DC This Week – September 6, 2017–‘Deathstroke’ Rules Them All

Shade 2017
Shade the Changing Girl #12 cover, image via DC Comics

There are some fine this week but two stand above the others: Deathstroke #23 and Shade:The Changing Girl #12. Both stand out for packing as many concepts into the single issue pages as possible. There’s also the latest chapter of “The War of Jokes and Riddles” in Batman #30.

Plus, Garth Ennis takes a crack at reinventing Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races with the surreal Dastardly & Muttley.

And don’t forget DC Bombshells United #1, which we first reviewed last week, with the introduction of Donna Troy.

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

Spotlight Title: Deathstroke

Deathstroke #23 – Priest, Writer; Diogenes Neves, Penciller; Jason Paz, Inker; Jeromy Cox, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: More Packed Into This Comic Than Any Other

Ray: This lightning-fast issue juggles close to ten ongoing plots, as well as nearly leaping from violent confrontations, to intense character-driven family moments, to massive action scenes with ease. There’s no other DC book on the stands right now with a vibe anything like it. The issue opens in the past, with Slade cutting a deal with a pair of African mercenaries who he cuts an unconventional deal with. In the present day, Slade is training his new team of teen heroes, giving them a violent crash course in how to fight to win. He’s particularly interested in teaching them how to use swords practically – something that backfires when he pushes the wrong buttons on Rose, and she winds up hitting him with what would be a deathblow for anyone who doesn’t have healing factor.

I’m still not sure what’s going on with the mysterious Willow, and her segments aren’t the most compelling in the book – she reminds me a bit of Cassandra Cain, without the prior attachment – but it’s an intriguing mystery. The issue is at its strongest when we see scenes like Jericho confronting his mother over her actions towards Rose and Etienne, which also allows him to confirm his bisexuality. Bisexual representation is really rare in comics (although becoming less so) so kudos to Priest. While the segments involving Slade’s team helping with a massive rescue of a crashed ship in pirate territory don’t pack the same emotional punch, they are visually fantastic and show off Priest’s talent for kinetic action scenes. Then there’s the fascinating twist involving Rose and Hosun, and a strong cliffhanger. Consistently, one of DC’s best books.

Mentoring: not something that comes naturally for Slade Wilson. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: There are times when Priest’s plotting is so smart that I have to go back and re-read the entire run to make sure I’ve got it all. Which is absolutely not a chore, as this is one of DC’s best books, and Priest is giving readers far more than their money’s worth because he never forgets any plot strings. I mean, what other comic has Rose Wilson kill Slade and it’s about the fifth most interesting thing in the entire issue? Maybe the eighth? Or tenth?

Poor Joe, lost between all the lies his parents tell, and the murder of the person he loved, despite her being a spy and having slept with her father and all. Then there is the rest of the team, also a bit lost because Slade makes a lousy mentor. Plus Rose and her new husband, and Slade actually admitting that he’s, well, lost too. Someone needs to toss him over to the Injustice world so he can be on the good side and kill Ra’s minions or something. I shouldn’t feel bad for Slade but…I kinda do. And that’s the beauty of this book.

Excellence–Ratings 9-10

Batman #30 – Tom King, Writer; Clay Mann, Penciller; Seth Mann, Inker; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Kite-Man Joins the “Good Intentions Gone Wrong” List

Ray: It’s another interlude issue for Kite-Man. Hell Yeah. (I say without an iota of sarcasm!) When we last left our titular D-list supervillain, his attempts to play both sides between Joker and Riddler ended with the murder of his son, and led to him officially sign on with Joker’s army. This issue also gives us the answer to last issue’s cliffhanger – Batman sided with Riddler. Of course he did – it’s the only thing that makes sense. And these two facts will collide in this issue that reminds me of Batman by of Tarantino. As the issue opens, Kite-Man is getting his face punched in by Batman, as one might expect. But the story is accompanied by narration of one of the last conversations Kite-Man had with his son, where the boy overheard his mother call his father a joke, and he asks his father if this is true. Kite-Man’s answer is one of the best moments of the issue.

But really, this issue is a never-ending parade of indignity for the man of Kites. He gets beaten by Batman, goes to report this to Joker, and gets beaten for displeasing the boss. He helps Ventriloquist escape, and gets strangled by the deranged puppet-less man for his efforts. He flies with Man-Bat, and watches Man-Bat get shot down by a torpedo. This is what being a supervillain looks like when another villain and Batman are teaming up against you. This issue drags out many classic Bat-villains, including the late Cluemaster – now best known for his starring role in Batman: Eternal. But the issue has one last brilliant act to play, as Kite-Man finds himself the last man standing in Joker’s army – exactly as someone had planned. King’s elevation of the biggest joke among Bat-villains was completely unexpected, and yet a fantastic twist.

Corrina: If you’ve been reading these reviews, you’ll know I do not like the storyline. It bends my suspension of disbelief and the carnage feels over the top. However, I liked this more than the other chapters in this story arc. One, the solution of Batman teaming with the Riddler if he orders his men not to kill is maybe/sorta one I can accept, though we’re back to Batman working with a horrible mass murderer, at least temporarily.

Then there’s poor Kite-Man, who’s trying to do the right thing/maybe or, at the least, do his best, especially in the face of tragedy. I like the grounds-eye view of a C-list villain who can’t win, no matter what, and why he does what he does. I’m less enamored of the flashbacks/narrative shifts because, while they’re fine most of the time, sometimes they don’t do their job in enhancing the story and instead make it harder to follow.

Shade the Changing Girl #12 – Cecil Castellucci, Writer; Marley Zarcone, Katie Jones, Artists; Ande Parks, Inker; Kelly Fitzpatrick, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Ray: The first volume of Shade (with the second volume coming at a later date, but already teased in this issue) concludes with a mind-bending bang and major status quo changes for almost everyone involves. The issue opens with Loma and Honey Rich still in each other’s body. Honey is taking advantage of the opportunity to be young and famous again, while Loma is finding it hard to keep up as her sick, elderly body begins failing her. Honey’s transformation into an antagonist, as she decides to keep her new body, makes a lot of sense – she was literally staring death in the face before. But the arrival of Lepuck, who is still confused about his feelings for Loma, throws a massive wrench into things, as he attempts to abduct/rescue the wrong person. Meanwhile, the real Loma tries to alert him, but her body may not survive the effort.

Then there’s the villain, Mellu Loran, whose obsession with Loma and her mysterious coat finally begins to fall into place this issue, as he gets ahold of the coat and heads into the surreal realm of Shade – for a reunion with his lover, Rac Shade. The appearance of Rac firmly brings this story into continuity with the previous Shade the Changing Man series, and delivers one of the most powerful scenes of the series, as Rac Shade – in his own confusing and obtuse way – delivers the smackdown Mellu has been needing for the entire run. The end of the issue brings one character’s story to a conclusive end, but how it continues the story is a bit hard to follow. I think that’s just part of this series, though? The backup, featuring Lepuck’s journey, is also extremely strange and a bit confusing, but the series never loses sight of the emotion at the core of the surreality. I cannot wait to see how Loma Shade’s story continues.

Very Good–Ratings 8-9

Green Lanterns #30 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Carlo Barbieri, Penciller; Matt Santorelli, Inker; Ulises Arreola, Colorist

Ray: 8.5/10

Corrina: Well. That Didn’t Take Long

Ray: After several issues of training montages and getting to know the first Lanterns, things come to a massive head this issue as the rookie Lanterns and their not-much-more-experienced trainers go to war against Volthoom for the fate of the Guardians and the universe itself. As the heroes stake out the world Volthoom is about to land on, we get some last glimpses of their personalities – and for some, it will be the last. Volthoom descends, and the rest of the issue is an escalating sense of dread. It’s interesting to see how the rest of the Guardians’ planet views them, and Volthoom – who has been a one-dimensional villain for most of his appearances – here comes off as somewhat of a victim himself, at the mercy of the powerful emotional mood swings of his ring. One minute he’ll be talking reasonably, then the next rage or avarice will take him.

Eventually, he fully loses control, and the Lanterns descend to stop him. It’s seven against one – and one of the seven doesn’t even have a ring, and the one is the most powerful being in the galaxy. The Lanterns give their all, and one by one they fall. Cal’leen is the first to go, giving her all to hold Volthoom in place. Alitha goes down matching Volthoom punch for punch, and I have to say her character wound up being a bit too much in the background. Brill, though…his death and final statement is easily the most emotional moment of the issue. As good as these scenes are, though, it does sort of feel like wasted opportunities for these characters. However, it’s Simon who takes the starring role in this issue, with a scene that feels like a far more fitting homage to Cap’s stand-off against Thanos than another issue recently – and his courage is rewarded. Another great issue, as Humphries’ epic run enters its final act.

Green Lanterns #30
Simon won’t feel useless for long. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: I agree on the wasted opportunities for these characters, as I was just getting to know them and then they become cannon fodder. Can I hope that Simon defeating Volthoom will result in being able to bring the First Lanterns so they can go forth and seize their destinies? Maybe? In any case, their possible destruction puts a damper on the issue.

Volthoom’s portrayal of, well, being nuts is interesting for GL fans because it’s the same reason Hal Jordan went crazy all those years ago: he feels responsible for the loss of an entire city/planet and wants to put it back together. In Hal’s case, his homicidal madness was later chalked up to the big, yellow fear monster, Parallax, (who makes an appearance elsewhere this week). I don’t believe Volthoom has the same excuse for his behavior.

Cannot wait for Simon to get center stage next issue.

Green Arrow #30 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Otto Schmidt, Artist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: The Team-Up and Art Are Excellent, Still “Meh” On the Villains

Ray: Ollie’s tour around the DCU has teamed him up with Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, Lex Luthor, and Batman, but this arc saved his most iconic team-up for last – Green Lantern. Hal Jordan’s back from space to help out his iconic partner in crime, and they’re headed into Green Lantern territory. The issue opens with a strong segment about what people fear (although does it confirm that Trump is President in the DCU as well?) and then segues into Green Arrow riding historic on the Fury Road against the 9th Circle’s biker gangs. He gets an assist from Hal, the two banter and bicker, and then Ollie asks for Hal’s help in destroying the 9th Circle’s giant satellite that carries out global surveillance and allows them to monitor dissent in Star City.

The two head into space, and that’s where Otto Schmidt’s brilliant art really shines. He’s an artist who does well with wide open spaces, so the haunting canvas of space really places to his strength. There’s lots of clever little touches, like Hal’s chosen method of transport to the stars, but the issue has a great balance of light and dark. The reveal of the 9th Circle’s ship is like something out of Star Wars, and this issue has better deep space action than the recent Trinity arc, to my eye. Most of the action is on Ollie’s side, but Dinah and Emiko get a great segment as well as they infiltrate the underground in search of Wendy and finally come face to face with the Auctioneer. Great issue, but Emiko still needs a spotlight issue!

Corrina: I want Schmidt to draw all the things.  He proves in this issue that he can do just that, shifting from the other side of the moon and the space-based adventure to the ground-level with Emiko and Dinah. (Of course, he proved that already with the undersea train adventure but, still, he would be amazing on any space-based book.) Writing-wise, I like the banter between the heroes though, again, it seems to be referencing events that have not happened in this particular DC Universe, which makes it feel as odd as Dinah/Ollie, because the foundation is lacking.

But the 9th Circle as villains, overall, are “meh” to me, as there’s nothing humanizing/interesting about their motivations.

Injustice 2 #9 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Daniel Sampere, Penciller; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: If there’s one thing that makes this run of Injustice stand out compared to the previous one, it’s characterization. Sure, the run is still a dystopia, but it’s also not driven by a scenario like “Evil dictator Superman” where virtually every character is forced to pick a side. The main villain so far is Ra’s Al Ghul, and he’s got a much better argument – especially with an unnamed anti-environment President about to take office. When the issue begins, the top-secret infiltration mission into Ra’s base is about to take place, with Batman, Wildcat, Batgirl, and both Plastic Men leading the charge. This segment is best when it’s having fun with bizarre uses of superpowers – such as Plastic Man and Son forming a living dive suit for Batgirl – but it occasionally suffers from overly antagonistic character interactions.

The real strong point of the issue comes in the second half when we enter Ra’s base and get to know the perspective of one of his staunchest – and most heroic – allies, Animal Man. Buddy is normally one of the kindest heroes in the DCU, but over the years he was pushed further and further by the ruthlessness of poachers hunting animals to extinction – something he could actually feel every time. He finally loses it in a segment straight out of a horror movie and is won over to Ra’s side by Ra’s secret breeding program for extinct animals. The evil second Batman, still cloaked in mystery, gets ready to wage a war against the intruders as the issue closes, and it seems we’re headed for a big final battle. But none of this would matter if it wasn’t for how well the characters are written – both good and evil.

Nightwing #28 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Artist; Miguel Mendonca, Penciller; Diana Egea, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Let’s Talk About Girlfriends

Ray: This issue concludes the “Spyral” storyline with a huge-scale, twist-filled tribute to Seeley and King’s run on “Grayson”, pitting the main players of the series against one of their deadliest enemies in a final showdown. The opening of the issue finally clarifies the events of the last few issues, revealing that the real Agent Tiger has been held captive by his impostor – none other than the first major villain of the Grayson series, Mr. Minos, the man with the Labyrinth Face. Minos has always been a creepy villain if a bit obtuse in his plans and motivations. That doesn’t change here, as even his very nature is called into question into this issue. However, while the final resolution of Minos’ plot is a tiny bit hard to follow, he’s not the star of this issue.

What works, really well, about this issue is seeing the entire Grayson cast together again. Dick and Helena have a great rapport (although where Seeley takes that at the end of the issue isn’t my favorite part). Agent Tiger, once he’s freed, is both incredibly dangerous and a great frenemy to Dick. And then there’s the Skullgirls, along with their erstwhile member Lotti Duff, who steal the show several times. It’s clear that Seeley loved writing this motley crew of spy heroes, and he has a blast reuniting them. Not sure about the advancement of Shawn’s plotline, though. She makes the right choice, stopping Mouse from making a horrible mistake, turns her back on Pigeon (who seems to vow revenge) and then…sees Dick sleeping with Helena while racing towards a reunion with him, and flies off. The Grayson plots are fantastic. Still not 100% on the current series.

Nightwing #28, 2017
Is Minos a man or..something else? image via DC Comics

Corrina: I never quite know where Seeley is going with Shawn. He deliberately led us to a fake-out about her pregnancy but, then, he did use the idea of a child to drive home the differences between Dick and Shawn, and how they viewed the future together. Dick telling Shawn he’s not sure she’d be a great parent…ouch, still, and yet it was in character for him. I’ve not yet understood why Shawn insisted that Dick focus on a civilian life or why it was such a big issue to her but, obviously, her return to costume does away with that objection.

Now, it’s very, very, very cliche to see a past love wanting to reunite at the same time as the object of their affection is starting a new relationship or rekindling an old one. I’m not so much objecting to that end scene so much as hoping it will subvert the cliche and make Shawn decide what she wants to do with her life, overall, on her own. The best case scenario at this point would be for her to start as a civilian elsewhere. But we’ll see. (Also, I don’t like Helena with Dick simply because, hello, all that history with Barbara Gordon and Babs is Helena’s teammate and that seems…not quite right.)

Bombshells United #1 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Marguerite Sauvage, Artist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Timely Focus on American Racism

(This review originally ran in last week’s column, but is reprinted here for the official comic store release)

Ray: Bombshells relaunches this coming week (the first few chapters are already up on DC’s digital service) and DC was kind enough to give us an advance look at the first print issue. The quality of this creative, socially relevant title has not dimmed a bit, even as it leaves the majority of its cast back in Europe and focuses on Wonder Woman and a new cast of supporting characters. The first volume focused on the evil dark sorcerers of the Third Reich and the cold-blooded mad scientists of the Soviet Union, but the threat in this volume is much closer to home – American paranoia and racism. The issue opens with Marguerite Sauvage’s gorgeous art depicting Wonder Woman’s horror and anger as she finds out that her adopted homeland has begun arresting and imprisoning law-abiding citizens for their ethnic background.

This story allows the title to introduce Diana’s two most iconic sidekicks – Donna Troy, here reimagined as a Japanese-American teenager leading the resistance, and Cassie Sandsmark, here a 1/16th Japanese girl caught up in the roundups. This issue does a great job of establishing the absurdity of the executive order, which caught up Korean-Americans and people like Cassie who didn’t even know they were Japanese. What it doesn’t do, though, is give a name to the evil. Beloved American President FDR is never named, despite this being the biggest stain on his record. Where the issue excels is in its creation of this “biker gang” of teenage girls, now joined by Wonder Woman, as they stand alone against the government’s bigotry. I’m not sure about the decision to make this evil soldier who seeks to assassinate the captives actually Clayface – the reveal sort of comes out of nowhere – but this series is filled with great characters and a story that’s as timely as ever.

DC Bombshells United #1
Freedom lost on American soil? image via DC Comics

Corrina: Yay, Donna Troy is back and she’s not an evil, soulless brainwashed version of herself, as she was in the regular DC Universe. Not that she would be, in this comic, but still, it just shows how much better female characters tend to be handled in this book than in the main DC Universe. (I’m still not sure what’s going on with Cassie anymore, which is sad. Hey, maybe we can give Bennett a Young Justice book?)

To the plot–the resettlement of American citizens into camps during World War II is still a stain upon our democracy and one that’s a reminder of what can happen when people give into fear. It’s a perfect issue for teenagers to seize on as unfair, as these teens do in this issue. But I also like how Bennett shows the complications of simply freeing those in the camps. They can’t go home again because they have no homes. Is revolting against this unfair and inhumane treatment the way to go or is it better to wait until others come to their senses? In any case, it’s not a problem that can be solved by brute force, at least not all of it.

Well, except for Clayface. They can beat him up all they want.

Note: Perhaps because this is collected from the digital issues but I found the transitions between pages/scenes a little jarring and sometimes it seemed that either things had been skipped over or repeated. But, again, I fear that’s an overall issue with collecting digital stories.

Dastardly & Muttley #1 – Garth Ennis, Writer; Mauricet, Artist; John Kalisz, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Ennis Does Ennis

Ray: Given that the last Wacky Races revamp, Wacky Raceland, was terrible, and Garth Ennis’ last DC work was the atrocious Six-Pack and Dogwelder, I can’t say I was expecting much from this miniseries. But surprise, surprise, it’s actually an entertaining and bizarre take on the classic Wacky Races antagonist. It’s definitely a Garth Ennis comic, as we can tell from the opening segment, hen a fake middle eastern country named “Unliklistan” is in the process of testing its first nuclear reactor using an unstable new fuel – and winds up nuking the entire capital city. Five days later, an Air Force Lt. Colonel nicknamed “Dick” and his unprofessional Captain co-pilot nicknamed “Mutt” are flying a reconnaissance mission over the nuke site, with Dick yelling at Mutt for smuggling his dog on board. Then they breathe in odd, cartoonish fumes from a mysterious drone…

That’s when things get very bizarre, in the classic Ennis fashion. Mutt’s eyes float out of his head, Dick starts seeing things in strange cartoonish style, and the dog won’t stop barking as they eject. Dick wakes up days later in a German hospital, and no one will tell him what happened to Mutt. He’s soon interrogated by a pair of mysterious government agents who seem determined to frame him for the events of the crash. And then they start making odd Looney Tunes references? I was genuinely confused at this point in reading, but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. By the time Mutt shows up, complete with a new Dog head, you’re either in or you’re not. Reinventing Dastardly and Muttley as an odd cartoon military conspiracy? Okay. Is it a great comic? Certainly not. Is it miles above anything else DC has published involving Wacky Races or talking dogs? Absolutely.

Dastardly & Muttley #1, 2017
Watch out for that weird shaped…cloud? Image via DC Comics

Corrina: DC: Our last version of Dastardly and Muttley was pitch dark. Want to lighten it up a bit, Garth? Ennis: Define “lighten.” DC: Well, do that crazy thing you do when it’s funny and dark and weird. Ennis: Can I make Muttley a half-dog half-man and put everyone into a cartoon universe? DC: Sounds a bit weird. How are you going to start the issue? Ennis:  Going to set off an accidental nuclear explosion that destroys a country. DC: SOLD!

Decent: Ratings 7-8

Superman #30 – Keith Champagne, Writer; Ed Benes, Tyler Kirkham, Philip Tan, Artists; Dinei Ribeiro, Tomeu Morey, Sunny Gho, Colorists

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Decent Fill-In

Ray: What we have in the conclusion to this fill-in arc (that also ties into an upcoming arc of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps) is a decent story that also, unfortunately, feels out of step with what else has come before in the DCU. When the issue opens, Superman is possessed by Parallax – having taken on the fear beast in order to spare his child hosts from further possession. Sinestro wants his former thrall back under his control and has brought Lyssa Drak with him to wrestle the creature out of Superman. Although Parallax/Superman easily gets the edge over Sinestro, an ambush by the Weaponers of Qward knocks him out and allows Sinestro to capture him and drag him off to a frozen fortress in Qward, where he’s powerless.

What ensues is Sinestro using a rather hideous fear construct to torture Superman, tapping into his deepest fears in hope of essentially scaring Parallax right out of him. The two-page segment of Superman’s greatest fears is compelling, although we’ve seen a lot of them before – Lois getting sick, Jon turning against his family, Superman being unable to stop a major disaster, losing control of his powers, etc. Superman is mostly in character here. Sinestro, though…can’t really say the same. He comes off as a sadistic maniac, convinced that the only way to control Parallax is through torture. He’s also more than willing to leave Superman to die, which would pick a war with Earth that he would never win. The issue’s climax is strong, with Superman showing compassion to even things like Parallax or the minions of Qward, which allows him to win the day. That’s the saving grace here – it’s not a great GL comic, but it’s a solid Superman book.

Corrina: Benes wastes no time in making Lyssa Dark’s costume even skimpier, which frustrated me on reading this. Not the biggest frustration, though, that was Sinestro himself. Like the Joker, he’s supposed to be the worst villain in his franchise and, yet, I’ve yet to find him more interesting than a second-rate Doctor Doom. Nothing here changes my mind but, remember, until Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, I’ve was indifferent to all things Green Lantern. (Save John Stewart.) Have fun with Sinestro, GLC.

The inner fear segments come off as yet another round of Superman faces his worry for his family, which we already did with the Superman Revenge Squad issues. Not Champagne’s fault, but since I’ve just read this, it lessens the impact in this story. I also wanted more with the stolen kids at the end, something that would make me go “d’aww” about their reunions with their parents. Instead, it’s a bit skimped on. There’s nothing bad here but there’s nothing outstanding either.

Harley Quinn #27 – Frank Tieri, Writer; Eleonora Carlini, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Another Decent Fill-In

Ray: With the Harley for Mayor story kicking off next issue, this issue brings on a guest creative team in the form of previous Harley co-writer Frank Tieri and artist Eleonora Carlini. The issue kicks off after Harley scores a particularly brutal takedown of a fellow athlete in the roller rink, and then learns that it’s the last match – the rink is being taken over for eminent domain. As is most of the boardwalk. And Sy Borgman’s retirement home. And, most personally, Harley’s own building. After some investigation, she finds out that the source of all this is none other than Penguin, who intends to build an Iceberg Casino in Coney Island. Despite her natural instincts, she decides to try for a classy sit-down with Cobblepot – that ends with him shooting her down, and her introducing his crotch to an angry lobster.

With it clear that there’s no peaceful solution to this conflict, Harley goes to war, gathering all the citizens of Coney Island to disrupt Penguin’s unveiling. This doesn’t really work either, but her next scheme does. At first I was wondering if Tieri wrote this a long time ago, when Harley and Joker were still on good terms, but nope – there’s a clever twist in the final act that makes this very much a Harley story. Overall, it’s a little formulaic and predictable, but with enough funny moments (and not much of the mean-spirited violence that characterized the “Gang of Harleys” mini, thankfully). And it’s worth reading for the last page alone, a fourth-wall-breaking gag where Harley realizes that she’s been the victim of a fill-in issue. It’s only one page, but I laughed more at it than I did at most issues of the series.

Corrina: There is a bit of the mean-spirited violence at the beginning, with Harley (at the least) knocking someone unconscious. It’s an entertaining enough fill-in, and quickly-paced, and nicely drawn, and I like Harley creating her own “Joker” to scare Penguin. Not essential but, hey, I did love that meta-commentary at the end.

Justice League #28 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Batt, Inker; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Time Travel Cliches?

Ray: After two fairly weak issues that barely showed off the personality of the visiting future kids of the Justice League, this issue is a welcome change of pace without a major crisis to fight. However, it still suffers from some poor characterization of one major Justice Leaguer in particular. This issue, with the future kids having nowhere to go and the League still not sure what they’re here to do, they take them to their respective homes. This provides some nice, human moments in a series that’s sort of been lacking them. The main segment involves Superman trying to bond with his future adoptive son, Hunter (who was apparently abandoned by Wonder Woman at birth, my biggest issue with the arc).

While Hunter and Jon hit it off, and Hunter is enthusiastic to be back in his childhood home, it’s clear he’s still traumatized by his experiences in the war, and his views of Superman’s crimefighting techniques are…dim. Mera and her daughter only get a brief bonding segment, but the scene with Jessica and Barry’s future kids was genuinely endearing. Hitch and Humphries seem to be pushing different potential romantic bonds for Jessica, and while I lean more towards Humphries’ take, Jessica’s scenes with Barry and their “kids” were great. Then there’s Cyborg and his son teaming up to confuse Silas even more than usual, which was amusing. But lurking over all this is the overarching conspiracy, which Wonder Woman tries to unravel – and Hunter is looking to kill her before she solves. Good moments in this issue, but still lacking in the overall plot.

Justice League #28, Hunter son of Wonder Woman
Just a normal family dinner with your past/alternate reality family. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: You just knew Wonder Woman was the one they had come back in time to kill. Because these things always mean someone’s come back in time to kill someone, right? Perhaps the kids even set off their own dystopia by doing this and now they’re in the middle of a time-loop. Or, of course, they’re from an alternate timeline. Or something. The character moments are interesting, especially Jess and Barry with their trio of “kids,” and Mera with her daughter. I still object to Lois being nothing more than “mom” every time she’s in something. (C’mon, you know Lois is doing whatever investigating that she can, not reheating pie. Enough with Lois and pie, people!)

So, the personalities are great and the plot is cliched. In the end, the personal moments make it interesting but I suspect all these kids are gonna die or vanish.

Bane: Conquest #5 – Chuck Dixon, Writer; Graham Nolan, Artist; Gregory Wright, Colorist

Ray – 7/10

Corrina: Action, Action, Action.

Ray: The second arc of Bane: Conquest teams Bane up with Catwoman – albeit using the term “team up” loosely. They spend half the time trying to kill each other. But they’re soon forced to work together in a story that delivers some effective action, but lacks a compelling adversary. Bane is pitted against another reluctant ally, the mutant Dionysus, in a battle to take down a highly powerful Russian crime syndicate. But Dionysus, with his advanced control of technology, has gotten the upper hand on Bane and left Bane and Catwoman battling to survive. What ensues is essentially a brutal gauntlet run through the underground bases of this criminal syndicate, as Bane rips his way through anything that crosses his path.

What works is Bane as a character, and his presence. From his ruthlessness, to the hints of brittle rage that peek through when Catwoman questions his dependence on Venom, he remains a compelling lead. Catwoman, though – her characterization feels right out of the 90s. This issue also provides a spotlight for henchmen Trogg and Zombie, who are backing Bane up and helping him escape from another vantage point. They have a compelling look to them, but they remain mostly stock henchmen. This isn’t a terrible comic by any means, but it’s probably the most generic one since the first issue. A twelve-issue story involving a villain lead is always going to be dicey, and I’m not sure there’s a compelling enough central story to sustain it.

Bane Conquest #5, Dixon, Nolan, 2017
Things are not going as planned…..image via DC Comics

Corrina: This miniseries continues as it did in the beginning, as an old-style action thriller. I forgot how much I missed Nolan’s art on the Batman comics. It’s so kinetic and immersive that the action simply flows. Yes, Catwoman’s characterization is out of the 90s but she’s not written as dumb, so I let that go.

Where the series tends to lose me is Bane himself. Ray finds him compelling but I’m only mildly interested in whether he wins or loses, which takes some of the shine off this issue and theoverall series for me.  With seven more issues coming, I wonder how it can sustain the kinetic energy.

Split Decision:  Good & Bad.

Cyborg #16 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Will Conrad, Artist; Allan Jefferson, Penciller; Wayne Faucher, Inker; Ivan Nunes, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: Fine Concepts

Ray: Cyborg has an ambitious plot – it’s been running the same storyarc since issue one – and occasionally hits on something unique, but sometimes they’ll just turn out a complete dud of an issue like this one. A jam-packed story with multiple new villains and a massive infodump on the digital world Cyborg inhabits, it tries for a lot and rarely lands. The issue opens with some awkward narration in a massively destructive scene where it’s not even clear who’s talking. From there, Cyborg goes to confront his alternate universe doppelganger, who looks exactly the same – except that his armor is completely red. I got flashbacks to 90s evil Azrael!Batman. Meanwhile, the villain Anomaly has been a weak spot in the series from the start, and two of them from different worlds isn’t helping.

There are some high points in the issue, such as when Cyborg figures out that the world itself is a simulation. As none of it is real, he can essentially hack the world and take out the evil rival Cyborg (whose motivation seems to boil down to hating humans because they turned him into a freak). There’s a distinct Matrix vibe to the proceedings, but it goes in the wrong direction towards the end. Cyborg once again finds the mysterious being masquerading as his friend Blue, and learns the secrets of the Digitalverse. These last few pages are just a massive infodump of techno-theory that doesn’t hold interest. The series was at its absolute strongest when it was focusing on Cyborg figuring out how to be human again, such as in the scene that initially introduced Blue. The book going full-on into digital sci-fi kept it from regaining that charm.

Corrina: Dud? I found this issue, which answered a ton of the questions that were set up in earlier issues, to be full of interesting concepts. I expected the revelation that this was a digital world but it caught me off-guard that it was also real, in its own way and needs Cyborg to save it.

The issue is a little too-packed, which smothers the story a bit. Two versions of Cyborg, two versions of Anomaly, plus alternate versions of dear to Cyborg’s heart, but I forgive that because the concept is strong. And I like the parallels between jazz music, digital code, and the building blocks of a universe. But I don’t understand why, once Cyborg realizes he can control this digital world at the end, why he can’t quickly defeat everyone? Especially since he has the other Cyborg under control?

Doom Patrol #8 – Gerard Way, Writer; Nick Derington, Penciller; Tom Fowler, Inker; Tamra Bonvillain, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Ray: Like Shade, this is one of the weirdest comics you’ll read all month. Unlike Shade, though, it lacks any sort of human entry point like the rest of the Young Animal line. Even the first arc was more effective at this, but Casey Brinke seems to have gone down the rabbit hole with the rest of the Doom Patrol this issue. It opens with a look into a mysterious, classified office where the things kept in filing cabinets are…not what you’d expect. From there, it flashes to the surreal world of Dannyland, where Keeg and Jane Doe are overseeing strange experiments designed to minimize the anomalies in Dannyland. This segment looks great, but too much of the issue is devoted to following the strange Keeg’s attempt to educate everyone about the rules of Dannyland.

Then there’s Casey, who returns home and finds her cat Lotion – who is now a cat-man in a hoodie. She takes him home, heads back to Dannyland where she finds out that she might need to move there due to her influence on the strange properties of the living city, and returns home upset that she’s losing the little normalcy she has left. So she goes to her apartment and has sex with her cat/roommate. Yes, you read that right. Straight-up human-on-catperson sex in this comic. Then there’s a plot involving Sam and his son being involved in a strange ritual, and the introduction of the mysterious, addictive new product named “$#!+” to the market. There’s a lot of plots here, but they don’t remotely come together into a compelling story.

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.