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 966, Batgirl 4, Detective Comics 943, The Flash 9, and the Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special. Also, we’ll be discussing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 7 on Friday and Wonder Woman 9 on Tuesday, so come back for those! As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Action Comics 966
Mark: I’ve been wishing for Lois Lane to have a more active role in Superman books outside of “concerned mother/wife” and here we are. Lois is back at The Daily Planet and ready to kick ass! Great! But what on earth happened to get us here?
First, Lana, we need to talk:
Uh, yeah, Lana. That’s exactly what you say. Sure, you maybe practice a softer choice of words in the mirror a few times before the big moment, but when your Plan B involves a transdimensional doppelgänger taking a dead woman’s place? And lying to her family? Yeah, you go with telling them she was Superwoman and that she’s dead.
Okay, except you do want a part in telling Sam Lane his daughter is gone! Really! Because the alternative being cooked up here is you taking over a dead woman’s identity and then interacting with her loved ones like everything’s normal. Gross!
Everyone’s motivation here basically boils down to, “Gee, telling someone their daughter died would be a really tough conversation to have. Let’s just have someone pretend to be their dead daughter instead.” How is this possibly the best plan? There’s nothing to be scared of! No one did anything wrong! Why doesn’t anyone consider that Lois Lane’s father would probably be at least a little bit interested in helping them discover how his daughter died?
And then there’s this:
I’m sorry, what? Let’s break down this madness beat by beat:
“We wanted to do right be Lois.”
Cool. A good place to start would maybe be not pretending to her family that she’s still alive.
“And within that context, Clark wanted me to do what was best for me.”
“How can the traumatic death of my wife’s doppelgänger be turned into a positive for her?” – Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
“It’s a key part of who I am.”
No, it’s a key part of who you were. But then your reality was destroyed in a war of the multiverses and now you’re lucky to be alive and with your family. Remember?
“…Without hurting anyone.”
Right. Because how could pretending to be someone you’re not possibly hurt anyone?
I’m desperately hoping Dan Jurgens doesn’t believe any of what he’s laying down here, and is instead setting up Lois, Clark, and company for a very rude awakening. I’m hoping, but not hopeful. Instead, it feels like the decisions made here are being framed as The Noble And Right Thing To Do, that all involved are being noble and in no way putting their own interests first. What an icky point of view.
Ryan M.: While an interconnected web of friends and family are key to a healthy life, sometimes they can obscure an individual by placing them in the contexts of relationships. In Batgirl 4, Barbara is far from Burnside and truly on her own as she fights and investigates Teacher from Korea to China. Barbara never seems to lose a step, she is resourceful and ultra-competent, handling each situation with a confidence and ease that comes with being so far from the ones that distract her, her loved ones. Barbara may be trying to save an old friend from danger, but, at the same time, she is a young woman traveling alone.
Detective Comics 943
Patrick: Everyone is a victim of something. Loss, trauma, a reductive media, societal pressures, apathy, privilege, homophobia, racism, sexism… even getting punched in the face by Batman — all of these things can cause a human being to feel as though they are being unfairly targeted for failure. James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez’ Detective Comics 943 plays around the the concept of the victim, placing everyone in the role. The costumed villains of this piece, who we see very little of in this first issue, even go so far as to define themselves by this trait, calling themselves “The Victim Syndicate.” Though, after 20 pages of Batmoping, it’s tempting to re-purpose that name as Gotham City’s slogan.
F’real: Martinez draws some of the saddest Batman I’ve ever seen. And keep in mind – we’ve seen Bruce mourn the loss of HIS OWN SON before. That was a very different kind of Batsadness, however, which manifested itself in all of the maniacally productive / violent ways Bruce’s deep-seeded depression issues usually manifest. There is no such redirection of energy here, and while I initially groaned at this panel of Batman slumped over in a chair in front of Tim’s costume, it does speak volumes about his inability to process this loss.
So, okay, who’s not a victim in this one? The Kanes seem to be holding their own. Kate keeps her shit together and is able to continue her team’s work, even when everyone else needs time to re-coop. And Jacob is unfazed by Batman’s interrogation tactics. I suppose you could also make a case for Harper, who even refuses to be defined by the circumstances that lead her to be Bluebird in the first place. I know there has been some grumbling about her absence in this early issues of Detective Comics (y’know, because 930-something constitutes “early”), but I love the idea that staying out of the costume is an expression of her strength. She and Jean-Paul get to do some honest good together at the free clinic – so what if they’re not part of Batman’s detective club?
The Flash 9
Spencer: Comics are complicated, which is something I occasionally forget until I have to actually explain a story to someone who isn’t a regular reader. Writer Joshua Williamson pokes a bit of fun at the convoluted nature of comics through a conversation between the two Wally Wests, a sentence which practically defines convoluted all on its own.
So yeah, while my ideal iteration of The Flash is a title filled with with half-a-dozen intertwined speedsters, I can at least understand why The New 52 did away with the “Flash Family.” The Flash 9 practically ties itself into a knot shuffling around bits of continuity in order to make room for both versions of Wally West within the same universe, yet Williamson and artist Jorge Corona also make a strong argument for why having this many Flashes in the same place is a good thing.
That argument, put simply, is that speedsters are in a unique position to train and learn from other speedsters. That was a theme Williamson explored in depth with the Speed Storm victims in his first storyline, but the mentor/protégé relationships take on a special depth in The Flash 9 because the characters are family. Barry might as well have raised classic-Wally, and while nu-Wally is technically his cousin in this continuity, Williamson treats them as dopplegangers; the point is, all these characters know each other like the back of their hands, know what they’ve been through as people and as heroes, and have insights to provide to each other that no one else has. Having mentors and protégés makes Flashes better heroes, and brings out sides of these characters we’d never see otherwise.
I admit, though, that I’m an easy sell, and I’d be curious to see if newer readers think the upsides of having so many Flashes around outweigh the complications. Either way, it’s not gonna slow down Williamson.
Ending an issue by teasing Jay Garrick pretty much makes The Flash the poster-book for “Rebirth,” but I’ve gotta admit, it works like gangbusters for me, and not just because of nostalgia. The prospect of seeing all the Flashes together again fills me with hope too, but largely because The Flash is just a better character when he’s surrounded by his friends.
(Also, should we assume that this issue’s cover being a parody of Garrick’s first Silver Age appearance is meant to be a subtle bit of foreshadowing towards the cliffhanger? It’s a fun coincidence, if nothing else.)
Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special
Drew: Back in January of 2014, I complained that Batman’s glut of out-of-continuity short story anthologies robbed his 75th anniversary issue of any sense of celebration. Batman was so overexposed in DCs output, so spoiled with top talent and deconstruction after deconstruction, that it was essentially impossible to pull out any more stops to mark the occasion. Wonder Woman has been fortunate to see some of that lavishing of top talent in recent years, but has remained far from what anyone would describe as “overexposed.” That such an iconic character has been left so underutilized is a shame, but it does have the benefit of making this 75th Anniversary Special actually feel like a cause for celebration.
This issue is a true anthology, featuring short stories, pinups, cover sketches, an “interview” with Diana, even a poem (or is it a song?), from some of the character’s most notable recent creators (past, present, and maybe future). Indeed, the issue is too full to name everyone, but all do a fantastic job of highlighting exactly what has made Wonder Woman such an enduring figure: her compassion. Virtually every story, from Diana defending Giganta from an angry mob (whom Diana had just saved from Giganta) in Mairgread Scott and Riley Rossmo’s “One Side Alone,” to Diana pulling the thorn from her adversary’s paw in Renae De Liz’s “The Legend of Wonder Woman,” finds Wonder Woman finding compassion even for her bitterest enemies. I was particularly moved by Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl’s short story “Predators,” which finds Diana extending that compassion to the animal kingdom (and makes a strong case for an animated Wonder Woman film). Gail Simone and Colleen Doran’s “Big Things One Day Come” also finds Diana helping an animal, though her uplifting pep-talk to an aspiring superheroine definitely steals the show.
It’s a fun issue that makes a strong case for more anthologies like this — with so many creators finding so many clever angles on Wonder Woman, there really ought to be more of an outlet for these kinds of stories. If there’s any criticism to be leveled against this issue, it’s that it seems to mostly be celebrating the last 25 years of Wonder Woman’s history. Sure, there are nods to her wartime origins and cameos from Steve Trevor and Etta Candy, but all of the creators are from a much more recent vintage. The commitment to current talent is commendable, but I might have appreciated the scope of this anniversary special to encompass all of Wonder Woman’s 75 year history. The only archival material is a gallery of covers and sketches from Brian Bolland, but even those only reach back to 1992.
My insatiability for old forgotten Wonder Woman stories (and their creators) aside, this issue is a charming celebration of the character. It features many of the recent big names to work with Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s absence is particularly notable because they were even mentioned by name in the solicit), and reminds us of just how versatile the character can be. This is exactly the kind of anniversary special any Wonder Woman fan will love, it’s just a shame we don’t get more of them.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?