DC Comic’s Metal event is in full swing this month, with the main series, Dark Knights: Metal #2, and the spin-off in Teen Titans #15,
featuring the evil Batman-Who-Laughs.
But we’re shifting away from the big event to spotlight a comic that has been consistently good for the past year, New Super-Man by Gene Luen Yang, which has not only added a terrific new character to the DC universe in Kong Kenan, it’s also introduced a wonderful supporting cast. This is the best expansion of the Superman-verse since Reign of the Supermen.
Also this week, the intense Mister MIracle #2, part 2 of what should be a classic, the revelation of Mr. Oz’s identity in Action Comics #987, and an excellent ending to Shea Fontana’s run in Wonder Woman #30. All this, plus reviews of all issues of this week’s DC Comics.
WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND BELOW.
New Super-Man #15 – Gene Luen Yang, Writer; Brent Peeples, Penciller; Richard Friend, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: All the Pieces Come Together
Ray: This title has been one of the biggest surprises of the Rebirth era, creating a completely original world of superheroes in an area of the DCU that’s rarely explored. And this issue – both the start of a new arc and the end of the last one – takes the story in an unexpected new direction while paying tribute to the history of the Superman family. It actually doesn’t really begin all that well – kicking off with a mostly pointless Suicide Squad fight. I’m not sure why the Squad is in China trying to assassinate Kenan – but then, why does the Suicide Squad do anything lately? Their main purpose here seems to be to weaken Kenan with a Kryptonite blade, which is important for the rest of the issue. With Kenan out of the fight, the rest of the JL of China mops up the goons.
The meat of the issue takes place in the second half, as Kenan confronts both his parents with their infighting and scheming, and how it destroyed their family. Meanwhile, I-Ching confronts…himself? The battle between his two halves has some great visuals, and the evil side seems to win out as he returns to the human plane and turns Emperor Superman into China’s Doomsday, a seeming tribute to the movie version of Doomsday. And once Kenan defies orders to re-enter the fray, wounded, and take on Doomsday, you start to see where this story is going. However, I very much did not see the last page twist coming. This is one of the most unpredictable titles in the DCU right now, and that’s what makes it so great. Anything can happen, any issue, and it’s got some of the best new characters in comics to boot.
Corrina: Agreed, adding in the Suicide Squad added nothing to this issue. Maybe DC wanted the Squad in it to gain more sales? Or something? At least they’re kept mostly out of the way after stabbing Kenan, so we can get to the good stuff.
And what is the good stuff? Kenan’s emergence as a hero.
When we first met him, he was an out-and-out bully, full of anger about his mother’s death and his father’s neglect. Bullying others made him feel powerful and in control. Initially, gaining his powers made him feel even more powerful and in control–so his personality remained the same, save for the glimpses of a good kid underneath. But he began to understand that it felt good to help, not hurt. Even his father became proud of him. After the loss of his father, instead of resorting to anger, he reached out for friends and found them in the Justice League of China. I just love that moment in this issue when his parents are arguing and Kenan leaves their toxic stew, calling his Justice League his “family” instead. He’s grown up, so much so that he’s willing to make the same sacrifice fighting Doomsday that Superman himself did. Which leads him to…the past? As Ray said, it’s a terrific cliffhanger.
Split Decision: Good or Bad?
Dark Nights: Metal #2 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Greg Capullo, Penciller; Jonathan Glapion, Inker; FCD Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Ray: The DNA of Metal is all over the place, and this issue begins to show those strands a bit more. It’s got the mythology of Snyder, the supernatural insanity of Morrison, and the dark look at Batman’s obsession of King. It’s got the multiversal counterparts of Spider-verse, the horrific look through a twisted mirror of Blackest Night, and bits and pieces of the 90s event, Underworld Unleashed (more on that in this week’s first tie-in). In short, it’s got some massive ambitions, and it mostly lands them with style. The issue opens with the Justice League hot on the trail of Batman, as he speeds away from Blackhawk Island with the world’s most dangerous weapon in the form of the Destiny Engine. And soon they find Batman. And Batman. And Batman. And Batman. All doppelgangers, Bruce’s allies using cloaking technology to throw them off the trail.
The real Batman, meanwhile, is in an armored car with Damian riding historic on the Fury Road. Or is he? There’s one more twist in this segment, with a great showdown with Superman and a callback to Injustice. The sheer number of callbacks and guest stars in this segment gets the story off to a fantastic start. Dick’s trap, in particular, for the Justice League is my favorite scene in the issue as Snyder brings back a favorite from a run of his earlier in his career. We finally get some insight into exactly what “Metal” stands for – these five mysterious elements that Barbatos uses to target his prey with. Four, Batman has already encountered. The fifth is still to be revealed. This segment may veer into infodumping for some, but it worked for me. And we still haven’t seen the real Batman.
Dream, who made a dramatic entry at the end of the last issue, doesn’t suddenly become a superhero – he’s just here to observe Batman and guide him, and can’t help him directly as he heads into what he thinks is the tomb of Hawkman’s original incarnation, on his secret mission to find Barbatos and destroy him. And then he pulls Baby Darkseid out of his satchel, and I just started laughing. The absurdity of this issue works for me, again. But when the Owls show up, and Batman is betrayed one final time, the laughter stops. It’s all building to the arrival of Barbatos, and the Dark Knights, led by the terrifying Batman who Laughs. And Capullo is, at his core, a horror artist. He delivers in a brilliant two-page spread as the villains of this story make their grand entry. I haven’t been this sucked into an event comic in the first two issues in a few years, probably since Secret Wars.
Corrina: Nope, still not sold, mostly because the Metal Batman designs seem, well, over-the-top, and not in an “omigod, Batman is riding a dinosaur” weird, fun kind of way. But Capullo and the entire art team deserve a huge bow, from the battle sequence as the Justice League picks off each of the Batmen-in-disguise, to the confrontation in the tomb, and the force that squashes Superman and Wonder Woman.
It’s a feast for the eyes. And, in that, I include the letter boxes for Carter Hall’s journal.
It’s just that with the story…well, Ray named no less than three different DC events, plus one Marvel event. That means this reads as a mosh. “Hey, let’s take all these ideas, spin them in a blender and out comes…” Metal, yes? So the event is aptly named. I find it discordant Metal but I suspect I’m in the minority on that one, as many seem to be having a good time. Perhaps I’m simply not into “let’s take a hero and make them a villain” or even issues that focus on the League fighting/opposing each other rather than an enemy. (By the way, I cannot imagine an idea I like less than Batman-Who-Laughs. Okay, I can, but I can’t imagine a Batman concept that could interest me less.)
If this is your jam, you will love it, as Ray does.
Excellent–Rating of 10 of 10
Mister Miracle #2 – Tom King, Writer; Mitch Gerads, Artist
Ray – 10/10
Corrina: The Perfect Book?
Ray: Two issues in, Mister Miracle is taking off for the stratosphere in a way that not even King’s previous titles in this vein managed. It’s simultaneously a brutal war comic and a gripping human drama. While the first issue leaned heavily on the latter, this one throws us into the former. It’s not that this title loses sight of the human aspect, but that it uses it to drive a genuinely epic plot. When the issue starts, Scott Free is in the middle of a brutal, gritty war against Darkseid and his minions, as seen in a brilliant five-page segment set against a red sky. From there, Scott and Barda decompress and try to figure out a New Genesis shower. It’s as darkly funny as it sounds. It’s the little moments that really sell this issue, such as the emotional intensity of Orion – newly crowned as Highfather – forcing his “brother” to bow before him.
The second half of the issue is even better than the first, amazingly. Orion tasks Scott and Barda with assassinating the woman behind Darkseid’s army – Granny Goodness. This is also the woman who tortured the two of them as children, and while Barda has nothing but hatred for the woman, Scott’s feelings – like those of many abused children – are much more complex. And that opens the door for Granny Goodness to manipulate Scott, placing doubt into his mind about how Highfather really died, what Orion’s plans really are – and who the true son of Darkseid is. Some of the things hinted in this issue would be a sea change for the New Gods, and there’s even a Rebirth tie with a cameo by a ghostly Metron. It’s bloody, fantastical, gorgeous, and ultimately very real. This may be one of the very best comics DC has put out in a long time.
Corrina: King and Gerards are writing at such a high level that it’s impossible to see the entire tapestry of their concept in one issue. It’s easy to see this is brilliant. It’s harder to make it a coherent whole, at least in the first two issues. I’m unsure of exactly when this is taking place–after issue #1, yes? Nothing else makes sense and yet it seems somewhat unconnected with the first issue. In that way, it reminds me of Omega Men, a similarly twisty, intense and deep story about war and sacrifice and love. The overall 12-issue story in Omega Men took some time to reveal itself, which led to low sales. It should have been an original graphic novel because then it would have won widespread acclaim. Instead, it’s the least known of King’s work.
This series, too, would likely benefit from reading the entire tale in one sitting.Those expecting something as straightforward (at least initially) as The Vision for Marvel will have to be patient.
Good to Very Good Issue: Ratings 8-9
Teen Titans #12 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Mirka Andolfo, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: So Much Disagreement On Bat-Joker
Ray: Metal tie-ins are going to be few and far between, with the entire event playing out over seven months and about twenty issues. First up is “The Resistance”, a four-part crossover playing out over four interconnected titles where the heroes face off against villains powered up by the Dark Knights. That’s where I got Underworld Unleashed flashbacks, as The Batman Who Laughs – a genuinely terrifying villain, complete with his Hellraiser-style grin and his chained, Jokerized Robin – visits Riddler in Arkham to make him an offer. Giving him a card made of Nth Metal, he allows him to bend reality to his will and turn all of Gotham into his own personal riddle. That’s where the Teen Titans come in, as Damian returns to a devastated Gotham and finds a massive, bizarre labyrinth at the center.
This issue plays out largely as a homage to the classic Batman: The Animated Series episode that introduced the Riddler, and you can’t find better material to homage. One thing that this comic does very well is put Damian off-balance for most of it. His confidence and arrogance has been this title’s biggest weakness. His interactions with the team still lack nuance, and the other members have very little to do, but that’s fortunately not the focus here. The labyrinth, overseen by an all-powerful Riddler, is one of the creepiest set-pieces in a Teen Titans book in some time. The Green Arrow appearance – and the teaser for Emiko joining the team – worked very well, and it’s great to see someone who can match Damian in arrogance. The Suicide Squad’s appearance, mostly pointless. But what I liked most about this issue was the way Riddler’s downfall happened. In the end, he can’t escape his biggest flaw – he always has to play fair with his riddles. This story continues in Nightwing, with a powred-up Mr. Freeze.
Corrina: Batman-Who-Laughs is a villain I find about as terrifying as a boxed lunch. Look! Batman and his arch enemy are combined! He’s got Robins in chains and they all yell “crow!” Scary, right? More like every Joker concept I hate combined with a spiky armored suit and BDSM. This is not scary. This is pretty much everything I hated about the 90s EXTREME era of comics.
Also, hello, Gotham, you’ve been wrecked again, this time by a mountain appearing in the middle of you. Why do people live here again? Gotham has been invaded, flooded, the scene of a bloody gang war, wrecked by monsters and….now the center of an interdimensional struggle. It is right up there now with Westeros as “fictional place tourists would least like to visit.”
All that said, there are elements I enjoyed about this issue. First, there’s the Titans team talking among themselves about Damian’s virtues/vices, then the unexpected appearance of Harley Quinn, the best characterization she’s had outside her own comic in ages. Green Arrow’s appearance seems, well, random, though I know it’s likely connected to Emiko joining the team plus his own crossover with this big Event. I liked their teamwork/frustration, I liked Damian, and I liked the way Riddler is defeated.
Superman: Action Comics #987 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Viktor Bogdanovic, Artist; Jonathan Glapion, Jay Leisten, Inkers; Mike Spicer, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Huh?? On Mr. Oz Reveal
Ray: After almost two years, the mysterious Mr. Oz is about to be unveiled, and the truth isn’t what most people were guessing. (sadly, news of his identity leaked on a comic book gossip site a while back) But before the big reveal, we get a much better look at exactly what this enigmatic figure wants. Despite doing things that were overtly villainous – keeping a secret prison of characters good, evil, and everything in between – he’s also been actively protective of Superman. He’s eliminated threats, and in the opening of this issue, he seemingly neutralizes one of Superman’s major villains permanently. However, he very much does not share Superman’s caring for the people of Earth. In fact, he seems to view them as inherently corrupt, and in his final act this issue before revealing himself, he aims to show Superman that this is true.
Superman’s battle against cynicism is one of the best parts of this issue. We first see him defusing a bad situation – a cop, surrounded by angry citizens who blame him for the apparent death of a man who hijacked a truck and drove it off a bridge. But Superman saves both the man and the vaccines he was attempting to steal. There’s room for some humor in this issue as well – Steve Lombard’s increasingly desperate attempts to impress Jon were great – but once Oz puts his plan into effect, the issue gets dark as people around the world have their worst instincts pushed to the fore. There are some very timely scenes in this issue, but while commentary of this sort can feel forced, here Jurgens makes it work. However, when it comes to the reveal, as soon as Oz starts talking, it all falls into place. He’s not Ozymandias – he’s a scarred, embittered Jor-El, who believes he sent his son to the wrong planet. If it’s what it looks like, this could be a game-changing story. Still, I’m cautious – Remember Peter Parker’s robot parents?
Corrina: I’m not sure of the reasoning of how overloading Superman with people to save is helping Superman but, then, this version of Jor-El is big on tough love, yes? When he was revealed, I thought, “well, that’s kinda…uninteresting.” I suspect perhaps I find it uninteresting because his reasoning and motives are exactly the same as Zod in Man of Steel, in that this Jor-El feels that humans are unworthy of any Kryptonian’s caring. It’s also similar reasoning/motivation as the cyborg Zor-El over in the current Supergirl comic. So, having two recent villains acting similarly with similar motives makes this Jor-El seem like an imitation. Perhaps if this were the first time, having Jor-El been driven over the edge by his failure to save Krypton and then using his brilliance to protect his son might just be an interesting new angle. (But I imagine this version of Jor-El also means Lara is dead and is part of Jor-El’s motivation and that just makes me sigh.)
What the issue does right? Jurgens’ Superman is always a hero, always compassionate, and always trying to save as many people as he can. He’s a good guy and that won’t change and having Lois and Clark back at the Daily Planet is a treat.
Batman: Detective Comics #964 – James Tynion IV, Christopher Sebela, Writers; Carmen Carnero, Artist; Ulises Arreola, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: A Bit..Random?
Ray: This is essentially a tale of two storylines, with the narrative of this issue (the final one before “A Lonely Place of Dying” kicks off) split between Stephanie Brown and Clayface, as both flirt with the darkness and are pulled back from the brink. Clayface’s story is undoubtedly the more emotionally affecting one this time, as he continues his quest to make amends in hope of getting a cure for himself and his victim Mudface. But Mudface’s brutal rejection of his attempts to make amends sends him spiraling, something that pushes him over the edge when Dr. October attempts to push him to hold his Clayface form longer for research. His breakdown is something that I think all recovering addicts will relate to – painful, but inevitable. However, his connection with Cassandra helps pull him back from the brink and avoid self-destruction in the end.
Stephanie’s story is one of temptation, as she finds herself in what looks like a utopia run by Anarky. She’s soon reunited with her friends Leslie Thompkins and Harper Row, both of whom have been recruited into Anarky’s operation. However, Batman is stalking her, and he soon ambushes Anarky and exposes him as a fraud who was actually in league with the Victim Syndicate – who nearly killed Steph. Honestly, this reveal didn’t really work for me. It came out of nowhere and undid a lot of the great character work Sebela and Tynion did with Anarky last issue. He’s always been an extremist, but not the kind to work with sadistic killers. I am glad to see the Victim Syndicate – and the First Victim in particular – being followed up on, but it seems like a waste of a good character, and Stephanie almost feels like a bystander in her own focus arc. Also, why is Anarky in Arkham at the end of the issue? He’s a criminal mastermind and in no way insane!
Corrina: This issue felt a bit…disjointed. I’ve loved Tynion’s run on this book and he’s handled all these characters with a wonderful touch, adding depth to all of them. But it’s not even that the Victim Syndicate revelation comes out of nowhere–it’s that Stephanie’s logic about rejecting Lonnie’s “paradise” doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. Sure, he went over the line but the choice is so abrupt. And as for Batman not being able to tell Steph that Tim is alive because she runs out before he could tell her? C’mon, he’s Batman. He could tell her if he needed to tell her. I’m also unclear as to why Leslie would be dragged into this. Yes, she ran a free clinic but she’s utterly cynical of costumed people who want to change the city. At least, she used to be. I’m also baffled at Lonnie being in Arkham.
And, yet, with those complaints, I liked this issue enough to agree with Ray’s grade. Much of that is due to Clayface’s story, especially that final scene between Basil and Cassandra.
Justice League of America #14 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Ivan Reis, Artist; Julio Ferreira, Inker; Marcelo Maiolo, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Curse that Inevitable Betrayal!
Ray: While the majority of this issue is a battle-frenzy in the Microverse, it does have one brilliant plotline that makes it stand out, as Ryan Choi reaches the definitive moment in his journey as a hero. The issue opens with Vixen making a visit to Extrano, the mage who Orlando reinvented in his Midnighter and Apollo series, and discussing the mysterious case of the Might Beyond the Mirror. And Extrano doesn’t think it’s good. In the Microverse, the League is battling to protect Aron Aut from rioting mobs, as Lobo – critically wounded in the quantum lightning storm last issue – beats goons with his own arm, and Killer Frost is pushed to her breaking point. There’s maybe a bit too many players in these segments, as it often feels like just a frenzied battle without anything to really connect to.
That’s very much not the case with the segments focusing on Ryan, as he descends beyond the Microverse, pushing his belt to the limit. When there, he’s finally able to confront Moz-Ga and attempt to get the sentient planet to rouse from his slumber and help the people of the Microverse. Although Moz-Ga hasn’t spoken to anyone in over a thousand years, Ryan’s impassioned, human plea is able to rouse him. However, the living planet says the threat is beyond even his reach, and not confined to the Microverse. He is able to point Ryan to Ray Palmer, though, and after reuniting with the League and fighting their way out of the battle, they’re able to accompany Dr. Aut on a ship made of the living planet’s body and find Palmer – who is not happy to see them, and Aut in particular. Strong, fast-paced issue with a great cliffhanger.
Corrina: The battle sequences are the least interesting thing about the issue, save for Lobo complaining about his injured arm. (Who knew I would grow to like Lobo in this?) There are two key moments that make this a fine issue. One is Ryan’s heartwarming plea to Moz-Ga, which Ray has already covered.
The second, when Caitlin loses control of her frost powers and kills an enemy, is heartbreaking. At the same time Ryan is becoming the hero he was meant to be, Caitlin feels she’s becoming the villain she fears she always was. I expect Caitlin’s guilt won’t be addressed until after this arc and will tie into her search for a cure, but it hurts to see her go through this wringer. It’s this kind of character development that will always keep me coming back to a title.
As for finding Ray Palmer, that was inevitable, and also likely inevitable that Aut is part of the problem, not the solution.
Supergirl #13 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Robson Rocha, Penciller; Daniel Henriques, Inker; Michael Atiyeh, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Eye See You
Ray: A wild, action-packed conclusion to “The Girl of No Tomorrow”, as Kara faces off against her deadliest enemies and undergoes some massive status quo changes in the process. When the issue opens, Kara makes a desperate gambit to protect her father from Emerald Empress’ revenge, taking a powerful blast from the Emerald Eye in the process. She takes the battle to the streets, but in the process reveals the secret of Zor-El’s continued existence to the public. The public instantly turns on her, something the Empress is happy to exacerbate with her powers. Several other plotlines, such as characters like Selene and Magog backstabbing each other, lack the same emotional context – I’ve liked Orlando’s choice of villains in this arc, but some of them wind up feeling like extras.
I did like the use of the supporting cast in this issue, with a skeptical Cat Grant teaming up with Ben Rubel to protect Catco from being used as a trojan horse by the villains, and the Danvers’ backing up their foster daughter from behind the scenes. The final battle is suitably epic, with Kara destroying the Empress’ eye in gross fashion, Indigo taking advantage of Kara’s weakened state to nearly beat her, and Zor-El entering the fray to destroy Indigo in an instinctive move to protect his daughter. However, it seems like a lot of interesting adversaries are potentially taken off the table for good this issue. The DEO winding up under a new, harsher leader in Director Bones and the Danvers quitting has promise, although I’m not sure about Mr. Oz showing up at the last minute to kill Zor-El. Feels like a missed opportunity, but this arc has still been the series at its best.
Corrina: I totally sign up for the comic featuring Cameron Chase and the Kryptonian werewolf, on a road trip, fighting crime. Get on that, DC!
Back to the story: there’s a theme in the portrayal of the Super-family lately, and that’s compassion, and that is excellent to see. I love that Kara never wavers from her need to save as many people as possible, even Emerald Empress who keeps trying to kill her. Well, until she becomes angry and it is not good to make Supergirl angry. She’s likely to rip your mystical/advanced tech eye in half.
In my review last time, I said that Indigo was the most interesting of Emerald Empress’s squad. Can I hope she’ll be back? She would be a great addition to the supporting cast, which almost steals the show this week, especially Cat Grant and Ben.
Wonder Woman #30 – Shea Fontana, Writer; David Messina, Artist; Romulo Fajardo Jr., Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Excellent Ending (Which is why it’s in this section, despite Ray’s grade)
Ray: It’s the conclusion of Shea Fontana’s five-issue run on this title before James Robinson comes on board for his sure-to-be-controversial follow-up to Darkseid War, and while this arc started rather promisingly, it feels like it’s mostly devolved into a generic fight arc. When we last left off, Wonder Woman decided to surrender herself to the mysterious mastermind of the plot against her, Hamilton Revere. Now that’s a supervillain name, and his plan involves harvesting Diana’s blood to create an army of super-soldiers. Diana soon finds herself surrounded by a group of elite soldiers who have been genetically altered using her stolen DNA – one who even has ties to Diana herself. Some of them seem to object when they find out that Diana was not a willing participant, but most of them are just concerned with keeping their powers.
The bulk of this issue is an elaborate fight scene as Diana takes on the ten powerful super-soldiers, who are attempting to force her into Revere’s contraption that will drain her blood. While Diana does have to do a lot of fighting this issue, I do think that Fontana’s characterization of her is strong, as her ultimate resolution for this battle is a peaceful one. It even manages to turn one of the soldiers back over to her side. My favorite part of the issue? The segments involving Steve and Etta breaking ARGUS orders and going rogue to back up Diana. These two make an entertaining team, and I’m hoping they maintain a prominent role in Diana’s story even as Robinson’s run shifts more to the mythological part of her origins. Overall, good characterization, but the central threat of this arc was lacking.
Corrina: Had this arc come along directly after the run by Meredith and David Finch, I suspect it would have been more memorable to Wonder Woman fans because it would have been a breath of fresh air, a return to the Amazon Princess as she should be, and the art would be praised as among the best.
Unfortunately, Fontana and her artists had to follow up Rucka/Scott/Sharp, which basically rewrote and reset the character. And yet, Fontana’s arc has gained steam with each issue, the writing has grown more assured, and the characterization has been note perfect. I’m sad to see Fontana leave the title. James Robinson and company now have the hard task of following this excellent arc.
My favorite moments in this issue? Diana standing up against the use of who and what she is as a weapon and using the lasso to rest the super-soldiers back to the truth of what they are. The moment with the super-soldier who took her side is lovely, and a great example of Fontana’s characterization. I also loved Etta and Diana’s team-up and smiled at Steve being the one to bring the ladies cookies at the end. wish Fontana’s run on the title had been longer.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #28 – Robert Venditti, Writer; Rafa Sandoval, Penciller; Jordi Tarragona, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Hal Jordan Spotlight
Ray: This arc, the third part of the New Gods storyline, still pales in comparison to the masterful take on the New Gods by King and Gerads over in Mister Miracle – and also seems massively out of step with that version, dealing with a version of Highfather straight out of the New 52. However, while the central plot may not be nearly as engaging as that maxiseries, this issue has a secret weapon that makes it one of the most entertaining issues of this series we’ve gotten in months – and that’s a rather great take on Hal Jordan that we haven’t seen since King himself took the character on for an issue during Darkseid War. This issue is essentially an elaborate chase segment, as Hal pursues Lightray and Highfather through space. However, his constructs reach their speed limit and fall apart before he can catch them.
That’s where this issue takes off, as Hal – either genuinely, or caused by the unhealthy extremes to which he’s pushing his willpower – starts seeing the ghost of his father as a backseat passenger in his plane construct, and the two pilots get to finally have a heart-to-heart about their mutual passion for flying. This is all very Field of Dreams-esque, and the dialogue between father and son can be a bit hokey. But despite that…it works. Hal has a lot of issues to do with his parents that he’s never fully confronted, and this issue seems designed to get him a bit of closure and allow him to push through those psychological limits. Rafa Sandoval’s art is maybe a bit too glitzy, but gorgeous in the wide open space. The plot doesn’t really resume until the final pages, but that works. This issue’s strength isn’t about the New Gods, it’s about Hal. And that focus makes it a great read.
Corrina: I’m always up for more about Hal’s past, as it tends to humanize him, though I thought Martin’s advice was a little too-on-the-nose so far as talks between dead fathers and their sons go. It went exactly as you’d expect and while it felt poignant, it added little new insight to Hal. (Compare that to Hal’s spotlight issue of The Darkseid War, which was brilliant and insightful, which Ray mentions above.)
But my reaction could be colored by the fact Hal is my least favorite Lantern and this issue is all about him. He’s tolerable for me here, which means he’s written better than 99 percent of the stories featuring him.
The Flash #30 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Neil Googe, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: The Downfall of Barry Allen
Ray: A new arc begins, but Barry’s problems continue, as the Negative Flash powers continue to corrupt him from the inside out. The issue’s opening shows the aftermath of the fire at the crime lab, caused by the mysterious new villain Bloodwork. Singh reads Barry the riot act for his reckless actions during the fire – and what ensues is ugly. It’s clearly Barry’s inner corruption coming out, but he viciously attacks the people at the crime lab, daring Singh to fire him and cruelly attacking Forrest as a “mascot”. I couldn’t help but think of Ned Flanders’ meltdown in the hurricane episode of the Simpsons – intimidating Barry is not. But he burns as many bridges as he can, and retreats to his lab where only Kristen comes to follow him.
Although the two have an uneasy partnership, she’s the only one who cares to check in on him and share a painful piece of her past, and their collaboration leads Barry to a clue that points him to the identity of Bloodwork – it’s none other than Ramsey, the coroner who was introduced earlier in the arc. A meek young man, he turns out to be a hemophiliac (the second villain with this condition introduced in the last few months at DC, oddly), and his experiments on his blood have transformed him into something more – or less than human. I’m not quite sure of his motivations besides being twisted by the experiments, but he’s a good, creepy villain with an excellent villain design. Barry’s slow self-destruction is painful to watch, but overall Williamson is still writing top-notch Flash comics.
Corrina: What I loved about Kristen’s insight into Barry is that it was the moment she became a three-dimensional person with her own needs, wants, and backstory, rather than simply being in the tale so Barry can react to what she says. That’s terrific. She better not die–as I’ve seen too many characters become interesting in comics only to be killed off quickly. But, Williamson wanted to write a “Born Again” type of story for Barry and, while I thought the last issue simply made Barry unlikeable, this issue showed his descent well, and the glimpses of his essential heroic self. .
Bloodwork? It’s hard to create a new memorable Flash villain and, hey, Bloodwork is that with a power set we haven’t seen before in Flash comics. (And I’m hard-pressed to find a similar villain in either DC or Marvel.)
Good Issues: Grades 7-8
Harley Quinn 25th Anniversary Special #1 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Paul Dini, Daniel Kibblesmith, Chip Zdarsky, Writers; Paul Mounts, Chad Hardin, David Lafuente, Joe Quinones, Artists; Dave Sharpe, Alex Sinclair, John Rauch, Colorists
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Ridiculous and Fun
Ray: It’s Harley’s 25th B-day, and DC rolls out an oversized all-star special to celebrate, with a collection of pin-ups and four short stories by her two most iconic writers or writing teams, and two by offbeat creators who haven’t written her before. Overall it works well, with the kick-off being by the writers of her main series, Palmiotti, and Conner. This one has Harley and Red Tool playing Truth or Dare, which leads to Harley telling him the story of her craziest escapade ever. That would be a wild adventure for the Sirens as they got ahold of a penthouse suite in Vegas and threw a party so crazy it went down in legend. Great, fun visuals in this story. The second story, by Paul Dini, goes meta and takes place on Harley’s birthday, as she has her party canceled by Joker for a big heist with all the villains – which turns out to be her surprise party. While I thought Joker was a bit OOC here, the last page explains it all in style.
The third story is definitely the weirdest of the four, in a good way. Daniel Kibblesmith (of Garfbert, GOP Teens, and Gay Interracial Santas fame) picks up on the eve of a big hurricane in Gotham (maybe a bit too timely a story right now) as Harley and Ivy are ambushed during last minute shopping by Swamp Thing, who needs Ivy’s help to stop the hurricane from a direct hit on Gotham. Harley winds up pushing her way into the adventure and winds up in the Green herself. She does a bunch of things no one but Harley would think to and winds up crushing the hurricane with a giant hammer. Yes, really. The final story is by star writer Chip Zdarsky (likely before he committed to Marvel) as he tells an oddball story of Harley fighting Robin and psychologically manipulating the kid before doing the right thing. Good ending, although the pacing on this one is more than a bit odd. Overall, a solid tribute to Harley’s history.
Corrina: I’d have graded this one higher, as I enjoyed all the stories in this issue, yes, even the odd one where Robin/Dick Grayson and Harley seem to be at odds until Harley herself saves the day because she’s an anti-hero, rather than a villain. I also worried about the Dini Joker story, because I’m leery of that relationship being portrayed as romantic, but Dini bought it back with the reveal at the end.
But, hey, Harley stopping a hurricane with a big mystical Hammer, courtesy of the green? There is nothing that is not awesome about that! Add all the pin-ups and it becomes a worthy anniversary issue.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #14 – Scott Lobdell, Writer; Joe Bennett, Penciller; Sean Parsons, Inker; Veronica Gandini, Blond, Colorists
Ray – 8/10
Ray: The odd rebound of Scott Lobdell’s Outlaws continues this issue, as Bizarro takes the helm for an issue spotlighting his new, incredibly powerful intellect. It’s an inventive, creative take on the evolution of super heroics – that unfortunately undermines itself in the last act with the exact same twist that’s done with Bizarro many times before. It opens with Jason and Artemis in the field, taking on Professor Pyg and saving – and robbing – Penguin. But they’re now using advanced, non-lethal technology designed by Bizarro, who’s serving as Mission Control. Heading back to their lair, they find that Bizarro has completely redesigned the lair – and that’s an understatement, turning it into a massive, holographic secret headquarters with an AI overseer and pathways to the Batcave and the Fortress of Solitude.
Still, amid all this promising new start for the Outlaws, there are signs of problems. Bizarro has an odd interaction with Ma Gunn about some letters from Jason’s parents. He creates what essentially is a Minority Report system that predicts when a crime is about to occur and dispatches the Outlaws. This comes in handy when Zsasz breaks out of Arkham with the help of a desperate guard seeking money to help his sick son. While Artemis and Red Hood round up the serial killer, Bizarro acts genuinely Superman-esque in dealing with the accomplice. It seems like Bizarro has built a proactive, utopian system – until the reveal that his newfound intelligence will fade away soon. Like I said, a predictable ending to a promising comic. Still, the title is easily the best it’s ever been.
Corrina: Best it’s ever been is on-the-nose. I still don’t enjoy the title, find the introduction of Artemis somewhat wasted, but I have found Bizarro interesting. If this is your jam, Ray’s right, it probably it at the top of its game.
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #14 – Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Writers; Marcio Takara, Artist; Jordan Boyd, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Not There Yet
Ray: In between arcs, this series takes a break for a fun done-in-one issue that splits up the main cast. Helena is taking her class on a field trip to a site in colonial Gotham, and Dinah’s decided to tag along as a chaperone/guest celebrity (I like that Dinah’s history as a music star isn’t being forgotten here). Barbara, meanwhile, has chosen to stay behind and protect Gotham – but she’s decided to man the computers as Oracle for the day. It doesn’t last, though, as one crisis after another eventually pulls her out from behind her computer. First, she helps Batman and the Detective team get out of a Riddler trap (although the scene is months out of date, with Steph still on the main team), and then she works with Selina and Ivy to stop a Gotham gang war.
I was more entertained by the second segment, focusing on Helena and Dinah. The colonial theme park at first seems fairly generic, but then it turns out that a frequent feature of the program is someone named Blackfire – first as a Native cult leader, then as a Puritan leader responsible for witch trials. Some of the kids soon figure out that the two look the same, and sure enough, it’s the classic Batman villain Deacon Blackfire (last seen in Batman: Eternal). The influence of the evil supernatural villain soon takes over one of the kids on the trip, and winds up influencing them to release him. It’s a fun, fast-paced segment with some good one-liners. The irony is, it’s the part of this story that doesn’t really feel like a Birds of Prey tale that works.
Corrina: You can see all the problems with the title in the sequence where Oracle helps Batman and company escape the trap. It should be great, and it is awesome to see Oracle back, but Batman’s dialogue is painful, and the exchanges between them are similarly bad. This book gets so close to being good but the dialogue makes me wince and, sometimes to get that dialogue, characters are bent out of shape.
And, yet, the characterization is better than it has been, now that the creative team has allowed Canary and Helena to take a breath. I even laughed a few times at Dinah’s new obsession with social media. For once, this friendship felt real, not forced, and this part of the story is handled just with the right tone in regards to Blackfire.
Not Up to Par: Ratings 6 and Below
Suicide Squad #25 – Rob Williams, Writer; Giuseppe Cafaro, Agustin Padilla, Artists; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 4/10
Corrina: More of Waller the Outright Villain
Ray: The last of the bi-weekly series to hit its #25-anniversary issue, Suicide Squad is also the weakest of the major DC Rebirth books, and that doesn’t change with this concluding chapter. Rob Williams’ run on this title is mainly defined by constant action with very little in the way of characterization, and few things sum that up better than the opening segment, where everyone finds out that Amanda Waller has been possessed by the evil Gulag – and Harley’s response is to say “Don’t care” and fire a railgun at her. The issue has some guest stars in the form of Killer Frost and Batman, both of whom have been targeted by the possessed Waller, but they mainly stay in the air and then show up for the epilogue.
Too much of the issue is spent with Waller and the Squad bickering at each other, with Captain Boomerang making a return from presumed death to save the day. Boomerang’s whole role in this story has been a bit hard to swallow, with his culpability in Hack’s death never being entirely made clear. Waller is eventually freed by Katana, who literally decapitates the evil ghost inhabiting her, and the major threat of Director Karla’s hundreds of sleeper Squads around the world is put to bed quickly, in brutal fashion that drives home that Waller will never be anything resembling a heroic figure. The problem is…none of it feels like it matters. Twenty-five issues in, all of these characters are players from other books with no real hook for their role in this title. The ending has a cliffhanger that promises a major return, but we all sort of saw that one coming. It’s not the worst issue of the series, but there’s just very little here.
Corrina: To be fair, this issue makes it clear that Waller’s slide into villainy was a planned thing and therefore no accident, and there’s a kernel of an interesting theme about how villains call out Waller on her “justifications” for doing evil. I kinda enjoyed Harley just shooting Waller, possessed or not, which is where you can see the title has gone all wrong, since I should at least be somewhat on Waller’s side and instead I simply want her dead.
The concept of international suicide squads is done away with via mass murder, almost with a shrug, which is basically the way I reacted to this issue.
Titans #15 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brett Booth, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Ray: The only word I could use to describe this issue is “melodramatic”. Every element of this issue feels like a soap opera laid over a superhero comic, starting with the narration – a letter from Wally West as he writes about how much the team means to him as he prepares to resign due to his health problems and the problems that his new time-altering powers are causing. Then there’s the traitor plotline, as Dick is apparently unmasked as HIVE’s mole. Despite the fact that this is, you know, Dick Grayson, both Roy and Garth seem willing to believe the absolute worst and are ready to attack him, but Dick reveals that he was infected with spyware and was playing along to get information on HIVE. This results in the rest of the team essentially having a sharing session and bonding further, with more awkward Wally/Donna and Garth/Lilith moments.
Then there’s the B-plot, involving Mal and Gnaark infiltrating a HIVE warehouse in search of Karen’s memories. However, before they can make any progress, they encounter some sort of powerful, evil force that winds up possessing them. It then helps Psimon escape from prison and seemingly drives him insane, luring the entire team into a battle against the powered-up villain and their possessed allies. The fight has some dramatic moments, but then Dick gets impaled and seemingly killed, Wally uses his new time powers to save him – and then has a heart attack and seemingly dies himself. Like I said, straight out of daytime TV, only with superpowers. This book continues to be the equivalent of an awkward high school reunion that never ends.
Corrina: Much like Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, all the right pieces are here but they fit together oddly. It’s a thrill to have the old Titans team back together and yet all that seems to be evoked from that era is the soap opera of relationships and the whole “someone is a traitor.” And, yet, there is a terrific subplot sitting there, hardly used, which is the issues with Mal and Karen’s marriage, and her stolen memories, a tragedy that would make for terrific and emotional scenes between Mal and Karen and, yet, they’re never together, and the focus on relationships seem to be on the other Titans randomly kissing each other. Some like it, some don’t, some are in love, and some aren’t, but I’d hoped for more than “who’s going to sleep with who.”
Wally’s letter is, of course, an homage to a similar letter when an issue spotlighted him in the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans. I loved the callback but this one seems to lead to his death?? Maybe? It seems like more could have been done with Wally’s return from the speed force as well, too, as he adjusts to the new world, but instead all we had were issues of him angsting over Linda–a very one-note treatment of what he’s been through. And that’s emblematic of the troubles with this title.
Superwoman #14 – K. Perkins, Writer; Stephen Segovia, Penciller; Art Thibert, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Ray: More than any other book in the Rebirth line, this title doesn’t seem to have any sort of coherent identity. It’s not likely to matter for long, given that the title is spoiled to end at 18 along with Blue Beetle (and maybe a few others), but it’s been through some strange changes in direction. First, it was a team-up book for Lois and Lana, then it was a techno-thriller with Lena Luthor as the villain. Then, under K. Perkins it became a horror-accented tribute to 90’s Superman comics. And now, out of nowhere, it’s…a sequel to the New 52 Supergirl run? The issue kicks off with Kara and Lana teaming up to take on her former friend Amos, now transformed into the Red Kryptonite Man. His powers are out of control and take Lana’s powers with them, so she dons the classic Kryptonian battle suit to capture him and take him where he can be cured.
Then, once Amos is locked up and he and Lana can briefly talk out their issues, the issue takes a very weird turn with the arrival of Maxima. She was last seen in the New 52 Supergirl series, reinvented as a teenage warrior (and a new LGBT heroine) who befriended Supergirl during her time at the sci-fi Crucible Academy. That Maxima’s been captured, though, and replaced by the 90s version, who views the new version as a disgrace to the title of Maxima. She comes off just as bad as the character did in the 90s, so it’s a relief when the New 52 version shows up to team up with Supergirl and Superwoman to stop her usurper. The problem is…the dialogue is terrible. Characters are constantly giving Lana pep talks, Lana feels like a supporting character in her own comic, and there’s a lot of infodumping in a title that’s oddly trying to pick up years-old stories.
Corrina: I like this title more than Ray does, primarily because it’s made me care what happens to Lana Lang. Since her engineering career was added back in the new 52 revamp, she’s been a more well-rounded character and I was open to having her share a title with my favorite, Lois Lane. But, alas, that team-up ended fast. The first arc with Lena Luthor’s villainy worked, for the most part, as it became a Superman Family title.
But the tone and story have been uneven from issue to issue, with everything Ray said about random items being tossed into the mix. I’m glad Lana has control of her powers again. I wish there was a coherent vision to this title.
Scooby Apocalypse #17 – Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Writers; Dale Eaglesham, Artist; Rick Leonardi, Penciller; Dan Green, Inker; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Ray: The plotting on this series is so odd. Sometimes, it’ll actually lay out a compelling backstory for a character, and work some genuine emotion into the story. Then it’ll undermine it all for a cheap cliffhanger, or set the characters back several issues, or undo a major plot development casually. This issue finds three of the four leads up a tree – literally, as Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy wait for a throng of monsters to depart. This is a great time for a flashback, as we learn why Daphne is so driven, and how her history with Fred and the creation of her current program made her who she is today. This segment is one of the series’ best.
However, a lot of other things in the series don’t really work. Shaggy is not nearly as broken up as he should be over Scooby seemingly dying last issue – which drives home how none of these characters have the lifelong bond they should. The new additions to the cast of Clffy and Daisy don’t add much, besides the latter seemingly being the source of a love triangle for Fred. Scooby’s survival was a foregone conclusion, but Scrappy’s comes out of nowhere, given what a big detail his sacrifice seemed to be last issue. More entertaining – if completely insane – is the Secret Squirrel backup, which introduces his arch-nemesis, and a human old flame who is now his boss. Yep.