DC Round-Up Comics Released 7/6/16

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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 Batman 2, Green Arrow 2, Justice League Rebirth 1, and Superman 2.

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Batman 2

Batman 2Mark: I joke with my friend that I would never be able to write a Batman comic because I would want the entire thing to be filled from top to bottom with fist-pumping “I. Am. Batman.” moments. But a book like that would never work because part of the fun of those moments is their scarcity; it’s a cathartic release after pages (or even issues) of build-up. Tom King and David Finch’s Batman is perhaps the closest we’ve gotten yet to my joke book. Batman 2 continues the premiere issue’s trend of piling on the fan service, and it’s that aspect that’s preventing me from fully giving myself over to the book. 

There’s a lot I like here. I love that Batman has embraced Gotham and Gotham Girl. The typical version of this story would follow Batman’s distrust of Gotham’s new superpeople and their motives, but instead he’s appreciative of the help. I also like a lot of individual beats, including Gotham’s amazement at Batman’s complete disappearance, and David Finch’s art continues to impress.

Batman 2

But I also can’t shake the feeling that Batman confirms my fears about Rebirth working overtime to give fans exactly what they’re asking for. And while individual moments are strong, the connective tissue around it is a bit slapdash. I trust King to have a long-term plan, but two issues in and I’m waiting for Duke to have some sort of purpose.

Batman 2 is like a big ice cream sundae. It’s fun! But Batman 1 was also like a big ice cream sundae, and I’m beginning to lose my appetite for ice cream. The reason “I. Am. Batman.” moments work so well is because we had to eat our vegetables (so to speak) in order to earn it. You can’t top ice cream with more ice cream.

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Green Arrow 2

green arrowSpencer: After a stellar first issue (and an even better “Rebirth” one-shot), Green Arrow 2 feels like a slight step backwards. The whole “Oliver Queen is attacked by someone from within his company whom he trusts and loses all his money” plot is no doubt an important piece of writer Benjamin Percy’s opening story, but it’s also one I’ve seen before — in fact, it not only harkens back to the first arc of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Green Arrow run from a few years ago, but to Denny O’Neil’s classic run from the 70s as well. I can’t help but to feel a bit underwhelmed by it, especially after Percy centered such an interesting ethical conflict around Oliver’s money in issue 1.

Green Arrow 2 also suffers from a few odd character choices (Fyff’s oddly mercenary nature and Black Canary’s preposterous self-blame), as well as what could easily be the most unintentionally hilarious panel of 2016.

Big no

Combine that all together and you’ve got an issue that just doesn’t live up to the promise of the first two. Yet, it’s hard to fully dislike this issue. There’s a lot of interesting forward movement in terms of the overarcing plot that I look forward to unpacking over the next few issues, and for every character choice I disliked, there’s another one I loved (Emiko’s craftiness, Black Canary’s detective work).

That said, the true star of this issue is artist and colorist Otto Schmidt, whose work is as lush and full of character as ever. What I appreciate most about Schmidt’s art in issue 2 are the figures he hides in the backgrounds of his pages.

Background Shado

 

Here we’ve got Shado literally lurking in the gutters as Emiko frames her brother, emphasizing the power and influence Shado has over her. A few pages later there’s a similar beat where one of Dante’s goons lurks in the gutters, foreshadowing him sneaking up on Kanoot from behind only three panels later. It’s a clever, subtle way to liven up some already energetic lay-outs — Schmidt’s work is a joy to behold.

I’m still excited to see where Percy and Schmidt take Green Arrow next — I think this is more “mid-arc fatigue” than a long-term drop in quality. Let’s hope I’m right.

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Justice League Rebirth 1

Justice League Rebirth 1Patrick: The “rebirth” in Justice League Rebirth refers specifically to the roles of Superman and Green Lantern in Bryan Hitch’s League. One role is filled by a pair of relative newbies (though, Green Lantern Simon Baz was introduced longer ago than Kamala Kahn, so he might not get to fly the rookie flag too much longer) and the older Superman (but not, y’know the oldest Superman – the one that was in the main version of the Justice League before the New 52.) It may seem like I’m being overly pedantic in my parenthetical comments, but the details of who these characters are — and who they are to each other — is material to this story itself. Or at least, the story suggests that this is the case by having the active members of the League questioning the experience and loyalty of the Green Lanterns and Superman (respectively). None of it matters, as neither of those qualities are tested in this issue. The Green Lanterns come when they’re called, and Superman comes without being called. Then they all punch the Big Bug. The end.

If that sounds like a deflating conclusion, my friends, that’s because it is. Even amid panels of the League raining down destruction together, the action feels entirely hollow and generic.

LEAGUE PUNCH

Hitch both writes and draws this issue, but far too frequently lets his characters’ dialogue describe the action. There’s a run of panels earlier in the issue where the Leaguers are all trying their own attacks, only to discover that the Huge Bug’s armor is too tough. Every single attack is followed up by a speech balloon explaining, not why the attach didn’t work, but that the attack didn’t work. Absent any real sense of weight and motion, Hitch’s drawings need to be explained by Hitch’s words. That’s inherently weak storytelling in this medium, but it’s exacerbated by the fact that Hitch’s writing is borderline incoherent. Characters ask non-rhetorical questions that are never answered, and sometimes it seems like they’re answering questions no one asked. They talk right past each other. Plus, if I had a dollar for every time they refer to the giant floating threat in the sky as “this thing,” I could buy a thesaurus.

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Superman 2

Superman 2Michael: I am so very happy to have classic Superman back. The Superman of Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s Superman 2 is a dutiful citizen of the Earth, a loving and encouraging father and a man whose years of experience have made him humble and wise. If the pitch for Tomasi and Gleason’s Superman was “just like our Batman and Robin series but…with Superman and his son” I would not be surprised nor disappointed. The joy and fun of Clark and Jon is worlds away from the broody/Gothamy relationship of Bruce and Damian, but the love in both relationships is undeniable. Barring one strange outburst of anger that Clark has towards a neighbor at the end of Superman 2, he is a completely pleasant and open-minded individual – which is a treat.

The fun of Tomasi’s “Dad Superman” is that he isn’t overprotective and overbearing, he actually encourages Jon to learn how to use his powers. To make the point even more explicit, Tomasi has Lois and Clark talking about how he as a father knows exactly the kind of thing Jon is going through as his powers develop. I think the key to a successful Superman characterization is narrowing in on the uncomplicated honesty of the character. Tomasi makes the obvious truths about Superman seem revelational.

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The impact of the emotion and action of Tomasi’s script is only as strong as Patrick Gleason’s pencils. Gleason makes us feel just how happy Clark is to be heroing around again while simultaneously allowing us and Jon to trust and believe in him. You guys, Superman is back.

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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 7/6/16

  1. Two issues in and I’m not sure I’m feeling King’s take on Batman. Maybe it’s because I’m too used to the interpretations of Batman from B:TAS and Scott Snyder, but here he feels too…stiff to me. The moment when he said he didn’t even trust Alfred really felt off (though maybe that was supposed to be a joke). I feel like Bruce, as a character, should be cautious with to whom he places his trust, but this feels overly paranoid. Granted, King has a right to his interpretation of the character, and I hate to be one of those guys who go “That’s not MY Batman”, but…yeah, this doesn’t feel like my idea of Batman, lol.

    That said, I did really like the scene wherein Bruce is pondering his own mortality. It was strangely moving to see him worry about Dick taking up the cowl after his death just to be killed in turn.

  2. I’m very much enjoying Batman still. #1 blew the doors of with me, highlighting King’s counter-terrorism expertise, but this one feels more like Snyder’s #1 — setting the pieces on the board.

    I’m thrilled by the idea that this Batman feels more grounded and physical but is being shown to exist in a broader, more impossible DCU where things like Solomon Grundy and Psycho-Pirate are a thing. We usually either get ridiculous pseudo-science Batman existing with the supers, or street-level detective Batman in a Gotham that’s not so super. The Psycho-Pirate part is particularly interesting to me because historically that’s a character who retains his memories after continuity reboots (See: OG Crisis), and given the US Gov interest in him, I believe he may be a key to the Gov being clued into the reality-shifting aspects of Rebirth. It will be fun to see the humans stay neck and neck with the superhumans in responding.

    As for King’s long game, well, he’s already talking about issue #22. So that’s definitely a go.

  3. Bryan Q Miller’s Batgirl: From the standpoint of collection, it is a shame that a key part of the Batgirl Rising arc was a brief crossover with Red Robin, especially considering how weird the crossover. A key part of Batgirl Rising was how Stephanie was forced to prove herself to Barbara, Dick and Damian, but after that is the most important one. Tim Drake. And while a crossover is a natural way to emphasise the importance of this, it is a bit weird when instead of being an even crossover, Batgirl has a single issue while the other five issues are issues of Red Robin (many that don’t have Batgirl in any major capacity). The story is actually pretty great, it balances the darker elements of Ra’s al Ghul’s assault on the Batfamily with the natural humour of the cast, both superheroic and not (at some point, I should do a Red Robin reread). But it truly is a Red Robin story, except for one issue that is important to Batgirl Rising. There is a lot of stuff there, both for Stephanie and her supporting cast

    Crossover weirdness aside, we get the grand finale of Batgirl Rising, the Flood. The Calculator is actually the perfect villain, both for his close connections to Barbara and Wendy and the fact that he isn’t connected to Stephanie. Combine that with the scale of the threat (there are a hell of a lot of superficial comparisons you could make with Endgame), and you have the perfect final exam for Stephanie. A test to make things more than just approval. And it really works. Balancing lightness and darkness, and affirming the theme that defines the run, about moving forward past the past. A great ending to the Batgirl Rising. And with that, we can celebrate with a really touching Clayface story and a hilariously good fun teamup with Supergirl. And an issue of that weird ‘the Road Home’ thing, that wasn’t particularly good except for Stephanie’s issue, where Miller used Bruce perfectly as the final nail in the coffin of Stephanie’s ascension. It works for many reason, including Stephanie actually righteously slapping Bruce for everything, but the best part is how it subverts the structure of the rest of the book with the reveal that Bruce had total faith in Stephanie. Bruce knew that all Stephanie needed to be a great Batgirl was to be Batgirl. That Stephanie would fight to prove herself, and that simple fact means that Bruce knows she is perfect. Ultiamtely, a perfect coda to Batgirl Rising.

    And from there, we begin the Lesson (and a new artist, in one of my favourite artists, Dustin Nguyen). Unfortunately, I think that this story arc got cut short by the New 52, and it doesn’t resolve as well as it should. Miller is desperately trying to fit everything he can in, and while it is still a consistently good comic, it doesn’t come together as perfectly as Batgirl Rising did. Where Batgirl Rising is about Stephanie, Barbara and Wendy coming together and finding strength in each other, The Lesson is about the three of them needing to find their independence and exist outside themselves. Barbara’s stuff gets a bit complicated by Death of Oracle in Birds of Prey, which means that even as she goes through the arc, she does it ‘off screen’. But Wendy, even as she is now Proxy, feels the need to go to Nanda Parbat to truly find out who she is alone. And Stephanie finds herself facing a giant threat alone. It’s something she isn’t comfortable with. The ‘recap’ that begins the Lesson is fantastic in looking how it actually shows us how Stephanie sees herself. Her only appearance in the recap is as Tim’s girl, lacking importance in any way except as his cheerleader/complex relationship, until she becomes Batgirl. She has such a low opinion of who she was before she doesn’t understand where she is at the moment. She thinks she is new an untested when instead, as Squire points out, she has successfully managed to stand out on her own. She isn’t missing a Batman to be a Robin to. She doesn’t need it.

    And her challenge is now to see if she can. She doesn’t have Barbara as her boss again, and has to deal with people like the Grey Ghost (who is basically the Spoiler to her Robin). And in the end, the big bad is her own father. Tightness of deadlines means there is a lot missing to his exact plan, but basically, Arthur Brown, big bad villain that he is, wants Stephanie to go backwards. Think Stephanie, as a Brown, is born to be a bad guy. And so in the end, subjects her to the Black Mercy. And Stephanie only escapes because at the end of the day, despite the struggles she is having standing on her own, she WANTS this. A beautiful, hopefully ending

    Also, I’m so annoyed we never got that time travel issue where the three Batgirl team up. Would have been amazing.

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    Demon Knights: When it comes to the New 52, I hate how history has been revised to ignore books like this, that had been part of the New 52 from the beginning. For everything you can say about the New 52, and there is a hell of a lot you can say that needed fixing until DC YOU came along, there were always things like Demon Knights.

    I compared Stephanie Brown’s Batgirl to the current Thor books last time, and Demon Knights has, as its obvious comparison, Grayson. These books both similarly plunder interesting concepts from Grant Morrison that he had moved on from. In Demon Knight’s case, in takes the Camelot cycle stuff from Seven Soldiers, and mixes it with Arthurian Legend and Hell, to create a unique fantasy comic.

    Cornell turns the Camelot cycle into something of tragedy, with Merlin attempting again and again to create utopia and failing (connected to a brilliant twist on the Holy Grail mythos, where the Grail is love itself, and Merlin can never find it again because he was the man who foolishly threw away love. I wish they did more with the Holy Grail). This cycle of lost Camelot is a key theme, and the heroes are largely all flotsam from their own version of paradise (except Vandal Savage, who gleefully plays the token opposite). Jason Blood, Madame Xanadu and Sir Ystin are from Camelots (while Xanadu and Jason are from a very traditional Camelot, I’m disappointed with Ystin’s Camelot. The choice to go for a more historically ‘real’ Camelot instead of the gonzo Camelot of Morrison’s Camelot in Seven Soldiers is a disappointing choice), Exoristos is an exile of Paradise Island, Al Jabr seems similarly exiled, considering his alias and Horsewoman’s lost everything.

    As much as the high fantasy adventure is fantastic, Cornell just doesn’t get enough time with the character. Al Jabr and Horsewoman and fantastic new characters. I love AL Jabr’s strong, resolute faith and his position as a scientist among engineers. I love how Horsewoman is a disabled ‘superhero’ in a way few others are, and he rinteresting perspective to the others born of her very different life. But they don’t get a chance to stick out. Exoristos, however, gets some fantastic stuff. In some ways, she perfectly addresses the many issues I have with the Wonder Woman mythos from a perspective as a feminist. Paradise Island is so divorced from any sense of reality that any attempt of feminist discussion from her is ruined by her having no idea what she really is talking about. Not only is her advice simplistic and wrong, she actually has to be taught that woman in ‘Men’s World’ are just as strong as woman in Paradise Island, and the difference is actually that the challenges of a woman in Man’s World is much, much greater. Exoristos’ perspective is the exact perspective that you would expect from a philosophy whose feminist paradise is ‘Island of just woman’ instead of ‘Intersectional world where everyone is equal’

    Still, the big problem is with Sir Ystin. Grant Morrison had Ystin as a Mulan style tale, but Cornell changes Ystin into being intersex/genderqueer. Which makes the book frequently full of transphobic jokes about misgendering before the reveal. If they stuck with Morrison version where Sir Ystin was a woman, and only disguised as a man, these jokes would be much better. But when Sir Ystin actually is intersex, lots of jokes about how Sir Ystin is actually a woman isn’t good. Especially in a book that is so fearlessly diverse and inclusive when it comes to race, gender and sexuality (and diverse enough to actually include an intersex character in the first place). I feel kind of bad for drawing attention to those jokes when the book tries so hard with every other part, but it is a shame.

    Still, a great adventure book, and I would have loved to see Cornell write it for longer, and to have the chance to truly explore all the fantastic ideas involved – I mean, I didn’t even get the tie to talk about Etrigan, and there is some really cool stuff with Etrigan.

    Also, I love Cornell’s depiction of Avalon, a place where the heroes go who know they must return. A place where the dead do not wait around, but instead spend every day preparing. Between Avalon and the Holy Grail, Cornell did a great job at taking the legends he was using and creating unique concepts out of them

    • I’m glad someone else enjoyed Demon Knights. To me it was one of the true surprises of the New 52. I also found the handling of Ystin clumsy yet brave. I thought it was one of the New 52’s best books and as a non-DC-reader for most of my life, most of the characters were new to me.

      I was sad as it ended because there isn’t too much high fantasy out there right now that is original and exciting. I think I have to go to Dark Horses’ Conan stories (which are mostly good with a few misses) to find what I like (and don’t get me started on the complete collapse and unreadability of Red Sonja, please).

      It’s disappointing that it didn’t sell well enough to keep going. It even introduced new characters that were interesting! Oh well, I guess DC learned their lesson for Rebirth. 90% Super/Bats, the other stuff, even if good, just doesn’t sell.

      • Yeah, it is sad how books like Demon Knights never got their chance. I mean, how is it that comics cannot support a good High Fantasy series? The Dungeons and Dragons comic by John Rogers was fantastic, but died too soon. Umbral was a really cool dark fantasy, which apparently just did not sell enough. And Demon Knights was a fantastic example of mashing up mythologies to create a unique tale of fantasy adventure. We need more books like that,

        But yeah, DC learned their lesson in Rebirth. Interesting stuff doesn’t sell (unless you are Marvel, Image, Boom! or anyone who actually has put effort into marketing interesting stuff), so be as boring as possible. Who cares about doing anything new and refreshing?

        At least Marvel made an attempt with Weirdworld. Haven’t read any of the Dark Horse stuff, but would love some new fantasy stuff. Need to get around to that Brandon Sanderson comic that came out without me noticing. That ought to help with the High Fantasy itch

  4. Patrick: Thank you for reading Justice League so I don’t have to. I’m just not a fan of Hitch as a writer.

    Batman #2: I’m surprised that this story hasn’t been written before. The DC Universe is lousy with godlike flying superheroes. How has one not taken up space in Batman-Land before? I’m fascinated by this story on many levels. I think there have been a couple of slight missteps, but I really want to keep reading this.

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