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, Michael, Shane, Patrick and Mark discuss Black Canary 2, Green Lantern The Lost Army 2, Martian Manhunter 2, Secret Six 4 and Superman/Wonder Woman 19.
Michael: We’re in the second month of DC’s soft reboot of “DC YOU.” Though the name is so very stupid, the shakeup of DC’s monthly offerings has been a welcome change of pace thus far. We’re dealing with characters and concepts that have been in rotation for at the very least a couple of decades; so it’s nice to look at them from a different, less New 52-ish lens. I think that this particular selection for our DC round-up presents iterations of villains and do-gooders that may be different but don’t stray too far from the core of their character. You finally seem to be on the right path DC. (Hopefully.)
Michael: Black Canary 2 continues the fluid and forward momentum of the first issue – picking up with the band on the road training to fight evil invisible alien/monster things. Brenden Fletcher and Annie Wu take the badass Dinah Lance and make her a little more badass by giving her a Sarah Connor vibe and a Terminator 2 dessert backdrop to boot. She trains them in hand-to-hand combat and firearms, which apparently not everyone needs lessons in. The members of “The World’s Most Dangerous Band” are starting to learn a little more about one another and respect, if not trust each other. Why these creatures are after Ditto is still a mystery but they seem to have ties to Dinah’s past, as she unmasks her presumed dead husband Kurt. I had to do some Wiki-ing to read up on old Kurt, who was a New 52 character introduced in the Birds of Prey book (that I will probably never read.)
I admire how Fletcher is trying to marry a lot of different aspects of Black Canary’s life: her New 52 Birds of Prey backstory, her rock star Batgirl status and of course more classic elements of her character like the fishnets and the nod to her not being a natural blonde. And just like how it makes perfect sense that Black Canary be the lead singer of a band, it’s natural that she bounds with a mysterious little girl who seems to communicate through manipulating sounds and vibrations. And while it’s a bit of a spin-off of Fletcher and Cameron Stewart’s Batgirl, Black Canary is definitely its own book tonally and visually. Wu doesn’t necessarily commit to one certain art style, with differently-paced/choreographed fight scenes, a Daredevil-ish sound sense and the occasional human head on a bunny body. I’m on board for the alien mystery but one thing I can’t buy into? That no one knew that the old lead singer was stowing away on their tour bus the entire damn time. Disbelief: not suspended.
Green Lantern The Lost Army 2
Michael: Sometimes the creative process can be equated to “throwing shit against the wall and seeing what sticks.” It’s not a very eloquent phrase and often proves to be an indicator for a pretty weak story. But I think that it’s one of the things that makes Green Lantern: The Lost Army interesting and consequently gives it a refreshing, new story. Writer Cullen Bunn takes a handful of characters and concepts both old and new and inserts them all into the same environment with Green Lantern: The Lost Army 2; and it works. The issue is a Green Lantern greatest hits album where we get unlikely combinations like good-guy-versions of Krona AND Relic. Guy Gardner: “Christmas Lantern” gives us the best of both worlds – we have all of Guy’s Red Lantern rage but in the environment of his close friends like Kilowog and John Stewart. No one else could pull off the “I guess your name made the good list this year” line like Guy. I think that Guy and John strengthen each other as characters when they work together in classic comedy duo fashion. I’m not sure if this is a new innovation, but I really dig the “telepathic sub-channel” that the rings have. From a tactical standpoint, it probably helps when your enemy can’t hear you shouting commands at one another during a fire fight. I’m digging this book much more than the regular Green Lantern title thus far. It has all of the great Star Trek (Voyager) things about Green Lantern that give the book a lot of potential.
Patrick: I realize that Cullen Bunn is really working up the “Lost in Space” angle of this series’ premise, but I actually believe that our Lanterns have simply traveled through time. John suggests as much on the final page when Relic shows up. The Lanterns are using telepathy to keep Krona in the dark about what they believe their situation to be, but that is partially so Krona won’t spill the beans to the audience. I typically don’t have too much patience for plot contrivances that would be righted if only the characters talked to each other, but there’s something so rewarding about seeing the Lanterns’ pigheadedness challenged in such a meaningful way – especially when it challenges the audience in the same way. I wonder if that’s why the erasers we trying to eliminate them: maybe they’re just trying to prevent paradoxes?
Bunn is also good at incorporating John’s past as a Marine, which is a dimension of John’s character too frequently sidelined or misunderstood. During a flashback, we get a taste of the unsettling quiet he experienced on deployment. It’s a remarkable war-time flashback in that it involves no violence whatsoever: just a unit exploring an abandoned village. Jesus Saiz, who has always been one of my favorite artists in DC’s stable, positively nails the tone of suspense and isolation, tinged with just a ounce of introspection.
Saiz’ work is a knockout from cover-to-cover. It’s shocking that he’s the only artist credited on this issue, meaning that illuminated brawl between red and green is not only penciled by him, but colored as well. Green Lantern books usually have a bunch of neat lighting effects in them, but I was just loving the light cast by the various constructs. My favorite has to be guy using his powers to give him extra fists.
A couple things to notice here: 1) check out how the red fist makes guy appear redder and the green fist makes him appear greener and 2) how the outline from Guy’s shield changes depending on which side of his body it’s on. Mind you, I’m such a fan of Saiz, I’d watch him illustrate the phone book, but it’s nice that he’s getting to work on such a neat series.
Martian Manhunter 2
Patrick: Martian Manhunter frequently represents his own little corner for the DC Universe, but intriguingly, no one can ever seem to agree on what that corner really entails. Writer Rob Williams takes the ambiguity in J’onn J’onzz’ past and uses it as a license to invent to stellar effect in Martian Manhunter 2. With the ‘Epiphany’ already in-motion, J’onn decides he needs to kill himself in order to disable to Martian invasion of earth. Y’see, the bad Martians have been using him as a relay point to coordinate their attacks, and J’onn is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, even if the Justice League thinks that’s foolhardy. Intriguingly, we don’t see any of the widespread death and destruction that dominated the previous issue. Other than J’onn, Williams’ script focuses on Pearl — the newly superpowered Emariti cat-burglar — and Mr. Biscuit — who is some kind of imaginary best friend / childish-noir-giant. Both of these characters are so charmingly bizarre, but Mr. Biscuit is far and away my favorite, and his persistent innocence serves as a nice counterpoint to J’onn’s meditation on War and his purpose as a warrior. Biscuit’s scene almost have an E.T.-esque quality to them: slightly creepy, but achingly sincere. (That sincerity, is also a nice relief from J’onn’s story which is full of deception.)
Michael, what do you make of J’onn’s turn against the League? I know it’s all in their heads, but it’s pretty neat that he knows exactly how to make them feel like they’re being effective. J’onn — like any JL writer — knows that those guys are at their best when they can punch a problem into submission.
Michael: I gotta say that J’onn even had me fooled with that little stunt of his; I was pleasantly surprised that we weren’t simply treated to a superhero slugfest like so many others we have seen. We haven’t exactly had a clear portrayal of J’onn’s relationship with the League in The New 52, so I always try to return to the default platonic ideal that there is at least a mutual respect present. J’onn has always been a character that rides the line between comedy and tragedy – more often leaning towards the latter. So it seems very in character that J’onn would take The Dark Knight self-sacrificial role that he does – taking the responsibility on completely. That’s the tragic nature of his character at work: forever alone.
The characters of Pearl and Mr. Biscuits intrigue me, leading me to wonder their connection to our resident Martian. Pearl seems to be a (relatively) normal human who is having strange telepathic connections with J’onn while the more mysterious Mr. Biscuits might have a better idea of what is going on. My theory is that Mr. Biscuits is somehow a piece of J’onn that subconsciously separated from him and is trying to find his way home to become whole again. I think this could fit in line with the framework that Rob Williams has set up already with J’onn being a Martian sleeper agent etc. I don’t think Pearl is in the same situation though, which may blow my theory to hell.
Secret Six 4
Mark: Secret Six as written by Gail Simone includes a lot of things we should celebrate in mainstream comics. It’s trying to be inclusive and features characters of many different races, genders, and sexualities. Simone goes out of her way to make room for those more marginalized in superhero comics, and I appreciate the effort. But it’s hard to be super enthusiastic when the work itself is pretty rough. Writing clever dialogue is a tough task, and I hate to be the asshole complaining that it’s not done well…but here we are. By it’s very nature, witty banter is mannered—in real life no one talks like they do in screwball comedies. But the best ones seem effortless. Secret Six 4 groans under the strain of quirk.
Mockingbird (identified last issue as the Riddler!) has sent three mercenaries to bring in the Secret Six. If they succeed, their friends he is holding hostage will be set free. Meanwhile our heroes book it to Big Shot’s suburban home to try and keep a low profile. The mercenaries are, of course, quirky. They bake the Secret Six cookies! They stop fighting to ensure the safety of a vase with sentimental value! Even in the end, there’s no hard feelings. Everyone’s invited to a LGBTQ mixer! It all feels so hollow, so manufactured. Everything is so low stakes it’s hard to be invested at all.
I’m also always a little turned off by issues that split pencil duties. Inherently I feel like it telegraphs to readers “this book isn’t very important!” Ken Lashley’s more painterly style holds up better, but I find Tom Derenick’s more cartoony take to be generally unappealing. Everyone’s melting all of the time.
I know this book has its fans, and I’d love to hear from them. Not because they need to defend what they like, but because basically none of this clicked for me. All of the components seem to be in place, it just hasn’t come together.
Superman/Wonder Woman 19
Michael: Let me get my unnecessary disclaimer out of the way and I won’t mention it again because it has little to do with the Superman/Wonder Woman 19: I STILL DON’T BUY THESE TWO AS A COUPLE. Ok, now that that’s over let’s talk Clark & Diana vs the Suicide Squad. Anyone worth their comic book salt knows that a superhero book wouldn’t be a superhero book without a healthy amount of punching and property damage. The problem with this particular fight is that it lasts for more than half of the book and really doesn’t accomplish much story-wise. Pete Tomasi’s dialogue is 75% banter and 25% questions that the Suicide Squad simply doesn’t answer. You could have taken the dialogue out of that fight entirely and the issue wouldn’t have changed one bit.
The book ends with Superman marching into the Oval Office and confronting the President – who he concludes is behind the Squad’s attack because…he looks at a snow globe of the White House? I mean the Squad is sanctioned by the U.S. government so I guess at the end of the day they answer to the President but still; seemed like a solution that came out of nowhere. Tomasi is not a slouch however, so there are nice little moments in the issue: like when Diana picks up the Lane mailbox for motivation or how scared she is at seeing Clark beaten and bruised. Doug Mahnke is still on-point however, making Wonder Woman’s stupid new costume tolerable and a Clark that is still Mr. Macho while being vulnerable with his black and blue body. Seems that Clark managed to not get punched in the face however, but I digress.
Mark: I absolutely, 100% agree that the issue is basically a non-sensical excuse for Superman and Wonder Woman to fight the Suicide Squad, but I am also on-board enough with the current DC YOU interpretation of Superman that I’m okay with it. Granted, the fight is gratuitous to a laughable extreme. I mean we get a full two pages of Deadshot blowing away Wonder Woman and Superman. That’s almost 10% of the issue devoted solely to a superhero version of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre! It’s so over-the-top it’s hilarious.
So no, this isn’t what I want every month out of Superman/Wonder Woman, but I’m okay with a superhero comic occasionally devolving into a silly beat ’em up. Honestly this a step up from some of the more meandering and ponderous Superman/Wonder Woman‘s of the recent past.
And just to bookend this properly, I’ll join with Michael in asking: DOES ANYONE LIKE SUPERMAN AND WONDER WOMAN AS A COUPLE?
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?