This week, Slade Wilson decides he needs to be a force for good in Deathstroke #21, but let’s just say his new group of “Teen Titans” is more than a bit skeptical.
Meanwhile, the War of Jokes and Riddles in Batman #26 continues the bloodbath, Cyborg #14 takes Vic to a parallel Earth that has a familiar figure as the head of the resistance, and Superman #26 is a father-son lesson issue.
This, plus reviews of all this week’s DC Comics.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS HEREIN
Grade A Issues–scores 8-10
Batman #26 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; June Chung, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Broadcasting On The Wrong Wavelength For Me.
Ray: Last issue, I thought the debut of the War of Jokes and Riddles was one of King’s best issues yet, while Corrina thought the extremely intense violence may have gone a bit too far. I don’t see those concerns changing this issue, because this is one of the most unrelentingly bleak, brutal issues of a mainstream superhero comic I have ever read. What makes it work, though, is that it never loses sight of just how horrific this all is. This is a comic that makes every death count, even those of random civilians or henchmen, as the two madmen go to work. Batman is actually barely in this issue, narrating it, as the escalation between the villains takes center stage. The issue opens with Joker targeting an unfortunate family and the hapless cabbie who takes him to their home. Riddler, meanwhile, pays a visit to a corrupt mod doctor to patch up the wounds he received in his escape.
Things escalate from there, as Carmine Falcone is brought into the picture when Joker attempts to blackmail him into killing Riddler. He sends some of his best henchmen after Riddler, but Riddler forms the first alliance of the issue, with Poison Ivy, and they all meet an unfortunate fate. What Joker does from there to take his revenge for Falcone’s failure is probably the most disturbing scene of the issue, and also introduces a notable Falcone henchman with a distinctive bird-like appearance. It’s becoming clear that this isn’t just a war between Joker and Riddler – it’s essentially a civil war of the Gotham villains, with each taking sides between the charming but insane mastermind and the sadistic serial killer. But it’s King’s grounding of this issue in every single death – hero, villain, and civilian alike – that gives this story a human dimension. There’s a creeping sense of dread throughout this issue that is unlike anything else on the stands.
Corrina: I still don’t know why people don’t just shoot the Joker. He has no immunity to gunshot. He’s not a vampire that requires you to cut off his head or a werewolf that needs a silver bullet. Just shoot him. Heck, hire Deathstroke to kill him. Slade’s good at that.
Okay, now that that’s out of my system, I agree this is a brilliantly written issue, as Ray says, making each death have impact. Janin, whose artwork tends to be bright and hopeful, shows another dimension, conveying the horror of what’s happening. His toned-down Joker is terrifying. All that said, this is just not a story for me. Superheroes comics tend to represent hope but we know from later events that neither Joker or Riddler truly pay for their murders and that means our heroes are going to come away with a defeat. So it’s an exercise in failure, with little catharsis in sight. King may prove me wrong, of course, in the end, but it’s not a journey I want to be on right now.
Deathstroke #21 – Priest, Writer; Diogenes Neves, Penciller; Jason Paz, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Can A Sociopath Change?
Ray: As usual, Priest has more plot threads, double-crosses, and shockers in one issue than many writers manage to pack into a full arc, and always leaves the audience guessing. The issue opens with an out-of-nowhere segment when a mysterious young woman prowls through the city until she encounters an old man – and then it turns out that they’re both apparently reincarnations of an ancient Chinese dynasty that fell in war, and a brutal battle ensues. Meanwhile, Adeline is discussing Slade’s reformation with her boss, making the case that despite how much she despises him, his reformation seems genuine and the government should be willing to use him. Slade and Adeline’s relationship hasn’t warmed up at all, as the next scene shows, which makes this dynamic seem like it’ll be a lot of fun to watch.
Then it’s time to catch up to the kids who are making up Slade’s new odd attempt at a dark Titans. Wally, recently fired from the Teen Titans for ridiculous reasons, befriends Tanya Spears in a segment where both of them are written far better than they were in their respective Teen Titans run. Tanya is still deeply skeptical of Slade, while Wally has seen him at his best and is willing to give him a chance – especially given his anger at Barry. Rose and Jericho, likewise, are of two minds. Rose seems to think that Deathstroke was behind the killing of Etienne and is using her place on the team to keep tabs, while Jericho is unsure and seems to want to believe the best of his father this time. Slade, meanwhile, is off on one last mission of assassination to take out a particularly disgusting old associate – which kicks off an international hostage crisis. This gives his team their first opportunity to jump into the fray and save the day. And then there’s Terra, whose role in this is a delightfully meta take on her original story. This book hasn’t had a bad issue yet.
Corrina: This comic is a helluva ride, every single issue. I have no idea where the opening murder sequence is going but I’m sure it will tie-in spectacularly when this run is all done.
As for Adeline, well, she and Slade are trapped in a love-hate relationship. I’m not surprised she wanted to work with him because she still cares about him, which is why she hates him so much. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference, and Adeline is anything but indifferent to Slade.
I was so skeptical of this idea of Deathstroke’s own team of young heroes. Yet it works and in a large part because Priest handles Tanya and Wally so much better than anyone else has in their short history. Rose, too, has consistently been well-written and interesting when written by Priest, in comparison to her previous history is either as a supporting character or Deathstroke’s pawn. Joe Wilson has been through some changes from the original concept but he’s morphed into something fascinating. All these characters have their own agendas and own agency, something that that is often forgotten when writing supporting characters. And now Terra? Oh. My.
Can we give Priest Justice League of America or Teen Titans or, hey, here’s a thought–Wonder Woman? Because I’m convinced he would be awesome at all higher profile titles as well, including Batman. Which is not to say I want him leaving this book. He can write two, maybe? Please, DC?
Superman #26 – Michael Moreci, Writer; Scott Godlewski, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Father And Son (No Mom)
Ray: While the Superman books have gone a long way to restoring what made them magic before the New 52, but there’s been one thing still missing – and that’s the Kents. They were still alive for most of the pre-Flashpoint era, but in the New 52 they died when Clark was still in high school (oddly, murdered by an evil 5th-dimensional villain), and that’s stuck in the new status quo. That’s why this fill-in was so rewarding, giving us a new glimpse of a Jonathan Kent very much like the one we knew. Most of the fill-ins in recent months have been iffy, but this done-in-one focusing on Superman trying to sort out his relationship with Jon is probably the best issue this title has had in months. It’s a simple story, beginning with a flashback to when Jonathan let Clark run the farm for a day – with the rule that he couldn’t use his powers to do the chores.
In the present day, Jon is acting rebelliously, not wanting to take his father’s orders in the field and trying to solve every problem with his fists. So Clark decides to take a page out of his father’s book and let Jon lead as “Superman for a Day”. It goes well at first, but eventually, they come across a pair of villains where brute strength doesn’t work. Much like Clark’s cockiness as a boy led to disaster, Jon finds himself out of his depth. This is the kind of Superdad I want to see – firm, yet supportive, and willing to put in the hard work to train a hero and a good person. Scott Godlewski does art duties, and the issue has the perfect vibe of a classic Superman issue (although Jon feels a little older than he does in other issues due to the art style). It’s a low-key issue, but one that works perfectly. Moreci, who has been turning out great indie work for years, is a real find for DC.
Corrina: Okay, so I’m over 50 years old. Which means for most of my life, I’ve read comics that are centered on men. Which, for the most part, is absolutely fine. Batman stories helped me heal after my father’s death. I have an undying love for Jim Gordon. I adore that Superman is really Clark Kent underneath, then nice Midwestern boy. I love when the Kents are referenced.
But the Kents aren’t referenced here, really, are they? Because Martha barely matters. And Lois, who might have a thing to say about toxic discipline from growing up as a military brat or have experiences of her own in being a rebellious child (you know that Lois never followed an order in her life), is reduced to telling Clark how to handle things. Yes, Clark does have experience relative to handling powers at a young age and can pass that on. But it’s also if Lois is also secondary in this parenting relationship since Rebirth.
From a quick check of covers and series, it’s obvious that DC is far more interested in pushing forth a new Superboy than giving Lois Lane any kind of spotlight or agency. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Ideally, Lois and Clark should be co-parents.
That’s not to say this story is bad–I enjoyed it. It looks great and Moreci does terrific in a fill-in story and I hope DC gives him more work. If his story wasn’t part of a continual pattern of sidelining Lois, I’d have enjoyed it a heckuva lot more because Moreci gets what makes Superman so great: for all his powers, he’s still Jonathan and Martha Kent’s small-town boy.
I was so excited when DC bought Lois and Clark back. But the worse has happened: she’s lost so much unique about her, with only flashes and lip service to the kind of character she could be. I wonder what it says that DC effectively values a young boy more than a full-grown woman? That might not be the intent but that’s the execution.
DC Comics Bombshells #30 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Carmen Carnero, Richard Ortiz, Anenke, Artists; Sandra Molina, J. Nanjan, Wendy Broome, Colorists
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Nice Segue to Lois? 🙂
Ray: As this WW2-set alternate universe enters the final act of volume one, it continues to introduce new characters a mile a minute and rocket towards a thrilling conclusion. It’s a rare moment of downtime for the Bombshells, as they’ve found refuge in Russia for the time being, and are currently taking in a circus. The opening segment is a fantastic spotlight for Kara Starikov, as she starts showing signs of PTSD from all she’s been through, and finds a new confidante in Doctor October. She meets with the Kryptonian clones Power Girl and Superman and reveals the existence of the Kryptonite she took from Luthor. Some more secrets about Kara’s father and his role in the Russian cosmonaut program come to light, and we learn a bit more about Power Girl.
The second segment gives us a lot more of the mysterious, mute Superman. We don’t know who he’s a clone of, or why he doesn’t talk – there’s some indications that he’s capable of speech, but maybe he just doesn’t know how, a la Cassandra Cain. He seems like a naturally gentle figure, using his powers to help children get apples. There’s also a great bonding segment with Lois and Raven (this Lois sure does seem like a ladies’ girl, heh). Then, segment three kicks it up to eleven, as Killer Frost leads a monster army on the city, complete with an enslaved Trigon. It’s up to Constantine and Zatanna to save their adopted daughter – and for Constantine, that involves turning into a winged, fire-breathing bunny. There’s two more surprise character appearances at the end of the issue that took me by surprise in a very good way. The world of this comic just keeps on expanding with every issue. Cannot wait to see the finale.
Corrina: I have so much DC knowledge and I still occasionally have to look up people. A round of applause to Bennett for being the biggest DC nerd ever—and understanding all these characters too! I mean, look at Clone Superman, just embodying the best of that hero without hardly saying a word. Power Girl is absolutely perfect, too. I miss Stargirl but I do love Bennett’s handle on Supergirl.
Lois and…Raven? I didn’t expect the Titans to have much to do with this story but I’m so glad they do, though, again, Trigon wasn’t on my list of possible villains for this book. I like it. As for Lois liking the ladies, she certainly knows how to flirt with everyone. Hah.
But the Winged-Fire-Breathing Bunny tops it all.
Shade the Changing Girl #10 – Cecil Castellucci, Writer; Marley Zarcone, Leila De Luca, Artists; Ande Parks, Inker; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: This title has always veered wildly between “weird but brilliant” and “just plain weird”, and after a few issues in the former category, this issue veers a little bit towards the latter as Loma Shade’s presence on Earth starts having a bizarre effect. At the root, though, is still a very human story about alienation and fear of mortality. The issue opens with Loma/Megan paying a visit to the site of the nuclear tests from the 1950s where “Life With Honey” was filmed – and potentially, if a sign is any indication, setting herself up for trouble with the law. She goes on a pilgrimage to find Honey’s house, which is depicted in a fantastically weird two-page board game segment, before eventually finding the famous house – and getting the door slammed in her face by the current resident, who is tired of random people knocking on his door.
Meanwhile, the segments that don’t involve Megan vary in quality this time. The scenes involving River and Teacup, as they battle over what the next best step to take with Megan is, are strong. The ongoing impact of Megan’s past vs. who she is now provides some really great emotional content. However, Loma’s friends on her homeworld aren’t quite as compelling, and neither is our villain, who finally makes his move and sends some of his goons after Loma to bring her back by force. The action segments are kind of jumpy, and clearly not this comic’s forte, but overall it’s an entertaining enough issue. The “Life With Honey” segment at the back drives home that this is ultimately a comic about some very human fears, and that’s why it still works even on an imperfect issue.
Nightwing #24 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Miguel Mendonca, Penciller; Diana Conesa, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Everybody Wants Nightwing!
Ray: When we last left off, Dick had been lured in by a seemingly reformed Blockbuster 2.0, agreeing to help him with a mission against the criminal element of Bludhaven – only to be backstabbed and set up as a target for the entire criminal underworld. And that’s what this issue is, essentially – a no-holds-barred battle between Nightwing and villains new, old, famous, and obscure. I’m kind of surprised by just how many villains they borrowed from other books, even some that have appeared in recent weeks. The issue opens with some of Dick’s friends from the reformed villains’ group dealing with their own drama, but once we switch over to Nightwing, it’s no-holds-barred action for the entire issue. And that gives Dick the opportunity to show off some of those fancy spy moves.
There’s shark-themed gunmen, demonic mooks, elite villains like Count Vertigo, and freaks of nature like Skyhook (an obscure 90s villain who is currently the big bad in Superwoman). The Underground Men from Green Arrow appear, as do Chyna White and Shado, two notorious female criminal masterminds. As the gauntlet continues, Dick finds himself increasingly out of his weight class as he takes on the likes of Kid Amazo (Super-Sons) and even more ridiculously, Magog. This is the weakest segment of the issue, but then anything Magog is in takes a fast downturn. The return of Blockbuster, followed by yet another backstab, places Bludhaven in danger. The subplot involving Pigeon in Shawn’s life is intriguing, but really, this issue is all about Dick in the toughest fight of his life. It’s a fast read, but a thrilling one.
Corrina: Someone has read a lot of Chuck Dixon’s Nightwing or, at least, shares his love of obscure characters and cameos, because this issue reminded me so much of Oracle’s fight in the submarine against Blockbuster’s forces in the climax of the classic “Hunt For Oracle” storyline. All that’s missing is the last-minute rescue that became a rallying cry for the Dinah/Babs femme-ship. Perhaps Midnighter will show up this time and save Dick from a watery grave. (Okay, probably not what’s planned but it would be awesome.) Where did Conesa come from? Because what she does with this cast in a confined space is amazing.
I mean, some of these guys are so far out of Dick’s league it’s a stretch but, then, Dick is only trying to get away for a few seconds, not defeat any of them. And Magog is such a lame character, I’m happy to see him get something coming to him, if only for a panel or two. If Batman can do this type of thing, so can Nightwing. Interesting cliffhanger but we know Dick isn’t dead. (Or many of the villains, for that matter.)
Meanwhile, Shawn is struggling. Seeley keeps hinting at a return to villainy for her and then pulling back. I hope it’s only a tease. I’d hate to lose so much character development.
Injustice 2 #5 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Bruno Redondo, Layouts; Vincent Cifuentes, Finishes; Rex Lokus, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Journey is Great (But the Ending Is Preordained)
Ray: This run of Injustice has been partially about catching up with the heroes of the DCU who we lost touch with at points in the previous run, but the tragedy is always right around the corner. Before we get there, though, we get a special treat – the best Blue Beetle story we’ve gotten in years. The opening segment, with Jaime being mentored by a retired Ted in a no-holds-barred style, is very entertaining and much more fitting than what we’re getting in the current mess of a Blue Beetle title. But when the training session ends and Jaime heads home, we get some odd hints. Skeets is being cryptic, talking about it being an honor to serve Ted. Batman pays a visit to recruit Ted for his project to remake the world in the aftermath of Superman’s capture, and Ted agrees – only to then receive another visitor.
It’s Booster, and he’s not there for good reasons. It seems Ted is destined to die tonight. Booster’s tried to stop it, and been arrested three times for a time crime, but he still couldn’t let Ted die alone. Soon enough, while Batman is gathering titans of industry in the White House, mercenaries from Ra’s Al Ghul and the new Batman’s Suicide Squad descend on Ted’s HQ for a brutal attack, cutting off his hand and capturing him to be taken to Ra’s’ secret base. I’m not positive about this decision to make Ra’s – a vaguely Middle-Eastern accented character – act like an environmentalist version of ISIS, but he’s a brutal, compelling villain, and Ted’s death is horrifying, but powerful. But what everyone is going to be talking about is that final scene between Ted and Booster, an emotional coda that will likely also get a lot of shippers talking. This run is no less brutal than the previous installments, but there’s real emotional stakes this time, and that makes all the difference.
Corrina: To the contrary, Ra’s has traditionally been portrayed as seeing the human race as somewhat of a blight on Mother Earth. That’s why he keeps trying to depopulate it—well, that, and so he can rule the remnants of humanity. Ra’s is a complicated guy. 😉
It’s the paradox of this series that Taylor writes the characters so well but then they die. ARGH. Can we give him the Green Arrow book instead? And swap Percy to this book, since he likes wrecking cities/worlds?
A Difference of Opinion
Green Arrow #26 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Stephen Byrne, Artist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: So Done With Ollie
Ray: After the intense, high-octane “Rise of Star City” arc that saw Oliver lose essentially everything and the villains take over Seattle and transform it into a fascist privately owned pseudo-state, Green Arrow is in exile for this next arc – traveling the country in a series of team-ups and continuing the good fight against enemies near and far. Stephen Byrne’s art, always great, is suited really well to the woods in the pacific northwest, a nice change of pace for the usually urban issue. But the Northwest isn’t normal – something dangerous is going on there, and it might be tied to the Speed Force, which brings in this issue’s guest star, The Flash. And while Percy’s take on Barry Allen may be a little less polite than what people are used to, his acerbic banter with Ollie is hilarious. Green Arrow and the rest of the League do NOT get along.
The villain seems to be a team-up between Black Hole and the Ninth Circle, which is my main issue with this story – both shadowy groups of villains are more than a bit played out in their respective titles, and just aren’t very compelling. Green Arrow’s always a socially relevant character, so tying the Speed Force experiments into fracking in the forests makes sense here. While the main plot involving Ollie is entertaining, I was more interested in the women in his life this issue, as they’re back in Star City. Emiko gets to play liaison with Ollie’s lawyer Kate Spencer – who has not mellowed since the end of Manhunter, I should add – and develops a really nice rapport with Black Canary as they protect the city. Glad to see Canary’s band days aren’t forgotten, and Emiko is great. Can these badass ladies get their own book, please? BOP could use a new direction.
Corrina: I want a story where, just once, I can like Oliver Queen. This is not that comic. Though the story makes it clear that Flash thinks little of Ollie too and that should make me smile but, instead, it also made me dislike Barry Allen. I’m not sure what it is but Percy sure has a gift for making decent character unlikeable. (See Arsenal arc.)
Of more interest to me than the vast secret conspiracy and Ollie being a dumbass was Kate Spencer and Emiko Queen talking truths. Now, Kate has always been sharp-tongued and her attitude absolutely works, especially since Ollie has tossed her into this mess by running off while on bail. And I can see a glimmer of a friendship between Dinah and Emiko as well. They have more of a dynamic in this scene that Ollie and Dinah have had this whole run.
Solid B Issues– 7-8 Scores
Green Lanterns #26 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Ronan Cliquet, Artist; Ulises Arreola, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Digression Is Worth It
Ray: This title has been riding a hot streak for a while now, telling an epic story spanning billions of years while also keeping the tale grounded in the very human struggles of Simon and Jessica. However, coming on the heels of a particularly intense cliffhanger in the #25 issue, the book makes an odd choice to ignore their fate for the time being and instead devote an issue entirely to the root of the current conflict – the initial friendship turned enmity between rogue Guardian Rami and insane First Lantern Volthoom. Credit to Humphries – he took a villain that was introduced in a hurry in the final act of Johns’ run and given him a much more fleshed out and human backstory. But for all that work, he’s still not a character that can quite carry a story as the protagonist.
Volthoom as the only “regular person” in a cult of blue elves that have forsaken all emotion is an interesting hook, and his friendship developing with Rami as the Guardian shows signs of turning away from the strictures does work. However, Volthoom’s slide into madness doesn’t really come off as believable so much as preordained. We’ve seen many storyarcs of someone being corrupted by power like this before. The only really interesting twist comes when it’s revealed who actually blew up Volthoom’s homeworld and killed his mother, creating a creative time paradox. What does work this issue, though? The last few pages, revealing yet another of the first lanterns – a plant elemental, potentially from the Green, who revived a world on her own. These new characters have been fascinating, but I am more than ready to see Simon and Jessica again.
Corrina: No one misses Jess and Simon more than me but this issue actually made me interested in Volthoom and Rami, which I thought an impossible task. For that, I give the creative team extra bonus green sparkly stars.
I also like Humphries’s new First Lanterns, so far, better than the entire color spectrum put together. (That was so not my thing.) So I’ll let him slide away from Jess and Simon for an issue to see what develops.
Bane: Conquest #3 – Chuck Dixon, Writer; Graham Nolan, Artist; Gregory Wright, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: All Action
Ray: After a fantastic second issue that found Bane and Batman trapped together in a mysterious prison and forced to work together to escape, this issue’s prison break is rather similar to the second issue – all action, all the time. The issue opens with Bane using his store of Venom to power up for the battle ahead. Batman tries to keep Bane on a leash, warning him not to kill anyone, but Bane is…less than committal. Once unleashed, Bane tears his way through the goons occupying Damocles’ base on his way to the main boss. Batman, meanwhile, has another target in mind – making his way to the center of the base, so he can capture the man behind the man, a half-cyborg ancient man who Batman dubs Dionysus, the man behind Damocles.
Bane defeats everyone in his way and climbs his way to Damocles, where he proceeds to deliver a brutal beating to the assassin, eventually “breaking him” in his classic 90s style. He then drops Damocles’ shattered, half-conscious body on Dionysus’ doorstep just as Batman cuts a deal with the main villain for safe passage out before he faces justice. And that’s where Batman and Bane part ways, with the two of them fighting and Bane determined to kill Dionysus. As their fight opens the door for Dionysus to escape on his cyber-chair, Bane leaps out of the hangar after him. Just like that, the Batman/Bane team-up seems to be over, and next issue will have Bane and Dionysus in the wilderness. It’s an exciting, action-filled comic, but it lacks any characters to really care about so far.
Corrina: Glimmers of the greatness of Dixon and Nolan here, with Bane in full-on mayhem mode, and the story also highlights why Batman is a hero and Bane is not, even though Bane always believes he’s doing the right thing. I am disappointed that the Batman team-up was so short, however.
Justice League #26 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Ian Churchill, Artist; Adriano Lucss, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Mera Spotlight
Ray: This is the third fill-in in a row, and in terms of quality it’s somewhere between Fontana’s charming quarantine issue and last issue’s terrorist plotline. It’s also not really a Justice League issue at all, instead being essentially a backdoor Aquaman issue focusing on Mera’s portion of the story after Atlantis is sealed off and Aquaman is presumed dead. The issue opens with the Justice League being called to a massive superstorm being generated in the ocean and threatening to cause a tidal wave like the one we saw in Throne of Atlantis. When they arrive at the scene, they’re confronted by a powered-up Mera who seems more than a little out of her mind, and attacks them when they try to stop the wave.
The bulk of this issue is a battle sequence, and the point seems to be to show just how powerful Mera is as a hydrokinetic. And on that front, it works. Sliding the ring right off Jessica and Baz’ hands with a simple slick of water is a clever move. Of course, she’s not actually looking for a fight, and doesn’t even know that she’s created a tsunami – she’s just desperately trying to open the Crown of Thorns to make her way back to Atlantis, something the League is sympathetic to now that they know Arthur is in trouble. So it seems like this issue was essentially just a big prelude to get Mera placed on the League, at least temporarily. I’m not entirely opposed to that, but like a lot of the stories in the book it spins out of, it feels like a lot of explosions for not much purpose.
Corrina: If you haven’t been reading Aquaman, you may be absolutely confused at this story, as it’s clearly a tie-in to events in Aquaman‘s series. While the concept of Mera on the Justice League, and as powerful as any of them, is terrific, I hate her turn to insanity because of Arthur’s supposed “death.” Temporary insanity often seems to be the go-to reaction for heroes in grief but I’ve been spoiled by King’s nuanced take on the psyche lately and Mera is too over-the-top insane and then flips to being normal too fast for this story to work.
Hope Mera sticks around in the JL though.
Cyborg #14 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Will Conrad, Artist; Ivan Nunes, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Things Got Interesting
Ray: A fast-paced, well-illustrated issue that still feels a bit overstuffed but advances the main plot in a big way. The issue opens after Anomaly – working for a mysterious “muse” – triggers a powerful vortex that sucks Cyborg out of time. He finds himself in an empty space where he engages in a relatively pointless battle with a red Transformer for some reason. After being blasted by it, he wakes up in a room with Blue, his blind musician friend, and is warned that his biggest test is yet to come. The world suddenly disintegrates around him, and he wakes up in what looks like Detroit with Anomaly, Variant, and Exxy waiting for him. They soon find out they’re on a parallel Earth – one where Detroit’s been overrun by cyborg zombies that are seeking to infect everyone they touch.
I didn’t think I’d ever see Beast Boy as a grizzled resistance warrior, but it works here – he can’t be infected due to his animal DNA, so he’s one of the few humans left and he’s there to escort them back to STAR Labs in this reality. There’s too much bickering between Anomaly and the rest of the crew, but a somewhat intriguing mystery is emerging once it’s revealed that the secret mastermind communicating with Anomaly is an alternate version of Cyborg’s mother. It’s a little confusing, like most of the series, but this issue is fast-paced enough that it works. Also, the idea that evil versions of the Metal Men are the enforcers of this cyborg takeover? I’m looking forward to next issue.
Corrina: Semper has been building to this revelation of the alternate world his whole run and I’m thrilled to see it triggered, as the pacing over the previous six issues has been erratic. I love Cyborg’s wondering if he’s dead, Beast Boy’s resistance fighter, and, like Ray, the idea of the Metal Men as enforcers to the new mechanical overlords. It’s also worth the issues where Anamoly’s part was drawn-out and over-the-top. Vic has some good lines in this book, too, and I wonder what happens when Anamoly’s loyalty is tested by this version of Cyborg’s mother? All in all, the series has its flaws but I enjoy it more than, say, Green Arrow, which has gotten more general acclaim.
Harley Quinn #23 – Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Paul Dini, Writers; John Timms, Artist; Bret Blevins, Penciller; J. Bone, Inker; Jeremiah Skipper, Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Ray: It’s kind of a quiet issue setting up the next part of the story, as Harley bops from one subplot to another and leaves some mild chaos in her wake. The issue opens with her being reunited with the Macabre family, as well as her crazy doppelganger Harley Sinn. Although Sinn tries to make the case that they’ve both been victims of the Mayor’s vindictive and manipulative schemes, she also can’t help but make digs at Harley’s friends that lead to her getting a much-deserved TKO from Harley, and winding up a captive herself. From there, Harley’s off to another challenge – dinner with her parents, with Goat Boy playing buffer. There’s a segment involving them going people-watching on the subway that goes on a bit too long, and an incident involving a confrontation between Spoondale and the Mayor that indicates that subplot will be picking up.
From there, it’s on to the dinner with Harley’s family – and frankly, it feels a bit too much like an awkward dinner with the family. Harley’s family are mildly amusing, but the banter feels a bit forced, and the introduction of villains Sportsmaster and Clock King (although not the Clock King from Green Arrow, surprisingly) are a welcome distraction. More intriguing is Red Tool paying a visit to Poison Ivy, discussing a secret plan involving Harley. Palmiotti and Conner’s Ivy is gold, as always – the book becomes ten times better when she’s present. Then there’s the backup co-written by Dini, involving Harley designing a surprise new HQ for Joker with the Carpenter, while Joker becomes increasingly more paranoid about her absence. It’s fun, although the constant vague threat of abusive violence when Joker gets angry makes it a bit less so. Carpenter is always a blast, though.
Corrina: There is a bit too much going in this issue and I found it hard to focus on what might be important and what ws there as background. For instance, is Harley’s family there for a visit or is there another reason? Are they as oblivious to some things as they seem? It’s a hard balance to pull off in a story, and I thought the creators did this aspect well last issue but here, perhaps not as well.
My first reaction to Red Tool calling Ivy was that maybe Ivy would take him out once and for all. But this worked out too. In the last two issues, Tool’s personality has changed in ways that make him more palatable. Not interesting, not yet, but not a drag on the title any longer.
The back-ups trigger an odd reaction for me. It’s fun to see the spirit of the great animated series in comic form but the Joker has become such a murderous and evil figure in the DC Universe that it’s hard to take any of his appearances now as anything other than that–meaning his anger is scary, rather than amusing, which is what I believe the story wanted me to feel.