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 Detective Comics 945, The Flash 11 and Wonder Woman 11. Also, we’ll be discussing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 9 on Tuesday, and Batgirl 5 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article containers SPOILERS!
Detective Comics 945
Michael: The shine of Detective Comics has worn off, boys and girls. What started off as a Bat-team book with a fun X-Men vibe has devolved into another story with full of recycled Batman themes and ideas. “The Victim Syndicate” asks the age-old question of “does Batman do more harm than good?” While overdone, this question can have merit if executed properly. Unfortunately when that question is posed by a bunch of oddball, knockoff Bat-villains and relative Bat-newbie Stephanie Brown.
Perhaps my issues with the conflicts of Detective Comics 945 lay in their foundations: the fallout of “Rise of the Batmen.” Stephanie’s rage and Batman’s self-doubt are based on the Red Robin’s “death” and Batwoman is still dealing with the villainous turn of her father Jacob Kane. Tynion focuses Kate’s anger on Batwing/Luke Fox, who has become a veritable Tony Stark. Granted Luke is an ill-defined character but the conflict between him and Batwoman seems like a needless distraction.
I loved Stephanie Brown as Batgirl but her whole theory that Batman is keeping all of the “supervillains’” daughters at arm’s length is…frustrating. There was not a lot to like about Detective Comics 945 in my opinion. Clayface and Azrael’s turns at redemption are welcome additions however. I like Azrael as the penitent soldier who is ready to defend his new home at a moment’s notice. Another interesting notion that Tynion introduces is that Clayface’s morality disintegrates the longer he’s in his clay form. He’s the character to watch in Detective Comics.
The Flash 11
Spencer: Shadows can hold quite a bit of symbolic meaning. In Joshua Williamson and Davide Gianfelice’s Flash 11, the Shade’s shadows are quite obviously meant to represent distrust and fear, but what’s interesting is how this theme applies to both stories being told. The Shade’s so scared that he’ll inevitably return to evil (and lose Hope O’Dare in the process) that his insecurities have taken on life via the Shadowlands and the power they grant him, bringing the Shade’s worst nightmares to life. Meanwhile, the Flash’s fear for and distrust of Wally, well intentioned as they may be, drive the kid right into the Shadowlands in an attempt to prove himself.
Williamson seems to be saying that fear and insecurity are natural, but that you can’t let them fester until they become destructive to yourself or others. Instead, you simply have to accept, own up to, and attempt to fix your mistakes.
It feels appropriate that Kid Flash delivers this moral. Wally’s owning up to his mistakes (skipping school, going after the Shade alone), which is what he needs to regain the Flash’s trust — and perhaps even make Barry acknowledge his own mistakes as well.
I’ve got mixed feelings about the issue’s use of Hope O’Dare and Iris West, though. In one page Williamson has managed to turn the story’s only two female characters into both damsels-in-distress and villains simultaneously, which is as impressive as it is frustrating. On the other hand, though, seeing them possessed by the shadows presents the possibility to explore both characters’ insecurities the same way we’ve done with Barry and the Shade (Hope’s fear of Shade’s criminal ways and Iris’s fears of the “horror story” of superheroes could easily be driving their actions here). I hope the creative team takes the latter path.
Wonder Woman 11
Patrick: I’ve been doing a Mad Men rewatch — which is good for the brain and heart — and I just got through the season four episode “The Beautiful Girls.” Sally runs away to spend a weekend with Don in the city, Ida Blankenship dies at her desk and Peggy shuts down an anarchist suitor who wants to sell her on women’s libration. They’re all fascinating stories, but I think the most interesting is Peggy’s indignation at the idea that women would need a civil rights movement in the same way African Americans did. It’s not to say that she doesn’t perceive herself as totally welcome in the environment of SCDP, but that there was no movement propping up her success when she needed it, so why should she pretend it’s important now. She’s trying to live an apolitical life, but her moment in history doesn’t really support the idea that anyone could be apolitical – something that Abe smartly points out. To bring this back around to Wonder Woman: Diana in an inherently political character, but what her politics mean is necessarily dependent on the moment in history she is acting in. In issue 11, Liam Sharp and Greg Rucka suggest that all of her history has been a lie, demanding that we not adhere to the political message of any previous iterations of the character.
Mind you, it’s not like this issue has much in the way of what we should expect of Diana, politically speaking. Call it a conclusion if you want, nothing here is wrapped up in a neat bow. In fact, I’m left with more questions than I’ve ever had reading this series. Questions like: do we know anything about Diana’s past? Why would someone fabricate her memories? Where are Diana and Steve now? Sharp knows he’s got to spin some conceptually tricky plates in this issue, and he deploys some very strict layouts to keep all the action as orderly as possible. Panel dividers are thick and deliberate, almost always at fat right angles to each other. The mythology might be folding back over and negating itself, but the incident of this issue is neatly stacked with no room for confusion.
I love that fourth panel – the lasso of truth is perfect for the center panel for both thematic and visual purposes, and it really speaks to the strength of Sharp’s storytelling.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?