DC Round-Up: Comics Released 12/28/16

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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 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.

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Dark Knight III: The Master Race 7

dark-knight-iii-master-race-7Michael: 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.

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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.

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Flash 13

flash-13Spencer: 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.

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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.

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Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 11

hal-jordan-and-the-green-lantern-corps-11Patrick: 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.

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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.

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Mother Panic 2

mother-panic-2Drew: 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.

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Wonder Woman 13

wonder-woman-13Mark: 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.

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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.

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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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3 comments on “DC Round-Up: Comics Released 12/28/16

  1. Slightly disappointed you guys didn’t so anything on Detective Comics, as I was interested in your take.

    From what I’ve heard, it has the unsinkable Stephanie Brown, the character defined by her ability to never give up and represent hope, give up and fall into despair. Between that and other stuff, sounds really stupid.

    Kind of laughing at how Detective Comics andNightwing are showing that Rebirth means that writers arw writing stuff not even consistent with their own takes on the characters

    • Sorry this hot take took so long, I’ve been meaning to reply to this for a while and just haven’t had time:

      Honestly, I’d say this Spoiler story is pretty consistent with Tynion’s New 52 take on the character, but not the Miller-hope-Batgirl take. The thing is, the Pre-Boot Stephanie was a character who chose to stand up to her father and become a hero over a period of time. She earned that hope. New 52 Steph was thrown into the life and forced to become Spoiler to save her own neck. In Batman Eternal we saw that she was actively SCARED of Batman at first and considered him a bad guy, and much of why she’s stuck to being Spoiler is because she 1. doesn’t really have anywhere else to go and 2. because it kept her close to Harper and Cass and Tim especially.

      So yeah, I can see this take on Steph, who’s already more fraught and uncertain about Batman AND being a hero in the first place, kinda falling apart and losing faith in the whole concept of superheroes without Tim. There’s still some really good character work in her half-turn here. Steph “takes down” the rest of her team, but when the First Victim assumes that mean Steph’s on her side, Steph kicks her in the face and says “what are you crazy? You attacked innocent civilians! I’m not on your side!” Steph isn’t a bad guy, but given everything she’s seen, she thinks Batman is causing more harm than good. She’s wrong, but given her current state, it’s hard to blame her. I think she’ll make an interesting foil to the team, trying to “spoil” their operations without actively endangering or hurting anyone. And it’s clearly not going to last.

      Honestly, the problem with this arc — and with this run of Detective as a whole — isn’t the character work on the main cast (that’s been pretty uniformly great), it’s the villains. We’ve been over the issues with Jake Kane, even if I don’t feel as strongly about it as most. And the Victims Syndicate were never as clever as Tynion thought them to be (Tomasi used a similar concept early in his New 52 Batman and Robin run. It didn’t work there either). They thought Batman was hurting more people than he was helping, and they’re not wrong that Batman can’t save every innocent victim he comes across, but NOBODY asked the one question that could have resolved the whole argument: what about the villains? Sure, one of the victim’s syndicate may have been hurt in, say, a joker attack, but what would have happened if Batman wasn’t there? They, along with dozens more people, would have died. That goes for the entire syndicate in each situation. Both the Syndicate and the issues/Batman/Tynion himself act like Batman was straight-up hurting people himself directly, and that was NEVER the actual problem or conflict here.

      I still like Detective a lot — it’s a fun, well balanced team book with great characters — but Tynion’s got a lot of work to do to get some more compelling villains in the mix.

      • Except even before the Miller days, Stephanie was never a character who would give up. It was Miller where she truly earned the ‘hope’ aspect, but the most defining trait of hers has always been bottomless determination. The whole point was that no matter what happened, she got up and kept fighting because THAT IS WHAT YOU DO! Batman didn’t want her fighting crime, Robin didn’t want her fighting crime, and she fought anyway. In those early days, every story would end with someone telling her to retire, only for her to be back in costume soon. The only story that I can think of where Stephanie ever gives up is inarguably the worst Stephanie Brown story of all time, and even that story was ultimately about her determination. War Games begun because she refused to give up, and even after getting horrifically tortured to the point of briefly giving up, she managed to escape her chains, then beat Black Mask in a fight through sheer force of will. And this is her written at her worst. It wasn’t Miller who defined her as the person that would never give up.

        And the reboot did the exact same thing. Yeah, in Eternal she was originally scared thanks to an encounter as a child. But honestly, it doesn’t manifest at all when she becomes Spoiler. By the time she suits up, she has grown beyond it, to the point where she was successfully able to use Batman in achieving her own goals with ease, by leveraging her knowledge of his patrol paths. And more importantly, the climax of her arc in Batman Eternal was the fact that she realised she could never give up. That it wasn’t in her nature. Her origin complete with this key realisation, she was then built up as a person whose great advantage is the fact that despite her lack of skills (remember that? How this was part of her character in Batman and Robin Eternal? Now, for some godforsaken reason, she has the ability to execute complicated attacks but struggles to… keep fighting. The literal exact opposite of what she has always been), she truly had the mental fortitude perfect. When faced with the guy who is an expert at getting in your head, she noselled him.
        And your depiction of her as forced into being Spoiler and stuck is wrong. She was forced to go on the run, but she wasn’t forced to become Spoiler. Spoiler was her taking initiative. An active decision. She didn’t have to, but she had the choice to go from running and hiding to actively opposing. And the idea that she is stuck as Spoiler ‘because she 1. doesn’t really have anywhere else to go and 2. because it kept her close to Harper and Cass and Tim especially’ is so especially wrong. There was no need for her to stay as Spoiler to stay with Harper and Cullen. She lives with Harper because, under all of Harper’s attitude, Harper actually likes Stephanie. It is actual text that Harper is impressed and inspired by Stephanie (interesting note. The thing that actually makes Stephanie inspire Harper? The fact that she never gave up and her head is still screwed on straight after great tragedy destroyed her world). She didn’t stay as Spoiler because she had no other choice. She stayed as Spoiler because she knew she could never give up helping people. Which is why immediately after Eternal, she went out on her own, personal missions, without any other hero, while leveraging the Catwomen to help her own personal development. She wasn’t stuck, or fraught and uncertain. Instead, she found it fulfilling, and loved fighting crime alongside Batgirl.
        And the idea that Cass or Tim had anything to do with anything is even more laughable. Stephanie was already well established in he rlife when Cass came along, and then never got the chance to spend much time with her, not being comfortable with her at first and then missing the chance to bond with her the Harper got. Tim was a stranger that she thought was hot, and then they went off in their own directions. He was caught up in whatever ‘on the run’ story Teen Titans had, while she was busy in Gotham and Burnside. They had no relationship. Instead, she developed relationships through the female side of the Batfamily (which is of course ignored, because Rebirth wants to purge that sort of non straight white male stuff from comics). She has a closer relationship to Dinah than Tim, honestly. Which is why the Steph/Tim stuff is so stupid. Because telling the story of how Steph and Tim started a relationship (you know, what comics are supposed to do) is a much better idea than simply placing them in a lovey dovey relationship lacking the conflict that made the original iteration work so well (oh, and while we are at it, Stephanie isn’t supposed to be a genius. Ordinary intelligence. Has the potential to go far, but only if she truly applies herself. I’m pretty sure I remember Tynion also reestablished that fact).
        Your argument comes down to rewriting history to line up with what Rebirth is telling you history is. But that’s not what actually happened.

        And so I categorically reject the idea that Stephanie’s ‘never give up’ attitude is just a Miller invention
        And I categorically reject the idea that Tynion wrote a Stephanie anywhere close to what you were describing.
        And I categorically reject the idea that the Tynion’s Stephanie Brown was the sort of person who gave up, or would let someone like the First Victim get in their head, or self destruct due to great tragedy. Because Tynion’s Stephanie faced all those before and kept going. You can talk about how she’ll make a great foil, but that’s the same logic used when Cassandra Cain was turned evil and started killing people (hell, even the same justification is being used). Stephanie Brown shouldn’t be the one who gives up on the idea of saving people. Stephanie Brown shouldn’t be the one who has everyone lecture her about how important it is to keep fighting the good fight. Stephanie Brown shouldn’t be the one who runs around sabotaging superheroes’ attempts to help, because she has lost the will to fight on and is lashing out. This has never been her character, even when Tynion was writing her. Find someone else to do that role.

        But then, I also categorically reject the idea that Kate Kane had an interest in being part of Batman’s crusade, instead of building her own, personal mission that was all about her.
        Or the idea that Cassandra’s friendship with Stephanie started by something as simple as ‘Cassandra kept turning up to Stephanie’s place because she liked Stephanie’ instead of them learning to respect each other’s strengths and find inspiration in the other’s abilities, before finally bonding over the discovery of shared experience.
        Or that Batman sees the Batfamily as threats to be managed, and not people to nurture
        And Tynion agreed with me, until Rebirth happened and all the characters fundamentally changed and got reduced to simplistic wiki entries

        The villains are terrible, and the fact that Tynion tries to make the villains a big deal is certainly a major weakness. But so is the fact that the characters are written so badly. That I can’t see a page without seeing a bunch of stuff that is either hopelessly simplistic or completely and utterly wrong. It is bad by Rebirth standards, and that is saying something

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