This week in DC Comics, we might be seeing the last gasp of a few titles. In some case, like Batman Beyond, it’s not a huge loss, but in other cases, such as Midnighter, it’s a damn shame. But Suicide Squad fans, here’s your chance to check out Midnighter with an issue that shows how unique this run has been.
What else should you grab? If you like horror, Swamp Thing. Batgirl fans, the new issue is out and Black Canary’s back. Fans of Scott Snyder’s run on Batman should check out Batman & Robin Eternal, as there are major doings with Harper Row. But Ray and I won’t limit ourselves to just those comics. We read them all.
MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THIS WEEK’S COMICS BELOW.
Swamp Thing #2, Len Wein, writer, Kelley Jones, illustrator
Corrina: Great Start Especially For Swamp Thing Newbies
Ray: I was a bit disappointed with the first issue of the relaunch, since it seemed to pull back all the development the character’s world went through in the previous series and set him back to the lone monster he used to be. Fortunately, this issue makes it clear that the goal is to pull Swamp Thing back into the sphere of the dark, supernatural characters in the DCU. When we last left off, Swamp Thing had been ripped in two by a rampaging zombie, a vengeful victim of a resurrection experiment gone wrong.
Well, it seems like that wasn’t all true – he was a cancer patient who underwent the experiment to try to save his life, and then his parents performed a dark magic ritual to bring him back, which resulted in zombie. Seeking to send Lazlo back to his rest, Swamp Thing seeks out an old occasional ally – The Shade. Although the art here makes him look more like an old British dandy than the creepy shadow-man from his later appearances, it’s great to see this popular anti-hero again, and he’s as ambiguous and sinister as ever. There’s also a Phantom Stranger cameo, as he drops some cryptic hints about dangers coming for Swamp Thing. The battle between Swamp Thing and Lazlo is horrific and creepily drawn, although I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the way Jones draws Swamp Thing’s body – it feels more like he’s made up of some gruesome supernatural substance than organic plants. Still, things take a turn for the very interesting in the final page as we find out who the main threat facing Swamp Thing is – Matt Cable, his former friend turned deadly enemy, and arguably one of Swamp Thing’s longest-running adversaries. Wein is definitely pulling back to the roots of the character, and that in and of itself makes me very intrigued.
Corrina: Art is what makes this story, especially the opening sequence as Swampy literally stitches himself back together. Jones was the perfect choice for this book. But a good horror book isn’t all about a creepy plot or supernatural goings. Like all stories, it has to have someone we care about.
Whether it’s Swampy’s annoyance with Phantom Stranger popping in and out or his visit to the Shade (loved that) or his anger at the deadly zombie’s parents, the creature has a distinct point of view that makes me care. I’ve no idea who Matt Cable is but I’m guessing he’s not the guy with the metal arm that carries a big gun?
Batgirl #48, Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher, writers, Babs Tarr, artist
Corrina: A Little Too Much Plot But Good
Ray: There’s no comic on the stands that packs more into one issue than Batgirl right now, but that can often make the various plots feel a bit disconnected. It’s surprising since Fletcher is writing both books, but the Black Canary in this book – cranky, quick-tempered, sarcastic – feels very different from the maternal, protective band-leader we see in her own title. I had to laugh at Greg being assaulted by a second woman in Babs’ life in two issues, although his behavior does seem to be getting sketchier and sketchier with every issue.
However, the real pressing problem is Barbara’s memory loss, as it’s going from standard forgetfulness to her accidentally deleting major moments of every day. Her nightmares are getting worse too, as the mysterious faceless man haunting her continues to appear. After some amusing early interludes involving Batgirl and Batwing battling the video-game obsessed villains from the preview issue, and Dinah being mobbed by fangirls, things get more serious as Babs and Dinah discover that Barbara’s neural implant may have been hacked (with an assist from tech-guru Frankie) and head to the Gotham Hall of Records to get to the bottom of it. This leads to a confrontation with the villain, The Fugue, who leaves Barbara catatonic and turns out to be…Greg? So guess Frankie and Dinah weren’t all that off. Unless he’s been brainwashed too? Fun stuff, although there seemed to be a lot of plot development in a short time this issue. A bit hectic, but still one of DC’s best.
Corrina: I haven’t connected to this reboot as much as I’ve wanted. The last couple of issues, teaming up with Spoiler, and then Canary returning made me happy, especially with the hint about Canary’s history but their friendship still feels shaky, given Dinah is so different in this book than in her own. Most of all, this comic skips on the surface for me rather than giving me those deep feels that I had with the old Birds of Prey stories. This just may not be my style.
It has, however, led to some awesome cosplays, introduced Babs to a new audience, created a fine new cast and gave Luke Fox more to do. All that is excellent.
Midnighter #9, Steve Orlando, writer, Aco and Hugo Petrus, art
Ray: 9/10 (Book of the Week)
Corrina: Midnighter Remains Awesome.
Ray: Let’s be real, there was no chance Midnighter vs. Suicide Squad was going to be a bad comic. The DCU’s pre-eminent badass going up against its most violent super-team. Steve Orlando is going to be able to get some great action out of that. Now that Midnighter has called off the cold war with Spyral and is working with them, he’s been tasked to break into ARGUS to steal back the Perdition Pistol from them. And naturally, that means Midnighter tearing through an army of minions and some powerful metas.
One of the things I’ve always liked about this run is the way Orlando gets Midnighter’s powers so well, beyond simply “He’s Batman, but violent and gay”. This is illustrated by a great segment in which Midnighter explains how he can take out a speedster. I’ve been wondering for a while when we were going to get a big bad in this run, and it seems like it’s likely to be Henry Bendix, an iconic Stormwatch villain who is reintroduced this issue and seems to be behind most of Midnighter’s recent troubles. But before Midnighter can investigate, he’s got to get through the Suicide Squad, complete with a new member who can completely neutralize Midnighter’s advantage and quickly takes him out. This has been an entertaining book since the start, but it feels like it’s really stepped up over the last few months. Buy this book while you still can, people!
Corrina: All the praise Ray has is on the nose for this book. Orlando’s achievement is making Midnighter a distinct character from his inspiration, Batman. He just loves to fight and the better the opponent, the more fun it is for him. Yes, that’s arrogant but it’s refreshing to read someone who doesn’t angst about the cost of fighting the bad guys, though I’d never want Batman to become this.
My one complaint is that sometimes the story itself seems disjointed, as in the opening pages, where I had to go grab the previous issue to see if I missed something. Instead, it’s just a setup for what happens later. I wonder why more people aren’t buying this comic? I suspect they see it’s about the Wildstorm universe and dismiss it. DC’s past failures in making the Wildstorm cast interesting to regular DC universe readers may be hurting this title.
Batman: Detective Comics #49, Peter J. Tomasi, story and words, Fernando Pasarin, pencils, Matt Ryan, inks
Corrina: Detective Is Living Up To Its Name.
Ray: I’m glad to see from solicits that while Jim Gordon’s time as the star of the main Batman book ends with #50, he’ll be staying as the star of Detective Comics until Rebirth. I’ve really enjoyed the focus on old-fashioned detective work in this run. Unfortunately, as mysteries go, I don’t think this is one of the most compelling ones he’s been given. There’s certainly a cool, creepy aesthetic to it, with a mysterious serial killer targeting random people and murdering them after dressing them up in the style of famous historical figures – George Washington, Alan Shepard – as well as taking a random bone from their body before he does. Creepy, certainly, but very random. His third target is a young woman who he dresses up like Joan of Arc and prepares to immolate, before Jim steps in and saves her. The masked madman gets away, and proceeds to set up a much bigger next kill – a large-scale civil war recreation that ends with a disturbing last-page reveal. This all feels very much like something we’d see on Criminal Minds, only with a Gotham twist. So why did I still enjoy this issue, despite not being very interested in the villain? Simple – I love seeing Jim and Bullock snark at each other as they solve crimes. These guys are the best buddy team in comics right now. Tomasi’s run very much feels like Batman done as a procedural, and with every procedural, some cases are better than others.
Corrina: Unless DC kills Gordon, he’ll stay in the Batman mythos. Given that he’s the star of a television show, I’m guessing the odds of that are nil. What I’ve liked about his turn as Batman is that it’s allowed “Detective” comics to live up to its name. Bruce Wayne Batman used to be vulnerable and overwhelmed at times. You could take the 1970s Batman and drop him into this script and the characterization would still work. That shows you have much Bruce has changed over the years. Putting him back into the Bat-suit was inevitable but the supporting cast is one of the strongest parts of Gotham and that has worked well in Gordon’s run as Batman.
That said, yeah, this mystery seems a little too random, as Ray said. Even Gordon is baffled at the pattern. 🙂 Using Gotham’s various statutes as targets for the killer provides a nice bit of Gotham history but not much else.
Batman & Robin Eternal #18, James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, story, Ed Brisson, script, Scott Eaton, pencils, Wayne Faucher, inks
Corrina: All Hail, Ray. He Called It.
Ray: As we reach the last act of Batman and Robin Eternal, it finally becomes clear what Batman’s greatest regret is and why exactly he kept it hidden all these years. It was never about aligning with Mother, or buying one of the Robins from her. That was all red herrings. Rather, it was about how he went in too deep undercover, and unwittingly set in motion something horrible. That’s a smoother fix than I thought.
This issue splits the action between the present day, as Orphan continues to taunt Cassandra about what he knows about her past, and Batman’s fateful showdown in Cairo years ago. Sure enough, it’s exactly what we thought it was – Harper Row was the girl who Mother marked as Bruce’s custom Robin, and to do that, she had to become an Orphan. Cassandra Cain was sent to kill her parents, a pair of petty crooks, but broke down in grief after her first kill, allowing Marcus Row to escape. This was all very telegraphed, but it’s revealed effectively here. And now we have the added wrinkle of Bruce knowing about Harper’s involvement in this all these years and keeping it from her as she entered his world. I’m hoping this isn’t leading to Harper becoming a villain, but she’s got some motivation. Mother’s apparent death at her own hands in the flashback is clearly a red herring – unless, of course, her presence in the modern day is all a ruse by another big bad. And in the finale, the next big set piece begins as Icthys is unleashed on Saint Hadrian’s, leaving the entire team at the mercy of an army of fear-crazed teenage assassins, just as Harper may no longer be an ally. I’m hoping this continues to hit the last arc strong, as everything comes to a head in the conclusion.
Corrina: Gah. What motivation, really? Yes, Batman should have told Harper but I’m getting tired of heroes taking on the guilt for something the criminals have done. Mother murdered Harper’s mother by proxy, with an assist from David Cain. Cassandra was a victim, Harper was a victim, her mother was a victim and even Batman was a victim. Batman not telling Harper is a bit of dickery but I’m not sure how you tell a teenage girl such a convoluted story when she barely knows who the heck you are.
My other complaint? Yeah, we’re supposed to believe Mother is this all-powerful person who can predict what children will be suitable and what won’t be suitable but, c’mon. I’d believe in superspeed more than seeing into the future to predict that this child will turn out to be exactly what someone wants. I’ll give Mother the ability to send women out as trophy wives for the rich. But to know which kid will be a superhero? Just no. (This is incidentally the same problem I have with Dick Grayson supposedly destined to join the Court of Owls. People are just too unpredictable at that age.)
Maybe this is why I liked Detective better. Good, straightforward detective work. This reveal is meant to yank my emotional chain and I’m being mulish about it.
Green Arrow #49, storytellers, Benjamin Percy, script, Szymon Kudranski, art
Corrina: This Oliver Seems Closer to TV Oliver.
Ray: This has been an oddball run. It started out with a great arc involving real issues involving racism and policing tied in with some creepy horror elements, but then quickly descended into supernatural stories that were pretty much full-on horror. Now Green Arrow’s a werewolf. Well, a “Warg”, technically, which places him right in the middle of a battle between an evil Warg biker gang villain and a group of terrorist Warg-hunters. GA spends the first half of the issue barely keeping his Warg side under control as he struggles through a business meeting in Seattle, but loses it completely when he sees a crime-lord he’s been tracking and attacks him. This gives Emiko the chance to get the drop on him and tranq him, dosing him with medicine to keep his illness under control. This page was the best thing in the issue, and I highly endorse Emiko being pulled into the new Teen Titans at some point. Then the Patriots break the Warg villain out of prison, hoping he’ll cause enough chaos so that people will want them to wipe out all the Wargs. This is a weird story to go into issue #50 on.
Corrina: It’s a great story for a Vertigo book but not so much for a Green Arrow book. I’m glad the focus is back on Oliver after the last arc. It is his comic after all. But it still doesn’t feel like the classic archer that I know best and instead is more like Batman-lite, his television version. I wonder if that’s intentional? Emiko’s reappearance is a help but not much.
The Wargs aren’t grabbing me as villains. Not much about this arc is.
Batman Beyond #9, Dan Jurgens, writer, Bernard Chang, artist
Corrina: Terry Coming Back?
Ray: I think this book is improving a bit. It’s still dragged down by the big problem I’ve had with the story since the start – it’s just way too dark and grim for my tastes. But now it seems like it’s working in more and more elements of the old Batman Beyond cartoon. Matt is deep in the post-apocalyptic territory of Metropolis, in search of a mysterious “Doctor”, and Tim is hot on his trail. As an aside, am I the only one who gets thrown a little when I’m reminded this is Tim Drake? I’m so used to thinking of Terry in the costume. Meanwhile, they’re both being pursued by mysterious, mutated animals. My first thought was Kamandi creatures, but it turns out they’re actually the creations of the big bad – Dr. Cuvier, the master of the Splicers. I’ve always been a fan of his, so it’s good to see him back. Meanwhile, Matt follows the GL ring to where it’s being pulled – and finds the Justice League alive. That’s a cool and welcome twist. Anything that pulls this away from the Futures End world towards classic Batman Beyond is fine in my book.
Corrina: The book has been improving since the Brother Eye was defeated. Phew. Lousy villain. But, as Ray said, the biggest problem is that it still feels like Terry is in the Batsuit, not Tim. There’s nothing different about the way the two characters would approach a problem, with Terry being more impetuous and Tim relying more on his research and investigative skills.
That’s why I was so happy with the reveal that the Justice League is still alive. Finally, a glimpse of some hope and if the JL is on ice, why not Terry? The best ending for this serious would be Terry revived and Tim sent back home. Okay, maybe Tim can stay. But definitely, Terry needs to be back. It was a mistake to create a Beyond title without him.
Superman: Action Comics #49, story: Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder. Words, Pak, layouts, Kuder, pencils Ardian Syaf, inks, Jonathan Glapion, Scott Hanna and Sandra Hope.
Corrina: Is He Superman Again Yet?
Ray: This issue picks up almost exactly from the last issue of Superman last week, where Superman threw himself into a giant vat of Kryptonite, in a desperate attempt to destroy his mutated cells and get his powers back. It works…in a sense. Superman is faster, stronger, and can fly again, but the Kryptonite radiation is burning him out in a hurry. He’s gained odd new sonar powers and seems very happy to be back, but everyone can see it’s killing him. And just in time for a new threat to emerge, in the form of yet another of Savage’s descendants.
I kind of like the idea that everything in this story is coming back to Savage – of course a guy around since the beginning of civilization would have countless offspring. This new one is a bullied child who is given incredible powers and quickly sets off with a child’s attitude towards revenge. This issue is almost entirely a full-on action comic, with Slavaxe, the new villain, making an entertaining foe. And the ending has the kind of insane visual that makes comics what they are. The depowered-Superman story seems to be coming to a close by the end of next month, and not a minute too soon, but I will say that Pak has done by far the best with it of any writer. It’s going to be a shame to see him leave this book with #50.
Corrina: Savage makes a good villain but I dislike how I’ve had to read 5?6? issues now with him revealed as the villain but with no forward momentum in actually defeating him. Instead, Savage seems to be able to create new minions at the drop of a hat. That makes it read like filler every time Superman punches one of the minions instead of confronting Savage himself.
As for Superman’s “cure,” I don’t know. It seems wacky that Kryptonite will do this to his mutated cells but, then again, it seems wacky that his powers could be altered like this. Couldn’t he talk to the scientists of the DCU at this point rather than dropping in a Kryptonite bath? Then again, that might require more issues, so nevermind. As I say every week with these Superman titles, the talented creative team is working with a lousy story concept.
Green Lantern #49, writer, Robert Venditti, artist, Martin Coccolo, penciller, Billy Tan, inker, Mark Irwin
Corrina: Terrorist Plot Not Working For Me.
Ray: I really think setting Green Lantern back on Earth for an arc was a smart move. We’re so used to seeing Hal battle huge-scale space villains that pitting him against a very human villain who plays by different, more ruthless rules is a nice change of pace. And this new take on Sonar is both intense and definitely current. His MO is genuinely insidious – sound bombs powered by the noise of crowds, setting them off in populated areas. His first attack is why Hal’s nephew is currently in a coma, and Hal may have just made things worse by attacking Sonar’s base, causing the madman to vow more attacks unless the UN authorizes independence for his people.
After a confrontation with his brother, Hal gets an epiphany and flies to the UN, where he stops the emergency meeting in its tracks – revealing that the bombs were planted in the earpieces of every ambassador, and thus foiling a mass attack that would have wiped out the UN. So Hal saves the day, and Howard soon wakes up from his coma, but Sonar is still out there and Hal has yet to even get close to him. Oh, and in case we forgot about that other threat – Parallax is still coming to Earth, fresh from Convergence, and looking to take out the current Hal before he causes the destruction of Coast City. Looking forward to that showdown next issue.
Corrina: See, this is why I don’t like Hal. How many years has he spent being a police cop and he still thinks wrecking the base in a fit of anger is the way to go? His nephew being in a coma is meant to tug at my heartstrings but, instead, it makes me feel manipulated. Also, yet *another* terrorist villain who holds the world in fear. Again?
That said, yes, it was a good idea to bring Hal down to Earth for a stretch. It improves his supporting cast, which has been a highlight the last two issues.
As for Parallax? Two Hal Jordans? Calling me not excited by that idea is an understatement.
Batman: Europa #4, story: Matteo Casali and Brian Azzarello, layouts, Guiseppe Camuncoli, art, Gerald Parel
Corrina: Nice Art. Thin Story.
Ray: This oddball miniseries wraps up, as Batman and Joker head to Rome to try to find a cure for their mysterious illness. The art is definitely a big step up from the near-abstract style of this issue, as Camuncoli’s style feels dreamlike but still pretty vivid.
The plot, however, continues to be this story’s weak link. Batman and Joker arrive in Rome, and are confronted by the mastermind behind their mutual torment. The initial comments while the villain was still in the shadows made me think Two-Face, but it turns out it’s actually Bane. And just like that, this comic turns into a slugfest, as Batman and Bane face off while Joker gets slammed around a lot. And why did Bane do all of this? It’s never quite clear, except for some cryptic comments about how he wanted Batman to realize he needed the Joker. So Bane is essentially a matchmaker? In the bizarre ending, it turns out that the antidote was with them all along – each can cure themselves with the other’s blood. So after four issues and years of delays, it comes down to Batman and Joker sharing blood, and then Batman realizing he doesn’t need Joker anymore and can finally give him the treatment he usually does.
This was just an oddball comic that didn’t quite come together, a strange combination of globe-trotting adventure and travelogue. The biggest problem was that in terms of epic Batman/Joker stories, it came about eight months after the greatest of all time.
Corrina: The art struck me as something similar to the style used on Gotham by Midnight: creepy, spooky and evocative.
As for the plot, my reaction is colored by my Joker hatred, but it barely had a plot and seemed like an excuse to place Batman and his most popular villain in various European settings. This story could have been told in one issue and, if it had, it might be a classic. But not stretched out into four overly long issues. Heck, at this point, I barely remembered who was this Nina Batman was determined to avenge. This will look pretty in trade and maybe it will sell well in the European market but it’s not as good as the current Batman comics. It’s not even close.
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.
Disclaimer: GeekMom received these comics for review purposes.