New Talent Showcase 2017 #1 – Tony Patrick, Aaron Gillespie, Al Letson, Owl Goinback, Proctor & Harrell, David Accampo, Scott Snyder, Writers; Lynne Yoshi, Siya Oum, Matt Merhoff, Sam Lotfi, Ibrahim Moustafa, Artists; Minkyu Jung, Lalit Sharma, Pencillers; Klaus Janson, Jagdish Kurma, Inkers; Pete Pantazis, Beth Sotelo, Cris Peter, Dave McCaig, John Rauch, Romulo Fajardo Jr, Colorists
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Suitably Named
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!!
Ray: The DC New Talent Showcase is one of the more interesting experiments DC does each year, showcasing the graduates of the writer’s workshop doing their first DC work in an anthology. Last year’s installment, while showing off some promising new talent (several have gone on to co-writing or even solo gigs on DC books) suffered reading-wise because many of the stories felt like fragments, often with cliffhangers that would never be resolved. This year’s issue features an impressive group of writers, including a Bram Stoker Award-winning novelist, a writing team for a hit MTV series, several acclaimed indie creators, a writer who has already been picked to co-write a miniseries with the character he writes here, plus a Wonder Woman guest story from Scott Snyder to sweeten the pot. So is it a smoother read this time? We’ll see.
Corrina: Last year’s Showcase short-changed the talent because it didn’t allow complete stories. This one, however, allows a full test of everyone’s creative abilities.
Ray: The first story, by Tony Patrick and Minkyu Jung, teams up Duke Thomas and the Red Hood. Patrick is writing Duke in “Batman and the Signal” soon with Snyder co-writing, so how does he do in his debut? Well, his Duke is solid, sounding very much like his normal self with a bit of an edge. His Red Hood seems to be backsliding, coming off much more nasty and petty than normal. A reference to that Duke “used to live in the Manor” confused me – isn’t he living there now? The Arkham-set fight scene seemed a bit off, but once it becomes clear that it’s a malfunctioning simulation, it falls into place. It’s essentially an elaborate welcome to the family by Duke’s rough-and-tumble big brother – and another surprising guest star whose role in Duke’s training takes on a different meaning in light of recent events. A solid start that definitely has me excited for the main mini.
Corrina: DC has been careful to create a unique character in Duke, though it’s not always clear what his role with the Bat-Family is from story to story. (He’s been left out of Detective Comics, for example.) This is a good spotlight for him and using Jason Todd in contrast works. One thing that’s not been dealt with much in Batman lore is the racial divisions that must exist in a city like Gotham (if it’s close to our reality). I like that this story goes there and, in a short space, opens up a wider narrative about Gotham. As for Jason, well, he’s perfectly capable of being nasty and petty, especially for effect.
Ray: A Katana story, by Aaron Gillespie and Lynne Yoshi, opens dramatically with her critically injured and missing Soultaker. The story involves her going rogue, defying Waller’s orders and threats to get her sword back, despite Waller insisting that Soultaker being linked to her husband’s soul is only a myth. I was excited to see King Snake – Tim Drake’s original archenemy! – make a comeback for this story. Overall, though, this is a Suicide Squad story dealing with a bunch of characters without much in the way of personality. Gillespie shows off some real strength in pacing and scripting, but he didn’t have much to work with here. Katana is too much of a one-note character, although I will say his Waller is surprisingly nuanced. Would not mind seeing this team take over Suicide Squad.
Corrina: Ahem, I never thought of Katana as a one-note character, but she’s certainly been used as one-note over the last few years. This story, however, delves deeper into her background, and the role of the Soultaker in her life. I especially liked seeing her refuse to kill King Snake because that would trap him in the sword with the others. Now all that’s needed is to show what else a mystical sword might be able to do. As Ray said, Gillespie’s tale shows off talent, and I enjoyed this story far more than the current Suicide Squad comic.
Ray: Al Letson and Siya Oum take on Nightwing, as Dick Grayson agrees to hide the half-brother of a supervillain, only to have the villain – Count Vertigo – invade Bludhaven to hunt him down. The story wastes little time setting up the conflict – and adding a few nice details, like the fact that the refugee has a husband and baby son. But once that’s done with, it’s an action-packed battle to escape Count Vertigo, with some cool effects such as Dick’s various friends and family popping in in thought balloons to give him advice. A little cartoony? Yes, but this is comics. This is essentially Nightwing does The Raid, with a great pro-family, pro-acceptance message mixed in. Although it does end on a cliffhanger, it’s not one that demands follow-up – you know how that fight is going to go. This is another solid effort from a talented indie writer.
Corrina: A solid Nightwing story, showing off not just Dick’s strengths but his connection to his family as well, and Count Vertigo (second appearance this week!) makes a proper adversary, with Dick’s solution to provide him happiness of a sort perfectly in keeping with his character.
Ray: Owl Goingback is probably the biggest boldface name in this class, an acclaimed horror writer with a twenty-year career and an impassioned activist for Native causes. His Poison Ivy story with Matt Merhoff, from the opening pages, has a bit of a Vertigo vibe, as she investigates a series of missing children in rural Georgia, believing it to be the work of an evil Succubi named Nahemah. Ivy was called here by the plants, who suffer as well under the demon, and this is her on a rare unambiguous heroic mission. The villain is suitably horrific, Goingback has a very strong take on Ivy’s personality and motivations, and while it may be a bit more of a straightforward action story than I would expect for Goingback, he transitions to comics a lot better than many prose writers.
Corrina: This is a chilling horror tale, with the added bonus of Poison Ivy being used well, more concerned with the plants as with the people. I even like the hints here that even though Ivy says she doesn’t care about people, she still acts to help them at the beginning. Poison Ivy fans would enjoy this. It reads as if written by a veteran comics scripter, not a prose novelist.
Ray: The team of Proctor and Harrell, writers on MTV’s Happyland, take on the second Squad-related story in this issue, this one focusing on Deadshot. Partnered with artist Lalit Sharma, the story finds Deadshot on a mission to get secret tech (literally) out of the brain of a mad scientist. There’s a flashback to Deadshot’s tragic, abusive childhood, followed by infiltration. There, he finds disturbing government secrets, torture victims – and one massive piece of unfinished business from his past. Thing is, this is a HUGE story, and it deserves much more than ten pages. After the events of this story, it’s hard to believe Deadshot would go back to working for Waller and not be on a roaring rampage of revenge. Proctor and Harrell actually do a fairly good job with packing all the info in, although towards the end, in particular, it feels like a bit of a fast-forward.
Corrina: The tale is too much squished into too short a time span, which could either be the inexperience of the writers or it could be them wanting to put in as much as possible, given its unclear whether they’ll have a second chance at this character. But I love the ambition of it, and how the focus goes back to Deadshot’s childhood. This reads much like Gail Simone’s Deadshot from Secret Six, rather than the assassin who’s been appearing lately in Suicide Squad.
Ray: David Accampo and Sam Lotfi turn their focus to Doctor Fate – who seems to be the Kent Nelson Fate, rather than the more-interesting Khalid from the DC You-era series. After banishing a demon, Fate finds himself seemingly infected by the creature and transforming into something less than human – a fact the helmet of Nabu seems to have no real problem with. He tries to walk away from Fate, hide his transformation and live a normal life, but the supernatural keeps calling him back. Although it starts a little slow, this story also winds up being pretty compelling, featuring several villains with nice, horror-influenced designs and a devil’s bargain between Kent Nelson and Nabu. But this is one of those stories that feels like a pilot, and a lot of the elements introduced here will likely never be followed up on.
Corrina: The fine reboot of Doctor Fate with Khalid that died a sad death some time back also dealt with Nabu acting almost more as an adversary than a mentor. Khalid fought for multiple issues to obtain proper control of the helmet but this story posits that no wearer of the helmet can be in full control, making it much more of a curse than a responsibility. Kent’s weariness is evident and I liked the mystic battles quite a bit.
Ray: The book ends with a bonus story by Snyder and Moustafa, focusing on Wonder Woman – a character Snyder’s always wanted a crack at. “The Archive” begins with a young Diana, reaching for the lasso of truth only to be warned that it is the most dangerous artifact on the island. In the present day, Diana is taken by Steve Trevor to a secret vault under the Smithsonian, where they keep the most dangerous unidentified magic items found. And now, the items seem to be coming to life. Things quickly get out of control when one of the military men overseeing the planned destruction of these items gets possessed by a demon, and Diana flies into battle. It’s a quick story, just a taste of what Snyder’s Diana would be like – and I think he nails her, with her focus on truth and her lack of fear. If he’s got his eye on the character post-Metal, he could do a great job.
Corrina: I like this tale though, like the one above about Deadshot, there’s a little too much story packed into too small a space. Still, it’s proof that Snyder’s Wonder Woman might be very good if he ever gets around to writing her on a regular basis.
Ray: Overall, a world of difference from last year. These stories were structured far better and allowed these rookie writers to show off their talents and display a clear voice for the characters. Maybe a bit less Suicide Squad next time, more of the DC younger generation of characters instead? But this issue lived up to the promise of this anthology, and I’m excited to see more from all these writers.
Corrina: If you didn’t know these writers were, well, “New Talent,” then a reader would assume this was a nice anthology with some excellent takes on iconic DC characters. That makes it worth buying and reading for its own right, and not just to get a glimpse of writers who might become future comic stars.