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, Mikyzptlk and Patrick discuss Batwoman 25, Red Hood and the Outlaws 25, Birds of Prey 25, Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion 2, Green Lantern New Guardians 25 and Fables 135
Mikyzptlk: Hey y’all, let’s kick things off with Birds of Prey 25, shall we? Many years ago, Sensei Desmond found a young Dinah Lance in a hungry and homeless state. He gave her a home, taught her how to fight, and, after his death, his dojo. During the Zero Year, Dinah gets mixed up in an affair involving government agents and ninja assassins, but she is able to help said agents track down important intel that could lead them to Riddler. The lead agent John Lynch, then asks her to join his team.
Finally, the long awaited prequel to Team 7 we’ve all been dying to read! Well, maybe not so much. Either way, that is we get with this issue. Christy Marx gives us what starts off as a compelling tale that then gets a bit hijacked. Marx manages to get me invested with the relationship of Sensei Desmond and Dinah Drake in only 6 pages.
With so few pages to work with, it’s an impressive feat by Marx. Dinah has a tragic start in life, but she gets a second chance. It’s interesting to see that her training is tied-in to that second chance and her new home. I wish that Marx could have gone further with this, and even though we do see Dinah begin to help other Gothamites, the story then turns into a Team 7 prequel for whatever reason. I mean, that book was super cancelled.
Anyway, on to Batwoman 25. Six years ago, Kate Kane gets called away from West Point in order to attend the funeral of her uncle Philip Kane. After a brief wake over at Wayne Manor, Kate decides to head into the streets of Gotham to do “soldier things.” She comes across a jewel heist, deals out some “terrible justice,” and is nearly arrested by none other than a young Maggie Sawyer. The issue ends with a rather heartwarming father-daughter beat that you would be doing yourself a solid if you read.
This issue marks the debut of new series writer, Marc Andreyko. Andreyko was able to tie this title into the events of Zero Year in a brilliantly organic way, by using the funeral of Philip Kane. This allows him to do a couple of neat things. First, we get to see at least a part of Philip’s funeral, which Batman understandably moved along too briskly to cover. This also allows us a rare chance to see Kate Kane and Bruce Wayne in one place together. In the past, we’ve seen Kate become inspired to don the cape and cowl after seeing Batman in action. Here though, we see Kate interacting with Bruce, while still getting a taste of the philosophy of the Bat.
Andreyko gives us an awesome pre-Batwoman story for Kate that is action-filled and hits upon the emotional beats between Kate and her father. Patrick, what did you think of Andreyko’s first issue?
Patrick: Oh, I did not have nearly as good a time as you did with this issue, Mike. It’s such a predictable bummer to see the life sucked out of the layouts the second J. H. Williams is no longer associated with the project. Even Trevor McCarthy’s presence can’t seem to stabilize the look of this issue, which has three other artists credited on it, by the way. Every now and then I would recognize one of the Kate faces that McCarthy drew and I was suddenly back at home, with her more severe features and amble shadowing. But then some other artist would come along and baby-face her up again. I know it’s dumb to complain about a lack of consistency when a book is drawn by four different people, but, well… there you go.
One more of these Zero Year bad boys: Jason Todd’s first experience putting on a hood in Red Hood and the Outlaws 25. It’s actually a lot of other firsts for Jason – first meeting with Talia Al Ghul, first time fighting an Untitled, first time meeting the Joker. The story is kind of a weird excuse to jam all these firsts together, and while James Tynion’s expression of Young Jason’s personality it charming and nuanced in the first couple pages, it’s quickly drowned out by all these big moves. You can tell that Tynion was excited to tie this issue into the current series’ al Ghul story, but he was equally excited to have Jeremy Haun draw a proto-Joker brandishing a crowbar against Jason Todd.
To be fair. it is an absurdly cool moment — one that made me shiver with nerd-glee — but it smothers the rest of the story. I guess it’s telling that I want to spend so much time in Jason’s past: more than any other character I can think of, he’s been shaped and reshaped by the heroes and villains of the DC universe. I just want to see that kind of stuff over and over again.
Mikyzptlk: I also thought it was just a tad awkward to cram all of these important moments into what seemed like a few hours of Jason Todd’s life. That said, I was actually really enjoying watching Jason just being Jason. Unfortunately, once all of the Untitled stuff started up, I quickly began to lose interest. Tynion does a wonderful job with Jason, but it seems to me as if the supernatural side of Jason’s narrative does nothing but derail the other aspects of it.
This issue also tells me that Jason never stood a chance at being a good Robin, considering that he had all of these villains on his back from the very beginning. I’m not sure if this makes him less interesting or just interesting in a different way. Alright Patrick, enough with the tie-ins. Or, enough with the Zero Year tie-ins anyway. What’s going on with the Rogues during Forever Evil?
Patrick: Let’s move away from the Zero Year for a second, and over to Forever Evil, which we got most prominently this week in the form of Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion 2. The action in this issue should come as no surprise to anyone reading Forever Evil proper – there’s an alarming amount of over lap between the two. There are entire chunks of dialogue (and fighty-fighty fights) that appear in both. Normally, I’d rhetorically ask “Who’s reading Rogues Rebellion, but not reading Forever Evil?” as a kind of stop-wasting-my-time-DC indictment, but I’m tempted to see this as an invitation. The encounter between The Rogues and Death Storm and Power Ring is so much more engaging and invested here than it was in FE3 – Brian Buccellato’s writing is tighter than Johns’ and Scott Hepburn’s art is punchier and more fun that David Finch. Just as a quick fun example of the kind of meaningful character-based humor this series is able to pull off – check out how Trickster redeems himself from history of being smacked down.
That doubles as the introduction of The Archer, and by extension, the bounty that the Crime Syndicate has placed on The Rogues. I don’t know about you guys, but I think I found the only corner of Forever Evil I’m remotely interested in. And that’s largely because it’s allowed to have fun and be colorful and energetic. Is that so much to ask?
It’s interesting to see how Peter Tomasi is trying to bend his Batman and… series to actually be about the relationship between the Dark Knight and Harvey Dent in Batman and Two-Face 25. We get another piece of that flash-back to McKillen “creating” Two-Face, and it now appears that Batman failed to apprehend her on her way to ruining the Dents’ evening. Not that it’s his fault necessarily: she did shoot a shotgun into his chest. But then, the McKillen family also has some strong connections to the Wayne as well… it’s an increasingly circuitous cause-and-effect mish-mash that makes the scarring of Harvey Dent seem more and more like Bruce’s fault – however indirectly. What’s frustrating about it is how little of Harvey we actually get in this issue. Bruce has a ton of characters on display – in addition to being himself and Batman, good ol’ Matches Malone makes an appearance, but there’s no real hint of Harvey’s duality on display here. Mike, did you sorta wish for more of Two-Face too, or is it enough that Tomasi highlights the many personalities of Bruce Wayne?
Mikyzptlk: Matches Malooooooooooone!!! Sorry, I had to get that out of my system. To answer your question Patrick, I was too busy enjoying this issue to notice the fact that Two Face played a small role in it. This issue definitely played up the importance of Erin McKillen, and I think that’s okay. Tomasi may not be focused on Harvey Dent in this issue, but he still seems to be focused on another two-face. Erin’s history with a young Bruce and Harvey, is starting to figure into the story, as Erin references the fact that she and Bruce were romantic partners at one time. Now it seems we have a case of Bruce’s forrmer love interest turning on Bruce’s former best friend, which then transforms him into one of Batman’s greatest enemies. Hoo-boy, that’s kind of wild. Oh, and then there’s Alfred.
In Green Lantern: New Guardians 25, Kyle doesn’t know if he can refill the reservoir if it goes out again, so he’s trying to find an alternative in the form of a peaceful planet known as Exuras. Unfortunately, this peace comes at a steep price involving the theft of good futures from the Exuras-es of alternate timelines. Understandably, the residents of these alternate worlds are pissed, and have come looking for revenge.
I figured that Kyle would tell Carol about his not-death almost immediately, so I wasn’t surprised to see that in the opening pages of this issue. Justin Jordan continues to keep things fairly lighthearted between Kyle and Carol, even in the midst of their recent and current struggles. What I was surprised to see was the sci-fi twist at the end of this issue. On the surface, it’s a lot of fun. If you take a look closer though, you might find something disturbing about the reallocation of goods from third world countries to first world ones, and the stresses that this reallocation causes to these countries. Did you know that quinoa farmers can’t even afford to eat quinoa any more?
Depletion of natural resources, fascism, and now this. Damn, the Green Lantern books sure are dealing with some pretty heavy stuff these days!
Patrick: There’s also an awful lot of “I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON!” in this issue. Kyle and Carol reiterate a couple times that they just don’t totally understand the state the GL world is in following the events of Lights Out, and Kyle even goes so far as to suggest there’s no way they’ll ever know. That’s a nice way to break from the Johnsian tradition of relying on prophecies, right?
That brings us, at long-last, to Fables 135 — which I understand isn’t DC, but this is the place I’m deciding to write about it. The story centers on Rose Red and her efforts to incorporate some of the more obscure (and uncouth) Fables into the main cast. The newbies are refined — at least one appears to be a straight-up goblin — and none of them carry the kind of name recognition of Snow White or Frog Prince or whatever. It’s an awkward time to be coming in to a series new — this is evidently part four of the Camelot story — but Red’s just so welcoming of all the new-comers, it’s hard not to include myself in that group. I continue to be impressed with the way this series uses its gutters to either expand the reality a sliver outside the main action or to frame a page with a particular allegiance. Most of the issue has these baroque red bands running along the left and right side of the pages, and it’s like Rose Red has staked her claim on the characters and events within.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?
I wish Tynion wasn’t so hung up on this Untitled storyline, because it’s been dragging down his run on Red Hood ever since he took over the book. The magic threat of the Untitled was never a great match for Jason (and Roy and Kori) anyway, and when Lobdell wrote his Untitled story I enjoyed it despite the plot, not because of it. Tynion hasn’t really even been giving me that lately; I still think the first few issues of his run were a lot of fun, especially that first issue (which I raved about here), but besides the scene where Roy bared his heart to Cheshire in last month’s issue, there really hasn’t even been any heart or humor in this book throughout this storyline.
This issue also made me realize that I like how Tynion writes Jason, but also that we really haven’t seen his Jason at all during his run. Jason’s had amnesia the entire time, and it’s become an especially pointless feeling plot point seeing as Jason has still been so involved in super-hero stuff even without his memory.
Long story short: I’ve been getting fed up with Red Hood, but I enjoyed this month’s issue more than I have in a while. It reminded me why I liked what Tynion did with it in the first place. That said, it’s still far from perfect, and I was annoyed by that Joker appearance especially, as it was distracting and completely pointless. I respect that Tynion found a way to connect this story both to Zero Year AND the book’s ongoing story, but I also find myself less invested when I remembered how little I care about the ongoing story to begin with.
I’d been thinking about dropping Red Hood for a while, but wanted to hang on to the end of the current storyline. With each issue I get more frustrated, though, and this Untitled story is lasting FOREVER (seriously, it’s been running literally the entire time I’ve been writing here at Retcon Punch; I wrote about Tynion’s issue my first week here), so I think I’m just gonna drop it now. But this Zero Year issue also helped to remind me why I liked the book in the first place, so I’m gonna keep an eye on it and maybe try again when the next storyline begins.
Very much enjoyed GL: NG this month. This story feels like classic sci-fi in all the best ways (I could imagine this story working as a Doctor Who plot), and I’m really interested to see where it goes even WITHOUT all the connections to the GL’s ongoing woes. Fortunately, I’m invested in that too, so it’s firing on all cylinders for me.
This issue of Rogues Rebellion didn’t work as well for me though, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the repeated scenes? I enjoyed seeing the Rogues take on DC’s worst and live to tell the tale, but if we get five more issues of that I’m going to be disappointed, and with Cold taking such a prominent role in the main Forever Evil book, I’m worried that this tie-in is going to be strung up in the machinations of the main book and not allowed to fully be its own story, which is disappointing. Part of what made the Rogues tie-ins for Final Crisis and Blackest Night so fun was the Rogues were just doing what they wanted and weren’t beholden to the main book’s continuity.