Welcome to our capsule reviews of this week’s DC comics releases. Ray Goldfield is the long-time DC reader and I’m more the cynic. I might have faith in nothing but quality. I also look at these issues with an eye for a new reader. If it’s impenetrable to all but the most diehard of DC fans, I won’t recommend it.
This week, we have our biggest disagreements yet but we’re both happy to recommend Secret Six #5, which zips along dropping all kinds of revelations on the reader while it rights a serious comic book wrong.
The rest? Ray loves his Robin, Son of Batman. I’m already a tired of the pre-adolescent, arrogant assassin. But I highly recommend Martian Manhunter, which is an imaginative take on that a classic SF story, an alien invasion.
On the bad side, we’re waiting for the day we can announce the cancellation of Doomed and the ill-conceived Superman/Wonder Woman title.
Warning: total spoilers abound.
Book of the Week:
Secret Six #5 -writer, Gail Simone, Dale Eaglesham and Tom Derenick, artists
Corrina: Buy It
Ray: The first two issues of this new run didn’t quite feel like the Six, from the claustrophobic tone to the dark art by Ken Lashley. However, since the Convergencebreak, the return of original artist Eaglesham, and the shift in tone have made this a fantastic return to form.
For the last few issues, the team has been laying low at the home of widowed shape-shifting private investigator Big Shot, resulting in all sorts of hilarious domestic antics such as the laugh-out-loud opening page of this issue, as well as some surprisingly touching bonding scenes. We’ve also been reintroduced to the missing members of the Six – Scandal, Jeanette, and Ragdoll – working as agents for the evil Mockingbird, and we’ve gotten the dual reveal that not only is Mockingbird Riddler, but Big Shot is actually Ralph Dibny and working for him.
That all comes out in a huge way in this fast-paced issue, as a chance view of the picture of Big Shot’s late wife reveals to Catman that she’s the woman who kept him alive in captivity. He confronts Big Shot, and Ralph reveals the entire story, which all ties back to an aborted jewel heist over a year ago aboard the Riddler’s yacht, where every member of the Six was somehow involved. Riddler’s obsession with revenge of the loss of a diamond of his, as well as his infatuation with Sue Dibny – who is revealed to be alive here – has motivated his deeply involved campaign against the Six, and Ralph is torn between his loyalty to his bizarre new family and his chance to see his wife again. There’s a ton of story in this issue, as well as some really nice low-key moments involving the team’s youngest members, Strix and Black Alice.
If I have one complaint with this series at a whole, it’s that Ventriloquist just doesn’t work. She barely appears, and when she does it’s to make a non-sequiter creepy comment that emphasizes just how out of place she is. I’d love to see her replaced with one of the many great characters roaming around the fringes of this book. But overall, this title is like having a weird old friend back. No title’s benefited more from the months off.
Corrina: The Secret Six is that group you want to succeed but know that’s not going to happen because their worst natures inevitably take over. Knowing that adds a tragic edge to any story involving them, especially as Simone knows how to make readers fall in love with these misfits anyway. The first few issues of this reboot set up several story questions that desperately needed answers: Who locked the Six in a box at the bottom of the ocean? Who was the woman who saved Catman’s sanity during his year of solitary? What bound them together?
The answers came faster and more furious than I expected in this issue. It also supplied an answer I never expected: the Dibnys.
Why is that important? Because Sue Dibny was murdered and retroactively raped (long story) in a major DC event that represented all the problems I had with DC Comics: Identity Crisis. A comic which also made sure Sue was pregnant when killed to add extra angst to all the male Justice Leaguers. A comic that kicked off years of heroes behaving worse than villains.
But Sue’s back, very much alive, and very much with Ralph, though they’re in quite a mess at the end of this issue, as is proper in superhero comics.
I may break out the champagne and dance on the grave of Identity Crisis. Good riddance.
Ray: This creative team is committed to giving us a Martian Manhunter comic unlike any we’ve seen before, and so far they’re succeeding – much to the detriment of my ability to sleep. This comic is freaky, borrowing many of its themes from works of alien horror like John Carpenter’s The Thing.
When we last left off, alien sleeper cells from Mars had pulled off countless attacks on Earth, leaving the world in a state of terror as it was revealed that J’onn J’onnz was not the last martian. Determined to keep from being used as a weapon, he chose to destroy himself using a powerful weapon – and the opening pages seem to show that happening. J’onn’s archenemies, the martian sorcerer Ma’alefa’ak, is revealed to be behind the attacks along with an army of white martians, and he fuses his minions together into a horrific martian blob to hunt down J’onn.
The story then shifts to a human doctor who is in charge of a patient, an insane boy who killed his mother while claiming she was a martian. The hospital comes under attack from the white martians, and the two of them barely escape with their lives. Cornered by the white martians, they’re rescued by the odd Mr. Biscuits and his friend. When the doctor questions Mr. Biscuits about who he is, he reveals that he’s a malformed, disfigured version of J’onn J’onnz – and apparently, so is the doctor? We’re into some pretty fascinating sci-fi stuff here, with many mysteries still to be explained. This comic may not be for everyone, but I highly recommend it.
Corrina: Hey, it’s not that freaky! I love this comic because the mystery of the multiple-seemingly-friendly but odd Martians on Earth is solved: they’re all J’onn! The original Martian Manhunter destroyed one body but essentially sent his consciousness out to duplicates of himself all over the globe. Since none of them have a, uh, full dose of faculties, their story to survive becomes even more fascinating.
In one particularly poignant moment, one “J’onn” realizes his whole life has been a construct. No time to worry about that, however, as the white Martians are tracking everyone down to kill them. It’s as if The Boy Who Lived had been split into different horcruxes, each of whom had a slightly different personality. But to win, they’re all going to have to combine into a whole.
Those who love a great SF story are going to want the collected edition of this book.
Black Canary #3 -Brenden Fletcher, writer, Annie Wu, artist
Corrina: Buy It!
Ray: “The DCU’s craziest road trip” is a title that can apply to more than one comic this week, and I love that.
This book continues to be an excellent fusion of road trip adventure and superhero book. The starring attraction for me is Annie Wu’s incredibly kinetic art, although I wonder if she’ll be staying on the title now that she’s been announced as the second artist on the Archie reboot.
When we last left off, the band was battling both mysterious shadow demons and government agents to protect their mute child bass player Ditto. However, one of the government agents was revealed to be Dinah’s husband Kurt Lance, and that’s the key conflict this issue. While it would have been easy to make Kurt the villain here, he explains that he’s been trying to protect both of them from their mysterious enemies.
The title doesn’t throw out the estrangement that happened at the end of Birds of Prey when Kurt lost his memories, but he’s a lot more developed than he was in that book. The reveal that Ditto’s connection to sound may be the source of Dinah’s canary cry, though…that’s going to be controversial and I can’t really judge it fully until I see the next issue. However, the cliffhanger has Ditto kidnapped by the band’s shady former singer, Maeve, as she plans to steal Ditto’s powers for herself. The book’s a little slight and a very fast read, but it’s never anything but entertaining.
Corrina: No need to worry about Wu yet, Ray, as in an interview, she said she’s on board for at least several more issues. The art also takes some risks, with quick cuts between the battle between the bandmates and those stalking Ditto, and the band’s appearance at a music festival. Risky, because it could be confusing, but it pays off beautifully. For a comic with so much action, it also manages to nail characterization.
I was thinking back to that interview mentioned above for another reason: the creative team said they wanted to create an iconic Black Canary and I suspect that starts here, as they begin to weave a good deal of her past into her present situation.
There’s no character who was changed more in the new 52 reboot than Dinah and all to the bad to my mind. But this comic started off with a Dinah who *emotionally* resembled the previous version. In this comic, we do see some of her “new 52” origin with the inclusion of Kurt Lance. But he bothers me much less in this story, perhaps because he’s more complex. Dinah, too, is less strident than in that book. I side-eye the revelation that Dinah’s sonic cry is due to Ditto but it has possibilities and this creative team has done well so far.
This is one is one of those comics that should cross over to mainstream awareness just for the art but will keep readers for the story and characters.
Doctor Fate #3 -Paul Levitz & Sonny Liew, storytellers
Corrina: Buy It
Ray: DC’s made some big strides with diversity in recent months, but I don’t think they’re nearly as good at promoting it as the competition. Hence why titles like Midnighterand this book – featuring a biracial lead of Egyptian Muslim heritage – have slipped below the radar.
It’s one of two books this week dealing with a biracial college student getting new and hard-to-control powers, and undoubtedly the better of the two. The apocalyptic vibe of the title continues, as the city is threatened by a flood of biblical proportions and the mad God Anubis continues his war against his rival Bastet. Meanwhile, Khalid struggles to gain control of the Helmet of Nabu and harness his powers to help people in the middle of the disaster. Meanwhile, his father lies blind in a hospital, as he begins to spout prophecies about something old and evil coming for them. The introduction of a potential romantic rival for Khalid’s affections fell flat, as she came off very unlikable in her intro scene even as it was hinted that his family might favor her. The material involving Khalid’s powers is strong and he’s a likable lead, but I can’t help but wish we had gotten to know him and his family for an issue or so before disaster hit.
This title is so consumed by the threat at hand that character development suffers a bit in the process. Still, very much worth sticking around and seeing how it develops.
Corrina: Yes, this comic could use a serious marketing push from DC.
Aside from reinventing a Golden Age favorite with a great, modern twist, it also features, like Black Canary, art from someone who is clearly going to be a star. Khalid’s job as a medical student also adds to his role as the eventual Doctor Fate. In many ways, the helmet of Fate is the antagonist in these three issues, rather than the god Bastet.
However, I agree with Ray that the plot seems to have stalled a bit this issue. It’s not the disaster for me but that the last two issues have had no real forward momentum to the story. We know Bastet is flooding this area of New York City, that Khalid’s loved ones are in trouble, and that the god inside the Helmet of Fate is kinda a jerk.
What’s holding this down is a new page in that story. Hopefully, next issue will see forward momentum.
Robin, Son of Batman #3 -Patrick Gleason, script and pencils, Mick Gray, inks.
Corrina: Only for Damian Wayne fans.
Ray: Gleason has taken the writing baton on the title he’s been drawing for the last few years and looks to be giving Damian Wayne a solo run worth looking forward to every month. The title has one of the best hooks I’ve seen in a while – Damian atoning for the crimes he committed during a year-long training regimen with the League of Assassins, while accompanied by the daughter of one of his victims. It’s kind of like a violent superhero version of My Name is Earl.
The issue opens with a flashback to Damian preparing for his mission during the Year of Blood, and then throws us right into the action as he and the teenage Nobody try to complete their latest mission – restoring a crystal to seal up a cave containing countless monsters that he opened. The action can get a tiny bit confusing at times, but it’s certainly nice to look at.
The real star attraction in this title is the developing friendship between Damian and Nobody, aka Maya Ducard. Gleason does a great job at keeping in mind that these are kids. Damian is 12 at most – as we’re reminded in a hilarious scene involving his baby teeth – and Maya isn’t that much older, definitely younger than the Teen Titans. That adds a really fun dynamic to the book, and I’m hoping we’ll see both Damian and Maya showing up in other Bat-books down the line.
Where the title isn’t quite as strong is every time these two are off screen. I’m glad to see Talia Al Ghul back among the living, mainly because it means Morrison’s horrible dragon lady portrayal of her will soon be a thing of the past, but the scenes of her having her memories restored by the mysterious cultists that found her drag a bit. Next issue has Damian and Maya facing off against a former associate of her father’s – Deathstroke. Looking forward to it, as well as to seeing Damian and his mother reunited.
Corrina: This is my big disagreement with Ray this week. The first issue is that I find the art more than a tiny bit confusing: I often had to stop reading this issue and ponder whether I was in Damian’s past or his present. Unlike the panels that jump back and forth in Black Canary, these cuts between past and present meld together. That’s the major problem I have with the storytelling. I only wish it was as coherent as My Name is Earl.
The other issue is that while Damian is bent on atoning for his Year of Blood, outwardly, he’s hardly changed at all. He’s an arrogant snot. That is half the appeal of this character and it works well when he bounces off someone more centered, like Dick Grayson. But with Maya Ducard, who’s only marginally more mature than he is, it’s an extra dose of snotty kids being snotty to each other, which I don’t find interesting at all. Normally, in a redemption story, the current character has mannerisms or patterns that they’re consciously trying to break. Not here which, I admit, is hard to do with an 11-year-old, but the only difference is that now Damian is fighting for good guys, rather than bad guys. He knows what he did is wrong but I, as a reader, don’t feel it.
Hard to bond to the comic without that.
Justice League #43 -Geoff Johns, writer, Jason Fabok, artist
Corrina: Meh. Only if you want another “world-ending” Darkseid story.
Ray: The most action-packed comic in DC’s stable right now, Justice League is delivering on its promise to be an event comic confined to one title (although that’s not quite true anymore, as it’s getting a series of spin-offs released in October and November). When we last left off, the armies of the Anti-Monitor – led by Darkseid’s daughter Grail – had invaded Earth. Superman and Luthor, betrayed by Luthor’s sister, found themselves abandoned on Apokalips. And Batman stole the power of the Mobius Chair, seemingly becoming a God himself.
As Darkseid’s army prepares to attack Earth, Superman soon finds out that the lack of sun on Apokalips is sapping his strength fast, leaving him near-powerless (sound familiar?) with only his arch-enemy to rely on against the armies of Apokalips. There’s a really fun “Enemy Mine” dynamic going on here between the two old rivals, as Luthor’s mercenary attitudes clash with Superman’s idealism. Meanwhile, Scott Free escapes the clutches of Grail’s mother, the Amazon Myrina Black, to warn the League of what’s coming.
This issue overall seems like the calm before the storm, as Apokalips’ army only arrives in the ending, and Luthor tries a risky move to power Superman up that may just turn him into a bigger threat than Apokalips. I did like how much of the issue takes place from Wonder Woman’s perspective, giving her the narration. We’ve been promised that this will be a WW-centric event, and I’m hopeful it’ll deliver. The event may have lost a step from the first two issues, but that’s not uncommon in the middle chapters. I’m still stoked to see what comes next.
Corrina: Most action-packed? I disagree, as Black Canary this week is basically all action. Also, this book begins with another signature Johns gore moment, this time with a dog being eviscerated. (The Apokolips version of a dog, anyway.) Hey, comics are fun, kids! I point to another comic, Martian Manhunter, for how to raise the stakes without resorting to gore. As for it being a Wonder Woman-centric comic, I guess it can be, if only to have her fight yet another evil Amazon. Yawn.
But my main problem with this whole storyline is I’ve seen it before. Darkseid is evil with evil minions. Earth is in peril! We don’t know who to trust. Lather, rinse, repeat. I guess the best that can be said of this is that it’s a traditional DC slugfest with the world at stake.
But that’s also the worst that can be said of this comic.
Bizarro #3 -Heath Corson, writer, Gustavo Duarte, artist
Corrina: Buy It
Ray: Another crazy road trip!
Jimmy and Bizarro’s travels through middle america have taken them to a ghost town. Not the tourist town – an actual Western town populated almost entirely by ghosts. They run into Chastity Hex, the descendant of Jonah, who’s on the trail of a notorious bandit and doesn’t really have the patience for these guys getting in her way. There’s a lot of great gags early on about Jimmy and Bizarro interacting with ghosts and not really getting it, but the issue doesn’t fully pick up until the ghost bandits show up, and one of them possesses Bizarro.
For the first time, the fact that Bizarro is basically Superman comes into play as he becomes a much bigger threat than has been present in this book so far, although it’s all played mostly for laughs. The presence of ghost bandits, however, opens the door for a fantastic cameo – Jonah Hex, making his first appearance since his title ended last year. Just based on that alone, I recommend this book. The issue has the tone of a really well-written Scooby Doo episode, only packed with DC references and some great visuals. This is definitely the one of the new all-ages miniseries that I’m enjoying more, and it’s a smart move keeping the stories mostly stand-alone. I’m hoping Corson and Duarte come back for a second round on this title after this mini concludes.
Corrina: Me am hate this comic, Me am tell you not to read.
That’s the longest I can keep Bizarro-speak going. I’ve no idea how Corson manages a whole issue of it but he does.
The previous villain bored me a bit but this story is a great single-issue humor comic, and features one of my favorite type of SF/horror stories, the literal ghost town. Yes, it’s cool to see a Superman-level powered person take on the spirit realm and here’s it played for laughs, even to the parrot that sits on the raider’s shoulder. However, I was a concerned that the stylistic art depicting El Papagayo, the villain, veered into what could be considered a racial caricature. Not good.
But I loved the conceit that the ghosts viewed actual humans as the interlopers and the threat, rather than the reverse.
Batman: Arkham Knight #7 -Peter J. Tomasi, story and words, Victor Bogdanovic, Art Thibert, inks
Corrina: Only for Batman completists
Ray: There have been a few comics based on the Arkham series of video games, and this is easily the best of them. By bringing in Pete Tomasi, one of the best modern Batman writers, we get a much more involved picture of this world than a mere video game tie-in. The opening story this issue is probably the best of the series as Batman, injured and dazed from his fight with Bane, is rescued by an old Gotham resident who gives him shelter and tells him about his past in Gotham even as local thugs come to shake him down for rent money.
One of the biggest problems people have with Batman is that he doesn’t keep in touch with the common people, and this issue addresses that nightly. The next twenty pages are a mix of stories, as Bruce, Tim and Barbara help Jim Gordon prepare for his run for Mayor. Gordon is written very well here, but the potential romantic pairing of Tim and Barbara that’s being teased is just odd on a number of levels. Meanwhile, Harley teams up with Captain Boomerang and Deadshot in a new Suicide Squad as they plot to assassinate Bruce Wayne. Even if you haven’t played the games, this is a solid read.
Corrina: A solid read is the best I can give this comic. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. I like Batman being cared for by the elderly resident, and I like Jim Gordon’s mock debate practice. There’s also nothing that stands out, either, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m bored with Harley Quinn and her fifty million appearances right now.
Perhaps I’m a little spoiled from the terrific work going on in the current Batman comics or perhaps it’s because I don’t play this game, but nothing here has such a unique twist that it should be required reading except for Batman collectors.
Green Lantern: The Lost Army #3 -writer, Cullen Bunn, Artists, Jesus Saiz and Cliff Richards
Corrina: Don’t Buy It.
Ray: Three issues in, the strange new status quo for the Lanterns is becoming clear with the arrival of their former nemesis Relic. Here a humble explorer and still at human size, Relic’s presence makes clear that they’re not simply in space – they’re out of time, trapped so far back in the past that they’re in the universe that existed before this one. That’s a pretty strong hook for a sci-fi comic, and I’m hopeful that Cullen Bunn and Jesus Saiz will be able to spin some interesting plots out of it.
Bunn’s writing of John Stewart is very strong, tying his decisions as Corps leader back into hard calls he had to make as a Marine Sgt. However, that sometimes involves choosing the lesser of two evils, which he does when he deceives Relic, making him think they’re there to help him save his universe. It’s a necessary lie to keep a powerful enemy pacified, but one that seems to cause the beginnings of a rift between John and Guy. Any debate has to wait as the ship comes under assault from the Light Pirates, voracious scavengers whose weapons can drain the rings. It’s a fast-paced issue with some great visuals, but I must say, if the death at the end of the issue sticks (and I doubt it will), my opinion of this issue will go down a lot. If I had one recommendation, I’d like to see more development for the Lanterns trapped with the lead characters. A lot of them are sort of blank slates, but there’s still time for that.
Corrina: ::cracks knuckles before getting started::
You are all no doubt aware that “women in refrigerators” was coined because of a Green Lantern comic in which the GL’s girlfriend was, quite literally, stuffed in a refrigerator to provide angst for our hero.
It’s not quite the same situation at the end of this issue, where a female Green Lantern seemingly chokes to death. However, the splash page last panel of her death makes maximum use of the face that, hey, look, the sexy girl is dying.
Look at that cleavage while she chokes tragically.
Ugh. Just ugh.
I want to like a comic that features a John Stewart close to the Justice League animated version, a former military officer hardened by war. But there’s something about the storytelling that turns me off. I’ve liked some books by Cullen Bunn, such as Fearless Defenders, but between this and his Lobo, I’m beginning to dislike the nasty edge to his writing.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters #2 -story by J.M. DeMatteis and Bruce Timm, art by Thony Silas
Corrina: Don’t Buy It, Watch the Movie
Ray: Now that the team is assembled, the main narrative of this darker take on the Justice League is in full swing. Last issue, Superman decided to undergo the Forever People process, but it was incompatible with his alien DNA and left him weakened. As he struggles to recover with Wonder Woman’s help, the narrative shifts in the beginning of the issue to my favorite of the three heroes, Kirk Langstrom. His relationship with his old mentor Lex Luthor is explored here, and he becomes the most skeptical of the heroes when it comes to Alpert’s experiments.
Of course, as we now know, Alpert is none other than Wonder Woman’s old nemesis Doctor Psycho, who has refined his experiments since the time at the commune. After a showdown with Alpert and his enhanced monsters, the focus shifts to a new threat – the Forever People, who have begun the process of taking over the world. Their leader, Big Bear, sets up headquarters in India, which soon draws the League to him. When diplomacy fails, things soon descend into a massive slugfest. The ending has Psycho return in a new body, now calling himself Imperiex. After a fascinating start, this series is threatening to descend into another fight comic, but so far the strong characterization and Lois Lane’s narration help keep it above par.
Corrina: This is already another fight comic, which is disappointing. In a way, it’s paced too fast. The Forever People take over the Earth in one and a half pages, a development that seems to only set up another battle, rather than play out the implications on the rest of humanity. Maybe that’s why everyone saying “you have too much power, it’s scary” to Superman and Wonder Woman falls flat. We keep hearing it’s bad, we see metahumans take over the Earth, but we don’t see the results of all that, beyond Luthor being annoyed.
I’m glad, however, for the Lois Lane narration, and this is an improvement over the first issue.
Wonder Woman #43 -Meredith Finch, writer, Ian Churchill, penciller
Corrina: Don’t Buy It
Ray: This title has been much improved after its horrible first arc, as Meredith Finch works to dig out from under the massive character assassination of Donna Troy, and introduce some interesting new villains. The bulk of the issue is Donna’s story this month, as she escapes from her Amazon prison to seek out the Fates in London. She wants them to cut her thread and end her life as penance for her crimes, but it’s soon revealed that they don’t have her thread, because they can’t see how she was created. So it seems there’s going to be some big reveal yet about her origins, maybe in Titans Hunt.
I must say, she’s getting a bit more likable, definitely more so than the current Wonder Girl, but damn, is it hard to forget that she’s a mass murderer! Diana, trailing her, enlists the help of her half-brother Milan, and soon finds the Fates murdered – which she assumes Donna did, but that’s not the case. After foiling a teenage girl who attempts to pickpocket her lasso (this girl’s appearance is given a lot of time, which makes me wonder if she’s being set up for something), they come under attack by the villain Aegeus, who shoots Diana with a poisoned arrow to end the issue. The book’s still got a lot of rough edges, but it’s developing some intriguing qualities. Biggest weak point this month? Ian Churchill’s guest art, which feels really rushed. Kind of inevitable with David Finch, though.
Corrina: I thought Churchill’s art was a distinct improvement over David Finch. The faces looked better overall, for one. And Wonder Woman looked less like a baby doll.
I agree, Finch’s storytelling has improved from awful to passable. That doesn’t mean I’m interested in murderous Donna Troy or this new scion of Olympus who’s become Wonder Woman’s new foe and doesn’t seem to do much except yell at everyone and brag. Not an interesting villain and I still don’t buy that Wonder Woman has a problem beating him.
Donna Troy’s return has been a horrible mess and the fact that Diana thought tossing her into solitary confinement would help her reform is simply ridiculous. Not to mention she’s now been given Wonder Woman’s old origin involving clay except with a murderous twist. This run can’t end too soon for me.
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Four #8 -written by Brian Buccellato, art by Mike S. Miller
Corrina: Don’t Buy It.
Ray: I’ve talked a bit about my problems with the direction this title is taking, in that it’s mainly become a generic fight comic with new and bigger threats being introduced all the time to no real effect. Well, it doesn’t get much bigger than Zeus himself.
After the death of Hercules, the king of the Greek Gods has come to Earth to deal with Superman himself. He strips Shazam of his powers, forces Superman’s surrender, and kills Harley Quinn in what is probably the biggest loss to this title yet. She’s been the fan favorite for this entire run, and she’s disposed of in one panel. Zeus then begins his occupation of Earth, declaring that he is the one true God and should be worshiped. Superman has a secret weapon in his corner, though – Zeus’ estranged son, Ares. The stronger half of the issue is the second, as we get a look at Ares’ origin and what drives him to try to undermine his father’s rule. There could be some promise in this conflict, but it seems like the main thrust of the series has faded away in the wake of new threats emerging.
Corrina: The premise of the comic always seemed like one big fight comic. This one, however, is full of heroes posturing and yelling and whatnot and it’s unpleasant and uninteresting save for the moments of humor. Why anyone can get invested in this story is beyond me.
I predict next issue will have more fighting, more deaths, and definitely more yelling.
Harley Quinn/Power Girl #3 -Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, writers, Stephane Roux, Moritat, Elliot Fernandez, artists
Corrina: Harley Quinn fans will enjoy
Ray: The comedy in both this and the parent title tends to be sort of hit and miss, and after two hits in a row, this issue is definitely a miss. There’s a few good bits, such as the garden of giant sexy sculptures that Vartox carved during his “Celibacy trials”, but too much of the issue is devoted to Harley and Power Girl traveling through space chatting with Groovicus Mellow about the weird world they’re on, and engaging in generic space battles.
The drug bender they go on midway through the issue has some cool visuals as they find themselves in the middle of a strange 60’s road trip pastiche, but it doesn’t really add anything to the story besides filling space. Then Vartox shows up, brainwashed by the villain and stripped of all the fun personality traits he’s known for, and the issue turns into a generic slugfest where he makes threats and Power Girl and Harley try to knock him out. Very little of note happens that isn’t revealed on the cover. Hopefully next issue will be funnier.
Corrina: I’ve no idea why Ray is such a hard grader on this comic when he’s giving out better grades to the Wonder Woman and Green Lantern titles this week. I agree that this isn’t as funny as some past Harley stories and relies too much on the big space battles. But, still, enjoyable.
Or perhaps I just find Vartox’s costume infinitely more amusing than Ray does.
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #13 -written by Barbara Randall Kesel, art by Irene Koh, Wendy Broome, Emma Vieceli, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Laura Braga, and Carrie Strachan
Corrina: For Wonder Woman fans
Ray: A full-length story this month by Barbara Kesel, with the very strange decision to have three different artists draw the three segments. There’s no storytelling reason for this, and the artists aren’t extremely different, just different enough to be slightly distracting from the story.
The story starts with Wonder Woman encountering a group of college students running and giving pointers to the fastest on how she can improve. One of the other girls objects to this, and they have a lively debate until Superwoman, freshly escaped from prison, attacks. This is in present continuity, so Superwoman is pregnant and Diana is hesitant to attack her because of this. Superwoman really isn’t a very interesting or dynamic villain, and her dialogue towards WW is a bit raw for what I’d expect from this title. There’s a few decent scenes involving one of the girls’ heroism in the middle of the battle, and Wonder Woman is written fairly well, but overall this story is sort of stiff and feels like it could have been tied up in less than 30 pages. Not the worst anthology story I’ve read, but there isn’t much to recommend here unless you’re a die-hard WW fan.
Corrina: “Wonder Woman is written fairly well.”
There you go. That’s why I like this comic. I also like how the focus is on the aspirational nature of Wonder Woman. The discussion about how to be “the best” goes on a bit long and I was glad to see Superwoman show up to break it up. It’s interesting in that the story plays to the perception that Wonder Woman is arrogant. It is one of those comics that would produce a discussion among friends about the nature of heroes and what we should take from them.
So, yes, if you’re into Wonder Woman, you want this. And I have no idea how Ray can give this issue a lower grade than he did the current Wonder Woman comic.
P.S. I suspect the different art teams, which are all female, was to showcase female artists.
Superman/Wonder Woman #20-Peter J. Tomasi, story and words, Doug Mahnke, pencils
Corrina: Don’t Buy It
Ray: Jumping in from last issue’s cliffhanger of Superman breaking in to see the President, we quickly see that it wasn’t the President waiting for him, but rather Steve Trevor, who knew he was coming. ARGUS has taken just about everyone Superman loves captive and is interrogating them about what they knew about Superman’s secret. Most of the issue is just Superman arguing with Steve while his friends are asked questions in their cells, and eventually Wonder Woman – whose role in this issue is minimal – shows up to break out his friends and spirit them away to safety. Superman, meanwhile, eventually gets to meet the President when Obama defies protocol and the Secret Service.
One of the reasons I dislike having real life Presidents in the comics is because they’re forced to serve the plot, and here it seems like the fact that it’s Obama in the role is making the authors write him almost separate from the plot. The President as written here is kind and reasonable, but it’s still his government treating Superman like a criminal. Then Parasite attacks, released as a test for Superman and Superman beats him, only to leave after assuring Obama that he’s still on the side of the angels. This issue just doesn’t really have much going for it, seeming more like a refugee from the Marvel Universe’s cynical approach to superheroes.
Corrina: I have no idea why anyone would think Superman is dangerous when he flies into the White House, knocks a bunch of Secret Service agents unconscious and demands to speak to the President. Who knew people would object to that?
Given, Superman has good reason because all of Smallville is basically being interrogated by the government. But I find both situations as ridiculous as the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship which has never, ever worked.
Oh, and Wonder Woman seems to be interrogating Lois Lane with her Golden Lasso. Well, isn’t that special. Ugh.
Ray: Hands down the weirdest comic DC is currently putting out, and that’s not a compliment. We open with Reiser’s roommate Roman a few years ago, in the middle of a terror attack where his boyfriend is murdered, getting powers from an ancient roman cloth that he uses as a tourniquet, turning him into Alpha Centurion. The concept of two roommates each with their own bizarre secret has promise, but it’s not really explored well at all.
Meanwhile, in the present day, Reiser and Roman take Aunt Belle’s dog Oui-Oui for a walk, as Reiser meets with his partner from that fateful night at STAR Labs to ask her help to figure out what happened to him.
Then the dog disappears, and Reiser tries to track it down and encounters the weird child assassin from last issue. He transforms into a monster again, and the kid tries to kill him, only to stop when he realizes that he’s a human, not an alien. These are all plot elements that could work, if the story didn’t feel like it was cobbled together from bits and pieces of dozens of other stories, and if the dialogue was less over the top. The ending brings in the Teen Titans to help STAR Labs track down the creature, and I’m not looking forward to having those characters back in Lobdell’s hands. Of all the titles DC green-lit in the new wave, this is the biggest head-scratcher.
Corrina: Hey, it’s not the most gross. There. I said something positive about this book. Otherwise, I can’t get past the “I worked my whole life to be a S.T.A.R. intern and I’ll violate 50 different procedures on my first day anyway.”
This kid is so stupid he deserves to be an alien shape-shifter with no life. Also, I was kinda worried about the dog, too, worried this would be the second comic this week that would feature a doggie’s death. Whew. Dodged that one.
Look, I said two nice things about the comic.
Ray Goldfield is a writer/editor for Grayhaven Comics, as well as the author of two novels currently in editing. He’s a comic fan for over 20 years, particularly of DC and Superman, Batman, and the Teen Titans in particular. Now that Cassandra Cain is coming back, he will not rest until DC greenlights a Young Justice: Season Three comic.