It is definitely a Batman-centric week of comics, especially as Selina gives her long-awaited answer to Bruce’s marriage proposal in Batman #32. Major news outlets have spoiled the answer already and that may be a clue unto itself, because which answer wold cause major news outlets to run comic news?
There is also a new Batman Elseworlds, Batman: White Knight #1, which reimagines Batman and the Joker, and Dark Knights Metal tie-in with Batman: The Dawnbreaker as child Bruce Wayne gains the power of a Green Lantern ring, and more with the Teen Titans/Nightwing/Green Arrow crossover as our heroes face the Batman-Who-Laughs. Not to be left out, Alfred has the spotlight in All-Star Batman #14.
Hopefully, none of this overshadows the lovely ending to Sam Humphries run in Green Lanterns #32 or the tense team dynamics present in Deathstroke #24.
As for Harley & Ivy Meet Betty & Veronica #1, well, it gets weird.
This, plus reviews of all this week’s DC Comics below.
Warning: Major Spoilers!
Spotlight Comic: Selina: “Yes.”
Batman #32 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; June Chung, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Is Joker Gone Yet? Oh, And She Said ‘Yes.’
Ray: “The War of Jokes and Riddles” concludes this issue, with a story that shows Batman at his most emotionally intimate before getting to the moment we’ve been waiting four months for. The opening five pages are completely silent, showing Batman breaking down as he gets to the moment that has haunted him for all these years. A two-page spread shows the victims of the war, and Joker and Riddler face off in stony silence. Then, the fight begins. Neither of them is exactly an expert fighter, so it’s more flailing with Batman in the middle than anything, but that works – these guys are the masterminds. It was never supposed to come down to a fight between them. King’s Joker is a force of nature, all snarls and ill-timed humor, but his Riddler may be even more manipulative.
Riddler’s obsession with Joker’s laughter, his viewing the entire war as a joke, up to and including his murder of Kite-Man’s son as part of the plan, it finally pushes Batman too far, and Batman does the one thing he vowed to never do – he aims at Riddler with a knife, with intent to kill. And then, Joker sticks his hand in front of the knife, saving Riddler’s life, and begins laughing for the first time in this story, leaving Batman with the horrifying reality that the only reason he’s not a murderer is because Joker thought it would be funny to stop him. It makes no sense – but then, does anything Joker does make any sense? And that’s haunted Batman ever since. His confession to Selina shows him more human and genuine than we’ve often seen him, and it likely factors heavily into Selina’s answer – yes. Anything else would have been a long wait for nothing, and I’m very excited to see how this plays out from here. No one can say King isn’t taking chances.
Corrina: Did we need how many chapters of gore and destruction to get to this particular confession? I do not think so–even with the intense and worthy digression into the torn pieces of Kite-Man’s soul. In short, the reveal is that Batman could have murdered someone. The someone who had murdered countless people. Who was trying to kill someone else, albeit incompetently? Yes, I agree Joker stopping him was a Joker thing to do but…the way King set this story up, it almost calls out for someone to kill these two. I thought Batman was going to confess standing aside as the cops came in–now that they have a free run at the villains–and killing them.
Because if we’re going to be realistic, I submit the police force would simply shoot Joker and Riddler the minute they showed their faces. They obviously cannot be imprisoned safely. At the least, you’d think someone like the Punisher created by Gotham’s carnage would do it. I know, I know. The villains can’t die, they’re too tied into DC’s mythos. But if Bruce and Selina can get married, why can’t the Riddler and Joker be put on the shelf for a while?
Because after this, Gotham citizens should not be okay. This story is all about Batman’s psyche and the citizens are mainly props to tell the tale. Even Kite-Man’s son is dead so to push Batman to the brink and teach him he can murder, under the right circumstances. Basically, a whole city fridged to explore what will push Batman to murder.
The saving grace of the issue for me is the Bat/Cat relationship is perfect. And she says “yes.”
Near Perfect: Ratings 9-10
Deathstroke #24 – Priest, Writer; Diogenes Neves, Penciller; Jason Paz, Trevor Scott, Inkers; Jeromy Cox, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Perfect Team Dynamics
Ray: It’s always fascinating when a writer takes over someone else’s characters and immediately makes them their own, and that’s what Priest has done with the young Wally West. This issue, he finally takes the fore, as his training with Deathstroke takes a dark turn. The issue opens with Wally in a tough, no-win situation as he faces off against a ruthless sniper who has aimed seven shots at bystanders and must decide whether to save the people or stop the shooter. From there, Deathstroke and Wintergreen analyze his performance – the shooter turned out to actually be Deathstroke in disguise, as one of his elaborate tests – and then proceed to reveal Wally’s undercover spying operation on the rest of the team. Also, “Don’t be a Richard” made me laugh harder than anything else this week.
I’m still not sure what Deathstroke’s overarching plan with these young heroes, but the secrets he exposes that Wally’s recorded range from the humiliating but harmless – his crush on Power Girl and ill-advised comments about her – to more scandalous – his analysis of the rivalry between Ravager and Terra. With very little action this issue, Priest is able to dial back and look at the team dynamics, as well as the subtle ways Deathstroke manipulates these lost teenagers to his interests. Subplots like Deathstroke’s dalliance with a particularly vicious Chinese gang, or the mysterious deadly girl obsessively chasing someone named Claire, aren’t quite as interesting, but I’m sure they’ve all got a role to play in the tapestry that Priest is building. I never thought that a Deathstroke book would be the best character-driven book in the DCU, but here we are.
Corrina: This issue is basically all team dynamics, with no crisis in play, and yet it’s as tense as if the team were in a life or death situation. Priest seems to have a way with tension that always keeps me guessing and yet remains utterly true to the characters. The tension arises not so much from what Wally found out but that he’s worried what others will think of him. It is likely the best new Wally West story that’s been written since his creation. Wally is allowed to be smart but nervous and competent but not always aware of all the angles. And, hey, who wouldn’t have a crush on Power Girl?
Aside: not only has Priest put together DC’s best book, he’s done it with three characters of color (Wally, Tanya and Rose), a LGBTQ character, Joe, and a white woman, Terra. That means the only white guy featured in this book right now is Deathstroke himself and he’s the villain. It’s a team that is, deliberately inside and outside the story, the opposite of Deathstroke himself.
I’m not sure where the subplots fit in yet but I feel certain that they will.
All-Star Batman #14 – Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone, Writers; Rafael Albuquerque, Max Fiumara, Artists; Jordie Bellaire, Trish Mulvihill, Colorists
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Alfred. Of Course
Ray: Surprisingly, the first book to end in Rebirth isn’t a cancellation due to low sales, but this prestige Batman title, as the writer shifts future stories over to an OGN line and focuses on his upcoming metal-tied projects. And over its three arcs, it’s been a wildly exciting ride that takes Batman out of his element. But this final arc, focusing on Alfred, may be the best act yet. As Alfred is forced to go up against his deranged former mentor Blair, and Batman’s life hangs in the balance, Batman’s closest ally and best supporting cast member finally gets his day in the sun. This issue isn’t so much a superhero comic as a high-seas adventure pirate story, and it’s Alfred’s narration that really sells it. Alfred as a modern James Bond is a fairly new addition to the mythos, but it really works.
Where the story flags the tiniest bit is the reveal of Blair’s secret assassin. It at first seems it’s likely his dead son, resurrected somehow, but in fact, it’s a clone of Alfred, turned into the killer that Blair always wanted him to be. That’s such a bizarre twist, even for Snyder’s run which involves killer Owl cults and giant plant monsters, but Albuquerque draws a fantastic final battle and ends with a great scene that shows how Alfred and Bruce first met. Alfred’s transition from globetrotting spy to loyal butler never made 100% sense until this arc, and Snyder has filled in this chapter of the Bat-family’s history perfectly. The backup, as always, falls a bit flat compared to the main story, bringing Bruce’s infiltration of the Russian mob to a brutal and exciting end, but without any real emotional stakes and a villain unlikely to appear again.
Corrina: If I recall correctly, this isn’t the first time it’s been told that the reason why Alfred came to the Waynes is out of love for his father and to honor his father’s service. But, no, it’s never been detailed or told in a story like this, where Alfred is portrayed as a former action hero, though there have been strong hints of his military service. And while I won’t go as far as Ray by saying Alfred is Batman’s best supporting character–that’s Jim Gordon to me—but it’s was a terrific idea to flesh out Alfred’s life in this arc and I enjoyed it more than any other story in this series. The Alfred clone seemed a bit over the top but, eh, it’s a minor issue in an excellent story.
Batman: The Dawnbreaker #1 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Ethan Van Sciver, Artist; Jason Wright, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Metal Again
Ray: This is easily my favorite of the three Dark Knights specials so far, mainly because it’s the first to actually break from the mold of “Batman loses someone he loves, so he takes leave of his sentences and turns into Dr. Frankenstein”. Here, the curse that eventually takes Batman’s soul takes him when he’s at his most vulnerable – right when he loses his parents, as a young boy. Filled with rage and unable to feel any fear as he stares the shooter in the eyes, he’s chosen by a Green Lantern ring – and promptly proceeds to break as he desperately tries to force the ring into using lethal force. He succeeds, but with a price, unlocking something dark and evil within the ring. What follows is essentially a child play-acting at being a ruthless vigilante. His brutal actions target both the villains of Gotham – and the police that try to stop him.
Yet, even at his most monstrous, this Batman is still a lost child, and Humphries never lets us forget it. Humphries has done some great work in the Green Lanterns title (where his run concludes this week), showing us the emotional toll being a Green Lantern can take, especially for someone unhinged like this Bruce or Volthoom, and he builds on that here. Ethan Van Sciver, arguably the definitive Batman artist, gets to show off here as he creates the horrors that lurk in the dark in Bruce’s corrupted ring, and some of those double-page spreads are the best work he’s done in years. Humphries only writes the Batman who Laughs for a few panels, but in those panels he’s more genuinely scary than we’ve seen yet. The issue ends with a brief showdown with Hal Jordan, and it’s only through Fate’s interference that Hal survives. The first of the Dark Knights to be genuinely scary.
Corrina: I’m about as thrilled with the Metal/Dark Knight universe as I am with yet another Joker story but this story has much to recommend it. Humphries has done something unusual, taking Bruce at his most angry, his most broken, and giving him the power of a God. That it does not go well is putting that mildly. I’ve never seen a Batman alternate reality taken exactly from this point in his time before and showing the results of all child Bruce’s rage and anger is sad and terrifying.
If you’re going to read an insane Batman book this week, I’d recommend this one.
Excellent Issues: Ratings 8-9
Batman: White Knight #1 – Sean Gordon Murphy, Writer/Artist; Matt Hollingsworth, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: If You Like Joker Stories…
Ray: The 90’s were dominated by Elseworlds, elaborate DC alternate universes where top-tier creators like Alan Davis, Alex Ross, and Mark Waid would put their own spin on the characters of the DCU in unique settings. Now, they’re back with Murphy taking the helm on a title that promises to flip Batman and Joker’s roles. The title is coming in with a good deal of controversy, due to right-wing trolls claiming it was going to be “SJW Batman” and Murphy trying clumsily to debunk their accusations. But on its own, it’s a compelling and gorgeously drawn comic that seems to be trying to turn a critical eye on the tropes of vigilantism. The issue begins with Batman locked up in Arkham Asylum, while a sane, non-clown Jack Napier, dressed in a suit and tie and apparently a prominent Gotham citizen, arrives at the asylum to ask for his help. It then flashes back to a year later, as Joker terrorizes Gotham with an elaborate heist and escape, while Batman pursues.
This isn’t our Batman, though. This Batman is increasingly unhinged – clearly tired of dealing with Joker, endangering the health of bystanders, and ignoring the advice of Nightwing and Batgirl. Murphy is at his best doing insane chase sequences, like we saw in Tokyo Ghost. But the confrontation turns ugly, as Batman corners Joker, and responds to his taunting by beating him brutally and force-feeding him a bottle of pills. This causes a massive stir among Gotham politicos as Gordon is pressured to crack down on Batman, leads to a (sort of cringe-worthy) political debate on a news station, and also has the side effect of turning Joker sane thanks to the pills. He immediately sets about studying law and intends to sue the GCPD for his injuries – and apparently, they’ve never actually been able to convict him of much. Batman’s motivation for losing his mind once revealed, is a bit cliched because we’ve seen something very similar already, but overall this is an intriguing new take on Batman carried successfully by one of the best artists in the industry.
Corrina: The art reminds me of good Frank Miller, in that it’s brutal and emotional, and seems, like nothing I’ve read lately, to be in the vibe of Miller at his best. Yes, that’s high praise but Murphy deserves that. For the art.
Because the story? Batman going insane while Joker becomes sane? One has to be interested in the Batman/Joker duality for this to work for a reader and, if you read these reviews, you know that I would be happy if a decade or more went by without another story of how the Joker and Batman are flip sides of the same coin. Nothing against Murphy, I disliked Snyder’s take, I dislike the Batman-Who-Laughs, I just plain dislike these takes on Batman/Joker. But, if that is what you enjoy, listen to Ray and buy this.
Green Arrow #32 – Benjamin Percy, Joshua Williamson, Writers; Juan Ferreyra, Artist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: More Bat/Joker Stuff? ::runs and hides::
Ray: It’s the final chapter of Gotham Resistance, and this horror-accented event couldn’t find a better artist to do the job than Juan Ferreyra. With Mr. Terrific on board to help the resistance, he’s able to explain exactly what’s happened to Gotham, with The Batman Who Laughs turning Gotham into a multi-ringed arena of villains and torment. We saw Riddler, Freeze, and Poison Ivy so far, while this issue reveals Bane has turned his sector into a never-ending gladiator arena where he seeks to crush everyone, hero and villain alike. Meanwhile, the captured Titans and Squad members have been strapped to a giant robotic spider, and Nightwing continues to become slowly unhinged from the electrum coursing through his veins due to the Court of Owls.
If this all sounds sort of confusing and insane, you’re not wrong. This story hasn’t entirely made sense from the start, but it works because it’s from the perspective of the confused, desperate heroes who are trying their best to stay alive. While the villains are more there to be beaten up than anything, by the time the Batman Who Laughs arrives in his twisted flaming roadster straight out of Twisted Metal, and he and Harley face off, the issue’s just embraced its surreal vibe. The best moments in the issue go to Damian and Green Arrow, both of whom are sorting through their own recent issues and trying to work together. Damian, in particular, gets a great heroic moment towards the end. This story may not have been an essential read for Metal, but it’s a surreal, horrific feast for the eyes.
Corrina: It’s no coincidence that Humphries is involved in two of the most tolerable chapters of this Dark Metal crossover event. Or maybe it’s just the combination of the two writers working together brings out the best in each other. I’m glad we’re finally receiving an explanation for the invasion and the motive behind the attack: dragging this Earth into the Dark Universe. Damian steals the show in many ways but, this time, we’re allowed to see his vulnerability. Harley has some nice lines too.
And, yet, at the heart of this is the Batman-Who-Laughs, a character that does absolutely zilch for me, even with the evil Joker-Robin clones. That Damian defeats one is nice but, hello, that whole stabbing the arrow further through him to the Joker Robin? I suppose it’s churlish to complain that injuries like that don’t work that way and Damian would probably bleed out, especially in the middle of an event with Dark Universes and Nth Metal and yet….it kinda bothers me. Still, Doctor Fate and Mr. Terrific interest me. Not enough to like the whole event but enough to make the issue tolerable.
Green Lanterns #32 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Scott Godlewski, Artist; Hi-Fi, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Simon & Jess: Best Lanterns
Ray: After last issue’s thoroughly satisfying, epic conclusion to the main storyarc, Sam Humphries closes out his Green Lanterns run with a fun done-in-one character-driven story that brings the Lanterns back to Earth to face demons much more human than the ones they faced in space. The issue opens in amusing fashion as Jessica accomplishes her long-awaited goal of getting pancakes before the duo is summoned away to fight a giant lava-asteroid-robot. It’s as cool as it sounds. Scott Godlewski is on art this issue, and while he does great with the Green Lantern scenes and most of the characters, his Simon is sort of noticeably off, looking more like the Rock in certain panels. The main plot of the issue isn’t a GL one, though, but the family Simon left behind.
Before Jessica can get her pancakes, Simon takes her to a brief stop at a house party, that turns into an elaborate family reunion. Some of the bits in this segment, like Simon and Nazir’s teen years outfits. However, I thought that Simon and Nazir’s argument went on a bit too long, and didn’t really seem to have much of a point to it. Both were being more stubborn than anything, something lampshaded by the women in their lives. What I did really enjoy, though, was Jessica’s struggle to get through the party. As someone with a bit of social anxiety myself, although not as severe as Jessica’s, I really felt her in this segment. There’s a lot of funny and emotional moments in the house party, and overall it’s a nice tribute to the characters that Humphries turned into two of DC’s best. Let’s hope Seeley can pick up the baton and run with it.
Corrina: Humphries did something I never thought possible: made me a Green Lantern fan. Or, at least, a fan of Jess and Simon. This issue is something of a victory lap for not only Humphries but for the characters as well, as I hope they’re now firmly and indelibly established as part of the Green Lantern mythos. Characters not named Hal Jordan have a somewhat mixed history, sometimes being killed off, sometimes vanishing for long periods, and many just being plain sidelined. It’s an excellent sign that DC is continuing this comic and makes me hopeful that, down the line, Simon and Jess will continue to be integral to the DC Universe.
As for Humphries’ last story, I appreciate the callback to pancakes, the now ever-present teamwork between our heroes, and that while Jess has come a long way in dealing with her anxiety issues, it’s clear that it’s something she must deal with daily, rather than overcome or finding a miracle cure. Simon, too, has learned. He’s put aside his anger (and that gun) and he’s ready to face his family as a new hero. All this without resorting to a romance plot. Best Lanterns ever? They are to me.
The Shadow/Batman #1 – Steve Orlando, Writer; Giovanni Timpano, Artist; Flavio Dispenza, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: Dynamite is doing something we’ve really never seen before with inter-company crossovers – picking up the week after the last installment ends with a sequel miniseries that continues the story. Lead writer Steve Orlando continues his story, although co-writer Scott Snyder and artist Riley Rossmo aren’t along for the ride, with Dynamite artist Giovanni Timpano taking over. So does it pick up the baton from the sensational DC-published miniseries? Kind of. The issue loses me a bit from the start by using Professor Pyg as the initial villain. He and his Dollotrons are probably my least favorite characters in the Batman mythos. However, Orlando is wisely centering this story in the tense relationship between Batman and Robin, picking up on the fact that Bruce and Damian seem to be casually estranged.
I mean, seriously, Damian is a thirteen-year-old boy who holes up in his own lair and only occasionally drops in to visit his father. Shadow actually has a very minor role this issue, paying his respects at the grave of the aged Margo Lane, who seems to have passed away (but I’m not sure, given the nature of the story) and paying a tense visit to Pyg in prison. But his role seems to more be in the background, as he’s previously confronted the mysterious Silent Seven, who seem to be shaping up as the major villain of the series. Giovanni Timpano’s art is strong for the most part, although his proportions seem to be off at times with Damian. It’s a strong start, but you’ll need to be interested in the flaws in Bruce and Damian’s relationship for this issue to really click.
Nightwing #30 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Miguel Mendonca, Penciller; Diana Egea, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Strange Bedfellows
Ray: Tim Seeley’s final arc on Nightwing (before he plays musical chairs with Sam Humphries) reunites Nightwing with his most iconic villains past and present, as all the decisions he’s made in Bludhaven come back to haunt him. The issue opens with Dick on a nightly patrol in Bludhaven, at the same time a group of nautical-themed villains attempt to shake down Blockbuster and get a harsh lesson. Then, a corrupt Senator’s fundraiser is interrupted by Kobra goons. Seeley maybe has a bit too much fun here making political digs at the Senator – there’s a line where it stops working in the story and starts becoming soapboxing, and this is right on that line – but there isn’t too much time to reflect on that, because soon enough Dick’s former mentor turned arch-nemesis Raptor returns, the ringleader of the Kobra gang.
This is a very different Raptor than the one we last saw, though. That one had an inherent decency, more of a ruthless pirate who followed a code than a true supervillain. This one has no hesitation throwing a young woman over a railing to force Nightwing into protecting her rather than chasing him. Dick manages to prevent Raptor’s attack, but Raptor easily gets away, and Dick’s attempt to get help from his friends in the former villain’s club is rebuffed angrily. I’m not sure about Dick’s sudden dalliance with Huntress – aren’t they teasing Dick and Babs again over in Batgirl? However, Raptor’s coming war on Bludhaven is suitably menacing, and the idea that Dick might have to make a pact with Blockbuster to stop him is a great hook for the final act.
Corrina: Throughout the past year, Seeley handled Dick’s relationship with Shawn well, giving it subtlety and depth (though I did not like the kidnap or pregnancy plot). But since the break-up, Dick’s emotional reactions have been all over the place. First, I would think he’s miss Shawn somewhat, instead of instantly jumping back into a relationship with Helena. I can understand physical comfort after their last mission but they are very different people and the bond between them seems weak–and I’m not sure why either is pushing the relationship to be more solid or permanent. And, yes, they are teasing Dick and Babs over in her book, so there’s a disconnect with continuity. I don’t always mind that but, in this case, it’s yet another jarring point.
But, to the plot, I also thought it was weird for Dick to ask the former villains to help when he knows how important their recovery is to them. It makes it seem like he never understood them at all–perhaps that the point? It’s unclear. But I did love the action sequences and that Dick will have to team up with Blockbuster, though Desmond’s method of controlling Bludhaven seems destined to fail if all he does is beat up minions. Looking forward to the finale of Seeley’s run!
Harley Quinn #29 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Writers; Mira Andolfo, Michael Kaluta, Tom Derenick, Artists; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Corrina: Not an Outlandish Concept
Ray: Harley’s run for Mayor of New York is off to a big start, as she’s quickly rising in the polls and making a splash with her many stunts. Yet, she also seems to have a surprisingly good nose for politics, as we see when she goes undercover as a homeless person to get a better idea of what the people on the street care about. DePerto’s bland bureaucrat opponent doesn’t seem to have much traction, but he’s starting to get worried by Harley, so he and his henchwoman Madison proceed to recruit a special consultant to take her down – Jonathan Crane, aka the Scarecrow. The big event of the campaign is the upcoming debate, and Harlem Harley is doing oppo research while Harley is a bit preoccupied – with a visit from her on-again, off-again flame, Mason.
Harley’s love life, such as it is, is one of the most confusing parts of this book. She has a passionate night with Mason, Ivy comes into her apartment and sees them together – and lovingly watches over her sometimes-girlfriend for a minute, then orders them room service and calls Harley a cute pet name. The debate has Harley being sabotaged by Scarecrow and having a nasty hallucination right in the middle of the event, causing her to attack the other candidates. And then Ivy snaps her out of it with a kiss. Seriously, Harley’s had romantic links to various characters in this run, but none of them had half the connection she does with Ivy. The third Siren is off the market now – just let the other two date, DC! But overall, this is one of the most compelling issues of this series in a while, and the hallucination segment, in particular, has some great, surreal imagery.
Corrina: Given all the political happenings of the past year, it’s surprising how little disbelief has to be suspended to slide into the concept not only of Harley Quinn running for New York City mayor but actually winning. After all, she’s beholden to no one, has some insight into the issues, and is even willing to pose as a homeless person to find out what New Yorkers really want. (Doesn’t her criminal record disqualify her? Perhaps not.)
And let’s talk representation in this issue. This series has always made it clear that Harley and Ivy are in a romantic relationship. It’s also shown Harley’s attraction to men, especially Mason. I took Ivy finding Harley sleeping (literally) in bed with Mason as a statement of their open relationship. After all, Harley is not known for her impulse control, so I found it not weird at all that Ivy would approve. Harley’s fears are also fascinating because they delve into her fear of losing the people and animals she cares about As for that kiss between Harley and Ivy at the end? I suspect that will boost her candidacy.
Injustice 2 #11 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Bruno Redondo, Penciller; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: This title is always juggling a few dozen plotlines, and sometimes that works to its benefit – while sometimes it makes it feel a little bit jumbled. This issue is a little of both, as it opens with a flashback to the day of the destruction of Metropolis. It’s now revealed that this caused the death of Steel as well, who turned over his legacy to Natasha, who now serves as Steel in the present day. She and Aqualad are working together in Metropolis to protect the new President’s inauguration – despite a mutual disgust for his policies. Meanwhile, the hero squad in the Amazon is continuing to battle their way through Ra’s headquarters in search of the kidnapped kids.
This issue’s showdowns in the lair are among the darkest of the series, as we see a Batman who is playing for keeps more than usually. First, his use of an industrial-strength herbicide to take down Ivy is rather brutal, and it leads to a great scene as Harley and Ivy part ways, now on different sides. And then there’s the father-son reunion between Batman and Damian, as any love the two had for each other seems to have been consumed by hatred. Yet, at the same time, they’re both driven by a love for the same person – Alfred, who Bruce has never stopped grieving and Damian switched sides to bring back. Given that, the end of the issue – restoring Alfred to full life and sanity – may provide just a bit of hope for them. The story jumps back and forth a lot, but it maintains a human core that makes it work far better than the previous volume.
Good Issues: Ratings 7-8
Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica #1 – Paul Dini, Mark Andreyko, Artist; Laura Braga, Artist; Tony Avina, Arif Prianto, Colorists
Ray – 7.5/10
Ray: The latest big-name crossover out of DC brings together Archie’s most popular female characters with DC’s most popular anti-heroines for a plot that seems a bit slight for a six-issue miniseries, but hey, Harley’s spun gold out of less. Hiram Lodge, Riverdale’s own Lex Luthor, has decided to develop Sweetwater Swamp into a massive college and shopping complex, offering free tuition to Riverdale students to sweeten the pot. The problem is, Sweetwater Swamp also happens to be a rare plant ecosystem – one that Poison Ivy feels very strongly about seeing preserved. Strong enough to potentially strangle someone with killer plants. And Harley, looking for an excuse to get out of town given how many people want to kill her, is more than willing to help her gal pal.
Both Paul Dini and Mark Andreyko have written Harley and Ivy before, Dini arguably being their defining writer, so it’s no surprise that their part of the story is pure gold. However, neither of them have any significant experience working with the Archie characters, and that’s where this title falls a bit flat. It’s true that Betty and Veronica have always been rivals for Archie, and come from very different walks of life, but ever since the series began their rivalry has been friendly and they’ve been defined by their close friendship. Here they’re barely containing their contempt for each other throughout, and their rivalry seems to be driven far more by genuine dislike than anything. There are other little character issues along the way – Weatherbee being in Hiram Lodge’s pocket? Betty being a poor student? – that make this feel like a Harley and Ivy comic with Archie guest stars. However, the end of issue twist is a fun one, and I’m hoping this comic has a lot of twists up its sleeve.
Corrina: A six issue mini-series? That explains why the setup was so slow at the beginning and why the issue is so talky. It’s to put everyone into place for the big dance and the reveal at the end. I’m always up for an Ivy and Harley story and this is a fun road trip for them. But the Archie characters seem flat and one-dimensional. I haven’t read the Archie reboot but if there is going to be six issues of this story, all the characters need to be more than one-note. Maybe that will change later but, for now, it makes the first issue bland.
Bonus points, however, for the use of Harley’s original costume. The art is strong throughout, with the teenagers looking like teenagers, which isn’t always the case in comics, except I question the use of crop tops. Do kids wear those anymore?
Dastardly and Muttley #2 – Garth Ennis, Writer; Mauricet, Artist; John Kalisz, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Real To Cartoon World
Ray: Garth Ennis’ bizarrely surreal take on the famous Wacky Races characters continues to unfold, combining military intrigue with comic book physics to hilarious effect. When the issue opens, Muttley – now with a dog head courtesy of being fused with his dog by the strange gas last issue – is helping Dick escape a military hospital, where they’re then confronted by a group of soldiers, one who seems to be going increasingly insane. This Agent Perkins pulls out what looks like a giant bullhorn, shoots a hole in his fellow officer’s chest, and then leads them on an increasingly chaotic chase on motorcycle.
Dick and Muttley then hole up at a diner in Germany, where they bicker, proceed to scam the place using Muttley’s appearance to panic everyone, and then try to contact their superior in the states. However, he’s not willing to help them – it seems they’re considered a “complication” with a defense bill about to pass and no one wanting the chaotic screw-ups in Unliklistan to come to light. Did I mention the shark that breaths in some of this gas and winds up transforming into a cartoon purple shark? Or the point where the President of the United States pulls out a giant hammer and kills a Congressman on live TV? It’s as bizarre as it sounds, and yet a far better tribute to Wacky Races than Wacky Raceland ever was.
Corrina: Weirdly surreal about covers this comic. The concept seems to be: “What if cartoon actions could happen in the real world?” The cartoon actions, like the President killing a congressman on TV with a giant hammer, seem to be the result of that cloud that created Muttley. This story is something you just have to go with and accept it’s going to be weird but fun.
Needs Work: Ratings 0-6
Superman #32 – James Bonny, Writer; Tyler Kirkham, Artist; Arif Prianto, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Ray: The second half of James Bonny’s Deathstroke crossover is a major disappointment for several reasons. First up, it takes the Lois-centric story from the first part, which had her tailing and interviewing Deathstroke while under fire, and makes her a spectator in what becomes an elaborate pissing contest between Superman and Deathstroke. Second, it’s just not very interesting. It comes off as a match between a cartoonishly evil Deathstroke and a Superman who is thoroughly uninterested in using his brain. The issue opens with Superman darting in front of the bullet that Deathstroke fired, and being unable to capture or defeat Deathstroke due to the powerful new holoshield he’s using. Deathstroke soon gets away.
Superman tries to convince Lois to go into hiding while he hunts down Deathstroke, but she refuses. That leads to her investigating a fire at the docks, which turns out to be an ambush set by Deathstroke, and an elaborate hostage-taking situation where Deathstroke seems to be trying to get Superman to kill him for some reason. There’s a lot of overheated narration, followed by a standoff where nothing actually happens. Then, the cliffhanger reveals that Deathstroke did everything for Amanda Waller, to see if Superman would be willing to kill if someone he loved was threatened. The issue makes Deathstroke look like a pawn, Superman look like a goon, and reminds us just how lucky we are to have the Deathstroke title we do now.
Corrina: The ARGH is not so much for the storyline as my continuing frustration with DC never finding writers who understand Lois Lane. Yes, even at her job. Is it too much to ask for one good Lois Lane story a year? Yes, yes it is because this isn’t one. (Perhaps we should give Lois to Christopher Priest. Yes, let’s do that.)
In any case, this is a basic story of Lois getting in over her head, refusing to see that she is, and being recued. Oh, and more evil Amanda Waller. (That part is certainly not this creative team’s fault, that’s an overall DC problem.)
Cyborg #17 – John Semper Jr., Writer; Will Conrad, Artist; Ivan Nunes, Colorist
Ray – 6/10
Ray: It’s the penultimate issue of John Semper’s run on Cyborg, with Kevin Grevioux taking over in December for what is likely a final arc given the sales. Semper’s run has been characterized by huge ambition, mixed execution, and one overarching mega-story that’s built since the first issue to these final issues. There are shades of the Matrix at play here, as Cyborg has figured out that he’s not quite in another world of the multiverse where his doppelganger has caused a technovirus to run wild, but in a part of a separate digital multiverse. Now that he’s neutralized the evil Cyborg, Vic is willing to try to talk things out and figure out what’s driving him – and it turns out to be Scarlet, aka the female Cyborg.
What ensues is a wild chase through this digital chaoscape, which allows Conrad to show off and draw some very effective battle sequences. Conrad’s art may look a bit too computer-generated in places, but it does provide a unique appearance for a book that takes place in an environment unlike any other in DC. The problem is, overambition. There’s too many villains, too many players, and too many crosses and double crosses in this issue. There’s two different versions of the main villains with different agendas! I appreciate DC committing to what could have been the defining Cyborg story, expanding his world in the way writers have done to characters like Flash and GL, but the execution just isn’t there.
Justice League #30 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Matt Owens, Mick Gray, Batt, Scott Hanna, Inkers; Brad Anderson, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Ray: The penultimate issue of Bryan Hitch’s Justice League is pretty much more of the same – all combat, all the time. When the issue opens, Wonder Woman has been captured by the children of the League, while Simon’s ring has driven him out of control. Steve Trevor is trying to prevent a full-on military assault on the young heroes, with mixed success. Although Steve is able to broker a temporary peace, the mysterious darkness surrounding Wonder Woman continues to corrupt her and tell her to kill all the members of the future League besides Hunter – who, despite abandoning him in his timeline, she apparently still has some maternal feelings towards.
Then there’s Sovereign, the mysterious masked villain who was heavily hinted to be Wonder Woman over the course of the story. She shows up to the Aqua-family, and this segment reveals the dirty laundry behind their family history – it seems Mera is dead in that timeline, and Arthur had something to do with it, leading his daughter to exile him from the water with Magic and leave him stranded on the land, struggling to survive. This is why he cannibalized Cyborg’s armor. And then there’s the reveal that Sovereign is not Diana, but another Amazon – Hippolyta, who has barely been seen outside of Rucka’s run in years. There’s very little internal logic to this story, unfortunately, which makes it feel like there are no real stakes.
Corrina: Hippolyta’s unveiling as the villain should have been an interesting surprise but it just seems thrown in there, much like the other parts of this story. I’m guessing now that Steve Trevor is Hunter’s father, which is far better than, say, Darkseid, but none of these future event realizations have the emotional impact that I think the creators wanted.
We’ll see if the conclusion makes the rest of the story look any less complicated and convoluted. Maybe?
Bane: Conquest #6 – Chuck Dixon, Writer; Graham Nolan, Artist; Gregory Wright, Colorist
Ray – 5/10
Ray: As Bane’s world tour continues, it’s time for another player to enter the arena, in the form of Kobra. The issue opens with a young man cruising down the interstate with his date when he’s plucked out into the air – car, date, and all – into a floating UFO. It turns out that he’s the current leader of Kobra, the Naja-Naja, and they need him for an operation. In case there’s any doubt that we’re supposed to hate him, though, the car and his date are then dumped out of the plane hundreds of feet in the air – and he’s angry about the car. Meanwhile, Bane is shaking down the Triad in Chinatown, looking for information on Kobra. When our evil young cult leader is informed that Bane is on his tail, his solution is to…go yachting.
The key problem with this issue is that Bane doesn’t really have anyone to play off. Batman was a great partner in crime. Catwoman worked really well in that role as well. This issue, he just has his cowed henchmen and the evil dwarf Dionysus, neither of whom can really match up to him. Then he’s off in a war against Kobra, and while they provide some decent action scenes, they’re also essentially stock villains with a callow, smug leader who comes off as more of an annoyance than anything else. The end of the issue has a great chase segment aboard a yacht with a climax straight out of a B-movie, but it still lacks any actual stakes or a compelling lead.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received review copies of these comics.