DC This Week – August 16, 2017: Many Happy Returns in “Metal”

Dark Nights: Metal, Snyder & Capullo
Dark Nights: Metal #1, cover via DC Comics

Any other week, as the end of the first series of the fantastic DC Bombshells comic or a poignant and terrific comic tribute to Jack Kirby, Jack Kirby’s The Sandman Oversize Special #1, would lead our list. But, of course, it’s Metal Week, at DC with the debut of Dark Knights: Metal #1.

Ray is enthused about it, Corrina not so much.

Other issues of note: Bruce Wayne has dinner (really!) with the Joker and the Riddler in Batman #29; Green Lanterns #29, in which Simon and Jess whip the First Lanterns into shape; Super-Sons #7, a Teen Titans team-up issue; Future Quest Presents Space Ghost #1 provides background to Space Ghost’s mission; and Kate Kane needs to change the future in Batwoman #6.

Plus reviews of all this week’s DC Comics!

Warning: Spoilers for all of this week’s DC Comics below.

It’s Metal Time: Dark Heroes Assemble

Dark Nights: Metal #1 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Greg Capullo, Penciller; Jonathan Glapion, Penciller; FCD Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Curmudgeon Here

Ray: This hotly anticipated event comic is a thriller, almost overwhelming read at times, in that it seems to aim to stun you with twists, information, and shocking moments at every turn – not to mention crazy action sequences and set pieces that feel like something out of the most awesome action figure playtime ever. The issue begins in a slightly jarring fashion, as after a one-page prologue set in the stone age and setting up the terrible clan of villains that is coming, it throws you into a Justice League battle with no setup. They’ve been captured, bound in armor designed to neutralize their powers, and forced by Mongul to fight creations of his hostage Hiro (Toyman 2.). So it’s Justice League vs. robot monsters, and Batman’s solution…is to let the robots eat them. I don’t want to spoil what the point of this is, but suffice it to say it’s some of the most fun I’ve had reading a comic in a while.

After the fight is won, the League returns to Earth (Hal Jordan is replacing the two current Earth Lanterns for this story, due to his close ties to the Guardians), only to see that something is very, very wrong. Challengers Mountain has appeared, seemingly inexplicably, in the middle of Gotham, devastating the city. They enter the strange door in the mountain, and come across artifacts from throughout DC history – including an inert Red Tornado – before being confronted by the Blackhawks. However, while the return of Lady Blackhawk has me excited, she’s not who she’s supposed to be – she’s actually a character who people have been complaining about her absence from this story quite a bit. It’s Kendra Saunders, better known as Hawkgirl (and looking more like her Earth 2 version in terms of skin tone). She escorts the League (with Hal and Cyborg sensing the same terrible energy Hal detected in the Batcave) to Blackhawk Island.

This is where the series might become a bit too much of an infodump for some people (although not for me) as the history of Nth Metal, the Bat clan, and how these two things affected the DCU are explained, as well as our first hints at the Dark Multiverse. This story, in many ways, feels like Snyder’s tribute to Morrison’s bizarre gonzo Bat-run, which had much more of a high-adventure/supernatural vibe to it. It seems like it all might come down to the evil Bat-god Barbatos, for instance, and Bruce’s role in that prophecy. Bruce, however, is clearly not mentally well, and rather than being directed away from his current path, he flees (on a raptor!) and heads back to Wayne Manor. And that is where the moment that everyone will be talking about happens – the arrival of Daniel, better known as Dream of the Endless. Not quite the wild twist that was the end of Rebirth, but close (and the odds are very good that Gaiman was directly involved here). Is it a perfect first issue? No, its ambition may make it a tiny bit clunky at times. Did I have more fun, and have more excitement than I did reading any event comic in years, though? Absolutely. We’re in for a hell of a ride.

Dark Knights: Metal #1
The Justice League is Voltron. That is all. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: I attended both the DC Rebirth and DC Metal panels at Boston Comic Con last weekend. Snyder wasn’t there in person but he was on the conference call. Others at the panels included Joshua Williamson, DC editor Brian Cunningham, David Finch, Peter Tomasi, artists John Timms and John Romita Jr., and, of course, Tom King. Metal was, naturally, somewhat the talk of the panel. The general consensus from the panelists: they wanted comics to be big and awesome and fun again, like Batman riding a dinosaur. (Though I think Neal Adams beat them to that last one.) So they were enthused about it, naturally.

Having read this first issue, and the other prequels, I can see where they’re coming from and I can see that they’re thrown their all into it, taking it up a notch over Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was a notch above all the Crisis on Multiple Earths team-ups from the 1970s. And, lest we forgot, there was Grant Morrison’s crazy and sometimes indecipherable Final Crisis mini-series that included Superman singing the world back into existence.

So, where does Metal fit into all that? Hey, remember, dark multiverse! Um, okay.

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I’m going to take the plunge and say despite the quality, the wavelength these creators are on is not the one I’m on, so much so that I was bored with this issue. Aha, I see we have a secret diary, and narration of foreboding and people not talking to each other when they should and, of course, the door to evil stuff opens. The end page with Dream seemed just another random element tossed in there. Let me use a good, recent comparison to the kind of wild DC ride I enjoy: Bug: The Forager. That comic is busy jumping all over the multiverse, examining all the weirdness of the DCU, and jumping into Dreamspace too, and I enjoy the heck out of it.

But not Metal. Whether it’s because it’s too obviously inspired by the EXTREME era of the 1990s (which I’m not nostalgic for) or whether it’s yet another “let’s level up the multiverse” story, I don’t know. But it’s not my thing and this didn’t sell me on it in the least. I mean, the Transformer Justice League was pretty cool but, hey, Mark Waid in JLA: Year One had a similar combination of powers too. It’s a cool thing but one cool thing does not make a prestige event for me.

So, those of you who enjoy it, knock yourself out, as the creators involved are hella talented. Those of you who feel like me, know ya’ll have company.

Grade A Issues: Overall Ratings 9-10

Jack Kirby’s The Sandman Oversize Special #1 – Dan Jurgens, Steve Orlando, Writers; Jon Bogdanove, Artist; Rick Leonardi, Penciller; Dan Green, Inker; Madpencil, Steve Buccellato, Colorists

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: The King Lives!

The Sandman Special #1
Enter the dreamscape with Sandman. Image via DC Comics

Ray: I would not want to be the guys having to do the second-most buzzed about Sandman-related comic this week, but Jurgens and Orlando – two writers who have shown great skill on a variety of DC properties – do a great job with the third Jack Kirby tribute special this month. This isn’t Morpheus, Daniel, or even Wesley Dodds, but an obscure version of the Sandman who fights dream demons to protect people from their nightmares becoming real, although some people may know him already from his recent appearance in Bug!

The first story, by old-school writer Dan Jurgens, is a highly entertaining, surreal romp as Sandman and his odd team of captured dream monsters who reluctantly help him fight are tasked to defend a young boy with a powerful imagination from his own creations. They get some assist, though, from a mysterious armored mute hero who shows up out of nowhere to help defend the boy. The twist ending of the issue is a perfect tribute to the man behind the character, and it’s probably my single favorite story from this wave of specials.

The second story, by Steve Orlando and Rick Leonardi, has a similar theme of Sandman trying to protect a person from the creatures coming from their mind, but here it’s not a boy, it’s a young man consumed with grief over losing his grandfather without saying goodbye. Sandman’s arch-nemesis, Psycho-Pomp, makes an appearance conducting a hellish wild west train in the dreamscape, which makes this a more surreal story than the first, but still very satisfying with a nice, emotional coda. Two strong stories and the Kirby backups featuring the DNA Project were an interesting look at some of his more bizarre creations!

Corrina: Aha! This read exactly what a Jack Kirby tribute comic should be! So far, it’s my favorite of the bunch, especially because how lovingly this creative team went for the Kirby vibe. And if you don’t get choked up about comics in the last page of the first story, well, what’s wrong with your heart?

The second story is more surreal but it’s also intense emotionally, taking this wild crazy Kirby comics and bringing out why they emotionally resonate, and did resonate, with young children in the past, and probably in the future.

The King Lives On.

Future Quest Presents Space Ghost #1 – Jeff Parker, Writer; Ariel Olivetti, Artist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Continued Quality

Ray: Future Quest was the most enjoyable of the Hanna-Barberra revamps by a mile, perfectly fusing an old-school aesthetic with exciting modern storytelling and staying true to the characters. Now, the adventure continues with this anthology series by original series writer Jeff Parker and former series fill-in artist Ariel Olivetti. Johnny Quest and company are still back on Earth, so the series shifts to the spacefaring adventures of Space Ghost, his sidekicks, and their allies the Herculoids. The issue opens with a group of cruel alien pirates in the process of shaking down a planet, only to be foiled by Space Ghost in an exciting showdown that nicely shows off his varied powers. His young sidekicks, meanwhile, are still in school – which looks a lot more exciting than it sounds, thanks to futuristic simulations of other planets.

Where this issue really excels is in how it takes these out-there characters and manages to infuse them with some real emotion and a sense of loss as the kids talk about their parents, or (in the story’s best segment) Space Ghost walks through his ship and imagines the way it was before he lost all his former crewmen. The tone doesn’t stay dour for long, though, as they’re off to another planet to meet with the Herculoids. They’re in search of an ancient element that could give them a massive power boost, but that will involve heading into a dangerous mine where a villain is waiting. The story is nothing groundbreaking, but just like the main series did, it pulls you in with a sense of high adventure. And while Olivetti’s art can sometimes seem a little stiff on superhero work, it’s note perfect for a fantasy space adventure. So glad to have Future Quest back.

Future Quest Presents #1
SPACE GHOOOOOOOOOOST!. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: What’s been amazing about Future Quest is that the creators have taken two-dimensional concepts and made them three-dimensional without ever losing the joy of the originals in the process. Knowing Space Ghost’s history as he remembers what once was hit hards without ever taking from Space Ghost attacking the pirates at the beginning of the issue, an action sequence which could have come right from the original cartoon.

Nice to see the Herculoids again, another property whose history has been expanded and its all to the good. Like Ray, I’m thrilled to have this comic back.

Batman #29 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; Hugo Petrus, Inker; June Chung, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: I Don’t Get It.

Ray: The best writers can wring tension out of almost any setting. For Tom King, that includes a formal dinner party in this stand-alone issue of The War of Jokes and Riddles, which is almost totally free of violence and yet has menace dripping off every page. Desperate to end the way and rattled by his own near-murder of Deadshot, Bruce Wayne has decided to bring an end to the war using his superpower – money. Inviting Riddler, Joker, and their elite guard to the Manor for a nine-course formal dinner, he attempts to bring an end to the war – not by brokering peace, but by offering to join their war against Batman. Over Hors D’oeuvres, Riddler cracks up over a terrible joke. Over soup, Bruce lays out his determination to bring an end to the war, and over fish, the dueling sadists nearly come to violence as Joker takes offense to Riddler’s assessment.

That’s when Bruce makes his play, over the meat course, as he asks them why they’re so obsessed over Batman, leading to one of Janin’s brilliant two-page spreads. Riddler lays out his sadistic, involved plan to dispose of Batman, while Joker’s plan is more brutal, and oddly not funny at all. Over sorbet, Bruce challenges the two villains to explain why they should get the chance to kill Batman, and he’ll give a billion dollars to the winner to help them win the war. Riddler’s case over salad is studied and obsessive, while Joker’s cheese plate case is hilariously meta. The two villains leave peacefully after dessert, and the final course is just Bruce, with coffee, alone, as he tries to make his decision about who to support to bring the war to the end, and grapples with losing his soul in the process. It’s a brilliantly tense, almost poetic issue that is among this run’s finest issues.

Corrina: King said at Boston Comic Con that this issue was the first he’s written that was too a higher maturity rating. He was surprised by that because it’s an issue that is not as violent as the others. And, yet, I get it, because I read the issue before it came out Wednesday. The message of this comic seems to be that good people are helpless before evil and violence, and the only thing one can do with evil is negotiating with it and hope it sees reasons.

I suspect that Bruce’s little dinner party perhaps is the part of the story that’s a prelude to Bruce having to up the level of his own violence to protect citizens. It’s hard to tell where King is going because he’s not predictable and that’s part of what makes his stories so fascinating. However, it’s hard to read a Batman comic where he literally concludes he can do nothing to help Gotham City except make Riddler and Joker hold to a truce. I guess it’s sorta of like forcing Hitler and Stalin to sit down and agree to stop killing each other? It doesn’t work, naturally, and I’m not sure Bruce (or the creative team) wanted us to think it would. Still, it struck me as the wrong tact to take in a superhero comic because it’s so without hope.

It certainly struck me as more nihilistic than anything Frank Miller did. So, no, this one’s not to my taste either. Perhaps I’ll have a different opinion at the end of this story.

Batman #29
Dinner with Villains. Image via DC Comics

Green Lanterns #29 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Eduardo Pansica, Penciller; Julio Ferreira, Inker; Alex Sollazzo, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Going Cosmic In Style

Ray: It’s boot camp for the first Lanterns, as Jessica and the mostly powerless Simon attempt to turn them from confused rookies into legitimate Lanterns in time to take the way to Volthoom. There’s just one problem – none of them know even the basics of how to use a ring, because no one in history has ever used one before. This leads to some really interesting segments as their powers start to manifest in different ways, giving them different powers first based on their personality. Tyran’r just wants to fight, which actually makes him the most natural at the ring – he conjures a sword almost immediately – but the problem is he doesn’t want to learn anything beyond that. Brill also gets the hang of it quickly, conjuring complex but literal constructs, while Kaja doesn’t learn to fly until she thinks about the things back home she truly cares about.

Green Lanterns #29
Green Lantern growing pains. Image via DC Comics

Alitha, the powerful New God, is only motivated by her sense of duty, which leads her to absorb the power into herself, “Hulking Out” in a sense. It’s a great visual. Others are motivated by justice, or life, or whatever they hold most dear. Much like last issue, this is a great way to get to know these rookies, but they still have a lack of motivation to join forces and risk their lives against Volthoom. However, Simon still has one power left – Emerald Sight, which shows him Volthoom laying waste to a planet to send a message to the Guardians. It’s a brutal segment which firmly establishes him as one of the most dangerous villains in the DCU. Visiting the ruins finally unites the Lanterns as a team, and the issue ends with their first oath as they prepare to go to war. This title just keeps on expanding its mythology in ways we haven’t seen since Johns’ heyday.

Corrina: I agree, this title has gone cosmic in the last arc. Initially, I was concerned that would take the human element away from this series, but with these past two issues and the training of the First Lanterns, that fear has turned out to be groundless. Not only has it featured teamwork between Simon and Jessica, but we gain new insight into them as we see them train the First Lanterns.

And it’s damned hard to introduce a whole slew of new characters, especially Lanterns when there is already such a variety, but all of the First Lanterns have interesting elements to their personalities and they’re not interchangeable. I’m looking forward to their big climactic battle with Volthoom.

Injustice 2 #8 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Bruno Redondo, Penciller; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Ray: Somehow, the Injusticeverse has gone from a grim-and-gritty 90s pastiche to a universe that embraces more of the offbeat corners of the DCU than even the real one does at points. The issue doesn’t start out as a standout, with a first segment that has some strong moments, but otherwise mainly sets the stage. Ollie and Dinah’s son, along with Black Lightning’s daughters, have been kidnapped by agents of Ra’s Al Ghul. Damian has also resurrected Alfred – but the old man’s come back as a brain-damaged zombie, something Damian refuses to accept. Ra’s blackmails the League to ensure their non-interference, but the tracker Batman placed in Connor allows him to find their general location. Although Ollie and Bruce have it out, Bruce proceeds with his plans. I also liked Harley playing babysitter and keeping the kids safe from Ra’s.

Then the issue takes a brilliant side turn halfway through, as Bruce heads to find his secret weapon – Plastic Man. He first finds Plastic Man’s son, Luke (better known as Offspring) and what ensues is one of the funniest segments I’ve ever read in a comic book, as Offspring shape-shifts into one ridiculous thing after another as Bruce calmly pursues him and identifies everything he’s turned into with savant-level skill. That then leads to Plastic Man finally being revealed – and he was in plain sight all along, which indicates just how good he is. Although he’s skeptical about joining up with Batman, he agrees just to protect his son (who is gung-ho about the resistance). They’re joined by a grieving Jaime Reyes, looking for revenge for Ted, and I cannot wait to see what this bizarre infiltration squad gets up to next issue.

Corrina: Why is this happier than the current DCU? Just an idle question.

Injustice #8
It makes sense in context. Image via DC Comics

Batwoman #6 – Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Writers; Renato Arlem, Artist; Adriano Lucas, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Double Curmudgeon

Ray: James Tynion IV has one more issue on this title as cowriter, and the reason why becomes clear by the end of this wild flash-forward. At the end of the debut issue, we saw a future version of Kate Kane leading a militarized warship and serving as leader of the Colony. Most people assumed that to mean she takes a heel-turn at some point in the future, but the actual truth as revealed this issue is a lot more complicated. No, the future that Kate comes from is a dark world, where Gotham City lives as a police state under the watchful eye and ruthless rule of the new Batman. Kate is one of the few still trying to resist, alongside her partner and eye in the sky, a one-eyed, hobbled Jason Todd. Both are determined to take down this new Batman before he goes any further. That quest sends Kate into the city, where she’s expressly forbidden to tread.

It also sends her to one of the few people in this city she trusts – Commissioner Renee Montoya, who’s waging a lonely fight along with Harvey Bullock in what’s essentially Gotham City’s DMZ. As someone who always thought Kate and Renee were the most interesting pairing in this title’s history, seeing these two reunite briefly in the future makes me happy (and it also makes me happy that Bennett and Tynion don’t have the bullet Renee takes later in the issue be fatal). Renato Arlem’s art has a grim, Judge Dredd-accented style that works very well for this issue, even if it’s clearly not as effective as the brilliant work of Steve Epting. And then there’s the reveal of the new Batman’s identity, which sends this story careening into a November arc of Detective Comics. One arc in, this title has given us more questions than answers, but it definitely makes me excited to get those answers.

Corrina: One, I guessed that Tim Drake was the Batman in question the minute the drones showed up. If I was supposed to be surprised, I was not. Two, wow, yet another landscape in which Gotham gets worse, the world becomes worse, and someone apparently has to come back/go to the future to fix it so it never happens. (Writers, never expect me to believe in your future in the least bit if your first step is to kill off Bruce Wayne.) Probably, the writers know that and thought this might be a great chance to showcase aspects of Kate Kane’s life, particularly the relationship with Renee Montoya.

But I’m just done with post-apocalyptic Bat-futures. Really so done. (Once again, beautiful art and the story does exactly what the team wants it to do, so if you like this kind of Bat-story, this is for you, which is why it’s in the Grade A section and not Good/Bad.)

Batwoman #6
Kate Kane goes to war. Image via DC Comics

Good/Bad Ratings: You Decide

Superman #29 – Keith Champagne, Writer; Doug Mahnke, Artist; Wil Quintana, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Two of My Least Favorite Plotlines In One

Ray: Champagne steps in for regular writers Tomasi and Gleason on this two-part story, and the result actually matches up very well with the tone of the main series, while bringing in a little Green Lantern mythology in the process. The issue opens with a creepy segment where a young boy comes across an odd yellow insect while exploring an abandoned building – and quickly regrets ever touching the creature. The story then picks up weeks later with Superman combing the city for a rash of missing children, as he meets with the parents nightly to update them – but the disappearances continue nightly. The boy who disappeared first, Zee, appears to a little girl and promptly lures her into joining him, displaying a horrible mouth full of fangs in a scene that reminded me a bit of the brilliant “It”.

Superman finally gets a clue when he finds tracks bearing a strange yellow energy, and is able to find the two kids. However, they both display strange powers of yellow energy when he tries to bring them home, and are able to knock him out and escape. He traces them, eventually finding the boy, Zee, with a group of children cocooned up in a fear web. Although he originally suspected Sinestro, it soon becomes clear it’s something much worse – the fear entity Parallax. Seeing Mahnke draw this monster again is worth the price of admission alone, and the showdown that eventually has Superman sacrifice himself and become Parallax – a scene, unfortunately, spoiled on the cover – is a great twist. However, the arrival of Sinestro at the end? That seems out of step with the character’s current status quo. Overall, though, a great, horror-influenced kick-off to a story that maybe should have waited for October.

Corrina: Mind, this is not a bad comic, I just disagree that it’s of the quality of the rating that Ray gave. It has two the most overused plotlines in comics: missing and endangered kids and the Big Yellow Fear Monster, aka Parallax. Oh, and Sinestro’s appearance at the end does not help. Ray probably upped the grade because he likes both but I don’t and feel it’s been overused, so here we are.

I like Superman being concerned with missing children and the emphasis on the parents’ agony, which felt real, and real emotion is to be prized in a story. It’s just the other elements are blah for me.

Green Arrow #29 – Benjamin Percy, writer; Juan Ferreyra, Artist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Hey! Yet Another Hero Yells At Ollie

Ray: Ollie’s road trip heads for Gotham this issue, in a story that brings him into conflict with two different ruthless elite murder groups – not to mention a certain billionaire detective. Ferreyra’s art is horrific as always – in a good way – from the opening panel of a murder victim. Meanwhile, Oliver’s arrived in Gotham, and is using his charm to worm his way into the good graces of Gotham’s shady money men, getting himself an invitation to an underground hunting grounds run by none other than the Court of Owls. As the sadistic talons set up the night’s hunt with kidnapped civilians, Ollie infiltrates as a Talon, takes out the lead Owl, and sets off into the labyrinth to rescue the hostages. Batman, meanwhile, has been tracking the victims and has made his way to the same place.

Ollie’s meet-ups with his fellow heroes have often been less than friendly, but the tension with Batman is through the roof from the start. They don’t trust each other, and Ollie’s brash nature – and knowledge of Batman’s secret ID – lets him go for the jugular right away with a barb that would have earned him a broken jaw if it wasn’t for the arrival of one of the 9th Circle’s lieutenants. Working together to defeat the fire-spitting maniac allows Bruce and Ollie to develop a partnership at least in the field of combat. The characterization for both is great here, as is the art and the villain’s set pieces. Always love when the labyrinth shows up. But the last page – the only page where characters besides Bruce and Ollie appear – has some big reveals that send the story careening in a new direction. This remains the best arc of the series.

Corrina: I need to bow out of reviewing this book because not once does the dialogue do anything for me, nor does the inclusion of the Court of Owls, nor does how Ollie is going to take down this vast conspiracy by himself, when he’s on the run from a murder charge, make any sense at all to me.

Nope, not even the return of the goatee will change my mind. Unlike the Superman issue this week, none of my emotions were engaged in this one.

Solid Comics: Grades 8-9

Nightwing #27 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Who’s the Bad Guy? Hard to Tell

Ray: After an issue that saw not one but two allies of Dick Grayson take a sharp heel turn, this issue does a lot of good work in erasing that bad taste – on one front, at least. This isn’t so much an issue of Nightwing, as an epic, high-octane epilogue to Grayson, as one old friend after other returns. The issue opens with Nightwing and Helena under attack from Agent Tiger, who has seemingly gone rogue and is hunting his former agents, and his elite team of super powered agents. Dick and Helena are quickly outmatched, and Helena essentially tells Dick they can’t win this fight – until they get a saving salvo from some old allies of theirs – Helena’s former pupils, the Skullgirls. The St. Hadrian’s setting was one of the most fun parts of Grayson, so great to see them again.

There’s only three this time, though, as one has been kidnapped by Tiger after fighting back against him. She’s still alive, and the team decides to mount a rescue in the school they used to call home. Meanwhile, the plots back in Bludhaven are a mixed bag. I liked seeing Mouse turn into a hero in her own right, infiltrating Blockbuster’s casino and pulling off a daring skyscraper climb to rescue her friend, but I’m increasingly uninterested in Shawn’s bad life choices. Pigeon is clearly a toxic friend urging her to cut out all better influences from her life, and Shawn isn’t stupid. She should be able to see through this poison, and I’m still not sure why she’s so angry at Dick anyway. Because he doesn’t want to be a dockworker? But the ending of the issue, in the basement of St. Hadrian’s, is a non-stop thrill ride of one twist after another. That’s how you leave people hanging for the next issue.

Corrina: The spy stuff has never been quite to my liking, and with Helena showing up, I’m confused because of her presence in Birds of Prey who she’s supposed to be. Is she the woman driven by her mobster family’s murders who joined SPYRAL to fight evil? Wait, wasn’t SPYRAL evil? Or at least a shade of gray? If they were the good guys, why did Dick infiltrate them in the first place?

All these questions ran around in my brain as I was reading the issue, which was distracting, and probably distracted me from what I enjoyed about the issue. So, good that Tiger isn’t evil. Good to see Dick and Helena team-up again. Also good for the spotlight on Mouse, though I can’t help thinking why this story was given to Mouse, which Shawn is stuck in the “maybe I’m really just a villain” plot? So, back to pondering.

Nightwing #27
Spy Games, Nightwing-style. Image via DC Comics

DC Comics Bombshells #33 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Sandy Jarrell, Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Artists; Kelly Fitzpatrick, J. Nanjan, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Aw…that Epilogue

DC Comics Bombshells #33
An ending, and a new beginning. Image via DC Comics

Ray: It’s the final issue of this series – for two weeks at least, before season two begins and introduces a host of new characters and storylines – and this finale brings all out war. And with war, comes death, of both heroes and villains. There’s a lot to wrap up this issue, and at times it sort of collapses under the weight of all its dangling plot threads before wrapping up with a thoroughly satisfying coda. As the issue opens, Raven is raging out of control, her demon heritage taking her over in the aftermath of her father’s death. As Zatanna and Constantine desperately try to bring their foster daughter back from the brink, Reaper takes the opportunity to finally get her revenge on the evil Hugo Strange, dispatching him – only to be caught unaware and killed off by Killer Frost, which enrages Lois.

But the biggest threat in this issue, undoubtedly, is Faora, who gets her hands on the magical power she was seeking from Raven, and fusing it with dark science, transforms herself into the ultimate weapon – Doomsday. This origin, Doomsday being a mad science experiment of an evil Kryptonian, seems to be getting popularity, and I’m kind of iffy on it. Kara struggling with her decision whether to kill her nemesis or not was good, but I’m not sure why this title keeps on falling back on blood sacrifice being needed to stop great evil, or why Kara’s family keeps paying the price. This issue leaves her in a really bad place, poor girl. However, the final chapter, catching up with everyone in the aftermath of the war, was a sweet ending to one of the best alternate universes DC has ever given us. Can’t wait for Volume Two.

Corrina: Kara’s family, I guess, felt bad for not being honest and they were already fighters before they were Kara’s parents, so I suppose it makes sense that they pay the ultimate price. But, yeah, Kara is pretty lost there at the end. Perhaps that’s why the New Power Girl and Superman were created, to give her a family?

Doomsday. I guess so long as you bring in Kryptonians, Doomsday is inevitable. I’m glad to see Doomsday go down to defeat in just one issue because the mindless creator of destruction tends to bore me. We had just enough in this comic. And I’m not sure if this comic is hinting at Lois/Kara or not but their relationship works, platonic ornot. Excellent series and I’m thrilled it will continue.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #11 – Gerard Way, Jon Rivera, Writers; Michael Avon Oeming, Artist; Nick Filardi, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Um, Can We Talk About the Demon…Appendages?

Ray: It’s the penultimate issue of the first run in this mind-bending Young Animal book, as Cave’s emotional quest reaches a disturbing coda. The alternate Cave he encountered, along with the morally questionable Dr. Magnus, have revealed the purpose of their experiments – they’ve resurrected Cave’s dead wife Mazra as a simulacrum, rather similar to Red Tornado. It’s based on her brain patterns, but it’s not her, and Cave’s reaction to seeing her for the first time is pure rage. He attacks his counterpart, while Chloe is caught between revulsion and fascination. Meanwhile, there’s no time to debate the moral implications of this twist, as the massive monsters spawned from the twisted experiments of Cave’s nemesis are descending on the heroes. These segments are probably the weakest – while the art is gorgeous, not much about the villains makes sense.

With the entire universe at risk, the dueling scientists are forced to put their mutual dislike aside for the time being and form a plan that includes the robotic Mazra – one of the only beings that can survive a confrontation with these eldritch abominations. Once the issue hits the halfway point, it becomes a very fast read, with lots of full-page spreads of the heroes going to war against the monsters. Mazra turns out to be incredibly powerful, and also seems to be more than just a simulacrum, showing reactions that leave Cave shell-shocked. Is the real Mazra buried in there? We’ll see next issue, but this issue is a wild, gorgeous ride with a lot of unanswered questions as Cave gets ready to make one final, daring leap into the unknown. We can just hope that Snyder’s upcoming Challengers reboot captures the spirit of high adventure as well as this book does.

Corrina: The attacking monsters/demons have weaponized breasts and penises! They do, ya know. I was going to complain about the horned/weaponized boobies but then I saw the penis one and went, hey, equal opportunity. So, there you go. Kudos to Oeming!

But on the story, it’s less weird this issue than the last couple of issues (seriously, it is) and more grounded in Cave’s anger at being so manipulated and his mixed emotions about his “wife.” His daughter is in the same place, though at least she still has Johnny around. Damn, I love this comic.

Wonder Woman #28 – Shea Fontana, Writer; David Messina, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Diana and Etta Bond

Wonder Woman #28
Diana and Etta vs. the world. Image via DC Comics

Ray: Fontana’s arc continues, bringing in some seriously obscure villains from Wonder Woman’s lore. The issue starts strong, with Diana’s compassion on full display, from her visit to the grave of her former enemy Dr. Crawford, to her attempts to console a grieving woman in the hospital room as she waits for Etta. Etta, who was wounded last issue, is finally getting out of the hospital, and Diana has dedicated herself to helping her recover. However, her concern for Etta after her near-death experience continues to rattle her and leads to her breaking a dish with her strength. She and Etta don’t really have too much time to sort out her concerns, though – as her worries about Etta’s safety prove true in the form of an assassin’s bullet.

Diana stops the bullet and leaps out the window in a great two-page segment to confront the villain, who turns out to be a new version of Mayfly, an obscure 90s villain best known for successfully shooting Diana and causing her to temporarily lose the ability to fly due to her injuries. That doesn’t repeat itself here, but Mayfly still proves a fast-enough shot to give Diana and Etta a serious fight. She also maintains her previous character trait of being a hemophiliac with a short lifespan, and in fact her injuries in her fight here are going to kill her quickly. Diana does her best to ensure she gets the help she needs, but she and Etta are soon targeted by a large group of assassins as the issue ends. An unfortunate coloring issue for Etta in one scene aside, this is a strong, exciting issue.

Corrina: The action sequences are terrific and Diana and Etta’s friendship is so well written that it feels churlish of me to mention that “bounty on our heroes” has been used recently in Harley Quinn, though not exactly from this angle. This is the most we’ve seen Etta and Diana together, just talking, in the Rebirth stories, as so much of that focused on Dr. Minerva instead. And it’s welcome, especially Etta pointing out that she can make decisions for her own life. Also, that moment with Diana in the hospital waiting area seems likely to be reblogged and become iconic.

So while this isn’t the intense exploration of self that Rucka’s arc was, it’s still a good, solid, Wonder Woman comic.

Aquaman #27 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Stepan Sejic, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Now What?

Ray: The story has markedly improved over the last few issues, with Aquaman now taking on the vibe of an undersea Game of Thrones full of triple-crosses and evil agendas, but the biggest level up in quality has undoubtedly been Stepan Sejic’s exceptional art, as the full beauty and terror of Atlantis can now be captured. The issue opens with Arthur and Dolphin in the clutches of the evil mutant gangsters Krush and Kadaver, as they attempt to prove that their captive is actually the lost king. I would have liked if they used another approach than to threaten their female hostage, but the segment is well-done and the way the villains force Arthur into showing his hand – using his control over sea life to stop the creature menacing her – is clever.

I was more interested in the things going on outside the Ninth Tride, as Vulko has recently been sprung from prison by the Widowhood to play his own role in the quest to free Atlantis. He’s backed up by Ondine, a disgraced Widowhood sorceress with control over dark magic, and their quest to avoid detection is highly entertaining. Less interesting is Mera’s visit to Garth at Titans Tower, where they discuss Arthur’s fate and she tries to convince him to return to his old sorcerer ways to assist her in his rescue. Garth just hasn’t been really established as a compelling character on his own, unfortunately, and I’m not sure this story needed to be spread out over three different titles. Still, Arthur and Dolphin’s escape is exciting, Dolphin remains an intriguing character, and the issue adds a new wrinkle of a potential major new player in the battle for Atlantis. This is the series at its best since Abnett took over.

Corrina: The Hidden King thing doesn’t seem to have lasted very long. Long Live Arthur, eh? Well, one hopes so, it is his comic. I agree that Vulko and Ondine have the best subplot this issue, as their team-up is unexpectedly hilarious. But I’m also bummed that Vulko has gotten better characterization the last few issues than Mera has. And, yes, I know Mera has calmed down and her going to Garth for help was a good moment. But still, she comes across too much as the “hysterical female” instead of the Queen she is.

As for Dolphin being a great character, her power-set is interesting but she barely has a personality aside from that. If you get that I don’t like this comic as much as Ray does, you’re right. But Sejic is doing his best to elevate it.

Super-Sons #7 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Jorge Jiminez, Artist; Alejandro Sanchez, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Cute.

Super-Sons #7
Damian is not having a great time this issue. Image via DC Comics

Ray: The weakest issue of this series so far, this issue suffers from a middling plot and an odd sense of humor. Damian Wayne is certainly a peevish, often offensive little twerp, but that seems more to be his backsliding characterization as of late, and the issue has a little too much fun at his expense – now that he’s been turned elderly by way of a villain with control over time. The problem is, most of that “fun” seems to be bad jokes about the elderly. Haha, he has to go to the bathroom constantly! Haha, he can’t remember simple things! Neither of these are funny bits – this is a 13-year-old boy aged to near death, and his body and mind are falling apart as a result. And no one seems concerned – they even drag him along on their mission at his insistence.

That bizarre subplot aside, the core of this issue is Jon getting his first team-up with the Teen Titans. Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Aqualad are mostly bit players here, although Raven gets to save the day at the last minute. The villain, Kraklow, is a mediocre old magician with delusions of grandeur, and he’s managed to resurrect a trio of old supervillains with the help of another version of himself. Those villains, however, aren’t actually real beings, and are subject to falling apart. The action is decent, if a little hard to follow. Damian is restored by the end of the issue, and has learned…nothing. Jon is the reason he’s not senile anymore, and he’s still rude to him as the issue ends. The problem with this series right now is that I’m really not sure why Jon would even want Damian as a friend right now, aside from who their dads are.

Corrina: A rare case of my liking an issue better than Ray does! I was dialed into its sense of humor, perhaps because I like to see Damian knocked off his game, and Gar cracked me up. I gather this is some sort of Metal tie-in with the villain and I’m amused that a third-rate magician benefitted from his more powerful counterpart. It’s sort of like Per Degaton’s backstory, in which his past self is a schlub, but his future self is a world conquerer.

I have had enough with the Jon/Damian bickering though.

Failing Grades

Justice League #27 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Fernado Pasarin, Penciller; Oclair Albert, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Corrina: Needs More

Ray: We’re used to seeing big, ambitious plots in this book that have great visuals but lack much in the way of characterization. This issue, though, there’s no big overwhelming threat – which leaves the issue without enough to carry it. We’ve been introduced to the children of the Justice League, and this issue is about them arriving in the present day and meeting their future parents. With the threat of Sovereign in the far future, there’s little in the way of action. The only hook of this issue is seeing how the League reacts to becoming prospective parents. Three of the kids, one with speed and two with Lantern energy, are the future kids of Barry and Jessica, and they provide the best scenes of the issue. Jessica getting instantly maternal, while Barry is worried about Iris, amused me. There’s also an intriguing reveal about where Simon is in this future.

Two other Leaguers get less interesting subplots. Mera and her future daughter talk, but it’s mainly an excuse to recap the current Aquaman status quo once again. I’m actually kind of intrigued by Cyborg’s son (who I mistook for a daughter last issue, mainly due to the hair), but he and Cyborg only get a brief scene where little is explained about where he came from. Given that he’s part Mother Box, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t born so much as made. But there’s one subplot that just destroys the rest of the issue, and that’s the reveal that Hunter was raised by Superman as Jon’s little brother – after he was born to Wonder Woman who abandoned him for being born male. That’s just a disgusting bastardization of Wonder Woman’s characterization, and instantly ruins the arc for me. By the end of the issue, Sovereign is lurking and next issue should probably be bigger-scale, but I haven’t been given much reason to be invested.

Corrina: I was more interested in the kids than Ray was, and I thought the scenes between Jessica and her “children” had some serious emotional oomph. Hitch is good at these character moments. But I graded it low for two elements. One is that Wonder Woman abandoning a child is so vastly out of character that I can’t imagine it. I believe this is meant to intrigue but instead I’m annoyed. However, that’s a smaller problem. The larger one is that I’ve read this plot before, so many times, and the fact the kids are keeping something secret is business as usual. Also, it’s hard to become attached to the fate of the kids and their world when I’m not sure we’ll ever see them again after this arc.

Trinity #12 – Rob Williams, Writer; V. Ken Marion, Penciller; Ray McCarthy, Inker; Dinei Ribeiro, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

Corrina: No.

Ray: With Francis Manapul not being able to maintain a monthly schedule, this book essentially functions as two books in one. While Manapul’s run has spectacular visuals and high-octane action going for it, Williams’ run – which has unfolded over a series of fill-ins and a recent annual – really doesn’t have either as it explores the mystical concept of trinities, creating multiple alternate versions of the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman trio. There was the evil trinity that formed of Ra’s, Circe, and Luthor (although Luthor ultimately declined membership, leaving them seeking a new third). There’s the twisted trinity of Red Hood, Bizarro, and Artemis. And with this issue, there’s the mystical trinity of Zatanna, Constantine, and Deadman, who are called into action by Batman.

Unfortunately, the central plot of this comic just doesn’t work, and neither does the characterization. Constantine in particular comes off as a one-note lech and coward, with Zatanna spending most of the issue gaping in disgust at him. The main threat comes in the form of a possessed Red Hood, who has been corrupted by the Pandora Pits. His fellow Outlaws soon show up as well, equally possessed and showing giant fangs (in the case of Red Hood, on his helmet?). Shades of The Exorcist, and some surreal visuals, just aren’t enough to create a compelling story as the story jumps back and forth in time, setting up a supernatural tale that’s not particularly compelling and turns the Trinity into supporting characters.

Corrina: Constantine’s grating dialogue is a symptom of everything wrong with this comic. At first, I thought we’d have signs of his bisexuality when he commented on Batman working out but instead, he focuses on Wonder Woman and Zee and it’s creepy and slimey and not the least bit amusing. It’s simply unpleasant. Most of this comic is unpleasant, with Circe convinced that this is the way to rule the world. Does it lead into Metal? I have no idea but it’s certainly not intriguing enough on its own.

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.