DC Round-Up: Comics Released 11/16/16

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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 11, Green Arrow 11, Green Lanterns 11 and Trinity 3. Also, we will be discussing Nightwing 9 on Monday and Superman 11 on Tuesdayso come back for those! As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

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Batman 11

batman-11Spencer: This is easily my favorite issue of Tom King’s run on Batman to date. First of all, the artistic team are at the top of their game. Colorist June Chung makes some transcendent choices, from the shot of Batman in silhouette, lit only by the purple of his cape, to the unique shades of yellow and red that fill the background of two key scenes. Those two shades are not only stylish, but accent the mood of each moment perfectly: if the yellow Chung uses to shade Batman and Catwoman’s chase is meant to show their relationship approaching its end (like a yellow traffic light), then the red that accents Selina’s betrayal emphasizes the final, ultimate destruction of anything that could have been between the two.

Artist Mikel Janin too gets to cut loose, finally getting to put his good-looking, diverse designs for Batman’s makeshift Suicide Squad into action. The most enthralling shot, of course, is Catwoman and the Ventriloquist transversing the pipes beneath Santa Prisca.

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It’s one of the better written scenes, too. King smartly uses Wesker as a contrast to Selina; while Wesker is ultimately helpless against the whims of Scarface and generally feels better when he’s gone, Selina’s “monster” never leaves her, and she even implies that whatever monstrous impulses are driving her now are allowing her to do what she “needs” to do. That’s certainly evident by the end of the issue; when discussing Batman 10 I pointed out how Selina’s 237 murders perfectly highlighted her unique balance of selfishness and selflessness, but here Selina murders almost gleefully and for no reason other than self-interest. She’s giving into her “monster” to save her own skin — or perhaps using it as a justification to give into her more monstrous impulses.

Perhaps most welcome is what King does with Batman himself. The dark knight has been almost frustratingly competent under King’s pen, and at first it looks like we’re getting more of the same: his team is perfectly suited to this particular jail break, and everything’s going according to plan. Catwoman’s betrayal, though, throws a wrench in all that. It’s implied that Batman chose Selina for this mission in the first place in hopes of getting her out of the death penalty, meaning that not only did Bruce fail to read her properly, but that he let himself be blinded by his own emotions and desires. Catwoman is Batman’s biggest weakness, and her presence not only elevates Batman as a character, but the rest of this story as well.

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Green Arrow 11

green-arrow-11Michael: I think that superhero comic books will always have a leg up on superhero movies when it comes to suspending one’s disbelief. It would be a tall order to accept a Ferrari alongside a bullet train racing against a flooded underwater tunnel in a movie but in the comic book that is Green Arrow 11? That’s what makes it work, boys and girls.

Impossible feats in the midst of impossible odds is what makes a good superhero book and that’s just what Benjamin Percy and Juan E. Ferreyra give us. Percy and Ferreyra make it clear that it’s a team effort to make sure The Empire Express makes its maiden (final?) voyage back in one piece. Percy has shown us time and again how important Black Canary is to this book and to Oliver. Maybe I’m biased for being a preboot fan but I do so love Dinah and Oliver’s gushing romance.

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Juan E. Ferreyra has got the juice you guys. He’s another reason that Canary shines in Green Arrow 11. He draws her in seamless action from one opponent to the next – another technique that comics can achieve that movies cannot. It would be simple enough to have Green Arrow fight mercenary Fyers in an unchanging blue underwater background. Instead Ferreyra changes the POV among Oliver, Fyers and the passengers below to keep things interesting and engaging.

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Perhaps best/saddest of all there is a cameo by a Hillary Clinton-ish figure who declares that in the face of this great calamity (the diplomat assassination/train crash) it’s even more important to discuss peace.

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Green Lanterns 11

green-lanterns-11Patrick: We’ve probably got too many Green Lanterns running around the DC Universe right now. As usual, there’s the uncountable mass of them in space, protecting the universe from the same five threats over and over again (seriously – Sinestro and “one of the Guardians” have shown up to the party so many times, I’m sure they’re due a free sub), but there’s even a glut of the motherfuckers on Earth. Writer Sam Humphries explores some of the stranger ways this Green Lantern ubiquity effects how we view heroism and the right to be heroic in Green Lanterns 11.

Frank Laminski is still in possession of the Phantom Ring, and rather than going straight to trying to murder all the Green Lanterns (he’ll get there, I promise), he dresses himself up like a Green Lantern and does some genuine hero-ing. Mind you, it’s a toothless threat for a Green Lantern — Frank rescues a small family from a tornado — and he will not stop patting himself on the back for the accomplishment. Frank is obnoxious in this moment, and is perhaps wasting his power on small-scale heroics, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that he did save a couple lives. Regardless of how hard I just said it would be to argue, Baz and Cruz show up on the scene and do just that. The basis of their claim is that Laminski stole the ring and therefore doesn’t “deserve” that power. Naturally, this causes both Cruz and Baz to reflect on the circumstances surrounding their own ring-acquisition. It’s a frustrating couple pages, if only because I can so strongly identify with Simon and Jessica’s self-doubt, and their casting aspersions on Frank’s intentions looks an awful lot like me at my most hypocritical. I mean, whose job is it to judge the heroes actually doing the hard work and getting results? Jessica’s? Simon’s? Mine?

Fully acknowledging the irony of this transition: That’s a neat idea to ponder, but I wish Humphries and artist Robson Rocha had found a more active way to play this game. Frank’s heroic deed is singular – he saves one kid and one dog from one tornado. The first two pages show Frank zipping through the atmosphere, covering hundreds of miles in what appears to be seconds.

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That’s a fun page, and one that gives a sense of what Frank can do as Phantom Lantern. But when he turns on “save the day” mode, his accomplishments are so tiny and his ego so inflated that it makes Jessica and Simon’s self-doubt seem like a weird reaction. If the Phantom Lantern was stomping out global-scale threats our heroes didn’t even know about yet, it might make the drama more meaningful. As it stands, it’s kind of a trite, meaningless argument between GLs that are all afraid of being posers that triggers the Phantom Ring’s orange protocol and turns Frank into an Agent of Avarice.

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Trinity 3

trinity-3Mark: In Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens much is made of the mystery surrounding our hero Rey’s parentage. One popular fan theory is that Rey is a Skywalker, maybe the daughter of Luke. I hope this fan theory is wrong. Making Rey a Skywalker compresses the universe of Star Wars to the extreme. Who of importance in this universe isn’t either a Skywalker or friends with a Skywalker?

I bring up questionable Star Wars fan theories because, just as a Rey Skywalker seems limiting to the universe of that franchise, Francis Manapul and Clay Mann’s Trinity 3 similarly finds Batman in the coil of cliche.

Blame this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for officially turning the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne into a played-out joke. From that film’s overwrought opening sequence, to the facepalm-worthy Martha Connection that ends our heroes’ brawl, the death of Batman’s parents feels — gulp — played out. What more is there to possibly say about the ripple effects of that night in Crime Alley?

By damning Bruce Wayne to be forever caught in an endless whirlpool of grief, writers limit the potential of Batman’s universe. It’s reductive even considering the cyclical nature of comic books, demanding the occassional reset back to the status quo. Batman’s origin is an important catalyst, but I believe it’s possible for him to be informed by the tragic events of his past without them being the sole focal point of his existence. Marvel’s Spider-Man is an instructive example. Uncle Ben is still way dead of course, but it’s rare for an issue of Spider-Man to bring it up, much less revolve around it. Yet we never question if Ben Parker’s death is still felt in the universe. Much like real-life, Spider-Man soldiers on. Batman should do the same.

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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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10 comments on “DC Round-Up: Comics Released 11/16/16

  1. I’m with Spencer here – Batman 11 finally feels like the book we’d been hoping for from this team. My only gripe was how Batman and Catwoman kept referring to each other as “Bat” and “Cat.” That just seemed bizarre and a little too playful for Batman to continue with, given the whole 237 murders thing.

  2. The Wayne murders worked in BvS. The Martha scene worked too. It showed Batman was becoming the person he was created to stop in Joe Chill. Batman also saw Superman as an innocent person about to be separated from his family.

    • Really? The Wayne murders was, as Mark described, incredibly overwrought. It is almost pornographic in its treatment, complete with the silliest depiction of the pearl necklace breaking ever. It is so obsessed with the idea of it being of mythic importance that it is basically exists entirely for mythic masturbation. Regardless of what the intent was, the final result lacked emotion or anything other than a glorification of iconography. Which is not what the defining moment of Bruce Wayne’s life should be.

      And the Martha moment is terrible. Yes, it is supposed to be about that. It doesn’t change the fact that it does that badly. Superman calling his mother Martha is an unnatural and inhuman approach to human interaction – terrible in a moment all about Batman realising Superman is ultimately as human as the rest of us. And building the moment around the idea that their mothers share the same name is wrong. Again, the moment is about Superman being human, and being an innocent about to be separated from his family. If the moment is about that, why not have Batman stop when Superman talked about his mother? Surely, the thing that should make Batman stop is the idea of a mother in danger, not hearing the name of his mother.
      Ultimately, the problem is that Batman only gets to see Superman as an innocent person after he had already stopped. Martha stops him, and the explanation about why Superman said Martha is why Batman sees Superman as human. Batman shouldn’t stop ever stop because someone said Martha. Batman should stop because he is given a reason to reevaluate the situation. And he only gets it after Superman explains ‘Martha’

      • The Spider man comparison doesn’t work because we always have the “with great power comes great responsibility line” and have Uncle Ben talk to Spider man.

        • When did I mention Spiderman? My points were all about the movie itself, and how it failed in the context of the movie itself.

          Though Mark’s point is still valid. Every Spiderman story doesn’t need Uncle Ben, nor does it need the Great Power line. Does it inform every story? Yes. Basically every Spiderman story comes down to responsibility. But we can do that without seeing Spiderman say ‘With Great Power…’ every five seconds. Hell, the Amazing Spiderman movies didn’t even have ‘With Great Power…’ (though they were terrible) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spiderman appears to be skipping the origin completely. He turns up fully formed in Civil War, and will keep on being Spiderman without a meaningless flashback to Uncle Ben. Because it is an important part of his life, but not all of it.

          And it is the same with Batman. There are so many Batman stories that work without telling the origin. To use another Batman movie, the Dark Knight doesn’t bring up the origin, but is fantastic (and works completely by itself – you don’t need Batman Begins for the movie to work). Many great Batman comics don’t bring up his origin. His origin informs them, but it also takes into account the fact that there is so much more to Batman’s life than just his parents dying. It is one small part, and it doesn’t have to be in every movie and comic. Hell, as much as I love Scott Snyder’s work, he did Batman’s origin three times!

          And it doesn’t change the fact that the Batman v Superman version is just… bad

  3. You know what? I give up.

    When I picked up Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye, I realised I checked DC out of obligation. That honestly, I didn’t have a lot of interest in Young Animal. There is a part of me that wants to like DC again, but absent of any proof, I’m desperately trying to give Young Animal a chance. Doom Patrol was a disaster was from start to finish, but even the good ones were so flawed. Shade the Changing Girl is full of boring stuff in Meta. Mother Panic’s titular Trainwreck makes for an interesting comment, but doesn’t change the fact that the book had no real story. And Cave Carson, for all the strong parts, has Mad Dog, non-functioning transitions and poor structure. And I’m honestly not excited at these books.

    The Avengers 1.1 Alternating Current felt like a desperate attempt to find meaning in mediocrity. Turning a villain cliche or an overdone joke as a desperate attempt at finding something positive to say about Medusa and Clint. To find something in the book worth praising in a book so empty of character. And I feel like I’m doing the same with Young Animal. Of course, the psychologies of Cave Carson and Violet Paige are more substantial than any character insight you could get out of yet another ‘We have a butler? Now I’m staying’ joke, but I still feel like I am trying to find a justification for why it will eventually be good. The ‘there is a lot of potential…’ argument.

    There is a reason I don’t read Mark Waid books, and I need to treat DC with that same reasoning. I’ve just got to accept that as much as I desperately want to like DC’s current output, they are shit. I am not going to search DC’s output out of obligation for books that all require massive qualifications to enjoy. Even Shade the Changing Girl isn’t good enough.

    I’ve just got to admit that DC is, at the moment, shit. It is a hard thing to admit, as in my hearts, I am probably more a DC fan than a Marvel fan. There is a part of me that has always liked the DC Universe in a way that Marvel just doesn’t have.

    But I can’t pretend to make up a bunch of excuses and justifications to justify reading books that never excite me, out of a desperate attempt at loyalty. It is the exact sort of thing I stand against. I’m not going to use Young Animal as a justification to get my DC fix that never actually satisfies.

    DC’s comic output, at this moment, is shit. Complete and utter shit. Time to admit that.

    • I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but I’m going to stop short of saying it’s “complete” shit. In general, Rebirth feels like it’s taken the wrong lessons from the New 52, applying the least inspired approaches across the whole board. Where the New 52 at least had new ideas (albeit some bad ones) and exciting talent (albeit some that didn’t live up to expectations), Rebirth feels like it has very little of that momentum. Instead, we’re left with middling books virtually across the board — and with so many fantastic books coming from other publishers, it’s basically impossible to justify buying middling books. DC is relying on the graces of people who will read them no matter what, but that’s not a strategy built for growth. But it’s not all terrible. I suspect your moratorium on Rebirth prevented you from catching some actual good books.

      If I understand your objections, it’s that Rebirth seemed to fetishize the past at the expense of progress, but I’d argue that Wonder Woman, for example, doesn’t really do that. Yes, it jettisoned a lot of the mythological elements from Azzarello and Chiang’s run, but I don’t think that represents any more of a change than the average creator switch. Writers will always have their favorite era of a given character, and often take their runs back to something resembling that era, highlighting the themes and storytelling potential of the hero as they new them as kids. Some manage to balance that desire with the current state of the character better than others, for sure, but I’d actually put Wonder Woman on the better side of that spectrum. I don’t have high hopes of convincing you to check it out, but I’m not sure its fair to condemn an entire publishing line you haven’t read because you objected to the larger publishing decisions that surrounded that publishing line. There are some good comics being made in spite of whatever aesthetic constraints Rebirth has imposed. Those constraints certainly make success harder than the New 52 did, but they don’t make it impossible.

      And yeah, I think Doom Patrol and Cave Carson are complete messes, but I’m digging Shade and Mother Panic enough to at least coming back. My optimism for Mother Panic may be built more around “there’s a lot of potential…” hopes (it was an imperfect but by no means bad first issue), but I will defend Shade as being good without qualifications. I’m invested in Loma’s interpersonal struggles in high school, I’m invested in her battling Madness, and I’m even invested in the tension of the Meta storyline. I have no doubt things going to get more interesting as these stories develop, but they’re already interesting enough to have me hooked.

      But I will agree that DC seems to have settled for “good enough” across too much of its line. Their new direction seems built on safety, which doesn’t bode well for folks who have enjoyed their more experimental output over the years. It’s a bummer for them that publishers like Image and Aftershock have managed to snap up Vertigo’s market (seriously, whatever deals Vertigo needs to cut to attract books like Tokyo Ghost or Moonshine, they should do it), but holy crap am I glad that someone has stepped in to fill that vacuum. I can definitely support cutting a lot of DC books from a pull, but I think there are still a few interesting series surviving in spite of DC’s best efforts.

      • You have the basic idea of my objections, though I think that it probably worth breaking that down into details.

        Firstly, it is the refusal to move forward. We should respect the path, but constantly be building new directions. Finding that new versions of the story, and building on the foundation that previous writers have laid. Not knocking it all down.

        Secondly, it is the nostalgia led storytelling. Not only is this going backwards instead of forwards, but the nature of nostalgia is bad for storytelling. You get the sort of thing that I described Snyder’s depiction of Bruce’s parent’s murder in Batman v Superman. Glorification of iconography, but no functional dramatics. A good example of nostalgia being a problem is Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown’s relationship in Detective Comics. Instead of building on the interesting potential in Batman Eternal 52, they ignored that to go for the ‘iconic’ version of the characters, where they are dating. Except this iconic idea misses the very thing that made their relationship work. Tim and Stephanie never anything so simplistic. The thing that made their relationship work dramatically was that it didn’t work. Tim was an immature idiot who constantly screwed things up, eventually losing Stephanie – notably, once they broke up they never got back together and actually moved on. And now that is replaced with the nostalgic vision of Stephanie as Tim’s girlfriend. Iconography, but missing the underlying drama

        Thirdly, it is the fact that they are going backwards not just creatively, but from a perspective of representation. There is the obvious stuff, like how a black man isn’t allowed to be the real Wally West. Or how characters like Midnighter are now only given miniseires. Or how no minority character could be introduced in the one shot without greater emphasis being placed on the white male version. Or… basically everything done with Batwoman, which appears to be one long ‘put the uppity lesbian in her place’. Or the female characters who now have to be X’s girlfriend. The fact that everything DC was doing to make a more inclusive comics world went backwards

        If we look at Wonder Woman, it is full of the sort of baggage that I have a problem with. Of course all runs start with major changes to fit a new version. But Rucka’s Wonder Woman is literally about how her past is lies and that her very foundations have to be smashed to pieces. I’d call it the most explicit example of this problematic aesthetic, but apparently Nightwing just had Superman turn up and literally say ‘this is how things used to work. You should do that’. Though let’s ignore that, because Wonder Woman is, apparently, a good book.
        Wonder Woman is a book that used the promise of representation as a marketing stunt for attention, only to stab everyone in the back by saying ‘this isn’t going to be in the book, because we don’t have room’
        Wonder Woman is a book that, after Marguerite Bennett wrote had wrote several issues, threw the queer woman writer off and gave it to the white guy who had already had his chance. Even worse, I remember rumours (though don’t quote me) that she left because DC valued the creative input of known sexual harasser to a queer woman. On fucking Wonder Woman (credit where credit is due, Rucka managed to get Eddie Berganza thrown off Wonder Woman. Too late for Bennett, though).
        Wonder Woman is a book where a guy who has already written an iconic, famous run is writing Wonder Woman. During the time before DC Rebirth was released, and I was mostly optimistic, I was disappointed at this choice. I love Rucka’s work, but when you already have an iconic run several writers ago, let someone else have a go. As unhappy as I am with Waid and Ewing’s Avengers at the moment, the last thing I want is Hickman to come back, despite his amazing work. Let someone else have a chance to write a great Wonder Woman run.
        Even if it is a quality book, Wonder Woman is full of shit that I don’t care for.

        After the results of the US Election, I have been thinking about a lot of things. It was why I found myself questioning my bored obligation to check the DC section. And it has strengthened my resolve not to be merciful with DC. I have said from the very beginning that DC Rebirth is born of the same seed that bore GamerGate and Ghostbusters misogyny. Make no mistake, DC Rebirth is nowhere near as horrible as either of those two things. But they come from the same source. And that same source also led to President Trump.
        I don’t know if you have heard about the recent Rimworld controversy in video games, where it was revealed that a game, designed by a GamerGater, had programmed some truly regressive ideas on gender roles into the game. Some people tried to defend the game by saying that it is still a good game despite this. But there is more than enough good stuff around for me to avoid playing a GamerGater’s game where sexism is hardcoded in. And Wonder Woman’s quality doesn’t change the fact that it is yet another example of a DC book surrounded by shit.

        And I can’t keep hiding the fact that Young Animal has been disappointing. While I still say that Cave Carson is better than you think, it has too many flaws. Mother Panic, at this moment, is relying entirely on trust, by a company that rightly deserves none (Hell, the failure of half their line means you can’t even make a case that Young Animal deserves trust). The first issue completely failed on a story level. There are only the ideas. Shade the Changing Girl is much better than the rest of the line, but it too, has its own flaws. And it doesn’t excite me. Once I look past that desperate attempt to give DC a chance, I have to admit that nothing in Young Animal excites me. Nothing actually interests me.

        So I’m not going to pretend that Young Animal excites me. If I see evidence of DC fixing themselves, I’ll give them another shot. But I’m not going to pretend Young Animal is that first step. If I’m honest, the books aren’t actually working. And DC is still shit

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