How many Batman books is too many Batman books? Depending on who you ask there ain’t no such thing! We try to stay up on what’s going on at DC, but we can’t always dig deep into every issue. The solution? Our weekly round-up of titles coming out of DC Comics. Today, we’re discussing Action Comics 45, Cyborg 3, Detective Comics 45, and Midnighter 5.
Action Comics 45
Mark: There is a lot of internal monologue going on in Greg Pak’s Action Comics 45, but it’s necessary because otherwise a lot of Superman’s actions in the issue make little sense. The problem boils down to the fact that only a small amount of the action here feels informed by genuine character motivation. Superman wants to defeat Wrath because he’s angry, I guess. But is he angry at Wrath? At his situation? It’s hard to say exactly. That’s a far cry from the Superman we know and love. And while that may be the point of this DC YOU Superman, getting us there has required so much effort being put into making the reader try and care about something even the characters have a hard time articulating.
Also, a small point of clarification but is Pak saying here that Superman’s powers previously helped him control his anger, but now being depowered he’s more susceptible to strong emotional states?
I guess I’ve never considered it before, and I don’t think I really care for that idea. For me, Superman’s super abilities and his emotional core have always been two separate things. Take away his super powers and Superman shouldn’t act any different. His goals and feelings should be the same, he just doesn’t have heat vision and super speed. It’s a small distinction, but one that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I’m reading too much into this one panel?
Spencer: I’m not gonna beat around the bush: Cyborg 3 is a sloppy issue. We’re only three issues into the series and already it needs two pencillers (Ivan Reis and Eduardo Pansica) and three different inkers (Reis, Scott Hanna, and Albert Oclair) working together to finish it. Reis and Pansica’s styles aren’t all that different, but still noticeable enough that the (frequent and seemingly random) switches between the two leave the issue feeling a bit scattered, chaotic, and haphazard. Adding to the feeling are some sloppy design choices.
Take this second panel. We’re supposed to read these speech balloons in a clockwise order, from Sebastian’s balloon at the top to Cyborg’s, back to Sebastian, then to the girl, but that’s just not intuitive. We read left to right, so my eye goes from Sebastian’s first balloon to his second long before I even see Vic’s. I had to stop and take a few minutes to parse together the dialogue’s order — and even then, I’m still not sure where to fit Cyborg’s narration box into the equation. Looking at the composition of the art, it’s possible that Reis and Pansica didn’t leave letterer Corey Breen enough space to work with, but no matter who the blame falls on, moments like this feel sloppy.
Then there’s this moment, where the flow of dialogue is almost baffling — Morrow is talking to Sarah, but addressing Silas, when Silas is the one standing behind him. It’s hard to tell whether this is just a typo or some sort of breakdown in communication between Reis and Pansica, Breen, and writer David Walker — in a better issue I could overlook it, but when so much of this installment is already sloppy and confusing, moments like this one stand out all the more as symptoms of a larger overriding problem.
Even in terms of story Cyborg 3 falls short. Three issues feels too early to throw us into a major catastrophe, especially for characters as criminally under-written as Victor Stone and his supporting cast; I just don’t have any reason to care about most of these characters, and the weird techno-alien plot is still too thin to make up the difference. Even the smaller details are lacking in execution; there’s three separate page-turn cliffhangers hinging around the “mystery” of who rescued Sarah, and by the third time all I could do was roll my eyes at how hard Walker was milking that reveal. It’s a clear sign that Walker was just trying to fill space. It just doesn’t feel like Walker has much of anything interesting to say about Victor Stone as a character, and that, combined with the all-around lack of attention to detail, is discouraging. I want to like this title, but there aren’t a lot of reasons to.
Detective Comics 45:
Michael: Scott Snyder has found great success in moving Batman in bold directions, but whenever a writer of another Bat-book tries to take on that change in their own book it doesn’t go so well. Case in point: Detective Comics 45. While Justice League itself exists in its own pre-Convergence corner of the world, new creative team Pete Tomasi and Marcio Takara show us what the League looks like when Gordon is the team Batman. Seeing the various members of the Justice League assembled together in their new alternative costumes is a jarring image; adding our Robo-Bat Gordon makes it a stranger picture still. There’s nothing wrong with Marcio Takara’s pencils mind you, but the stage picture set by all of these bizarre looking Leaguers is not as inspiring as the League tends to be. The script is really clunky here – Tomasi’s clearly moving pieces around so we can see Gordon team up with the League – but it’s done with no elegance. I mean, the freaking Justice League shows up on amnesiac Bruce Wayne’s doorstep, gives him vague information that he used to “work with them,” ties him up with the lasso of truth then just bounces? Tomasi is trying to reiterate the idea that this is not the Bruce Wayne we’re looking for. And if all of that happened and Bruce didn’t once think “hey this is super not normal/I might be Batman” then you’ve made you’re point Tomasi. The World’s Greatest Detective, this man ain’t. I know Batman’s the stealthy one of the League, but you’d think the rest of them would be a little smarter than to have the entire team ring the doorbell to get some answers out of Bruce.
I know the bat-book writers often convene and bounce ideas off of one another, but I couldn’t help feeling like this issue was seriously undermining Snyder’s Batman. Tomasi writes Jim Gordon just fine, but he gives theBat-Gordon the power of flight and takes him (potentially) off-planet all in the name of a team-up. One of the big dilemmas Gordon is facing in Batman is that he’s a Batman that has to follow the rules and answers to Geri Powers and the GCPD. That philosophy doesn’t gel well with the Bat-Iron Man that we see in this book. Maybe that’s something that will be addressed in future issues but I kinda doubt it. Detective Comics might be once again finding itself among the dregs of the Batman line very soon.
Patrick: Did y’all see Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation? The movie shares a weird quality with every other film in the franchise that I don’t know why everyone is so keen to look past: the plot is impossible. The endings to all of these movies — but Rogue Nation in particular — is a tennis match between Ethan and the bad guy, where they trade volleys of “yes, but I knew you were going to do that, and have accounted for it.” It’s less like being an always-prepared-Batman, and more like having access to the script and simply knowing what your opponent is scripted to do next. Steve Orlando and Stephen Mooney’s Midnighter 5 plays with that same convention, but rather than treat those absurd doubled-reversals as a matter of course of talented spies, insists that such mental gymnastics are only possible thanks to Midnighter’s superpower: his computer brain.
He is, however, sort of insufferable about it. I can get where Midnighter would be tired of trying to convince both his friends and his enemies that, yes, he has a plan, and yes, it’s going to work, but that doesn’t change the fact that this makes him kind of a jerk. That jerkiness is on full display when he handcuffs himself to Dick Grayson, only offering the explanation: “Attention getter. I was starting to lose interest.” The real reason, as revealed like 6 pages later, is that Midnighter wants to use Dick as a human-lasso against a bear-man monster.
Dick’s tough, so he can take it, but also, I love Dick, so these weird mind games rub me the wrong way. I know the guy is always supposed to be kind of an asshole, but I did find it tough to route for him in this issue. Plus: what does it matter? Route for him our not, he already knows if he’s going to win.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?