DC Round-Up: Comics Released 10/5/16

dc-roundup56How 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 8, Nightwing 6, Green Arrow 8 and Green Lanterns 8. Also, we’ll be talking about Midnighter and Apollo 1 on Tuesday so come back for that! As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

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 Batman 8

batman-8Drew: Crossover events have to walk a fine line. If the constituent episodes have too much of the identity of their respective series, the coherence of the overall crossover could be lost — if they have too little, the coherence of each series is compromised. It’s a tricky balance, but I think Steve Orlando has cracked it with “Night of the Monster Men,” co-writing each episode with the writers of each respective series. The result is as coherent a though line as we might expect from a single writer, but also manages to capture some of the personality of each of the writers he’s collaborating with. Batman 8 is a perfect example, incrementally advancing Orlando’s narrative, while toying with the themes that have defined Tom King’s run thus far. The result feels like it fits in perfectly as both an issue of Batman and a chapter of “Night of the Monster Men.”

For me, the biggest charm of King’s Batman is the allure of watching plans deployed perfectly. His Batman is always prepared, even when he’s scrambling to come up with a plan. When facing off against a mutated Gotham Girl, Batman reveals a surprise Clayface suit; when things look most dire, Duke Thomas arrives with the cure for the mutations; when Cass and Steph are at their lowest moment, their plan to cook the plant pheromones suddenly works like a charm.

Of course, “Night of the Monster Men” would be cut short if everything worked out, so by the issue’s end, a new monster has emerged, and Batwoman is in mortal peril. The fight is far from over, but this issue is so chockablock full of fist-pumping victories, it’s hard to feel like Batman and his friends aren’t winning. But things will get a bit more complicated as “Night of the Monster Men” continues in Nightwing

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Nightwing 6

nightwing-6Spencer: In Nightwing 6, Steve Orlando, Tim Seeley, and Roge Antonio’s “Night of the Monster Men” crossover continues to provide the pulpy action and insightful character moments that have made this storyline so darn fun. Orlando has his cast’s voices down: Batwoman proves her leadership chops by successfully coaching the terrified Gotham Girl, Spoiler continues to show compassion even as Red Robin’s death hardens her, and Nightwing, of course, makes a joke and smiles as soon as he recovers from his transformation into a grotesque monster. This creative team knows not only how much fun can be found in their grand action set-pieces, but how much fun it is simply to have all these characters together on the page at the same time.

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Even just the way Antonio positions the cast — Bruce and Kate in front, Gotham Girl floating above the rest, Orphan riding to the site on the roof of a car — has a lot to say about each character.

But Orlando also uses this issue to start giving his story a bit more depth. In an intriguing turn, it’s revealed that Hugh Strange wants to become Batman, and that his Monster Men are intended as a damning diagnosis of his problems with the current Batman (Dick being the only one who can piece that puzzle together is another inspired touch). Strange releasing the monsters into Gotham isn’t meant to be random destruction or even just an invitation for Batman — he’s trying to turn the faults of the vigilante Gotham has supported all these years right back on the city. It’s twisted, it’s nuts, and it’s exactly the kind of swerve I was hoping this story would take.

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Green Arrow 8

green-arrow-8Mark: Reading Green Arrow 8 is like hanging out with your friends who are dating each other and are just a little too free with their public displays of affection. Yes, you like them both and you’re happy that they’re together, but do they really need to be giving each other shoulder massages at the movie theatre?

Because, look, we’re all happy that Black Canary and Green Arrow are back together, but to have almost an entire issue devoted to their sexy times together feels misguided, especially in the context of the preceding events. Last we saw Dinah she was on an exploding ship in the middle of the ocean. Here she shows up on the beach like she’s taking a break from filming a BDSM Baywatch parody and is immediately all, “Wanna bang?”

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Artist Otto Schmidt has Dinah directly addressing the reader here, and it strikes me as too much crossing the wires between anime-style fan service and the “give the audience what they want” fan service that Rebirth is leaning into. Oliver immediately assumes she’s a mirage, and I did too, because her entrance here is pure pornographic fantasy.

In general Green Arrow has been a good litmus test for whether or not the Rebirth initiative is going to jive for you, since it’s basically everything anyone has ever liked about Green Arrow turned up to 10, but this issue left me wishing I could dial it back down.

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Green Lanterns 8

green-lanterns-8Patrick: I like The Force Awakens, but if there’s one criticism that rings true for me, it’s the un-understandable size of the threat posed by Starkiller Base. I know I also can’t wrap my head around the destruction of an entire planet in A New Hope, but there’s something about the singular unit that keeps the loss of Alderaan emotionally manageable. But the scope of destruction that Starkiller Base is capable of is simply impossible to internalize. That’s a criticism you can level against a lot of different comics — they all love putting the entire universe in jeopardy — but this also seems like the default operating mode for Green Lantern comics in particular. Billions of years of magic space-cop history is tied up in the creation of ultra-technological weapons that channel the power of emotion to protect the cosmos? Yikes, man, dial it back. Fortunately, writer Sam Humphries is doing just that in Green Lanterns 8.

Actually, that might be misleading. At the heart of this issue, there is a Guardian trying to protect an ancient weapon he forged in the fires of Mount Doom Oa. So the stakes are high, but, Humphries and artist Ed Benes insist on a delightfully light tone throughout their charmingly grounded story. It’s Halloween! So one of the difficulties finding Guardian Bami is that, y’know, he’s about the same size and shape as a kid in a costume. OH MY GOD THE KIDS IN COSTUMES.

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Humphries picks up the emotional threads of the childhood Halloween experience and lets them dictate the direction of this story. It’s so much more personal and meaningful to watch Jessica overcome both her fear and her “over it” attitude to actually get into a fight with her construct powers. And I love seeing Baz’ connection to this town — and his bad-boy past — helping him track down Bami. By the end, I’m just like those kids in the bushes: fuck Hal Jordan, I wanna so what these cool new Lanterns are up to.

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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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5 comments on “DC Round-Up: Comics Released 10/5/16

  1. DC Bombshells: I am now up to date on DC Bombshells. I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed the third arc. After having everyone together for the first time, the focus returns to Berlin, and that means the focus moves away from Wonder Woman and Supergirl. Instead, we get Batwoman, Catwoman, Zatanna and the best characters of Bombshells. Especially as the third arc’s other story is a Mera story.

    Mera is the best character, but Batwoman is by far the deepest. From the very first issue, she had a long history, and this arc focuses on that. The big part of this is the arrival of Kate’s ex, Renee Montoya/the Question. Looking into Kate’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War is a fantastic choice. She has always had a dark side alongside the adventurer side, and her disastrous relationship with Renee during the hellish Civil War was a fantastic show of that. Meanwhile, Huntress and Catwoman continue to be some of the most enjoyable side characters in this book (and Huntress as the kid sidekick works really well dramatically alongside Kate’s Spanish Civil War past, where she had Jason Todd as a kid sidekick until Jason died).

    Meanwhile, Zatanna and Mera both have stories about healing, after having both lost their powers. It is a great use of metaphor, as ultimately it is all about their tragedies that they are healing from. The best is, of course, Mera. She gets a wonderfully sweet romance with Aquaman, before being forced to return to Atlantis and to her past – a past that is much more interesting than I expected, creating a complex narrative by playing with politics and by avoiding the obvious bad guy. Nerus was the villain previously, but Mera doesn’t even need to deal with Nerus. Instead, she must face her own sister, whose villainy is much more unique and creates possibly the best example of Bombshell’s empathetic approach to superheroes and war.

    There are two problems, though. Firstly, Harley Quinn. Harley is a complex character to get right, as she can so easily go in the wrong direction. And Bennet, trying to avoid the unfortunate implications, leaves Harley ultimately feeling inert. Especially as I don’t think Bombshell’s Poison Ivy is that interesting either. But the real issue is with the Battle of Berlin arc. All of a sudden, we are introduced to Mary Marvel, and while they do a fantastic twist on the Shazam mythos by making her and the mythos Jewish, ultimately she ends up being a Deus Ex Machina. Quite simply, the Battle of Berlin story feels like it would be so much more interesting if she wasn’t involved (even if you’d have to work a bit harder to combine it with the Atlantis story).

    The next arc, that we are half way through? Unfortunately, I’m not a fan. Surprisingly, it sticks with Batwoman and crew, now taking them to Africa and on something more Indiana Jones inspired. The best parts are focused on Kate and Renee, as their past deepens when they come up against Cheetah, who killed Jason Todd. And the twist on the Batmobile is fun. But honestly, Vixen and Hawkgirl aren’t interesting additions, and the archaeology stuff doesn’t work.

    The Batgirls, however, continue to be great. We get Lois Lane introduced, as a reporter working alongside them to stop the now revealed villain of the Gotham based stuff, Hugo Strange. There is a real joy to the Batgirls adventures, and the story at the start of the fourth arc also shows how this is just as dramatic as the stuff happening in Europe and Africa. After saving Harvey Dent from Huge Strange’s manipulations, they must now deal with the Reaper (the villain that inspired the Phantasm and, in this continuity, is actually Andrea Beaumont like the movie). The Reaper is your usual ‘kill the bad guys’ vigilante, that goes against the Batgirls’ ‘do not kill’ philosophy. Honestly, not interesting. The real interesting thing is how Harvey, acting as the Batgirl’s Alfred, is in the line of fire because of being Hugo Strange’s tool, and being called Two Face. Except, he saves Alysia and Nell, at the cost of half his face – the act of proves he isn’t Two Face. Here, Dent’s wound is not a representation of his duality, but of how singular he is. The wound is a sign that regardless of Strange’s manipulations, Dent is ultimately a hero. But Dent isn’t the only dramatic element. Lois wants to take Strange down for what he did to her mother (Strange is done well as a man obsessed with beauty and eugenics, and that it interacts well with this version of Lois Lane, who is actually Hispanic). But only Killer Frost knows where Strange is, and so as the Batgirls help Harvey, Lois takes a risk, and hijacks the plane that the Reaper and Killer Frost were planning to use to reach Strange, so that she too can face her enemy, Hugo Strange. Going into danger alone and surrounded by enemies, in what looks like a sacrifice is a tragic moment, and in a story so built on empathy and cooperation, seeing Lois act full of vengeance like this is fascinating. Really interested in seeing what happens next.

    Meanwhile, there is also the Annual, which doesn’t really work. I love their depiction of Frankie, from period appropriate choices like her polio to the choice to have her work alongside Indiana Jones to find the Ark of the Covenant. They have a great version of Killer Croc, and Barbara Gordon’s origin is so good, I wish they used that version of her. But ultimately, this Suicide Squad they are trying to make out of Barbara Gordon, Ravager and Enchantress doesn’t really work. Compared to the fantastic stuff with Jason Todd, this attempt to rejigger the DC Universe into a new mix of familiar elements doesn’t work. Unfortunate.

  2. Man I tried to like Night of the Monsters. I think a big part of it is that I have NO interest in Spoiler or Orphan. I don’t really even know who they are. I didn’t care that Redwing died. I don’t think I’d ever read a series with him featured in it. I’ve never liked Clayface. And this Batman isn’t a very fun one either.

    This was all trying to do something and I don’t know what it was. But this era of the Bat-Family is pretty clearly not for me.

    • I’m not going to pretend to have read any of the books, or to like Rebirth (that Green Arrow 8 piece by Mark sounds less like a critique and more like a description of the perfect way to torture me). But I’ve seen many pages of certain series, and have some rough idea of what they are. And from what I’ve seen, I think I agree. Night of Monsters seems really bad.

      From what I’ve seen, Batman seems to be a boringly competent book whose biggest problem is that the history of both the book and the writer suggests it should be much, much better. And Detective Comics seems to be a well written book suffering from Garbage In, Garbage Out – the foundations of the book is thoroughly infused with the worst aspects of Rebirths philosophy that its good writing can’t save a structure based on toxic story decisions and cheating the character dynamics (because Rebirth). Nothing I’ve seen makes me want to read either book, but they look to be… fine

      But Night of the Monster Men actually looks bad. It looks utterly shallow, the worst example of crossovers. Showing off all the elements of each book in such a shallow way that it actually makes the books look simplistic and bad. What I’ve seen reminds me of All New All Different Avengers (though the first issue of Avengers was worse). Again, this isn’t about my opinions on Rebirth in general. Everything I’ve seen makes this look worse than what I already think of Batman and Detective Comics.

      Also, I don’t think your issue is the fact that you have no interest in Spoiler, Orphan or Red Robin. A good book should make you interested in them. Books like the Vision, Mockingbird and Ms Marvel are all examples of how obscure or brand new characters can engage people, without the reader having any existing interest.
      On the other hand, when you decide to cheat your character dynamics and focus more on going for cheap nostalgia instead of being true to the character, is it a surprise they don’t connect?

      Also, have you never read a book with Red Robin? He was Robin for 20 years, and many see him as the iconic Robin. Would Have thought for sure you would have read a story with him somewhere

      • “Also, have you never read a book with Red Robin? He was Robin for 20 years, and many see him as the iconic Robin. Would Have thought for sure you would have read a story with him somewhere” – I never seriously read DC before the New 52. I was aware of the DC Universe and have read a lot of comics, but I don’t think I even know where he came from.

        And yes, I agree that a good book should make you interested in characters, but I do think it’s a lot harder in a team book to do that than an individual title. I tried, but my pull list is too long and there are so many good comics out right now that I don’t need to show support for titles that I once liked but now aren’t that impressive.

        • You don’t need to justify yourself to me. As I said, everything I’ve seen shows Detective Comics is cheating character, undercutting what makes them interesting and leaving nothing but nostalgia for what is actually an empty set of iconography. The exact shit that made me drop DC after DC Rebirth. It isn’t your fault that you can’t connect to Detective Comics disastrous depiction of the characters.

          DC’s commitment to $2.99 you mentioned in the other comment section is commendable (though much, much older than Rebirth. I can’t remember a time where DC did not have a majority of books at that price, and still remember the ‘Holding the line at $2.99’ campaign). But don’t let that justify buying books you don’t like. Nor the fact that you used to read the book. I could make similar justifications, but nothing changes the fact that from my perspective, DC’s current content is ‘We promised to be boring and backwards and we are staying true to it’. The closest thing I’ve seen to a good case for reading DC is some pages of Deathstroke (of all things), which seems to combine strong character work with hilariously overcomplicated ‘let’s pretend convolution is intelligence’ plotting. So still not worth reading. So read the stuff you actually like, and cut down your pull list of things like the current Bat Books

          And if you only read DC after the New 52, not surprised you haven’t read a lot of Red Robin. Used to be a massive part of the Batbooks, but the New 52 changed that and he stopped turning up in anything but Teen Titans. Rebirth was supposed to be his big return, which is massively unfortunate. But if you read a Robin story from the 90s and 2000s, it would have been Tim Drake/Red Robin. Back whenhe was big

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