Reading Time: 35 minutes
This week, DC and Looney Tunes team-up for two crossovers that, yes, are actually funny. Corrina loved Legion of Super-Heroes /Bugs Bunny #1 with its classic Bugs, meta-commentary on her favorite 1970s LSH comics and for the general lunacy, while Ray thought the Martian Manhunter/Marvin the Martian Special #1 was totally in the spirit of the original Marvin cartoons.
There’s also the debut of the next big crossover of the DC Universe with Dark Days: The Forge #1, the Bat-crew goes to a basketball game and gets interrupted by a monster in Batman: Detective Comics #958;, Bug: The Adventures of Forager #2 takes a trip back to World War II DC; Diana picks up the pieces in Wonder Woman #24;, Gotham Academy: Second Semester #10 showcases the awesome Maps; Supergirl has a terrifying adventure in the Phantom Zone with Batgirl, and New Superman may soon have Kenan regretting his compassion.
This plus reviews of all this week’s DC Comics.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ALL ISSUES AFTER THE CUT
Martian Manhunter/Marvin the Martian Special #1 – Steve Orlando, Frank Barbiere, Jim Fanning, Writers; Aaron Lopresti, Penciller; John Loter, Backup Artist; Jerome Moore, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Back-Up Looney Toons Version is Better.
Ray: We’ve got six DC/Looney Tunes specials coming this month, all by top-tier creative teams, and it all kicks off with this one, pairing two last survivors of Mars with very different perspectives on Earth. These concepts could easily descend into pure silliness, but Orlando and Barbiere surprisingly infuse this plot with some genuine emotion and great characterization, while not losing the innate absurdity of Marvin’s character. J’onn is attempting to open a gate to find other Martians, and he gets his wish – in the form of one ultraviolent tiny megalomaniac in a helmet. Marvin has been trying to destroy Earth in his universe for ages – and now plans to bring that mission to J’onn’s earth. And thanks to his absurd technology that doesn’t really make any sense outside of a cartoon, he actually proves to be a serious threat to J’onn and the US military.
At its core, though, is a very strong look at the different way these two Martians view Earth. While Marvin’s reasoning for hating Earth may not be all that solid, it is a good look at just how much hatred can color a mind when left to fester. J’onn, meanwhile, has boundless faith in Earth – but it’s tested when Marvin’s senseless attacks begin turning the people of Earth against all Martians. The action is hilarious and yet has real stakes, and Lopresti’s art is perfectly suited for this story. Instead of playing this story purely for laughs, the writers turn Marvin into a legitimately threatening villain, and it works. Each one of these stories will have a backup telling the meeting in classic Looney Tunes style, and the backup by Fanning and Lotor is a hilarious tale involving Chocos, shape-shifting, and misadventures that come right out of the old cartoons. Perfectly captures the spirit of the crossover.
Corrina: I wanted the story played for laughs. How come the Martian Manhunter doesn’t turn into a duplicate of Marvin, just for fun? J’onn has a skill set that’s completely suited for comedy and yet it’s played completely serious in the opening story and instead turns into yet another alien invasion, albeit one with an off-kilter villain. Where’s the joke about J’onn giving Marvin Oreos to prove Earth is worthwhile? (Or, you know, maybe Twinkies?) Ah, I’m picking on the story because it’s not what I wanted it to be, I suppose. It’s a good showcase for who J’onn is and why he’s a hero, though I laughed more at Mr. Biscuits dialogue in the recent Martian Manhunter series than in this lead story.
The backup story, essentially retelling the same events, but in a Looney Tunes style, was definitely more my speed, and had that shape-shifting that I loved. It’s definitely worth the cover price.
Legion of Super-Heroes/Bugs Bunny #1 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Tom Grummett, Penciller; Scott Hanna, Inker; Steve Buccellato, Colorist; Juan Manuel Ortiz, Backup Writer/Artist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: Definitely a much lighter and more offbeat crossover than the Martian one, this is an odd way to reintroduce the Legion back to the DCU – they’ve been missing since a few years into the New 52. Sam Humphries channels some of his more eccentric writing from before he went mainstream, with a tale that’s as much of a parody of the melodramatic Silver Age storytelling of the Legion as it is a send-up of the Looney Tunes. The issue begins with the Legion already in progress, as Supergirl’s been poisoned on a previous mission and is near-death. The only way to save them is with an element from the 20th century, and so they decide to bring Superman back to the 31st century. But due to the interference of the second incarnation of Computo, they wind up getting another Kansas farmer – Bugs Bunny, who was busy tending to his baby carrots when he gets dragooned into service.
A bit too much of the issue is devoted to the Legion reacting with incredulity to Bugs’ presence, but once Timber Wolf picks a fight with him (hm, Wolves eat Rabbits, don’t they…) Bugs starts manifesting powers of his own and proceeds to handily stop any Legion member who comes near him. I think my favorite part of this issue was the inner monologues of the various Legion members, who are all consumed with personal drama – something Computo knows exactly how to exploit, targeting their biggest weaknesses. This issue works better for the Legion than it does for Bugs, who seems almost auxiliary to the story. Still, he gets some good scenes in, and the issue overall is a success that had me grinning the whole way through. The biggest puzzle? The backup, which reads just as a condensed version of the main story retold in a different art style. The Martian issue had two completely different stories with different tones. Here they’re way too similar to really enjoy reading twice.
Corrina: This is hilarious. I expected a funny Bugs story. I didn’t expect a story that was both a parody and self-admitted homage to my favorite Legion of Super-Heroes era. Between the terrific use of thought balloons (including a running joke about Timber Wolf always being hungry), the spoofs of the Computo stories, and the “angst” attack, I haven’t laughed so hard at a comic in a long time. I hesitate to say more because I’ll give the jokes away but if you love the 1970s Legion, you will have a great time with this story.
Plus, it seemed like a terrific Bugs tale too, with his power to somehow transform into any “character” he needs to be perceived as a super-power.
Dark Days: The Forge #1 – Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Writers; Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, John Romita Jr., Pencillers; Scott Williams, Klaus Janson, Danny Miki, Inkers; Alex Sinclair, Jeremiah Skipper, Colorists
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Approaches Big Crossover With Trepidation ::backs away::
Ray: After months of advance hype, the kick-off to DC’s big summer event “Metal” starts here, with this two-part prequel co-written by event-writer Snyder and James Tynion IV. And if this the prequel/setup arc, then holy cow, I cannot wait to read what is coming in the main event. Because this is one of the most jam-packed event kickoff issues I have read in the longest time. It kicks off in Ancient Egypt, with the currently deceased Carter Hall chronicling one of his past lives, where he first discovered what I assume is the legendary Nth Metal, in the form of a crashing spaceship. In the present day, Batman rescues a scientist from a massive volcanic eruption by erupting through the volcano in a Bat-robot. Snyder’s Batman run was pretty dark as a whole, but his final arc with Gordon showed that he has a great taste for the wild, tech-heavy adventure storytelling here, and that seems to be what he’s going for with this event. It’s a very different tone from his Batman run.
This is a Batman story, primarily, but it’s also a Justice League story, as Aquaman shows up to help Batman with his rescue, and Hal Jordan is deputized by Ganthet on a top-secret mission to Earth, to track down something dangerous to the fabric of the DCU – that just happens to be underneath Wayne Manor. This leads to my favorite scene of the issue – Hal getting kicked in the face by yellow-clad Duke Thomas. Kid knew what he was doing when he picked the color scheme. This issue has almost too much going on at times, with the introduction of the mysterious Immortal Men – soon to be getting their own series by Tynion – as well as the reintroduction of Mr. Terrific, back from his sojourn to Earth 2, and Mister Miracle, who will be helping Batman break into a secret door he placed in the Fortress of Solitude. There’s also glimpses into a dark future that Hawkman saw. Nothing is quite as good as Duke and Hal making their way down a dark corridor, accompanied by a mysterious voice that leads them to Batman’s darkest secret.
This is just an excellent event kick-off through and through. I get distinct vibes of Identity Crisis and Original Sin, in that this centers around dark secrets held by heroes that come back to haunt them, but unlike those two mostly failed events, this one doesn’t seem to be about darkening the DCU. Rather, it seems to be about the idea that there’s some threats, some evil out there, that the heroes know they can’t fully destroy. They can simply contain – or in some cases, play with incredibly dangerous powers to try to shut down. It’s a non-stop thrill ride with great characterization for everyone, and as for that last page? Well, we knew it was coming – time for round three. This also brings a key part of Batman’s past into continuity again – his first stint with the Outsiders. Snyder and Johns, the main architects of Rebirth, are dedicated to restoring the epic scope of the DCU. This first issue is an excellent start to that goal.
Corrina: First, I’m predisposed to hate big crossover events, so there’s that. Second, I may not have been in the best frame of mind when I read this, having just finished the Looney Tunes crossovers because, as a result, I expected Bugs Bunny to pop out at any minute and skewer some of the super-serious dialogue.
Then again, this comic had Duke Thomas kicking Hal Jordan in the face, which means it definitely had its moments. All my gripes are mainly personal peeves because, as you can see from Ray’s review above, this book hit exactly right with the DC Core audience. Those who like their epic crossovers will find much to love here, I’m just more in the mood to read a skewering of big company crossovers in the same style as the LSH/Bugs comic rather than a crossover itself. You toss in the Joker at the end as some force of nature, and I’m pretty much guaranteed to say “oh, hell, no,” but that’s because I’m in the minority who hates the Joker with a passion and wants to see far more of Two-Face than some cackling one-note force of chaos. Also, any vibes that put me in mind of Identity Crisis is not a plus in my book. Ugh. Hate that story.
So, yeah, it was fun to see the image of the original Outsiders up on the page, and the opening sequence with Batman’s rescue is terrific, and Duke and Hal’s fight is fun, but we are, once again, back to Batman as more than human, and more like the all-powerful Ozymandias of Watchmen fame. I also get frustrated at seeing Hawkman’s story framed always, always by Carter Hall and not Shiera. Because this issue is seriously lacking in female characters. Does it even pass the Bechdel Test? If it did, it was so slight I missed it. It may be after seeing Wonder Woman, I have a much lower tolerance for seeing the spotlight always on male heroes.
GRADE A COMICS
Batman: Detective Comics #958 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Alvaro Martinez, Penciller; Raul Fernandez, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Azrael Spotlight Shows Why He Should Be a Great Character
Ray: I was a little skeptical about this arc when it was first announced, given that it focuses on the two members of the team that I’m least attached to – Batwing and Azrael – not to mention bringing in Zatanna, who’s sort of an odd fit for a Gotham team. Shouldn’t have worried. As this book has been since this run launched, it’s excellent. The issue kicks off with a Gotham basketball game, as Luke and Jean-Paul enjoy a night off. Luke gets to actually show off that he’s a tech genius for once, and they’re joined by Kate before the night is rudely interrupted by some sort of shambling Wookie – who turns out to be an old friend of Azrael’s from his time in the Church of St. Dumas. As they take him to their med lab to be examined, he reveals he was attacked by a new agent of the Church – a seeming living suit of armor possessed by a cursed soul. At the very least, it’s an impressive visual.
Maybe the St. Dumas stuff is the weakest, but everything surrounding it is extremely strong. There’s a scene between Clayface and Cassandra Cain this issue that is one of the most charming little bits I’ve seen in a comic in a while. I’m shocked at how likable Tynion’s managed to make Clayface, and this depiction of Cass learning to speak is a world away from the weird magic fix she got during her initial storyline in the early 2000s. I was unclear how Bruce Wayne’s story, paying a visit to the Iceberg Lounge for a high-stakes poker game, fit into the main story, but it becomes clear enough when the villain attacks. Loved seeing obscure characters like Drury Walker at the game, as well, and although Zatanna’s introduction is telegraphed, it’s a great final scene. An ensemble book is often a bit hard to pull off, but Tynion has a wide cast here and it works brilliantly. It’s hard to call from month to month what is the best Bat-book.
Corrina: As I’ve noted before, I’m a sucker for heroes hanging out, doing ordinary things, and I adored the heck out of the sequence at the basketball game. I love that Luke was able to show off what makes him unique in this cast (finally!) and Jean-Paul’s amusement at Luke’s not actually watching the game, and Kate’s vibe of watching over them. I will exchange the big crossovers any day for heroes hanging out, at games, at fast food places, at bars, and drinking coffee at diners late at night. Bonus for this issue: Cassandra and Clayface talk about acting.
But, of course, the game is interrupted, in superhero comic fashion, by a sort of monster, and now Jean-Paul’s background comes into play. And, yeah, the suit of armor possessed by a cursed soul is terrifying and also kinda awesome too.
Zatanna sure knows how to make an entrance, doesn’t she?
Wonder Woman #24 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Bilquis Evely, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Excellent, As Expected.
Ray: Despite Evely being on art, this is actually an epilogue to the events of “The Truth,” the story by Liam Sharp that wrapped up two weeks ago and left many characters mourning losses – of home, of loved ones, or even of themselves. The issue opens with Veronica and Diana returning from Themysrica, with Steve and Diana reuniting as Veronica looks on jealously after saying goodbye to her daughter, who stayed with the Amazons. Cheetah, meanwhile, is watching and descending further and further into madness. She attempts to enter Themysrica, but is violently rebuffed by the portal – and vows revenge on all parties, Amazon and God alike. Diana and Steve return home to Etta’s place, and discuss Sasha Bordeaux, as well as if there’s any way to save Barbara Minerva. Diana plans to seek out Veronica Cale for answers – but Veronica has bigger concerns.
At Veronica’s manor, we see her start to unravel, as the techno-ghost of her friend Adrianna tries to warn her that she’s in danger – but Veronica coldly dismisses her old friend, telling her that she’s nothing more than an invention. Veronica’s solitude is soon interrupted by an insane, violent Cheetah, who attacks her and begins tearing her apart. Her brutal assault is only interrupted by Diana, who is forced to take the side of her mortal enemy against one of her oldest friends. While this issue has a good amount of action in it, it’s the dialogue and emotion behind this final confrontation that serves it best. It’s a great coda to a powerful storyline that has established Diana with a much better cast of villains and supporting characters than she’s had in a while. There’s only one issue left of Rucka’s run, a double-sized finale, and I have no clue what his plan is after tying up almost anything. Can’t wait.
Corrina: All along, it was clear to anyone reading that the subtext was that Cale and Diana should have been allies, not enemies, and this issue makes that explicit, as Diana says exactly that to Cale, and notes that it is Cale’s fault. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for someone so heartbroken, so lost, but instead of seeking support, all Cale has done is destroy others in her quest to save her daughter and now that her daughter is saved but lost to her, Cale has the choice to either embrace her hatred and anger or reevaluate her life. I’m not sure which way she will jump though I suspect someone so driven, so insistent on any means to and end, will not choose the righteous path. As one of my favorite fictional characters, Miles Vorkosigan said, “The one thing you can’t give up for your heart’s desire…is your heart.” And that’s what Cale has done, and Diana calls her on it.
The artwork has maintained its stellar quality with the switch to Evely. I particular love how she draws Cheetah’s despair and anger. Dr. Minerva is lost and it breaks my heart but, like Diana, I blame Cale, though I couldn’t help wincing with sympathy at those injuries, some of the most realistic I’ve seen depicted in comics. Etta, however, seems to lay some of the blame on Diana, and there’s more than a hint that Etta and Dr. Minerva were once a couple. What happens next for Diana? A re-dedication to her essential mission, I hope, and can I also hope that there’s a sliver of a happy ending for Cheetah?
Bug: The Adventures of Forager #2 – Mike Allred, Lee Allred, Storytellers; Laura Allred, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Fun With the Golden Age
Ray: The second issue of this new Young Animal miniseries takes a fantastic detour to the Golden Age of Superhero comics, and with it establishes itself as one of the best titles in the line. After a snowboarding segment in the opening pages that shows off the brilliantly kinetic art of the Allreds, Forager crashes in the mountains and immediately comes under attack – from a group of golden age heroes including the Losers, Sandman, and the golden age Blue Beetle. After some brief misunderstandings and fighting, he realizes he’s traveled in time and introduces himself, and the group heads off on a new adventure. They’re both after Forager’s arch-nemesis, General Electric, who in this time is a young man and has a secret hideout in the mountains. Along the way, they encounter evil robots with plugs for heads, and an army of yetis to boot.
The team’s only been together for half an issue, but I’d already read a spin-off for these golden age heroes by the Allreds. Then, once Forager and Sandy the Golden Boy are in the base, the connections between this issue and last issue’s mindbender starts becoming a lot clearer. General Electric has built an underground mine, refining a rare ore into gold. And helping him with her alchemy powers…is the strange ghost girl from last issue, and he’s also holding a character with ties to Deadman’s mythology – future guest-star? There’s a lot of callbacks, and events taking the whole story full circle. While it’s very much a comic that works on its own, it’s also a book that is slowly unfolding a bigger picture. And I can’t say enough about just how great the art is here. It perfectly captures the golden age vibe while also delivering modern, fast-paced action.
Corrina: I second the call for a spin-off by the Allreds for this Golden Age team. And I certainly didn’t expect Sandy to become one of the stars of the issue but, hey, the bottom line is that I grinned with delight when reading. It’s such a terrific amalgam of Golden Age fun, Kirby-style Bug, and time travel loopiness.
General Electric is the perfect villain for this kind of thing, complete with underground lair, and just when I think Bug is completely off the deep end, something happens that confirms his point of view. I just adore this book.
Gotham Academy: Second Semester #10 – Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, Karl Kerschl, Writers; Adam Archer, Penciller; Sandra Hope, Inker; MSASSYK, Backgrounds/Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Maps Is The True Star Of The Series
Ray: As Gotham Academy heads towards its epic conclusion, more than one student finds themselves in mortal peril. The story opens with Harvey Dent – who has befriended the confused Olive for his own purposes – taking her for a visit to the Iceberg Lounge, as part of his revenge against Cobblepot. Olive, of course, has her own blood vendetta against Penguin, and the art here makes the Iceberg Lounge a perfect place for such a showdown. As Olive slips in and out of her Calamity personality, this makes her alternatingly a danger to herself, and to everyone around her. Cobblepot, of course, has a history with Calamity, when she possessed Millie Jane Cobblepot, and he has no hesitation in trying to kill Olive. However, it’s Kyle who pays the price when he arrives just in time to try to save Olive and gets burned in the process. This is enough to send Olive back to sanity for the time being.
I thought the issue’s dual storyline, though, was even stronger, as Maps, Colton, and Pomeline continue investigating the Academy’s history amid interference from the Terrible Trio. The reinvention of these obscure villains best known from the Animated Series is a great last-act twist, and Maps – always the daredevil – decides that the best way to find answers about the Trio is to try to join them. She winds up being pulled into an elaborate orientation by the villains, including climbing a gargoyle over the tower – only to be betrayed by the trio, who plan to silence her by dropping her from the tower. The reveal that they’re actually overzealous guardians of the secrets of the Academy is pretty interesting, but Maps manages to escape with style – only to find out about her brother’s injuries, and Olive’s role. Seems there may be a rift coming between the best friends, which will be unlikely to be good for Olive’s mental state. Still, one of the best hidden gems DC has put out in years.
Corrina: When this series first debuted, Olive Silverlock seemed the most important character in a large cast, and Maps her over-enthusiastic sidekick. But it’s clear that over the course of these stories that it’s more the other way around: Maps is the lead, the pro-active one, the one whose curiosity and optimism drives the stories; and Olive is the sidekick running from the truth.
Maps has been more than a great friend to Olive, researching to find out her condition, reasoning Olive’s erratic behavior may have some outer cause, and risking her life, as in this issue, to uncover the true mystery of Gotham Academy. And Maps does it with aplomb that would be worthy of Dick Grayson.
If it’s not clear already: I love Maps. I’m far more invested in her than in Olive and Kyle’s fraut relationship. Perhaps that’s because Maps is always being proactive, running into things, and Olive is all about denial. Here’s hoping Olive vanquishes that demon haunting her before the end of this, so she can be the friend Maps deserves.
Supergirl #10 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Brian Ching, Artist; Michael Atiyeh, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Note: Not Safe For Kids
Ray: First up, I’ve got to address the opening scene of this comic, as we pick up in Limbo Town – former home of Klarion – as a mysterious prisoner is taunted by her jailers until she loses her cool and joins up with Magog, Emerald Empress, and Indigo in a Supergirl Revenge Squad of sorts. And this villain? Selena. That’s right, the evil witch from the misbegotten Supergirl movie. Orlando loves his deep-cut characters, and they don’t get much deeper than this. The bulk of the story, though, takes place in the Phantom Zone, as Kara, Barbara, and Ben try to escape the confusing prison. They soon find what they think is rescue in the form of a massive floating pirate ship – but that pirate ship contains none other than the deranged ruler of the Phantom Zone (at least since Zod vacated it), Xa-Du, the Phantom King. Morrison’s best villain from his run.
The trio of heroes soon find themselves in prison, with Supergirl sans her powers, and Xa-Du has an unusually sadistic fate in mind for them – melting them down into fuel for his machine. He’s also got the young psychic Psi, who Supergirl and Batgirl previously tried to rescue, as his captive. The art by Brian Ching is great, and the story is suitably tense as the teens (and Barbara, who really needs more friends her own age) mount a jailbreak, but the best part of this series has always been the quieter moments. Ben, who has slowly been getting closer to Supergirl, gets to explain a little more about his backstory and why he’s living alone in National City. And as for the ending? When a giant psychic dragon enters the picture, you know the next issue is going to be good. Orlando is note-perfect at fusing the spectacular with the human, and that’s this series’ biggest strength.
Corrina: First, I’m not saying this is not a good comic, because it totally is. And, yes, it’s handled some serious stuff before, particularly the attack by Kara’s cyborg father. That was chilling enough but we saw our heroine fight through it.
But this month’s issue, with the whole “I will met you into armor,” especially with that one panel close-up on the face of someone being melted, is intense and ventures into horror territory. Scenes like this are why I have a hard time recommending any DC comics for kids younger than ten. Ideally, you’d want your kids to read this book and Super-Sons but both now have featured scenes of creepy and pretty darn graphic violence. I’m not saying you can’t do something like this in a Supergirl comic but, jeez, if I were a parent glad to have a Supergirl comic to read with my kids and this came up….it would give them nightmares.
Please, writers, be cognizent that there are some characters that younger audiences love and the graphic violence is going to scare them.
Otherwise, I love the teamwork between Batgirl and Supergirl and the foray into the Phantom Zone. I just didn’t expect a near R-Rated horror menance from it.
New Superman #12 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Billy Tan, Penciller; Haining, Inker; Gadson, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Do Not Turn Into A Giant Snake. It Never Helps
Ray: This issue is one of the busiest of the series, with multiple reveals, villains, and showdowns swirling around a crazy, action-packed plot. After a splash page explaining the mythology of the world a little better, the issue picks up with the evil giant turtle sorcerer with ties to China’s Wonder Woman being attacked…by another Superman. The beta Superman cloned from Superman’s DNA, who we last saw in the final pre-Rebirth Superman story. This Superman is far more powerful than Kenan – but he’s also reckless, and doesn’t care much about civilian life. He’s endangering everyone around him, and in the process, Wonder Woman is seemingly mortally injured – only for her to then transform into some sort of snake woman. Yep, it’s that kind of issue. As the fake Superman goes solar flare and nearly destroys the city in the process, he becomes public enemy #1.
The main theme this issue is about secrets and reveals. We finally get the origin of the team’s Wonder Woman – and it’s an origin that ties back to an ancient Chinese fairy tale, about a snake who fell in love with a human boy. It’s an odd twist, almost giving this issue a taste of Fables. The manhunt for this Superman-Zero is interesting mostly due to Kenan’s compassion, as he sees a dangerous being that in many ways is a victim himself. It works really well and redeems a story that didn’t really have much to offer the first time around. Then there’s the ongoing mystery of the fate of Kenan’s father, which he finds out about thanks to some helpful intervention from Robinbot – which then leads to another reveal involving Dr. Omen. That one may be a bit much, taking the story into soap opera territory, but this book is good enough to trust that they know exactly where they’re going with it.
Corrina: Well, that was unexpected. While this series has focused on Kenan and the Chinese version of Batman, the Wonder Woman has mostly been taken for granted. Whatever I had expected for her origin, this was not it, though perhaps if I were more familiar with Chinese fairy tales, I would have anticipated it. However, that’s on my ignorance. It’s an interesting transformation and I loved the fairy tale backstory but it would have had more impact if there had been some focus in the past issues on Wonder Woman. Though Batman’s face, scrunched up in worry, made me care. (Which is part of the problem, I should worry about her for herself, not how he’s feeling about her.)
Like Ray, the story came alive for me as it focused on Kenan and his confrontation with Superman Zero. He’s come a long way from the kneejerk bully who had to prove himself, as he exercises his compassion for someone who’s been as manipulated in the same way. It’s truly sad that his compassion may come back to bite them all.
As for the ending reveal? I didn’t see that coming at all but that’s because Dr. Omen hasn’t been fleshed out either, like Wonder Woman. Looks like that is changing and I’m pleased about that.
Justice League of America #8 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Felipe Watanabe, Penciller; Scott Hanna, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Off-Beat But It Works
Ray: Speaking of deep cuts, I had to dig into my DC archives to see if Makson, the mysterious new figure at the center of the next storyline in Justice League of America, was a reinvented DC figure. It seems he’s not, rather being an original Orlando creation. However, you can clearly see the DNA of figures like Tarzan or Turok in this creation. A young man who lives in a mysterious Russian wilderness alongside mysterious wildlife, and was raised by a race of intelligent dinosaurs (seriously), he makes his debut as he and his pack are running from a gang of armored mercenaries named SKULL. He survives when the Justice League arrives on the scene, but his pack – including his adoptive mother – are wiped out. The Justice League takes him back to civilization, where he acclimates surprisingly well.
A week later, Makson, who was in the jungle since he was a child, has become a celebrity. DNA tests soon prove that he’s actually Brenton Hamilton, a scion of one of the most powerful families in the world. He gathers his family for a summit, but Batman doesn’t trust that he’s what he presents himself as. This causes an interesting rift in the team, as some of the younger team members are predisposed to trust Makson and resent Bruce’s judgemental nature. However, Ryan Choi – who is looking to learn from the best – decides to trust Batman and at least investigate. Sure enough, they soon discover a disturbing truth about exactly what Makson’s plan is – and it reminds me a little of obscure 90s Batman villain Abbatoir. I’m not sure how the long game makes sense exactly, but the issue’s ending takes an intriguing left turn into horror that makes me excited to read the next issue.
Corrina: Makson should be an utterly ridiculous character and his return to civilization an utterly ridiculous concept. And, yet, I bought in, probably because the JL themselves were skeptical of his motives and wanted to dig deeper. I can’t help but see this as a commentary on the lackluster television version of Iron Fist. At least in this story, unlike Danny Rand, Makson has a goal and a plan
Special thumbs up to the art team for the depiction of Dinosaur Valley, and the sadness on Makson’s face as he sees what the victory has cost. SKULL as the villians, eh? Okay, then. But watching the league try to stop Makson should be interesting and please tell me more about this SKULL.
GRADE B COMICS
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #22 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Ethan Van Sciver, Artist; Jason Wright, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Little Too Jam-Packed
Ray: The ongoing plot of the Green Lantern Corps and Sinestro Corps uniting to protect the universe under new Sinestro Corps leader Soranik Natu has been an intriguing wrinkle in this series, and it seemed too good to be true. And it probably is, as this new arc titled “Fracture” seems to be set to drive a rift between the Corps anew. The issue opens with introducing us to a new world, a highly secure “planet vault” that serves as the top-secret bank for the galaxy. And now, it’s under attack, with some of the most valuable items in the galaxy at stake. On Mogo, the Lanterns get the distress call – in the middle of training, resulting in a hilarious visual for Arkillo – and they head to take on the villains responsible for the attack. Long-time Guy Gardner fans will be happy to see the return of his arch-nemesis, Bolphunga the Unrelenting – here reinvented as a ruthless space pirate taken a lot more seriously than he was originally.
Bolphunga is a menacing presence, but not much more as a villain, as his Pirates put up a fight but are overall overcome by the Lanterns pretty quickly. Ethan Van Sciver always draws some exciting space battles, though, and even a battle without many stakes is great to look at. However, there are some interesting subplots, including Tomar-Tu apparently being sick and his Sinestro Corps partner Phantas-M keeping a secret. Meanwhile, Kyle – still dealing with the trauma of seeing his future son killed – attempts to lure Soranik back over to the GLs. But all the progress made is in danger when Bolphunga threatens to reveal one of the GL Corps’ darkest secrets. Maybe a bit of a slow issue, but it’s setting up some seriously interesting changes.
Corrina: A slow issue? Jeez, Ray, I found too much in here. There’s a planet meant just to keep information and secrets, pirates who want it, plus a dark secret of the Corps. (Do any Lanterns have any secrets that aren’t dark? Nope, they learned their secret-keeping from the masters of Dark Secrets, the Guardians.)
This storyline verges into the epic, with all the hidden agendas, and with the space battles, though the victory goes to the Lanterns very quickly. Of more interest to me was Kyle’s attempt to reconcile with Soranik. Man, is this boy clueless. “We can be together but only if you join me back in the Lantern Corp because that Corps you lead is sucky, amirite?” So romantic, there, Kyle.
The Flash #24 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Carmine Di Giandomenico, Pop Mhan, Artists; Ivan Plascencia, Hi-Fi, Colorists
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Kinda Terrifying
Ray: This story, while written well by Williamson as always, suffers from some serious mood whiplash with the two stories not exactly fitting together. It’s made even clearer by the split in artists – with Pop Mhan drawing the energetic Hal/Barry team-up, and regular artist Di Giandomenico drawing the much darker Thawne plotline. The issue opens with another brief flashback to the 25th century, where the history of the Flash has been changed in some odd ways. Back in the present day, Barry and Hal are united against Multiplex, who has turned into an army of clones, unsure even who is the real one anymore. It’s a good look at just how disturbing this power could be if it gets out of control. However, Barry’s still haunted by his own demons, and this leads to a good conversation between the two heroes once the threat has been neutralized.
Meanwhile, at Iris West’s home, Iris and the young Wally are at the mercy of Eobard Thawne. This entire plot is kind of…puzzling, given that we just went through a major plotline that entirely centered around Thawne being killed off by something so powerful that nothing can come back from it. Sure, Thawne is a time-traveler and can play with things like that, but it feels way too soon, and takes away from the impact of the Button. Thawne is a scary, sadistic villain, to be sure, but here he’s almost oppressively so in a closed-room thriller. His torture of Wally, in particular, sticks out and feels rather uncomfortable to watch. The ending seems like it’s going to be bringing more past DC continuity – going back to pre-Crisis this time – back into continuity, but it also feels like this title took a turn for the disturbing and cynical, and not for the better.
Corrina: While normally I love two superheroes sitting down and talking about life, and I do like it here, that meeting is undercut by Reverse Flash’s attack on Iris and Wally. It was supposed to raise the tension, as we wonder when Barry will show up, but instead, I wanted to yell at Barry to stop talking and go help. I realize that wasn’t the story’s intent but it hit me that way, perhaps because the attack on Wally was so graphic. (Again with the on-panel graphic violence. I can take it better in Flash than Supergirl but, still, that hurt to read.)
Mostly, the problem is that Reverse Flash has no depth. He hates Flash because…well, he does. His depth depends on the reader being familiar with his past deeds, rather than anything in the story. Compare that to Multiplex, who has one simple motive, and how his many duplicates affect him, which managed to make him somewhat of a tragic figure in two issues.
Also, I really did not want to see a reenactment of the most infamous scene from the most infamous Flash story. I just did not.
Superman: Action Comics #981 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Jack Herbert, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Lots of Fight Scenes, Little Forward Plot Motion
Ray: An action-packed issue with one big twist that is unfortunately easy to see coming from a while back, this is a fun read, but suffers from comparison to another recent DC book with the same twist. The issue opens with Superman under attack from visuals of his undead loved ones while trapped in the Black Vault. Then the vault apparently explodes, leaving Superman in agonizing pain and surrounded by Amanda Waller and her armed troops. After arguing with her about her tactics with villains, he makes an escape – before, he references, she figures out what’s wrong with him. This is left vague, but it becomes clearer when he encounters the villains. Those would be General Zod, alongside Cyborg Superman and Eradicator. The best part of the issue is these three trying to form a decent working team, while Zod refuses to take even suggestions from anyone.
Superman introduces himself to the trio of villains by flying directly into them in a two-page spread, which I found amusing. From there, the majority of the issue is a big fight scene, although Superman doesn’t really hold his own. He seems confused, out of it, and is quickly defeated, leaving him no choice but to flee. His loved ones and allies soon wind up watching the fight on TV, including Kara, Lois and Jon, and even acquaintances like Kenan and rivals like Luthor. It’s cool to see these cameos, although they do feel a bit random. Then it comes time for the reveal once Clark finds his families – he’s gone blind. A blind Superman has some promise as a concept, because Clark isn’t just a blind hero – he’s a walking bomb who doesn’t know where he’s going now. However, given the fantastic use of the temporary blindness trope in Deathstroke last arc, this book has an uphill battle to distinguish itself with this plot.
Corrina: You could basically tell the story of the confrontation with the Superman Revenge Squad by completely removing the battle in the sky and having Superman waking up at the Black Vault, realizing he’s in trouble, and revealing he’s blind to Lois and Jon. Of course, that would only take about 3 pages and an entire issue must be filled up.
I’m not sure what the cameos of all the Superman-related heroes are about. I expected them to back him up in the battle in the sky but all they did was watch. Perhaps it’s to foreshadow Kal calling on them for help. Now, that, I’d love to see: Superman Revenge Squad versus Superman, Supergirl, and New Superman. Hopefully, next issue??
Aside; what is it about heroes going blind lately? Deathstroke, the Doctor, and now Superman. Was there something in the collective creative water a few months ago?
Green Lantern/Planet of the Apes #5 – Robbie Thompson, Justin Jordan, Writers; Barnaby Bagenda, Artist; Alex Guimares, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Ray: A slam-bang showdown this issue, with quite a few strong scenes and emotional moments as this latest DC/Boom crossover reaches its final act. The issue opens with Sinestro capturing Dr. Zaius and forcing the brilliant ape to do his bidding and help him get his hands on the universal ring. There’s more pressing concerns right now, though, as Grodd – who was brought along as an interpreter for the apes – has evolved into the big bad of the miniseries, marshaling an army of Red Lanterns and bending the Lanterns to his will with his psychic powers. The only person who still stands against him is Cornelius, who is protected by the universal ring. However, Grodd has one edge on him – his wife Zira.
The fight with Grodd makes up most of the issue, with Guy managing to turn the tables on Grodd briefly, but Grodd eventually takes back control. He forces Cornelius to turn over the ring to him by threatening to harm Zira – but Zira makes a sacrifice that ruins his hold over Cornelius, and allows the rest of the Lanterns to neutralize the evil ape. Cornelius, the ape who’s gotten the most screen time in this comic, is a pretty fascinating wild card. But while the main threat of Grodd is neutralized, there’s still a big dangling plot in terms of Sinestro and Atrocitus, to be resolved next issue. Good issue and a strong setup for the finale.
GRADE C: NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
Titans #12 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Kenneth Rocafort, Artist; Dan Brown, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Omen Is Awesome. Romantic Plotlines, Not So Much
Ray: In the aftermath of the drama-filled Lazarus Contract, which massively changed the status quo of one of the book’s main characters, this issue picks up by focusing on the team’s least known member – the psychic Omen, who opens the issue by paying a visit to her rival psychic Psimon. Rocafort, the new series artist, does a great job of making Psimon genuinely creepy, and also of demonstrating his powers in a psychic battle with Omen. As Omen tries to get the truth out of Psimon about Karen’s memory loss, the issue flashes back to Titans Tower for various personal subplots and revelations about the team. This is, unfortunately, the weakest part of the issue. I really don’t care about Garth and Omen’s potential romantic entanglement, given that Garth hasn’t been given much of a personality so far.
I care even less about the love triangle between Roy, Donna, and Wally, which is quickly reaching plot tumor levels. Donna is a blank slate of a character, mainly angry over her confusing and fast-shifting origins. You and me both. Roy’s such a hangdog loser that it makes me long for Lobdell’s characterization. Wally gets the best part of that love triangle as he grapples with his heart problems and whether he can continue to be the Flash. Although I find it…odd that both Wally Wests are having their running ability endangered this week. The good news is, this issue is saved by a tour de force by Omen in the last few pages, as she reveals that she’s outmaneuvered Psimon at every turn and gotten him to give her exactly what she wants – although he does leave her with a hint of a possible Titans traitor, which I can’t say I’m excited about. Still, if there’s a POV character who can carry this title emerging, it’s Omen.
Corrina: The focus on Omen is terrific this issue. If only the rest of the comic were as good as her confrontation with Psimon. For those who don’t know, Omen is a long-time Titans character who has rarely, if ever, been given the spotlight except when she was killed as part of some crossover that has faded into memory. (Was it a Superman robot? I dunno.) But the scene with Psimon kept me guessing the entire time and it’s the kind of scene that imprints a character on a reader’s memory. Do not mess with powerful telepaths!
However, the rest of the story is weaker. Yes, the Titans can be a long-running soap opera, so it’s not the romance that bothers me. It’s the suddenness of the romance and the fact it happens to everybody all at once. None of these pairings have been particularly teased out. Donna and Wally, in particular, have had huge changes dumped on them. I get the attraction but jumping right to a kiss is a lot less effective than a tender scene that hinted at a physical attraction. (Also, can I once again protest here that I HATE DONNA’S NEW ORIGIN? HATE IT, HATE IT, HATE IT.) Ahem. Not this creative team’s fault but she’s in the book and it’s a plot point, so I can’t avoid commenting on it.
As for Garth and Omen, again, it’s too fast. We’ve barely seen either of these characters and all of a sudden, they want sexytimes. Draw it out. A good romance contains a lot of fun foreplay until the reader yells “just kiss already!” But that’s already happened in both these cases.
Superwoman #11 – K. Perkins, Writer; Jose Luis, Penciller; Ray McCarthy, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Irons Family Steel Comic, Please?
Ray: As someone who got into Superman comics with the 90’s weekly era, this issue kind of works for me in that it brings back an underrated, incredibly creepy villain. Skyhook, the mutated Bat-monster whose MO is to kidnap children and turn them into creatures like him. The issue starts with a look at the Irons’ family’s problems, as Natasha’s bio-dad brings stolen money into their home courtesy of a heist against Skyhook – which comes back to haunt them when his younger son Zeke is kidnapped by Skyhook in a very creepy segment. Skyhook is essentially the Boogeyman in comic book form, and he works best when he’s hidden in the shadows.
In many ways, Lana is almost a supporting character in this issue, as the focus is on the Irons’ – Natasha’s anger, John’s determination, and Crash’s irresponsible quest for revenge. The issue becomes weaker when she powers up as Superwoman and takes on Skyhook, for a number of reasons. First, I find Steel a lot more interesting than Lana in this title, but the bigger problem is that once Skyhook comes out of the shadows for the big fight, he’s just not nearly as effective. He becomes less of a boogeyman and more of a ridiculous comic book villain. Still, as a central threat, he works, and the ongoing mystery is a compelling hook for the title’s first arc under a new creative team. As an aside, nothing like the cover happens in this issue.
Corrina: “I must go confront the villain to spare my loved one!” I’ve seen this plot a ton and I hate it every time. It has to be a really spectacular reason to leave the others behind. I’ve only seen it done well in Person of Interest, where it’s clear that anyone who knows the full truth does, yes, die. Here, Lana has John Henry and Natasha, superheroes both, with a vested interest in the outcome. Lana deciding to go it alone is not only foolish but it deprives them of their choices.
Of course, as Ray said, the Irons family is the star of this comic, which is why it’s even more weird for the spotlight to shift to Lana afterward. Even if it is her own comic.
GRADE D: FLAILING
Suicide Squad #19 – Rob Williams, Writer; Neil Edwards, Penciller; Sandu Florea, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: Is It Time To Use the Brain Bombs Yet?
Ray: Basically another flat-out action issue without much in the way of characterization or development, whether you like this issue will probably depend on just how interested you are in General Zod’s revenge spree against Task Force X. I’m…not very, especially as Zod’s story seems to have moved over to Action Comics now, where he’s more suited. The issue opens with the release of countless phantom creatures from the Phantom Zone. Eradicator and Cyborg Superman are demanding the surrender of the Squad, which allows Boomerang to get off a few good one-liners before the battle begins. Then Zod bursts on to the scene, and this guy…basically wants to fight everyone? He wants to kill the Squad, sure, but he also wants to kill his fellow evil Supermen just for telling him what to do.
It takes some doing to turn this team of non-powered villains and one fragile sorceress into an actual threat to three evil Super-beings, but Williams keeps the action moving fast, and Neil Edward’s choreographs action very well. That’s the best thing this issue has going for it because it’s essentially a tie-in to another book without much to say on its own. Then it comes to the issue’s big moment, where the team essentially has to decide who’ll sacrifice themselves to destroy the Black Vault and seal off the Phantom Zone again. Waller’s attempt to pull a heroic sacrifice sort of falls flat – in what way is this in character at all? – and her dead family backstory still does nothing for me, but Flagg’s eventual sacrifice works. I doubt it’ll stick, but it adds a new dynamic to the team as they hunt for a new leader in the coming issues.
Corrina: So the romance with Rick Flagg was added simply to make Harley upset when he “died?” Okay. The problem is that I don’t particularly care about that, which is the same problem with Waller’s possible sacrifice. Go, good riddance, Amanda, it’s like everything you do goes south. I thought maybe Boomerang would feel a little guilt because of that whole murder thing and sacrifice himself in part of a redemption arc, which might have tied up that plot end, but, no, he still gets to run around Scott-free and there is no justice for Hack.
So, someone dies, there’s no justice, Waller is wrong again, and the team left standing is one I could have happily seen completely dead. (I’m sure Harley’s creative team for her solo book would come up with an explanation for this Harley’s death. Maybe she’s a sentient Poison Ivy construct or something….) It is a hard balancing act with villains. You can’t write them as good guys but you have to find some way to have readers invested in their fate. So far, this run has showcased their villainy without investing me in their fate.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #11 – Scott Lobdell, Writer; Dexter Soy, Artist; Veronica Gandini, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Corrina: One Hour Later? WHAT?
Ray: A lackluster conclusion to the “Who is Artemis?” arc, as a rushed conclusion – and a shortened one, it seems, at only 18 pages of main story – brings the story to a close. When it kicks off, Artemis and Red Hood are at odds, with Artemis siding with her resurrected best friend Akila, while Jason is reluctantly siding with the ruthless General Heinle. While Artemis wants to believe that her friend is innocent, Jason’s learned that she – and the Bow of Ra in her possession – have been responsible for the recent massacre of civilian villages. While this conflict between allies has promise, it’s unfortunately played out as little more than two large groups yelling at each other across a divide. Then the shooting finally starts, and we have little stake in it.
By the time Artemis corners Jason and he’s able to explain his side of the evidence, it looks like things might play out sensibly, but Akila aims the Bow of Ra at the enemy side – only to have Bizarro and his friends make a trademark entrance and literally drop a mountain on her. Bizarro continues to be the best part of this comic, fusing a more serious take with the wackier vibe of Corson – but he’s only in a few pages. Artemis and Akila’s eventual showdown isn’t so much of a showdown as a brief standoff followed by Akila’s inexplicable surrender. Then Bizarro randomly collapses from an unexplained ailment, setting up the next arc. Not a terrible issue, but just one that lacks any real hook.
Corrina: The whole arc builds to a confrontation between Artemis and Akila over the Bow of Ra and then…a mountain is dropped on Akila, the moment’s over, and there is no story catharsis. It leaves many questioned unanswered. Where were Artemis’s Amazons from? Are they related to the Themyscira that’s hidden or some other off-shot? Does the Bow make people go mad? What did Akila want other than, um, power?
I have no idea, nor any idea why Bizarro became unconscious. But, then, I’m not the biggest fan of this title and this writer, in any case.
Scooby Apocalypse #14 – Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Writers; Ron Wagner, Jan Duursema, Pencillers; Andy Owens, Tom Mandrake, Inkers; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Ray: One of the better issues of the series, lacking in both over-the-top gore and the caricatured villains of the last few issues. It does have Scrappy-Doo, though, as the backup and main feature finally converge. The big change for the group as they continue to try to unravel the secrets of the monster invasion is that they’ve been joined by a sixth member – Daisy, the young former wife of Velma’s evil Trump-esque brother, who Shaggy has taken an intense liking to. That plot can be a little over the top, and the fact that she seems so sweet and pure makes me think she’s not everything she appears to be.
The main plot this round is that the monsters have stopped attacking, and instead are following a mysterious voice around to a central location. Velma and Daphne go off to pursue them, and wind up running into Scrappy-Doo, who is obsessed with revenge against Velma for experimenting on him and against Scooby for…I don’t really know. Scrappy and his human “pet” have a one-note relationship, even if it does remind me in places of Peter and Yondu from GOTG. That had much better writing, though. All in all, there’s nothing really objectionable about this issue…but there’s also not really all that much to indicate it’s a turnaround in the long run.
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #11 – Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Writers; Roge Antonio, Artist; Allen Passalaqua, Colorist
Ray – 4/10
Corrina: Too Little, Too Late.
Ray: A bland infodump of a comic that tries hard and utterly fails to sell us on the importance of Gus Yale as the new Oracle, it opens with Gus seemingly having been exposed as a traitor and being hung by his ankles outside the watchtower by the Birds. He soon spills out an origin of being a young hacker who was discovered, and this leads to a bizarre fantasy segment where he visualizes himself as a muppet being sent to prison. Seriously. But he’s not being arrested – he’s being recruited, by the famous BOP villain Calculator. Noah Kuttler can be a good villain when written well, but here he’s given very little personality. A spread of the Birds’ previous fights with Calculator is the best part of the issue, reminding us of their far more interesting previous incarnation.
Then it’s time for more of Gus’ self-justifying origin, as he explains how he was forced to take part in setting up a heist that went horribly wrong, and he eventually confesses to having Bipolar disorder. I appreciate mental health representation in comics, certainly, but a character like this, whose whole routine is “Shifty possible traitor”, isn’t exactly great rep. And then there’s the subplot about Calculator being targeted by one of his marks and having his wife and kids kidnapped which falls completely flat. Could this be the return of Marvin and Wendy Kuttler? Or even the Rebirth introduction of Felicity Smoak? That’s really the only interesting plot thread in a story that doesn’t work at all. Too much infodump in service of a character who isn’t going to happen.
Corrina: When I finished this comic, I wanted to gnash my teeth. There are the makings of a great story with Gus but it’s a story that needs to be foreshadowed and teased out more in previous issues. One, it should have been clear from the start that Babs is spying on Gus because without that, it made them look like idiots. Two, even so, the Birds gave an unknown too much information. Three, yes, we saw signs of Gus with pills, and with a mysterious boss, but that wasn’t nearly enough for his backstory.
In short, it’s bad plotting to dump EVERYTHING we need to know about Gus in one issue. It hits with a thud instead of as a revelation. Bad enough we spend pages on his infodump of an origin but the revelation that Gus is bipolar is dropped in there like “see, he’s bipolar, and therefore you need to feel empathy for his situation.” No! I need the story to create empathy for him, not a character given a mental disability out of nowhere that’s just dropped in our laps. There’s no nuance here, nothing to engage the reader in Gus’s s tale and that’s a damn shame because there does need to be better representation with those who are bipolar or deal with mental illness struggles on a daily basis. As someone who has a daughter who is bipolar, I’m angry at this slipshod representation. And frustrated. ARGH.
Oh, yeah, the Calculator is back. And he’s trusted a bit too easily as well. I want to love this book so much and it keeps failing me at every turn.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.