DC This Week – About That Last Page of Batman #24….

It’s one of those weeks where DC does something big that is already drawing attention from the general public that has only a passing acquianence with comics. Here goes….in Batman #24….

MAJOR SPOILERS. BE FOREWARNED

In what is another excellent issue from Tom King and David Finch, Batman asks Catwoman to marry him. Down on one knee, proper proposal and everything.

Bat/Cat proposal, Selina Kyle, Bruce Wayne
The last page of Batman #24, image copyright DC Comics

Of course, we have to wait four months, after the flashback to the War of Jokes and Riddles, to find out Selina’s answer. This delay, of course, allows enough time for pre-orders of Selina’s answer at your local comic shop. We have thoughts on this one, see below, but first, there’s the matter of Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor Special #1‘s one-shot comic, which should interest casual fans as it includes (sort of) Wonder Woman’s team from the movie Wonder Woman story.

And, of course, the rest of this weeks’s DC Comics, including Harley Quinn #21, Aquaman #24, Nightwing #22, Deathstroke #20, Justice League #22 (featuring a story by new Wonder Woman writer Shea Fontana), Superman #24, Cyborg #13, Green Arrow #24, Shade the Changing Girl #9, Green Lanterns #24, and Bane: Conquest #2.

Plus, three final issues: Flinstones #12, the end of that politically satirical take on the prehistoric characters; The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #6; and DKIII: The Master Race #9.

ONE-SHOTS

Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor Special #1 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Christian Duce, Artist; Allen Passalaqua, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Not What I Wanted

Ray: Could this potentially be a preview of the new Wonder Woman creative team? I’m not sure if Seeley’s going to be taking on another new DC book in addition to Nightwing and Hellblazer, but he’s sure making a good case for it here. Steve Trevor’s been a hard character to get right – too often being simply Diana’s bland boyfriend – but Rucka and now Seeley have done a great job of making him genuinely interesting as a military hero in his own right, and fleshing out what makes him and Diana work as a couple. The issue starts with a segment that may be a bit too cute by half – casting raging troll misogynists seeking to steal a biochemical that can make women docile as the villain, and then having them get attacked by a giant centipede – but the dialogue is a lot of fun, and from the start, Steve and Diana gel as a couple. Diana maybe seems a bit more naive than she does in the usual present-day comics, but I put that on the movie, where they play up her stranger-in-a-strange-land characteristics without taking away from her competence.

Movie tie-ins are always a double-edged sword, and sometimes you get a very clumsy retcon like Nick Fury Jr. or changing Ganke’s real first name to Ned. But here, introducing Steve’s trio of war buddies Chief, Charlie, and Sameer works very well. These guys were a lot of fun in the movie, and Seeley nicely translates them to the present day. They all have their own unique skill sets, and Chief, in particular, gets a fantastic moment towards the end of the issue. The main plot involving a fountain of youth in a Turkish river, and the sinister secret agency looking to get their hands on it for their own purposes, works, although the villain is fairly generic. What it does really well, though, is parallel with Steve’s past encounter with a society of immortals, and his mixed feelings about his role there. There have been attempts to make Steve a compelling solo character before, but it’s never really worked, until Rucka and now Seeley got their hands on him.

Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor,
A little cute on-the-nose? image via DC Comics

Corrina: I was okay with this issue but had a much less enthusiastic reaction than Ray. First, it’s a bit on-the-nose. The entire Wonder Woman movie avoids a direct “men hate women” moment, and the first thing in this issue are misogynists that need a butt-kicking. Oddly, women hardly ever include something this obvious about feminism/misogyny in their Wonder Woman stories. In other words, the cute didn’t work for me.

As for the Wonder Woman cast, I would have loved, loved a flashback story with these people that’s a direct tie-in to the movie, rather than try to place them in the modern day. So much of their story is about the boxes the world has placed them into at the time. Sure, there are boxes now but they’re a little wider, and if you put these characters into a contemporary setting, they become a bit more generic. Or, at least, less interesting than their fascinating originals.

I guess you could say, in short, I’ve always thought Steve was an interesting character, and I loved these characters from the movie but these aren’t them, not really, and this comic elicited a “well, I guess that’s nice” reaction rather than Ray’s pleased endorsement.

GRADE A ISSUES:
Batman #24 – Tom King, Writer; David Finch, Clay Mann, Pencillers; Danny Miki, Seth Mann, Inkers; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: So..Bat/Cat? Will DC Take the Plunge?

Ray: It’s the end of King’s first year on Batman, right before he launches into his big “War of Jokes and Riddles” flashback story, and oh boy does he not hold back. The main theme running through this year of Batman has been that Bruce Wayne is…not mentally well. King has gotten a lot more explicit than any writer before that Batman is essentially an unhealthy coping mechanism by a mentally ill man who is committing slow-motion suicide. “Batman is crazy” can be a crude meme, but King has actually given it the thought and emotion it deserves. Framed by sequences involving Batman and Catwoman, the majority of the comic deals with Batman helping Claire/Gotham Girl now that she’s sane and back on her feet. She’s struggling to decide what to do with her life – go back to being a normal person, or try to be a hero even though her powers are slowly killing her.

It’s a topic that’s obviously weighed on Batman’s life, and he long ago chose a meaningful life over a long life. So his advice to her is weighed by that, but at a certain point, a remarkable thing happens. Batman starts pouring his heart out to this young woman he barely knows and admitting that he’s not happy and knows he likely never will be. His frankness about his life so far is something we’ve really never seen in a Batman book before, and it provides some of the best moments in the series thus far – between this and the Swamp Thing issue, it’s arguable that King does his best work in single issues. However, what happens next is what’s going to get people talking. Having admitted what’s missing in his life, Batman does something about it. He tracks Selina down, confesses his love to her – and proposes. I’m not sure where it’ll go from here, and we’ve got four months to wonder until King’s flashback tale is done. But oh, boy, did he leave us with a lot to chew on. This is officially the third exceptional Batman run in a row.

Batman #24, Tom King, David Finch
Batman and Claire talk about heroism, image via DC Comics

Corrina: I would object to Batman considering this woman a stranger. She’s been around for nearly a year as she’s recovering and he risked a great deal to help her. It’s easy enough to draw the inference that this scene in the heights of Gotham is the culmination of a long-running dialogue between Claire and Batman. Because my conception of Batman was formed long before he became the brutal, slightly unbalanced loner, I view him as driven but not mentally unbalanced. That portrayal of Bruce has gone a bit by the wayside over the last 30 years and will likely never be fully back but Snyder’s and King’s Batman have enough echoes of this Batman that it didn’t surprise me at all that he would have a real conversation with yet another one of his lost children. (Let’s see: Dick, Jason, Tim, Damian, Cassandra, Duke, Stephanie, Harper, now Claire. That makes eight kids. Busy, busy, Batman. 🙂

What I didn’t expect was Batman to act on the insights from this conversation or the events of “The Button.” Instead, the encounter with his “father” and his new charge inspire Bruce to the point where he would ask Selina to marry him. We’ve already seen what Selina will do for the people she cares about, even taking on the identity of a murderer to protect her, so while she’s not a hero, she’s certainly not a villain any longer. But she’s not in the same emotional place as Bruce and she probably will have a harder time saying “I love you” than he does, simply because Bruce was loved in his early life, and by Alfred later, and Selina does not have that kind of base of emotional support.

But do I favor Selina/Bruce? Oh, yes, they’re a perfect match, different enough to be interesting, alike enough to understand each other. The question isn’t what Selina will say: the question is whether DC will let Batman go there. DC doesn’t like its characters to age or change too much. I was surprised they let Damian, Bruce’s natural son, survive and become a permanent part of the mythos. I would love joint  Bruce/Selina adventures, much as we had glimpses back in the 1970s, and I believe their engagement/marriage would add a lot to the stories. But I can’t see DC making Bat/Cat permanent and instead worry about the inevitable break-up. Either that or Selina could become a “girlfriend” first, as Lois has become a “mom” first, over in Superman. I would loathe that. I’m skeptical but we’ll see. Either way, it’s an excellent issue in an excellent run.

TL;DR: I love the idea of a Bruce/Selina marriage but I’m skeptical DC Editorial would handle it well or allow it to last.

Deathstroke #20 – Priest, Writer; Larry Hama, Breakdowns, Carlo Pagulayan, Penciller; Jason Paz, Sean Parsons, Inkers; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Not Buying Slade’s Change of Heart

Ray: Another excellent issue as Deathstroke goes monthly with this epilogue to the Lazarus Contract. Deathstroke’s life has fallen apart and he’s alienated the few allies he had left – but he’s alive, which is something that takes him by surprise, and he actually seems to be making a rare attempt to turn over a new leaf. These efforts range from surprisingly successful to…less so. The issue is narrated by Dr. Isherwood, who was left all but dead and has been resurrected as something less than human. We learn more about Isherwood’s link to Slade, and see him escape from the lab as a Hulk-like monstrosity that will undoubtedly be a major threat to Slade and his kids. Slade, meanwhile, has his eyesight restored (well, on one half) and makes his first stop the person he screwed over the most recently – Tanya Spears.

I know it’s not supposed to be funny, given that last time they were together he killed her dog, but Slade’s attempt to ply her with a puppy and Christian scripture is one of the most bizarrely hilarious things I’ve seen in a comic for some time. Oddly, the theme of Christianity comes through a lot in this issue, between Jericho’s confessional in a support group and Isherwood’s ramblings about the Passion. The reconciliation between Slade and Jericho is one of the best scenes in the issue, as these two incredibly screwed up men finally find some peace. Rose – whose injuries were apparently a lot worse than they came off in the issue – has married Hosun in an elaborate scheme to piss off her dad, and seems less likely to forgive him. Not enough to keep her from joining his next venture, though – a superhero team including all the young people whose lives he’s screwed with over the years, including who I assume is Terra. A slightly scattered, but totally engaging issue. It’s just a shame we have to wait a month for the next one.

Corrina: Killing Tanya’s dog is not something that is easy to walk back. In fact, it was so harsh that I can’t see Tanya ever trusting Slade again, so his gift of a puppy falls short. Anyone ever tell Slade that demanding a second chance should be after making amends? A new puppy is not enough to make amends.

And, yes, there’s a thread of Christianity that runs through this comic, which is not surprising as I believe Priest is an ordained Baptist minister., and he uses the quoted scripture to good effect. While I remain skeptical of Tanya’s reaction, I thought the Slade/Joe reconciliation was dead-perfect and, hopefully, will allow Joe to move on somewhat in his life. Of course, he still has to deal with his toxic mother. So there’s that.

As for Slade assembling a superhero team? Um….well, Slade has assembled Dark Titans before and it never worked. Priest has earned the benefit of the doubt, so we’ll see.

Shade the Changing Girl #9 – Cecil Castellucci, Writer; Marley Zarcone, Brittany Williams, Artists; Ande Parks; Inker; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Interesting Concept. (I know, I say that about every issue…)

Ray: While it was Cave Carson that shot out of the gate with brilliant visuals and great writing, Shade has slowly crept up on it to become another crown jewel of the Young Animal line. Loma’s journey to New York in the aftermath of her humiliation at the school dance has served to blow this story wide open, and this issue’s brilliant musing on how an alien would view human mortality makes for maybe the best issue yet. Megan’s friends and parents only appear briefly in a segment where they struggle to find her, and her friends and enemies on her homeworld are used briefly as well as our villain gets closer to finding her. But the focus is almost totally on Loma, as she attends a concert by a band she loved when she was watching her favorite “Life with Honey” sitcom. There’s just one problem – that was fifty years ago.

Horrified by the fact that the band is now elderly and so are their fans, and the actress who played Honey is old and sick, Loma has an existential crisis – and this spreads out to the people around her, turning everyone back to their youth in a cosmic, weirder version of the classic Young Justice story “Sins of Youth”. As Loma and the newly rejuvenated fans have the run of New York, it turns into both a hilarious screwball comedy and a surprisingly deep look at how different people will view their youth. We’re essentially seeing all the normal things that make up our lives through a totally new perspective, and that makes Loma one of the best new characters to debut in comics in a while. The oddball “Life With Honey” backup ties into this, with Honey worrying about aging and going to all sorts of extremes to feel young again. Now what we know what these segments mean, they work a lot better.

Shade the Changing Girl, Loma
Loma fangirls for her favorite band. Before she realizes they’re old, that is. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: I stopped reviewing this for a while because no one wants to hear someone say, over and over, that there are some terrific art and concepts in this book but it does nothing for me. Much of that is a lead who basically remains a mystery. Her motivation sometimes comes across and sometimes it doesn’t.

In this issue, we get a big clue about her motivation to come to Earth: she wants to bond with the heroes of her childhood, who helped her deal with all the trauma in her life. Now, this is a motivation anyone can understand, and I can almost see the meta-commentary above Loma’s head as she figures out that her childhood crushes are, well, old. She wanted them to stay the same and they didn’t. It’s interesting to watch her sort that out, and her solution is terrific, as are the reactions of the people who are de-aged.

And, yet, I won’t go so far as Ray. I see the positive aspects of this comic but I wouldn’t call it brilliant. Clever, yes, and with something to say, and it definitely has a mood all its own.(Which, unfortunately, is not on my wavelength.)

SOLID B:
Bane: Conquest #2 – Chuck Dixon, Writer; Graham Nolan, Artist; Gregory Wright, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Muscular

Ray: After a somewhat lackluster first issue that reintroduced us to this retro version of Bane, this twelve-issue miniseries kicks into high gear with an issue that drops Bane into surprising surroundings – with an even more surprising ally. The issue opens with Bane having had his Venom tubes severed and being forced into a battle with the mysterious Damocles, who wastes no time in defeating Bane in a brutal fight that leaves him unconscious. Bane has brutal memories of his painful childhood in Pena Duro prison before waking up…in another prison, one that immediately sets him into a more feral mindset. Before he can pick a fight with everyone in the courtyard, though, he’s stopped by another prisoner – an incognito, unshaven Bruce Wayne. It seems Bane isn’t the only prominent prisoner Damocles captured.

Dixon’s grasp of the Batman-Bane rivalry is the best thing about this issue, and there’s a good amount of humor mixed in as the odd brutal match between the two has resulted in a bizarre understanding. Batman’s joke of “Best two out of three?” obtained a big laugh from both me and Bane. However, their situation is no laughing matter, as they’re both at the mercy of a brutal torturer who tries to get information out of them, and they spend their rare downtime trying to concoct an escape plan from the seemingly impenetrable prison. Bruce is methodical, while Bane is pure id bolstered by childhood trauma, and given the name on this book, it’s no surprise whose plan comes out on top in the end in a high-octane escape sequence. It seems there’s a mysterious mastermind in charge of Damocles, to boot, so there’s a lot to cover in the next ten issues. I just hope Batman sticks around for a chunk of it, because his addition took this series to another level.

Corrina: Bane’s story has always been interesting when it concentrates on the trauma of growing up and how it’s shaped him. But this story is clearly about the kind of male bonding that happens between foes who respect each other. (Are there female characters in here? I forgot if there were.) It’s okay that the story is all about men and their needs but I thought the bonding between Bruce and Bane took it a level too far. I mean, one guy did break the other’s back. As so on. Putting aside their differences to break out, I could see. Jokes, not so much.

Overall, it’s a good action comic and exactly what readers are expecting from this creative team.

Green Lanterns #24 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Carlo Barbieri, Penciller; Matt Santorelli, Inker; Ulises Arreola, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Solid, If Predictable, Conclusion

Ray: It’s the conclusion to the “Lost in Space” arc, which found our Earth-based rookie Lanterns being dragooned into training on Mogo. This was essentially a fluff arc, focusing on character development and banter in the absence of any major threat, but that’s not a complaint really – this book is great with those things. However, it also introduced a massive new plot thread that will likely define this book for the next year – and that’s the first seven Lanterns. Last issue introduced us to the first, a female New God. This issue brings in the second, a young White Martian on a mission for revenge. Volthoom is desperate to get his hands on one of those first rings – one of which turns out to be the ring Jessica lucked into in the lottery, which makes her Volthoom’s #1 target. It’s a bit of a coincidence, but I’ve really been liking these stories of the lost Lanterns.

The two main threads this issue are the training duels. Last we saw, Jessica had just lost her cool and socked Guy Gardner in the face. This being Guy, rather than dismiss her from the Corps, he decides that she’s going to earn that punch, and forces her into a no-holds-barred battle with Lantern bats. Likely as he knew, this forces Jessica to dig deep and discover her inner strength, allowing her to beat Guy back and earn her official emblem as a Lantern. The stakes are much lower for Simon and Kyle’s battle, as Kyle attempts to force Simon to think outside brute force and use his Lantern creatively, which results in some hilarious visuals throughout the visual – including on Simon’s part, at the unconventional conclusion of the fight. Nothing groundbreaking in this issue, but it continues to showcase just how well Humphries gets these two newest Lanterns.

Green Lanterns #24, Simon and Kyle
An army of Kyle’s is no fun. At least, according to Simon Baz. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: It was obvious that Guy would force Jessica to best him in a fight because that’s the way Guy thinks. It’s good characterization but predictable. Still, I loved watching Jess let her temper loose and not be bullied by someone who was trying to trigger her. I still think that’s a horrible way to go about testing a new Lantern. One would think the Corps would want to shore up a new Lantern’s confidence, not take it down. Meanwhile, Kyle and Simon are having a super-pleasant time, and it all looks great because they’re playing with Lantern constructs that Barbieri draws well.

Ah, but the villain. Volthoom now has a reason to stick close to Jess. He’s sort of growing on me, I guess, with his amazement that he’s not been found out yet. The Guardians are not the brightest bunch in the universe. And I loved the young White Martian’s introduction, so I’m looking forward to learning about the rest of the Original Seven Lanterns. (Pretty sure they shouuld be capitalized. 🙂

Nightwing #22 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Miguel Mendonca, Penciller; Vincent Ciufuentes, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: The Life of Dick Grayson

Ray: After a one-issue break for a fill-in issue, Seeley’s Nightwing run resumes by reintroducing Nightwing’s most iconic villain – the super-strong crimelord Blockbuster. For those who remember, Blockbuster was Dick’s nemesis for a multi-year Bludhaven-based arc that included some…controversial elements. For now, though, Seeley seems to have his focus on a pretty straight crime-based storyarc that kicks off with the opening of a brand new mega-casino in Bludhaven. A shady ex-con named Roland has picked up a gig there, although a chance encounter with a rude tourist indicates not all is what it seems with him. He works at the Casino, shakes down a gambler who is doing a little too well at the Blackjack table, and delivers the unfortunate man to the owner of the Casino – Tiger Shark, who has taken his animal-pelt schtick up to eleven. I have expected him to break out into a chorus of “See My Vest”.

Dick, meanwhile, is moving on from the traumatic events of the recent Professor Pyg/Doctor Hurt arc. He and Shawn have moved in together and are doing well, although he’s having trouble finding an actual job now that he’s settled in Bludhaven, as his gig at the center doesn’t pay. It’s a full-time job, fighting crime in Bludhaven, but he needs some sense of normalcy as well, so he goes to talk to his friends from the program – ex-cons make good advisors too. It’s a little slow for most of the issue, with both plotlines being dialogue-heavy and mostly set-up, until Nightwing ends his patrol with an encounter with Blockbuster, and instantly goes into fight mode – until Blockbuster explains that he’s the original Blockbuster’s brother Roland, and he’s here to offer Nightwing a job. Not what I expected, but Seeley’s going to need to find a new angle if he wants to reinvent Blockbuster, and this issue is a good start.

Corrina: While Ray gives higher marks to the Bane book, I much prefer to spend my time reading this book, as the characters are simply trying to figure out life and where they fit in. Seeley’s Dick Grayson has always been a good guy and that continues, despite the fall-out from the confrontation with Dr. Hurt. I love the continuing relationship between Dick and Shawn, I like seeing him get advice from ex-cons. (In fact, I love it.) As I read the rest of the book, I thought it must be the week to be reminded of Chuck Dixon’s run on the Batman books, especially Nightwing, as I associate Blockbuster more with his run than with the later Devin Grayson run.

However, I never found Blockbuster unique among crime bosses but simply one of many of a type. But the setup for Roland is interesting, as I can’t tell if he’s playing our hero or needs help. That makes for a good cliffhanger and, I hope, a complex villain.

Flintstones #12, last issue
It’s a bowling showdown in the last issue of Flintstones. Image via DC Comics

The Flintstones #12 – Mark Russell, Writer; Steve Pugh, Artist; Chris Chuckry, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: Three of four Hanna-Barbera books have now wrapped up, and while it never quite reached the heights of the brilliant Future Quest, this meta take on the Flintstones gets credit for being a fascinating experiment. This final issue is told through the notes of the great Gazoo, who recently saved Earth from elimination by the galactic bureaucrats determining if species are worthy (by giving them Dino’s brain-patterns) and this issue he explains why he did it. The issue revisits a lot of the key themes of the series, including religion, science, and family in a Bedrock that resembles our world in all ways but architecture. While Fred and the rest of the Flintstones are mostly in the background, it’s oddly Mr. Slate who gets the most development this issue, as he tries to keep the new leaf he turned over going.

However, there’s one thing in his way – a bowling championship where he’s going up against his ex-wife’s all-female team. This plays out in an amusing intersection with the ongoing plotline about the appliance animals going rogue, as Bowling Ball’s rage against the world that took his vacuum friend from him manifests in the most inconvenient time possible for Slate and Fred. I thought the best subplot, though, was Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm trying to get answers from both their mentor in science and from the pastor at the Church of Gerald. Although this series has sent up a lot of sacred cows, its message ultimately seems to be that whatever helps people be decent to their fellow man is what’s needed. That’s kind of a meaty message for a Flintstones comic, but it’s one that I think is sorely needed right now.

Harley Quinn #21 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Paul Dini, Writers; Joseph Michael Linsner, John Timms, Artists; Bret Blevins, Penciller; J. Bone, Inker; Alex Sinclair, Jeremiah Skipper, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Back on Track

Ray: One of the best issues of Harley Quinn in a while, this issue actually saw some real forward motion and clever solutions to a series of problems that seemed to be going on for months at a time. First up, the plotline involving Harley Sinn kidnapping the Macabres – Sinn is crazy and obnoxious, which is the main reason I haven’t liked her from the start, but she’s also fairly simplistic as a villain. And that actually works to the benefit of the captives here, as they bother to talk to her for two minutes and convince her that her plan actually makes no sense and she’s being played by the very same people who hired her. Then there’s the Harley vs. Future Girl Who Thinks She Killed Batman plot, which kicked off in earnest last issue. After a brief but action-packed fight segment, they’re both knocked out and wind up in a sealed room.

A captor seems to be playing Saw-like games with them, hitting them with various gases and manipulating Devani into realizing that she’s after the wrong person – that she’s from a different timeline and Harley here isn’t going to kill Batman. The identity of the real captor – and how they played the situation perfectly to get Devani to give up her mission for now – is the first really cool thing a certain character has done in this title, and may be just enough to make me like them a bit. Overall, the main story was a lot of fun this issue, and the backup was also enjoyable. It’s more Harley-and-Joker madness, but Harley gets to go solo this issue, dealing with a pair of hipsters who purchased a beloved old joke factory that she and Joker rely on for their supplies. Gentrifiers getting hit with comically large mallets will probably appeal to a lot of people.

Corrina: It’s definitely the first time either Red Tool or Harley Sinn has been interesting. Interesting enough that I wondered exactly how much of Red Tool’s story was true. He seemed to know a lot about Future Batgirl’s mission, including the chip in her arm. I did expect the death to be a fake-out but I wondered if it was wise to show someone the truth by supposedly murdering their ancestor? Then again, Red Tool has never been the sharpest tool. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

As for Harley Sinn, I’m so good with Mason playing her. That makes her story readable again.

What I’m uncertain about? Harley’s parents. Have they ever appeared before? Or is this the first time? Because I have no idea where that storyline is going to go.

Overall, as Ray says, the best issue of the series in a while.

Justice League #22 – Shea Fontana, Writer; Philipe Briones, Artist; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: LOIS!! (Also, some other heroes in here somewhere….)

Ray: This fill-in issue is notable for being the Rebirth debut of DC Superhero Girls writer Shea Fontana, who is scheduled to take over Wonder Woman for an arc with #26. She steps in for Bryan Hitch to do a done-in-one story about the JLA Watchtower under quarantine. So how does she do? Pretty well. You can tell she’s used to writing for a younger audience, but she has the characters well in hand. This issue primarily focuses on the JL’s rookie members, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, as they try to fit in and win the approval of the more experienced members of the League – especially Jessica, whose anxiety here is subtle but definitely present. It starts out with a relaxing day at the Watchtower, with Lois and Jon on board for the day so Lois can interview the League. Simon and Jessica destroy a menacing asteroid and then return to the Watchtower for debriefing and training.

There’s a lot of good character moments, such as Simon trying to get Batman to high-five him. But then, Cyborg detects some unidentified life forms on board, and it becomes clear that there’s a colony of microscopic beings that hitched a ride on the Green Lanterns from the asteroid. The Watchtower is sealed, and everyone is left to their own devices while the League tries to figure out how to safely capture and remove the creatures. Lois proves herself an equal to any of the Leaguers in information-seeking, while John bonds with Cyborg in a cute scene. Simon and Jessica, meanwhile, are roped into training with Wonder Woman and hold their own – until they let their guard down. The creatures turn out to be threatening, but not necessarily evil, and a non-violent method is devised to stop them. It’s maybe a bit too cute in places and resolved a bit too neatly, but it’s a fun comic that I could see being an effective intro to the JLA for a young reader.

Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, Justice League #22
Lois is actually doing HER JOB.   Justice League #22, image via DC Comics.

Corrina: So, there are some things that willguarantee I’ll love an issue. Given the current status of Lois Lane in the Superman books as one-dimensional MomLois, anything that shows she has a job she lovesand  in which she’s uber-competent would be something I automatically adore. That’s why I love Lois’s response to Batman’s semi-incredulous “You?” about her investigating the problem on the satellite: “Intrepid reporter. Three years on the science and medical beat. Won the Bingham Prize for–”  Yes, it’s good that Fontana will write Wonder Woman. Can she write a Lois Lane book too? Pretty please?

The mystery of the microbes is a fine one issue story, a little more all-ages than usual, but it also shows the League using their intelligence for the most part, rather than brute force, and that’s another thing I’ll automatically love in a story.

Injustice 2 #3 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Daniel Sampere, Penciller; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: One thing that this run of Injustice has proved it’s really good at is mood whiplash, finding the humor and genuine emotion among a wave of darkness, and that stands out this issue. The story begins with a tense showdown on Stryker’s Island, as this mysterious new fake Batman and his Suicide Squad have sabotaged the Superprison and freed many of the inmates – including Superman, whose red sun dampeners no longer work. As the fake Batman leads his army on the prison and the heroes go to fight him, Batman goes to take on Superman personally. He begins by trying to talk his old friend down, but when it’s clear that’s not working, he deploys his second countermeasure – Atom, who has apparently taken up residence in Superman’s brain and can give him a stroke on order. He causes Superman just enough pain to knock him out and neutralizes him. The other heroes battling characters like Croc and Deadshot isn’t all that engaging, but what comes next is.

Harley Quinn’s reunion with her two best friends from this world, Green Arrow and Black Canary, is one of the best moments this series has had to date. If there’s one thing that always totally worked in Taylor’s take on this universe, it’s his take on Harley, who is a distinctly messed up but still decent person. But she’s still Harley, as is made clear in a hilarious scene where she fabricates an affair between her and Ollie just to see the look on their faces. The death of relatively new character Dan Turpin at the hands of the evil Batman doesn’t have much impact because Turpin’s barely appeared, but the reveal of the mastermind and who they’re really there to break out – and who the mysterious young woman helping them is – is a huge twist that throws the series for a loop. Definitely a massive improvement over the last few years of Injustice.

DC Comics Bombshells #28 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Mirka Andolfo, Richard Ortiz, Carmen Carnero, Artists; Wendy Broome, J. Nanjan, Sandra Molina, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Ray: There’s few series out there that pack more into each issue than Bombshells, with a cast spanning the globe and even different time periods. But now, all the characters are converging on Leningrad for the third major showdown of the series. The issue begins with a series of misunderstandings, as Reaper mistakes Harley, Ivy, and Raven for enemies and attacks them as she’s prone to. Fortunately, an injured Lois Lane is able to calm all sides down before anyone gets hurt. A flashback reveals that Lois and Reaper were trying to transport Killer Frost to Russia before they were betrayed by the ice queen. Unlike most recent versions of Frost, this one seems to be unapologetically evil. The band, now united, marches on to Leningrad, where they find a dying city, starved out by Nazi forces and now only defended by starving women and children. This is a bleak segment, but even here there’s hope.

I was surprised to see Dr. Victoria October, the Detective Comics character introduced in the epilogue to Night of the Monster Men, introduced here as the leader of the resistance. This has got to be the shortest time ever from character introduction to alternate version, especially as this book sees print a month after the digital issues. Their interaction leads Ivy to her biggest heroic moment of the series, as she uses her powers to restore life to Leningrad, but at a cost to her own health. The third segment shifts the focus to Kara, as she wakes up a prisoner in Dr. Hugo Strange’s lab, where he’s holding Steve captive to force her cooperation. As her parents reunite to rescue her – with the help of Kortni’s repentant birth father – Strange reveals his secret weapon, a clone of Kara named Power Girl. A packed issue with multiple compelling segments, as this series heads towards its Vol. 1 conclusion.

The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #6 – Cary Bates, Greg Weisman, Writers; Will Conrad, Artost; Ivan Nunes, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Good Conclusion

Ray: This conclusion to the miniseries that reinvents Captain Atom has some good scenes, but otherwise falls prey to a lot of tropes that are very common in superhero comics. The villain, Ultramax, is your typical “dark mirror” to the hero, having similar powers and using them for evil. However, his motivation – killing off his former employers as a contract killer to root out the person who ratted him out to the feds – is given an interesting new wrinkle when it turns out that one of his employers – and the one who turned him in – is Atom’s sadistic handler General Eiling. This puts Atom in the uncomfortable position of trying to protect the man who has made his life a living hell. The situation is made even more challenging when Atom’s son – who he has kept his true identity from due to the boy’s anger over being abandoned – is kidnapped by Ultramax, who picked up the information from Atom’s mind when they briefly merged.

This leads to a final showdown between Atom and Ultramax in a canyon – and can I say that Will Conrad’s art, usually strong but not a standout, does an amazing job with these sunset vistas as the battle ensues. Best art in the series. The battle that follows, though, is essentially just a series of energy beings throwing blasts at each other and absorbing them, until Atom finds a new way to tap into his powers and takes Ultramax out. Eiling and Atom’s son spend most of the battle cringing in the background, and Eiling pretty much gets away with everything. However, there’s an intriguing reveal about Atom’s son in the final act that promises a potential sequel, and it seems like Atom’s gotten the attention of the JLA, having finally redeemed himself for his past incarnation’s mistakes. Overall, a solid read, although I don’t know if any of these plot points will be followed up on.

Corrina: I feel as if we haven’t been giving this comic its due. Yes, there are definitely some story cliches being used, especially the hidden son, the dark mirror, and the evil government handler. And, yet, the miniseries has kept me invested in Captain Atom/Nate as a person. When I closed the book, I was worried about him, his son, and what might happen next, and hoped that someday Eiling got his comeuppance.

So if the point of this comic was to make me interested in Captain Atom for the first time in years? It succeeded.

C-LEVEL

Superman #24 – Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Doug Mahnke, Artist; Patrick Gleason, Penciller; Jaime Mendoza, Mick Gray, Joe Prado, Inker; Wil Quintana, John Kalisz, Hi-Fi, Colorists

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: A Mess

Ray: This strange and in places confusing issue reveals most of the chaotic goings-on in Hamilton since the start of Rebirth, but leaves a lot more unanswered questions as Superman and his family faces one of their most powerful and sadistic villains. Manchester Black may have started as a ruthless soccer hooligan of a vigilante, but after being humiliated by Superman, he turned into a monster determined to destroy him in every way. And that has now brought him to this long-game in Hamilton, where he’s placed hundreds of alien sleeper cells to impersonate townsfolk as a way to keep tabs on Superman and his family. This includes Kathy and her grandfather, now revealed as powerful psychic “greens” – maybe Coluan? The aliens are starting to have doubts in their mission against Superman, but Black makes clear he’ll tolerate no dissent.

Jon is missing for most of the issue, having just escaped Black’s underground psychological torture chamber. Lois only appears briefly, in the hospital after her injuries – if this is a fake-out, it has yet to be revealed or even hinted at. When Clark finds his son, Jon is traumatized from what he was forced to watch, and Manchester Black wastes no time finding them. That’s where the issue gets a little confusing, as the latter half is just an elaborate fight sequence as Black torments and baits Superman. Kathy’s grandfather is killed in the ensuing fight, which turns Kathy against Black for good – hope for Jon’s friend, it seems – and there’s a lot of disturbing visuals, including the return of Goldie. Black’s plan seems to be to brainwash Jon and turn him into one of his “Elite”, which culminates in a Zod-like makeover and Superman forced to battle his own son next issue. Black is a great villain, but the problem with a psychic villain like this is that sometimes the readers start feeling just as lost as the characters.

Corrina: “Strange and confusing.”Yes, Ray could have stopped his review there. There are survivors of destroyed planets that Manchester Black promised to save, there is Manchester Black yelling about needing heroes to kill, there’s Lois going “oh, wait, did I lose a leg?” And where did Batman and Damian go? I thought there were needed for this arc?

If Manchester Black had been set up as a villain before this arc, his motives might make sense. But, instead, they rely on people having read a story that’s over two decades old and, in this issue, he comes across as a vile maniac, and the whole story leaves a sour taste, especially with Jon’s torture. Yikes.

Green Arrow #24 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Juan Ferreyra, Artist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Looks Great. I Throw Up My Hands Over the Plot

Ray: The art by Juan Ferreyra continues to be the most memorable part of this issue, as the conclusion of “The Rise of Star City” is realized in brilliantly dark, gothic visuals and multiple complex two-page spreads. Unfortunately, dialogue and story-wise, this is probably the weakest chapter of the arc. Politics has always been inseparable from Green Arrow, but it’s rarely as heavy-handed or clumsy as it is in this issue. The issue opens with Green Arrow essentially mugging a wealthy couple and intimidating them into giving hundreds of dollars to a homeless man. Robin Hood-like? Maybe, but Green Arrow typically harasses the CORRUPT rich, not random people he finds on the street. Likewise, Mayor Domini’s speech comes off as such an obvious pastiche of you-know-who, right down to the vocal tics, that it’s not even so much a parallel as a cut-and-paste.

Those clumsy scenes aside, the issue is fairly compelling in its big action scenes, as Oliver Queen descends deep into the Ninth Circle’s catacombs for a final, bloody showdown with Cyrus Broderick. Unlike the cartoonish Domini, Broderick remains a compelling villain, showing flair with his manipulation of Henry Fyff as well as more traditional villainy in his showdown with Ollie. Meanwhile, Emiko, Roy, and Dinah face off against the Circle’s minions, in a battle with some very clever use of powers and a hilarious defeat for Cheshire. However, the damage in the city’s already been done, and I’m not entirely sure why Oliver thinks surrendering himself on false charges will fix anything, but we’ll see. The story in this book goes back and forth, but it’s always worth ready for the great visuals and dramatic tone.

Corrina: The visual of Ollie going down to fight in the catacombs is great. It would be even greater if I had a better clue at what’s at stake if Ollie loses. Is there an ancient curse he must feed to save Seattle? What? No, it’s just a second-rate version of the Court of Owls. I wonder if every DC city has a mysterious behind-the-scenes club that has been evil for hundreds of years and runs things? Let’s hope not. (Speaking of story cliches, I’m tired of this one. So tired.)

All props to the art team and the creative use of powers. But the plot hits points it hasn’t earned, and characters continue to make decisions with no basis.

DKIII: The Master Race #9 – Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Writers; Andy Kubert, Frank Miller, Penciller; Klaus Janson, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Not Bad, DC. Not Bad.

Ray: This final issue of the long-running Dark Knight III miniseries delivers an overall satisfying conclusion – to a series that in no way resembles the bleak world that Frank Miller envisioned back in 1986. Essentially a story of an apocalyptic invasion by fanatical Kryptonian cultists, the first half of the issue is essentially a no-holds-barred action segment as the heroic community unites for a final stand. Among them is Bruce Wayne, restored to youth by the Lazarus Pit in the previous issue. For me, that’s the main thing that takes me out of this as a Dark Knight sequel – it’s no longer the last days of Bruce’s career, is it? The relationships between Bruce, Superman, and Batgirl are well-written, but the real strength of the opening half is seeing the various members of the JLA come together and use their unique powers to neutralize the threat.

The issue actually has a fairly optimistic look, with the heroes reuniting for the first time in decades, and wild card anti-hero Lara picking her side and apparently sacrificing herself to stop the mastermind (although there’s more to that story). In the end, Carrie becomes a new, more polished Batgirl alongside the restored Bruce Wayne, and Superman disappears for the unknown. For once, the Miller-drawn backup actually delivers some of the best scenes in the issue, as we see what all the heroes of the JL are doing now, as well as getting a nice coda to the story of Superman, Lara, and their family. On its own, this was a comic that probably went on too long but finished in a satisfying way. But as a Dark Knight sequel, it may be better than The Dark Knight Strikes, but it’s even further away from the spirit of the original.

Corrina: The best that can be said of this book is that it’s better than it had any right to be. The best parts were, oddly, not Batman, but the concept of the army of Kryptonians. The big battle made terrific use of Kubert’s art skills.

Still, characterization lacked, especially for Lara, and I have no idea where Wonder Woman was all this time?? And if the conclusion hints at a romance between Batman and new Batwoman Carrie Kelly, well, ick.

Overall? Not bad. Nothing ground-breaking but a good enjoyable enough read.

Aquaman #24 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Philippe Briones, Artist; Scot Eaton, Penciller; Wayne Faucher, Scott Hanna, Inker; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Don’t Buy It

Ray: Although the current plot involving Aquaman being deposed as King of Atlantis has some promise, turning the focus back to Atlantean politics, the bigger problem is that this title’s take on Atlantean politics is really lacking in any sort of subtlety. The issue opens with Aquaman brooding and swimming among sea monsters, followed by Mera trying to convince him that maybe he shouldn’t fight. She says that they can go back to Amnesty Bay and be superheroes, rather than worrying about the politics of a regressive nation. Arthur doesn’t quite buy her argument, though, and decides to head back to the council to make his case. They’re not looking for an argument so much as a surrender, and when Arthur resists and demands the resignation of the council that deposed him, even his trusted ally Murk turns on him.

The bigger problem, though, is the villain of this arc, Corum Rath. The former militant terrorist is now accepted by almost all as king of Atlantis, and wastes no time uncorking evil magics long sealed away to intimidate the surface world and seal off Atlantis. He then orders Arthur to be “silenced” when he tries to flee, and proceeds to encircle Atlantis in a cluster of Lovecraftian tentacles. Why is anyone following this guy? It’s like saying “Well, I don’t quite like the current President’s tax policy, so I’m going to replace him with a – ” well, you can insert your own analogy here. The problem is, Rath is just too cartoonishly evil to believe as a legitimate king here, so characters like the council and Murk turning on Arthur feels more like “Designated stupid” than it does like actual plotting.

Corrina: There should be something epic about a character giving up on a dream. And, yet, it’s hard to take Aquaman’s opponent seriously and thus, the story seriously. Rath is an obvious usurper, spouting lines that are, well, topical in the age of President Trump. But here’s the problem: fiction is not like real life. Fiction has to make sense. And it suspends all my disbelief that Rath could have pulled off this legal coup. Not to mention his character design is dead ugly.

I did like Mera’s point that you cannot lead people where they won’t go and one would think someone with experience in diplomacy, like Aquaman, would see that point that this is a defeat in a long game, and it’s time to regroup. But I guess his ego gets in the way?

SPLIT DECISION:

Cyborg #13 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Allan Jefferson, Penciller; Tony Kordos, Inker; Guy Major, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Superheroes of Detroit!

Ray: The one interesting thing about this issue is the reintroduction of Holt Industries, the corporation of Mr. Terrific, who’ll be playing a major role in Metal. I also sort of liked the reveal that the organization’s R&D head, Donna Morris, was actually the new Detroit-based superheroine Black Narcissus. Her interplay with Cyborg, and the new superhero team they’ve formed with hacker Exxy, is the best part of this series. Unfortunately, everything that surrounds them is not that interesting. There’s a whole lot of exposition in the dialogue as they recap previous issues and describe how Cyborg’s powers and other technology at play work. However, the biggest problem is the villains. Anomaly, the evil cyborg impersonating Silas Stone, has been around since issue #1 and gets more cartoonish with every one.

This issue also introduces a new villain, the 90s-esque FyreWyre – a techno-assassin with a laser sword who has been hired by a mysterious source to assassinate Cyborg. He’s also revealed to have a connection to Narcissus, having killed her husband for information years ago. None of this is inherently uninteresting, but FyreWyre is just such a generic stock villain that he becomes nothing more than a punching bag for the heroes. Sarah’s unwitting betrayal of the team as Anomaly leads her down the rabbit hole leads to yet another crisis by the end of the issue, as he opens a wormhole called the Singularity, and reveals he’s working for some other evil source, but thus far this title just zips from one crisis to another without giving us any real reason to care.

Corrina: I love the idea of Detroit gaining its own team of superheroes. I’m not quite sure if the story led us there in a proper way but Donna Morris/Black Narcissus is engaging and smart, and a terrific addition to Cyborg’s cast, though, I admit, now I’m expecting Mister Terrific (Michael Holt)  to show up as well. (Please, because that would be fun.) Still not big on Exxy but I could grow used to it, especially as he seems to be playing the comic relief. As for FyreWyre, I hate the name but his power set was interesting, and it was good to see Dr. Morris be the one who develops the plan to defeat him. (I feel like we had her superhero origin and her overall arc of justice end in one short issue.)

Here’s hoping there is a final FINAL confrontation with Anomaly soon.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes. 

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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.