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 Action Comics 959, Detective Comics 936, The Flash 2, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Rebirth 1, New Superman 1, and Nightwing Rebirth 1.
Action Comics 959
Shane: Doomsday’s famous 1992 battle with Superman is the stuff of legends and, for better or worse, helped to define that decade in comics. Revisiting that storyline at the launch of DC Rebirth is an ambitious move, and some parts of Action Comics 959 had me a little worried: there are a LOT of direct callbacks to the original storyline. I’m all about representing an earlier story for new readers, but some of the panels in this issue are direct replications of classic scenes from the original — which is a cool throwback for those of us that grew up on “The Death of Superman”, but almost at times feels as if writer Dan Jurgens might be trying too hard to revisit his most famous work.
I say “almost”, though, because despite some gratuitous callbacks, the story not only has enough new moving parts (the mystery of Clark Kent takes yet another turn!), but the context changes as we see the battle from the eyes of Lois and Clark’s young son, Jon. He doesn’t know why Doomsday is such a big deal, why his father battles so ferociously, and why his mother is so terrified…but he’s able to read between the lines a little bit. The scenes with him and Lois, where she tries to reassure him without lying to him, are powerful.
Sometimes, too, the callbacks to the original are done in interesting ways, including the trick with the gas line at the end of the issue: once upon a time, it was Maxima who pulled up a gas line, causing an accidental explosion, but here, it’s Doomsday, and it’s intentional. There have already been some small hints that perhaps this is the original Doomsday…could the monster have learned from past encounters? There’s obviously some mystery happening here, and with the mysterious hooded figure in play it’s connected to the central Rebirth storyline. I highly doubt DC will kill off another Superman so soon, but outside of that, this storyline is starting to feel like anything can happen.
Detective Comics 936
Michael: I’d wager that no one would be more pleasantly surprised by the quality and authenticity of Rebirth’s Detective Comics than yours truly. While I enjoy Detective Comics 936 overall, there is one thing in particular that really left me disappointed – more on that later. Heroes typically have to rise to the occasion sooner than they planned and the Batwoman-led team is no exception (methinks they need a team name) — Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, Clayface, and Batwoman do their best to mobilize and defend their HQ from the militarized forces of the Batman-inspired organization The Colony.
James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez open the book with something that most of us have been waiting for since DC gave Batwoman her own ongoing series: the reunion of Kate Kane and Renee Montoya. While this brief scene was just a tease, it gave us a glimpse into the pathos of Kate Kane via Renee. This simultaneously propels Kate’s story forward while affirming that her relationship with Montoya was significant enough for Montoya to be able to read Kate like a book. This scene, plus dynamic displays of superhero action like Clayface’s team-encompassing “play ball” form, make this a fun read.
Detective Comics 936 leaves a bad taste in my mouth, however, due to its treatment of Kate’s father, Colonel Jacob Kane. The Colonel is revealed to be the force behind The Colony and begs his daughter to join their army. This…just…no. No no no no no. This felt like a complete disservice to a wonderfully complex father/daughter dynamic and turns Colonel Kane into yet another nut who thinks he can do a better job than Batman. I could rant and rave for longer about this but I’ve already exceeded my word limit. Tone deaf characterization.
The Flash 2
Spencer: When Mark Waid introduced the Speed Force back in the mid 90s, it immediately caught his readers’ imaginations — it was an inspired plot element that not only explained away some of the wonkier elements of super-speed as a power, but united DC’s many disparate speedsters around a central power source/mythological anchor. Personally, I feel that the Speed Force is most effective in this state, as an abstract idea, and the more writers dig into it — examining how it works, how was it created, if it’s sentient, what its rules are — the less compelling it is. Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico’s story in The Flash 2 dances around these ideas, but never loses me the way other Speed Force stories so quite often do.
Why? It all comes down to focus: while Barry may wonder if the Speed Force is granting his wishes, the narrative doesn’t spend much time on that idea at all. Instead, Williamson and Di Giandomenico are more interested in how their characters intend to use the Speed Force, and what the effects of more characters suddenly gaining access to it are. The Flash wants to share the Speed Force, and relishes the idea of teaching others to use its power (Williamson characterizes Barry as a real “dad” here, and I am all about that), but Dr. Carver seems to want to steal the Speed Force’s power for himself (he also believes the Flash is “hogging” its power, likely projecting a bit).
It’s a classic case of selfishness vs. selflessness, but their conflict will no doubt be complicated by Central City’s hoard of new speedsters. Most prominent amongst them is August Heart, who doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with Barry about their abilities, no matter how much he admires and respects him.
Not only will these new speedsters put Barry’s skill as a teacher and mentor to the test, but the ways each speedster ends up using their new abilities will no doubt eventually support either the Flash’s or Carver’s view of things. The Speed Force is still at the center of this story, but it’s not what this story is about — that’s using the Speed Force in the way it was originally intended, and it makes for a strong, exciting story.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Rebirth 1
Patrick: I don’t know if there’s ever going to be a time when the Green Lantern writers aren’t — in some way — responding to Geoff Johns’ blockbuster run with the character from 2004 to 2013. It’s a run that simultaneously defined the man’s career, as well as the franchise’s mythology: characters, ancient powers, rules, exceptions – Johns built them all patiently and thoroughly. No strangers to this expansive mythology, writer Robert Venditti and artist Ethan Van Sciver use Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Rebirth 1 (or, “HJ&tGLCR1” as I’ve been calling it around the office) to celebrate the infinite possibilities that come from dismantling Johns’ masterwork. It’s a thrilling preamble that promises a strong new identity for both Hal Jordan and the series as a whole.
A lot of this issues takes place in a weird combination of Hal’s memory and some kind of physical representation of Hal’s influence on the rest of the Universe. Van Sciver — who’s most famous for rendering hordes of Green Lanterns in exacting detail — refreshingly embraces the abstraction. At one point, Hal swings his gauntlet-generated pick-ax, seemingly re-forging everyone and everything connected to the emotional spectrum, and Van Sciver draws that construct hammer into every panel as we check in all round the galaxy. The weight of the Krakooom even knocks those panels off their orderly grid.
But probably the most exciting sequence is Sinestro on
Oa Warworld, where Venditti and Van Sciver work overtime to sell just how hugely devastating it is that the Sinestro Corps have taken over. Here’s my favorite page, which uses the bigness of the world in conjunction with the height of the page to convey just how low Sinestro is sinking in this scene.
The reader’s eye has to travel from the top of the page to the bottom three times, and we’re constantly seeing the physical steps Sinestro is taking, uniting his experience with ours. (And the hell-like imagery of Warworld is no coincidence – Venditti and Van Sciver appear to be seeding a Sinestro-makes-a-deal-with-the-devil-aka-Parallax story here.)
New Super-Man 1
Mark: New Super-Man 1 should have been the poster child for the muddled DC YOU initiative. As a fairly transparent attempt to capture some of Marvel’s shine for their own, DC YOU was ostensibly all about making DC’s stable of characters a more realistic reflection of the real world. Marvel has done this by increasing the ethnic and gender diversity of their main players (Sexuality? Well…maybe some day). DC never figured out how to do that without risking the wrath that would come with changing their iconic characters. Instead, they tried increasing the diversity of the creative teams working on their straight, mostly white male, characters.
In hindsight, Gene Luen Yang was an awkward fit for Superman, and his run on the title was pretty much a mess, but I’m glad he’s in the DC stable because so far New Super-Man is a home run. Removed from the baggage of (poor) legacy decisions, Yang is free to create an appealing main character in Kong Kenan. And the promise of being able to flesh out the story’s setting, Shanghai, as more than just a pitstop on Batman’s latest world tour is exciting.
My hope is that for, at the very least, a few issues, Yang and his editors will be able to resist the temptation to have DC’s Trinity pop in to say hello unless the story really calls for it. I’d love to see this new, original corner of the DC universe have a chance to develop on its own before it’s inevitably swallowed by the suffocating embrace of tie-ins and universe-wide continuity.
Nightwing Rebirth 1
Mark: Like most of DC’s Rebirth books, Nightwing Rebirth 1 spends little time moving forward, preferring to wrap up loose ends from the end of Grayson and quietly setting the stage for Nightwing moving forward. Having previously helped steer Grayson for most of its run, writer Tim Seeley obviously has a strong grasp on what makes Dick Grayson tick, but the issue never comes together in a particularly satisfying manner.
The difficulty is two-fold. First, and most superficially, I have a hard time embracing Yanick Paquette’s character designs. In costume everyone looks pretty good. But out of costume? Well, Dick and Damian trend a bit too Bruce Campbell-y (or Jay Leno-y) for my tastes.
(Also, big oops on Damian’s word balloon pushing outside the panel here.)
But mostly I’m finding it difficult to get very excited about the looming Parliament of Owls. The “Owls” at this point are basically Freddy Krueger: initially frightening, but any threat they posed in the past has been thoroughly watered down thanks to overexposure. And like many Hollywood sequels, the formula here feels similarly familiar — “It’s the Court of Owls you loved before, only bigger. And this time, the threat is global!”
Still, one good thing has already come from the Parliament’s presence: Lincoln March is dead. Though he started out as an interesting idea, March was another character rendered uninteresting by his overexposure. Dead is never dead in comic books, so fans of March can begin the countdown to his next appearance, but for now it’s nice to know, in at least this one way, Nightwing won’t be beholden to Batman’s past.
Now let us pray for more Midnighter across the DC line in the near future. If he keeps popping up in cameos like the one he has here, I will be forever content. Amen.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?