DC Round-Up Comics Released 11/25/15

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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 Justice League of America 5, Grayson 14, The Flash 46, Superman: Lois and Clark 2, Superman 46 and Batman and Robin Eternal 8.

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Justice League of America 5

Justice League of America 5Spencer: If Bryan Hitch is known for anything, it’s epic, wide-screen storytelling. If he’s known for one more thing, it’s delays, and that’s what’s lead to Matt Kindt and Rob Williams’ stand-alone fill-in story in Justice League of America 5. The story is a bit of an odd choice, as if shifts the spotlight to the Martian Manhunter (who isn’t even a member of this JLA), a choice the writers seem to try to justify by shoehorning the League into a few scenes, despite their appearances ultimately serving no purpose.

The story itself connects the dots between Kindt’s Martian Manhunter back-ups in the previous volume of Justice League of America (yeah, I’d forgotten about those too) and the events of Williams’ Martian Manhunter series. It’s a gloomy and morose tale, deeply rooted in J’onn’s indecision. In their best moments, Kindt and Williams are able to use that indecision to portray J’onn as a character who is adrift and lonely, but more often than not it just feels like even they’re unsure of who J’onn actually is and how he should be characterized (which has been an ongoing problem in the New 52).

In light of that, it’s actually Philip Tan’s pencils which are the main draw of the issue. His faces can be a bit strange at times, but he draws some gorgeously rendered destruction, and the action in his fight scenes are so visceral that I can almost feel the punches. Perhaps my favorite touches are the moments where Tan plays with his layouts to show us J’onn’s unique perspective on a scene.

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If anything about this issue sticks in my memory, it’ll be that panel.

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Grayson 14

Grayson 14Mark: Remember the halcyon days of Grayson when we were getting one-off Baddies of the Month that just happened to tie together at arc’s end? As Grayson becomes more and more serialized, Tim Seeley and Tom King seem to be losing the thread on what made Grayson such an enjoyable read. Issue #14, like #13 before it, continues to lay a lot of pipework for what I’m assuming will lead to pay-off down the road, but it sacrifices making this issue interesting in order to get there.

But maybe this is just an off issue in general. Stephen Mooney is on art duties this time, and it pales in comparison to the usual work of Mikel Janin. People and things just look off in a way that we haven’t seen in the 13 previous issues. Sure we’ve been spoiled, but I expect better than this from an issue of Grayson:

Grayson 14

This is still one of my favorite books in the DC universe, and it’s near impossible to beat Dick Grayson when it comes to cool, but I don’t wonder if we’ve just gone too deep into serialization for this to ever be the Grayson it once was.

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The Flash 46

Flash 46Spencer: How many of you have finished Jessica Jones? Early on the series devotes a surprising amount of time to a subplot about Hogarth’s divorce, which doesn’t seem to have much to do with the ongoing narrative and is much less interesting than any of Jessica’s adventures. Eventually all the plots dovetail together and the divorce becomes incredibly important, but only for a single episode; it warrants little more than an obligatory mention once it’s served its purpose. Or perhaps you’re more familiar with this phenomenon in Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers epic, which devoted entire arcs to establishing little details, such as the evil Hulk and Thorr’s hammer getting left behind by the alternate-universe Avengers, just to pull them back out for a single scene later in the run. As cool as those moments could be, they ultimately had no effect on the narrative, leaving much of the series feeling like a lead-up to absolutely nothing.

I kind of get that same feeling with Zoom’s acolytes. Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, and Brett Booth’s Flash 46 finds them discovering Zoom’s betrayal, rebelling, and eventually abandoning him, but it doesn’t seem to deter Zoom or affect his battle against the Flash in the slightest. Venditti and Jensen treat Zoom’s quest to steal the powers of his acolytes as more of an optional video game-esque “side-quest” to his main mission than anything all that important to Zoom or the overall narrative. The issue gets more interesting as it closes out and Zoom reveals the Flash’s identity to his father, but again, that only highlights how far separated the acolyte story is from this arc’s central dynamic: the relationship between Barry and Henry Allen. It’s possible that the acolytes still have important roles to fill — long-term plotting is easily one of Venditti and Jensen’s greatest strengths — but it doesn’t excuse how lifeless and perfunctory their role in Zoom’s story ended up feeling.

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Superman: Lois and Clark 2

Superman Lois and Clark 2Spencer: Dan Jurgens understands Clark Kent and Lois Lane — and their relationship — like the back of his hand. It’s a major boon for Superman: Lois and Clark 2, allowing Jurgens to take these familiar characters in new directions and create a story that feels comfortable, but never derivative. My favorite example comes from the way Clark is forced to operate in the shadows; he’s still the same guy he’s always been, still inspirational and compelled to help everyone he can, but now he has to do that without revealing himself to the world, or even to the enemies he fights.

Smitty

How often do we get to see a stealthy Superman, especially without depowering him? Not often, and it’s refreshing to see Clark rely on his speed and smarts over his raw strength. Again, it’s a new twist on a tried-and-true character, and that’s a lot of fun.

I also enjoy the way Jurgens characterizes Jonathan; he’s very clearly the child of Lois Lane and Clark Kent, imbued with their curiosity, compassion, and intelligence, but also their recklessness. I’m curious to see how he’ll develop.

That’s not to say this issue is perfect. While Jurgens’ characterization and action sequences are a joy to read, the (several) ongoing plots have yet to really grab my interest, and there’s a few conversations involving incidental characters that feel awkward and stilted (especially Jonathan’s near fight with another student). Artist Lee Weeks, meanwhile, nails the battle scenes, but stumbles a few times with facial structure and expressions. Still, I enjoyed this issue overall. If you miss the pre-reboot Superman, or if you’re simply looking for a different take on the character, there’s a good chance this is the title for you.

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Superman 46

Superman 46Michael: Spider-Man may be the superhero who is characteristically “down on his luck,” but Superman is the one whose stories consistently suffer from being down on their luck. So many modern Superman stories are so misguided it’s befuddling and Gene Luen Yang’s Superman 46 is the latest example. Building on the events of last issue, Supes just seems content to be a prize fighter in the low, low, low-tier level meta human battle Mythbrawl. One of the best attributes of Superman is that he cares about everyone – friend or foe. Yang taps into this compassion as Superman feels comradery with fellow Mythbrawler Haemosu but it’s ironically at the expense of his old friends: Jimmy and Condesa. This whole thing is headscratcher for me you guys. It feels like stupidly needless part of the movie where the hero gives up the life of greatness and settles for the simple life; except the simple life is so goddamn stupid. Jimmy confronts Superman and Supes is just like “sorry Jim, this is my life now. I fight for money and strange ass-backwards mythical rules.”

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HUH? I was just waiting for the villainous buzzkill hordr_root to show up as a cherry on top of an absurd ice cream sandwich, and guess what? He did! The climax of the issue hinges on Superman fighting a…sand clone of himself and Jimmy getting wounded in the process. What? What am I reading? All of these modern Superman stories read like they are rejected Syfy original movies; it’s bad. And while I prefer Howard Porter over John Romita Jr. there is something that severely rubs me the wrong way about how he draws female characters with their eyes popping through tufts of hair as if they were translucent as pieces of tissue paper. I don’t know what to do with this current run of Superman, folks. More than likely I’ll just hope that Greg Pak has something better in store for us with Action Comics.

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Batman and Robin Eternal 8

Batman and Robin Eternal 8Patrick: Batman and Robin Eternal‘s persistent structure — which splits time between the past and the present — makes each individual issue seem to be more packed with incident than it probably would otherwise. Scott Snyder, James Tynion et al. are basically dramatizing exposition, so we don’t have to hear about Bruce’s dealings with Mother through a third party source: we can see those dealings with our own eyes. But in issue 8, Dick comes face to face with Mother, who confirms his worst fears — that one of the Robins is one of her “children” — just as our first-hand accounting of the past insists that Bruce was simply luring Mother out of hiding so he could bust her for human trafficking. It’s a delightfully tense note to start this issue on, and has me utterly confused as to what the truth might be. Writer Genevieve Valentine and artist Alvaro Martinez are constantly reminding us of the distrust between the Robins and Batman – perhaps most pointedly in the first couple pages. When Dick and Bruce split up at the Prague opera, rather than telling each other “good luck” or “be careful” or whatever, they warn each other not to trust anyone. Weird right? The title page hammers home the Batman / Robin dichotomy even further, with probably the coolest title splash I’ve seen in either Eternal series.

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Not an action sequence, and not a whole mess of panels surrounding that title bar: just two calm establishing shots pitting the hero against Mother. That, of course, sets the stage for a knock-down drag-out brawl between Harper and Cass and a bunch of brainwashed ballerinas. The fight is the main attraction here, and it’s a surprisingly coherent battle for a weekly series, with lots of clear cause and effect, clever uses of the orchestra hall environment and innovative staging. Valentine steps out of the way on a number of pages, plugging minimal dialogue into scenes better told through a dizzying number of silent panels. In fact, the best pages pack in as many as 16 panels to track the minutiae of Dick and Mother readying their weapons for battle, or the 13-panel page that acts like a continuous tracking shot of Cass and the Prima Ballerina duking it out.

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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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7 comments on “DC Round-Up Comics Released 11/25/15

  1. I forgot to get Justice League of America this week. I won’t make a special trip to go pick it up. Thanks for saving me the $3. I spoke out pretty aggressively over how irritating I find delays in comics. I know shit happens, but I also know that in a medium that is supplying 20-30 minutes of reading / month at most, these stories better be popping out like clockwork, be so good I can live with it, or be forgotten. Hitch brings some things to the table, but timeliness and great writing aren’t two of them, so this ends my run of JLA unless I find the rest in a dollar bin somewhere, sometime.

    I already have dropped Superman. Thanks for letting me know I was correct in doing so. While I believe in the difficulty of putting out good stories about hugely powered icons, especially after so many decades of stories, I don’t understand the need to put out stuff that is terrible. Oh? What’s that? It makes more money than great stories about new characters for the big 2? Never mind, then. I get it. I just won’t be part of it.

    I somehow missed Grayson, too. I thought that was on my pull list. I’ll pick it up next week. I’m not sure I love the story as much as some of you guys here, but I think it’s an interesting twist on a character I don’t have a lot of familiarity with outside of his ancient history as Robin.

    So yeah, I guess I didn’t read a lot of DC this week. Just DK III, which I already posted I didn’t really like too much. I’ll have to give that a reread also.

    (I keep rereading things I didn’t like to better understand my criticisms. I wonder if I’d be a happier person if I spent more time rereading this stuff I loved.)

  2. Grayson: Say what you want about the art, at least Mooney puled off Helena’s small smile at the end. But yeah, Janin is better. The thing about an issue like this is that it is very expositional, and while the framing device did help make it less expositional, it is still a big speech explaining the nature of Spyral and Leviathan.

    Batman and Robin Eternal: Honestly, there is so much you can say about that title page. From colour, to the placement of the characters to the backgrounds. THere isn’t too much to say about Valentine here, she continues to do great work, but yeah, this issue is for the artists, so thankfully the issue is one of the few so far with actual interesting art. The unique look and the great compositions really make this issue sing. I love how even the conversation between Dick and Mother is interested in doing interesting things. Love the panels of Dick reaching for his gun as Mother spins the spike. And the actual brawl is fantastic. Why can’t all issues have this sort of art?

    Omega Men: Why isn’t the site reading Omega Men? Best comic on the market.

    As always, Omega Men uses the 9 panel grid to great effect. This one ends up using the panel grid for wide screen action a bit more than usual, due to the need for space ships and big explosions, but as always, the contents of each panel a meticulously placed, and connected to the panels next to it on the grid. This leads to pages like this

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/prev_img.php?pid=30367&pg=3

    We praised New Avengers 3 for being able to tell 3 stories of what everyone is doing round the base simultaneously, before the big inciting incident, but Omega Men does a similar trick with utter ease. The best bit is how the structure adds to the storytelling. The sheer uniformity of the structure matches the uniformity of the interrogation.

    The book is full of pages like that. I love the contrast between Kyle Rayner’s prayer to god and the Omega Men flashbacks to their formation. And the touch to make the first panel of those flashbacks be of the Omega Men still in their cells even as their dialogue is from the past shows that difference, really helps build this. The Omega Men’s faith comes from their mission, while Kyle’s comes from God. Which is, of course, the big difference, and what makes Kyle a hero and the Omega Men so ambiguous. For all of the Citadel’s crimes, the Omega Men care only about stopping the Citadel, and are therefore fully prepared to be terrorists. The only Omega Men to be free is Scraps, who sings a religious song as Kyle escapes with a mighty ‘Amen’ in other amazingly structured page, with Scraps’ actions on the side providing a border that emphasizes Kyle’s escape, which is given the size it needs.

    Damn, the hard thing about talking about it is that I don’t know if anyone here is actually reading it, and I don’t want to spoil it. Everyone should be reading it though. More than Grayson, more the the Vision, this proves why King is such a fantastic new voice.

    • What stinks is that I tried the first trade for Omega Men and read that it isn’t scheduled until March 2016. I’m not sure I’d be able to find the individual issues. I’ll browse around town some, but it’d be nice if DC and Marvel had a consistent plan to put out trades in a manner that was convenient for readers.

      I also don’t quite understand DC’s logic in cancelling something after 4 issues, especially when it’s being so critically well received. I don’t know what the break even point for sales is for a comic published by DC.

      (To be fair, Marvel has already released some paperbacks of Secret Wars stuff – I picked up Secret Wars Spider-Verse over the weekend).

      • You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to predict the sales of a comic, after getting the numbers of the first issue. And the really sad thing is that, generally, it is all down hill afterwards. Which is why, despite King saying that it was possible to do a second ‘season’ of Omega Men after the first 12 issues, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Sales were too low.

        Personally, I would have thought it would have been a good idea to keep Omega Men for all 12 issues, and then try and work out a way to leverage its obvious quality into something more marketable (sadly, I think the obscure nature of the characters combined with the advertising emphasizing Kyle Rayner having been killed (and fans being too silly to realize DC weren’t telling the whole truth) meant that the average fan wasn’t interested).

        But I think DC was just looking at Hawkeye jealously. Marvel managed to have Hawkeye be such a runaway success that they shaped their entire line around capturing that sense of freshness and originality. I think DC just wanted to forget Omega Men and work on their next attempt at a Hawkeye (thank god the fan response has let Omega Men reach Issue 12, and that DC’s other underrated piece of genius, Prez, apparently has fans inside the offices who are really pushing it to get finished)

        With the Omega Men trade, I would have tried to release it as quickly as possible. Get people interested during the second half of the story, instead of when it is too late and the comic was about to get cancelled. But I guess DC is putting a priority on releasing trades of major titles, which makes sense, but ruins the chances of doing anything with Omega Men

        • DC releases all their trades so slowly that they might as well not even bother. Even their major titles take, what, six months at the least to release after the story’s finish? That’s ridiculous. At the most you should have to wait a month. Image’s been known to release trades on the same DAY as the trade’s final issue. There’s no excuse, DC.

          Matt, I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while why you loved Omega Men so much, so thanks for elaborating without being prompted haha. I read the first two issues, and am sorry to say that I just couldn’t get into it. I’m sure things have changed since then, but at least in those issues I could barely understand what the Omega Men were fighting for, couldn’t differentiate any of the cast, and was actively repelled by their tactics. Large portions of the issues being in an untranslated alien language didn’t help my comprehension or my interest. Plus it was unflinchingly, unbearingly grim. I’m sure there’s some interesting commentary to be made by examining the Omega Men’s tactics, but I just didn’t have the stomach for it, and I know it’s doing some impressive work with the 9 panel grid, but there just wasn’t enough in those issues to capture my interest or make me want to read more.

          I do need to catch up on Prez though, I was having fun with that but I think I missed the last issue or two.

        • You are supposed to be repelled by their tactics. The Omega Men are terrorists, and it is part of what makes Omega Men interesting, the fact that King refuses to make either side the heroes (one interesting thing is that the head of the Citadel is actually based on Tom King himself, and his personal experience from when he was part of the CIA. And yet he is the ‘bad guy’). Though I wonder why you struggled understanding what the Omega Men were fighting for. I thought that having Stormtroopers bust down the door of a church and kill innocents as they tried to find the Omega Men, before blowing the building up from orbit while people were still inside made it obvious in the first issue why the Omega Men wanted to fight the Citadel (even if, from the Citadel’s point of view, it is all the Omega Men’s fault)

          And the untranslated alien text also does a great job in showing the problems with the Citadel. Quite simply, it shows the distance between the Citadel and the people in the Vega system, how the rulers of the Vega System are completely different to the actual people, and therefore emphasizing how unable they are to give the leadership the system requires (the first issue also had the Citadel Soldiers having to read their commands off cards, as they didn’t know the language, a touch I loved). I though t

          You are correct that the comic is unflinchingly, unbearably grim. But each and every element is so carefully chosen to fully illustrate the situation, and the situation, as grim as it is, is fascinating. By placing us at the point of view of the terrorist, instead of America, we have to properly explore the sociopolitical landscape of the Vega system (and the sociopolitical landscape of any real world situation that the Vega System maybe be similar to). The comic knows that the Omega Men aren’t good. The only heroic character is Kyle Rayner. But that’s the point. Kyle is put into a terrible position, and through his eyes, we have to observe a world from a truly terrible place. But from seeing things in that place, we learn so much. Especially when the comic is so meticulously structured, with such meticulous choices on things as simple as ‘how important is it that we understand what the Viceroy is saying, and can we make the comic better by simply not telling’.

          I will admit, though I fell in love with the Sneak Peak immediately, when I read the first issue, I didn’t fully get it. Part of me felt that it was alright, but there was this little voice in the back of my head that told me it was amazing, that it needed to be reread. And as I did, it truly became something amazing. Few comics manage to address morality anywhere close to the sophistication of Omega Men, and few comics manage to put so much thought into every single choice in the comic. But it is grim, it is dark and it is nasty. I love that sort of story, when done well. But I can also understand it being too much. And there is nothing wrong with that. Honestly, Omega Men would be a failure if it was easy to read

          Though I can’t believe you couldn’t differentiate the cast. I thought the Omega Men were wonderfully distinct both visually and in personality

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