine with it. This issue shifts the focus again, making the Thomas Wayne of Flashpoint the main character in an issue that doubles as both an emotional father-son chat and an end-of-world battle. When we last left off, Batman and Flash crash-landed in the Flashpoint world with a damaged cosmic treadmill, and one Batman came face to face with another. After a brief recap of the Flashpoint world, the reunion doesn’t go smoothly at first, with both Batmen being naturally suspicious of the other. Thomas even attacks Flash, refusing to believe this is genuine. As typical with Batmen, nothing seriously gets resolved until a deadly crisis emerges, and that’s in the form of the forces of Aquaman and Wonder Woman beating down the doors of the Batcave.

Somehow the Flashpoint world has been preserved a minute before extinction, and certain villains want to use that moment to get revenge. As Flash desperately tries to fix the treadmill, Bruce and Thomas battle side by side. When they’re about to die, they somehow become more emotional. Bruce reveals to Thomas that he’s a grandfather, while they also discuss a shared memory of the time Bruce fell into the cave. Their brief reunion comes to an end as Thomas goes to face the end of the world and makes sure Batman and Flash escape, but before that, his last message to Bruce picks up on some of King’s major themes from his run. Before the issue ends, there’s another encounter with Thawne – the timeline of this event is kind of mind-bending. However, there’s going to be some huge reveals next issue, which is sadly delayed a week. But I want it now…

Corrina: As I was reading this issue, I realized why I never warmed to the Thomas Wayne Batman. He’s essentially the Punisher in a Batman suit, with little nuance save a need for Vengeance. But this story, like the best Punisher stories, focuses on Thomas Wayne’s vulnerability and regrets, and that’s why it worked so well. Thomas sees the way it could have been and regrets the person he became, I think. (Or regrets the life he should have had.) That he would sacrifice himself for his son was a given and the only way his story could end but that made it no less an emotional gut-punch.

However, while this issue was terrific, the reader (and our heroes) know about the same amount of information about the mysterious mastermind and multiple worlds and the Button as when they started out. Either the next issue will be jammed back or it’s going to lead into another event.

Batman #22 - Part Three of The Button
Two Batmen have a heart-to-heart, image via DC Comics

Deathstroke #18 – Priest, Writer; Joe Bennett, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: And It All Hits the Fan

Ray: Almost a year in, this book has established itself as one of the clearest all-time classics in the entire line, and it all converges here, as the Wilson family reunites for the wedding from hell, and celebrates it as only they can – by trying to kill each other. Priest juggles plots like a master TV writer, and a story line this wouldn’t be out of place on a prestige AMC drama (can we have one, please, WB?). The issue opens with Jericho and a blind Slade duking it out after Jericho found his bride-to-be Etienne dead. Slade, even with his sight, wouldn’t have much of a chance due to Jericho’s powerful IKON suit. The story then flashes back, as Rose arrives at the airport and is greeted by Red Lion, who Slade has trusted to deliver her. Etienne, meanwhile, is getting pressure from her handler – now revealed as Amanda Waller – to come in before the wedding. But Slade intercepts the call, and Etienne finds herself trapped.

The wedding is fantastically tense, with every major player in this series so far converging for the event. Meanwhile, Dr. Isherwood wakes up, seemingly transformed by Dr. Villain into something hideous. The issue, though, is ultimately about Slade’s toxic influence on his family, and the way he destroys almost everything he touches. Wintergreen calls him out on his manipulations, but the best confrontation is undeniably his face-off with Rose, as he justifies his cruel manipulation of her longing for family with “tough love.” However, the main event is the spectacular showdown between father and son, as Jericho interrupts his own wedding fully armed and attacks his father. While Slade is undeniably the villain here, it’s Jericho who comes off as a madman, nearly killing his own sister in the process. The series goes monthly after this month, and this month we get “The Lazarus Contract.”  Cannot wait to see what Priest’s next act is, because this year has been a masterpiece.

Corrina: This is such a masterpiece of storytelling, especially since Priest manages to make Slade Wilson compelling without ever forcing the viewer to empathize with him. Every time the reader starts to feel for him, Priest pulls something like he did last issue, and we know what a bad guy he is.

The flashbacks this issue were more confusing than usual, and I had to re-read it twice. I even came away with a different take on why Red Lion was there: I thought perhaps he was trying to corrupt Rose instead of being sent by Slade. It’s so hard to tell when everyone has ulterior motives, including Etienne and Waller.

And, yes, Slade’s failings as a father are all on display, to the point where the reader wants to root for Joe. Except maybe Joe killed his fiancee? Was it Adeline, who found out Etienne was a spy? Or Red Lion, to screw with Slade’s family? Or maybe it was Waller herself who gave the order. This DC version seems to be just that ruthless.

The obvious answer, of course, is Slade, who would have seen the woman as a double threat to him and his son.

As Ray said, this series is a masterpiece.

Deathstroke #18
Not quite a happy father-son reunion, image via DC Comics

Superman #22 – Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Doug Mahnke, Penciller; Jaime Mendoza, Ray McCarthy, Inkers; Wil Quintana, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Finally, Some Lois

Ray: For anyone who felt that Lois Lane was getting short shift in this title, this is the issue for you. It’s almost a solo spotlight for her, with only a small role for Superman in the last few pages, and she gets to show off a combination of investigating skills and comic book badassery. The issue begins with her at home, waiting for news on her husband and son who have disappeared. Tired of waiting and the constant things keeping them apart, she decides to head out and look for them herself – and the town proceeds to go Wayward Pines on her. The old oak tree is on fire, the Cobbs give her the runaround, and she notices a friend who was supposed to be in the hospital walking around fine. She discovers the hidden monitors from last issue – and returns home to find the major citizens of the town all waiting for her.

Yep, it seems like the entire town is in on whatever this creepy plot is, and it’s likely the Hamilton era of Superman comics is coming to an end shortly. This entire town may have been created to monitor Superman and his family, in fact. I’m not even sure any of these people are actually human, but we’ll see. With these sinister figures willing to do anything to keep Lois from contacting the Justice League, she pulls off a series of badass moves involving a fire gauntlet and a Batmobile, but ultimately these people seem to be unkillable, and are able to capture her just like they did her family. And speaking of Superman, he’s trapped in an underground labyrinth, where he finds Damian and others trapped in tubes. This issue raises far more questions than it answers, but it’s a pretty great ride.

Corrina: Are you talking to me, Ray? Yes, I’ve been more than vocal about the use of Lois in this book and while I’m glad to see her used (FINALLY) that doesn’t render the rest of my complaints moot. This story has been oddly paced, with the distraction last issue of the octopus, and the insertion of Batman, who serves no purpose in the story that Lois doesn’t already. When you have a character thinking out loud “why am I waiting and not investigating,” it’s usually a tip that the creators themselves are wondering the same thing. I’m still smarting about Lois’s treatment and it will take more than one issue to change my mind.

Green Lanterns #22 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Ronan Cliquet, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Lantern Training!

Ray: The series takes a huge side turn this issue, as the down-to-earth planetside adventures take a break for an arc, and Simon and Jessica get indoctrinated for the first time into the global dealings of the Green Lantern Corps. Obviously, we get cosmic Green Lantern stories aplenty in the sister book, so I was a bit hesitant to see this title go the same way. Fortunately, Sam Humphries grounds this issue very nicely in Jessica Cruz’ awkward attempt to settle into the Corps, and as such this issue doesn’t feel any less human despite the presence of ten-mouthed yellow lantern monsters. The issue opens with Simon and Jessica hurtling through space at the speed of light. Simon takes it in stride, but Jessica panics and triggers her ring’s fail-safe, leaving her stranded in space – until she gets an assist from Kyle Rayner.

Humphries gets that Kyle was the last Lantern rookie before Simon and Jessica, and that works nicely into his characterization here. After an entertaining space tour, Jessica joins Simon on Mogo, where they learn about the yellow lanterns joining the corps, and Jessica finds out that she’s there for formal Lantern training. She’s offended at the idea that she’s not qualified, but really, John has a point – she was thrown into the deep end and has survived to this point through sheer grit. Cliquet’s art is great with the often bizarre sights on Mogo, and I’m looking forward to the start of training next issue, with Jessica paired with Guy. I was less interested in “Rami” (actually Volthoom) being summoned by Ganthet and Sayd, but that seems to be a long-term plotline that’s unfolding. After a rough first arc, this book hasn’t missed a step yet, and its characterization remains its strongest suit.

Corrina: It seems to me that the Guardians shouldn’t be that easy to fool, especially one like Ganthet, but the Guardians and competence have had only a shaky acquaintance for years, so maybe this is in line with that. Looks like that the big confrontation with Volthoom will be a Lantern Corps story. Can I hope that it’s Jessica and Simon who save the day, thus earning the respect of all the other Lanterns?

And, not for nothing, but, wow, did John Stewart seriously mishandle Jessica. One would have hoped for a debriefing report first where they could talk instead of a summons like this. Simon thought of sending Kyle but John should have made that decision. (I have a soft spot for John and I’d like to see him competent here, rather than as the enemy.) But I suppose that’s a personal niggle. I’m 100 percent Team Jessica and want her Lantern symbol back, post-haste. Which is a measure of how much emotional investment I have in these characters.

Green Lanterns #22
Orientation on Planet Mogo, image via DC Comics

Injustice 2 #1 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Bruno Redondo, Penciller; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Not In the Mood for Evil Superman

Ray: This second official volume of the popular Injustice universe is starting at an odd point, debuting while the side story “Ground Zero” is still running, and picking up with a status quo that is completely different from the one we left off with. Still, a writer can make all the difference, and the return of original writer Tom Taylor (currently killing it on All-New Wolverine over at the competition) turns what could be a generic grimdark pastiche into something much more intriguing. At the end of the Injustice game, Superman was defeated and locked up along with his closest allies, and the issue opens with a depowered Superman confronting Batman in the prison, trying to get under his skin and taunting him about all he’s lost. This Superman is utterly vile, and Taylor knows how to make him a twisted monster rather than just a random cruel bully. Still, his comments get to Batman, who makes some noises about turning over a new leaf and doing things differently.

Where the issue excels is in its lighter points. Harley Quinn is hilarious here, with her half-cocked plan to become Batman’s new Robin. She’s just coming up with this on her own and Batman is vaguely tolerating her, when she’s abducted by Amanda Waller who plans to take advantage of the power vacuum to establish the Suicide Squad and take control. Meanwhile, Doctor Fate knows there’s a second battle coming, and heads to the pocket universe where he left Ollie, Dinah, and their son – now a little boy obsessed with shooting Fate with toy arrows. I liked how Fate’s byzantine speaking manner leads to a misunderstanding that nearly gets him killed before he can actually make his recruitment case. But the real surprise is when Batman shows up to rescue Harley – and promptly guns down her captors in cold blood. An impostor? Another hero gone bad? We’ll see, but right out of the gate this is the most intriguing Injustice has been in years.

Green Arrow #22
The Ninth Circle declares war on Seattle, image via DC Comics

Nightwing #20 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Whew. Nice Ending

Ray: The conclusion of the moody, Morrison-inspired “Nightwing Must Die” arc brings with it a showdown with the ruthless Dr. Hurt, and closure for several of the title’s major players. The issue opens with a dark flash-forward to a future where Damian died at the end of last issue, and Dick sunk into grief and madness. Now a brutal vigilante named Deathwing, he’s tracked down Professor Pyg and is making him pay for his role in Damian’s death when he’s confronted by a masked vigilante. It turns out to be a grown-up Damian, which Dick only figures out until after he’s beaten him to death. This, of course, is a false memory created by Hurt, but it’s still a gripping scene that sets the issue off with a strong start. From there, Dick takes the fight to Hurt, while it’s up to Shawn to appeal to the humanity left in the fake Deathwing and help him make the right choice.

Deathwing ultimately does switch sides, and helps Dick take on Hurt – but Hurt’s return has another layer to it, as Hurt is terrified of something he saw while buried deep underground, and it makes me wonder – is this something else related to Rebirth? Is that the bigger threat Hurt is afraid of? I laughed when it turned out Damian survived because his training allows him to shift the organs around in his body to avoid fatal injury. Is there anything this kid can’t do? But the latter half of the issue has some really strong character-driven moments. Shawn not being pregnant didn’t surprise me – DC isn’t going to make Nightwing a dad, and a false alarm is much better than a miscarriage story down the line. I also loved the interaction with Dick and Damian to end the issue, tying up a lot of the loose ends from their relationship dating back to Batman and Robin. This continues to be a strong, character-driven book, another winner for the Bat-line.

Corrina: Closure is a good word for this issue. A closure for the “Best Team Ever” of Damian and Dick, closure for the mystery of Shawn’s pregnancy, closure for Shawn’s own fears about being warped as a villain. I had my doubts but Seeley nailed the landing.

Except, I’m not sure what the pregnancy scare added to the comic, except to rev up the stakes for the “damsel in distress,” which Shawn was for a while. That wasn’t fun for me to read, even if the creative team was playing with tropes. But, in the end, it’s a beautiful story of who Dick Grayson is, why he’s always going to be a hero, and why he’s not the same person as Batman.

Justice League #20 – Bryan Hitch, Writer/Penciller; Daniel Henriques, Andrew Currie, Paul Neary, Inkers; Alex Sinclair, Jeromy Cox, Pete Pantazis, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Imaginative

Ray: Easily the best setup for an arc in Hitch’s Justice League so far, this issue benefits from a strong central POV – Flash takes center stage this issue – and a great hook, as he finds himself in a cosmic horror superhero version of Groundhog Day. The issue opens with Jessica dying in front of Flash as a mad villain with a powerful energy weapon kills her. Flash attacks the villain – and winds up back having breakfast with Jessica, right before everything goes to hell. Jessica dies again, and Barry confronts the villain again, each time getting a bit more of the story. He learns a little more each time, but invariably the villain manages to trigger an explosion that restarts the cycle. It soon becomes clear that the villain blames the Justice League for killing his family, and believes the best way to deal with this is to destroy the city.

That’s where the twist comes in, though, because eventually, Barry manages to get back in time far enough to contact the Justice League for help. The manage to figure out the identity of the villain, a brilliant scientist who was debuting an alternative form of self-reproducing energy that went horribly wrong. They go to confront the man and take the weapon into custody – only for Flash’s speed force to interact with it the wrong way and set off an explosion that destroys the building and kills the man’s family. All this time, the villain was right and Flash was the one who created the whole disaster. Unlike the past arcs, which relied on massive cosmic villains with confusing plots, this one hinges on a simple concept of vengeance and trying to fix one’s mistakes. It’s more of a strong Flash story than a Justice League story, but that’s more than enough to be a good read.

Corrina: The strength of Hitch’s writing has been his creative concepts and this one shows off one of those “I’ve never seen that before” ideas, which is concentrating on Flash’s skips backward (and forward) in time. Did Flash create the event or did the event create the need for Flash to go back in time to prevent it? This takes the chicken and the egg scenario to a new level.

While the concept is good, using Jessica’s death as the emotional heart of the issue seemed a little too close to cliche. I like her friendship with Barry but not if her (obviously temporary) death is going to be the sole aspect of their relationship. I’d have liked to see more of the villain and his villain but given how twisty-turvy with time this issue is, I suspect we’ll see more of them soon.

Justice League #22
Groundhog Day, Justice League Style, image via DC Comics

The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #5 – Cary Bates, Greg Weisman, Writers; Will Conrad, Artist; Ivan Nunes, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: After a first issue that didn’t leave much of an impression, this comic has slowly developed into a very strong read, one that neatly balances high-octane military superhero action with a surprisingly strong personal story. Last issue set up the big bad of the series, Max Thrane, a sadistic killer-for-hire who was set to be executed when Captain Atom’s energy disrupted the electrocution. When Atom finally removed the stasis years later, it transformed Thrane into a dark Captain Atom analogue out for revenge. He proceeds to spend most of this issue tearing through his old contact list, targeting people who associated with him or hired him in the past in case they were the ones who turned him in. He makes for an intimidating villain, but I was much more interested in the B-plot.

Captain Atom’s son, conceived with the woman he married when he was trapped in the past, has been a dangling plot thread since the third issue, but this issue Adam and his son finally meet. Adam impersonates a ROTC recruiter to take the teenager out for a taste of military life and at the same time talk to him a bit about his family. However, this brings out some harsh feelings about his seeming abandonment of his family, and Atom is forced to realize that he can’t put things back together and reveal himself easily. By the time the big showdown with Thrane happens at the end of the issue, it doesn’t have the same punch as the quieter scenes, but it does provide some great visuals. I’m looking forward to the final issue and seeing how Eiling and Thrane are tied together.

Corrina: This issue certainly moves Eiling into complete villain territory, as I’m assuming that the person he paid Thrane to kill was Atom’s wife. But the more interesting part is Nate’s bonding with his son, and his son coming out of his teenage shell long enough to show some personality. It made me care about this relationship though I’m generally not a fan of the “I won’t tell him who I am because he would be really hurt and make it worse.” At this point, the boy has to believe his father didn’t want him, and that’s a wound that won’t ever heal until he knows the truth. However, being pulled into the world of superheroes in this universe is not something a parent does lightly.

DC Comics Bombshells #26 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Carmen Carnero, Richard Ortiz, Rachael Stott, Mirka Andolfo, Artists; J. Nanjan, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: Another strong issue that furthers the story of this unique alternate reality, the thirty-page format works to its advantage this issue, as Bennett weaves a trio of stories that work together nicely. The opening story isn’t quite a story at all, rather a poem as composed by Miri Marvel, at the conclusion of the current storyarc. The optimistic girl whose Shazam powers kicked in and helped her save her family during the battle of Berlin surveys the Bombshells as they prepare to go their own way, and weaves a lyrical ode to the family she’s found. Miri’s been one of the most original takes on a classic character in this book, and it’s great to see her get a spotlight. The second story was probably the least compelling, but still strong, as Raven struggles with her memories of her father and desires to go out and track him down, bristling up against Zatanna’s overprotective mentorship.

The third story is where the next big arc of Bombshells kicks off, as Kara Starikov takes center stage for the first time since losing her sister in the battle of London over a year ago. She heads to a party in Turkey, accompanied by Steve Trevor, only to encounter Alexander Luthor, who takes a keen interest in her. Luthor has been a wild card so far in this series, coming off as a shady arms dealer but one who genuinely wants the Allies to win the war. However, this issue he chooses a side, and it’s not a good one. Ambushing Kara, the introduction of Kryptonite to this story adds a major new stake, and soon Kara finds herself in a no-win situation aboard a speeding train. Act three of Bombshells is just kicking off, as the Soviet Union enters the fray in a big way. Another great issue.

SPLIT DECISION

Green Arrow #22 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Juan Ferreyra, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Not Seeing It

Ray: “The Rise of Star City” continues to be the flashiest Green Arrow story I can remember, bringing the feel of an epic, high-stakes disaster film to the book. When the story opens, Seattle is in flames, with engineered disasters taking place at five points around the city, with the worst being a catastrophe staged at the airport. Victoria Much, the reporter who nearly died at Malcolm Merlyn’s hands last arc, is reporting on the scene while Green Arrow poses as a firefighter and assists in the rescue efforts. Henry Fyff organizes the heroes, as Green Arrow and Emiko try to stem the bleeding around the city. However, once the villains – Eddie Fyers, Cheshire, and Brick – are revealed as a deadly team themed around the Four Horsemen, Ollie is quickly overwhelmed after a genuinely brutal fight sequence.

While the story is strong when it’s hitting at full octane, a few flaws do creep in when it slows down. The evil puppet Mayor, Nathan Domini, is little more than a Trump caricature, right down to his low-information sound bites and his ability to make any situation about him. Got to say, Cyrus Broderick’s mask will never cease to freak me out, though. Green Arrow’s struggle over the reveal that his father was a member of the Ninth Circle is a compelling hook for the arc, but I wasn’t all that interested in his conflict with Black Canary. I can’t really see her being a stickler for the power of law and the sanctity of elections when the guy who won the election is an actual supervillain who is in the process of tearing the city down in the service of an evil cult, but then I suppose it wouldn’t be GA and BC if they didn’t get into fights often. Still, Ferreyra’s spectacular visuals continue to make this a thoroughly entertaining comic.

Corrina: What everyone else is seeing in this comic is not reaching me. I’ve tried and there have been bits and pieces I’ve enjoyed but Percy’s characters are missing those small moments that reach in and grab me. Moments like Flash realizing his mother’s murderer is dead in Flash, or Dick and Shawn’s dating in Nightwing, or Clark realizing Lois is his hero in Action Comics. All these Percy action set-pieces leave me cold and, well, a little sick, because Ollie never seems to have any wins. Yes, they’re listed right here in this issue but none of them felt like a win when I read the issues and they should have. Maybe that’s what I’m missing, a sense of enjoyment. All I have so far is Ollie making his own bow, which was a nice touch of characterization, but even after all these issues, I still have no idea what Dinah sees in the guy. There’s no “d’aww” in that relationship and I feel no stakes to all these random people dying because they seem only like cannon fodder to me.

The Flintstones #11 – Mark Russell, Writer; Steve Pugh, Artist; Chris Chuckry, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: This book has always been a bit of an anthology, with some plotlines (such as the crazy Trump-esque Mayor, and the tool-animal rebellion) carrying over. However, with only one issue left after this one, I wasn’t expecting this issue to be so much of a side-story. This time, The Flintstones take on the hot issue of…gentrification and neighborhood associations. The issue opens with Fred celebrating his birthday and getting a gift of an oversized statue from Barney, celebrating their long-standing friendship. It’s tacky, but Barney is his best friend and Fred grudgingly puts it in the yard. The only problem is, primordial hipsters are starting to move into Bedrock, and in addition to this driving up costs in the area, they don’t want tacky statues in the area.

As Fred battles with the Bedrock HOA and defends a statue he himself can’t really stand, Gazoo is dealing with the same issue on a much bigger scale. The intergalactic equivalent of the HOA has been sent to pass judgement on Earth – and they do it by blowing up planets that don’t meet their standards. Gazoo is horrified, but they insist that it’s essential to keep the galaxy up to standards. He manages to convince the HOA to let him pick the resident of Earth that will determine Earth’s fate – and pulls off a hilarious con that gets Earth a passing grade. I’m not sure what kind of conclusion this bizarre, highly original book is going to come up with next month, but it’s at the very least an amusing experiment.

Failing Grades:

Aquaman #22 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Philippe Briones, Artist; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: So Frustrating!

Ray: The conclusion of the Dead Water arc loses its momentum as the story devolves into a series of monsters fighting each other. Dead Water works best as a horror villain, where it’s uses sparingly and its appearances have a strong impact. Having multiple ones rampaging around a base attacking everything in sight and each other ruins that impact. The issue starts with one of the Aquamarines having been transformed into Dead Water, and in the panic Scavenger changes into one as well. With both in the wild, Mera is briefly able to scare them off so the team can discuss the best way to deal with them, but they soon return angrier than ever. Mera wants Arthur to try to negotiate with the beings in Tethys, get them to use their power to shut down Dead Water.

Arthur, however, has other plans. Not able to trust that he’ll be able to negotiate with Tethys before his allies are killed off by Dead Water, he grabs the suitcase nuke and drags it down into the depths, detonating it in the heart of Tethys despite Mera trying to stop him. Mera is able to save the two of them from the impact with a water bubble, but the attack causes a rift in their relationship. Mera sees the beings of Tethys as strange residents of the sea just like them, while Arthur simply saw them in his role as king as a threat to his kingdom. The issue ends without their issues resolved, as a new threat to Arthur’s rule over Atlantis emerges. It has some good visuals throughout, of course, but the problem is it really lacks any character development, and a lot of action isn’t a substitute for that.

Corrina: This is the problem with this creative run. It sets up some absolutely fascinating concepts and then dumps a nuclear bomb in them and blows it up. After last issue’s fascinating visit to the other side, that’s….it? More monster attacks and a bomb?

And Mera is hardly consistent. She was willing to take out the surface world, if need be, to protect Atlantis. Their rift might have been better served if Mera applauded what he did and Aquaman became increasingly uneasy with his tendency to turn to violence and not diplomacy. As it is, Mera’s always been willing to take extreme measures to protect Atlantis, so why is she so upset about this one? I dunno. Because there needs to be a rift between them, I guess.

Cyborg #12 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Will Conrad, Cliff Richards, Artists; Ivan Nunes, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Just Not Quite There

Ray: This is a title with an identity crisis, and that’s never clearer than when it starts a new arc. The book seems to shift style and even genre with each new story, and sometimes even within issues. This issue picks up as Cyborg leaves the boom tube after his battle with his old friend who turned into a living video game, and emerges back into Detroit – but six months later. Seems there’s been a time-jump, and since then Detroit has become much more advanced in technology. A scientist gives a speech on the singularity point, which gives Cyborg the chance to reflect on his own nature, but things have shifted more for his friend Exxy – who is now a viral sensation rapper, capitalizing on his friendship with Cyborg to paint himself as Cyborg’s partner.

It’s all a little silly and over the top, especially given just how bad Exxy’s raps are once we “hear” them. It doesn’t help that Anomaly speaks like an 80’s cartoon stock villain and has shuffling minions to match. After Cyborg shows up to confront Exxy for trading on his image, the venue is attacked by a pair of villains, including the rat-themed villain who has now been transformed into a giant rat-robot-man-thing. The art and the fight scenes are decent, but this title’s unusual story structure makes it hard to get attached to any of the characters or any of the ongoing plots. I’m hoping that the Anomaly plotline wraps up soon so we can move on to something else. It’s gone on too long now and Cyborg’s dad is still hanging there.

Corrina: I’m no judge of rap lyrics but I thought that at least part of Exxy’s popularity was due to be able to recreate the fight scenes, holographically. And music never sounds good on the page.

But I agree that the tone of the issues change quickly from week to week. The rat fiend came out of nowhere and so when he’s transformed into this being, well, it fell flat on the page, though it made for some fine visuals. I liked the narration but I’m confused as to why we had to be in the future, if we’ll stay in the future, and where the heck the story is going.

Also, how long has Silas been hanging by his arms? After six months, I’d have thought that he would have suffered some serious injury from loss of circulation. And he’s still wearing the same clothes. Ewww…..It’s a sign that the Anomaly plot seems to be churning. The plot’s moving but I’m not sure it’s forward.

Harley Quinn #19 – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Paul Dini, Writers; John Timms, Artist; Bret Blevins, Penciller; J. Bone, Inker; Jeremiah Skipper, Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Corrina: Love the Cover

Ray: I think this series has just entirely stopped working for me ever since the relaunch. What was once a clever anti-hero series with a rich cast has been pared down into an ultraviolent series that spends way too much time on its least interesting character. This issue thankfully wraps up the Harley vs. Negan (or some guy who looks exactly like him) story, as Harley escapes from the pile of bones with the help of her dead friend’s skull. She then takes the fight directly to the gang of cannibals, but not before Red Tool makes an attempt to stop them and gets beaten up in the process. He gets thrown out a window but manages to survive by impaling a sexual harasser. I’ll just say it – Red Tool is the Mon-El of Harley Quinn’s title. And both Supergirl and this series would be much stronger without them.

From there, the issue unfolds pretty simply as a series of elaborate death sequences, with Harley using every tool at her disposal to brutally dispatch and maim the evil cannibals. It’s satisfying to see these thoroughly vile villains get theirs, of course, but it also feels both excessive and empty. From there, it’s on to the Paul Dini backup, which is definitely the better of the two stories – but not by much, really. Dini’s take on Harley and Joker’s relationship is definitely less violent than it often was in the DCU, but they seem to be caught in an endless cycle of threatening each other. Harley’s genuine affection for her hyenas – the focus of this issue as she and Joker try to avoid Batman – feels much more engaging. Really, both of these stories could do with more Ivy.

Corrina: I like the cannibal story more than Ray but, yes, something is lacking the last six months. Red Tool isn’t working at all and that poses a big problem in this particular issue. Because, on the one hand, Tool accidentally murders someone with his incompetence, and that’s forgiven because the victim was a sexual harasser. But, on the other hand, Harley is talking to the cannibals about how they see themselves as better than everyone, and Harley wonders what gives them the right. Meanwhile, she’s worried about Tool and everyone forgets his victim. It’s a weird juxtaposition and makes me question why I’m on Harley’s side at all.

The back-up story is fun, pure Dini, though, again, I could do without Harley’s dedication to the Joker.

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Reviewer, comic book writer, and the author of Alex Actonn, Son of Two Seas - novel available on Amazon now! DC superfan who is loving everything about Rebirth. Feels very strongly about Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and Young Justice. Can also be found on Graphic Policy doing sales analysis with Glenn Matchett, and on the Rabbitt Stew Podcast with Glenn and Brandon James.