Look, there are a lot of comics out there. Too many. We can never hope to have in-depth conversations about all of them. But, we sure can round up some of the more noteworthy titles we didn’t get around to from the week. Today, Patrick and Spencer discuss Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger 12, Nightwing 24, Li’l Gotham 7, Batgirl 24, Coffin Hill 1, Hinterkind 1 and Green Lantern Corps 24.
Patrick: Even though Retcon Punch dropped Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger a while a go, it was always a hard-to-shake curiosity for me. But the strangest thing happened at the close of the Trinity War: the Stranger was erased from existence. It’s no real surprise, but Philip Stark is back immediately in issue 12. It’s definitely a cheap move – God (still in the body of a tiny scottie dog) simply wills the character back to existence. The issue opens on a simple white page, divided into nine standard panels.
Slowly, we join the Stranger’s voice-over boxes mid-monologue, and it’s not until you turn the page that we even get a glimpse of the character. He’s totally resentful of being alive again, but like, what: are you going to argue with God? The issue carries this theme of unwanted or undeserved resurrections over to Dr. Thirteen, who slit his wrists after he couldn’t deal with the fact that he betrayed the Stranger – he’s brought back to life by the Stark family babysitter. (Add to that, the babysitter himself was also just brought back from heaven in issue 10 and is having a hard time rejoining his family.) This trio of characters is all back, but they’re all kind of angry about it. Perhaps that’s a muffled commentary about how comic book characters can never really find the sweet release of death: someone’s always got to pull them back in.
Except for Dick Grayson’s parents – those assholes stay dead. Nightwing wrapped up Kyle Higgin’s first arc in the city of Chicago by having Dick team up with Tony Zucco to rescue the Windy City from the Prankster. The issue was swift and purposeful in a way Nightwing hasn’t really been in a while, and Higgins did a nice job of making Prankster’s beef with the mayor personal. What really interested me, however, was Higgins’ treatment of Zucco: not only does he land the final punch against the bad guy, but Zucco almost comes off as the victim by the end of the issue. First he’s rejecting any semblance of a plea bargain, accepting all the responsibility for his actions, and then his wife and kids leave him. It’s like he’s being primed to be his own super… hero? Villain? Whichever it is, Higgins teases another hero/villain right at the end of the issue, as if to suggest that Chicago is primed and ready to be a Superhero City again. Hey, if you can’t bring Nightwing back to Gotham, the least you can do is bring Gotham back to Nightwing, right?
Spencer: You’re very right, Patrick, and what I find interesting about the idea of “bringing Gotham back to Nightwing” is that it’s exactly what our new villain is trying to prevent. Maxwell claims that Nightwing’s presence will be even worse for Chicago than the Prankster’s, that he will attract copycats and vendetta seekers, and that he has to stop him to keep Chicago safe, revealing himself to be the Superhero Slayer. What we’ve got here is someone becoming a supervillain in order to stop other supervillains from invading his city, and it should be exciting to see if he ever realizes his own hypocrisy (and/or what kind of ulterior motive lies behind his seemingly noble, if twisted, intentions). If I wanted to, I could pick some of this issue apart–Prankster’s political leanings all being a mask is a little disappointing, and I’m still unclear on how Prankster’s father died and what role Cole played in it–but ultimately it’s such a brisk, action-packed issue that I don’t really want to find fault with it. Here’s hoping Forever Evil doesn’t ruin the momentum Higgins has been building for Dick Grayson here in the windy city.
So hey, have y’all checked out Batman: Li’l Gotham yet? If not, what’s wrong with you?! Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs’ series takes place in an adorable, watercolored, slightly Looney Toon-ified version of the Pre-New 52 DC Universe, and is an absolute treat for anybody looking for more lighthearted fare. Issue 7 (of the print release) first follows Batman and Aquaman as they exchange puns, bicker over costumes, powers, and hideouts, and — oh yeah — fight some massive sea monsters off the coast of Japan. Coming to their aid is Damian Wayne and Barbara Gordon in a pair of Pacific Rim inspired mechas, which Damian is thrilled about piloting for more than one reason:
The second story, meanwhile, involves The Joker arranging a fireworks competition among the other Arkham Inmates with the goal of — naturally — destroying Gotham City. If you love Batman’s Rogues Gallery but find the current Arkham War miniseries too dark for your tastes, then this is the story for you, my friend! No lie, it features Bane riding Firefly like a rocket and injecting Venom into his jetpack; what’s not to like?! Seriously though, if you’ve ever complained about the New 52 being too dark, or even if you just miss Oracle or Damian Wayne, then this is an absolute must-read. I promise at least one laugh-out-loud moment per page.
“Holy mood swings, Batman!” Next on our list is Batgirl 24, which finds Gail Simone and Fernando Pasarin taking the “Batgirl Wanted” story to its lowest point: Ricky is in a coma, the relationship between Barbara and her father seems almost irreparably damaged, and, oh yeah, Knightfall has sent her goons to murder Commissioner Gordon. It’s as intriguing and well-written as we’ve all come expect from Simone, but what saves this issue from becoming mired in misery is the unexpected kindness Barbara finds from both Ricky’s mother and her roommate Alysia.
Barbara’s lost a lot, there’s no denying that, but she has more people who care about her and want to help than she even realizes, and it gives me hope that this storyline can manage to find some sort of happy ending, even if it’s only Barbara finally finding someone to help shoulder her burden.
Patrick: Oh, man, the relationship between Babs and Alysia is just adorable. There’s also a lot to be said for how well Simone writes Jim Gordon’s guilt. It’s not uncommon to see him with the weight of the world on his shoulders, but this strife is so much more personal. There’s a panel where he’s reaching out to a photograph of his family that just straight-up broke my heart. I may have my issues with the way Pasarin draws (huge faces, tiny eyes), but he totally got to me with that one.
Shifting gears a little bit, I also read some new Vertigo titles – neither of which were very satisfying. First up is Coffin Hill, which you might have seen previews for in issues of The Wake or Trillium. It’s clear from the specificity of Caitlin Kittridge’s script that this is a deeply personal project for her – at the Vertigo panel at NYCC, she mentioned that the New England setting is lifted right from her childhood. And Inaki Miranda’s art is spooky and evocative of the tone both creators are going for. Unfortunately, there’s a weird fixation on blood-soaked witches, and some lazy explorations of privilege and sexuality. Plus, it’s just not that well written. There’s one point where are character chastises another by saying “You’ve got more razor blades under your forked tongue than usual.” Look, I like mixed metaphors as much as the next guy, but who says that someone has “razor blades under [their] tongue?”
Also, sorta crummy? Hinderkind. If you want a masterclass is pointless world-building, then by all means, pick up this series. It’s a post-apocalyptic adventure story, but the world is boringly realized. There’s a camp of our titular heroes in a settlement in Central Park – it’s just such a lame choice. I want to see cities reclaimed by nature, not an already-natural area still-claimed by nature. There are also magic(ish) monsters that litter the landscape, but they too lack imagination. Pointedly, Ian Edgington populates his world with creatures that even seem lame in Napoleon Dynamite – except he calls them Ligons, instead of Ligers.
As through that makes them any less stupid. Oof.
Spencer: Honestly, they barely look like they’ve got any lion in them to begin with. I think what we’ve actually got here is a group of tigers with very classy taste in wigs. This is obviously the first step towards a society of anthropomorphic animals, and I for one welcome our freakishly mutated overlords.
So hey, while you guys may have been distracted by the din of Forever Evil and it’s related crossovers, the Green Lanterns are still fighting for their lives against Relic out there in space somewhere. While Green Lantern Corps 24 doesn’t bring us any closer to discovering the truth behind Relic’s claims that the light of the various corps are draining the universe, it’s still an exciting — if not quite spectacular — issue that mainly revolves around John Stewart and his recruits’ last ditch effort to distract Relic so that the other Lanterns can escape Oa. The plan succeeds — mostly thanks to the sacrifice of Ergann, the (literally) horse-faced nomad — but Oa still explodes anyway. Ouch.
The plot doesn’t move forward much, but writer Van Jensen still makes this an entertaining read by focusing on the personalities of the various Lanterns; he particularly pays attention to his regular cast, but he also hit my personal sweet spot: Jokes at Hal Jordan’s expense.
While I found this issue entertaining enough, I’ve still got mixed feelings about Lights Out as a whole. Oa exploding should feel more devastating than it does, but for a book that’s been notoriously without a status quo for years now, it’s feeling harder and harder to care when yet another Earth-shattering plot twist comes along. Meanwhile, while I’m still intrigued by Relic’s claims, as a character he’s feeling more and more one-note with each passing issue. Doesn’t he have any hobbies or anything? Maybe he breeds Ligons in his spare time?
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?