DC This Week – October 18, 2017: The Bat-Kids Are All Right (Mostly)

Reading Time: 27 minutes
Batman #33, 2017
Batman in the desert on a horse should have been a clue….Image via DC Comics

This week, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle begin their lives as an engaged couple, going on a very Batman-like journey that may cost them their lives in Batman #33 but it’s the Bat-family that steals the show in our spotlight comic.

In other stories, there were some very good issues this week but nothing so spectacular that they earned our “Near Perfect”
rating.

Future Quest Presents #3 is a terrific tale of the death and rebirth of the Space Corps; Tim Seeley begins his run with Jess and Simon in Green Lanterns #33, an evil female Batman-analogue who’s acquired water powers menaces Aquaman in Batman: The Drowned #1, a Dark Knights: Metal tie-in, the first of the Metal titles that Ray categorically dislikes; Wally West is dead (maybe) in an over-the-top story in Titans #16; and Superman, Lois and Jon are whisked off to Apokolips, having “volunteered” to help Lex Luthor in Superman #33.

And, of course, reviews of all of this week’s DC Comics.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW FOR ALL OF THIS WEEK’S DC COMICS.

Spotlight Title: Batman #33

Batman #33 – Tom King, Writer; Joelle Jones, Artist; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: Bat-Boys Yes. Search for Talia? No.

Ray: It’s a brave new world for Batman and Catwoman, engaged and looking to sort out their respective baggage before they tie the knot. King is one of the deftest writers in comics, able to switch smoothly from high-intensity action and drama to character-driven moments, even comedy at the drop of a hat. The issue opens with Bruce and Selina in the desert…shooting a horse, apparently. We just jump into the story, and soon they’re on their way to a mysterious fortress in the desert, guided by none other than King creation Agent Tiger. Always good to see him again, and these segments feel like something right out of a pulp adventure movie. Although there’s relatively little dialogue here, King does a great job showing us the mutual trust and passion between Bruce and Selina.

The real star, though, is the segment taking place at Wayne Manor, as Dick, Jason, Duke, and Damian are gathered by Alfred to learn that Bruce has gotten engaged. What ensues is one of the funniest segments of the entire run, from Jason fighting with a dog, Jason, Duke, and Damian arguing over whose fault this is, and then it suddenly whiplashes into serious again as Damian breaks down, realizing why Bruce has mysteriously headed to Khadym. It seems that Bruce and Selina are on a mission – to confront Talia Al Ghul, the mother of Bruce’s son, and that son’s past killer. I’m not thrilled with the idea of Talia being a villain again after the way Tomasi walked that back, but given the quality of King’s run, I have little doubt that this is going to be a great arc.

Batman #33 interior page
Poor horse! Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Everything home with the Bat-Family is awesome. We so rarely get to see them being people together that every page is a joy, especially Alfred breaking the news of the engagement.

I expected to also be happy with Selina and Bruce’s segments too but, really? You take your current love on a mission to settle things with your baby mama? No, Bruce. Just no, no, no. King has come up with ideas that made me think “this will never work” and then he makes it work. But this might be one that doesn’t.

Very Good Comics: Ratings 8-9

Wonder Woman/Conan #2 – Gail Simone, Writer; Aaron Lopresti, Penciller; Matt Ryan, Inker; Wendy Broome, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: A Conan-Style Tale

Ray: After a fantastic first issue that set up a fascinating history for Diana and Conan, this issue sets them up against each other in a gladiator match. The issue opens with more flashbacks to Conan and Diana’s childhood, when they met at a summit of clans and became fast friends. Of course, we also know they were soon parted, and it seems like that may have been a swift, brutal passing that left them unsure if the other was even alive. Now, though, their reunion in the gladiator pit of the evil slavemaster Dellos is a lot more brutal. With Diana lacking her memories and most of her powers, that’s the only way this is even much of a match, of course. The two mysterious crow women, who seem to be the bigger bads of this overarching story, continue to watch in creepy fashion.

Conan wins his fight over the amnesiac Diana, but he chooses to spare her, and Dellos has no use for disobedient gladiators. So both of them are sold to a ruthless slavemaster aboard a traveling vessel. This motley crew of pirates abuses them consistently, and days pass into weeks, until a wave of misfortune leads the crew to believe Diana is bad luck. Naturally, picking a fight with these two doesn’t end well – and I bet it won’t end well for the sharks in the cliffhanger either. It’s a dark, gritty comic that feels much less like a superhero comic than a fantasy/mythological one, and although Diana’s not at the top of her game here yet, we see flashes of it. I have no doubt that by the end of it, it’ll feel a lot more like a Wonder Woman comic, but it’s a strong crossover already.

Wonder Woman/Conan #2
Conan and (maybe) Young Diana. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: This crossover definitely is on the fantasy/mythological side of the divide, veering away from anything that might be remotely considered a superhero angle, save for Diana’s very presence. It reminds me of how much I enjoyed Simone’s Red Sonja/Conan crossover and how well she writes the Barbarian. I winced a bit when Diana lost the gladiator battle but she was distracted and more than a bit out of it. (I suspect those mystical godlings, the crows, have something to do with it also.)

I love the flashbacks to little Conan as well, though I wonder if the little girl Conan befriends is Diana. I’d almost prefer that it’s not, as a case of mistaken identity. Overall, I would like to see more of Diana’s personality shine through but that’s a minor niggle in an enjoyable story.

Future Quest Presents #3 – Jeff Parker, Writer; Ariel Olivetti, Artist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: An Epic Feel

Ray: Future Quest Presents doesn’t quite have the sweeping scope and huge cast of the original maxiseries, but it makes up for it with a tighter focus and some surprisingly complex galactic politics and tragedy. The backstory of Metallus and his minions, galactic officers who wound up being stranded on an alien world and transformed into living energy, grants these otherwise generic villains a lot more layers, and it makes their plan – to subject Space Ghost and his young proteges to the same treatment that transformed them – a lot more like a desperate grasp for company. Looking more into the group of villains, it’s clear that only Metallus is fully conscious, with the others being mere shells of their previous selves.

After a tense escape from the cave, where a temporarily blinded Igor proves just as dangerous as any enemy they’ve encountered, they pursue Metallus and his men off-world. These armored shells containing energy beings prove to be dramatically self-sacrificing, all in the quest to return to their home planet with the ore. However, that home planet is no longer what they remembered, in a dramatic twist spinning directly out of the end of Future Quest. This is a series that takes something that was…not exactly known for its dense plots and characterization back in the day, and spins it into pure gold. Jeff Parker is one of DC’s secret weapons right now, and I’m hoping they give him Shazam full-time when the time is right.

Future Quest Presents #3
Good thing they have a giant rock monster on their side. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Using, as a base, a television show that concentrated on action, not characterization, Parker and Olivetti have created a tale of pathos and poignancy. Though Metallus is our villain, I wanted him to survive and become whole again, much as I wanted their destination to be vital and alive. But, alas, the past cannot be redone and all that’s left is to move forward, something Space Ghost can do but not Metallus, leading to his demise. It’s a sad, beautiful comic, and I mean that in several ways.

Batwoman #8 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; Fernando Blanco, Artist; John Rauch, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Surreal

Ray: Batwoman descends further into her dark night of the soul as Scarecrow’s gas takes hold and creates a personal hell for its victims in this second chapter of Bennett’s first solo arc. As the issue opens, Scarecrow and Fatima are discussing their plans for their victims, as Scarecrow seems to have gone corporate and is now using his fear gas for other parties. And for Batwoman, it first takes the form of a trip back to the lost year, and the horrible fox hunt that ensued. However, it then takes a sharp turn as Kate encounters her family again and tries to protect them from a monstrous mutant wolf. These segments really allow Blanco to show off his gritty, horrific art to great effect, as well as giving us a great visual depiction of Kate’s inner demons.

The issue veers into new territory, though, when Kate finally shakes off the effects of the gas and wakes up in her cell – across from her old enemy, Colony Prime. This ruthless super-soldier, who helped to unleash the Night of the Monster Men, still despises her, but they’re now forced to become uneasy allies. Kate is able to break them out of their cell thanks to a particularly clever use of the technology inside her suit, but that relief doesn’t last long, as they’re dosed with another wave of fear gas and wind up viewing the world around them as a surreal hellscape out of their worst nightmares. Confusing things even more – they’re seeing different things. Those last few pages of art are worth the price of admission alone, but this comic really works on all levels.

Batwoman #8, Kate Kane
Kate’s reality is a bit muddled right now. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: I love Bennett’s Bombshells but that narrative sometimes is hard to follow, as if a piece of the story has been skipped. I’ve found that true in this run on Batwoman too. The story overcomes these blips because of the strong focus on Kate’s intense personality and the amazing and stylistic art, which reminded me of J.H. Williams III. Add in a formidable supporting cast and this series is a worthy successor to Greg Rucka and Williams’ tales. There is also some great dialogue, such as Kate’s snark about Colony Prime having daddy issues with someone who isn’t even his dad.

But I will love it when this arc concludes and some of the missing pieces are cleared up.

Superman #33 – Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Doug Mahnke, Penciller; Jaime Mendoza, Inker; Wil Quintana, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Like the Concept

Ray: After a two-month hiatus with short arcs focusing on Green Lantern and Deathstroke, the regular writing team of Tomasi and Gleason return to pick up one of their big dangling plot threads – Lex Luthor and his reign over Apokalips. The story begins on that doomed planet, where a group of freedom fighters struggles to survive in the ruins of the civilization, battling against the remnants of Darkseid’s regime in some gorgeous split spread pages, and praying for the day their savior will return. That savior is none other than Lex Luthor, who is currently living the high life on Earth, fitting into his new role as a hero and surprisingly forming an uneasy trust with Superman. Luthor’s slightly officious nature and Superman’s vague distrust make for an amusing banter as they team up to take on some hapless bank robbers.

I’m kind of surprised that Luthor’s face turn has lasted this long. It’s one of the longer-standing status quo changes in comics recently. He’s been at least caught between good and evil since Forever Evil. However, he also spent some time as the new God of Apokalips, and then abandoned his throne to return to Earth as a new Superman. Now, that’s caught up to him, as he’s spirited away by Mother Box to return. Meanwhile, Clark, Lois, and Jon are trying to spend a quiet movie night together (although Jon would rather fight crime with Damian), and Clark decides to ignore Luthor’s messages. There’s some fun family banter, until Luthor’s fail-safe to get help from Superman kicks in – and accidentally winds up trapping Lois and Jon, spiriting them away to Apokalips. I have a feeling that Superman will be none too pleased with Luthor, but this is the best this series has been in a long time.

Superman #33, 2017
It’s looking bleak on Apokolips. Luthor to the rescue? image via DC Comics

Corrina: I’m always up for Kent/Lane family dynamics. I love that Clark’s the one who insists on family time because that fits so well with his personality. Plus, Gleason gets a chance to show off what he can do in the split spread pages in the beginning parts on Apokolips. That’s all good. As for Luthor, I guess it’s okay he’s a good guy now. I can’t remember if he’s committed murder in continuity or not. Maybe not, which is why Superman is okay with him? I’ll go with that.

And then everyone gets snatched up for Apokolips because, hero or not, Lex is still a jerk. I like that the family is separated and look forward to seeing the three of them get out of trouble but if Lois isn’t given a chance to be heroic, I may have very unkind words later on.

Green Lanterns #33 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Eduardo Pansica, Penciller; Julio Ferreira, Inker; Alex Sollazzo, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Nice But Not Without Issues

Ray: It’s a new creative team on this, one of the best books in Rebirth, and Seeley has a pretty big bar to meet. So how does his first issue go? Verdict mixed, but overall positive. This issue jumps back and forth between Simon and Jessica’s next big mission and their lives back on Earth. The latter is what really drives this issue, as they try to find their footing back on Earth, and that includes getting jobs. This being a title with two leads, the writer has to know how to balance them. Humphries did, but I’m less sure about Seeley. His segments with Jessica, which have her seeing her therapist and trying to get a part-time job – her first in years – are excellent and show both the struggles of living with anxiety and the way discrimination is still common.

Simon’s segments, though, seem to set the character back quite a bit. His sister essentially treats him as a reckless layabout and threatens to kick him out if he doesn’t get a job, and his attempts to get one run back into the mostly-forgotten mistaken-for-terrorist plot that kicked off his debut. I’m not sure this is forward motion for Simon like it is for Jessica. Their mission, though, has some great art from Pansica and runs into some interesting theological issues. They have to evacuate a colony of mole people from a collapsing planet, but the moloids worship their planet and wish to perish with it. The Lanterns get an assist from an alien military transport, but the issue ends on a tragic note that may be a fake-out, but otherwise feels rather unnecessary. I see a lot of promise in this run, but also a few worrisome notes.

Jessica Cruz, Green Lanterns #33, 2017
Jess is working it out. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: I admit, now that Jessica is back on Earth, that I had hoped for more segments with her family. The therapist is a nice touch, however, exploring Jessica’s need to deal with her anxiety in the non-superhero world. I can’t decide if spilling her mental health history at a job interview fits in with Jess. It seems to me that she would be anxious and say as little as possible but it’s a valid interpretation, if not to my taste. Still, I’m with Ray on Simon’s segments at home. I like his working on his hobby but his sister nagging him seemed out of place.

But the Green Lantern action is nicely done and it’s good to see the Corps have allies, for once, rather than a plethora of enemies as they attempt to do their jobs. I could have done without the death at the end but I’m eager to see how Simon and Jess get the Moloids to safety.

So, lots of pluses to this debut. But also some issues.

Green Arrow #33 – Benjamin Percy, Writer; Jamal Campbell, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Sexy But No Sparks

Ray: After a brief interlude to fight evil Batmen in Gotham, Ollie returns to Star City for a jam-packed issue where he tries to regain his prestige and take back his home. The issue opens with Ollie arriving back in town and taking on a crazed anti-logging-themed villain who has kidnapped a real estate developer as a statement against the destruction of a massive tree. Despite some hesitations, Ollie saves the developer and then heads back home to reunite with Black Canary. Their relationship was a bit rushed at the start of this series, but it feels a lot more genuine and lived-in here. If there’s one thing Percy has done really well, it’s bringing back a genuine family feel to this title, as his interactions with Emiko are great too.

The rest of the issue is all over the place, and mostly in a good way. There are two segments involving the villains. First Moira Queen and the critically injured Broderick are plotting, but when the Ninth Circle turns on them, Moira decides to cut her losses and finish off her partner in crime. Meanwhile, Ninth Circle Mastermind Dante hunts down Shado in the Himalayas, leading to a fantastic two-page ninja battle. Emiko and Kate try to secure Ollie’s acquittal by talking to former hostage Wendy, but she’s too traumatized by her time in the underground to speak to anyone. Ollie prepares to fight for his freedom at trial – only for Moira Queen to show up, with her own agenda, and reveal herself to her son. This issue moves a mile a minute, but most of it works, and I’m glad to see this title resume its main plot in style.

Moira Queen, Green Arrow #33, 2017
Funny how big evil empire hate failure, huh, Moira? Image via DC Comics

Corrina: I just don’t buy the emotions in this book. There’s no “d’aww” with Dinah and Ollie and hasn’t been since they first got together. I enjoy the art and it’s nice to have sex maturely (meaning not x-rated but with mature emotions) portrayed in this book but I have to buy these two characters together for it to elicit more thana shrug. I get more feels watching five seconds of Outlander than from this whole issue.

But we’re finally getting to Oliver’s trial, so…yay! And it strikes me that all Kate has to do to prove Ollie innocent is establish not that Wendy is alive but that no body has been found, and it’s hard to prove a case of murder without a corpse. We’ll see because I suspect, with Percy’s penchant for violence, that Wendy might be dead again soon.

Nightwing #31 – Tim Seeley, Writer; Miguel Mendonca, Penciller; Diana Egea, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Desmond vs. Raptor

Ray: Seeley’s final arc before Sam Humphries takes over seems to be becoming a full-on war between villains. The issue opens with Roland Desmond speaking to a group of kids as a successful businessman, only to be attacked by Raptor, who goes on an anti-capitalist rant and chokes him until he is forced to transform into Blockbuster in front of his audience. Blockbuster is an interesting case of a villain, in that he genuinely seems to want to be a successful businessman/crime lord with as little violence as possible. He views Blockbuster as a last-resort weapon and almost seems insulted when he has to use him. I’m reminded a bit of Lex Luthor at his peak, in that he’s much more concerned with success than villainy.

Dick Grayson may be the least interesting part of this issue, as his subplot is mostly contained to teaming up with Huntress and taking on a gang of whale-themed criminals formerly led by Orca. Although there’s a bit involving the gangsters using mutation formula to transform into sea monster mutants, it goes nowhere as they don’t really have successful transformations. Helena, however, is disgusted when she finds out that Dick is working with Blockbuster and breaks up with him. Violently. Dick has not had great luck with relationships in this run, and things aren’t looking up, as Shawn finds out her former mentor is working with Raptor – who also pays Dick a visit at his job. I’m not 100% sure about this as a Nightwing story, but as a villain spotlight, it’s pretty excellent.

Nightwing #31, 2017
Raptor and Blockbuster do not like each other. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Since Ray covered the overall story, let’s talk about Huntress. Seeley brought Helena Bertinelli back from limbo and reintroduced her back to the DC Universe and all props to him for that in the Grayson series. But since then, she’s been all over the place. Is she an angry vigilante, as in Batgirl & the Birds of Prey? Is she a cool-headed former spy as seen just a few issues ago in this series? No, she’s apparently an angry girlfriend who beats on her boyfriend. I find Helena punching Dick a serious miscalculation on Seeley’s part. There’s no reason for the violence, Helena. Use. Your. Words. Though, I should address the creators, as they decided on these actions. It makes me shake my head and wonder if anyone will ever have a good take on this Helena? Paging Greg Rucka or Gail Simone.

Bombshells United #4 – Marguerite Bennett, Writer; David Hahn, Pasquale Qalano, Artists; J. Nanjan, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Magical Girls!

Ray: A big turn for the characters this issue, as Bombshells enters its first post-Wonder Woman issue – for now, of course. She was swallowed by Clayface last issue, and while her fate seems overall vague, it’s clear that the Wonder Girls don’t hold out all that much hope for her immediate return. Baroness Paula Von Gunther, Wonder Woman’s latest ally, wants to destroy him immediately, but the Wonder Girls are more into Diana’s way of doing things. After destroying his clay exterior and revealing Basil Karlo underneath, we get a better look at the man Karlo was thanks to the lasso Diana left behind. It seems he was originally a decent man, inspired by Wonder Woman, but the time period corrupted him until he gave in to the bigotry of the day. The Wonder Girls give him a second chance, leading to a dramatic transformation for all of them.

The second story brings Dawnstar to the fore, as she observes the world from the sky, and leads the Wonder Girls and Clayface (now Silverface?) into battle. But they’re not fighting a physical evil, but rather the corruption that has led the society as a whole to turn on their own. This segment is a little too wordy for my tastes, but it has some really strong emotional moments as the people in this town finally realize what they’ve done and start making moves to correct their mistakes. The art on this segment is very good, but has some issues as it feels more like a modern-day American with no distinct 40’s aesthetic. The reveal of the next major villain – Clayface’s commanding officer and another famous Bat-villain – brings with it a great twist. Also worth noting, if he’s getting face-turned in alternate universes, Clayface’s transformation may just stick.

Corrina: There is a definite Sailor Moon-style magical girls anime vibe to these issues, especially with how Donna, Cassie and the others receive their powers as a legacy from Wonder Woman. (Do I believe she’s dead? Nah. But I do believe she’s gone from the narrative for a while.)

There is hope that good can eventually overcome evil permeating the story, as the girls get a mystical boost to help ordinary Americans see the truth of what they’ve done, confront their errors and start making amends. If only it were that easy in real life.

Aquaman #29 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Stepan Sejic, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Vulko (Yes, Vulko!) Steals the Show

Ray: Under artist Sejic, Aquaman’s become much more of a vivid fantasy title, and it’s at its strongest when it embraces this vibe. As a superhero comic, it’s not quite as compelling, but the world of Atlantis, when brought to life by a visionary like Sejic, is worth the purchase alone. Aquaman, surprisingly, doesn’t play all that big a role this issue. He and Dolphin have found some safety after their many battles, and Dolphin is trying to convince Arthur to return to take back his role as king. However, Arthur’s not willing to take back a role the people don’t want him to have, seeing it as a fool’s errand. Although Dolphin doesn’t speak, the title has a great grasp of non-verbal communication and these segments are strong.

Mera and Garth’s battle against the evil sorcerers deputized by Rath provides some great visual scenes, but it’s probably the least compelling segment storywise. Lots of action, a little character development for Garth. The mystery girl who he supposedly killed with a spell gone wrong while in sorcery school is totally Dolphin, isn’t it? Changed, but still alive. The best segment involves Vulko and new character Ondine, as they continue to outwit the horrible specters in the treasure and Vulko proves himself to be the wiliest person in Atlantis once again. The ending segment spells an end for one villain of Atlantis – and a surprising turn for another. One of the series best issues, to my eye.

Aquaman #29, 2017
Vulko and Ondine go a’haunting. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: I found myself drawn most to the terrific, moody sequence with Vulko and Ondine confronting the spirits protecting the treasury of Atlantis, until Vulko finally finds one who decides to be an ally, partially out of wanting to help Atlantis, partially out of boredom. It is a sequence straight out of a fantasy comic and it would not be nearly as effective without Sejic’s art. But the artist shines in another segment as well, the one-on-one conversation between Aquaman and Dolphin, as he basically talks himself into becoming a hero again.

I wanted more, somehow, from Garth and Mera’s confrontation with the mages but I suspect that’s because Garth’s magical powers and his history with the mages wasn’t foreshadowed at all and thus feels out of nowhere. But, hey, Garth is back in the title and we’ll see if it’s Dolphin who was the girl who was “destroyed” by the mages.

Injustice 2 #12 – Tom Taylor, Writer; Daniel Sampere, Bruno Redondo, Pencillers; Juan Albarran, Inker; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Ray: An issue that starts on a note of hope turns out to be one of the bleakest yet for the world of Injustice, as war breaks out and a shocking betrayal sets the world on fire. As the issue opens, Alfred attempts to broker peace between Batman and Damian, with mixed results. He even attempts to get Ra’s and Batman to find a middle ground and release everyone safely, but before they can talk, Batman’s strike team breaks into the compound. Assuming it’s a heavily fortified war zone instead of a sanctuary, Blue Beetle comes in shooting – and winds up making a species extinct with some ill-aimed glass. That tragedy sends Vixen into a rage and kicks off a nasty fight, which gets worse when El Diablo enters the fray.

The combination of volatile alien powers and violent fire powers leads to tragedy in the sanctuary, and while a reveal about the identity of Damian’s sister is intriguing, she has virtually no development to make us care. However, the scene at the inauguration between Steel and Aqualad has one of the most shocking scenes of the series, as a traitor is revealed, a potential deathblow is struck against the heart of the newly free United States, and we see just how far Ra’s is willing to go to preserve his idea for the world. A potential new main villain is introduced in the cliffhanger, and it seems like the brief respite this world experienced is about to end in a big way.

Injustice Volumen 2 #12, 2017
Even Alfred can’t solve this problem. Image via DC Comics

Good Issues: Ratings 7-8

Super-Sons #9 – Peter J. Tomasi, Writer; Jorge Jiminez, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artists; Alejandro Sanchez, Ivan Plascencia, Colorists

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Heroes Are Made Of Clay

Ray: The conclusion of “Planet of the Capes” finally brings everything full circle as the truth behind many characters’ roles is revealed. This is a title with a deliberately silver age vibe, but at the same time a modern sensibility in the writing. As the issue opens, Damian and Jon are up against the living planet Ygarddis, who has summoned up countless fake “heroes” to challenge anyone who threatens it. Damian and Jon are alone, except for the duo of young heroes named Hard Line and Big Shot, who are also trapped on the world. After barely escaping the monster-planet, they encounter the elderly sorcerer Kraklow, who Damian and Jon know as a villain, but the young heroines know as a friend. And as it turns out, this d-list villain is the key to the whole thing.

There’s a lot of intriguing plots weaved through this issue, but ultimately it may be trying to juggle a bit too much. How did Kraklow become so powerful that he’s able to create life like he does? The reveal that Hard Line and Big Shot are two of his creations, but evolved enough to truly have minds of their own, has some great potential and is used to deepen their characters a bit more, but the final showdown suffers from being a bit jumbled. There’s a happy ending where, essentially, the adventure continues, but likely off-screen as Damian and Jon return home, happy to have this weird adventure behind them. Damian and Jon have been through the fire together, and I think they just might be closer friends now. Maybe. We can hope.

Super-Sons #9, 2017
Sometimes, Jon is the smart one. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Damian and Jon’s relationship in this conclusion is closer than it’s ever been in the past eight issues, with Damian seeming to finally accept Jon as a good teammate, rather than someone he must teach. Damian still has a chip on his shoulder and still believes himself superior but he’s finally listening to the people around him, enough that he can relate to the “clay” heroes. After all, Damian was created with an express purpose too. But people can be more than how they were created and I loved Tomasi’s glimpse of the heroic resistance at the end of the issue.

Harley Quinn #31 – Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Writers; John Timms, Artist; Alex Sinclair, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: That Election Was Over Too Fast

Ray: What we now know is Palmiotti and Conner’s final arc on Harley Quinn heats up, as Harley’s campaign for Mayor enters its final stage. Surrounded by her loyal friends and allies (several of whom she’s in some level of relationship with), she begins the issue by launching her push for Ivy’s pet issue, more green spaces – by unleashing her superpowered girlfriend to grow Central Park far beyond its borders. Of course, Harley being Harley, she doesn’t think far enough ahead, and this throws the city into chaos. But we’re in a weird era of politics, and people like politicians who aren’t business as usual. Harley goes up more in the polls, just like she did after beating up the other candidates live on stage thanks to Scarecrow’s fear gas.

Harley’s campaign is the best part of the issue. Unfortunately, the rest is much weaker as it focuses on the cartoonishly corrupt Mayor DePerto. You’d think this guy, the big bad for the entire run, would be smart enough to know not to piss off the Scarecrow, but sure enough he gets a big mouthful of the gas, which leads to a cartoonishly gross nightmare of him in bondage gear that ends with him wetting his pants. A lot of time this issue is devoted to Mason and Harley, which makes his kidnapping by DePerto’s goons at the end of the issue a foregone conclusion. The weird thing is, this entire Harley arc has sort of turned out to be one mega-arc, featuring many of the same original characters from start to finish, including its villain. Unfortunately, while few writers will likely get Harley as well as this team did, their villains are probably the weakest point.

Harley Quinn #30, 2017
Poison Ivy spruces up New York City. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: As much as I have found the quality of this series erratic, I can’t imagine Harley without Palmiotti and Conner special and irreverent vibe. I hope the new writers carry forward the same tone because, without it, this series could devolve into a muddled mess, instead of the glorious mess that reflect Harley’s own personality.

Meantime, we get a skewering of how elections are conducted these days and I can’t say the narrative is wrong: Harley punching another candidate just might help her win her election. I remain puzzled as to exactly what the status of Harley and Ivy’s open relationship is but, at the least, Harley certainly sees nothing wrong with sleeping with Mason with Ivy around. It does establish her bisexuality well. But What drags the story down is the continual focus on the Mayor, who’s your basic corrupt evil politician. Luckily, Scarecrow livened it up.

The Wild Storm #8 – Warren Ellis, Writer; Jon Davis-Hunt, Artist; Steve Buccellato, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: Warren Ellis’ reinvented Wildstorm Universe expands its scope this issue with a story that provides some of the series’ best visuals – but suffers from the regular problem, which is way too much exposition and infodumping. The issue opens with several pages of Jacob Marlowe explaining to Angela Spica exactly how he and his fellow agents of HALO got on Earth. The segments showing this are fantastic, but the segments telling it a bit boring. Still, Jon Davis-Hunt is clearly the star here, as this eerie segment of a mysterious spaceship roaming the cosmos is gorgeous. Meanwhile, at IO, Bendix’s right-hand woman sets her sights on another target – Cole Cash, who made his debut in the bloody gunfight a few issues back. This segment, again, too talky by half.

The issue picks up in a big way when it comes time to introduce a major new player – or two – to the Wildstorm Universe. It starts in a slightly confusing fashion, as a young woman meets with her boyfriend to discuss a strange experience she had with a mysterious guru at a drug party. This turned into a strange religious ritual, and when she took the pill, she began seeing strange visuals. However, one woman at the gathering had a bizarre reaction and seemed to be dead, leading the mysterious guru to take an odd psychic trip inside her head to rescue her. This leads to the reveal of both the guru’s identity – a fan-favorite Wildstorm character I’m very happy to see again – and the mysterious woman, who may be an even bigger name. Feels like some real movement this issue.

Page 1. The Wildstorm #8. Image via DC Comics

Needs Work: Ratings 7 and Below

Justice League #31 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Fernando Pasarin, Penciller; Andy Owens, Oclair Albert, Inkers; Brad Anderson, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Ray: It’s the final issue of Bryan Hitch’s Justice League, which began with explosive, cosmic action and…well, pretty much stayed there. The problem is, while always fast-paced, the stories tended to feature villains without any real emotional stakes and just got more like plot devices as the series went on. This final arc tried to insert more characterization into the proceedings with the introduction of the children of the Justice League, coming to the present from a doomed future. However, the threat they’re trying to stop remains as vague as ever, and the hard-pushed emotional moments in the issue lack the setup they need. The reveal that Hippolyta is the villain last issue had promise, but she remains mostly a cipher with a very small role here.

The actual villain in this issue is something called “The Darkness”, an evil force that manifests in the form of inky tentacles that are corrupting the Justice League. This means that the Justice League actually winds up playing the role of the villain for most of the issue, as their future kids have to try to snap them out of their evil stupor. There are a few strong moments in this segment, especially involving Barry and Jessica and their kids, and Cyborg and his son. However, too much of the focus is on Wonder Woman’s son (who was raised by Superman) and he’s the weakest part. There’s finally some decent explanation for why she abandoned him, but overall the arc has been too jumbled to really stick the landing. Looking forward to Priest coming on after a brief Metal crossover.

Justice League #31, 2017
Kids vs. Parents, round 2. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: It wasn’t a terrible idea and Hitch wrings some drama out of the kid’s trying hard to emotionally reach their parents, establishes an explanation for why Wonder Woman would abandon her son, and allows the kids a clear win. They’re sent back to their alternate reality, hopefully, to be the heroes they’re meant to be but I doubt they’ll be heard from again.

But “the Darkness” and its influence was never truly established and an alternate reality Hippolyta is wasted, sadly. I’m with Ray in looking forward to Priest’s run.

Titans #16 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brett Booth, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: Eh.

Ray: An overstuffed issue filled with big twists and reveals – most of which likely won’t stick – is somewhat saved by the fact that it never slows down and Brett Booth’s art is at its best when it comes to the creepy antagonists. As the issue begins, young Wally is called by the sound of his name, as the older Wally lies dead in the middle of the battle. The rest of the Titans are fighting a pitched battle against the sadistic Psimon, who has possessed Gnarrk and Mal and seems to be working for the same bigger bad who’s been lurking in the background of the series since Titans Hunt. The dialogue is rather over the top, although a few scenes do get to the heart of what the Titans have lost.

Soon enough, the Key and Mister Twister show up, and Psimon is able to use Bumblebee’s grief over the memories she lost to trigger enough psychological suffering to open the portal to where the villains’ queen is lurking. Young Wally seems to mainly be in the issue to gape in shock, but it seems likely that he’ll be key to the resurrection of the other Wally – especially since it’s already been spoiled that both Wallys will play a huge role in the upcoming Flash War storyline. The reveal that the main villain that’s been hunting the Titans since day one is actually an evil Donna Troy, called Troia? Just what we needed, another confusing alternate version of Donna Troy. When’s the last time this character had a coherent role that wasn’t in Bombshells?

Titans #16, 2017
Can a heart attack be the end of Wally West? Image via DC Comics

Corrina: My problem with this series is that Booth’s art strikes me as garish and ugly—not an objective judgment, to be sure– but I find it too over-the-top and I’ve mentioned it before because I cannot get past it. The emotions feel over-the-top as well, especially with Wally dead (or seeming to be dead), a moment that should hurt deeply but doesn’t, or the one where Karen regains her memories, which should resonate but doesn’t. Perhaps it’s lost in all the yelling and the fight scenes.

Meanwhile, younger Wally shows up but he doesn’t do much but watch. I guess another Donna is good if she melds with our Donna and gets the Donna created by genocide out of continuity? That might be a saving grace of this storyline.

Trinity #14 – Rob Williams, Writer; V. Ken Marion, Penciller; Sandu Florea, Inker; Dinei Ribeiro, Colorist

Ray – 3/10

Corrina: Drawn Out Horror

Ray: It’s the third part of the seemingly interminable “Dark Destiny” storyline, as Rob Williams continues to pit the Trinity against their demon-possessed allies. The issue opens with a flashback to Circe’s origins, which first seems to be trying to make her more sympathetic – and then whiplashes to make her viler than ever. In the present day, Superman’s been turned into some sort of Xenomorph-demon, and he and Bizarro are fighting Batman and Wonder Woman. The idea of possessed Kryptonians is pretty scary, as we saw in that famous issue of Hush or the start of Snyder’s Endgame storyline, but here the possession seems to have both weakened Superman and made him stupid, leaving him mainly to spout softballed lines from the Exorcist.

The one good thing about this issue? Batman seems completely unbothered by any of this, kicking demons in the head repeatedly and driving around with a tied-up Demon Red Hood in the Batmobile. Zatanna and Constantine are still trapped in Circe’s realm, and while Constantine tries his best to outwit Circe, they eventually wind up being undone by a twisted blood ritual. Which is causing…what exactly? I’m three issues in and I’m still not sure. Ra’s and Circe betraying each other to deliver a last-page cliffhanger had some promise, but overall, we’ve been given very little reason to care about any of this affair.

Trinity #14, 2017
Tentacle Superman! Image via DC Comics

Corrina: Oh, look. Pages and pages of Superman with a vagina mouth with tentacles coming through his chest. Um, okay. Not my thing. Wonder Woman gets a few good moments, Batman is his blase self when confronting the supernatural but this arc is seriously dragging.

Batman: The Drowned #1 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Philip Tan, Tyler Kirkham, Artists; Dean White, Arif Prianto, Colorists

Ray – 3/10

Corrina: Bleak Metal

Ray: Thus far, all of the Dark Knights one-shots have been an interesting look through a twisted mirror at just how wrong Batman could go. However, they all still felt like Batman. That’s what’s missing from this Aquaman-based tale in the Dark Multiverse. It happens to be set on the one world in the Dark Multiverse where genders are reversed, so this is the tale of Bryce Wayne, a monstrous scourge of the deep whose broken heart leads her to take revenge on her world. The story opens with Bryce, now the Drowned, waging war on the real Aquaman’s hometown of Amnesty Bay. Aquaman and Mera come to fight her, and Philip Tan and Tyler Kirkham get to show off some cool art moves with a genuinely monstrous “Batman” and an army of undead Dead Waters. That’s really the only good thing I have to say about this issue, though, because there’s a lot of problems on a narrative level.

First up, this is the one Batman that isn’t a twisted mirror, but simply a sick villain with no real excuse. Second, the gender optics of this issue are…ugly. The Red Death lost his sons, so he decided to steal the Speed Force to make himself faster and able to protect people. The Murder Machine’s grief over his second father led him to unleash a monster. The Dawnbreaker was powered by a child’s raw grief. The Drowned…lost her husband Sylvester Kyle, and she was so angry she mutated herself into a zombie siren and drowned the world out of spite? Har har, women so crazy, amirite? The other three wanted to do good. The Drowned bears no resemblance to any sort of Batman, even an evil one. Abnett is clearly drawing on a lot of the mythology of his Aquaman run for this, but his Dark Knight, unfortunately, sinks.

 

Batman: The Drowned, Bryce Wayne, 2017
It doesn’t go well for Mera. Image via DC Comics

Corrina: ::steps out of the way of Ray’s lovely rant:
Okay, well, I didn’t enjoy this but, then, the whole Metal event is lost on me, as it seems to revel in nihilism, rather than the hope I expect in my superhero comics, even in their darkest hours.

 

I object, though, to the lack of a motive. This villain does have an excuse for evil. She was avenging someone dead. Then she wanted order but took it too far. Then she wanted to burn it all. At least she also provides an overall motive for this whole metal Batman wrecking the world: the regular DC Earth sucked up all the joy, so it has to go too. (Now, if she were talking about the whole DC Metal event sucking up the joy, I’d be right there with her.)

Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comic for review.

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