This just might be the week that’s convinced me DC Comics is serious when talking about a new direction. Sure, okay, we get yet another issue of DC trying to make fetch happen in Superman/Wonder Woman #18, but that series is now an outlier mixed in with revamps of Black Canary, Doctor Fate, Martian Manhunter, Prez (heck, yeah, Prez?) mixed in with an excellent issue of Secret Six. For the new releases, it’s the distinctive artwork that stands out, from Annie Wu to Bryan Hitch to Sonny Liew and several others.
There’s even a wonderful, classic Lois and Clark scene this week. Now, please, fix Wonder Woman. If you can make Black Canary a rock star, you can do this.
Black Canary #1 by Brenden Fletcher (writer), Annie Wu (artist)
I approached this title with extreme skepticism. I loved my pre-New 52 Dinah Laurel Lance. The new version had none of the history and, more importantly, little of the compassion or empathy and she turned outright mean in Batgirl. I basically had to force myself to read this issue. Good thing.
It’s not my Canary, at least not yet, but this version seems the closest emotionally to her since Gail Simone last wrote the character. Plus, putting aside the “would I like this version,” this issues is a fine story about a rock band with a superhero as a lead singer, a band with a helluva punk sensibility, getting by on jobs in clubs from night to night, with each member given a distinct personality and look, including the mysterious Ditto who awakens Canary’s protective instincts. Wu shines on art.
Buy It: Yes.
Justice League of America #1 by Bryan Hitch, inks by Daniel Henriques with Wade Von Grawbadger and Andrew Currie
Bryan Hitch is one of the premier superhero artists working today and this is DC giving him a showcase for what he does best. This is a gorgeous book. Along the way, he manages that terrific Lois and Clark scene I mentioned above, a classic banter scene in the Daily Planet. The plot? It seems that two “stones” aka technological pillars keep bringing dead Supermen in from other dimensions to find the source of an event that could end all time and space. I have fatigue for that sort of plot but there are some original touches. DC fans should eat this up.
Buy It: If you like classic JLA stories.
Doctor Fate #1 by Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew (storytellers)
Doctor Fate might just have had as many revamps as Black Canary, but he basically remains the mystical champion of order. This first issue might just gain the character a new generation of fans. The story focuses on Khalid, a med student who is offered the helmet of Fate by a statue that comes to life and immediately bugs out to text his girlfriend about having a Ben Stiller-moment in a terrific art sequence that reminded me of art in an independent comic.
Levitz’s storytelling hasn’t been this fresh in years and I’ll give credit to Liew’s inventive panels for that. The combination of old and new works well, as the gods manipulate the humans caught in the path of a nasty storm of supernatural making.
Buy It: Yes.
Secret Six #3 by Gail Simone (writer), Dale Eaglesham (artist)
After a delay, this story of the dangerous misfits of the DC universe is steered back on course, as they settle down in a house in suburban Gotham to take care of each other as best they can. Though with this bunch, throwing a wild party with sex on the couch counts as part of that, as does Catman’s attempt to make eggs for a “family” dinner. It’s hard not to care about this band of misfits, including Black Alice, who’s having serious adjustments issues, and especially when Catman rescues an abused dog. But the last page is a great swerve about one of the members and brings back the traitor in the midst angle that’s always been a part of the Six’s stories.
Buy It; Yes.
Prez #1 by Mark Russell (writer), Ben Caldwell (penciller), Mark Morales (inks)
I’m not entirely sure what this comic is but I like it. Okay, yes, it’s ostensibly the tale of an American presidential election in 2036 in which votes can be made via Twitter and inane online celebrities provide the biggest endorsements. In the midst steps “Corndog Girl,” a fast food worker who can’t afford treatment for her critically ill father. Part of this comic is a biting satire about the American culture’s focus on celebrities and false news, part hits close to the bone because the satire is so close to reality.
The art warps faces and personalities to excellent effect, and one panel in which a man has to shoot himself to win a prize drives home the wrongness of the moment.
Buy It: Yes.
Robin: Son of Batman #1 by Patrick Gleason (script and pencils), Mary Gray (inks)
You wouldn’t think a pre-adolescent boy would have much to atone for, even the son of Batman, but Damian Wayne is also the grandson of Ra’s Al Ghul and was trained as an assassin before finding his father. Damian’s perception is skewed, just a boy still with a boy’s solutions to problems, but his anguish at having done evil reminds me of Cassandra (Batgirl) Cain, who had a similar upbringing.
Essentially, this book promises to be a redemption story for a boy who has committed crimes most adults can never even imagine. Add to Damian being, well, an arrogant brat, and it’s a unique superhero book in every respect. Fans of Damian will like this, though I found some of the storytelling hard to follow with the jumps between past and present.
Buy It: Damian fans, yes; this is book you’ve been looking for.
Martian Manhunter #1 by Rob Williams (writer), Eddy Barrows (pencils), Eber Ferreira (inks)
J’onn J’onzz was the last survivor of the Martian race, pulled to Earth accidentally and literally forced to fit into Earth society via his shape-shifting power. Uh, no, that’s the old origin which we find out is all wrong. J’onn’s still from Mars and he still possesses shape-shifting, telekinetic, and other super-powered abilities, but now he’s a conflicted former warrior deliberately placed on Earth and he’s not alone. It’s unclear whether he’ll pull himself together to protect the innocents or not. Loved the sequence with an odd-shaped Martian (J’onn? Maybe?) happy to receive biscuits from the local kids. This is a very War of the Worlds opening for the title character. I’m not sure I like the retcon, but it’s an excellent start to this particular story.
Buy It: Yes.
Sinestro #12 by Cullen Bunn (writer), Brad Walker (penciller), Drew Hennessy (inks)
Confession: I’ve never liked the Green Lanterns, with a couple of exceptions, and Sinestro isn’t one of them. In this chapter, the head of the Yellow Corps of Lanterns anticipates all opposition, including from his daughter, and works to save his dying race from extinction. Plus, he has some master plan. It’s fine, I guess, if you’re a Sinestro fan, but I’m not won over.
Buy It: If you like the main character.
Doomed #1 by Scott Lobdell (writer), Javier Fernandez (artist)
Here’s the one debut I didn’t like this week. Young man is accepted into an internship program at Star Labs, yet he’s stupid enough to expose himself to potentially deadly… somethings… while cleaning. This might make a decent B movie, but it’s not a very interesting comic. Sad, because Fernandez does a nice job on the various other-worldly rooms at Star Labs.
Buy It: No.
Wonder Woman #41 by Meredith Finch (writer), David Finch (penciller), Jonathan Glapion (inks pages 1-17), Johnny Desjardins (inks pages 18-20)
Now we get to Wonder Woman. I have a few positive things to say. One, Diana seems more like her compassionate self, and is trying to redeem the formerly murderous Donna. Two, the new costume is busy but not bad, save for the horrible stabby things on her wrists. However, the issue still goes underwater. Perhaps keeping Donna half-clothed in a dank prison cell isn’t the best way to redeem her. And perhaps Diana shouldn’t be as outclassed as she is by the villain at the end. She’s compassionate, not stupid.
Buy It; No.
Superman/Wonder Woman #18 by Peter J. Tomasi (story and words), Doug Mahnke (pencils), Jaime Mendoza, Ray McCarthy, Jonathan Glapion, Marc Deering (inkers)
Oh, look, Superman and Wonder Woman are in bed together and she wears his shirts at night just like Lois Lane used to do. I was never sold on the premise and now that this comic is part of the awful “Superman is depowered and outed as Clark Kent” story, my enthusiasm is at an all-time low. There’s a nice bit with Clark talking to the Smallville residents who hang out at the general store, and a mystery surrounding who’s stealing all the things connected to Clark, like his childhood house. Also, the Suicide Squad randomly show up. Superman and Wonder Woman look unhappy with each other on the cover. Good. Maybe that’s a sign this will be over soon.
Buy It: No.