DC Comics: August 2, 2017- Deathstroke’s Team Notches a Victory

Deathstroke, Jericho, Wally West, Power Girl
Deathstroke’s Team, from Deathstroke #22, image via DC Comics

Is Deathstroke’s new team of young heroes less dysfunctional than the Teen Titans? Maybe, maybe not, but Slade Wilson is certainly less hands-on lately than Damian, especially in Deathstroke #22. Of course, he may be less trustworthy and more murderous. so there’s that.

Meanwhile, New Gods Special #1 tries to evoke King Kirby and mostly succeeds; Jess and Simon gain recruits in Green Lanterns #28; Gotham bleeds red (again) in Batman #28, and Ray loves the pitch black tone, while Corrina wonders why anyone would ever live in Gotham. On a lighter note, Lois, Clark, and Jon take a road trip that ends at the Gettysburg Battlefield in Superman #28 and if you don’t have to clear your throat or wipe away a tear after you read it, then you have a much harder heart than Corrina or Ray possess.

This, plus reviews of all of this week’s DC Comics.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW.

Grade A Issues: Ratings 9-10

Deathstroke #22 – Priest, Writer; Diogenes Neves, Penciller; Jason Paz, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Villain Reform Has Its Issues….

Ray: Priest’s multi-layered crime/espionage thriller in the disguise of a superhero comic continues to unfold with new elements being revealed every issue. The issue begins with the arrival in Chinatown of a mysterious new villain, a Hmong crime lord who may just have ties to Rose – given how much her heritage was used in this book so far, and how little we know about her real family, it seems almost inevitable. Meanwhile, Slade’s new team of teen superheroes, led into battle by Jericho, makes their debut in the small island nation that has taken US diplomats hostage. Despite the nation being a small tinpot dictatorship, it has some incredibly powerful defenses, in the form of the Radiant Men, powerful drones made of solid light. And that leads us to the real reason Slade is in this small nation.

I did not expect to see Doctor Light here. The character’s obviously kind of toxic due to his role in Identity Crisis, but Geoff Johns thankfully erased that part of his history in his New 52 Justice League run. It seems to have stuck, with Arthur Light being a man who has lost touch with humanity here – becoming something less than human due to the accident that gave him his powers and seeking refuge as a gun for hire for a dictator. The heart-to-heart he and Deathstroke have about how villainy has essentially destroyed their lives works much better than it has any right to. The young team acquits themselves nicely, and Power Girl, in particular, continues to shine in a way she never got to in Teen Titans. I’m not sure about Terra’s role in this book yet – it’s a mystery, but I think it’s supposed to be. Top-Notch as always.

Corrina: If Slade Wilson is after redemption, then Terra is possibly #1 on the list of Deathstroke’s biggest sins. Given that, it was inevitable that Terra would show up in this title. I’m only surprised at how long it’s taken but then Deathstroke had to make quite a journey to even get to this place where he considers changing. In a way, his actions in this title remind me of something Gail Simone said when she was writing Secret Six: that each of the characters in that title thought they could be heroes if just some small changes were made. Of course, Catman and Deadshot have this conversation about heroism while ignoring people being robbed within earshot. The point being that while Deathstroke talks a good game about redemption, he’s still killing people to set it up and that’s not going to end well or, more to the point, end with him being a hero. I suspect that he might turn into at least to an anti-hero, a mercenary with a code of ethics. That may well be as far as he goes.

That Priest makes me think about all this is awesome, especially since it would be enough if I only concentrated on the actions in the books, including the new team learning how to defeat all of Dr. Light’s duplicates. Light’sappearance was unexpected but I wonder if Priest remembers that the Teen Titans were rebooted in the mid-1970s in a story that featured Dr. Light as the villain. (This team later gave way to the more popular Wolfman/Perez Titans.)

I can only end this review as I end all reviews of Deathstroke: buy this book.

Green Lanterns #28 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Eduardo Pansica, Penciller; Eber Ferreira, Inker; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Jess & Simon As Teachers of the First Lanterns

Ray: It was announced today that Bryan Hitch is leaving Justice League in a few months to prepare for a new project, and when I was thinking of who I’d like to see take over, my first thought went to Sam Humphries. After all, he’s already shown he can do big, cosmic stories that never lose sight of the characters they’re about with this increasingly masterful book. And that’s never as clear as it is with this issue when he already makes us care about a group of characters who we’ve barely seen – the first Lanterns. The seventh and final member of this group is introduced as the issue opens, a Kryptonian captain whose exploratory crew barely survives a storm upon their departure, and whose determination to save her crew nabs her the final ring. Her will is directed towards one purpose – saving her crew – and it borders on obsession.

In the present day, the seven first lanterns descent on the planet Simon and Jessica are stranded on in the distant past, and while Jessica tries to introduce them and offer to train the rookie Lanterns, things do not go well. Not only do the Lanterns suspect Simon and Jessica are impostors, but they quickly start turning on each other in alternately dark and hilarious ways. They’re not a team. Kaja Dox is a wild card who just wants to get home and mess with her world. Calleen only cares about reviving her world, Z’kran is focused on revenge, Alitha and Brill are the adults in the room, and T’yran’r just wants to fight everyone. And Kryptonian Jan-Al? Her obsession boils over into a villainous act with horrific consequences, as not everyone survives the issue. In only a few scenes, each of these new Lanterns has become a fully fleshed-out, fascinating character, and their addition to this book has taken it up to a new level.

Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz, First Lanterns
Green Lanterns #28: Jess and Simon are stuck in the past. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: It appears that the ability to overcome great fear does not a hero necessarily make, at least not all by itself, as is made absolutely clear in this issue. It is kind of hilarious, in a dark way, as the First Lanterns prove that being afraid of nothing has some serious drawbacks, especially when uncoupled from morals. But there are Jess and Simon, newbies themselves, handling this new group without being overwhelmed. I gather that’s why we had to endure the training arc for both of them, so they could apply the lessons as teachers. (Are we going to see a reverse scene with Jess in Guy’s role as teacher to T’yran’r?) Will Simon now receive a First Lantern ring? And, if so, will he keep it?

Humphries taking over JL? I’m sure he absolutely could. But I’d hate to lose him on this title. I’d hate to lose this title, period, but I wonder if it will have a finite end, given how DC is pushing Hal Jordan in the movies. Hope not. Cannot wait to see Jess and Simon whip their new Lanterns into shape to take on Volthoom.

Superman #28 – Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Scott Godlewski, Artist; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: ::Sniff:: I Think There’s Something In My Eye

Ray: The second part of the interlude story “Declaration” delivers, with the Kent family’s vacation delivering some powerful emotional moments in a tribute to all the soldiers who fought and died for this country. Surprisingly, the crisis that took Clark away at the end of last issue isn’t followed up on. He resolved it overnight, and he’s back to spending time with his family. That was unexpected, but actually very welcome. Not every issue needs to have a big supervillain battle. The issue starts with Superman flying the family RV to Washington D.C., and after a slightly ham-fisted take on today’s political divide (although Lois has some great lines about the power of words and why they’re so important), the issue follows the family visiting war memorials. I was glad to see Lois get to share some of her family history here, as well.

The real emotional heart of the issue comes when the family is looking for Civil War memorial markers at Gettysburg and comes across a family having a picnic. It turns out that the family is honoring a relative – a young soldier who fought in the Civil War, and is one of the only soldiers whose body was never found, due to the way he died. This segment is really stark in its depiction of the brutality of war, but the way his family honors him is powerful. And what comes next is one of the most quintessentially Superman moments I can remember. It’s these little things that Superman can do, when he’s not fighting alien villains, that makes the character who he is. I don’t think anyone was expecting a family vacation story to be this compelling, but it’s one of the best stories this title has done so far.

Lois Lane, Jon Kent, Superman
Superman #28. Road Trip, Superman-style! image via DC Comics

Corrina: Props to Lois’s “I think you meant General Leia” comment but, as in Star Wars, an essential female character in Superman (namely Lois) has not nearly been given enough to do lately. Does that change in this book? Sorta but to focus on Lois this time somewhat defeats the purpose of this story, which finally does the “Superman road trips across America” right.

The first half, set in Washington, D.C., is a nice but basic history lesson that is elevated by the emphasis on the Korean War, and by the tribute to Kurt Lane, Lois’s long-dead uncle who was a casualty in Vietnam. The next part, however, with the family touring the Gettysburg battlefield, well, it snuck up on me, until I had a tear in my eye at the end. As Ray said, this is who Clark Kent is and should always be written as.

Batman #28 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; June Chung, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Why Does Anyone Live in Gotham?

Ray: The main story of the “War of Jokes and Riddles” resumes this issue, with Batman and Jim Gordon desperately trying to broker peace between the two madmen before things get completely out of control. Spoiler – it doesn’t work. The opening segment is a brilliantly tense scene in which Jim Gordon willingly heads into the lion’s den, meeting with each villain privately. These scenes are a bit uncomfortable, as we see the rather disturbing way both villains treat him – Joker sadistic for no purpose, Riddler confusing and enigmatic as always. And in the end, they both want only one thing – Batman. With the war escalating and the feds yet to make their appearance, Batman shifts his focus to one of the few remaining wild cards – Catwoman. And her presence is arguably the best thing in this issue. You can tell just how much King likes to write her and Bruce together.

Selina, as we know, isn’t a villain in the same sense as even Poison Ivy. More of a trickster, she wants nothing to do with either psychopath, and her initial interplay with Batman is ridiculously fun – as is their interaction in the present day. But then that flashback takes a turn for the seriously dark, as the war escalates again. The two assassins – Deathstroke and Deadshot, working for Riddler and Deathstroke respectively, go to war over Gotham in a brutal sniper battle that kills dozens of civilians in the crossfire. This unfolds in a brilliant multi-page segment that shows not only the carnage, but Batman’s deteriorating mental state as he confronts these sadistic hitmen and nearly breaks his ultimate vow. Not only is this comic brutal, but it’s slowly peeling away Batman’s sanity, which seems to be the point of King’s run. It’s not going to be for everyone – it’s almost unbearably intense at points – but it continues to work brilliantly for me.

Corrina: In my Bat-Comics reading of the last twenty years or so, Gotham has been declared a No Man’s Land wasteland after a Contagion wiped out a huge number of people, it’s been nearly drowned at the beginning of the age of heroes, it was cut off from society in Year Zero, and now it’s denizens are basically being slaughtered while the police are helpless and the National Guard can do nothing.

So I ask: why are people still living there? What’s left should only be the criminals after each other. And they should leave because, in a city where people die at the literal drop of a hate or a joke or a riddle, there are no customers even for vice. Gotham should be a Ghost Town. End. Of. Story.

If you take that rant to mean that this story is not my cup of tea, you would be right. The carnage has moved into something so over the top I can see my suspension of disbelief zipping past me, already a blip in my rear view mirror. Why is this comic then not in split decision? Because if you accept the premise or like to travel Ray’s road, he’s right, it is that good.

Shade the Changing Girl #11 – Cecil Castellucci, Writer; Marley Zarcone, Marguerite Sauvage, Artists; Ande Parks, Inker; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Ray: As this issue heads towards the finale of its first year before going on hiatus (hopefully) it delivers one of the best issues of the run – a trippy, emotional journey about the nature of life and death that also contains a massive, game-changing twist or two for its main character. When we last left Loma Shade, she was roaming the country in search of her hero, the now-elderly sitcom actress Honey Rich. She got there while Honey was still alive – but just barely, as the depressed old woman swallowed a fatal dose of pills. Desperate not to let her idol go, Loma grabs her spirit as it exits the old woman’s body – and in the process, the two switch bodies. Honey is none too happy to be pulled back from the oblivion she was seeking, but she is intrigued to see the world again in a new, younger body, and the two begin an odd final adventure.

Meanwhile, back on Loma’s homeworld, the consequences of her long tip to Earth become clear, as her alien body succumbs to the effects of being missing its soul, as well as villain Mellu’s experiments on her. Loma’s never coming home, not to her old body. And on Earth, Honey and Loma, in each other’s bodies, dress up and go out on the town (in a segment that involves paper dolls), but Honey is able to tell something even Loma didn’t know about her human body – Megan is pregnant, the result of a one-night stand with her boyfriend shortly after “Waking up”. The ensuing dialogue is hilarious, one of the best scenes of the series, but with two massive status quo changes for its main character, I’m very curious how writer Castellucci will wrap things up for volume one next issue. As always, the “Life With Honey” short is a cute, slight way to end the series after the mind-bending main narrative.

Grade B: Ratings: 7-8.5

New Gods Special #1 – Shane Davis, Walter Simonson, Writer/Artists; Michelle Delecki, Inker; Alex Sinclair, Laura Martin, Colorists

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Meant to Evoke Kirby

Ray: DC is celebrating the work of Jack Kirby this month, with four of these oversized one-shots to accompany the much-awaited premiere of Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle. First out of the gate is this issue focusing on the New Gods’ most powerful warrior, Orion. Both stories are by a writer/artist creator, leading off with a-list DC artist Shane Davis. His story pits Orion against his arch-nemesis, his brutish Apokaliptan brother Kalibak. I was pleasantly surprised to see Forager, currently starring in the mind-bending book that kicked off the Kirby revival, play a role here as he warns Orion and Lightray of Apokalips’ plan to declare war on New Genesis. From there, the story is a fairly straight-forward battle with some great action, and an intriguing subplot of Orion struggling to keep his dark side under control as his rage builds.

The second story, written and drawn by Walt Simonson, is a great chance to see an absolute legend at work. Orion and the lesser-known New God Seagrin descend deep into the seas to investigate a new evil coming from Apokalips. Simonson’s dialogue can be a bit dated when it comes to certain characters, but in a mythic theme like this (or his most famous book, Thor), it works perfectly. The two-page spread that reveals the monster they’re hunting is an amazing piece of work that shows why Simonson is considered one of the all-time greats in comic history. That DC managed to get him on board for this story is a real coup for them. But in case you were wondering, that’s not all! The issue ends with a couple of Kirby-drawn short stories featuring more obscure characters and a pair of pin-ups. A fitting first part of this tribute to Kirby’s legacy.

Corrina: If this was meant to evoke Kirby and his creation of the New Gods, it succeeds admirably in re-creating the tone of the original New Gods series, one that lasted only a brief period but, of course, has had a huge effect overall on the DC Universe. (If only Kirby was around to reap his rewards from seeing his creations on the big screen in the upcoming Justice League movie.) The first story reintroduces the audience to the duality of Orion and Kalibak, adopted sons who make the argument that nurture is more important than nature, though Orion naturally has to struggle with his worst self. I often wonder why Kalibak isn’t shown as being as sorely tempted to the good side as Orion is to the dark side. Nice cameo by Bug: The Forager (now in his own series) in this issue as well. I liked Bug’s book better but there’s much to be said for this one-shot.

Green Arrow #28 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Juan Ferreyra, Artist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Still “Nope.”

Ray: The best issue of the “Hard Traveling Hero” arc, and one of the best issues of the series, this story takes Ollie to Metropolis and brings him into contact with not one but two men wearing the S-shield. Last issue saw Ollie find out that Lex Luthor might have ties to the 9th Circle, so he’s charging into town looking for revenge for the carnage in DC last issue. He charges into Lexcorp and holds Luthor at arrow-point, charging him with collusion, but Luthor rebuts it cleanly. See, Luthor is corrupt, but he doesn’t get into bed with madmen who like to burn themselves. Meanwhile, things start going very bad in Metropolis, as people start spontaneously attempting suicide over shocking revelations about themselves. This forces Superman to rescue one person after another in a series of excellent segments.

Superman as angel of mercy is my favorite type, and watching him speed around the city and rescue one person after another is genuinely inspiring. Juan Ferreyra’s art is normally associated with the dark and macabre, but it works brilliantly here as this issue tends towards the light. With Superman having the catastrophe in hand, Luthor and Green Arrow are forced to work together to unravel the source of this crisis and figure out how to stop it. I’ve got to say, I’m really enjoying Luthor’s new turn towards the light here and in Action Comics – he’s not a “good guy” per se, but he’s honoring the suit he’s wearing. And Green Arrow’s talk with Superman worked really well. Only two pages of Emiko and Dinah, usually the best part of this title? Wanted more, but this story was compelling enough as is. Next issue, on to Gotham.

Corrina: Why is this here in the Grade A ratings? Because I remain unsold on this run. The only reason I enjoyed this issue was Luthor’s characterization, (And Ferreyra’s art.) Ollie continues to tell why he’s changed but the fact remains that while he’s on the run, he’s not doing the right thing, even if he is chasing the big overall conspiracy. No wonder Dinah won’t talk to him.

I liked the use of the app (damaging information plus depression) as a plot device to overcome, though it reminded me of similar app warfare in a recent Batgirl issue. Still, this issue is mostly interesting, and that’s more than I’ve said about this title in a while.

DC Comics Bombshells #32 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Aneke, Artists; J. Nanjan, Wendy Broome, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Grief & Loss & Love

Ray: It’s the penultimate issue of this fantastic series, and this issue is essentially a no-holds-barred showdown with the various villains of the series. It starts off with the best segment of the issue, as Kara Starikov is joined by her adoptive mother as they battle against the evil General Faora. Seeing Kara’s middle-aged Russian peasant mother slam a plane into a Kryptonian is great, and Kara’s reunion with her mother and father is one of the most powerful scenes of the issue, as is her telling off Kortni’s biological father. Watching Harley and Ivy lead the battle against Hugo Strange’s band of monstrous creatures is very entertaining, and seeing Swamp Thing enter the battlefield is a highlight. However, the starring role of the issue goes to Raven, and that’s where the issue flags a tiny bit.

The idea of a more human Trigon playing a Beauty and the Beast-style role in his relationship with Raven’s mother (and removing the creepiest elements of that courtship) was something nice, and I was looking forward to seeing Raven free him from what I assumed was mind control. However, this issue reveals that in fact he was never actually mind controlled – he just signed on willingly with Joker’s Daughter in his grief over the death of his wife. He’s certainly not as villainous as he was in the original continuity, but here he’s just kind of pathetic. We’ve seen Raven go rogue several times, turning into something more monstrous, so that cliffhanger lacks a bit of drama. Still, the smaller character moments in this issue are where it excels, and I’m excited to see the finale.

Kara, DC Bombshells
Family reunion in Bombshells #32, image via DC Comics

Corrina: “Son, listen, no one cares.” Harley smacking down Hugo Strange with her hammer, plus her quip about everyone having monsters “in this arc,” is probably the most fun Harley has been in this title, and it’s a nice breath of fresh air among all the family angst and darkness that comes forth in this story.

This issue is full of fascinating dialogue, especially Kara’s “But you loved her. You selfish, greedy, old blind fool. You…are not mine to forgive.” The overall theme is how one deals with love and loss and whether you let it consume you or let is redeem you, as it contrasts Kara’s forgiveness with Faora’s evil, and with Trigon’s failure to care for anything after his wife’s death, and Raven’s struggle to control her grief and rage. Raven does switch back and forth too many times, draining some of the tension from her struggle.

Injustice 2 #7 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Bruno Redondo, Penciller; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: The thing about the Injustice world is, no matter how many nice moments we get, horror and tragedy is never far behind and this title never lets us forget it. It brings a great sense of tension to this comic, but it’s also a bit hard to get attached to anyone because you know no one is ever safe. Although there are no significant deaths in this issue, it still takes the happy occasion of Green Arrow and Black Canary’s wedding and delivers some incredibly tense and brutal scenes. It opens with a grieving Jaime Reyes confronting Bruce at Ted Kord’s funeral, demanding to be part of the war against his killers. From there, Green Arrow visits the grave of his counterpart and asks Dinah to marry him immediately. The heroes spring into action and put together a wedding for the next day.

I loved some of the touches in the wedding prep. Wildcat showing up to walk Dinah down the aisle – and spar with her to get rid of the tension? Connor being just as hyper as ever in his role as ring bearer? Yes please. These are the kind of fun moments that Taylor excels at. Then things go to hell. Batman is pulled away as Damian attacks Wayne Manor to steal Alfred’s corpse so he can resurrect him in the Lazarus Pit. While this is real, it’s also a distraction by Ra’s so he can deploy the Suicide Squad to wage all-out war on the wedding. Green Arrow avoids the second death in this series thanks to a bulletproof vest, but Black Lightning and his family fall prey to a sneak attack and are taken hostage. The villains in this run are strong, although I hate that all of Harley’s character development from the first war seems to have been thrown away.

Corrina: Can we put Taylor on a book where he gets to write a happy ending? Pretty please. C’mon DC! (There’s your new Justice League writer, Ray.)

Nightwing #26 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: The Spy Is Back

Ray: In the aftermath of Dick’s nasty breakup with Shawn last issue, Nightwing heads back to the roots of the previous run as he teams up with his former partner Helena Bertinelli, now no longer head of SPYRAL and wearing her own costume as Huntress. I did enjoy her a lot more here than I do in Birds of Prey, and her interplay with Dick is great, but this issue suffered from apparently taking not one but two great characters and throwing them into villainy for no reason. The issue picks up with the funeral for Dick’s friend Giz, who was assassinated in an explosion after he got too close to the truth. Determined to find the killer, Dick is contacted by Huntress, who breaks into his apartment. He’s on the trail of crime lord Gianni Dracul, a vampire-fetishist villain who Helena would also love to take out.

Although there’s the expected bickering over their differences in crime-fighting style, the two former allies soon get into a smooth crime-fighting rhythm, and these segments of the issue are a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the segments starring Shawn and her former mentor Pigeon are a disaster. First Shawn is angry when she finds out Pigeon is trying to lure her back into crime, then she’s suddenly all in on going back to the life because she’s frustrated with her own situation. Shawn’s been a great character, but ever since the last arc began, she’s been derailed a lot. And then there’s the cliffhanger, which reveals that the real mastermind behind this issue’s events is SPYRAL Agent One (aka Tony the Tiger). A fan favorite from the last run and one of the few good Middle Eastern characters in comics, a heel turn for him would be extremely disappointing.

Nightwing #26, Huntress
FYI:..there’s also an entire page of Nightwing in the shower. image via DC Comics

Corrina: Helena’s return to this title, where she was reintroduced in yet another origin, is good news for the character, as she’s given better lines and a more in-depth characterization than her “angry” facade over in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. It’s still not the Helena Bertinelli personality from before the whole new 52 Reboot but I suppose I must get over that and focus who’s on the page now. So, here’s where I confess that I have enjoyed the Nightwing title much more than the Grayson title that preceded it and that was partially because I never warmed to this Helena much. Or Agent One/Tony the Tiger, for that matter. Seeley’s run on Nightwing has been more filled with emotion and contains a cleaner plot than the Grayson series.

So, great to see Dick thinking and exploring Helena’s real motives but, to me, that team-up took time away from Shawn’s story, as she seems to see-saw between opposite choices at the drop of a hat. I had thought that this relationship would end with Shawn walking far away from costumed-types, both good and evil, and I still hope that happens, but, so far, it seems like she might go back to her old ways. Ouch.

Justice League #26 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Oclair Albert, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Read This Before

Ray: Hitch is entering the last act of his Justice League run, it seems, and this new arc begins as several previous ones did – with yet another world-threatening disaster. This time, the story begins in the far-flung future, with original characters who seem to be the children of the Justice League – a beefy team leader who seems to be a fusion of Superman and Wonder Woman, two mysterious, white-eyed kids with ties to the Green Lanterns, a girl with a Cyborg motif and boom box based powers, and a female flash who seems like she might be Barry and Jessica’s kid. They’re joined by the daughter of Aquaman and the current queen of Atlantis. The world, however, is in total chaos and they find themselves going up against an evil, cyborg-ized Aquaman.

This fight scene is pretty brutal, but as with most of Hitch’s issues, it lacks any real context for us to get attached to. We’ve just met these characters a few pages ago, we don’t know much about any of them, and they’ve already been thrown into a huge fight scene. We learn about the kids’ powers as the issue goes on – the two Lantern kids seem to be able to channel any Lantern color, for instance – and they’re on a pilgrimage through the destroyed world, to the fallen Infinity Corp building, to try to repair what happened to their Earth. By the time the villain, Sovereign (who looks a lot like the current villain from Detective) shows up, and they escape in a portal to warn the Justice League (currently dealing with a terrible disaster of their own) that they’re going to cause the disaster, I’m vaguely intrigued, but not much else yet. It has big ideas, but I’m not sure they’ll come together.

Justice League #26, Bryan Hitch
Infinity Inc.? Maybe. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Much of Hitch’s run has been filled with imaginative threats to the Justice League, ones that seem big enough for the whole team to handle. Despite the flaws in the writing–such as endings that don’t always match the quality of the beginnings–I would never have used “derivative” to describe his stories.

Until this issue. Which is basically a rehash of every post-Apocalyptic future in which the children of heroes have to go back in time and recruit/stop the current heroes from doing something that will make the world go away. ARGH. I saw this first in X-Men’s classic Days of Future Past and that was pretty much the only story I needed along these lines. There is a glimmer of characterization in the teamwork with the new, young heroes, but any positive feeling I had ended when they landed at the JL’s feet and told them it was all their fault. Also, if this Wonder Man/Hunter character turns out to be the son of Superman and Wonder Woman, I will be so less than thrilled. I could have been up for a reboot/reimagining of Infinity Inc. But not this.

Bane: Conquest #4 – Chuck Dixon, Writer; Graham Nolan, Artist; Gregory Wright, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Decent

Ray: As this issue kicks off the second arc of Bane’s twelve-issue series, the story shifts tone and genre and introduces a new partner in crime for the lead anti-hero. With Batman heading off to Gotham to deal with his own problems, Bane is now going to be brought into conflict with Catwoman, as both of them set their sights on the same target with very different goals. The issue opens with Catwoman meeting up with her contact Dmitri in Russia, only to be betrayed and captured by Russian agents. As she’s interrogated by a not-very-intimidating agent who she plays perfectly, she’s recruited to rip off the Vor, a ruthless crime syndicate who later comes into play in Bane’s story as well. Bane, meanwhile, has settled into his new base with his ally/hostage Dionysus.

The scenes involving this shrunken evil cyborg are the issue’s least-interesting, as he’s not exactly a great character and feels more like a stock annoyance for Bane to deal with. The two villains get into a battle of wills that culminates with them playing chess while Bane works out. However, then they agree that their next game will be picking a crime syndicate and destroying it. Bane picks the Vor, and that leads Bane and Catwoman on a collision course. While these two anti-heroes facing off has promise, the problem with this series is that the antagonists don’t live up to the promise of the lead. Bane can be a fantastic villain and a strong anti-hero, but he needs opponents up to his caliber.

Corrina:  This second plot arc seems only an excuse for another big action confrontation and, that’s okay, I suppose, but I had to sigh at the fact that Bane taking on the Vor was a result of a bet with a mastermind who obviously can never, ever be trusted. Dionysus’s inevitable betrayal only makes Bane seem stupid, and that brings the quality of the issue down.

As for Catwoman, she’s handled well enough, and the interrogation scene is a good bit of fun. But I suspect she’s only there because, hey, Bane/Catwoman team-up. Can’t argue too much with that. Note: I had to smile at the use of “the Vor,” which I’m more familiar with from Lois McMaster Bujold’s SF series, the Vorkosigan Saga. In that series, the Vor are the nobility of the series’s main planet. But they’re a shifty, unpredictable bunch, nevertheless.

Cyborg #15 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Cliff Richards, Will Conrad, Artists; Ivan Nunes, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: What’s Real?

Ray: Cyborg’s journey through the alternate timelines continue, as he battles to save the world that has been overrun by technozombies before the plague can infect his own. The reveal last issue that Cyborg’s mother is the head of the resistance in this world is pretty interesting, but it’s clear that she’s not interested in a mother-son relationship. Her own son died in battle shortly after his father. Meanwhile, Cyborg has his own issues with his technology, as it continues to backfire and send him into weird visions of a world made entirely out of data. Much like last issue, occasionally he’ll be sent into battle against a giant robot, or get a cryptic visit from someone wearing the face of his old friend Blue. Cliff Richards and Will Conrad do a great job on art in these moments.

At the halfway point of the issue, Cyborg and his team head into the fray to try to get a potential antidote to the techno-virus, but encounter DC heroes the Metal Men, here reprogrammed in the service of the robot army. It’s supporting cast member Exxy who gets to play the starring role here, in a nice twist – but not for long, before the real villain reveals himself. We’re a little over a year in on what’s now DC’s lowest-selling Rebirth title, and a clear picture is emerging – this title has scattered interesting ideas, promising characters, and strong art, but it just doesn’t come together into a consistently compelling title.

Cyborg #15
Things never seem to end well for Silas Stone. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Is Vic really zooming through an alternate timeline or is he playing yet another virtual reality game in his head? Seems to me that this issue heavily hints it’s the virtual reality game, perhaps being used by Anamoly to torture him into allowing another planet to die. The other Cyborg’s appearance at the end seemed much like Luke seeing his own face in the cave in Empire Strikes Back, which meant the appearance of the other Cyborg wasn’t a surprise.

I like this series more than Ray but he’s right in that the quality veers wildly from issue to issue. But, hey, Exxy finally does something interesting and I’ll take that. I only hope we wrap up this whole Anamoly/alternate reality thing soon.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.

Reviewer, comic book writer, and the author of Alex Actonn, Son of Two Seas - novel available on Amazon now! DC superfan who is loving everything about Rebirth. Feels very strongly about Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and Young Justice. Can also be found on Graphic Policy doing sales analysis with Glenn Matchett, and on the Rabbitt Stew Podcast with Glenn and Brandon James.