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 Green Arrow 12, Green Lanterns 12, Nightwing 10, Shade the Changing Girl 3 and Superman 12. Also, we’ll be discussing Batman 12 tomorrow, and Midnighter and Apollo 3 on Tuesday, so come back for those! As always, this article containers SPOILERS!
Green Arrow 12
Michael: I love when creators lean hard into the liberal roots that O’Neill/Adams bestowed upon Oliver Queen. Green Arrow 12 puts Oliver back on the path of the righteous crusader: helping the helpless and sticking it to the man, all with a smile on his face. For a guy who’s lost his civilian life, his home and all of his money Oliver Queen sure is pretty chipper. Benjamin Percy convinces me that Oliver feels this way: optimistic confident about the future with his mission and lady love by his side. Black Canary’s job in this series is to humble Oliver at every turn – here she reminds him that he needs to help others above himself.
That philosophy is in direct conflict with an old “friend” of Oliver who’s running for Mayor of Seattle. Nathan Domini prides himself in taking care of number one first and stokes the flames of anger by encouraging the crowd gathered to “get rid of” a protestor in the crowd. Does that remind you of anyone? Percy and Otto Schmidt depict several real-world echoes in Green Arrow 12, including the debating talking heads of the 24-hour news cycle and the all too familiar examples of police brutality.
I really enjoyed the sequence of public opinion of Green Arrow; I found them equally humorous and eerily real. The character of Green Arrow is starting to feel like he has some real weight again in his community. All of this will become more interesting after he’s been framed for murder. Final thought: what’s up with that douche cop’s haircut? I don’t think that’s regulation
Green Lanterns 12
Patrick: I live and work in Los Angeles. That means whenever I’m on stage doing comedy or in the studio recording a podcast or at home writing, there are hundreds of people within 10 miles of me doing the exact same thing with varying levels of talent, experience and success. There are a million outlets for my creativity, but each outlet comes with the implied question “what makes me worthy to express myself?” I ask this question literally every day. And while I’m not sure I have a satisfactory answer to why I deserve to goof around on stage or pontificate on the meanings of comic books, the fact of the matter is that I do get to. The only malevolent force trying to stop me is my own self-doubt and fear. This quality unites me with the protagonists, antagonists, and (presumably) the creators of Green Lanterns 12.
I’m making that presumption because writer Sam Humphries is an LA guy, so he’s gotta know what I’m talking about. But while I’m guessing / projecting on Humphries, Frank, Simon and Jessica all explicitly state their imposter syndrome in this issue. Sure, Simon and Jess have been “selected” by the Green Lantern rings, but they both readily admit that they don’t know what that means, or even if the rings are capable of being infallible. In that way, the rings are a little bit like passion. I can’t tell you what draws me to comedy, or to comic books, but I can tell you that the feeling is less like picking a direction and more like the direction picking me. And any time I bomb on stage or fucking forget what sector Sinestro is from (I’m like 90% sure it’s 1417), I have to ask whether the passion was right to select me.
It’s a shitload of doubt that Humphries is tossing around here, and I suppose it’s a tad ironic how confidently that message comes across. Humphries has been tapping Volthoom for the length of this story, and this issue reintroduces the Green Lantern Memorial Park. Both of these are mythological elements put in place by the master of Green Lantern mythos Geoff Johns, in the “Wrath of the First Lantern” and “Blackest Night” stories, respectively. By invoking them, Humphries is channeling that same authority. You know how we sometimes start our conversations with a pull quote from someone much more accomplished than Drew or I? Yeah, that’s what Humphries is doing.
And goddammit if it doesn’t work. Compared to all the other tools he’s playing with, Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz, and Frank Laminsky are clean slates. Humphries and artist Eduaro Pansica carefully express Cruz and Baz’s anxieties in subtly different ways, allowing the reader to get a sense of how they process self-doubt in real-time.
There’s no prescription for self-doubt in the this issue, but it is easy to see our own self-doubt reflected in one of these characters. Whether we overcompensate (like Frank), try to put limits on others (like Simon) or shrink away to inaction (like Jessica), we’ve got a spineless avatar in this book.
Mark: With the release of new Gilmore Girls in the form of a Netflix mini-series (or something), I’ve been making my way through the original episodes again. I had forgotten how apparent it’s made in the pilot episode that Lorelai and Luke have a thing for each other, which in the world of television means that they’re definitely destined to end up together. Finally, at the end of Season 4 they’re “thing” became official, much to the delight of fans.
But, of course, stories run on conflict. So even though Lorelai and Luke were together, the happiness couldn’t last for long because there was still an indefinite number of seasons ahead. They had to break up so that whenever the series ended they could really, truly, finally end up together for real. As a fan, watching their relationship ebb and flow was frustrating because we knew where things were ultimately heading, but from a storytelling perspective I can appreciate why it was a necessary device.
I felt a similar sense of frustration, and understanding, when reading Nightwing 10. How could Dick Grayson possibly need to spend his time in Blüdhaven learning to trust himself in order to trust others again? It’s so incredibly regressive for a character whose main charm is his confidence. But on the other hand, I can appreciate Tim Seeley feeling the need to take Grayson in this direction. It’s a stalling device, but maybe a necessary one. Still it’s bound to try the patience of fans who are used to a quippy and fun Dick Grayson.
Seeley and artist Marcus To do include some humor in the issue, though, if you’re on the lookout for it. Perhaps my favorite bit is when Grayson is having a lazy day, taking some time to reconnect with the hobbies he used to love. One panel, he’s shown reading the novel Robin Hood. A little bit later (after watching a bit of Lost World of the Warlord, an egregiously named Game of Thrones parody), he’s put the novel aside to indulge in the latest issue of Robin Hood Rebirth 1.
I like the way “Hood” is written in tiny lettering. If you’re reading fast, it’s easy to miss entirely.
Shade the Changing Girl 3
Drew: We take it for granted that the logical parts of our mind work in synch with our emotions, but that’s actually a remarkably fragile balancing act. Trip up either side of that equation — logical thoughts or emotions — and you end up with overwhelming feelings that are seemingly beyond your control. Drugs are one way someone might alter that equation, prompting illogical feelings of euphoria and joy (or, it should be said, paranoia and aggression, depending on the drugs), but our own brain development walks us right through an array of imbalances between those forces. Teens in particular have a fully developed emotional palette, but lack the developed prefrontal cortex essential for logical decisions, often leading to impetuous, selfish, even reckless behavior. It’s a tale as old as time, but Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone continue to find new ground simply by separating their hero from her emotions, allowing her to comment on them directly, even as she’s powerless to stop them.
The issue opens with Shade experiencing fear, remarking on how different the human physiological response to fear is from her own. The thing she’s fearing: swimming. She knows she can do it in her own body, but is much less confident swimming as a human. Of course, some of that fear may come from her human body, which seems to have latent responses to emotional triggers. Shade has remarked on trying to place emotional reactions to Cupcake and Wes, but this time, the trigger might be the idea of swimming itself, as though her body remembers nearly drowning.
These trickles of memories become a stream, forcing Shade to dig into Megan’s history, only to discover that she truly is a monster. It’s a conclusion we’ve long arrived at, but for Shade to make the leap required revealing herself a bit, first to River, who helps fill in the blanks on Megan’s life, then to her frenemies, who she attacks in a bid to reclaim Megan’s life.
The cat seems to be out of the bag, which will undoubtedly push Shade down an unexpected path. At least, it’s not the path I was expecting at this point. I’m excited to see where this turn of events takes things.
Spencer: Part of why I love Back to the Future so much is because it’s such a tightly-written, well-constructed movie — every scene serves a purpose in the narrative, and practically every line of dialogue either sets a plot point up or delivers a payoff. Sadly, that level of care is rarely possible in the monthly grind of superhero comics, but even then, there are certain books that almost seem to bask in digressions. Superman 12 is one of those issues, and while it absolutely could be tighter, amazingly, not all of its digressions are a bad thing.
This issue mainly serves as a prologue to the “Super-Monster” storyline: Frankenstein (a perennial favorite guest star of writers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason) is hunting Lois’ new boss Candice, and by the end of the issue, has revealed her to be some sort of monster/alien/”outcast.” There’s quite a bit to like about this story, including Doug Mahnke’s bombastic art and Lois’ more active role in the plot and action, but there’s also quite a bit of this issue that’s padding, meant to stretch things out until we reach the cliffhanger. Especially frustrating is Superman and Frankenstein’s fight, where Frankenstein refuses to just tell Superman why he’s chasing Candice and instead essentially just keeps poking the most powerful man on the planet. I understand that this kind of conflict is a favorite trope of superhero comics, but that doesn’t make it any less tiresome.
In spite of all that, though, this issue’s most pointless digression also ends up being its most enjoyable moment.
Mahnke nails the physical humor of this moment, but there’s more to love about this farmer’s stand than just the laughs. This man sees Superman in trouble, and resolutely stands up to the monster attacking him with nothing more than a shotgun. Sure, it’s played for laughs, but it also shows the effect Superman has on people, how he inspires people to stand up and protect other people and always do the right thing. If Superman‘s story is going to continue at this pace, I can only hope all of its digressions continue to be this fun and rich.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?