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 23, Starfire 10 and New Suicide Squad 18.
Batman and Robin Eternal 23
Michael: The soulless wonder that is Batman and Robin Eternal is gradually positioning itself for a grand finale. The Robins have recruited help from other Bat family members and Gotham-ish in the forms of Batgirl, Batwoman, Katana, Catwoman and Midnighter. Mother is broadcasting her brainwashing signal that Red Robin notes “every child in the world has been ordered to kill their parents and join the new order by a woman who manufactures brainwashed soldiers.” Every child in the world? If that’s the case, then those parents are as good as dead; I don’t care how fast Team Robin mobilizes. I’m not saying that I’d be satisfied with seeing billions of little ones bathing in their parents’ blood, but it kind of seems like all these kids are doing is amassing in zombie hordes in the street. I couldn’t count more than a handful of adult bodies who were lying at the feet of these brainwashed tykes.
There are no stakes in this story because it doesn’t play by its own rules. Team Robin is racing the clock and has one hour before “the riot turns into a war zone.” It’s another empty escalation of stakes that’s basically saying “this bad stuff is about to get a whole lot badder…so call to action!”
Genevieve Valentine is on script duty this week and she writes the characters in a Aaron Sorkin-y way, having them speak in ways no other human being speaks. Perhaps it’s because Batman and Robin Eternal is heading towards its conclusion — and therefore has less time for its mystery dilly dallying — but everyone in Batman and Robin Eternal 23 is whip sharp and full of quips. There’s a scene where Scarecrow tries to pull the Hannibal Lecter routine on Spoiler by trying to make her doubt herself, but she turns the tables on him. It’s intended to be a moment of empowerment and growth for Spoiler, which it is, but the emotional maturity of these characters fluctuates from highs and lows week to week. David Cain played the Hannibal Lecter game with Harper just a few issues back and totally got in her head; granted, the topic was the murder of her parents. Batman and Eternal doesn’t show a lot of respect for its cast by its ever inconsistent characterization.
Spencer: Starfire 10 is all about light, in both a literal sense and a metaphorical. Once her body adjusts to it, Strata’s unique underground light source is powerful enough to supercharge Starfire, granting her supreme power — more than enough to destroy the dark king Neala-Tok’s entire army in a single blast. But under Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s pen, the light also represents “good” in a more abstract, metaphorical sense.
If Neala-Tok’s hateful, death-worshipping ambition is darkness, than Kori’s love, kindness, and compassion is light — a fact not hard to miss when Elsa Charretier and Hi-Fi’s art literally turns Kori into a bright beacon of beautiful purifying light (as she very well deserves to be). But that certainly doesn’t turn Kori into a pushover:
To Kori, lights represents “righteous fury” as much as it does “peace,” at least in the sense that it’s her duty as a defender of all that’s good to rid the world of those black-hearted individuals who threaten it. That’s Kori in a nutshell: she loves so deeply and so broadly that a being as twisted as Neala-Tok is repugnant to her. In most situations she’ll show compassion to an enemy, but there’s no point this time. The most compassionate move she can make it to put him down for good to prevent him from destroying countless more lives.
Conner, Palmiotti, and Charretier also explore the idea of light through Strata’s Rebirth Ceremony, where the souls of Strata’s dead are ferried to their next stage of existence within Strata’s light source. Petty human concerns feel small and insignificant next to this marvelous display, this reminder of the fundamental ways we’re all connected to each other on a fundamental level. Stella is reduced to tears, and rightfully so.
For all its artful thematic exploration, though, this issue has a few weak points too. Neala-Tok is a thematically appropriate villain, but his level of generic, mindless, pure evil doesn’t exactly paint him as a compelling villain, and the interchangeable, mindless nature of his army does little in that regard either. The creative team makes a big deal of how Kori’s powers only make the Chida bigger, then hints at a strategy to defeat them revolving around that fact, but ultimately, they’re all annihilated when Kori detonates — how? And Kori’s coma feels like a cheap way to wring a few extra drops of drama out of the issue — even though Strata’s scientists theorize Kori may remain in her coma for as long as 36 years, she awakens in a mere 3 pages (seemingly a matter of minutes in-story), rendering the entire thing moot.
I suppose that make this a decidedly mixed installment of Starfire, but ultimately, I think it falls more on the side of “good” than “bad.” The creative team clearly has some lofty ideas to explore, and I’ll always give that a bit of extra credit, especially since they’re such a natural fit for Starfire as a character.
New Suicide Squad 18
The plot is impossible to follow. The various strategies of Cruise and his allies and foes don’t stand up under scrutiny. And none of that matters.
This is a movie that exists in the instant, and we must exist in the instant to enjoy it. Any troubling questions from earlier in the film must be firmly repressed.
Robert Ebert, reviewing Mission Impossible (1996)
Patrick: The plotting in Suicide Squad 18 is a mess. Coming off last issue’s obvious fake-out “everyone dies” cliffhanger, it’s hard to imagine this issue being anything less. Every page, every twisting story beat, seems designed to disorient the reader, so even explanations come with alluring question marks hanging over them. All of which serves to make the delicious premise writer Tim Seeley and artist Juan Ferreyra eventually arrive at — which I’ll describe as The Dirty Dozen meets the second Hunger Games book, mashed up with Death Race meets The Most Dangerous Game — seem perfectly logical by comparison.
This disorientation is immediate and deliberate. The first two-and-a-quarter pages tell a story in flashback about a Belle Reeve dust-up between Deadshot and Captain Boomerang, but it’s not enough for Seeley to simply tell us this story, he needs to make a point of who is telling this story. That first narration box bears Harley’s signature red and black diamonds, but Ferreyra drives the point home even further by flooding the backgrounds and fringes of these panels with Harley’s totally evocative pinks and soft baby blues.
Also, just how cool is that last panel? The glasses of a rando lunch lady reflecting to the reader the image of Deadshot catching Captain Boomerang in his peripheral vision. That’s layers upon layers of vision and perception imagery stacked right up on top of each other. We’re also actively engaged in the question of when and how this story is being told, because Harley is frequently interrupted by her until-now-assumed-dead compatriots Cheetah and Deadshot (again, those narration boxes are brilliantly set off by letterer Nate Piekos’ simple application of character logos).
The whole issue plays out this way – a dizzying tale of who knew what when and who works for who and what any of them hope to get out of it. All of it is accompanied by Ferreyra’s masterful control over clarity, which can either patiently express the size and shape of Amanda Waller’s poorly decorated office, or abstract a months-long plan into a Wes Anderson-esque diorama. The story might be leaping to a bunch of crazy conclusions, but it’s hard to fault this issue when the sheer act of leaping is so much fun.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?