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 967, Detective Comics 944, The Flash 10, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 8, New Super-Man 5 and Wonder Woman 10. Also, we’ll be discussing All-Star Batman 4 on Monday, Mother Panic 1 on Tuesday, and Gotham Academy Second Semester 3 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article containers SPOILERS!
Action Comics 967
Michael: Reboots and relaunches are typically designed with the intent to make things more approachable so new readers can more easily jump onboard. By reintroducing classic Superman, Lois Lane and their son Jon, both Superman and Action Comics don’t seem concerned with that standard relaunch strategy. I’m not exactly complaining – I mostly prefer Pete Tomasi and Dan Jurgens’ approach – but there’s still a whole lot of baggage to deal with. In Action Comics 967 we have two Clark Kents, two Supermen and an alternate Earth Lois Lane disguising herself as her doppelganger.
What I like about Action Comics 967 is that Jurgens seems to finally be moving forward in a clear direction, with Lex Luthor front and center of the drama. There’s some follow-up to “Darkseid War” and Jurgens’ two-issue stint on pre-Rebirth Justice League with the arrival of some Apokolyptian bros trying to avert a perilous future under Lex’s control. It’s a clever misdirect using the Superman symbol for Lex instead of Clark that I didn’t see coming.
While this issue spends some father/son time with Clark and Jon, I would like to see Action Comics become a book that gives most of the spotlight to Lois or Lex. Tyler Kirkham gives us a Luthor that has flairs of Jim Lee and Ed Benes in his chiseled jaw and sharply suspicious eyes. Jurgens writes Luthor in a way that is familiar to pre-Flashpoint but clearly his own character – I found it odd that he referred to Lois as “Lane,” but he’s not the Lex that Lois and I are used to.
Detective Comics 944
Drew: It is difficult to separate superhero comics from the need for clarity. Art was simplified to a few clear lines, colors were limited to a handful of combinations of a few saturations, and lettering was limited to uppercase, all to allow the narrative to survive a primitive plate printing on cheap newsprint. Printing technology has improved, but the techniques have cohered into an aesthetic built around clarity. That aesthetic extends to the stories themselves, which still often manifest as straightforward good vs. evil morality plays. Subtler themes can be achieved, sure, but like lowercase lettering, that tends to be the exception to the rule. Take, for example Detective Comics 944, which writes its “Batman’s actions have consequences” moral so large, it hangs over the issue like the bat-signal on a cloudy night.
On the one hand, Batman’s adversaries, “the victim syndicate,” seem to embody that moral. Their very existence speaks to the consequences of his actions; they are collateral damage of his battles with various costumed criminals. It’s an intriguing idea, though rendered a bit toothless by the fact that blaming Batman for their plight is a bit of a stretch — they’re victims of attacks by costumed criminals, often in situations he wasn’t even explicitly present for. If Batman has a lesson to learn, he may not learn it here. Fortunately, he’s getting a more pointed lesson from Leslie Thompkins, who reminds him that Tim’s death doesn’t just represent the direct damage his mission has, but the emotional damage it can have on his allies.
Like I said, it’s not the most subtle point. Indeed, it’s just about the least subtly this point could be made, which is more or less in keeping with the over-the-top house style. That house style also dictates that this issue be as overstuffed as ever, giving a few lines to every character, but not enough to weave them into the themes of the issue. It leaves the issue feeling incredibly messy, but there’s no missing its message under all of that slop.
The Flash 10
Spencer: Well, I certainly can’t say that writer Joshua Williamson is unambitious. While The Flash 10 is a slightly slower paced issue in some ways, there’s actually quite a bit going on beneath its surface. Some of its many plot points, like the disappearance of the Rogues, are clearly setting up future arcs, but many become relevant immediately — Barry’s concerns that there were old foes forgotten the same way that classic-Wally was forgotten Post-Flashpoint immediately becomes valid when the Shade reappears, and while Shade’s claim that “hope was taken” likely refers to his lady love, it’s also a thinly veiled metaphor for the supposed loss of hope the DC Universe faced during the New 52. As always, The Flash continues to be the DC title most closely following the thread began by Rebirth 1.
In the meantime, though, the bulk of this issue revolves around Kid Flash. Nu-Wally is quickly becoming a character defined by his eagerness: his eagerness to fight crime, to use his powers, to prove himself to the Flash. In typical teenager fashion, Wally’s eagerness ends up putting him in trouble more than once, but even when he’s being reckless, he’s coming from a good place. That makes Wally endearing while also making him a nice foil to the more conservative, contemplative Barry Allen. Barry, for his part, makes his own share of mistakes; for someone who already trained one successful young partner, Barry doesn’t know how to deal with kids at all. I’m not sure if this can be chalked up Barry’s worries about repeating the mistakes he made training August with Wally, if Williamson isn’t factoring classic-Wally into Barry’s actions (despite mentioning him several times throughout the issue), or if Barry’s just that bad around kids.
Felipe Watanabe’s art is wildly inconsistent throughout this issue, but his opening page is absolutely stunning.
Watanabe does wonders with the contrast between dark and light here, and not just on an aesthetic level, but on a symbolic one too. The panel when Shade meets his “hope” uses color masterfully; Shade is completely black against a white background because he sees himself as no good, as so much worse than the rest of the world, while his lady love is white against a black background because she brought hope to his world of darkness. In the final panel, meanwhile, their held hands (and the negative space surrounding them) roughly form the shape of a heart, representing the love they’ve found. It’s a lovely moment, and a succinct bit of characterization for the Shade. That kind of brevity is essential to an issue this packed.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 8
Patrick: What is Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps without Hal Jordan? If it sounds like a trick question, it just might be, because “The Green Lantern Corps” is not necessarily the answer. Or, as issue eight indicates, it is not the only answer. In addition to picking up new threads of his his own mythology, writer Robert Venditti weaves grand concepts from the greater DC Universe together with some of Geoff Johns best unresolved ideas. The result is a dizzying, frenetic tour of what a Green Lantern comic can be, even if we’re missing Hal.
And (again: even if we are missing Hal), we do know the whereabouts of his ring, which we are reminded in this issue, was created by Hal’s own willpower. The issue starts off the with ring freaking out, declaring its barer diseased, and zipping off to the universe to find him. When we finally check back in with the ring, it’s traveled all the way to Planet Nok (home of the Indigo Lanterns) in Sector 2814, and it’s enlisting the Guardians Sayd and Ganthet. Evidently, I said “oh no!” so loudly that my girlfriend came in from the other room to ask me what was wrong. What can I say? I’m a sucker for those little blue dudes!
That’s the Geoff Johns connection. The rest of the stew of issue 8 takes its ingredients from classic Justice League and Superman comics. John Stewart sets the newly re-established GLC to work immediately, and together with the Sora-led Sinestro Corps, they defend Tomar-Tu’s planet from the O.G. Justice League villain, Starro. Artist Ethan Van Sciver, who is no stranger to drawing throngs of detailed Lantern characters, tosses his talent for intricacy after a killer splash page, which simultaneously celebrates the monstrous character, and, y’know, makes it clear that
he’s it’s a monster.
But Starro’s only a feint. The real threat here is Brianiac, who appears to be using Starro as some kind of Lantern-bait. I love that all of this has to be navigated by the uneasy alliance between Yellow Sora and Green John and their respective teams. It’s maybe a perfect blend of old and new, and satiates my GL fan-hunger in just the right way.
New Super-Man 5
Mark: I guess this is the week DC makes a big Starro push! I’m embarrassed to admit I failed to recognize Starro last issue when it cameoed as the ultimate weapon Human Firecracker steals from the Ministry, but the super villain makes multiple appearances here.
Following up on last month’s cliffhanger, Kenan’s father reveals himself to be a Freedom Fighter. It turns out Kenan’s mom was China’s first superhero, a woman determined to bring democracy to her country who is later killed in a mysterious plane crash. After her death, Kenan’s father, his brother, and their friends form China’s Freedom Fighters to continue her work. It’s the neatest bit of storytelling in an otherwise messy issue, but the politics of it all leaves me slightly confused.
I think we’re meant to believe that the Freedom Fighter’s goals were originally pure, but eventually became corrupted by Human Firecracker. This clears Kenan’s new friends, Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman, and Kenan himself of fighting for the “wrong side,” but by turning the Freedom Fighters into the villains at the end of the issue writer Gene Luen Yang removes any moral complexity from Kenan’s situation. It’d be interesting—if maybe obvious—for Kenan and his friends to have to come to terms with the fact that they haven’t been fighting on the side of good. Instead, when Human Firecracker and the rest of the Freedom Fighters (sans Kenan’s dad) are revealed to actually be bad guys it seems like Yang is coming down on the side of China’s ruling party. I guess that in and of itself is morally complex, but it also doesn’t seem intentional. Being pro-communism would be such a bizarre stand for Yang to take that I imagine everything is bound to shake out differently by the end.
Still, the issue leaves us without much to root for outside of the promise that next time our hero and his dad will be kicking in the teeth of some evil democracy boostin’ radicals. Which seems a little weird, right?
Wonder Woman 10
Ryan M: Sometimes the execution exceeds the premise. In Wonder Woman 10, Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott are able to take the idea “Diana goes the Mall” and make it a multi-layered story that furthers plot, reveals character, and offers some level of meta commentary.
Diana has a language barrier with the rest of the world, but Rucka and Scott use the first mall sequence as a place to show what she’s thinking without needing her to verbalize anything. We see her taking in a lingerie store window, a couple walking hand in hand, and some cherry red platform heels. Her expression of concerned confusion is perfectly rendered and made more effective by her quiet during the conversation happening around her. Without intrusive narration or bending the logic of what one says when they don’t have the language, the reader is able to connect with Diana thanks to the framing of the panels and her open expression.
The first half of the issue seeds everything we need to add resonance to the second half. There is mention of the Sear Group, Diana playing with some cute kids and her mention of gifts that have yet to reveal themselves. The true purpose of the Golden Perfect may not be clear, but using it with her small group allows them freedom to communicate and in some cases reveal things that they’d been holding back. Steve pretty much just makes heart eyes, but that’s to be expected. In fact, Steve functions almost purely as love interest in this issue. I wasn’t sure about Rucka’s intentions with the character, until we got a gratuitous shirt removal so that we could have an ultimate damsel hanging on his hero moment at the end. The underlying humor and commentary in upending the gender dynamics of a super-powered person and their love interest works here, especially as the issue treads into darker territory with the mass shooting.
The page above is so well executed. The first panel is a sweet moment with friends, and as the terror increases, the size of the gutters decrease, until we are fully immersed in a world where at least one man is dead. It’s an upsetting sequence and gives Diana a chance to use her abilities to protect the cute kids from earlier in another stand out page, as we see Diana stop a hail of bullets with her bracelets. This, along with the image of Diana holding Steve on one arm with a bad guy on the other, show us that we are still early in Diana meeting her potential. Rucka does a great job balancing the various elements of Diana’s story and it will be great to see where they are all headed. Hopefully, more shirtless Steve Trevor.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?