Each week, Ray Goldfield and I review DC Comics new releases so you don’t have to. Ray is a long-time DC reader. It takes a great deal for him to give up on a book. I’m a long-time DC reader with far less patience, so we often disagree on the books.
This week, we’re both still pleased with the new Batman status quo but whereas Ray still enjoys Green Lantern, I’m lost within its complicated and backstory-filled plot, while I enjoyed an alternate universe Wonder Woman and Ray thought the story was random.
We both strongly endorse the Book of the Week, Midnighter #3.
Also, this week I’m going to start keeping track of women in the credits. Because I’m curious. This week, out of 28 major credits: one woman.
Let’s hope next week is better.
Midnighter #3 – Steve Orlando, writer, Aco, penciller, Aco with Hugo Petrus, inks
Ray: 9/10 (Book of the Week)
Corrina: Buy It.
Ray: I had given up the Wildstorm line of characters for dead ever since Nathan Edmondson left Grifter behind, but Steve Orlando and Aco have done the unthinkable and made Midnighter—yes, the 90’s ultraviolent take on gay Batman—one of the best new titles in the DCU. Thus far, Orlando has smartly kept the title to done-in-one stories focusing on Midnighter’s various missions, bookended by sequences of his personal life as he attempts to rebound from a nasty breakup with Apollo. The book’s tone is much more similar to a spy thriller than a traditional super-hero book, and while the extreme violence that the character is known for is present, it feels like it’s used much better than it used to be. The inventive panel layouts when Midnighter demolishes a room of thugs make it seem more like a ballet of violence than a slaughterhouse.
This issue’s main case finds Midnighter on the trail of a kidnapped girl, who has been taken by a mad scientist who is seeking a way to transplant minds into new, healthier bodies, and who has employed the self-cloning criminal Multiplex as his muscle. Countless disposable clones? You know Midnighter’s going to have fun here, but I was also impressed with the compassion he showed towards his young rescuee and her mother. The segments with his new SO Matt are fun, and I’m looking forward to the showdown with Agent Grayson teased at the end of this issue. This book is a sleeper that deserves more readers, and anyone with an interest in either spy comics or LGBT leads would be advised to pick this up.
Corrina: I can’t add much to Ray’s comprehensive review but what most impresses me about this title is that the creative team has taken what should be a cliche–bitter, uber-violent superhero–and made him a full-fledged human being. I care if Midnighter wins or loses. I even kinda want him to win over Dick Grayson and Helena Bertinelli of Spyral, especially since he grabbed Dick and made a joke about “date night.”
Batman: Detective Comics #43 – Brian Buccellato, writer and colors, Fernando Blanco, art
Corrina: Buy It.
While not quite up to the masterpiece that Scott Snyder’s Batman run is turning into, Brian Buccellato’s soon-to-be-concluded run on Detective is turning into a satisfying companion piece. Last issue saw Jim Gordon ditching his cumbersome Batsuit to take on the La Morte gang hands-on. He fights them back and knocks out two of them, but one gets away—with the power core of his suit, which was what they were going for all along. It soon becomes clear that the gang, along with whoever is employing them, is targeting a major gathering at the Gotham Circus for an attack, and Harvey reveals that Yip is dirty to the rest of the team, asking Gordon to help him kill her. Meanwhile, the escaped La Morte member heads to a rendezvous with his Falcone Family handler, who proceeds to then sell the core to the Joker’s Daughter. Can’t say I’m thrilled to see this cut-rate Harley appear again, especially when the original is doing so well right now, but maybe this will be her first good storyline. Bullock confronts Yip, trying to find a way to get her back on their side, but it goes about as well as you’d expect. And in the closing moments of the issue, it becomes clear what the Joker’s Daughter wanted the power core for—to power her own giant Joker robot. It’s all a bit ridiculous in places, especially given the grounded police-heavy tone of the previous arc, but it’s definitely entertaining. Buccellato and Blanco are embracing Snyder’s new status quo with gusto, and hopefully Tomasi’s run will follow suit.
Corrina: Hey, Jim Gordon is running around Gotham in a robot Batman suit. We’re already in ridiculous territory! But it works because Jim himself realizes how massive this job can be and that he’s still learning. The art reminds me strongly of Michael Lark’s work on Gotham Central or Alex Maleev on Daredevil. So I know what Ray means about ridiculous, because on one side, it’s a gritty police procedural with science fiction elements. On the other hand, it has a monster-size Joker robot. Here’s hoping it ends with the Joker’s daughter (ugh!) in custody and the monster robot destroyed. Oh, and I’m pretty sure Harvey wants to kill his partner in the sense of making it look like she’s dead so she can start a new life.
Justice League Gods and Monsters: Wonder Woman #1 – story by J. M. DeMatteis and Bruce Timm, script by J.M. DeMatteis, pencils by Rick Leonardi, inks by Dan Green
Corrina: Buy It.
Ray: The third and unfortunately weakest of these darker alternate takes on the trinity, this take on Wonder Woman is the most radically changed from the original in a way that doesn’t quite work. Batman is still a crime-fighting creature of the night. Superman is still a super-powered refugee from the stars. Wonder Woman is…a New God who is stranded on Earth and joins a hippie commune in the ’60s? This Wonder Woman is Bekka of the New Gods, last seen in Sinestro, and here she crash-lands right before the Cuban Missile Crisis. While exploring Earth and trying to fight injustice, she comes across a traveling band of Acid-popping hippies, and agrees to come with them to their farm. One of the guys, Guitar Joe, quickly becomes a friend and maybe more, but the other, calling himself Doctor Psycho, is engaging in dangerous psychotropic experiments that are driving people insane. When she tries to stop him, he poisons her and makes her see her fellow hippies as the enemy, then mutates his prisoners into Bat-like monsters. This isn’t so much a darker take on WW like the other two, just a weird, random one.
Corrina: I disagree. I thought this comic was entirely in the spirit of Wonder Woman. I opened it with trepidation. It seemed every Wonder Woman alternate take ups the violence and turns her into a killing machine. This comic was a pleasant surprise in that it focused on her compassion and her need to understand humanity. No, it’s not Princess Diana, but Bekka’s quest for truth and a community that she could call home captured Wonder Woman’s spirit. It also reminded me, in a good way, of Amanda Conner and Darwyn Cooke’s take on Silk Spectre in the Before Watchmen series. The only place readers can find the Wonder Woman who isn’t Princess McStabby Sword is in the digital-first Sensation Comics.
This is an alternate take on the idea of Wonder Woman but it’s far more on the nose than the majority of Wonder Woman stories being published right now.
Bat-Mite #3 – Dan Jurgens, writer, Corin Howell, artist
Corrina: Buy It? Maybe.
Ray: Of the two new comedy titles that DC launched, this one is the one that feels much more grounded in the real DCU while still embracing the absurd. Rather than keeping Bat-mite in his own wacky world, Dan Jurgens gets most of the laughs by contrasting him with the rest of the DCU. And there’s no better character for that than this issue’s guest start, the littlest Grimdark, Damian Wayne. We open with Bat-mite getting on his new roommate’s nerves (although as one of them is a federal agent assigned to study him, they may not kick him out), before heading out on his quest to save the day. He stumbles upon Robin, who’s been captured by the new villain Gridlock and temporarily paralyzed. That’s Gridlock’s power, and his motivation…well, his motivation seems to be that he’s a grumpy old man. He hates progress and wants to slow the world down like the good old days. He’s kind of ridiculous as a villain, but then he’s supposed to be in a title like this. Most of the fun comes from Damian bickering and fighting with Bat-Mite as they work together against Gridlock. Although again, this bugs me every issue—if Bat-Mite is some sort of powerful reality-altering imp, why is he constantly getting beat up or nearly drowned. Either way, the jokes work and next issue promises a team up with Jurgens’ signature character, Booster Gold. Looking forward to the rest of this mini.
Corrina: The charm of this book entirely depends on the reader’s attachment to the little psychopath, er, the Damian Wayne Robin. As such, it’s fun to read the contrast between the fun-loving Bat-Mite and the grimmer than Batman Robin. But I rather like Bat-Mite’s interactions with regular humans better than those with costumed heroes and villains. I could easily read a series of “Bat-Mite screws up his human’s life” again stories. But that should happen next week with Booster Gold, so it’s a win/win.
Green Lantern #43 – writer, Robert Vendetti, artist, Ethan Van Sciver
Corrina: Buy It? No.
Ray: The new “Space Pirates” status quo got off to an interesting start as Hal built his team, composed of a nasty ship AI, an orphaned alien prince, and a ruthless slaver who is currently a captive. However, it’s starting to drag a bit as the smallness of the cast shows. The issue opens well with Black Hand showing up on a world beset by plague to try to resurrect someone, only to cause the world to be entombed in Source Wall stone like the last world we saw. Surprisingly, Ethan Van Sciver does full art on this issue, and no one draws cosmic horror quite like that guy.
Cutting to Hal’s ship, they’ve just encountered the alien scientist Relic, who escaped from the Source Wall. Given Relic’s blood vendetta against all ring bearers, Hal goes undercover and tries to communicate with him and find out what he knows. However, all this goes sideways when Virgo tries on Hal’s gauntlet to be ready to provide backup, and knocks himself out, causing a massive discharge of energy that alerts Relic to who’s watching him. Naturally, he attacks and it becomes a race against time to restart the ship and escape before he wipes them out. It’s exciting, but doesn’t really give us any answers or advance the plot too much. We do get hints of a new villain when a representative of the Gray Agents, a new threat, shows up to destroy the gaming den where Virgo and Trapper were found. There’s potential here, but it’s got a bit too much of a “Star Trek: Voyager” vibe right now.
Corrina: Black Hand. Relic the alien scientist. Gray Agents, Virgo….there’s so much in this issue that it’s over-stuffed, except for the terrific panel spreads by Van Sciver. Not a GL fan, specifically not a Hal Jordan fan, and there’s nothing for a casual reader in this book to grab onto. This one is strictly for die-hards.
Omega Men #3 – Tom King, writer, Barnaby Bagenda, artist,
Corrina: Buy It: Yes, if you have the first few issues
Ray: Much like Midnighter, this title seems determined to experiment with format and style every issue, and it does so in much more drastic ways than the other book. For one thing, every issue seems to open with a cold open, throwing us into a new situation, often a new planet, and letting us figure it out as we go on. It often feels much more like an Image book than a DC book. This issue opens on a colony of the Citadel populated by a religious minority that rules over the natives on this world. We’re introduced to a ruthless Princess who requires natives to duel her with swords and kills them without mercy. As she and her advisor discuss affairs, they come under attack by Tigorr and other members of the Omega Men, who fight them brutally and apparently fatally in some cases. The Omega Men capture the princess, take her back to their ship, and implant her with the same bomb that they gave Kyle before introducing their two captives to each other. At which point we find out that Princess Kalista was in on it the whole time and is in fact Primus’ lover and the leader of the Omega Men. Points for ambition and for the clearest narrative in any of the three issues so far. This title is still a bit scattered, but it might be finding its footing.
Corrina: This is an ambitious title that is (I think) chronicling an intergalactic rebellion. That means a huge cast of characters and mysterious motivations from all sides. It’s all intriguing but, as Ray said, it’s a bit of a mess. That’s because the title seems to restart each issue with focus on someone else or a new angle instead of building on what was established in the previous issues.
The end result is a huge cast of characters in an ill-defined situation but with a creative team that is obviously talented and knows where it’s going. This is one of those comics where it might be better from a storytelling standpoint to wait for the trade and get it all at once, instead of bits and pieces.
The Flash: Season Zero #11 – story by Andrew Kreisberg, script by Lauren Certo, pencils by Phil Hester, inks by Eric Gapstur
Corrina: Buy It? No, unless you’re so eager for season 2 of the Flash that a comic will do.
Ray: This title taking place in and around the first season of the hit TV series is coming to a close next issue, and while all anthologies are a mixed bag, I think this series has been significantly better than the equivalent Arrow title. This issue focuses on the team of Captain Cold and Heatwave, soon to be starring in their own spin-off, and shows us how the team actually got together. Barry and Joe are trying to track the duo down, and that leads Joe to share the story of the first time he encountered them, back when Snart was a low-level heist man saddled with an incompetent crew who screwed up a major heist. Seeking better help, he recruited Mick, a flame-obsessed criminal who was more than a little intense but good at what he did. After helping Snart escape the cops, they teamed up on an elaborate heist at the art museum, complete with threatening the entire art collection with fiery destruction. This is one of the best representations of the duality of the two criminals I’ve seen in a while, and while the story’s just sort of there, the characterization is strong throughout.
Corrina: If the Arrow digital-first series is worse than this, I guess I haven’t missed much. This is basically the backstory of how Captain Cold and Heatwave first teamed up. I enjoy their comic counterparts most of the time but the television versions have left me, well, cold. So while Ray sees strong characterization, I just see more of Cold planning things to the second, over and over and Heatwave setting things on fire. I get it! One’s anal and the other is spontaneous. Pass.
Batman Beyond #3 – Dan Jurgens, writer, Bernard Chang,
Corrina: Buy It? No.
Ray: Dan Jurgens’ other book this week is hobbled by the fact that it’s lacking absolutely everything that makes Bat-mite work—that is, a sense of humor, a sense of fun, and a sense of optimism. It’s not a terrible book on the surface, in that the art is good, the storytelling is clear enough, and Tim Drake isn’t written badly, but who saw the original Batman Beyond cartoon and thought “You know what would make this better? If it was set in some horrible Skynet meets the Walking Dead hellhole!”? Future’s End didn’t work for a reason. When we open, Tim is being tortured by Brother Eye and forced to relive his life, but Barbara Gordon and the ALFRED AI manage to snap him out of it, allowing him to turn the tables on Brother Eye and escape. It’s revealed that Eye is keeping Inque’s daughter hostage, which is the reason she’s working with him. Tim is able to rescue Max and Barbara and take them back to the safe house, where Matt finally gives him his blessing to carry on for his brother. Unfortunately, Brother Eye managed to follow them back, and now Neo-Gotham is vulnerable to invasion from the cyborg army. There’s pretty much nothing here but unrelenting grimness, and that’s disappointing.
Corrina: This series couldn’t help being terrible because it was a follow-up to the terrible and mostly pointless adjective-less Future’s End event. Why would we want to follow up on Terry McGuinness’ death? I have no idea. I was intrigued by the addition of older Barbara Gordon to the cast. (Is the new future Batgirl around? Not so far.) But now I’m just hoping this series ends as soon as possible.
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Four #7 – writer, Brian Buccellato, penciller, Bruno Redondo, inker, Juan Albarran
Corrina: Buy It? No.
Ray: This title started off incredibly well under Tom Taylor, but as it drags on towards its 50th issue, it seems to have unfortunately become a generic fight comic. Despite both sides bringing their biggest threats, neither one seems able to deliver a killing blow, despite one being lead by Superman. It’s essentially a more one-sided version of Civil War. Hercules is about to kill Wonder Woman when Shazam streaks out out the air and beats him down. Shazam is easily the best part of this issue, actually sounding like a kid in the middle of a war. Shazam hesitates in killing Hercules after stopping him, only for Superman to fly back onto the battlefield and finish the job. Zeus, enraged at his son’s murder, orders a full invasion and Superman is hit with a plague arrow, and a lightning bolt hits Shazam and takes away his powers in mid-air. Meanwhile, Batman and Damian have their long-awaited rematch, but this Damian is so unlikable and cruel to his father that it just makes me long for their dynamic in the main line.
Corrina: Everybody fights everyone, Harley Quinn makes some jokes in the background, and Bruce and Damian Wayne throw-down because Damian is upset Bruce blamed him for Dick’s death. Comics are fun, kids! This is, naturally, based on the game. The initial series had some horrible moments, (hey, let’s have Superman accidentally kill a pregnant Lois!) and yet had some poignant moments, but now it all seems like one big fight-fest. Pass.
Lobo #9 – Cullen Bunn, plot, Frank Bariere, dialogue, Szymon Kudranski, art
Corrina: Buy It? No.
Ray: With no Sinestro in sight, this title—now co-written by Frank Barbiere, because something had to go with Cullen Bunn writing 92 titles every month—descends back into the space ultraviolence that has been its M.O. for the entire run so far. Lobo is in thrall to Countess Fabria Odessa, a ruthless space crime lord who controls people via robotic spiders that she implants in their skin. There are way too many shots of spiders crawling on and in people, BTW, so be warned. It’s revealed that she’s running an operation providing body parts for those who may need them, but other than that she remains a stock villain. An assassin, Wyvern Cross of the Citadel (from Omega Men) intervenes and helps Lobo get free before trying to recruit him, but Lobo has his own agenda and declines. There is an interesting twist at the end, as Odessa reveals that her main goal was to get Lobo’s DNA to clone him, but otherwise, this series doesn’t really have an interesting hook.
Corrina: Still not interested in whether Lobo lives or dies, still not interested in this plot that takes Lobo across the universe in search of some traitor in some secret assassin group. I suppose I should be impressed by Lobo’s cleverness or freaked out by the robot mind-controlling spiders but I’m with Ray. There’s no interesting hook in this series, for new readers or old.
Ray Goldfield is a Writer/Editor for Grayhaven Comics, as well as the author of two novels currently in editing. A comic fan for over 20 years, particularly of DC and Superman, Batman, and the Teen Titans. Now that Cassandra Cain is coming back, he will not rest until DC greenlights a Young Justice: Season Three comic.