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 Detective Comics 938, Hal Jordan and The Green Lantern Corps 2, Superwoman 1 and Wonder Woman 4. Also, fear not, we are DEFINITELY discussing All-Star Batman 1 on Tuesday, so come back for that.
Detective Comics 938
Michael: Can an engaging character dynamics make up for a so-so plot? James Tynion IV has assembled a great cast of characters and there’s plenty to love about this title for that team alone. As Detective Comics’ first arc approaches its conclusion however, it’s clear that the threat they’re facing isn’t as interesting as the team itself.
Detective Comics 938 peels back the curtain a bit and lets us get a glimpse at why Jacob Kane has decided to become a 2-dimensional army bad guy (As you can see, I’m still not OK with that concept). Kane tries to justify “The Colony” in very specific Batman terms: a terrible thing happened to him (and Kate) and he’s doing what he can to ensure it never happens to anyone else. Despite his good intentions however, the issue still ends with him sending off a swarm of drones to kill a significant number of civilians along with “The League of Shadows.”
I do love the interaction among the team however. You can tell Tynion has a deep love for these characters, allowing for each member of their team to have a moment to shine in this issue. Gotta love New 52 costume bashing:
I love me some Eddy Barrows but Alvaro Martinez has been growing on me with every subsequent issue of Detective Comics. All of the character moments I mentioned are heightened and underlined by Martinez. You feel Cassandra Cain’s triumph after she takes down a mob of soldiers and Kane’s shame, as he’s covered in shadow, contemplating what he’s become.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 2
Patrick: I like to think I’m not too pedantic about most of the comic books I read – especially when it comes to continuity. I’m reading the issue I’m reading, and 90% of the time, I’m content to leave it at that. But there’s something about Green Lantern that makes me pay a little extra attention to continuity. I owe that mostly to Geoff Johns’ blockbuster run on Green Lantern, which is where I learned to follow a series, first in trades and later in floppies. I’ve drifted in and out of following the character since Johns a couple years ago, but it’s sort of alarming how quickly I can snap back in to an obsessive little groove, especially when the storytelling is as good as it is in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps.
Every nod to the rich history of these characters tickles me just right. I was a little unnerved to see Maash, the three-faced Sinestro Corpsmen, in the previous issue because I wasn’t convinced that Robert Venditti was paying attention to the personalities of the individual faces. (Yes, that’s how deep the obsession goes.) The top face is a more-or-less rational dude, while the two below him are sociopaths. Venditti actually has Hal notice this personality difference in this issue and directs his interrogation at the one sane man in the crazy-head. But Venditti’s history-tapping is a lot more meaningful than that admittedly superficial detail. I’ll confess to not reading the issues that lead Soranik Natu to embracing her father’s evil yellow power, but Sinestro’s ulra-heel turn in this issue provides perfect context for their on-going relationship. It’s one of those “but here’s what was really going on” speeches that also just serves to catch me up on what they’ve been up to in my absence.
Rafa Sandoval’s pencils for this issue are fascinating. He’s got such a gift for staging and paneling that nearly every page has an example of the layouts suggesting the movement of the characters on the page. Part of this is achieved by Sandoval so frequently telling his story from a proscenium perspective, eschewing more cinematic angles in favor of clarity. I almost feel like the detail of his drawings are being over articulated by inker Jordi Tarragona and colorist Tomeu Morey. It jumped out to me during this interrogation scene, which is a persistent two-shot, and which leans in to the simplicity of the staging by never moving the camera.
The action here is so clear from the very basic coloring of these characters, and from their distinctive profiles, that all the extra shading, contouring and glowing only serve to distract from Sandoval’s great work. I might be asking for a different kind of book entirely, but it’d be cool to see Sandoval’s work colored like David Aja’s Hawkeye – flat and graphic. More than most Rebirth series I’m reading, this series seems excited to embrace the visual vocabulary of comics rather than that of film, and I’d like to see a production team that honors that.
Ryan M.: In an improv scene, when your scene partner explicitly tells you not to do something, the expectation is that you will soon defy them to humorous result. When Lana Lang begs Lois Lane not to leave her before the climax of Superwoman 1, I got a sinking feeling. This was a set up not to a punchline, but to pain. For much of this premiere issue, Phil Jimenez seems to be setting up a buddy story of a pair of Superwomen. We have Lois, headstrong and determined to use her powers to pick up the mantle left by a fallen Clark, and Lana, more reticent and sensitive but also drawn to doing good. Once it’s over, it’s clear that Jimenez wasn’t building that story at all. Instead, this is a Lana Lang origin. How she got her powers, her first call to action, and the isolation that accompanies her new position.
There are a few twists in the story, but none of them feel cheap or unearned. When I re-read the issue knowing all of the turns, each character moment and bit of dialogue still works. Jimenez executes this by giving us all the things that we may need in terms of presenting Lana as the hero of a new Super-story. He presents her dynamic at work, her values, her personal losses, even a fairly combative interview with Lex Luthor. Lois’ presence is almost a distraction from Lana’s arc, but also offers a potential preview of what the future may be for Lana as Superwoman. First issues have to balance a lot of world-building with giving a story ongoing momentum. Jimenez does an excellent job in this issue of managing those duties.
Every page of the issue is packed tight with dialogue and action. The plot’s nearly frenetic pace dovetails with Lana’s own anxiety issues and the art reflects that feeling of everything happening at once. It’s kind of the sequential art version of a Bourne movie, quick cuts from moment to moment. The panel shows movement by moving the frame rather than the movement of objects within the frame. When we get our first hero shot of Lana, she has to bust through a cluttered page. Even without her own splash page, it’s an exciting moment and a fitting introduction to a new favorite.
Wonder Woman 4
Mark: Rather than a radical reinvention of the Wonder Woman origin myth, two issues into their “YEAR ONE” saga Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott continue to offer a classic take with a few refinements along the way.
As with every issue of Wonder Woman so far, the biggest strength of Wonder Woman 4 is the humanity of its characters. Themyscira is supposed to be a utopia, but in most tellings it’s filled with as much political intrigue and personal jealousy as the World of Man. Here, Themyscira is not free of political discussion and disagreement, but it is a true debate and not an argument. In a lesser title, Philippus would make an easy villain. These small choices by Rucka add up. Despite her concern for her daughter, Hippolyta doesn’t forbid Diana from participating in the tournament. Instead, Hippolyta lets Diana know she will be proud of her no matter what the outcome. Even Steve Trevor, usually portrayed with as much personality as the GI Joe doll he’s modeled after, is given a moving moment where he mourns the loss of his fellow soldiers.
Yes, the story continues to be meted out at a glacial pace, but Wonder Woman remains the crown jewel of Rebirth.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?