This summer of team-ups continue as the Legion of Superheroes and Batman ’66 join together to fight evil across time, in Batman ’66 Meets the Legion of Superheroes #1, a story that proves that Adam West’s Batman fits in any era.
Meanwhile, Lois and Clark take a road trip that owes much to Lois Lane being a military brat in Superman #27, one of the rare books that Ray and Corrina agree on this week. Others earning our joint praise also include Green Lanterns #27, Batwoman #5, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #10, Super-Sons #6, and DC Comic Bombshells #31.
We split on (Horrors! Sorry, Tom King) Batman #26, Green Arrow #27, Nightwing #25, and Injustice 2 #6.
Reviews of all of this week’s DC Comics Below. WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS!
Grade A Comics: Rating 9-10
Batman ’66 Meets the Legion of Super-Heroes #1 – Lee Allred, Michael Allred, Storytellers; Laura Allred, Colorist
Ray – Ranking: 9/10
Corrina: Batman With a Flight Ring!
Ray: Batman ’66 has been having a great resurgence in recent months, a perfect tribute to its iconic star Adam West. First, we just got the in-house crossover with Wonder Woman ’77 – some of the most emotional content these series have ever had. And now we get this fantastic, trippy one-shot crossing the show over with the teen heroes of the future. We haven’t gotten many Legion comics in a long time, with the characters still in limbo, so their only appearances have been in odd crossovers like this and the recent Bugs Bunny story. But in the hands of the creative team of Bug, this book is a wild, time-hopping gonzo masterpiece. It starts with the Legion conning their way into the Batcave, brainwashing Alfred in an attempt to recruit Robin into the Legion. Although Robin is occupied in Gotham, it soon becomes clear this isn’t going to be a brief visit.
Both Gotham and the 30th century find themselves under threat – from Universo and Egghead respectively. And in case people think the two villains look a little too much alike, there’s a reason for that – they’re relatives. Villainy runs in the family. This leads to Batman being taken to the future to track Egghead, who’s used a time bubble to go to the future, while Robin teams up with the remaining Legionnaires in the present day against Universo. The Legion is obviously a sprawling cast, and the Allreds make the most of them, showing off the powers and personalities of the heroes. Batman clashing with Brainiac 5 is always fun, and there’s a great twist towards the end involving a surprise Legionnaire in disguise. If there’s a weak link, it’s the two villains, who are more nuisances than anything. But the joy in this comic is watching the two groups of heroes interact, to say nothing of the brilliant art. My only regret is that this is only a one-shot.
Corrina: I’ll forgive the villains for being mere annoyances rather than fleshed out because I was so busy being amused by Batman being able to predict Egghead’s next move better than Brainiac 5 could logically plot it. There are many, many differences between Batman ’66 and his more serious versions but they all share this ability to defeat anyone, even a 5th level intelligence, given prep time.
Will this story make sense to those familiar with Batman ’66 but not the Legion? I hope so, I hope that our Legionnaires come across as yet another bunch of zany guest-stars with unusual powers, like the flight rings. But if you’re an LSH fan, you’ll also appreciate the in-jokes, such as Ferro Lad’s commentary on his “deaths,” and the Legionnaires’ fanboy reverence for the Bat-cave.
I thought perhaps poor Robin might come out looking far overmatched but he turned it around at the end, showing he’s paid attention to his mentor. At the end of all this, I wanted this version of the Legion back.
Superman #27 – Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Scott Godlewski, Artist; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Patriotic Road Trip
Ray: In what’s described as the first part of a new arc, but actually serves as a great done-in-one character driven issue for the Super-family, Clark, Lois, and Jon undertake a classic family ritual – the family road trip. It’s time to move from Hamilton to Metropolis as seen in Action, but to make the transition easier, Lois and Clark decide to make a vacation out of it, stopping along the way at various sites around America chosen by the three of them. The issue does a good job at showing how little time together the family has due to Superman’s job in the opening segment, although I didn’t think Superman needed to sleep enough to fall asleep mid-air (funny as the segment is). Once the family gets in their RV, the dialogue is charmingly genuine, and there’s a lot of comedy worked in.
I know Corrina had an issue with Lois not displaying enough personality and initiative in other issues, and I liked that this issue didn’t lose sight of her military brat history. The family’s trip winds up being centered around war memorials, with some genuinely emotional scenes and a strong message, although it got a little heavy-handed at point – a restaurant trying to deny service to a disabled homeless veteran who Clark invited to eat with them? This country doesn’t treat veterans nearly as well as it should, but that felt like a reach. There’s some nice quiet scenes with the family, with just Clark and Lois, and even a few history lessons mixed in for the kids. Then Clark is called off for duty, with the end of the issue hinting that the threat he’s facing is related to the theme of the issue. More stories like this, less Manchester Black, please.
Corrina: I like the fact this issue considered Lois as a person and not simply as “the Mom.” It’s not enough, in that she’s put in the traditional role of planning and responsible for how the entire trip goes, especially when she has a job that requires a great deal of attention. But we’ll go with they had a vacation coming. I guess? Anyway, it’s better but not perfect.
The road trip does showcase a nice list of possibly forgotten soldiers that Lois considers heroes, such as Deborah Sampson. And while I love the intent to showcase the problems of homeless vets, it seems like Lois would be working on stories about them, to showcase who they are and why they should be honored, as well as taking them to eat a meal. But, mostly, it’s a decent issue that looks much better when placed against the ones that preceded it.
Green Lanterns #27 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Ronan Cliquet, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: After a one-issue hiatus to focus on Volthoom and Rumi, we finally find out what’s going on with Simon and Jessica in one of the most entertaining issues of the series. This issue starts with a bang and never slows down, as Jessica wakes up in the middle of a deadly volcano world. Although she finds a cute volcano gremlin, she’s soon attacked by a giant centipede. Simon, meanwhile, has it even worse, being stranded without his ring and being chased by giant gorilla-eagles on this insane death planet. He’s about to meet his end when Jessica creates a giant green cat and chases them off. With Simon powerless and injured by the shards of his ring, that creates an interesting dynamic where Jessica – whose anxiety would likely be kicked into high gear by this situation – has to take charge.
The visuals are great, the monsters are wildly creative, but the best element of this issue is the interaction between Simon and Jessica. They’ve got a great friendship building, and Simon’s frustration feels genuine. There are some hilarious visuals – such as Jessica ferrying Simon around in a giant green car seat – but there’s a real emotional core to it. The story picks up in the second half, with the introduction to yet another ancient Lantern – an ancient AI from a techno-organic hive mind that becomes the first member of its hive to ever leave and venture out alone – followed by a great twist involving where and when Jessica and Simon have actually been stranded. The end of the issue makes it clear just why we’ve been spending so much time with these ancient Lanterns. This has the potential to be the series’ best arc.
Corrina: After what happened to Simon and Jess, you would think the fall-out would be a grim affair. And yes, our heroes are stuck in a dire situation, down one flight ring, on a planet where beasts seem ready to eat them at every instant. But I love how they pull off survival with aplomb and focus on the real problem: where are they and how do they get back?
And, along the way, we see just how good they’ve become at working together. Where Simon falters, about not having his ring, Jess is there to be positive and supportive and when Jess falters at the sign her anxiety is beginning to overwhelm her, Simon is there to talk and support her. While the conclusion of the arc isn’t here yet, it’s clear these characters have gotten exactly where they need to be.
And, omigod, Cliquet’s monsters and lush backgrounds. Awesome.
Batwoman #5 – Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Writers; Stephanie Hans, Artist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Let’s Dig Into This Past
Ray: Steve Epting may be gone, and co-writer James Tynion IV is leaving with this issue, but Batwoman delivers what may be its strongest issue of the short run so far with his swan song. This issue flashes back to the earliest days of Kate’s arrival on Coryana, when she was still a young woman trying to escape her past after being kicked out of the army. When the issue opens, Kate is recovering from a cracked skull – thanks to some fancy work from Safiyah’s doctors. At this point, Safiyah and Tahani are very close, but that’s a relationship that will be tested and later broken by the arrival of the beautiful red-haired woman from the outside world. We’ve only seen Safiyah as a mysterious figure from the past so far, but this issue goes into a lot more detail about her MO and motivations.
Safiyah narrates the issue, and we see the development of her relationship with Kate through her eyes, which is a nice change. We also see Tahani become jealous, paranoid and eventually try to destroy Kate with her own weaknesses. It’s a slow, moody, and beautifully drawn issue with art by the great Stephanie Hans. And then, towards the last third of the issue, it explodes with the same force as the raging storm that dominates the conclusion. Safiyah is betrayed from inside her inner circle, and Kate is forced to decide whether to return to the life she knew, or risk everything to save her savior. We’ve just begun to learn about this fascinating chapter in Kate’s life, and I’m hoping we return to the island of Coryana in future issues.
Corrina: If you read this column often enough, you know I sometimes get frustrated with flashbacks. But I also tend to become frustrated with information about backstory kept from the reader. What does that mean for this issue? I liked being filled into Kate’s original time on Coryana but I wish I’d seen more of it in earlier issues, as I could have made more emotional sense of Kate’s reactions about her return. I hope we get more of this backstory.
The mood of this book, in so many ways, matches the mood of Batwoman: Elegy, in that Kate is sometimes a remote figure, cloaked in her mission, which also cloaks her sorrow about losing so much: her mom and sister, and her place in the military. She’s not an angsty person, she’s a driven person, and whatever drives her at the moment is whatever she’ll jump into, with full commitment. We see that happen here with the affair with Safiyah and her love of Coryana, even if it is so different than what Kate had wanted previously. It’s a fascinating book that rewards multiple readings.
Super-Sons #6 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Jorge Jiminez, Artist; Alejandro Sanchez, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Titans Are An Exclusive Club, Jon!
Ray: After a first arc that had some fun character interaction but suffered from an overly dark villain, and a fun done-in-one issue that cemented the boys’ odd team-up, the second full arc of this title brings the Teen Titans into the fray. The issue opens with Superboy heading out on his first night of patrol, as his parents make sure he’s ready. Tomasi’s the main Superman writer with Pat Gleason as well, so it’s no surprise he fits naturally into writing the characters. He’s also got experience writing Damian thanks to his Batman and Robin run – but his Damian is a little less smooth than his Jon, coming off as overly peevish and rude, more in line with how he was at the very start of his career. Still, the segments that show off their differing approach to crime-fighting are a lot of fun – Damian is about fear, while Jon is about helping people, even in the smallest cases.
The introduction of the Teen Titans comes about in a hilarious way, with Beast Boy making a surprise appearance – although really, does Jon have some problem with colors? It’s not like BB’s color is normal for cats. With his team needing his help, Damian rudely dismisses Jon and sends him home for the night. Jon’s reaction to being rejected by an older friend is genuine – this title never forgets that Jon is a kid, and there’s a significant age gap between the two main characters. The nature of the villains is a little vague in this issue, with the opening page implying they may be artificial constructs. However, the mastermind, the Time Commander, proves his powers are very real, leading to a shocking – and slightly hilarious – last page reveal. This continues to be a fun, strong series.
Corrina: I loved the first part of this issue, with Jon helping ordinary people with ordinary kindnesses. It’s not something you see from a lot of superhero comics but it resonates because we all could use a little help and kindness from strangers, especially super-powered boys who love cats.
I’m less fond of the second half of the issue, with the Teen Titans, especially because they still seem to be taking orders from Damian and that’s frustrating me in their own comic and now in this comic. Starfire certainly has more experience and can be just as good a tactician as Damian. But it does lead to some excellent lines of dialogue and I certainly don’t dislike it enough to disagree with Ray’s rating.
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #10 – Gerard Way, Jon Rivera, Writers; Michael Avon Oeming, Artist; Nick Filardi, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: The Human Element Returns
Ray: After several issues that felt more like a bizarre distraction from the story of the first arc, this title gets back down to business with an excellent issue that introduces a major new player to the series with a lot of unanswered questions – as well as the presence of a few more prominent DC figures. The issue opens with Cave, Chloe, Wild Dog, and their companions continuing their hike to their destination. Cave’s eye continues to malfunction, making him see his dead wife and make plenty of questionable decisions. They come across a massive tree surrounding the ancient bodies of giants, and as they make their way in, the tree begins to come alive. What follows is one of the best action scenes of the series, equal parts epic adventure and horror story as they battle to survive.
Deliverance comes in the form of a new arrival with a familiar face who has been following them for a while – Cave Carson Jr., a young man who seems to have inherited his father’s looks and survival skills. Oeming is a master of quiet moments, showing Chloe’s brief shock and disturbance as she stares into the face of a boy who has much more in common with her father than she ever did. The identification of Cave Jr.s’ mother only convinces Cave even more that he should follow his new son’s advice, and it leads them directly into a trap – one led by none other than the Metal Men and their leader, Doctor Magnus. This is the one Young Animal book that never fails to surprise, and this is one of its smoothest and most effective issues since the first arc.
Corrina: The last few issues were trippy, to say the least, letting Oeming shine, but I sometimes felt as lost as Cave and his crew. That changes with this issue, as Cave and company seem to have landed on a planet in the Multiverse that needs their help against a common foe. Or does it? There’s enough here to suggest that, well, maybe not.
This issue also lets the cast catch its breath a bit, and allows some snark, like this exchange between Cave and Chloe:
“So was this where you and mom first made out?” “It’s where we made you.” “Oh, God, gross!” Not to mention the immortal line of “Great, we’ve pissed off a giant tree!” Other moments I enjoyed: Chloe’s jealousy and distrust of Cave Carson, Jr. and his motives.
Next issue: will we find out exactly what’s going on with Cave’s cybernetic eye?
DC Comics Bombshells #31 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Carmen Carnero, Laura Braga, Aneke, Artists; J. Nanjan, Wendy Broome, Colorists
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Kneel Before Faora!
Ray: As this title heads towards its final act in volume one (and the preview art for vol. 2 already looks amazing), this issue reveals a lot of the backstory for some major villains. First up is Killer Frost, who here has been portrayed as a ruthless Nazi acolyte of the main villains. The truth is a bit more complex than that, though, as her backstory reveals she’s the daughter of a French woman who had a child with a German occupier. When the WWI forces left France, the villagers turned on the woman, killing her and her child by throwing them down a frozen well. While her mother died, Frost was transformed into something else. She emerged as a cold-powered metahuman and was taken in by Joker’s Daughter, who turned her into what she is today.
There’s some good action in the middle of the issue, as General Faora gets ready to make her move. The second segment lags, though, aside from some really fun interaction between Kara and Lois. However, once Kara confronts Faora in the sky, Faora reveals a shocking truth – in her mind, she’s Kara’s mother. Not exactly accurate – she’s the project of a science experiment led by Ursa, but her actual mothers are Alura and Lara (another great LGBT twist for this series). Faora, as the woman who helped them pull off the experiment, views herself as being part of the process, but she turned out to be a radical and was eventually sealed away by her partners in the Phantom Zone. She makes a great villain here, and the last panel is one of the best moments of the series.
Corrina: No kneel before Zod here: it’s all about Faora, finally unencumbered by having to serve her General and in charge of her own plan. It’s this kind of feminist twist that I love in Bombshells, not to mention the LGBTQ twist with Alura and Lara. Jor-el and Zor-el usually have the spotlight in these origin stories and focusing on the women makes the familiar tale fresh.
And then there’s Killer Frost, who manages to be a tragic figure in any universe. Her origin reminded me a great deal of Magneto’s backstory, with the villagers turning on his loved one and killing them. As with Magneto, this turns Frost against humanity, and she instead develops an interest only in those like her, who are separate from the rest of humanity.
The narration at the beginning is terrific, as well.
Good or Bad: Dueling Ratings!
Nightwing #25 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Minkyu Jung, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Ridiculous? Nah. Kinda Awesome
Ray: This run on Nightwing has been ambitious from the start, sending Dick Grayson around the world on high-octane spy missions, expanding his rogues’ gallery, and teaming him with allies old and new. However, it seems to have shrunk a little bit since he came to Bludhaven, focusing the story much more on his personal conflicts and his relationship with former supervillain Shawn. Those plotlines come to a head this issue, as does Dick’s battle with arch-nemesis Blockbuster. The problem is, this issue is kind of nonsense. That’s not to say it’s bad, per se – it’s highly entertaining – but it’s also maybe the most ridiculous comic I’ve read in some time. It opens with an elaborate action segment as a massive bomb is about to detonate, leading Dick to pull off an insane maneuver involving Clock King’s time travel vest to save everyone on board.
Tiger Shark’s ship being blown up, he retreats to his casino for a showdown with Blockbuster, and that’s where this issue goes into full-on SyFy mode, as he unleashes his secret weapon – Tiger Sharks. Literally, a pair of giant hulking beasts that kind of look like King Shark with tiger fur. They look cool, but they’re both ridiculous and are dispatched oddly easily. Blockbuster winds up imprisoning Shark as his “pet” and taking over as crime boss of Bludhaven. Dick and Shawn’s relationship comes to a surprising and awkward end as she breaks up with him – at the urging of her former crime mentor, making it seem more and more likely that she’ll be picking up her old paints again. The one scene in the issue that 100% works? Nightwing’s brutal verbal showdown with Blockbuster, and Dick Grayson’s clever maneuver to keep an eye on him. It seems like the end of the issue may be hinting towards Dick using his spy skills more in coming issues, which I am very happy with.
Corrina: Aww…I liked this issue a ton, more than you did. After all the ridiculous things that have happened in this series, including Dr. Pyg and his ability to create creepy versions of our heroes, I’m absolutely ready to accept mutated tiger sharks. I just wish that Blockbuster had worked up a sweat while defeating them. As for the time-vest, didn’t they do a whole thing on that in the team-up with Wally West? So Dick knew how it worked. It wasn’t the way I expected Dick to escape the explosion but, hey, it worked, especially because our hero insisted everyone be saved.
As for the break-up with Shawn, I hated it but I thought it well-earned. Dick telling Shawn he doubted she’d be a good mother is definitely break-up material. If the person you love thinks so little of you, then how can you stay with them? I’m less accepting of her possible return to villainy, however, so let’s hope not.
Know what I found unbelievable? That Dick could take a job at the casino and Blockbuster would allow it? How does that work? Is Dick using his hypnos? I don’t get it.
Batman #27 – Tom King, Writer; Clay Mann, Artist; Danny Miki, Livesay, Inkers; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Didn’t Grok It
Ray: It’s an interlude in the middle of The War of Jokes and Riddles, focusing on Tom King’s favorite villain – Kite Man. Hell yeah. King’s love for bizarre, obscure Batman villains has been one of the pleasures of this run, but he keeps coming back to the worst Batman villain of all time. And this issue turns him from a joke character into a surprisingly fleshed out rogue. When the issue starts, Charlie Brown (yes, that’s really his name) is a no-name con man in Gotham City, perfectly content to do small crime gigs and stay out of the big fray. However, the war between the villains is expanding and no one is left alone. Batman wants him to collect information. Deadshot, who has sided with Joker, points him to him. And Joker wants him to collect information from the Riddler. He’s a man with many masters.
But he’s not a bad guy, per se, and that’s what makes this issue work. He’s kind of a screwup, but also a divorced dad who tries to spend as much time with his son as he can. Time they often spend flying a kite. The second I saw this segment, I knew it wasn’t going to end well. And sure enough…Brown’s attempt to play both sides against the other blows up spectacularly in a great two-page spread. While Joker is the real monster of this arc, no doubt, it’s Riddler who exacts a terrible, sadistic revenge and shows the cruelty he did in Snyder’s Year One arc years back. That leads Brown to design his own costume, as Kite-Man, and sign on with the Joker as an actual supervillain. Is it sort of ridiculous? Yeah – it’s freaking Kite-Man. But at the same time, the fact that it works this well is a testament to King’s writing.
Corrina: To quote Ray, you have to admire King’s commitment to making Kite-man a thing. Usually, I can follow King anywhere but this issue’s narrative was one I had to read several times to understand fully. The structure of the story was simply confusing in several places, and seemed to jump back and forth in Kite-Man’s timeline origin without markers that I could follow to orient myself.
I’m also not a fan of villains motivated by dead kids. Damn, this whole arc has a body count that makes me shake my head. So, no, it didn’t win me over like it did Ray but, again, I smile at the Kite-man love.
Injustice 2 #6 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Mike S. Miller, Artist; J. Nanjan, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Supergirl Brainwashed Again?
Ray: Injustice has so far brought in characters from all around the DCU, but one name has been notably missing in Superman’s rampage across the world – his only living blood relative, Supergirl. Well, no more, as she enters the story in a big way – and arguably, the worst way possible. The first half of the issue is devoted to Kara’s life on Krypton, prior to its destruction. Artist Mike Miller does a great job with a wild, monster-filled take on Krypton, but also grounds it nicely by establishing a deep love between Kara and her father – and even between Zor-El and Jor-El, who are often portrayed as rivals. The segment depicting the destruction of Krypton is one of the most chaotic takes on this oft-told scenes I’ve seen, and has a nice call-back to a near-death experience Kara has earlier in the book.
Then Kara’s ship is knocked off-course, as it’s supposed to be, and she wakes up decades later on Earth – except she’s not found by the Kents, or Danvers, or Superman this time. Instead, she’s found by Black Adam in Khandaq, who takes her in and treats her as an honored guest in his palace. His rival nation of Bialya gets word of a potential Kryptonian ship landing and decides to make a play for it, leading Adam to make a brutal show of force that quickly dispatches the rival army. Then, as Kara gets her bearings, Adam fills her in on what’s happened since she’s been asleep – and proceeds to give her a twisted propaganda version of the events of Injustice, casting Batman as a monster. And now Kara is determined to free her cousin, who she thinks is a victim. So Adam has an impressionable teenage Kryptonian under his thrall, essentially a nuclear weapon in his arsenal. Taylor has brought a new level of quality to this title, and this may be the best issue yet.
Corrina: Okay, but…counterpoint…hasn’t every single version of Supergirl lately had the conflict of “crashes on Earth and is misled by someone powerful who wants to make her a pawn?” Because there was Cyborg Zor-El, and a version of Supergirl dealing with H’el from Krypton plus the manipulative Kryptonian survivor in Supergirl: Being Super. So, while I appreciate the excellent retelling of her narrative, that she’s now again subject to manipulation by Teth-Adam is a bit depressing, in that I’m tired of seeing her manipulated and would like her, just once, think for herself when she lands.
Green Arrow #27 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Jamal Campbell, Artist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Characterization Continues To Be an Issue
Ray: Ollie’s road trip and team-up with various members of the Justice League continues this issue, as he heads to the place most likely to make him angry – Washington DC. This is the most unapologetically political Green Arrow we’ve gotten in decades, even more so than Winick’s. But while Winick’s was a kind humanitarian liberal, Percy’s is more of a Sanders-inspired fire-breathing leftist. He even gets in a few contemptuous jabs at “neoliberal” peace activists. Flash is in the opening part of the issue, as he helps Ollie investigate a massacre at a peace group, but after using his CSI skills, he heads off to his own book and GA goes to stake out a arms vendor showcase which is attacked by a vicious, armored killer. He’s about to try to get information out of the villain by any means necessary when he’s interrupted – by Wonder Woman.
Ollie continues to antagonize the majority of the League, but while his relationship with Flash seemed more like a friendly, sarcastic rivalry, he and Wonder Woman view each other as polar opposites. Plus, it seems like Ollie may have been…less than appropriate with her in the past. Still, Diana is nothing if not forgiving, and they agree to work together to track the killer. Everything comes back to the 9th Circle in this run, and sure enough, their hands show up again here. Emiko and Dinah only appear briefly, faking being captured by the underground only to get the drop on them and liberate their captives. They’re a lot of fun and their banter is the issue’s highlight, but I wanted more! The reveal that Lex Luthor may have been involved with the 9th Circle will likely bring Ollie into conflict with Superman next issue. Good issue, even if its actual lead remains its least likable character.
Corrina: Yes, Ollie makes speeches. And that’s fine. But speeches aren’t a substitute for good characterization, which basically means I have little idea of what motivated Ollie this entire run until this speech, which means the writers had to tell me, rather than show me, which is kinda my whole problem with the run. Dinah and Emiko have nice moments and, as we are shown, care about the people that the 9th Circle is enslaving and destroying.
Ollie cares about the big overriding conspiracy, yes, but he’s going about it by basically stumbling along. It does not make for a compelling character or story for me.
Grade B Comics: Ratings 7-8
Aquaman #26 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Stepan Sejic, Artist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Decent But Not Great
Ray: The addition of fantasy artist Stepan Sejic to this title has given it a breath of fresh air, introducing a real vibe of unapologetic weirdness to a title that just felt a little conventional until now. Atlantis is no longer a simple castle under the sea, but a twisted magical city featuring citizens who are much more unusual and in some cases disturbing than the Atlanteans we previously saw. The addition of Dolphin, a mute Atlantean girl who displays some strange powers, is fun, although she does remind me a bit too much of Cassandra Cain in points. Mera, meanwhile, has returned to Atlantis and is trying to single-handedly bring down the crown of thorns, as we saw in JL two weeks ago. I wish she had more to do in the actual story, but keeping her and Arthur separated for now makes sense.
Corum Rath is still the weakest part of this series, a one-note sneering villain with little characterization, but the beginning of the rebellion against his tyrannical rule is starting to form. The best part of this issue is Arthur’s descent into the underworld, finding refuge with a colony of mutants rejected by Atlantean society. However, not all the mutants are friends. The addition of villains Krush and Kadaver provides some real stake, and the two of them are among the best villains the series has had so far. Krush is a cruel enforcer of the underworld sector, while Kadaver is a dark mage who controls coral and is one of the most powerful villains of the series. Both blow Rath out of the water in terms of being entertaining villains. This is probably the best this series has been since Rebirth launched.
Corrina: Why is there here when Ray gave it an “8” rating? Because while I agree this is the best issue of the series in a long while, I don’t agree that this is excellent. There are some fascinating elements that I wish had been given more play before this arc, such as Coram Rath’s takeover of Atlantis. Is his resemblance to Trump’s rhetoric on purpose? Because Rath seems to promise to make Atlantic great again and he seems to be in bed with the mobsters of the city, which definitely has parallels to current events. I wonder?
Krush and his crew’s introductions are good but the series has wasted a lot of good concepts by not filling them out properly, and I still see that tendency in this issue, as Dolphin’s friends are hurt or killed just after being introduced. And I still hate Mera’s overwhelming and mindless rage, as that’s as one-note as Rath’s characterization. And I question the idea of putting together a romantic triangle, with Dolphin’s introduction too, though maybe that won’t happen. So while the art is terrific, and the concepts are good, and it’s a decent story this issue, I remain unconvinced it will last.
Harley Quinn #24 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Paul Dini, Writers; John Timms, Joseph Michael Linsner, Artists; Bret Blevins, Penciller; J. Bone, Inker; Jeremiah Skipper, Paul Mounts, Alex Sinclair, Colorists
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Harley & Mom
Ray: A decent finish to the “Family Circles” arc, which brought Harley’s parents back to town for a visit. Then, naturally, supervillains crash their nice family dinner and Harley has to go to town. The villains aren’t much of a threat, but they still manage to capture Harley at one point, despite the best efforts of Goat Boy. We don’t know much about Harley’s parents before this arc, but there’s actually some surprising reveals about Harley’s father – he used to be a professional criminal, and he has a gun on him which manages to save the day Clock King and Sportsmaster are essentially props to get the family to this point, and their eventually fate – winding up in Power Girl’s shower – is kind of funny. However, the plot seems like an oversight.
The best segment of the issue, by far, is the one-on-one conversation between Harley and her mother about their choices in men and what it means for Harley’s future. When Palmiotti and Conner dial back the crazy for a bit and focus on Harley’s character, the book is at its strongest. The segment involving Red Tool and the Batgirl from the future, though, less so. They both feel like filler characters sort of out of step with the title as a whole. The backup is fun as always, with Harley nearly passing out when she sees the bill from Carpenter, and getting into an elaborate fight with the henchwoman. However, Carpenter knows how to get her bills paid, and that leaves Harley with no choice but to…rob banks while dressed as a giant gorilla. Okay. I laughed.
Corrina: I wondered through this whole arc how much Harley’s family knew about her life and what would lead them to ignore it, if they did. Somehow, the creative team managed to make Harley’s parents kind of sweet, even while acknowledging that Dad has serious violence issues, and Mom probably made some bad personal choices. It’s good to see the human side of Harley, though having them all talk in Harley’s speech patterns wore on me after a while.
The back-up was a fascinating segment in which the Carpenter actually manages to pull one over on Harley. I begin to think the Carpenter should get her own back-up. I remain confused that this version of Harley sticks with the Joker, and if this Joker cares about her, but when it focuses on Harley alone, it’s a blast.
Trinity #11 – Francis Manapul, Writer/Artist; Francis Manapul, Scott Hanna, Scott Godlewski, Artists; Wil Quintana, Blond, Colorists
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Nice Conclusion
Ray: Looking at the creative team on this issue, it’s pretty clear deadlines got the best of Manapul here, and it’s not a surprise that this is the last issue solicited by him so far. Rob Williams is taking over to continue the story he set up in the annual next. So how does this arc wrap up? Well, it’s not bad. But the problem is, the strength of this arc – a tale about the Justice League Watchtower getting taken over and destroyed by a pair of alien species – relied a lot on Manapul’s brilliant art to create a tale that was essentially a superhero version of Gravity. Without Manapul’s art to consistently deliver, the final chapter feels a little jerky at points. The idea of the hideous Brood/Alien-inspired aliens being instinctive creatures that mean no harm is actually a clever twist, though.
The actual villain, the robotic intelligence who is trying to wipe out the aliens before they spread to Earth, lacks any real characterization as an antagonist, and is mainly there for a fight scene with Wonder Woman. Batman’s daring escape through the Watchtower with the partially disassembled Cyborg is compelling. Superman has very little to do, trying to hold Simon and Jessica’s possessed forms at bay while keeping the Watchtower afloat. The ending doesn’t quite explain what happened to the benevolent aliens, nor does White Mercy really get a satisfying conclusion to her story. I’m hoping Manapul will be back before too long, because there’s some good stuff in his run. It just doesn’t fully come across in this issue.
Corrina: What works in this issue is the characterization of the Trinity, especially Wonder Woman. Writers have been using her lasso to reveal truths much more frequently lately and that’s an excellent development, much better than her resorting to Warrior Princess McStabby Sword all the time.
Yes, the villains are paper thin. Yes, we’ve seen the satellite destoyed/brought down to Earth before, but it’s an enjoyable read for the friendship present in the smaller moments.
Justice League #25 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Tom Derenick, Penciller; Andy Owens, Scott Hanna, Trevor Scott, Inkers; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 6.5/10
Ray: Hitch returns to Justice League on writing for an oversized done-in-one issue that serves as a bridge between storylines. Unfortunately, it sort of accents all the problems that the series has has since the beginning – every arc is a universe-threatening villain, but there’s virtually no development for the villains or real character progression for the League. This issue, the villain is an ancient evil named Shirak, who converted an entire alien population to his drone-like slaves. He and the entire army were wiped out by the Green Lanterns eons ago, and while Shirak was presumed dead, he has survived to return for revenge today. Batman learns about Shirak from the villainess of the previous arc, who was captured and is now awaiting imprisonment in a high-tech prison. These are the weakest scenes of the issue – a bland villain monologuing about another bland villain.
Things get somewhat better when Shirak actually hits Earth, because it’s two of the most human JL members who wind up in the middle of the crisis – Simon Baz and Cyborg. The friendship between the two – as Michigan boys and two of the younger members – genuinely works, if not quite as well as the great relationship between Simon and Jessica (more on that later), so when their day off to mentor schoolkids is interrupted by an alien invasion, their determination to preserve life really shines through. By the time the rest of the League enters the fray, it’s become a bit too much of a senseless slugfest, but there are some strong moments in the end as Simon figures out a creative way to avoid the mistakes of the Lanterns from eons ago. There’s hints of something great buried here, but it’s held back by way too much exposition and bland villains.
Corrina: Yay for Cyborg and Simon Baz teaming up. It’s a terrific sequence in which Simon gets one of his best spotlights ever. But the rest of it seems mostly a rehash of the rest of the mostly enjoyable run, with all the elements that Ray mentioned about the universe-world-wide threat. Are we talking about the mess with what’s coming with the big DC Event or something else? It’s unclear but, at this point, I’m shrugging thinking “Universe at stake? Must be Tuesday.”
Disclaimer: GeekDad received review copies of these comics for review purposes.