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 Dark Knight III: The Master Race 7, The Flash 13, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 11, Mother Panic 2 and Wonder Woman 13. Also, we will be discussing All-Star Batman 5 on Friday and Batgirl 6 on Wednesday, so come back for those! As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Dark Knight III: The Master Race 7
Michael: Hey, remember this drawn-out, unnecessary Dark Knight threequel? Well, either way, it’s back! Superman rushes a gunshot Batman to a Lazarus Pit, Hal Jordan traverses the desert like Lawrence of Arabia and the Kandorians plot to kidnap Superman and Wonder Woman’s son from the Amazons. All of this sounds like it has the potential to be somewhat exciting, no? Maybe it’s because this series wore out its welcome, or maybe it’s because the script feels like it’s going through the motions, but I’m just not feeling invested in the story of Dark Knight III The Master Race 7.
If anyone is benefitting from the overblown, prolonged epic, it’s artist Andy Kubert. Instead of getting fired up about half-assed themes and emotionally hollow plot points, I’ll focus my time on praising the art. If nothing else, Dark Knight III The Master Race 7 is a beautiful book. Kubert keeps your attention throughout the issue as he decompresses one immense visual with several smaller action panels. There are plenty of pages where dialogue and exposition are sparse, and when Andy Kubert is your man that is not a bad thing.
Kubert is already an immensely skilled artist in the comic book world, yet he still impresses me with the way that he adopts Frank Miller’s unique style and employs it as his own. Without context or dialogue, Kubert’s characters in Dark Knight III The Master Race 7 are unmistakably Miller-esque in their design: Wonder Woman, Carrie and Lara in particular. This is a rough series, but Andy Kubert makes it that much more tolerable.
Spencer: There’s one deceptively simple idea running through The Flash 13: take time to listen to the people around you, and good things will follow. Joshua Williamson and Neil Googe are able to spin that moral into a fun, thoughtful, and downright charming one-off tale that’s a perfect fit for the holiday season, yet is really applicable to anyone at any time.
While Barry and Iris go on a date, Kid Flash throws down with Tar Pit, who’s attempting to rob a toy store. Tar Pit mentions a few times that there’s more going on than Kid Flash realizes, but it takes Wally a while to slow down enough to actually listen to Tar Pit; once he does, he discovers that the Rogue’s niece and nephew are being held hostage, and is able to save the day. Barry and Iris, meanwhile, put their phones, jobs, and all other distractions aside and, for the first time in their relationship, really talk to each other, listen, and hash out why their previous attempts at dating haven’t worked, what they want out of this relationship, and what they need to do to make that happen. Both stories are just so positive and lighthearted, grounded in the idea that people have the capacity to come together, do wonderful things, and make each other happy if only they put in the effort.
Something else that makes this issue so refreshing is how Williamson and Googe are building the Allen/West family. They aren’t just saying that they feel like family, but showing it — in this case, Wally does so by using his abilities to give Barry and Iris a distraction/supervillain-free date night, not only because he loves Iris so much, but because both have done so much for Wally over the last few months, and he wants to repay the favor. Maybe I’m just a big softy, but man, this issue punched me right in the heart.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 11
Patrick: There’s a certain amount of club membership I like to feel when reading Green Lantern comics. I’ve put in the fucking investment, and I want to feel like that investment is being rewarded. Sometimes that means delivering on plot lines that have been circling conclusions for over a decade, and sometimes it just means celebrating the underlying iconography of these characters. In concluding “Bottled Light,” writer Robert Venditti, artist Rafa Sandoval, and colorist Tomeau Morey, lean in to two very compelling visual ideas: a giant Orange Lantern logo and the swirling power of Yellow vs. Green. It makes me feel like I belong, and that my membership is being rewarded.
John has a plan to get get them out of their Brainiac Bottle! He’s going to stage a fight between the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps to convince Larfleeze that he needs to release them in order to not risk them killing each other. It’s a cute plan, and plays off of the well-established mania of the character, but what I find most impressive about it is the way Morey fills the pages with streaks and waves of yellow and green. I mostly know Morey as a muted colorist, working in the blues, grays and browns of Gotham City, but his sharp, bright, graphic work here is astounding. John and Soranik are putting on a show, but it’s not just for Larfleeze’s benefit: it’s also for ours.
And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the giant Orange Lantern logo that appears in the sky above them. Our shrunken heroes are seeing the emblem on Larfleeze’s chest — y’know, because he has a habit of clutching his prize possessions to his chest (and shouting “MINE!”). From their perspective, that logo stretches across the heavens. Sandoval and Morey seem to be as in-love with that image as I am.
We’ve seen Sandoval use this kind of layout before, with a large circular object in the center and wide rectangular panels above and below hinting at the shape of the Green Lantern logo. I LOVE seeing the same treatment applied to a another logo. And honestly, if the page was just John floating in the middle of that squat little devil of an insignia, I’d love that too.
It’s all so perfectly demonstrative of what I like about these characters and their world. Venditti sees it too — he has both John and Hal utter the line “Lar-frickin’-fleeze” the former with a wry smile and the latter with a clenched fist. They’re showing the same recognition I’m experiencing, which makes Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps one of the Rebirth series that is purposefully about this kind of celebration of the past, rather than a weird by-product of an obsession with the past.
Mother Panic 2
Drew: How well do you need to understand a character’s past to understand their actions in the present? I suppose that depends on the nature of the action in the present — nobody needs a deep dark explanation for why they grab a coffee on their way to work or whatever — but becoming a superhero is such an extraordinary action that an origin story is absolutely necessary. I recently praised Invincible Iron Man for deploying that origin in flashbacks, giving us the essential details in the first issue, and filling in some of the more nuanced details in the second. Mother Panic 2 relies on a similar flashback structure, but tends to focus on the details first, thwarting our understanding of what drove Violet to don a costume in the first place. It develops some intrigue, but does so at the expense of our ability to relate to her in the present.
It’s also a decidedly unfamiliar superhero origin. Violet kills her own father for apparently offering her up as a sexual object as part of some kind of business deal. Only, her father claims that he was actually talking about her mother. We only get a short snippet of the conversation she overheard that led her to her first conclusion, and while it’s easy to suspect they’re talking about sexual favors, it’s far from explicit. Perhaps Violet’s father was trading his wife’s sanity. He was certainly up to something monstrous, but without a better understanding of how well Violet followed up her Father’s claims, we don’t really know what specifically she’s avenging here.
She eventually catches up with Hemsley — the man who was making that deal with her father — but it’s hard to tell if she’s more interested in the children he’s trafficking or her own personal vendetta. And its hard to know if that vendetta is about the threat to her as a child, some lasting impact Hemsley may have had on her mother, or the fact that she may have killed her father under false pretenses. Throw in the fact that her motives (whatever they may be) drove her to wear a costume (a white costume, as Batwoman points out), and it feels like we need a bit more information to really be with her. We can’t relate to Violet’s inability to kill Hemsley because we don’t quite have the specifics on why she had to kill him in the first place. I’m still intrigued by this character, but without more biographical information to empathize with, I can’t claim to understand her in the least.
Wonder Woman 13
Mark: I have a lot of nice things to say about Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp’s first Wonder Woman arc together, “The Lies,” but I wouldn’t say it’s been a particularly fun string of comics. Dealing with heavy themes and streamlining continuity left little room for levity. Working as a bridge between “The Lies” and the forthcoming “The Truth,” Wonder Woman 13 is a little more pulpy than we’ve seen in the past (in this one of two current Wonder Woman stories, anyway), and points a way for this series moving forward.
With Diana all but out of commission, Rucka and artist Renato Guedes center the issue around Steve Trevor — a potentially risky proposition. I’ve discussed in the past how Trevor is often boring on his own, but Rucka and Guedes sidestep this problem by functionally turning him into Rambo. And while “meathead beats meatbags real good” doesn’t do much to deepen Trevor’s overall characterization, it is at least compelling to watch the action unfold. Plus, Trevor’s letter to Diana continues to sell their shared connection. Again, it’s nothing new, but it does make Trevor’s loyalty to Diana seem real.
I’ve enjoyed how tonally different “The Lies” has been from “Year One,” so I’m not looking for them to become overly similar, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of Wonder Woman 13‘s kick-ass attitude carry over into the rest of the odd-numbered issues in the future.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?