DC Round-Up Comics Released 10/28/15

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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 Batgirl 45, Batman and Robin Eternal 4, Flash 45, Justice League Darkseid War: Batman 1, Superman 45, and We Are Robin 5.

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Batgirl 45

Batgirl 45Ryan M.: I expect fictional weddings to include a certain level of catastrophe. If I’m watching a soap opera and the groom is a widower, his dead wife is going to throw open the church doors just as the priest asks for objections. In a sitcom, someone probably forgot the ring or is going to say the wrong name. With superheroes, I expect a villain to disrupt the proceedings, or at least kidnap somebody. None of that happens during Alysia and Jo’s nuptials in Batgirl 45. Still, Babs has to contend with one of the greatest threats to a woman in her twenties: the charming old flame.

The issue very quickly and efficiently sets up Barbara as the hero the bridal party needs. She has solutions for every problem, is able to keep up everyone’s spirits and simultaneously flirt and fasten her date’s bow-tie. She is on her game and ready for a beautiful day celebrating the love of her close friends. This is when a member of her rogue’s gallery is supposed to crash through the window and start making threats so that she can use her alternate identity to save the day, all without revealing it to her friends. When, Luke and Babara’s romantic moment is interrupted, the art seems to be selling that kind of story. Babs Tarr gives Barbara a wide-eyed expression of shock and the lines radiating to the edges of the panel reinforce her stunned pose. There is not a hint of happiness to see her former cohort.

surprise

Without the force of a villain or threat to the wedding, the story becomes a check-in with Barbara and how she sees her life. Dick has arrived to play out a romantic story in which he is the pining romantic rogue and she will fall into his arms. She tries to cut him off, and he responds by covering her mouth. That move is the kind of thing that works a lot in fiction. She’s supposed to be surprised, a little turned on, but ultimately obedient. Batgirl flips him to the ground. It’s a fun moment and continues the issue’s choice to try something different with established tropes. Even after they fly through the air together against the beautiful backdrop of the setting sun. reminisce about their younger days and Dick reveals that he carries a torch for her, Barbara is secure enough in her life to opt out of what have would probably been a pretty great kiss.

I found the issue to be very satisfying even if the stakes were all about relationships and, ultimately there wasn’t much of an arc. It’s an issue that clarifies Barbara’s feelings about her life and gives us the warm fuzzies of hearing Dick confess his feelings and see two people in love commit their lives to one another. Next month, we can get back to Frankie’s incipient betrayal and the strange figure standing over Barbara’s sleeping form, but this was a light and enjoyable diversion. I mean, how can you not smile at this ceremony?

wedding

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Batman and Robin Eternal 4

Batman and Robin Eternal 4Spencer: How many of you remember Countdown, DC’s second weekly series and their infamously awful attempt to follow up on the success of 52Countdown was billed as “DC’s spine,” meaning that oftentimes the ongoing plots would grind to a halt to acknowledge whatever events were going on in other books that week. Nothing in Batman and Robin Eternal 4 is anywhere near as bad as even Countdown‘s best installment, but the first half of the issue does give me a similar feeling.

As he dives head-first into the fight between Grayson and the brainwashed goons trying to murder Bruce Wayne, writer Steve Orlando quickly introduces several new players to the series, including Batgirl and the kids of We Are Robin. The Robin movement’s appearance makes sense, as not only are all “Robins” likely to show up at one point or another (although the actual current Robin, Damian Wayne, is still M.I.A.), but Duke works with Bruce Wayne, making it likely that he’d keep up on his whereabouts. Still, they mainly show up just to remind the audience that they exist and will be important moving forward. Even more egregious in this regards is Batgirl.

work life balance

What’s most notable about these panels is that Batgirl literally disappears afterwords, yet Bruce sticks around.  Just look at the first panel of the next page.

WE'LL see Bruce home

Why is Duke insisting to Dick that he’ll escort Bruce home instead of Barbara? Where did she go, and why did she just leave Bruce, the man she just pledged to escort home, before Duke even brought up doing it himself? I don’t know how prominent Barbara will be throughout the rest of this series, but this seriously makes it look like she just shows up in this issue to talk about her little spat with Dick in this week’s Batgirl 45 (which we discuss above), and that kind of storytelling is too close to Countdown for comfort. For the most part I still enjoyed this issue, as the characterization is strong and the advancing plot still has me absolutely hooked, but the references that seem to exist only to reference other books feel quite out of place. Batman and Robin Eternal doesn’t need to be the spine of the Batman books — I just want it to tell a good story.

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The Flash 45

The Flash 45Spencer: Even in the old continuity, Eobard Thawne never had much of a motive for his crimes. The dude was just absolutely bonkers and psychotically obsessed with Barry Allen for reasons that were never quite clear, probably even to Eobard himself. It seems appropriate, then, that this New 52 interpretation of Zoom has equally opaque motivations, yet his ultimate goal is far less interesting than anything the old Eobard ever tried pulling off. Zoom wants to be a god, plain and simple, and that kind of generic goal feels a bit underwhelming. Fortunately, writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen still have plenty of time to flesh out Zoom’s goals and motivations; more importantly, they counter any shallowness in Zoom’s plans by having his actual methods be surprisingly detailed and effective.

Cause-and-effect is the name of the game in The Flash 45. Zoom’s plan to turn the Flash’s friends against him works because he’s had centuries to figure out how Barry and the people of Central City will react to any given situation, and then find the exact people with the exact powers he needs to make his desires a reality; it’s really quite stunning to see in action. Likewise, Venditti and Jensen are remarkably thorough in this issue, filling in the details of almost every as-of-yet unexplained aspect of Zoom’s plan (such as why he targeted Barry’s father in the first place) as well as using Zoom’s trap to advance other long-running subplots, such as Singh and Piper’s relationship and Wally’s budding heroism. Really, it’s only Iris’s big moment that doesn’t feel like it’s been foreshadowed much.

Go Iris!

And even that moment absolutely lands because it’s grounded in relatable human emotions, something that likewise helps ground an issue that’s otherwise often preoccupied with lofty, complicated sci-fi plans. Even if we never find out exactly what drives Zoom, I think I’ll always be able to look back at this issue and remember it as a success.

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Justice League Darkseid War: Batman 1

Justice League The Darkseid War Batman 1Mark: Last round-up I was cynical about the end of Justice League because of the promised spin-off titles coming down the pipeline, but I’m willing to walk that back after reading Justice League Darkseid War: Batman 1— it’s good! Sure, Batman being a super dick is not my favorite Batman, but there’s also something comforting in seeing Bruce Wayne Batman back in action. I know that’s dumb, but I’m having a hard time embracing Jim Gordon’s Robobat (even though I like a lot of the elements surrounding him) and this issue is a good reminder that you just can’t beat Bruce Wayne for DC comfort food. Even a continuity nerd like me can admit DC’s new, looser approach to continuity is paying off!

This is Batman unhinged, giving into the worst qualities of his character. He is meting out justice, yes, but it’s Old Testament-style thug justice. An eye for an eye. Still, there’s something thrilling about his confrontation with Joe Chill in prison. Bruce Wayne has always been motivated by his past, but here he’s obsessed with it. Unable to let it go. Batman is about bringing justice to those who need it, but there’s no wrong to be righted in Joe Chill’s case. Batman is tormenting him because he can and for no greater purpose than that. Bruce is acting selfishly.

I’m curious to see where the Joker rabbit hole leads. Is he dead in the current Justice League continuity? Do we know? I have a hard time imagining DC is ready to put a canonical backstory to Joker, but if there is no universal continuity anymore I guess it wouldn’t matter anyway.

Unrelated, here’s a technical question for someone better informed: why is Peter Tomasi credited for “Story and Words” versus something like “Writer?” There’s no story credit for another person, and it’s not something I remember seeing before. It doesn’t matter at all, I’m just curious.

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Superman 45

Superman 45Michael: Superman 45 is a reminder of why I stopped reading New 52 Superman – F-list supervillains/heroes that have this strange whiff of ‘90s X-factor to them. With the changing of the guard from artist John Romita Jr. to Howard Porter, this issue seems to be taking the story in a completely different (out of the way) direction than previous Superman chapters.  While there are mentions and references of the silly hordr_root villain, this is a strange pit stop in the ongoing series from Gene Luen Yang. While Clark intends to track down hordr_root, the bulk of this issue is based on the following formula: Superman + arena fighting = taco money. That’s right folks; Superman is fighting in an underground super powered fight club because man oh man does he loves tacos. What a strange execution of a basic plot that misses nearly every mark. Listen, you can tell a superhero fighting ring story (in fact, Justice League Unlimited did) – but there has to be a reason for it, and it oughta have some decent super-people involved. The fighters of this “Mythbrawl” consist of gods and goddesses from “mythologies on the brink of extinction.” Essentially, these gods battle so the people won’t forget who they are and won’t be forgotten. Wait, what? I could probably get on board with that kind of magical framework in a story starring an original character that Yang created. However, when you’re dealing in the DCU of Kryptonians, New Gods and Greek Gods it doesn’t seem all that plausible that these gods cease to be when people don’t believe in them. On a macro level this issue is telling me that if you don’t tell a story about a character, they become irrelevant and fade into obscurity. So good for you Superman 45 – you are still here doing…things.

brawl ball

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We Are Robin 5

We Are Robin 5Mark: We Are Robin is a frustrating read. It’s a book with a lot of potential that never comes together in a satisfying way. Who are these Robins? Why should we care about them? I dare you to name them and give a defining personality characteristic for each. When Troy died a few issues ago it was hard to be affected by his death. I couldn’t have even told you his name was Troy if I didn’t look it up first. It’s a problem not unlike The Walking Dead TV series. The characters there were mere facades for so long that three seasons in when they started trying to flesh them out it was too little too late. Can we say any better for the Robins after five months?

Not that the plotting is helping in any way. We Are Robin 5 ends with a drive-by shooting, and I just can’t muster up anything other than indifference. Look, Duke’s not going to die, but would it be so bad if he did? We Are Robin could stand to thin the herd. But maybe some good will come of it. I was hard pressed to care when writer Lee Bermejo blew up Troy, but last month’s issue at least spent time dealing with the fallout and telling us a little about Riko. So maybe next month is the month when it all comes together, when We Are Robin finally starts to live up to its potential. But probably not.

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The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?

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6 comments on “DC Round-Up Comics Released 10/28/15

  1. I think Michael and Mark summed up Superman and We Are Robin for me. I didn’t care enough to finish We Are Robin #5 (I tried twice and nothing in the comic appealed to me. The art is too angular and alien, the colors are too dark, and the characters are still mostly interchangeable. Superman is in worse shape – I didn’t even care enough to pick it up. When I read (here) that there was a new artist, I got a little interested, but the description of the story will keep me away.

    I picked up Superman 0-30something for $12 a few months back and have been trying to read it, collecting new issues and reading them while catching up, and it’s just not working. I don’t think anything in any part of these last 4 years of Superman is actually good comics.

    I’ve dropped Batgirl, too. I’m just not the right audience for that. I appreciate it, I think the art is different and I appreciate it’s a different approach, it’s just not one that I care for a ton.

    DC titles now on my pull list: Batman, Constantine, Grayson, Justice League, Midnighter… I think that’s it. Actually, if I were describing my reading habits to a normal person who wasn’t really into, they’d think that was plenty. So I’m reading plenty.

    • DC doesn’t make it easy.On my own personal pull, I’ve got a few more (like fucking Gotham by Midnight, which I love to pieces — especially since the not-relaunch-relaunch), but it is amazing how few of the big heroes I’m interested in out of DC’s stable. Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman: I’ve had opportunity to really love them all in the last 4 years, but there’s nothing doing there for me right now.

      Oh and the first 30ish issues of Superman are NOT good. There’s no creative vision there, until it’s hijacked by Lobdell, and then the creative vision is terrible. There’s some cool stuff in Morrison’s run on Action Comics, but it is — unsurprisingly — pretty Morrison-y.

      • And I’m not a Morrison / Superman fan. I suppose, like everyone, I like the all-star Superman. I remember that I pulled the first aid issues are so of Action Comics on the reboot and was not impressed at all. When the new 52 launched, I really wanted to dig into the DC classic titles. Detective Comics, action, Justice League, etc. I left unimpressed.

      • The sad thing is that DC’s best stuff is going under the radar. Omega Men almost got screwed over, while Prez apparently is being given support by editorial, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is going to be split in half, with a break between the two miniseries, which is annoying

        In general, I’m happy with Mark Doyle’s Gotham. With the exception of the replacement writer for Catwoman when Valentine leaves and the fact that Detective COmics seems to be playing things relatively safe, it is hard to complain about most of the Gotham books being uninteresting, even the things I’m not interested in. And while I gave up Gotham by Midnight, Arkham Manor failed, and Gotham Academy and We Are Robin have massive flaws that have to be overcome (though I think Gotham Academy may just brute force past the problems with Olive until it no longer matters, instead of actually solving it), it is hard to to complain that DC are making those stories, even if few of them are at Batman or Catwoman levels.

        The rest of DC? There were some interesting ideas done like Doctor Fate, which was just too poorly written. Things like Starfire, Martian Manhunter and stuff seem interesting, and I wouldn’t be opposed to reading them. But too many of the comics are business as usual. But too many feel like they are business as usual. Outside of Gotham (and Superman, who is doing interesting things to varying levels of success), only the edges of the DC universe is interesting. The core are just your boring average business as usual.

        The fact is, while DC have made the edges of their universe interesting, marvel is making everything interesting. DC would never have a Justice League with the line up and ideas of New Avengers, unless your group editor is Mark Doyle

  2. The problem with Batgirl is that after subverting the way that sort of story usually goes (and thank god they did. Need less female characters who do, as you describe, the whole ‘surprised, a little turned on, but ultimately obedient’ thing), they didn’t replace it with a good enough dramatic event. The exact details that get clarified are great, I just wish for a more dramatic way than ‘Dick turns up, Barbara tells him he is being a dick, Dick goes ‘you’re right’. The problem with avoiding the cliche is that you still need to replace it with something else dramatic.
    Though Babs Tarr’s art needs to be praised for high heavens. I loved what she did this issue. Wonderfully expressive, and lots of great touches (one I just noticed? The shape of the panel where Alysia gives her vows and the placement of the word balloon form a heart.

    I don’t think Batman and Robin Eternal is going to be as bad as Countdown with respect to references, but everything about Batgirl this issue wasn’t needed. Even her appearance to save the day honestly isn’t worth it, since we’ve already had the Robin crew leap in to do the exact same thing. Especially as them busting in dressed as the help, with Duke making a fun line while picking up a ladle is just a more interesting entrance than Batgirl just teleporting in (she just appears. No dynamic entrance like the Robins. Just appears), and having the Batgirl stuff stopped us from some more entertaining ‘how many vigilantes?’ And then there is the pointless continuity discussion. Hope we don’t get too much of it, largely because it also shows the holes of ‘loose continuity’ (despite the fact that I approve of the concept). Considering how there seems like there is going to be very little downtime, a reference to, let’s say the upcoming Robin War is going to have you ask how could it have taken place.
    Still, so far Batman and Robin Eternal is still strong. And considering it isn’t doing what Batman Eternal did at issue 4 (start branching off into multiple disconnected storylines that proved to be Eternal’s biggest weakness), I hope it continues like this. And I am really enjoying Spoiler. It is a shame that after Batman Eternal, the only comic she featured in was Valentine’s Catwoman, a comic that juggles multiple storylines and a complex political situation and therefore not a lot of time for Spoiler. Hopefully after Batman and Robin Eternal, they do a team up comic between Bluebird, Spoiler and whatever Cassandra Cain will be called (probably Black Bat again). Three roommates of very different worlds trying to fight crime on the streets of Gotham and not kill each other at home sounds like a nice, fun comic.

    Multiversity made clear that the Endless are still around, and therefore I guess that means the magical framework of Superman does make sense in the greater context of the DCU. Though yeah, hardly the most natural fit.
    Got to say, the current Superman stuff is actually interesting me, and I’m wondering if I should read it. I think depowering him is the right move (if only to get rid of that pesky flight. One thing I have learned is not to underestimate just how important gravity is to action sequences), and the idea of stripping Superman of his support structure and exploring, basically, what he is in the dark is an oldie and a goodie. The basic idea of Superman going to a superhero fight club because he needs money to live on is a full of potential (if I was writing the comic, I would have done a list of expenses instead of focusing just on tacos, personally). Just need to use the opportunity to explore the morality of the fight club (because, ultimately, this sort of story should be an affirmation that Superman is good, especially when it isn’t). Sadly, despite what seems to be lots of great ideas, it doesn’t seem like current Truth stuff is actually amazing anyone.

    I’m so in love with the concept of We Are Robin that I’m willing to give it some time to settle into a groove. We are slowly learning about Duke, Riko and as of this issue, Izzy(but I had to look up Izzy’s name), and the reveal of the villain in this issue is a good one, and I hope it isn’t just a build up to Robin War. The Court of Owls is the perfect villain for the Robins. I liked how Troy died. Thought the ultimately pathetic nature of it really worked. A key thing to make this work is to remember that these kids aren’t superheroes, but just normal people. Thought it was a great demonstration of the stakes and how out of their depth they are. Except Troy was a cypher. We Are Robin has so much potential, and so many good ideas, so it really needs to fix the characters. Make sure that when Riko is with the others, we get some of that richness we got from issue 4, fully develop Isabella from the little taste we got this issue, and do the same for the rest, and make this the comic it should be

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