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 963, All-Star Batman 2, Detective Comics 940, The Flash 6, New Super-Man 3 and Wonder Woman 6. Also, we’ll be discussing Gotham Academy Second Semester 1 on Friday and Superwoman 2 on Monday, so come back for those! As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Action Comics 963
Drew: The thing that is often missing from Nature vs. Nurture debates is the acknowledgement that however our genes may affect our personalities, those traits are reinforced by the world around us. That is, a person who is rewarded for being smart will pride themselves on being smart, and work hard to maintain that title. You can replace “smart” with “athletic” or “funny” or any other descriptor, and the statement would be true. So what if you didn’t have the one character trait that most defined you? That’s the Clark Kent we’re introduced to in Action Comics 963 — one who was never Superman, and thus was never the character we know as “Clark Kent.”
That concept is complicated a bit by the fact that Clark Kent as we know him was essentially an act Superman put on to disguise himself. He wasn’t actually the clumsy, flaky, nearsighted goofus we know. Even the deeper personality traits we associate with Clark Kent — his sense of duty, responsibility, and knowing right from wrong — are arguably lessons that were impressed on him because of his abilities. Clark Kent wouldn’t be the character we know if he hadn’t wrestled with defining a moral use of his powers, a philosophical quandary that wouldn’t come up if he never had superpowers in the first place. All of which leaves Clark Kent as more or less a blank slate. Curiously, he launches pretty much straight into action mode:
I guess, in the absence of superpowers, Clark Kent becomes a reckless “journalist,” prone to committing numerous assaults as he sniffs out a good story. Which is to say: it rings a little false to me. Anybody who behaves like this would be in prison, not a newsroom. BUT, as Clark points out, this maybe is the kind of thing Lois Lane pulls all the time. Maybe believing that this is what journalists do is just part of the suspension of disbelief of this series. In that case, writer Dan Jurgens seems to be poising Clark Kent as the Lois Lane to Lois Lane’s new Superwoman. That is: he’ll be the one getting into impossibly dangerous situations in pursuit of a story, and she’ll have to rush in and save him. That gender-swap might lend some freshness to the formula, but if this issue is any indication, I’m not sure I have the palate for Clark’s new penchant for battery. Maybe Superman can teach him some of those morals he never bothered learning?
All-Star Batman 2
Michael: If you want proof that Scott Snyder still has the absolute best Batman game in town, look no further than All-Star Batman 2. Snyder and John Romita Jr. waste little to no time catching up readers on the premise and jump right back into the action of it. The second issue continues the “road movie” vibe that gives us a Batman comic that is equal parts comedic, intelligent and just hardcore cool. Snyder is the kind of Batman writer who constantly looks for new ways to innovate the tried and true Batman formula. In All-Star Batman 2 he and Romita take that philosophy and apply it to an iconic symbol of the batsuit itself: the bat ears.
Yes, yes, oh my god YES. The ears of Batman’s cowl have the ability to transform into bat shanks. This is such a well-executed sequence: just when I’m getting over my disbelief at that sheer awesomeness, Batman comes back at Two-Face with a goddamn quip about not hearing what he said. It’s a thing of beauty you guys. There’s an unapologetic jackassery about this Batman that I can’t get enough of – he’s the straight man in a world of fools and he don’t suffer no fools.
There are ten bat villains in this book and it’s amazing that it doesn’t seem like too much. The movement of this book is on point, you definitely get your money. And the specific Two-Face psychology described here is something that I’m not quite sure we’ve seen before; which makes future chapters of All-Star Batman all the more exciting.
Detective Comics 940
Spencer: Tim Drake hasn’t exactly been handled well in the New 52. Looking back at the past five years, it can be hard to remember that he was once the Robin, and one of the most central and beloved members of the Bat Family. James Tynion IV remembers, though, and has been using his first arc on Detective Comics to not only repair some of the damage done to Red Robin, but to return him to his rightful place within the franchise.
All the work Tynion’s done — reestablishing Tim’s intelligence, relationship with Stephanie, and uncertainty about his heroic future — culminates in Detective Comics 940. Red Robin’s heroic final battle and subsequent “death” showcases everything Tim brings to the table as a character — his skills, relationships, and bravery — or, at least, it’s supposed to. I admit, I’m bummed by the exclusion of Tim’s actual fight with the drones. It’s a clever move on Tynion, Eddy Barrows, and Adriano Lucas’s behalf to show snippets of the battle on Ulysses’ viewscreens — and especially to do so with the inkless, painting-esque style they’ve been using off-and-on throughout this arc — but confining it solely to those screens is disappointing. I was looking forward to seeing what Tim’s claim in 939 that the battle would be “just like math” meant exactly, and without actually seeing Tim’s struggle, it feels like a piece of the story is missing.
Still, I understand that the creative team has space limitations (especially with a crossover starting next issue), and choosing to focus more on the fallout of Tim’s “death” is probably the smarter choice. Tynion, Barrows, Lucas, and inker Eber Ferreira do staggering work throughout the entire scene with Batman and Spoiler — the choice to show Batman viewing and reacting to Tim’s admission letter from his perspective is genius, and Bruce and Stephanie’s hesitance, followed by their embrace, is heartbreaking.
It also gives Tynion a chance to lean into Tim’s importance to the Bat Family even more — in fact, Tynion even gets to tie him into “Rebirth’s” underlying
scapegoat narrative by asserting that Tim’s been downplayed within the New 52 because he had too much importance to the old continuity.
I’m still not sure how I feel about the Watchmen stuff, but taking Tim off the field for a few issues may actually be a smart choice: not only does it give readers a chance to realize how much they miss him, but the tales told about the Bat Family’s grief can continue to assert his importance, building the character up even more for his eventual return.
Yet, how people react to this arc — and how they’re likely to recall it — will probably have more to do with their reaction to Jake Kane’s turn. I admit, I find parts of his and Kate’s interplay intriguing, but I also have very little experience with their relationship (I read “Elegy,” but never got around to the Batwoman solo), so it’s hard for me to fully judge whether this plot is true to Kane’s character or not. Our very own Michael has already promised me a diatribe in the comments, so feel free to join in; I’m genuinely curious as to everyone’s takes.
The Flash 6
Spencer: Of course August Heart is Godspeed.
To his credit, writer Joshua Williamson did a fine job deflecting suspicion by using Carver and the Black Hole as red herrings; I certainly never caught on, but I really should have. A brand new character immediately given a prominent position in the story, who also just so happens to be a long lost friend of Barry Allen’s? There’s a few different directions that could go, but “secretly the big bad” is pretty high on the list.
So yeah, this is a smart twist: obvious in hindsight, yet not too obvious. More importantly, it transforms Heart into a powerful foil for Barry. Barry thrives when teaching the new speedsters, while Heart thinks they’re squandering their potential; Barry wants more time to do as much as possible, while Heart can literally be in two places at once; Barry followed the letter of the law in attempting to free his father from prison, while Heart murdered the man accused of murdering his brother as soon as he got the opportunity. Barry is justice while Heart is revenge, and that’s a dynamic that’s been simmering since Heart’s introduction, caught aflame by Heart’s finally revealing himself as Godspeed.
Artist Carmie Di Giandomenico and especially colorist Ivan Plascencia do fantastic work selling the menace of Godspeed. The wild, erratic lightning and the harsh reds and yellows filling the background of his reveal couldn’t be any more sinister, and they wring every possible ounce of pain out of Godspeed’s attack on Billy Parks.
Seriously — the hand-drawn warping effect as Parks is dragged at superspeed is masterful alone, and reaches even grander peaks when combined with the computerized effects. There are moments throughout this issue where Di Giandomenico’s art can occasionally feel a tad too busy, but he always sells the hell outta the speedster’s abilities, and when it comes to The Flash, that may be the most vital skill of all.
I still have a few quibbles with Heart-as-Godspeed’s activities (how can someone so obsessed with “justice” so casually kill the other speedsters?), but I’m otherwise pleased enough with how he’s been handled that I’m willing to wait and see if this is addressed further. The Flash 6 brings a lot of different, long-running plots to a head and transforms Godspeed into a compelling villain; I can’t wait to see where this goes next.
New Super-Man 3
Mark: It’s nice to see Kong Kenan grow as a character over the first three issues of New Super-Man. Yes, he’s still cocky and a little bit of a bully, but he’s learning to not say everything he’s thinking and showing remorse for the actions he takes in haste. It’s a relief that Gene Luen Yang is writing him this way since I don’t know how much more I could take of a Harry-Potter-circa-Order of the Phoenix-style protagonist.
The color work by an uncredited Hi-Fi employee(s) is fantastic.
Their bright and vibrant palette reminds me of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s stunning work on Detective Comics. Superhero books don’t usually look like this.
Yang’s been pretty open about the rough transition he went through from writing graphic novels to dealing with the constraints of a 22-page monthly, and those growing pains were evident in his 10 issue Superman run. In hindsight, I’m glad Yang had the opportunity to work out the kinks on an established character like Superman—it allowed the freedom to experiment and learn without the immediate threat of cancellation. New Super-Man illustrates Yang’s growth as a comic book creator and remains a solid read.
Wonder Woman 6
Patrick: It can be frustrating to read through Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s Wonder Woman 6 because the whole thing hinges on a lack of understanding and compassion. It’s a simple conflict, and one that never actually boils over to anything remotely resembling danger, but Diana’s inability to explain herself to the world is heartbreakingly persistent. Rucka demonstrates this phenomenon on the first page and nails it in with a quick reiteration, just to be sure .
Scott is careful to get both characters into these panels, twice showing that they’re trying, but the ultimately the only thing they’re able to communicate is an inability to communicate. I love the way letterer Jodi Wynnne handles this language barrier – but putting a literal barrier balloons filled with the Amazonian language. Common practice is to put foreign languages in <brackets> and then make a little *note that it’s “translated from Amazonian, but it’s great to see an extra set of black and white lines standing between what Diana is saying and the ears that need to hear her.
This is the whole issue, a series of mild misunderstandings that result in a situation that is equally humiliating for Wonder Woman and the US Navy. It’s a testament to Diana’s strength of character that she never lashes out violently, even at gunpoint. That would have been a bit of a misdirect anyway – the solutions here aren’t found in violence, but in compassion. In a stand-out scene, Steve visits one of his fellow soldier’s widow. The scene is quietly scored with Steve singing “Over the Hills and Far Away” (not the Zeppelin tune, the traditional Scottish song).
Steve’s offering the only thing he knows to offer: his service. Turns out that’s exactly what Maya wants – she asks Steve to make sure her husband didn’t die in vain – but it’s a far cry from helping with her baby daughter. But that’s not the point: the point is Steve puts himself out there, makes himself vulnerable and offers what he can. That’s what’s missing in the disconnects throughout the rest of the issue. When Diana is visited by the Patrons (which Scott artfully seeds throughout the issue), it’s a revelation. Here are characters that can actually see her, understand her, empathize with her. It’s a wonderful reminder that sometimes we just need someone to listen.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?