DC Round-Up Comics Released 8/17/16

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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 5, Green Arrow 5, Nightwing 3, and Superman 5. Also, we will be discussing Supergirl: Rebirth 1 on Tuesday, so come back for that!

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Batman 5

Batman 5Mark: Batman 5 brings Tom King and David Finch’s initial arc to a climax, and while I find myself less than enamored with these initial five issues, there is reason to be hopeful. The issue ends with King dropping a number of bombs: Claire Clover (aka Gotham Girl) and Duke Thomas will get married at some point in the future, and, oh yeah, she’ll end up killing Batman somehow. I like the potential re-centering of the story going forward around Gotham Girl. Her brother, Gotham, ended up being a bit of a dud. I was disappointed when he turned evil—we’ve seen that story a million times before—but if his death ends up being the catalyst for something truly memorable than five wonky issues is not the bad in the long run.

But yeah…Gotham…I think it’s pretty clear how non-interesting he is that not only does Batman not really fight him, but the book can’t even muster up the enthusiasm for more than a perfunctory display when he dispatches the Justice League.

And the issue begins with another one of those fan service moments that are equal parts endearing and teeth grinding. Sure, it’s amusing to see Alfred confront Gotham as Distraction Batman until the real deal can show up, but it also doesn’t make the most sense in the world. Couldn’t he just control the Batmobile from the Batcave? Yes, we’d sacrifice the joke, but King’s insistence on fan service with a capital F every issue continues to wear me down.

Every time I’ve written about King and Finch’s Batman I’ve ended by talking about how much potential this book has. And it’s true. Tom King is a great writer and I think David Finch has never been better than he is here. Yes, this issue leaves me with a lot of the same quibbles I’ve had in the past, but with this initial arc behind us I’m feeling a little more optimistic about the future of the book.

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Green Arrow 5

Green Arrow 5Spencer: It can be exhilarating to watch a story’s themes (and a character’s priorities) come into focus over the course of a storyline. Benjamin Percy and Juan Ferreyra made it clear from the beginning that the virtues and evils of money would be a major theme of their first Green Arrow arc, but it’s been fascinating to watch that somewhat abstract concept morph into a much more personal conflict over the past five issues. What’s more important to Green Arrow: money, or friendship?

Obviously, that’s not normally a one-or-the-other choice, but by Green Arrow 5‘s climax, that’s exactly the dilemma Ollie faces: either he can salvage enough money from the Inferno to payroll Green Arrow’s vigilantism and Oliver Queen’s charities indefinitely but let his friends die in the process, or he can save his friends’ lives by destroying the Inferno and lose the money in the process. I suppose that’s a fairly obvious choice, but Percy’s laid enough groundwork about what both money and friendship mean to Oliver over the last five issues that readers can easily follow Ollie’s thought process, and understand why this is such a difficult decision to make.

After all, it’s obvious that Oliver loves money, and that he does a lot of legitimate good with it. But there’s also limits to what money can accomplish, even in the hands of a superhero, and his own fortune was turned against him at the most inopportune moment. Meanwhile, Oliver’s friends have been all over the place this arc, abandoning and befriending at equal pace, but they still have one thing money doesn’t: loyalty.

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In the end, Oliver’s friends saved his life, not money, and that’s what seals it for him. Going forward, Green Arrow may be broke, but at least he’ll have friends who support him, and maybe that’s all he needs to be a superhero. Maybe that’s a slightly cheesy moral, but after all the work Percy and Ferreyra have put into this arc, it feels like a legitimately earned revelation for Ollie nonetheless.

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Nightwing 3

688874_nightwing-3Spencer: This is obviously simplifying things a bit, but I feel like Grayson was a celebration of Dick Grayson as a character, and, perhaps most specifically, a celebration of the fact that Dick is confident in who he is. Yeah, he feared being abandoned to deal with Spyral alone, but his morality never shook, and throughout the entire series he remained the same charismatic, principled, and extroverted character he’d always been.

I suppose that’s why this first arc of Nightwing has felt like such a step backwards to me. Some have criticized Dick’s return to the Nightwing mantle as being more of a demotion than a rebirth, and in some ways, Dick’s sudden crisises of identity and confidence feels like writer Tim Seeley running with that theory, exploring who Dick will become next now that he’s back in the Bat-Family fold. That’s all well and good, but after Grayson, I’m having trouble figuring out exactly why Dick’s so rattled. He’s got quite a bit more freedom and leverage amongst the Owls than he ever enjoyed with Spyral, and charismatic as he is, Raptor’s taunts aren’t anything Dick hasn’t heard before. Barbara’s speculation makes the least sense of all to me.

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What’s that even mean? That Dick wants to escape his family? A core aspect of Nightwing’s character — and a trait explicitly highlighted throughout the last couple arcs of Grayson — is the fact that he needs his friends and family in order to stay sane. I hate to say it, but the core emotional conflict of this title just feels like a forced call-back to a long-ended era of Dick’s career.

And that’s a shame, cause otherwise, there’s a lot to love about Nightwing 3. The puzzle house is a killer concept, one I wish Seeley and Javier Fernandez had more space to explore, and the twists, turns, and double-crosses are better than ever; the spy stuff is much easier to follow in Nightwing than in Grayson, without ever seeming less clever. Even Seeley’s exploration of young Dick’s poverty is a natural and compelling addition to the character, one I’d like to see explored further. It’s just a shame so much more of this story feels forced instead.

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Superman 5

superman-5Shane: Well, if we were worried before about Lois Lane being a little too passive in this series, I think we can set those fears aside. As the Eradicator follows Superman and his family to the moon, where Batman has built himself another Batcave (because of course he has), things go bad. Really, really bad. And with Superman soon out of the picture, his son finds himself running for his life in a scene that had me a little on edge–Doug Mahnke should really consider drawing something in the horror genre, because his framing and shadow-work would be a perfect fit for that sort of thing. It’s all okay, though, because Lois Lane, fighting against all hope to save her son, finds just the tool to do so.

The Hellbat is back! Co-writers Tomasi and Gleason bring back the incredible armor from their run on Batman and Robin, and just as it gave the forces of Apokolips some serious pause, Lois Lane is able to use it to beat back the Eradicator. It’s a pretty awesome scene, and that’s a good thing, because the issue doesn’t have a ton else to offer. Maybe it’s a result of the accelerated shipping schedule, but I’m finding that a few of the DC Rebirth titles are having more issues that don’t accomplish too much, and in this all-action installment of Superman, it didn’t really feel like any of these characters had any sort of growth. Sure, the plot ticks steadily forward, as Superman returns empowered by the still-random Ghosts of Krypton Past, but as cool as some of these scenes were, they lacked substance. And with a few significant questions about how Superman and Lois fit into this new world, and how they’re going to raise a super-son, I want to see a little more focus on that in issues to come.

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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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13 comments on “DC Round-Up Comics Released 8/17/16

  1. Mark, you’re totally right that this issue of Batman (and in retrospect, the whole run so far) being kind of dull – but it’s all in service of something more interesting. The tag at the end of the issue says that the next issue is “Gotham Girl Year One.” It’s sorta fascinating to consider that we’re reading an origin story disguised as something else. Though, I suppose it’s sorta weird that “Batman” would be about someone else, but whatever.

  2. Anyone else thinking that Babs is a little hypocritical in “Nightwing” when she says that “stealing from the rich to give to the poor” makes you a criminal considering being a vigilante ALSO makes you a criminal?

    • Honestly, I thought she was being a little self-righteous throughout the entire issue.

      Whether that was intentional or not, I’m not sure.

  3. Superman: Shane’s right, Mahnke’s art is really good (and nearly unrecognizable) here, and the colors do a fantastic job of playing up the horror (the reds!) as well. I do wish Gleason had been on art this issue, as his depiction of the Hellbat is SO FRIGGING COOL, but Mahnke’s a good enough replacement.

    But Shane also hit the nail on the head about the matter of the double-shipping. I’m feeling the same kind of fatigue with Action Comics, and perhaps even Batman and Flash — double shipping looks like it’s gonna mean a lot more six issue arcs, as they can print them in three months as opposed to half-a-year, and not all these stories are worth them. Action Comics has been stretching out the same beats for several issues now, and as cool as the Lois-Hellbat battle was this week, this issue didn’t do much to advance the story or anything, really, to advance the relationships. I’m thinking this story could definitely have been trimmed down an issue somewhere along the line.

    Double shipping is hurting my wallet and storage space, honestly, and I think it’s gonna force me into some difficult decisions about my personal pull (Marvel has the same issues, but DC’s a lot more vocal and open about their double-shipping). All I’ve gotta say there is, thank god for review copies

  4. My latest DC read is All Star Western, which is another of those books that I am so glad existed in the New 52. Like Demon Knights, it is an attempt to really push what a Big 2 book can be.

    One of the actually clever touches is that the book takes place in Gotham (… on the east coast). It gives the book a clear identity – using DC’s most developed city gives All Star Western a real identity that makes it more than just a generic western. That isn’t to say that there aren’t parts that go too far. Jonah Hex explores the Batcave early on, and we meet a character who is clearly supposed to be Catwoman’s ancestor as a Lord of thievery, which sounds completely wrong (to me, Catwoman shouldn’t have a legacy of thievery. She built her own identity by turning away from the legacy she originally had, whether it was broken home, crime lord’s daughter or the unholy combination of all of that).
    But those issues are secondary to the strengths given by characters like Amadeus Arkham as the perfect opposite to Jonah Hex, Talluah Black’s a fun presence, or the chance to see the great families of Gotham squabble. In fact, the great early ‘twist’ of the book is the realisation that urban Gotham operates on the exact same rules of the Wild West, and that Hex’s derided frontier morality is actually heroic in a broken city. This provides all the fuel for a strong series of western adventures, generally great fun – the writing is never perfect, but Moritat’s art is so wonderfully atmospheric that it sells the stories even when the writing is a bit lacking.

    In fact, there are only really problems when it tries to go big, especially with the Court of Owls. Someone had the fantastic idea of having All Star Western be involved with the Night of Owls crossover, which is fantastic (even if the actual tie in is more of a conclusion to Jonah Hex’s New Orleans’ adventure than a Court of Owls story). They try and combine the Court of Owls stuff with the Crime Bible story already being written, and set the two factions against each other in a war that Hex is trapped in the middle of. But it is over so fast, with the Court barely featuring (though apparently they are about to return). If you want to go big, go big. Instead, we got a story mostly about the Crime Bible’s own frustrations with Hex and Arkham

    I also wish the wide range of western characters were used a bit more. Each issue has a backup creating a vivid world of western characters (highlights included the Barnaby Ghost, Nighthawk and Cinnamon and the wonderfully retro Tomahawk), but I wanted them to tie into everything else. The Barnaby Ghost, Nighthawk and Cinnamon got to have brief teamups, but wouldn’t things be so much more interesting if they created a Justice League Western, or had a story based around all these characters interacting? Especially when you had some great characters (I love the idea of Cinnamon throwing sheriff stars as shuriken). With a cast this good, I want to see more of everyone.

    Still, in general, individual adventures are great fun. Some I really enjoyed (the Arena story arc was great fun, as was Talluah Black escaping the Crime Bible and hunting down the Lords of Crime), while others are weaker (urgh, the Dr Jekyll story). But the art always makes up for the weaknesses. And there is enough fresh and interesting to make up for the weaker aspects. THough I’m about to reach a time travel arc, which will be interesting

    Also, the Zero Issue of this book is a bit of a disaster, because of how badly they don’t want to address Jonah Hex’s confederate uniform. Especially considering that Hex’s morals have already been established as the exact sort of person who doesn’t fit into the Confederacy. I hoped that they would do something interesting to contextualise it, but they don’t.

    • I never got a chance to read more than a couple of All-Star Western issues (I think the ones that guest-starred Booster Gold, cause I’m a sucker for Booster Gold), but y’know, Matt, Retcon Punch covered much of the series when it was still running.

      If you’re looking for some opinions to compare to your own, using the site’s search function should turn up most of our articles on the book. I know I always enjoy having those sort of points of reference even when I’m rereading older stuff

    • Completely agree with most of what you said: All-Star Western was one of the highlights of the New 52 to me. I didn’t appreciate the backups as much as you because I sort of resented paying extra for stories that didn’t feel fully realized. I do think they could have tied the into the main story or had an offshoot, but honestly, ASW barely sold 10k a month. It just didn’t catch on with the masses. Don’t know why, it was really well done.

      (I actually am missing the final issue. I never read how it ended. I need to find that in some dollar bin sometime.)

      • I felt the back up stories were often good, and it was fitting that All Star Western sought to present an all encompassing view of the DC Universe in that time period. And some of the stuff like Tomahawk were just perfectly complete. The problem is that the characters would disappear afterwards. Why not make Nighthawk, Cinnamon, the Barnaby Ghost or Bat Lash key characters in the narrative? Instead of just giving us origins of characters who are lucky to be given a brief five minutes of fame in the main story, why not create a larger universe where everyone is running around?

        Still, the book was strong, and a sad loss. Unfortunately, DC have never worked out how to solve their marketing issue, and have left so many books like this to die. They know only how to market the most boring stories they can imagine, and every time they gave a chance to Jonah Hex, or Amethyst, or the Demon Knights, or the Omega Men, or Prez, everything failed. Maybe removing the back ups and making All Star Western cheaper would have helped (it certainly would have helped Sword of Sorcery, as the back ups were the last thing I wanted to read after the positivity of Amethyst), but it still would have died.

        It is a problem DC really need to work out how to solve. They need to learn how to make a more vibrant, interesting line. Because All Star Western was actually lucky to last as long as it did, as DC just left books like this to wither and die. Which is why it is a shame that they are doing the exact opposite. Because it is going to be an age before we ever see anything like this from DC again

        • It’s hard to blame the back-ups for the any of those series failings, but I guess it all does come down to economics: why pay twice as much for two stories you’re unfamiliar with? And I guess what it really comes down to is that those issues were always half highly serialized story and half genre anthology.

          It’s kinda like what Marvel was doing with A+X later in the run. The first dozen issues or so all contained two one-of stories about a pairing of a mutant and some non-mutant character (for the purposes of A+X “nonmutant” qualified someone for Avengers status). But the final five issues started contained a longer story about mutant Skrulls for half of the issue and then back to the fun one-off stuff for the back half of the issue. That’s kind of a weird balance to really pull off and I wonder who that really benefits.

          Drew and I have had this conversation a bunch of times as it relates to programming at classical music concerts, because that shit is almost always INSANE. You’ll go to see a Beethoven Symphony, and they orchestra will also program something else from the extended classical/romantic canon (if you like Beethoven, you maybe also like this!) and then there’s always one modern-ass piece thrown in there. I suppose the thinking is that the orchestra doesn’t trust an audience to come to the dissonant, experimental piece on it’s own, and that they also wouldn’t feel safe putting on a whole program of those kinds of pieces. But like, if you want to sell Steve Reich, you’ve got to sell Steve Reich – you can’t bury him in Beethoven and Mahler.

          I don’t know what the answer is in either case. I’m glad Reich gets performed, and I’m glad we got that Jesus-Saiz-drawn Beowulf back-up, and I doubt either of those see the light of day without something for attention grabbing as a headliner.

        • I feel the risk with DC’s use of backups is that they (quite rightly) raise the price when they have a backup. Not a problem with Batman, but a higher price on All Star Western or Sword of Sorcery may actually be something that affects whether someone purchases it or not. To use your Orchestra comparison, Beethoven is enough of a name to allow a higher ticket price so that you can spend some time with an experimental modern piece. But Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld isn’t Beethoven.

          I mean, when I discuss the problems with the Beowulf backup, it isn’t because it is bad. But you are raising the price of a risky book, making it less likely for core audiences to read it, while also giving audiences a story completely different to the thing that is supposed to attract new audiences (and making the new audience ask if it is worth reading the book when they only like half of it). The Beowulf backup could have been tried somewhere else (Demon Knights was a closer fit, or that DC Universe Presents thing they used to have or maybe send it to Vertigo somewhere), somewhere where it was a better fit. Or have nothing and have a lower price that made the book more attractive to people who want to give it a try.

          Ultimately, the failures of All Star Western, Sword of Sorcery etc come down to a range of factors. Comics is still probably the most brand dependent medium that exists, and not having Batman on the title is going to hurt (I have noticed when reading All Star Western, they eventually changed the titles to make Jonah Hex much more prominent, but that still doesn’t change the fact that Jonah Hex isn’t a powerful brand). Sword of Sorcery’s first issue needed to be much more carefully done, considering the primary places DC were marketing to were primed to jump at any mistakes DC made after the high profile feminist criticism of the New 52. And DC’s marketing machine is quite simply so utterly broken that it had no choice but to do Rebirth.

          Leaving aside the problems with the first issue of Sword of Sorcery, the biggest problem is DC’s marketing machine. But that doesn’t mean that raising prices so that a back up – possibly even a back up that didn’t even fit the book – could be included was a choice that was going to help the health of those books. It would be awesome if they took books like Detective Comics and Action Comics and gave them backups utterly disconnected to Batman/Superman, turning them into something closer to the anthologies they used to be. But the fact that something is good on a Batman book doesn’t mean it is good on a Amethyst book

      • I was super happy to see Moritat’s art again in the new Hellblazer series, but the writing there is weaker than I’d like to see. I’ll pick up a few more issues to see if there’s a more compelling voice for the character, but I’m not super hopeful.

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