DC This Week – September 20, 2017: Conan/Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman/Conan the Barbarian #1
Wonder Woman/Conan the Barbarian crossover, image via Dark Horse/DC Comics

So much goodness from DC this week is coming from its out-of-the-mainstream titles: Wonder Woman/Conan #1, Bug: The Adventures of Forager #4, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #12, Future Quest Presents #2, and, hey, Ray even threw in a bonus review of Dynamite’s Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman #6.

But lest we forget the regular DC titles, Simon Baz is the standout in Green Lanterns #31, while Kite-Man steals the narrative from Batman, Riddler, and Joker in Batman #31.

In event issues, there are Nightwing #29, a crossover with Dark Knights: Metal, and Batman: Red Death #1, starring an evil amalgam of Flash and Batman. Plus, all of this week’s DC Comics reviewed.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW.

Spotlight Titles: Wonder Woman Team-Ups!

Wonder Woman/Conan #1 – Gail Simone, Writer; Aaron Lopresti, Penciller; Matt Ryan, Inker; Wendy Broome, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: There Was An Age Undreamed Of…

Ray: The DCU crossover golden age continues, as this time it’s Dark Horse’s turn to cross over with an elite DC icon. And who better to write Wonder Woman’s first a-list crossover than one of her most iconic writers, Gail Simone? The really surprising thing, though, is that for all of Gail’s experience with Wonder Woman, this first issue isn’t really a Wonder Woman story. It’s a Conan story, and Gail absolutely nails the tone of Conan’s best writers. The issue opens with a sweet flashback segment where a young Conan, who has never left his village, travels with his father to a tribal meeting and encounters a mysterious young girl he calls “Yanna”. Decades later, Conan is the barbarian warrior we all know, and chooses to violently intervene in a shady gambler being violently assaulted by Vikings. When the gambler bribes Conan for his help, that money turns out to be his winnings from a can’t-lose bet.

That bet? The idiot bet on Wonder Woman losing a gladiator match. Why? Because she’s a woman, of course. Gail doesn’t belabor the point, but it’s clear that we’re supposed to think he’s as dumb as Conan does. The gladiator match, which finds an enslaved, addled Wonder Woman (who is thankfully not sexualized, but is portrayed the same way an enslaved male warrior would be) easily taking on a trio of male warriors, goes as badly for the gambler as you might expect. Conan, however, is shocked to see his old friend in this position and works to break into the jail to free her. That goes badly, as he winds up captured himself at the hands of the sadistic gladiator overseer – and soon sentenced to face Diana in the arena himself the next day. It’s a compelling, classic tale of warriors, with a lot of unanswered questions. A fantastic start to another excellent crossover.

WW/Conan #1
To help or not help? image via DC/Dark Horse.

Corrina: This first issue will be familiar to readers of the regular Conan comics, as this is all his story, set in his world. First, it works perfectly. Second, Simone has just proved she should be writing Conan the Barbarian comics because it’s a terrific opening for an arc.

I was hoping to have something more from Wonder Woman’s point of view, but, well, everyone knows who Diana is but there are likely to be readers encountering a Conan comic for the first time. (I know, shocking. I bought my first at age 12. But still….) The Conan-as-child sequence provides a backstory that humanizes our barbarian and supplies a reason as to why he’s interested in Wonder Woman’s plight.

Lopresti nails the action sequences, particularly the battle in the snow that opens the issue, and he serves up some appropriately gruesome images of the “crows” picking over the corpses of Conan’s defeated foes. Better yet, he manages to showcase Diana in all her power without overly sexualizing her, which, hey, might have been a thing in this setting. Only problem? Having to wait until issue #2.

Wonder Woman ’77 Meets the Bionic Woman #6 – Andy Mangels, Writer; Judit Tondora, Artist; Roland Pilcz, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Wonder Woman '77 Meets Bionic Woman #6
Cover image via Dynamite.

Ray: This series has run into quite a lot of delays along the way to its conclusion, coming out in the middle of a wave of DC crossovers that have mostly still finished. This is definitely the most “inside baseball” of those crossovers, relying heavily on readers’ memories of two TV series that have been off the air for decades but have large cult fanbases. With that being said, a lot of the details were lost to me, namely anything involving the villains (especially those from the Bionic Woman). However, I didn’t need all that information to enjoy the series on some level.

There’s some good action, a tense showdown on Themyscira, and great banter between the two heroines. Most importantly, the series embraces the natural camp and fantasy elements of Wonder Woman’s origin, with the scenes dealing with the magical forces behind Paradise Island being the strongest. Where the issue flags is in its huge supporting cast. I’m still not entirely sure why there are two different Wonder Girls or what their origins are supposed to be. Nice nod to diversity in the closing pages, and a great interaction between the two iconic heroines, though.

Grade A Issues–Ratings 9-10

Green Lanterns #31 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Ronan Cliquet, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Simon & Jess Save the Universe

Ray: The penultimate issue of Sam Humphries’ run on Green Lanterns, and the conclusion of its final epic storyarc (before a done-in-one final issue) delivers, and represents the absolute best that this title had to offer. The issue kicks off with Simon, newly rearmed with four rings, taking the fight to Volthoom as Jessica and the last remaining original GLs Tyran’r and Kaja (Z’Kran falls early in the issue) wage a desperate attempt to save Volthoom from himself. That’s the best thing about this issue – even as Volthoom is an incredibly dangerous villain, this issue never forgets that he is a damaged person seeking his own peace, and is actually motivated by love and grief. It’s a world of difference from his appearance in the original First Lantern story.

Although Jessica is able to reach him and calm him down, all her good work is undone with the arrival of the Guardians, who see him only as a threat, sealing him away again and taking back the original rings – leaving Simon powerless yet again. However, it’s Volthoom who saves the day, oddly, using his control over the Travel Lantern to send Simon and Jessica home. There, they encounter the now-ancient Tyran’r once again (I was sure he was going to be killed off, so this was a pleasant surprise), and Simon gets his ring back in a clever way. I’d read a whole book of Tyran’r and Rami traveling the galaxy together in search of the remaining original rings, but the end of the issue has Simon and Jessica finally heading home, a much-earned return. No title in the Rebirth lineup has done a better job in showing us its characters, both heroes and villains, as people.

Simon Baz, Green Lanterns #31, 2017
Simon vs. Volthoom, image via DC Comics

Corrina: Lately, DC heroes have been leading with compassion. Before this issue, there’s Supergirl, Superman, Wonder Woman, Nightwing…and, of course, Jess and Simon, who have learned not to let their anger and fears outweigh their compassion. It took longer for Simon but he got there, and it’s what makes our newest Lanterns the heroes they are.

As for the First Lanterns, how poignant and lovely is Tyran’r’s near-death and resurrection? All the feels for him and I’m glad at least he survived all this. Seconding Ray on a comic with him and Rami traveling the galaxy together. (And this from me, who generally doesn’t like GL comics!)

But, yeesh, the Guardians? I feel like the classic “Professor Xavier Is a Jerk!” cover should be replaced with Jessica pointing at the Guardians, saying the same.

Back to Earth, Simon and Jess, in triumph. But I suspect Simon has some family issues to sort out because of his absence.

Future Quest Presents #2 – Jeff Parker, Writer; Ariel Olivetti, Artist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: LOVE THIS

Ray: While this new Space Ghost-centric series spinning out of Future Quest lacks the original series’ sweeping cast and brilliant Doc Shaner art, it makes up for it with a tight, thrilling space opera adventure and art by Ariel Olivetti that is perfectly suited to the story. This issue finds Space Ghost, his two young wards and their monkey, and the Herculoid Igoo exploring a massive underground cave on an alien world that serves as the home of the rare alien ore that powers Space Ghost’s gauntlets. However, there are threats lurking around every corner. It starts with Jace nearly getting eaten by what seems like a harmless glowing plant but is actually a carnivorous monster. Even better is the complex battle with a giant crystal monster that requires some unconventional, video-game-like thinking to beat.

Once they leave Igoo behind due to the tricky terrain, sending the giant back to safety, the trio (plus monkey) encounter what seems like an ancient graveyard of suits of armor – only for them to come to life and treat the trio as invaders. They’re quickly captured, and this sets off the best segment of the issue, a flashback as Jan is unconscious to how she and Jace wound up orphaned. Every hero has their personal tragedy in their past, usually, but rarely is it shown in such dramatic terms (save the Waynes getting shot twenty times a year, of course). When the villains finally reveal themselves, it’s a strong tale of invasion and imperialism, turning peaceful people into literal ghosts and monsters. Horror in space is a very hard thing to pull off, but this issue is a fantastic example. Future Quest is back, and I couldn’t be happier.

Future Quest Presents #2, Space Ghost
He doesn’t look friendly! Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Beautiful painted art. Check. The backstory on our mysterious Space Ghost and why he’s the only one left. Check. Jan and Jace finally receiving an origin, opening another story avenue, if this series lasts. Great.

But the story is owned this time by the villains because not only are they too powerful for our heroes, their origin and morphing into their current form is scary as heck, and, at the same time, they’re also sympathetic. You understand their anger and wish they could be helped.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #12 – Gerard Way, Jon Rivera, Writers; Michael Avon Oeming, Artist; Nick Filardi, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: And It All Ends…Happily Ever After? (But weird. Oh so weird.)

Ray: The second of two Young Animal books going on hiatus after their first year, this series comes full circle as a fantastic family-driven drama that combines epic cosmic action with a powerful character-driven core. When we last left off, Cave’s wife Mazra had been found – as a cosmic/robotic being key to destroying the cosmic enemies they were facing. However, her attempt to turn back the tide of universal destruction last issue left her on the brink of death – again – when Cave finds her. Their reunion is soon interrupted when the evil, mutated Edward attacks them, but Cave was counting on one thing – Chloe disobeying him, and she does, showing up with Wild Dog, the Metal Men, and Cave’s alternate son and blowing Edward’s hideous head off. I won’t lie, I cheered out loud when the creature got splattered all over the page in Oeming’s trademark style.

Mother and daughter are finally reunited after this scene, and that’s where the issue reaches its height. When Chloe touches her mother’s robotic body, Mazra gets a surge of energy, and it turns out that she draws strength from Chloe’s memories of her. Mazra, who has always been a vague presence in this title from the start, finally gets her moment in the sun as we see her from the perspective of all the people closest to her, in a brilliant mosaic scene. That powers her up, and she is easily able to tear apart the cosmic monsters in a gorgeous two-page spread. The end of the issue features goodbyes, family reunions, cross-dimensional father-son moments, and a great teaser for future storylines. We’ll next be seeing Cave and Co. in Milk Wars, the upcoming crossover with the DCU, but I’m hopeful we get the second volume of this and Shade sooner rather than later.

Cave Carson #12, Young Animal
Mazra and Cave. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Oeming’s art, by equal turns surreal, gross, and wildly romantic, has ruled this series from the start and this ending is a tour de force for him, as he switches from the grotesque Edward to more close-up, human moments as everyone remembers Mazra. He even draws her robot body as capable of emotion.

I, too, cheered when Cave’s cavalry showed up, when Edward was destroyed, and when Mazra sealed the final victory. If Mazra was simply a dead woman when this story began, she’s so much more than that now. Whether this series comes back for a second volume or not, the creative team has created a classic.

Bug! The Adventures of Forager #4 – Lee Allred, Michael Allred, Storytellers; Laura Allred, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: The Surreal DC Adventure You Want

Ray: The most surreal take on the DCU in a generation returns, after than a longer-than-expected delay and some resolicits. It was worth the wait, as the Allreds don’t miss a beat in throwing us right back into Bug’s surreal world. When we last left off, he had accidentally placed Mother Box in a coma, leaving him and his oddball group of allies (including a little girl ghost and a sarcastic teddy bear) stranded. They’re able to find their way out with the help of the classic Sandman, as well as a mysterious cat-rat being that turns out to be the mysterious woman Sandman points them towards. She agrees to help them, but she needs their help too. Seems her boyfriend has been placed in a robot body and she needs a way to get him free.

Who is that boyfriend, exactly? It’s Deadman, as this series’ strange tour around the DCU takes another turn, bringing in Boston Brand and a rogue Manhunter, in a rescue mission to get the technology that can free Boston from his robot prison, as well as potentially help Bug with his own quest. At some point, the issue does have a little bit too much exposition and techno-talk, but it’s funny enough that it doesn’t matter. The heroes crashing a bizarre supervillain auction is the best set piece of the issue and spins Bug off into yet another strange adventure for next issue. There’s also an incredibly strange backup by James Harvey, focusing on the countless people in the Phantom Zone who aren’t General Zod. Weird and surreal, but fascinating – just like the main story.

Bug: The Forager, 2017 Young Animal
Bug needs help with reality. Naturally, he needs Kirby’s Sandman. image via DC Comics

Corrina: This series is like an acid trip through the tiny corners of the DCU, the places where the better-known heroes don’t even know exist. And, yet, for all that, it doesn’t indulge in weirdness for its own sake but as part of the storytelling, which is what separates it, for me, from the storytelling in Young Animal’s Doom Patrol reboot.  Bug firmly anchors this story with his humanity, his confusion, and his persistence.

And any story that can make me laugh out loud, such as the sequence where Bug realizes he can turn off his, um, bug stink, has that something extra that makes me look forward to it every month.

Batman #31 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; June Chung, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Kite-Man To the Rescue

Ray: The penultimate issue of The War of Jokes and Riddles finally brings the battle to the ringleaders, in a fantastically tense issue that showcases the unique insanity of both villains – and Batman’s desperation to stop them. Plus, there’s more Kite-Man, maybe in the best way yet. The issue opens with a disturbing segment, as Joker torments a helpless henchman, playing sick mental games with him for no reason besides that he can. Batman, meanwhile, has arrived at the Joker’s headquarters with Riddler and is ready to take Joker out. Selina, Batman’s secret agent, is scouting out Joker’s hideout for him, which puts her in a life-threatening position – something Bruce still feels guilty for all these years later, and elicits a hilarious response from Selina in the framing segment.

Batman and Riddler still need a way to get up to the Joker’s lair on the top floor, and that’s where Kite-Man comes in. If you had told me that Batman would be leading an army of villains into Joker’s lair while flying a kite-glider at the start of the arc, I would have laughed at you. I would have laughed even harder if you told me the scene would work brilliantly. Then, finally, it’s time for Riddler and Joker to face off, and with Joker outnumbered, Riddler easily gets the upper hand and defeats him. And then comes the twist, as Batman has one last gambit to take them both out, and it involves his secret weapon…Kite-Man, once again. However, it doesn’t go quite as planned, and Joker and Riddler are left to face off, one last time, with Batman’s darkest secret still to be revealed. A fantastic kickoff to the closing act of one of this title’s best arcs yet.

War of Jokes and Riddles, Batman
Batman and Riddler plot strategy and double crosses. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: I get what King sees in Kite-Man now. He’s the foot soldier, the normal human’s view of Gotham. Unfortunately, this is Gotham, and everything sucks in Gotham, especially for C-list supervillains. Usually, this role as an everyman in Gotham is served by someone on the other side of the law, Jim Gordon, so it’s an interesting flip from the usual.

Janin’s art completely sells the assault on Joker’s tower fortress and Batman’s plan to defeat the secondary villains was one of the cleverest of this arc. But then I look at Joker torturing someone and we’re back to what seems like torture porn and…the story mostly loses me. Then it brings me back with Bat/Cat banter.

I’ll be so happy when this arc is over.

Good Issues: Ratings 8-9

Batman: The Red Death #1 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Batman + Flash = Death Metal

Ray: The first one-shot focusing on the Dark Knights brings in the Flash creative team for a story that’s part Flash issue, part look at one of Batman’s worst fears. The concept for the Dark Knights is that each of them represents one of Batman’s worst nightmares come to life – a world where he’s corrupted by the darkness within him and winds up a twisted mirror of himself. This issue kicks off on one world of the Dark Multiverse, narrated by the Batman who Laughs, The Dark Multiverse is a place where everything is doomed, and each world self-destructs soon enough. And we see how that begins when Flash finds himself in a fight for his life against…Batman. This Batman, grieving the loss of his sons in an unknown tragedy, has stolen the gear from the Rogues and is waging a one-man war against Flash.

The interesting thing is, this evil Batman may actually be more interesting without his powers – Batman is a tech-based hero at his core, and the idea that he’d be able to use the tech of villains far more effectively than they ever could is kind of a great one (we see shades of this in another comic this week as well). But sure enough, soon he manages to capture Flash and steal the Speed Force from him in a twisted ritual using the Cosmic Treadmill that leaves them fused, Flash’s disembodied voice stuck inside Batman’s mind as he uses the Speed Force for ruthless vigilante justice. Then, as his world dies, he’s recruited by the Batman who Laughs to claim another world for his own, and the issue ends with a showdown between this evil Batman, the Red Death, and the Flash family of the main DCU. It’s dark, creepy, and a strong take on one way Batman could be corrupted. Five more of these one-shots to go, and we’re off to a good start.

Dark Knights: Metal, Batman: The Red Death
This Batman’s war on crime is going….poorly. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Meh. So, what’s my objection? First, we’re back to heroes being villains again. Instead of creating a new, interesting villain, let’s make dark versions of Batman instead, maybe even merge them with a Flash. Aside: having a dark metal universe where everything is designed to be death and destruction is simply depressing and uninteresting for me. I suspect I’m supposed to think it’s edgy and fun. Maybe at the end of all this, the dark metal universe will be saved? That I’d find interesting.

Back to the issue, I found the twisted FBatman’s need to save the universe just another “Batman is crazy” take but then, I couldn’t follow the logic of “I’ll save my world, even killing my friend,” morphing quickly to “I’m just going to destroy the other worlds, instead.”

The visuals are cool. Kudos to the letterer for becoming creative with the narration boxes. Lots of people are enjoying this series. I’m not in tune with it and doubt I will be.

Green Arrow #31 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Otto Schmidt, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Once Again, All Hail Otto Schmidt

Ray: The conclusion to the Hard-Traveling Heroes story brings Ollie full-circle and reunites him with his fellow heroes in a high-octane issue that takes him out of his element – and into deep space. The issue picks up with Ollie hundreds of miles above Star City, as Hal Jordan’s been blasted into space and knocked unconscious. This leaves Ollie alone in a collapsing space station with the sadistic leader of the Burned. This guy remains the weakest part of the issue, a rambling maniac who yells things like “I am PAIN!” and still has no discernible motivation beyond being a former evil rich guy transformed into a super-criminal. However, he serves a purpose to taunt Green Arrow into action, threatening his friends and family and giving him the inner strength to fight back and survive.

Meanwhile, Dinah and Emiko are down below Star City, fighting against the evil Auctioneer for the fate of the missing Wendy. And while Dinah hasn’t gotten the spotlight she deserves in this run, she finally gets to play the starring role here, delivering an epic verbal smackdown followed by a sonic one, and finally puts an end to the Auctioneer’s reign of terror. Meanwhile, as the space station crumbles, the Justice League rushes into action to protect the people on the ground, while Hal pulls off one last hat trick to save himself and Ollie. Fans of the Hal/Ollie bromance will definitely enjoy the last few pages of this scene, and Ollie’s offer from the Justice League gets a perfectly Green Arrow-esque response. The story then segues into the upcoming Resistance tie-in, but I’m excited to return to the battle for Star City in a month.

Green Arrow #31, 2017
Oh, hey, no worries. Temporary setback, right? Image via DC Comics

Corrina: The problem with this happy ending is that it doesn’t feel earned. Yes, Ollie earned it by working nicely with the other heroes and he’s definitely heroic in this conclusion. That’s all great to see. But, meanwhile, back in Star City, everything is destroyed. We saw a ton of carnage but we never saw Ollie do anything to mitigate the carnage save fighting bad guys.

Emiko and Dinah are the ones fighting for people who have nothing while Ollie went off on his quest for the bad guys and, well, took all the glory. Througout this run, Percy has hit all the proper plot notes but I never *feel* them–they’re almost rote, steps that should be taken, and there are few human moments in them–and when they are there, like Ollie and Dinah on the island, the emotions seem to come out of nowhere rather than build.

But what’s made this title worth reading (well, staring at) has been Schmidt’s art. This issue is split somewhat between the space battle sequence and the more down-to-Earth action with the rescue of those in the underground. This means Schmidt is equally at home in science fiction and noir elements. After this issue, I’d like to see him on Justice League.

Batwoman #7 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Fernando Blanco, Artist; John Rauch, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Hallucination Or Deadly Reality?

Ray: The second full arc of Batwoman kicks off, with new artist Fernando Blanco giving the issue a gritty, unsettling arc as Kate delves deeper into her past and confronts her father’s legacy. The issue kicks off with a montage of Kate tracking down the assassins of the Many Arms of Death, traveling the world. However, her latest destination in the Sahara Desert is soon complicated when her plane is shot down, leaving her stranded in the desert and battling an army of twisted cyborg Colony soldiers. The issue is divided between these present day segments, as Kate struggles to survive in a hostile environment, and flashbacks to differing eras of her past. The twist is, because Kate is slowly going insane from the extreme heat, it’s impossible to tell what is real and what isn’t.

The issue is full of intensely haunting visuals, starting with some flashbacks to her time on Coryana. Although her relationship with Safiyah at this point is at its peak, the island has its own demons, including some disturbing scenes involving pet foxes. However, the emotional peak of the issue is the segment where Kate visits her sister Beth at the European sanitarium where she’s recovering. This reunion between sisters is one of the best scenes of the series – except that it too has a twisted ending that calls into question everything we know so far. By the end of the issue, Kate’s desperation to survive brings her to what seems like an oasis – but actually turns out to be a trap set by an iconic Batman villain, which may be the best use of this character in a while. The second arc is off to a very strong start.

Batwoman #7, Kate Kane 2017
Batwoman crash lands in the desert. image via DC Comics.

Corrina: I love the sequence in the desert, from the crash to Kate’s fighting her hallucinations/and her capture. The art is terrific and surreal in all the right places and the Monster Men make excellent opponents.

And while I would recommend this comic to anyone interested in Kate Kane, I remain frustrated with the backstory being doled out in dribs and drabs, crossing back to earlier issues, and never once giving us the full story of Kate’s relationship with Safiyah. I want to know why Kate was so attracted to her–there have been hints that Kate is using her new lover to run away from her responsibilities– but since the backstory is in such small snippets, that’s only a guess. I want to understand it, so I can understand Kate in the now. It’s a narrative choice I’m struggling with. For instance, I”m a bit baffled at the story with the foxes. I know what the story is trying to do but it didn’t work for me.

Of more interest was the hallucination/visit with Kate’s sister Beth. Is this real? Not real? It’s intriguing because Beth is such a multi-faceted character and, obviously, a huge part of Kate’s life. I’d like to see more.

After Kate escapes her captors, of course.

Injustice 2 #10 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Daniel Sampere, Penciller; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: Another strong issue, as the rescue mission into Ra’s Al Ghul’s compound hits its peak and everyone gets to show off some of their best moments in the series. The opening segment has Wildcat and Batman descending into Ra’s headquarters alone, going after Damian and Alfred while the rest of the group pursues the kidnapped children. The kids get some great moments of their own this issue, with Thunder and Lightning showing off their powers, and Harley’s daughter displaying some of her mother’s personality. Ra’s Al Ghul soon comes to guard them personally, and they fight back – only to reveal that Ra’s and his sword are actually Offspring and Plastic Man, respectively. I will never get tired of these two’s shapeshifting antics. Harley soon catches up with them – and decides to defect from Ra’s and escape as well.

Harley’s characterization in this series has been a highlight, and she gets some great moments when the escapees face off against the mysterious evil Batman. Although he has control of the bomb in her brain, Harley doesn’t back down for even a second, attempting to take him with her – until a surprise guest changes the game and frees her from his control. Then, it’s Wildcat’s chance to shine, as he goes up against the evil Batman in a hopeless fight where the old man looks like he’s going to make the ultimate sacrifice – until one more supporting character makes his return, and shows off a new skill that was kind of inevitable, but still a cool twist. I don’t much like the heavy hints as to the evil Batman’s identity – it’s kind of the most obvious possible answer – but I do love that hope, underdogs, and heroism seem to be making a comeback in this world.

Super-Sons #8 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Jorge Jiminez, Artist; Alejandro Sanchez, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Can They Be Friends Yet?

Ray: When the last issue left off, Damian had been restored to youth, but he and Jon were suddenly pulled into a portal by mysterious robotic claws. They soon find themselves on another world, complete with a giant stone head monster and a new pair of young heroes, Hard Line and Big Shot. These two remind me of 90s anti-heroes, except instead of being jacked-up alpha dudes, they’re little black girls battling an evil living planet. Damian and Jon’s banter is a bit more amusing here than it was over the last few issues, although it’s still a bit too adversarial for my tastes – mostly one-sided. Why does anyone put up with Damian? It turns out that the young heroines are prisoners of the living planet, just like Jon and Damian. Ygarddis, the living planet, makes for a pretty great villain – at least visually. It’s a nice Kirby/Cooke twist to the story.

That vibe only increases when we get a glimpse of the world these two new young heroes come from. Reminds me a lot of the classic stories of the Legion, or even a bit of Astro City. Last issue’s villain, Kraklow, actually turns out to play a pretty significant role in this issue – it turns out he’s another refugee from this lost planet and wasn’t always the deluded loser we saw him as. Despite the fun, energetic vibe of the issue, the end of the issue has a genuine horror vibe that brings home just how dangerous the threat these four young heroes are facing is, with a great final page. I’m still not entirely sure these two work as a team, even with as hard as DC tries to force it, but this is probably the best this title has been in a while.

Corrina: Jon has some great moments in this issue, especially the wink to one of the young survivors existing on this dangerous, living planet. That’s what someone wearing the S! is like! And Jon was the one who had the best theory about what was happening as well.

Overall, there are so many things to like about this issue: a problem big enough for both of them, a strange world but one that still needs heroes, and the other survivors of the living planet who manage to have personality in their short introductions. Yet, this title is still brought down because of Damian’s attitude which should be snarky and maybe even dryly funny, instead comes across as arrogant and unfortunate. I know Damian’s story and I know he’s a little pain in the ass but, at this point, we should also see other sides of him as well.

Aquaman #28 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Stepan Sejic, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: I Want More…Vulko?

Ray: Stepan Sejic’s art on this title continues to be the star, turning even standard scenes into works of art as three different groups of rebels try to save Atlantis from Corum Rath. The issue opens with Aquaman and Dolphin trying to flee the attack of Kadaver, whose coral-weapons are manipulated into some rather vicious tools. The opening segments have some great moments, including Aquaman using a massive school of fishes to overwhelm Kadaver. There’s some disturbing little details of how more ruthless Atlantean kings used to deal with their prisoners, and Dolphin gets a great moment when she uses her bioluminesence power to blind Kadaver. However, this segment can feel a little decompressed at moments.

I was most interested in one of the other segments, as Vulko and his new partner Ondine enter the catacombs below Atlantis in search of the secrets of the treasury. But to get there, they have to get past the Catacombs’ guards – ancient warriors of Atlantis, now ghastly phantoms. This is where Sejic really shines, showing off the horror/fantasy vibe he’s displayed on many Image comics over the years. I was less interested in the segment involving Mera and Tempest, where they don’t really get to do much but talk about the Crown of Thorns, and attempt to break it down before being captured. However, I thought the segment involving Arthur and Dolphin, where Arthur explained why he wasn’t ready to take the crown back, was the issue’s best, and shows that Abnett’s raised his game on this title to match Sejic’s art.

Aquaman #28, 2017
Don’t underestimate the King. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: The pacing is excellent this issue, something that hasn’t always been the case with Abnett’s run. And, oddly because this is the middle of an arc, this would be a good jumping-on point for new readers, as Arthur sums up the situation and what led him to be deposed from his throne, as well as showcasing Tempest’s skills, and the many factions in Atlantis, which include Vulko and Ondine. An Aquaman series always works best when capable people of Atlantis fill the supporting roles.

Yes, this is better than any recent Aquaman art, with the added excellance of Sejec’s art. I hope the quality remains high but we’ll see.

Decent But Flawed–Grades 7-8

Superman #31 – James Bonny, Writer; Tyler Kirkham, Artist; Arif Prianto, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Can No One Write Lois Correctly???

Ray: This is the second fill-in arc in a row on Superman, and I was a bit skeptical about this one. Deathstroke has undergone a creative renaissance under Priest, so why would you bring back James Bonny, the co-writer on Tony Daniel’s poorly received Deathstroke run, to write him again? Well, this issue is definitely an improvement over Daniel and Bonny’s run, giving the focus to Lois Lane. The issue opens with a slightly out-of-place segment as Superman talks down a desperate STAR Labs scientist from blowing up the place, showing off his compassion. But it also has nothing to do with the rest of the issue. The main story this issue has Lois tailing the handiwork of Deathstroke, and deciding to track him down to interview him. Although Superman is hesitant, he gives her a stun weapon and wishes her luck.

The fact that the stun weapon turns out to be a homing beacon when she needs him is no surprise, although Lois being angry about this felt out of place. Does Lois really seem insecure enough that Superman rescuing her from an army of Eastern European assassins would upset her? By the time she encounters Deathstroke, the two are pulled into a battle with those same assassins, and Lois attempts to get an interview in while dodging bullets. Bonny’s take on Deathstroke is solid – he’s obviously read Priest’s run, and gives Slade a bit of the same pathos, although Lois’ narration sometimes feels right out of a noir film. The biggest problem is the cliffhanger, which puts Lois in danger from Deathstroke, who…didn’t like the article written about him? We know nothing bad is going to happen to Lois – it’s only a two-part fill-in arc.

Lois Lane, Superman #31, DC Comics
Yay, Lois working. Boo on her story subject. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Yes, I’m glad that a Superman writer finally gave Lois something to do rather than support her husband, mother her son, and serve people pie. Excellent.

But I also want the story of her doing her job to be good. And this is not. Deciding a reporter is interested in covering the bad guys to understand them is basically low-hanging plot fruit. And it’s not Lois. Lois, more than Clark, is interested in truth and justice. She would be more likely to trek to the ends of the Earth to interview the victims and survivors of these villains/sociopaths. That’s the story she would want told, the story of how lives are ended or altered by those who have no regard for their fellow men, the story of how men who revel in the violence or take money for it and how they screw up lives. Give those peopel a voice. That’s something worth risking her life for, not this mad quest to get into Slade Wilson’s head. That’s the least interesting thing about the violence surrounding him. Heck, Lois probably ran into the mindset of the ultimate soldier/killer as a military brat.

As for Superman tracking her, why would Lois object? She wouldn’t, because she knows Clark would stay back unless he called for help.

I’m glad someone tried to show Lois doing her job. Now, can I have a great story about Lois doing her job? Pretty please?

Nightwing #29 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Paul Pelletier, Penciller; Andrew Hennessy, Inker; Adriano Lucas, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Can I Have the Non-Crossover Story, Please?

Ray: The Resistance tie-ins continue from Teen Titans last week, as Nightwing joins the Teen Titans, Green Arrow, and Suicide Squad to do battle against a powered-up Mr. Freeze, who has now turned into a one-man polar apocalypse. The issue begins much like the last did, with the Batman Who Laughs recruiting Freeze and handing him one of his Nth Metal Cards. Freeze, unlike Riddler, is a brute force villain, and as such this issue’s fight is a lot more straightforward than the epic labyrinth the Teen Titans were faced with. But it makes up for it with some great monsters and visuals. Really, though, the biggest problem the heroes have to deal with is each other. Damian is more antagonistic than usual, Green Arrow has little patience, the Suicide Squad has their own agenda, and Harley gets off the best line of the issue when she comes across a cache of weapons.

Most of the heroes are attempting to solve the mystery of a mysterious owl statue that shows up in the city, leading them to a secret cache of the Owls’ arsenal. At the same time, the Titans and several members of the Squad are under attack by the Jokerized Robins, who are easily the creepiest part of the issue (including their evil leader, the twisted eldest Robin). But this issue, more than the previous one, doesn’t really seem to advance the story much. There’s some dangling plot threads about a weird mystical wound on Dick’s forehead that comes back from the showdown with Dr. Hurt, and Dick starts speculating that he may have a role to play in the trap that was laid for Bruce. There are interesting ideas, but it’s also an issue with a huge cast that often feels overstuffed. The tie-in moves over to Green Arrow next (which is also set up in that issue this week), and so far, The Resistance is an entertaining but not entirely necessary story.

Corrina: This story brings up Dick’s being chosen as a future Talon by the Court of Owls, and his fears that he’s still somehow lacking/damaged because of it. That seemed odd because it’s not come up lately. I would think he’s more likely to be focused on more recent failures, such as his relationship with Shawn, and the death of Giz. I also hoped that the relationship between Dick and Damian would be better drawn instead of being as antagonistic as it was. (Perhaps this story was written a few months ago to fit in with the Dark Knights stuff? That might explain some discrepancies.)

Let’s face it, these crossovers are basically just an excuse to put a bunch of heroes on the same page and see how they interact. Unfortunately, there isn’t much joy here in their interactions. This overstuffed issue makes it hard for the heroes to have any chemistry and Freeze manages to simply be an “let’s attack with ice stuff” villain.

Nightwing’s winter uniform is pretty cool, though. (See what I did there…..)

Harley Quinn #28 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Writers; John Timms, Tom Derenick, Artists; Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Ray: Harley’s run for Mayor gets off to a chaotic start with an issue that jumps back and forth in time. The segments involving Harley herself usually work well, but the rest, not so much. The issue opens with the evil Mayor DePerto in the middle of relations with two women (we know he’s a bad guy because he’s grossly misogynistic) and scheming with the evil Madison, who is trying to finish off Harley for him. It’s interesting to note that DePerto has been a thorn in Harley’s side for years now, but it seems that story may be coming to an end. I’d be happy to see him go – he’s a very generic and off-putting villain. Meanwhile, Harley is getting ready to launch her campaign by leaving some of her many pasttimes, including saying goodbye to her therapy clients and her roller derby team.

Harley needs a big, showy kickoff to her campaign, so she sets up a sting of some local car thieves with Chief Spoonsdale, Tony, Ivy, and Harlem Harley. This goes about as well as you’d expect, and their ambush is chaotic and confused. A surprise appearance of Red Tool saves the day, and they wind up the heroes just in time for Harley to announce her candidacy. The problem is, the DePerto/Madison storyline drags the book down and distracts from Harley’s plot. There’s an extended segment where Madison manipulates a local police officer to turn over the surviving assassin from last issue over to her, and she then brutally kills him. Harley’s book works best when it has a fun, light vibe, and these sub-Godfather types just don’t add to that. I’m hopeful that this arc will see them out.

Corrina: I like the vibe of this issue, with Harley running for Mayor, and deciding she needs to play by political rules, which, of course, means she’ll cheat. She’s good at that. The issue also takes time to take the reader through aspects of Harley’s life, from her work as Dr. Quinzel and roller derby, scenes that always seem to humanize our not-quite-a-hero lead.

Agreed, however, on the DePerto/Madison storyline. That’s run on far too long and seeing him beat up Madison–even though she deserves it–is squicky.

In the end, I’m not sure if I want DePerto simply taken down and Spoonsdale in his place or if I want a few issues of Harley as Mayor.

Needs Work–Grades 6 and Lower

Justice League #29 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Oclair Albert, Andy Owens, Inkers; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: And So the Inevitable Happens….

Ray: The “Legacy” arc featuring the future children of the Justice League continues, and evolves in the most predictable way possible as the present-day Leaguers face threats from both present and future. The children of the Justice League, led by Hunter (the vengeful son of Wonder Woman, raised by Superman) decide to target Wonder Woman and assassinate her to prevent their bad future from coming about. Their reasoning for this seems iffy at best, with Hunter coming off as more determined to get revenge against WW for personal slights than actually focused on saving the future. Why his fellow heroes, save Serenity, have gone along with this so easily is the bigger question. We were seeing some promise in the characters of Jessica and Barry’s kids, but less so here.

The other main plotline is the cybernetic Aquaman from the future, who is targeting the Leaguers one by one. I found this segment a little more compelling, as the way he targets the League has some interesting touches. Despite how he’s been transformed into a villain, he seems to still display some compassion, working to avoid hurting Lois when defeating Superman, and remembering who Mera and his daughter are. However, he’s still unfailingly devoted to Sovereign, the mystery villain from the future. With only a few issues left in Hitch’s run, this arc will hinge heavily on whether there’s a compelling endgame here. I’m hoping the hints that Sovereign is Wonder Woman turn out to be false flags – that’s definitely not a story I’m interested to see.

Corrina: These kinds of stories never tell us (the readers) what led to the evil universe, they always want to kee us guessing. Just once I want someone to come back in time and tell the person: this happened, you did X, and it all went to heck. Because maybe that person won’t do that? I mean, couldn’t Kirk tell Edith Keeler that the Nazis are evil and to oppose the peace process by telling her all about the concentration camps? And these stories always seem to want a woman or child to die–in that case, Edith, in this case, Diana. (Only Terminator flipped the script by having the targeted woman say “NOPE.”)

I predict the League will triumph and the kids will either vanish from reality or sacrifice themselves to put the universe back (because they find out they caused the time problem/bad future).

Trinity #13 – Rob Williams, Writer; V. Ken Marion, Penciller; Ray McCarthy, Inker; Dinei Ribeiro, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: So…No.

Ray: When Francis Manapul isn’t on this title, it feels like a title without a direction. There appears to be some sort of mythology building around the concept of Trinities – with four different trinities holding some sort of magical power (the original, an evil trinity currently missing its third, the dark trinity of the Outlaws, and now a trinity of magical heroes), but it’s essentially a concept in search of a story. Currently, though, the core Trinity is busy fighting the Outlaws, who have been possessed by demons sent by the evil Trinity to turn them into monstrous xenomorph-like creatures. I’m amused by the fact that Jason Todd’s monster face now seems to be coming from his helmet, but that’s really the only interesting part about this segment. We’ve heard demon!Jason’s rant about how Bruce let him die 20 times from the real thing. He’s dramatic. We get it.

The more interesting part of the issue takes place in Constantine’s segment. Deadman and Zatanna have been taken by the evil Trinity, sucked inside demon!Jason’s head during a failed exorcism and Constantine has now followed them, making his way to the Pandora Pits where he confronts Ra’s and Circe. It goes about as well as you’d expect for him, with Ra’s sticking a knife in his gut and Circe blackmailing him for his life. Constantine is one of the few characters here Williams really seems to have a strong handle on, probably thanks to his history as a Vertigo writer. He’s as much of a mercenary as ever and is mostly concerned with his own well-being and that of a select few. The ending, though, is so heavily telegraphed through the issue that it really lacks any impact.

Corrina: This issue ends with a monstrous vagina mouth coming out of Superman’s chest. Need I say more?

The Wild Storm #7 – Warren Ellis, Writer; Jon Davis-Hunt, Artist; Steve Buccellato, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Ray: The Wild Storm continues to be one of the most puzzling titles in DC’s layout, combining great art and chaotic, almost ballet-like action segments with a plot that unfolds at a snail’s pace. It’s alternatively the fastest and slowest book DC puts out. The issue opens with a look at the day-to-day life of Jacklyn King, the Chief of Analysis at IO. She deals with a territorial cat, needs her coffee every day before starting work, and is plotting to assassinate the heroes of this title before word of what they’re in possession gets to Skywatch and big bad Miles Craven declares war on IO. It’s an intriguing look at the banality of evil, or at least how ordinary people can be pushed into it by circumstances, but it takes up a lot of the issue, as does segments like Void discussing why she likes to read a paper newspaper.

Then John Colt, better known as Spartan in the old continuity, enters the story. He’s undercover at IO, and he’s been made. He needs Void to get him out of there, but before that can happen, he’s got to get to a safe space away from the dozens of highly trained agents chasing him. That;s when the issue really takes off, with Colt showing off some crazy moves in one of Wild Storm’s classic violent action scenes. Ellis is one of the best action writers in the industry – even if he doesn’t seem to want to make it his focus. Then, though, it’s back to exposition, as characters discuss their next move and hints at various origins are made. There’s a good book in this title, but it unfolds way too slowly to be as compelling as it could be.

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.