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 Batman and Robin Eternal 17, Black Canary 7, Justice League of America 7, and Superman: Lois and Clark 4.
Batman and Robin Eternal 17
Michael: A lot of my skepticism for Batman and Robin Eternal comes in the form of my disbelief for the characters motivations. The big mystery surrounding Batman from the start of this series was “how could Batman kill?” “How could Batman turn a young boy into an orphan filled with rage and grief like himself?” Of course, any self-respecting Bat-fan would know that the Dark Knight would never commit murder; which makes the reveal of Batman and Robin Eternal 17 so predictable. Despite appearances, it’s revealed that Batman didn’t kill the parents of young Ahmed after all — he only gave them a dose of what Mother called “paralytic bullets.” Mother sics The Orphan on Batman for his predictable lack of commitment to killing.
Narrative fake-outs like this are so overdone and are rarely earned. Though the present day team of Robins are still currently unaware of Batman’s “murder,” James Tynion IV and co. have based the foundation of this series on that controversial notion of Batman shooting two parents dead. Again, I am completely unsurprised that Batman didn’t do the dirty deed. While I’m happy that Batman didn’t actually kill anyone, I’m perplexed as to why the creative team would want us to invest so much in that unlikely notion. The “reveal” that Bats betrayed Mother is as inevitable and uninteresting as the fact that Batman always wins.
In the present we have David Cain/The Orphan doing his best Hannibal Lecter impression while being imprisoned by Dick at Spyral HQ. Who knows when this is taking place — seeing as how Dick is trying to dismantle Spyral currently in Grayson. I’m not going to hold it against Batman and Robin Eternal 17 for that however. I just can’t wait for the inevitable escape that Cain makes because Harper or someone else makes a careless mistake by freeing him. Of all my criticisms I will say this for Batman and Robin Eternal 17: the obedience that Mother breeds in children like Ahmed is frightening. The fact that he so gleefully volunteers to be a hostage for Mother is creepy.
Black Canary 7
Spencer: For all its niche, high-concept, indie-rock aspirations, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Image series Phonogram managed to tap into one simple, universal concept that just about everybody alive has experience firsthand at one point or another: “music is magic.” There really is something elemental about music, something almost beyond explanation that connects all of mankind together across history. Brenden Fletcher, Annie Wu, and Lee Loughridge use the magical nature of music to great effect throughout Black Canary 7 — even the very first page of the issue opens on a meditation about music and sound’s ability to create and end realities, or to forever preserve a perfect moment in time.
The creative team wisely pairs this monologue with images from Dinah and Kurt’s past — this particular song seems to not only have provided some creative spark to their relationship, but it’s remained a reminder of that moment of connection between them ever since. The issue continues to drive these metaphors home, first with the Quietus, a sentient sound assassin who brings death everywhere it goes (because a loss of sound, of music, of communication might as well be death) and then with the idea that Dinah and Maeve’s combined Sonic Screams can “shift reality as we know it” — that’s a perhaps slightly hyperbolic, yet still accurate assessment of music’s power, not to mention an interesting observation about the great potential of more than one creator working together on a project.
Fortunately, all this metaphor and meta-text is backed by some seriously solid characterization and art. Wu and Loughridge put out series-best work this month, creating horrific sound-monsters, clever depictions of sound (or a lack of it), and fight scenes that manage to be both hard-hitting and jaw-dropping at the same time.
Seriously, nobody’s going to be forgetting this page any time soon.
There are moments where the plot feels a bit too convoluted or unclear for its own good (especially the last page dealing with Dinah’s doppleganger, though I assume that will be clarified further next month), but the character work and emotions hit home. Black Canary has really come together as a band, and they’re all at their best (even Maeve!) when they rally together to protect Ditto. Man, an issue about the power of music and the power of friendship?! That hits all my sweet spots.
Justice League of America 7
Michael: For a book called Justice League of America, the series has spent a lot of time with the League being separated. It’s clear that Bryan Hitch is starting to tie some of those lingering character threads together Justice League of America 7 — most likely building to a big climactic battle. This issue does a nice job of touching base with members of the League that haven’t gotten a lot of page time: Wonder Woman, The Flash and in a way Aquaman. Brian Azzarello promoted Diana to the role of God of War in Wonder Woman, but here Hitch makes her the entire God of Olympus. That’s a hell of a lot of power to give one hero; I’m very interested to see how much stronger she’ll be in a fight.
The Flash and the Infinity Corporation only check in to remind you that they’re still around — other than that, they don’t do a lot in the issue. There’s a lot of wonky time travel at play in Justice League of America 7, which allows present day evil Rao to come face-to-face with his past self. Evil Rao seems to be a lot more powerful than past Rao, as he’s not afraid of informing his past self that he will likely kill him.
My favorite part of Justice League of America 7 is how Bryan Hitch showcases the power and resolve of the Man of Steel. A lot of Superman stories feel like they need to give him a new power to make him more compelling. Instead, Hitch shows us the sheer determination of Superman’s will. Rao thinks that Superman is trying to free himself of his shackles, but Superman reveals that he’s flying — causing Rao’s whole damn citadel to crash into the moon. Even I didn’t see that one coming.
Superman: Lois and Clark 4
Mark: How much does my undying love for this version of Clark Kent and Lois Lane allow me to forgive the jankiness of Superman: Lois and Clark? Objectively, I can admit this is an average comic at best. But four issues in and I keep coming back through sheer force of love. Because, frankly, there are moments of narrative “convenience” that continue to annoy me. This time around, we get a flashback to Lois gifting Clark with his costume. The explanation for how she is able to acquire it is just annoying:
What? No. This is a woman who is living off the grid with her husband and infant son in fear of their lives. There’s just no way she’d take this big a risk, right? Did she contact her alt-Earth dad and ask about it? Did she contact S.T.A.R. Labs directly? Where did she have it sent to? Did she pick it up in person? Again, what?
It’s easier to forgive narrative convenience when it doesn’t run completely counter to what’s been previously established as the stakes of the entire book.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?