If you said to yourself, I want a week where Batman teams up with the Shadow, Elmer Fudd, Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, and Zatanna, well, this is totally your week for Batman comics. Bonus: All these team-ups are different but they are all excellent.
This week also marks the end of Greg Rucka’s superlative run on Wonder Woman. Hats off to Rucka, Liam Sharp, and Nicola Scott for excellent work on the Amazon. It’s also the finale of the excellent stand-alone Supergirl: Being Super.
Meanwhile, the other Looney Tunes team-up, Jonah Hex/Yosemite Sam goes gritty, Flash and Reverse Flash battle in Flash #25; Zatanna drops by l in Batman: Detective Comics #959; Kyle has no idea how to relate to Soranik in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #23; Justice League of America #9 has fun with the Tarzan archetype, and Kamandi gets out of a heart-breaking situation in Kamandi Challenge #6.
Plus all of this week’s DC Comics reviews. Warning: Major spoilers below!
Looney Tunes Crossovers!
Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1 – Tom King, Writer; Lee Weeks, Byron Vaughns, Artists; Lovern Kindzierski, Carrie Strachan, Colorists
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Noir Elmer Fudd! And It Works.
Ray: Thus far, all of the DC/Looney Tunes crossovers have been good bordering on excellent, with clever reinventions of the classic characters. However, I don’t think any of them have been quite as surreal or compelling as Tom King – the highest-profile writer brought onto this project – taking unhinged hunter Elmer Fudd and turning him into a noir protagonist and a compelling adversary for Batman. Unlike the other Looney Tunes specials, this one takes place in the real world of Gotham City. All the Looney Tunes are here, but human. Bugs is a shifty, buck-toothed petty crook who plays people against each other brilliantly. Porky is a stuttering barkeep. Taz is…well, Taz, an inarticulate bruiser with energy to spare. And Elmer is a short hunter with a lisp who came to Gotham City and got his heart broken. See, it seems Bugs killed his lady love, Silver St. Cloud. But when Elmer is ready to shoot Bugs, Bugs bargains for his life by offering the name of the man who hired him – Bruce Wayne.
King never writes down to a concept, and he treats Elmer with the same care he would any of his other antagonists. His characterization here reminds me a lot of Penguin under Jason Aaron – a twisted little man who genuinely does want to love, but isn’t very good at it. He apparently assassinates Bruce Wayne, and that gets Batman on his tail. The showdown between Elmer and Batman is brief, but entertaining, and then something unusual happens – they talk. And they realize they’ve both been played. With no one actually dead, they go to track down the man who played them against each other – and it turns out Bugs was played as well, by the same person. Naturally, when you’re in a film noir and everyone’s fighting over a dame, you know she has a secret. It’s an odd comic, to be sure, but an extremely entertaining one with brilliant Lee Weeks art. And then there’s the Looney Tunes backup – also by King! In this one, Bugs convinces Elmer that it’s Bat season, not Rabbit season, and it goes downhill from there. Batman’s a bit out of character, to be sure, but it’s a gag-a-minute with a great last line. Even if all the other specials weren’t excellent, this one alone would justify this event.
Corrina: Who knew “I’m hunting wabbits” could sound so menacing? Or that Elmer could make a good Punisher-style character?
But Fudd does sound menacing and he makes a great bounty hunter and I was actually worried for Bugs there for a minute. I could complain that Fudd’s narration was a bit difficult to follow at first but then I kept hearing his voice from the cartoons and I became used to it and I realized that this story is kinda genius. It’s certainly fascinating and filled with many, many appearances by Looney Tunes characters (albeit in different guises), they all feel like they belong, and it’s a terrific noir story, including a femme fatale who gets the last word. (And that still leaves Silver St. Cloud as the only woman who knows who Bruce is and has his number and isn’t the least bit interested in him.)
But, of course, then there’s the second story, which is hilarious, especially the ending pun.
Jonah Hex/Yosemite Sam Special #1 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Bill Matheny, Writers; Mark Texiera, Dave Alvarez, Artists; Paul Mounts, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Well, That’s One Ship I Didn’t Expect
Ray: I knew this one would be good because it’s Jimmy Palmiotti returning to the character of Jonah Hex after one of the longest runs any writer’s done on a DC character (although he’s not with his usual co-writer on the character, Justin Gray). This is also unique among the six DC/Looney Tunes specials for being the only one where the title characters don’t fight. In fact, Yosemite Sam is the hero of this story, in a sense. He’s still a hot-tempered prospector who’s less than scrupulous, but he comes by his new gold mine fair and square and has everyone in a ruthless Wild West town gunning to kill him and steal it. A chance encounter with a circus train leads to him saving a giant boxing bird-man named Foghorn from drowning and getting a friend in the process – a friend who later points him towards a visiting bounty hunter named Jonah Hex. Soon, they’re in business to protect Sam and the mine.
Much like Tom King’s Elmer Fudd, this issue treats Sam almost completely seriously, turning him into a sad, lonely man who’s been hardened by the world. If anything, that might be the series’ only problem – it’s got the least humor and absurdity of any of the one-shots. Sam and even Foghorn are essential players in a hard-boiled wild west drama with a lot of gunplay and blood. But you know what? It’s weird, but it works. Foghorn, who is treated terribly by the evil ringmaster in his job as a circus freak, turns out to be a loyal ally, and the three wind up staging a genuinely epic last stand gunfight at Elmer’s hideout. If it wasn’t for the giant chicken-man, this issue would fit right into All-Star Western‘s run. Sam is highly entertaining, but the best part of this issue is seeing Palmiotti write Hex again. Then there’s the absurdist backup, by a different creative team, which reunites Sam and Jonah a while later in pursuit of Hex’s latest bounty – a giant bear? It’s just pure silliness, but may be the most Looney-Tunes-esque backup since the Martians one.
Corrina: Despite the fact that Batman/Fudd was a classic noir story, I think this team-up may be the most adult-rated of the bunch so far, with what it’s implications for a “mouthful,” (I see what you did there, Palmiotti!) the many stylized killings, and Sam and Foghorn bonding in what seems to be a romantic way. (Though the latter is funny, not adult-rated.)
It’s enjoyable, it’s a fine Western story, and while Hex isn’t one of my favorite characters, he works just fine with a serious Yosemite Sam. And how Sam gets rid of the ringmaster who’s set the circus against him? Well, I laughed.
Another winner here and the back-up in the classic style is, again, fun.
GRADE A COMICS– Rankings 8-10
Wonder Woman #25 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Liam Sharp, Bilquis Evely, Artists; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: A Lovely Epilogue To This Run
Ray: This issue may take some people by surprise because it’s Rucka’s finale, but feels more like a slow, poetic coda to his entire run than an explosive finale. I guess that’s to be expected, given that #23 and #24 pulled out all the stops with battle-filled, emotionally fraught stories. This issue, meanwhile, is left to pick up the pieces on an emotional level, as Diana grapples with the truth and the people around her wonder if she’ll ever be the same. The issue opens with the only big battle of the issue, as the Justice League does battle with Shaggy Man. This scene looks fantastic, but what the JL notices is that Diana seems angry, ruthless – and is lacking her golden lariat. Meanwhile, she’s not the only one struggling, as Etta Candy and Sasha Bordeaux struggle to come to terms with what Sasha was used to do. And Veronica Cale, having been exposed for her involvement in the plot, lawyers up and stonewalls everyone.
The final meeting between Diana and Veronica Cale almost feels anti-climatic, as Wonder Woman visits Veronica one last time to plead for her help in freeing Barbara Minerva from the Cheetah’s curse. Veronica cruelly rejects Diana’s overtures and claims that Barbara got exactly what she wanted by becoming the Cheetah again. Batman and Superman call Diana in for a meeting about her odd behavior, and she reacts angrily before revealing that her patron Gods had been deceiving her all along. Superman suggests that she go and pay them a visit, find out what their plan was, and she follows suit. Then there’s the subplot for Steve Trevor, as he tries to welcome Diana home and finds his plans foiled by her busy schedule. This is an oddly sweet interlude in the issue, and the final page surprised me a little. Kind of surprised Rucka got away with that, but then Batman’s done it a few times. Diana’s showdown with her patrons is the emotional heart of the issue, though, and once again shows why Rucka is one of the best writers to ever work on Wonder Woman. He’ll be missed.
Corrina: The emphasis on this final issue is not on creating new questions for Wonder Woman but wrapping up as many plot threads as possible while dealing with the emotional fall-out of all Diana has experienced in her quest for the truth of her existence.
I didn’t expect her anger but it makes perfect sense, as the basis for her faith is shaken. It also serves as a contrast to Veronica Cale’s anger and, shows what separates a hero from a villain. Diana listens to her friends when they confront her about something wrong because she knows they care about her. Plus, she follows their advice and finds a way to start anew. Cale, however, shuts out everyone and everything that might unleash her grief at the knowledge she’ll never see her daughter again.
I could wish that Cheetah had been cured once again but I doubt that DC would let such an iconic villain be redeemed for any length of time. To me, she’s more interesting as Minerva rather than the ball of rage that is Cheetah but it’s not my call to make, obviously. As for the end, with Steve and Diana in bed, I’m not sure why it would discomfort anyone. Diana is from a society that doesn’t have the same sexual hang-ups as our current society, and she’d obviously see love as something to act on.
Bonus: This ending will read well when the entire run is collected in an omnibus volume.
The Flash #25 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Carmine DiGiandomenico, Neil Googe, Ryan Sook, Artists; Ivan Plascencia, Hi-Fi, Dave McGaig, Colorists
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Reverse-Flash Origin
Ray: The reintroduction of the Reverse-Flash right after his huge – and fatal – role in The Button was a bit puzzling, as was his rampage through the Flash’s life culminating in his brutal beating of Kid Flash last issue. But in this strong anniversary issue, all that becomes clear as we finally see the story from Thawne’s perspective. Barry returns to the 25th century, in pursuit of Thawne and the kidnapped Iris. But when he arrives, the future is much different than it was supposed to be. There’s now a massive Flash museum that is dedicated to his legacy – something Barry never wanted. This is interspliced with segments from Barry’s first time in the 25th century, when he encountered an energetic Flash fan named Eobard Thawne, who patterned himself after his idol and saved people – except his rescues had a dark secret that exposed him as a villain.
Thawne comes off as a far more interesting villain here than he has before, for me. He’s deeply narcissistic and deluded, believing himself to be the Flash’s best friend and viewing his involvement with other heroes as a betrayal. The fact that Thawne narrates the issue, in his guise as the “reformed” head of the Flash Museum, allows us into his head in a way we rarely see when it comes to villains. The issue also deals with some of the awkward lingering elements of Rebirth. Thawne is a character from out of time, and as such his perspective of reality is very different from Barry, who was one of many people whose minds were altered by the Flashpoint – or Manhattan – effect. Thawne remembers an epic, extended rivalry with Barry that Barry simply doesn’t. The final page is dramatic and promises to shake things up, but my main reaction was “finally”. Still, all in all a brilliant villain showcase and a fitting 25th issue.
Corrina: I don’t know if Eobard is more interesting than he was before. I forget which Reverse Flash it was that always stalked Barry and tried to take over his life but he was about four versions ago, so if he was Eobard, I find this one close to that version. From the backstory, he’s clearly more unhinged than some previous versions and his stalker tendencies are front and center but before, he was open about basically wanting to enrich himself and control people and here, instead, he seems to not understand why he became a villain at all. (He reminds me of Titan from Megamind.) The only part I didn’t buy? Flash saying the catchphrase to Kid Flash in the past setting Eobard off. I know that Williamson wanted it to be a small thing to show how unhinged Eobard has become but this small thing wasn’t quite it for me, and that put somewhat of a damper on the rest of the story.
Things I did miss: an update on Wally, an explanation for why the Cosmic Treadmill works again (wasn’t it destroyed?), and Iris doing something. But it’s a good story and the art and the fight had my attention the entire time.
Batman: Detective Comics #959 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Alvaro Martinez, Penciller; Raul Fernandez, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Azrael Is Interesting Again
Ray: Another consistently excellent issue of Detective Comics, as Batman reconnects with his old friend Zatanna – who was teased as a love interest under Dini, although that element isn’t really here given developments in other books. The issue opens with a segment set during their teenage years when Bruce in the middle of his training was attempting to learn magic from Zatara. Artist Alvaro Martinez is great with character depictions but even better with cityscapes, and some of his splash pages are stunning. In the present day, Bruce and Zatanna are reunited as they come under attack from Ascalon, a brutal, seemingly unstoppable assassin from the sect of St. Dumas. With complex, double-page spreads with up to 20 panels between them, the action is fast-paced and exciting, if a tiny bit hard to follow at times.
I thought the best segments of the issue were the quieter ones, though. Doctor October, who was introduced in the Monster Men crossover, is turning out to be one of the book’s secret weapons as a brilliant doctor/scientist who can handle the weird and inexplicable in Batman’s world. Her experiences as a trans woman make her uniquely compassionate to the odd Nomoz, as well, as she attempts to treat his injuries. We, unfortunately, don’t get all that much Cass this issue, but Clayface gets some great scenes, and Azrael some much-needed character development as his past comes back to haunt him. My favorite small bit of the issue? Batwing revealing that his sister Tam is working at FoxTech – which means she’s not in a coma like she was last time we saw her in the Batwing title. An obscure character, but I am unreasonably happy that Tynion saw fit to un-fridge her. And then there’s the reveal that Bruce is seeking answers to Tim’s fate from Zatanna. This book keeps more plates spinning, more effectively than maybe any other in the DC stable.
Corrina: Once upon a time, you could pay $1 for the Batman Family Comic and receive stories which teamed up Batgirl and Robin, Man-Bat solo stories, original Batwoman guest appearances, and sometimes even a light-hearted tale with Alfred and Commissioner Gordon. Tynion’s run isn’t as light-hearted as those 1970s stories but his writing certainly is in the spirit of those tales, especially the unusual combinations of characters that saw Clayface and Azrael join the team. And this week, Zatanna isn’t just a bonus appearance, her role in the story has weight, especially for Bruce.
Also, did Ray mention those splash pages? He did. Good, because I would recommend buying this issue alone for them. Luckily, you get the story, too, and Azrael is more interesting than he has been in years, no longer just a throwaway character in the Bat-mythos. I hope, somewhere, Denny O’Neil is smiling. Not just because of Azrael but because this feels much like O’Neil’s Gotham.
Batman/The Shadow #3 – Scott Snyder, Steve Orlando, Writers; Riley Rossmo, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: The Shadow Literally Created Batman?
Ray: With this issue, Snyder and Orlando play to their artist’s strengths – and unleash Rossmo on a story that veers full-tilt into horror. Last issue saw the Joker enter the story, taking an interest in the twisted, possibly immortal serial killer The Stag, capturing the mysterious masked villain and trying to get information out of them. The Stag, though, only speaks one phrase – “I am an honest signal”. Meanwhile, the interaction between our rival vigilantes doesn’t get any friendlier, as Batman drags Shadow down to an underground bunker and chains him up, leaving Alfred to watch over the ruthless gunman. Shadow tries to intimidate Alfred, and that allows Alfred to deliver a great speech about the most terrifying thing he’s ever encountered. Orlando wrote the script here, but you can very much see Snyder’s Alfred creeping through here from All-Star Batman.
I firmly believe that Snyder, Orlando, and now maybe King are a few select people who get the Joker and his unique brand of madness. Not many writers would be able to carry on a scene between two characters where only one really speaks this effectively, but the way Joker slowly unravels bits and pieces of Stag’s origins through clues, riffing on his possible connection to Cain, is brilliant. This Joker is insane, yes, but an orderly, focused kind of insane. Then there’s Shadow’s reveal of exactly why the Stag is coming for Batman, that takes this issue to another level. We’ve seen a lot of crossovers in DC-land over the last few months, but I think this might be the first that reinvents one side of its crossover like this, using another company’s character to enhance the mythology of its universe like this. Great twist, great issue, and another win for DC.
Corrina: Rossmo’s art was one of the strengths of the Ming Doyle/Tynion/ run on Constantine: The Hellblazer, where he instilled a creepiness even in the most innocuous things. He does that here again, playing with the Shadow himself, with cape and arms oozing in all directions, seemingly unstoppable. It’s also a treat to see Rossmo’s Joker, underplaying the horror of the man.
But what most interested me in this reveal is the implication that the war between the Stag and the Shadow literally caused the creation of Batman, and that the Shadow has been teaching the Caped Crusader all along, in many guises. It’s a homage to the Shadow’s real-life influence on the creation of Batman but it also is a plot development that could have implications for Batman in the future, in his own titles.
As for Alfred, I love Snyder’s Alfred but he’s only the latest in many writers to do right by “the butler.”
Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 #6 – Jeff Parker, Mark Andreyko, Writers; David Hahn, Penciller; Bill Williams, Karl Kesel, Inkers; Madpencil, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: All You Could Want From This Crossover
Ray: The conclusion to this charming, entertaining crossover miniseries obviously takes on a more poignant tone with the recent passing of Adam West, one of the few remaining cast members from the original Batman ’66 TV series and one of the most iconic Batmen of all time. With that in mind, this tribute comic to two great TV series serves as a great finale that brings all the characters to a satisfying finale. When the issue begins, an aging Bruce Wayne is cornered in the Batcave by Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia, who are on the tail of the Lazarus Pit so Ra’s can feed his addiction to immortality. I was amused that Ra’s now has warriors who vaguely remind me of Power Man and Iron Fist from the 70s, as well. Nightwing and Catwoman help to fight them off, but it’s Bruce who pulls off the best move of the issue with a reverse of his usual fighting in darkness.
Ra’s and his minions escape, and Nightwing calls in the backup – in the form of Commissioner Gordon, now putting on her old costume as Batwoman. There’s a lot of great action in this issue, as well as some humor – Nightwing may be a grown man, but old habits die hard. Parker and Andreyko are excellent at keeping the light tone of the original series while infusing it with some real stakes, and the final battle with an army of Bat-and-Wonder rogues is fast-paced and thrilling. It all ends with a final showdown between Batman and Ra’s over the Lazarus Pit that tempts Batman with the youth that’s been slipping away from him – and delivers a hilariously karmic end to Ra’s Al Ghul. It may not have quite the same impact as last issue’s reveals, but it’s a great finish. And a tease for Justice League ’77? Yes, please! Superman and Flash are out there in some form already!
Corrina: As I read about this Robin taking up the Nightwing mantle, I kept thinking that Burt Ward would have seriously rocked the original Nightwing costume, affectionately known to comic fans as “Disco Wing,” and this comic provides a little preview of that. Bless them for not using the later costumes.
For some reason, when this team-up began, I expected it to stay in the prime of Batman’s life, so the jump to an older Batman caught me somewhat off-guard. And yet, especially in light of Adam West’s death, to see a Batman gracefully accepting growing older and giving way to the younger heroes, well, it’s a lovely postscript to West himself.
Sometimes the mix of Batman ’66 characters and regular DC characters catches me off-balance but, this time, it all worked.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #23 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Ethan Van Sciver, Artist; Jason Wright, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Kyle’s In Trouble Now. The Corps Too
Ray: The newly merged Green Lantern and Sinestro Corps begin to unravel this issue, as space pirate Bolphunga dangles blackmail information in front of Hal and John – he supposedly has proof of a Green Lantern killing a Sinestro Corps member. Hal is skeptical, but John insists on investigating to make sure everything is completely above board. That’s not the only potential rift, though, as Kyle Rayner continues to push Soranik to abandon her post as the Sinestro Corps leader and rejoin him in the GLC. This, of course, is partially due to Kyle’s trauma over seeing his future son Sarko die – something he hasn’t shared with Soranik and something she finds out later this issue when she does an autopsy on Sarko. And given her reaction, it seems like Kyle screwed up in a major way, and may have just hastened the rift.
While John deputizes Guy and Arkillo to get evidence from Bolphunga’s pirate base, Hal is worried about one of his Lanterns, Tomar-Tu. We saw Tomar-Tu get a spotlight a while back when he visited his mother back on his home planet, but since then his storyarc has taken a dark turn. Guy and Arkillo, meanwhile, have the best segments of the issue, as they call on Space Cabbie, hitch a ride to the pirate base, and party as only they can – by beating up anything in sight. I loved watching their bromance develop, and what they’re actually looking for turns out to be hilarious – a tiny critter that records its visions, and should be a stuffed toy immediately. But what it has on it is anything but, as it reveals the culprit, the killer – and Hal discovers exactly what Tomar-Tu is hiding, which kicks off the meat of this arc. This arc is a bit light on the action, but high on the suspense and intensity as the great Corps experiment begins to fall apart.
Corrina: If the point of the Kyle/Soranik interaction the last few issues is that I was supposed to see Kyle as a dumbass, then it absolutely worked, because he’s made mistake after mistake, first trying to cozy up to his ex-lover in the midst of a crisis, then finding out Sarko was their son but not telling her, while at the same time urging her to give up the yellow ring. Of course, she finds out. Whatever Soranik wishes to do to Kyle, he deserves it. Especially since he has no respect for her authority.
By the way, if there aren’t slash gifs of Guy and Arkillo already circulating, well, that seems like a missed opportunity. As for John’s decisions to cover up any problems….does being in charge of Green Lanterns warp one’s judgment? Because it seems like John is about to make a big mistake. (Notice I didn’t mention Hal? That’s half the reason I enjoyed this issue. Hah!)
Justice League of America #9 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Felipe Watanabe, Penciller; Scott Hanna, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Farewell, Tarzan, er, Makson
Ray: The strange story of Makson comes to a close in this issue, as Batman’s suspicions about the mysterious wildman turn out to be true – but the actual story is far more complex than anyone expected. Last issue, we saw Makson gather his entire family for a summit – only for Ryan Choi to spy on him and discover a deranged plan to wipe out his entire bloodline in revenge. This made Makson look like the villain, for sure – but less so once it’s clear that several members of his family were behind the plot by SKULL to wipe out his adoptive dinosaur family (and, they hoped, him). Makson is kind of a creepy figure, but he’s also kind of hilarious when he rips off his shirt and leaps into the crowd to do…what? Tear a whole ballroom of people apart with his bare hands? This scene nicely drives home that he really doesn’t think like a human.
Makson maybe puts up a bit too good of a fight against the Justice League of America once they show up to confront him – especially high-powered characters like Lobo. He is, after all, supposed to just be a man with animal instincts. However, that can be chalked up to rage and adrenaline. The best segment of the issue is when he and Batman confront each other face to face, in a battle of words and ethics that drives home the difference between the two men. I find it amusing that this is the second time in two weeks someone tried to play the “What would you do” card with Batman only for him to no-sell them both times. In the end, the real villains face justice, and Makson winds up back where he belongs in a story that nicely establishes that this JL handles things a little bit differently. A short, odd arc, but a satisfying one. I’m not sure what the cliffhanger involving Ray’s mother is about, but I’m intrigued.
Corrina: This fun arc makes me wonder if Orlando has a secret desire to write Tarzan or Ka-Zar? Perhaps. But, in any case, the strength of it is that Orlando never forgets that Makson thinks like those who raised him to adulthood, which is like a predator, not a human. Okay, he wants revenge like a human. But human rules and morals mean nothing to him and why should they? The story makes a good case for Makson not being evil, just being on a whole different wavelength.
Nice moment for Batman too. He’s been refreshingly human in the DC Universe of late in his dealings with others. I wonder how long that will last?
Superman: Action Comics #982 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Jack Herbert, Artist; Jose Luis, Penciller; Ray McCarthy, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Not Feeling It
Ray: Jurgens has reunited Superman villains old and new for a satisfying, fast-paced arc that calls back to classic Superman tales. Last issue we found out that Superman’s exposure to the Black Vault had left him blind for some reason, barely allowing him to escape the attack from Zod and the rest of the Revenge Squad. When the issue opens, the squad is tearing itself apart with its own agendas, so it’s up to Cyborg Superman to unite them again – tempting each of them with his plans for Earth once Superman is defeated. That’s Cyborg Superman’s best strength as a villain – he’s a cult leader. We saw it when Jurgens wrote him as the fake Superman – he’s the one who won over the public – and now he’s working his manipulations on the villains. You can tell Jurgens is loving writing this guy again twenty years later.
Meanwhile, Superman’s retreated to the Fortress to find out what’s causing his blindness, while Jon explores the Fortress and finds out a bit more about his Kryptonian heritage. While Kelex doesn’t really have any answers for Superman, this segment has a great ’90s vibe as Jon discovers artifacts including the Kryptonian battle armor that revived Superman in that famous storyline. Then he starts hearing voices in the Fortress, which feels like a big answer being teased for another story. As Jon goes missing to investigate the voice, and the Revenge Squad descends on the Fortress, Superman prepares for a final battle against his most vicious enemies. Watching Superman fight blind is great – but even better is watching a whole army of allies wearing his shield (including Luthor) descend on the Fortress to have his back. This feels like we have classic Superman back, with some new family members.
Corrina: This comic has what most long-time fans want: familiar villains, a whole heap of DC history, a foreshadowing of greater mysteries, and a massive team-up looming. So why am I not thrilled? I’m not sure? It seems like a repeat of the story at the beginning of this run that had Superman fighting the Eradicator on the Moon. It’s the same motivation from the villains, just on a bit larger scale. I get their motivation is they hate Superman, and the Eradicator wants him to become more Kryptonian, but aside from Henshaw’s speeches, I haven’t felt much real characterization from this crew. Plus, Superman’s blindness seems more a plot device than any real disability/injury.
But, yes, I’m looking forward to that big brawl next issue.
Kamandi Challenge #6 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Philip Tan, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Dean White, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: A Bit Dark
Ray: After the shockingly dark ending to last month’s issue, which saw Kamandi vivisected by an insane weasel doctor for science, and his tiger PI buddy finding him with all his guts hanging out, Steve Orlando doesn’t waste much time rerailing the story to get Kamandi back on his feet. Mack is able to use the evil weasel’s own machines against him, shooting the villain and forcing him to use the 3D organ printing technology he premiered to save both their lives – albeit Mack doesn’t do all that much to ensure the villain is saved. Soon, Kamandi is back to his normal self, albeit with quite a few disturbing memories. Mack sends Kamandi to a friend of his, Renzi, a fellow scientist with odd shiny skin. Renzi, interestingly, seems to be the first other human we’ve seen in the series, albeit one with a robotic heart and steel powers.
But soon, their hot air balloon ride is set on fire and crashes to Earth, in one of the most bizarre settings for the series yet – a Communist Russian bear village, where all the bears share a hive-mind with their thoughts directing the mind of a leader/slave, Groznovo. This is all completely bonkers, as Orlando obviously has fun with exploring the mysterious and twisted nature of this society, where individuality has been sacrificed to the extent of literally funneling all minds into one. This segment can get a tiny bit slow, as Kamandi and Groznovo have extended conversations about free will. But then the issue takes a turn for delightful Kirby-esque insanity, as the collective will of the bears manages to awaken the city itself – a giant steampunk bear robot. Philip Tan’s art may not be the prettiest of the series, but it definitely is a great fit for the bizarre, and that’s a big part of why this issue works so well.
Corrina: I wouldn’t give it as high a grade as 8. It was still an enjoyable comic though not as much of a thrill ride as the previous issues have been. It seems the tone has shifted with the last two creative teams to something more menacing and less pulp adventure. That’s not a bad thing but that means the first part of this issue is taken up with seriously pulling Kamandi back from the dead. It’s not every day someone is vivisected and lives to tell about it. (Should I point out that even with a new heart, Kamandi should be worried about infection? Probably not?)
But things pick up in the bear village and I will always be on board for a STEAMPUNK BEAR ROBOT.
GRADE B COMICS: Ranking 6-7
Teen Titans #9 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Khoi Pham, Penciller; Trevor Scott, Craig Yeung, Inkers; Jim Charalampidis, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Character Actions Don’t Add Up
Ray: This issue essentially has good characterization, some interesting developments for a key player…and one giant, lingering plot hole. Which mainly is…why is the rest of the team still tolerating Damian and treating him like he’s team leader after the way he treated Wally (both) last issue? I get that it’s plot related – Wally is headed over to Deathstroke for an arc – but even with the bonding they experienced in the first arc, it defies logic that Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy would choose Damian over Wally. However, the main character this issue is none of them – it’s Aqualad, the newest Titan. The issue opens with his mother, with whom he had a tense relationship due to both his sexuality and his powers, seeing him on TV and worrying that he’s been exposed. Meanwhile, Aqualad is training with Damian, who is in full drill sergeant nasty mode.
The Teen Titans essentially have a Danger Room now! And it’s good to see Damian treating Aqualad as an actual member of the team, as the two team members he seemed to reject made for an…awkward picture. Wally, meanwhile, is meeting with Raven, who is trying to make sure he’s okay after being kicked off the team. I wasn’t sure about this relationship being teased at first, but it works. The issue kicks into higher gear once Aqualad meets with his worried mother – who turns out to be the source of his powers, being an Atlantean herself. This is an interesting twist. The reveal of Black Manta as his father, and his ensuing return to confront his “family”, is telegraphed from page one, but should be a strong showdown next issue. This is more a bridge/setup issue than anything, but it still works overall. Save for Damian.
Corrina: Agreed on that big plot hole. There’s no reason that the experienced Titans should let Damian just fire Wally. Especially not Starfire, the most compassionate and empathetic among them. This isn’t Percy’s fault but it certainly messes with the team dynamics. But also messing with the team dynamics is that Raven is the one to go after Wally and maybe….hit on him? At least this is more subtle than the romantic hook-ups in the Titans series but it also comes out of nowhere.
But what I loved? Jackson’s mother, who is a force unto herself, and was not at all what I expected, simply because I expected she was going to be yet another of those cliche mothers who “just wanted to keep her kid safe,” and instead reveals that she’s as formidable as Manta. If she gets killed, I will be so done with this comic. Aside: how sad is it that I’ve gotten used to a cliched portrayal of motherhood and yet dads (like, say, Deathstroke) can have many personalities?
Batgirl #12 – Hope Larson, Writer; Eleonora Carlini, Artist; Cris Peter, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: It’s Fun. But….
Ray: Following up on the big Son of Penguin arc, Hope Larson takes a break before the next storyarc and gives us a fun, slight done-in-one ghost story set in the dangerous world of…academia? This issue kicks off at the Burnside Y, with the host of a paranormal investigation show trying to interview Batgirl. It seems there have been ghost sightings at the pool inside, with first a group of old people and then an infant swim group encountering a mysterious glowing being inside the pool. Barbara investigates the pool, but nothing shows up, besides fans trying to get her on camera. Larson makes good use of the old Burnside status quo, bringing in Qadir – and introducing his new Chemist crush to help Batgirl investigate. She points Barbara to a genius science professor named Radden for help – but Barbara soon links Radden to a student who went missing.
Radden, an expert in experimental teleportation technology, was mentoring this young woman, only for her then to mysteriously disappear. Except he may not have been the author of his brilliant scientific breakthroughs after all. And after an investigation, it turns out that the “Ghost” isn’t a ghost at all – but the girl he trapped in another dimension trying to break through again. What follows is a strange scientific seance that takes place almost entirely in a public pool, which is alternately creepy and funny. By the end of the issue, Barbara’s rescued Radden’s victim, sent the evil professor to prison, and potentially gained a new friend and ally. It’s a fun issue with good commentary about academic theft, but is it memorable? Not really.
Corrina: The mystery of the ghost is a good idea, especially since I love ghosts but….yet…while I love the characters in the comic, and the idea of the plot, it is, as Ray said, not particularly memorable. Perhaps it’s not meant to be. I keep expecting a deeper tone to this series, something more like in Detective Comics but perhaps the tone of this series is meant to be more like, say, DC SuperHeroGirls, in which case, I should recognize that it’s exactly what it wants to be and it’s likely entertaining to the target audience of people who are not me.
Mother Panic #8 – Jody Houser, Jim Krueger, Writers; Tommy Lee Edwards, Artist; Phil Hester, Penciller; Ande Parks, Inker; Dave Stewart, Trish Mulvhill, Colorists
Ray – 7.5/10
Ray: It’s an interesting issue in the main story, as Violet Page continues to unravel, in more ways than one. Last issue’s meeting with a little girl who reminded her of her own trauma unhinged her mentally, and now the killer of the girl’s parents is striking again, brutally wounding a veteran turned security guard. After some investigation, it seems like the maniac – who walks around in a body bag – is targeting people who barely escaped a terrible fate. Flashbacks to her childhood indicate why she’s so programmed to push past pain and keep fighting – something that will come back to haunt her later in the issue. I enjoy the presence of Ratcatcher as her roommate who won’t go away – the idea of a former low-rent villain not really reforming but just sort of giving up on villainy is fun. And his rats prove themselves to be surprisingly useful.
Although the serial killer is the main villain, Violet’s biggest adversary this issue is actually her own body, as one of her spinal implants starts malfunctioning and causing her agonizing pain. Artist Edwards does a great job of depicting this, making the spasms seem more like lightning strikes. Unable to hunt the villain due to her failing body, Violet is forced to turn to another advantage – opening up about the story of her father and the terrible fate she narrowly escaped to a TV reporter, in hopes of luring the villain out of hiding. It’s an interesting look at a hero whose edge is also their greatest weakness, and one who is actually willing to use vulnerability as a strength and lure. The character is getting more and more interesting by the issue, but the story is still overly slow. The backup isn’t really going anywhere, being told in segments that are too short to really click.
Corrina: It took me a while to put aside my “tired of the trained child assassins” story reaction to this comic. Perhaps because Violet was such a cypher at first. But the more focus there is on Violet herself, the more that’s revealed not just about her past but about her emotional reaction to her past, the more I enjoy this comic. If I had to sum up the high concept, it would be something like “what if one of the Kardashians has secretly been altered to be an assassin as a child?” How would they deal with fame? How would the world react to their public face? How could they ever recover, especially since few would understand? Those are interesting questions and since those started to be answered, this series has my attention.
Supergirl: Being Super #4 – Mariko Tamaki, Writer; Joelle Jones, Artist; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Ray: The conclusion to this alternate universe Supergirl origin retelling finally answers a lot of questions about its universe as it wraps up – but winds up leaving us with a lot more questions as it goes. This is one of the best issues of the series, as Kara finally comes into her own as a hero and develops her powers while fighting her first major villains. When the issue starts, she’s making plans to run away with Kryptonian refugee Tan-On, who survived years of torture at the hands of a secret government organization led by…Kara’s track coach? However, Tan-On is secretly a maniac, wanting revenge against humanity and still unaware that Krypton is no longer there. He’s like a younger, more emotional Zod – which actually makes him more interesting than the villain type usually is.
Kara’s final battle with Tan-On gets one thing very right – Supergirl, and all Supers, are concerned with preserving life at all costs, especially civilian life and even that of their enemies. I also really liked what was done with Kara’s surviving best friend Dolly this issue. However, there were some odd things in the ending – namely, the fact that this isn’t an alternate universe where Kara was the only one who arrived on Earth, like it seemed. Instead, it seems that Lex Luthor, and more significantly Superman, both exist on this world. This raises a lot of questions – Superman didn’t see another Kryptonian shuttle arrive on Earth 20 years after his? Kara just happened to be adopted by another kindly farm couple? The presence of the main Superman world just on the fringes of this story makes it feel a bit out of step. Still, it took a while for this take on Kara to click, but by the end it’s a sweet coming-of-age story that seems to end, unfortunately, right as the good stuff is going to begin? Sequel, please?
Corrina: Once collected, this is going to be a tremendous stand-alone series in bookstores, one that has the potential to bring in new fans of the character. I know Ray has been reading the whole series with an eye to whether it stands up to other Supergirl stories and feels it repeats some of those elements but while I see familiar plot threads, I’m also thrilled that a story that gets Supergirl and what makes her a hero is going to be collected in a single, satisfying story.
Superman’s appearance at the end was a surprise but also welcome, in that it opens up a new world for her and promises, perhaps, a sequel. And, please, please keep Dolly. She’s great and served much the same purpose in this story as Alex Danvers serves on the television show: a normal human who’ll do anything for their friend/sister.
Scooby-Doo Team-Up #27 – Sholly Fisch, Writer; Dario Brizuela, Artist; Franco Riesco, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Ray: One of the things I always appreciate in this title is its deep cuts from DC history, and they don’t get much deeper than the weird world of Plastic Man, the star of this issue’s team-up. Although Plastic Man isn’t the main DC character to appear – it’s his hapless, gluttonous sidekick Woozy Winks, who gets kicked out of Plastic Man’s FBI briefing, goes for a stroll, and winds up getting cursed by a greedy scam artist of a fortune teller. While the plot has potential, I have to say this storytelling device sort of put me off the issue from the start a bit, due to the caricature of the (likely Romani) fortune teller being a scam artist. Sure enough, right after being cursed, Woozy starts having close calls with death.
The Mystery Machine crew is called in to help, and they set out trying to figure out if “Madame Tregani” is actually a magician, or if Woozy is just unlucky. There’s a lot of sight gags, and the reveal of who the fortune teller actually is is a bit telegraphed – there’s only one villainous name dropped over the course of the issue. However, the ending makes the tropes involved a little less annoying. Woozy and Plas are funny, and we get some great sight gags involving Plastic Man’s powers over the course of the issue. It’s not one of their best issues, but it’s a perfectly amusing story in this series, definitely a step above the Hanna-Barbera issues.
Batman Beyond #9 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Bernard Chang, Artist; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Terry and Bruce Vs. Damian
Ray: This is a comic with a good number of interesting ideas, but they just don’t come together into a particularly compelling comic yet, unfortunately. When we last left off, Terry was using an experimental Bat-suit with an AI that prioritizes victory over the survival of its user – and is determined to keep Terry’s allies from stopping him from reaching his destination, a showdown with the current Ra’s Al Ghul. And that Ra’s would be the previous wearer of this suit – Damian Wayne. Jurgens is doing a good job at merging classic Batman Beyond with the future of the main DC, and Damian’s addition is intriguing, but unfortunately, I don’t feel like his characterization here is great. He’s way too much of a cliched villain – I could buy him trying to reform the League from within, but he sounds like a true believer here.
The flashbacks to Damian’s time in the suit and how that led him to his current role are intriguing if parceled out slowly. Terry’s fight with Damian is fast-paced, but the dialogue here isn’t great. I was much more intrigued by Bruce Wayne’s gritty, determined quest to protect his latest protege – dragging his elderly, hobbled Bat-butt up a mountain to the League’s base. However, an encounter with the newest Ubu pulls that quest to a quick close, as all the determination in the world isn’t worth much against 300 pounds of muscle-bound assassin. Bernard Chang’s art looks great in the desolate mountain regions, but while this is the best arc of the series so far (mainly due to the complete absence of anything Brother Eye related) it needs to sort out Damian’s characterization in the coming issues.
Corrina: I hated the idea of Damian going to the dark side but this story indicates that his mind may be unhinged as a result of his time in the AI suit, which explains Bruce’s driving need to get to Terry. He’s lost one son to the AI–he’s not about to lose another and if he dies while doing so, so be it. (Though part of me wonders if this will lead to Bruce going into the Lazarus Pit for a youth treatment.)
All to say, I felt for Bruce, and for Terry, and thus enjoyed this more than Ray.
The Hellblazer #11 – Simon Oliver, Writer; Davide Fabbri, Penciller; Jose Marzan Jr., Inker; Carrie Strachan, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Pacing is Slow
Ray: This series gets closer to wrapping up what turned out to be a full year-long story dealing with the presence of Djinns in London before Seeley comes on board to take the series in a new direction. The issue opens with Mercury continuing her training with Adnan as she learns more about the nature of Djinns and his evil brother Marid. From there, it’s back to London as Constantine and Mercury try to lure Dante, the accidental bearer of the book, out of hiding. These segments have some pretty amusing elements. Constantine is a trickster at his core, and he understands the modern world. Thus, enchanting Dante’s old shoe so it dances on its own and goes viral is a clever twist. That’s one way to get a reluctant chosen one out of hiding.
The story gets a lot better once Dante is pulled out of hiding. He’s holing up with his younger sister when an old friend/fellow gang member comes calling. He tries to trick Dante into talking to him, but Dante spies on him and finds out he’s working with the evil Djinns and plans on turning him over. He and his sister go on the run, finding a refuge with one of Dante’s old girlfriends after a tense escape – and that’s where Dante finds out his shoe’s gone viral. Exactly as Constantine intended, Dante will be finding his way into his orbit soon enough. The issue’s a bit overly slow, but Dante is an intriguing everyman character, and Constantine’s machiavellian manipulations make for an entertaining read.
Corrina: I would say this storyline has been overly slow, as I have trouble remembering what is happening from issue to issue, so much so that I have to go back to the recaps to remind myself. I like the forward momentum in this story, and the bits of humor are great, but the most compelling character still is Mercury and I tend to resent anything that takes away her story. In many ways, you could pull Constantine out of this tale and it would stand alone. That’s not always a good thing for a lead character to be of secondary interest in his own title. (Though, hey, I do enjoy it when Hal is sidelined in his own title, so your mileage may vary.)
Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman #5 – Andy Mangels, Writer; Judit Tondora, Artist; Roland Pilcz, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Ray: The DC crossover boom is winding down a bit, with most having concluded, but this Dynamite-produced story is still going strong with another period piece (although not nearly as strong as the fantastic DC-produced Batman ’66/Wonder Woman ’77 that just wrapped up). Last issue saw Diana at death’s door after taking a bullet for Jaime. While the Bionic Woman rushes Wonder Woman to safety, it’s up to the Amazon army, backed up by both Wonder Girls and Max the Bionic Dog to fight against an army of villains, including enemies from both shows. The battle sequences are exciting, pitting ancient enchanted weapons against modern day guns and battle armor.
The problem is, the villains still have absolutely no presence, coming off as generic threats who spout a combination of third-rate villain dialogue and vaguely MRA sentiments. The issue is stronger when they’re simply getting their butts kicked, and the heroines can shine. Diana is saved via Amazon surgeons and the Purple Ray, which allows her to charge back into action despite still recovering, while Hippolyta and Jaime hatch a plan that might save the Amazons from being conquered – but expose them to the world in the process. It’s a solid, entertaining read that’s probably more for fans of the two shows, but should be enjoyable for any WW fans. Even if I’m still completely puzzled by who these Wonder Girls actually are.
Grade D: Rating 5 To Zero
Blue Beetle #10 – Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Writers; Scott Kolins, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Corrina: This Should Be Better
Ray: The conclusion to the big battle with Arion is basically the series in a nutshell – a few halfway interesting moments and character bits, mixed in with a metric ton of nonsense that drowns out everything else. I was unaware that Arion is a giant centipede now, but I guess that’s a thing? Jaime, without the power of the Scarab, spends most of the issue getting smacked around by Arion, but occasionally manages to create a psychic link with the Scarab that gives him clues how to fight back. Ted, meanwhile, has entered the field for the first time since retiring, armed with his old tech, and battles an army of bug monsters while trying to get OMAC to give control back to Kevin Kho. I like all these characters, but not in a story like this, where no one gets to display much personality.
The biggest weakness of this issue is the villains, with Arion being an 80’s cartoon evil wizard, and Mordecai getting way too much page time as Jaime ineptly tries to convince the evil Scarab to switch sides. Doctor Fate and Teri/Flash show up towards the end, which really drives home what a hodgepodge this book is – it’s reviving plot points from no less than three obscure books that Giffen had a hand in writing over the last ten years! By the end, Jaime’s taken back the scarab and depowered Arion, but the Scarab seems to have taken him over and overwritten Jaime’s personality. We know it won’t stick, so there’s no real tension or stakes. The best thing about this issue, really, is that Arion is finally gone.
Corrina: We basically have unhinged villains who make little sense, a myriad of characters running around that take the focus off Jaime, and echoes of a much better Blue Beetle arc from his first series. The last, with Jaime fighting the Scarab’s evil tendencies, could be interesting, but it’s lost in all the noise. This character had all the makings of a break-out, especially with his appearances on television, and all that potential is being wasted because of the low quality of this book.
Suicide Squad #20 – Rob Williams, Writer; Stepan Sejic, Artist
Ray – 5/10
Corrina: A Slog
Ray: First up, that five out of ten is almost solely for Stepan Sejic’s art. This guy is a genuine find for DC, coming off some great-looking Image books, and while he’s not quite as well-suited to this book as he is to Aquaman, every page of this book looks gorgeous. The problem is, he’s left to paint over a done-in-one story that drives the Suicide Squad’s characterization to some even weirder places. In the aftermath of Rick Flagg’s apparent death last issue, Amanda Waller is looking for an new leader of the Suicide Squad. This leads her to go one by one to the various members, interrogating them. This starts with Katana, who is the only non-criminal left and is gung-ho to lead the Squad. Waller rejects her because she thinks Tatsu is crazier than she lets on.
From there, it’s on to Harley, who is completely insane and killing guards as her way of mourning Rick. Williams didn’t manage to sell that relationship at all. Boomerang is clearly an opportunist, while Deadshot is still angry over losing his arm and makes clear that he has zero interest in leading. In the middle of this, Croc and Enchantress, who are not being interviewed for leadership, go on a date and June attempts to kick-start a career in graphic design. It goes about as well as you’d expect, and Croc winds up being the only person in this issue to display any leadership skills (I kind of wish we’d see more of him actually being smart and practical like a crime boss, instead of eating people), so naturally, the new leader of the Squad is…Harley, who was last seen in this issue killing innocent people. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but I guess she brings sales.
Corrina: I kinda laughed at June’s reaction to the art being rejected. Perhaps having suffered story rejections a time or two, I would have liked to go “feel my wrath!” But the kicker is her reaction after they say “hey, we could work with you,” when the evil leaves and June is all flattered. Hah!
The rest of the issue? As Ray said. This title is a slog to read. Pretty to look at now, though.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.