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 Batgirl 8, Flash 17, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 15, Kamandi Challenge 2, and Wonder Woman 17. Also, we’ll be discussing Justice League of America 1 on Tuesday, so come back for that! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Ryan M: Costumed superhero stories are inherently a story of duality. The cowl of the hero versus the everyday life of a person. In Batgirl 8, Babs is living in a Burnside that is both the struggling neighborhood she left, and the epicenter of tech money. Babs dates and investigates the same guy. Strangers on the street become safe companions if they wear the right badge. Coding is the purview of kid geniuses and villains. Hope Larson expresses all of this in an issue that feels like a slice of life for Babs.
Batgirl takes a back seat for much of the issue, even in a fake-out opening that takes place in what might be the coolest escape room ever. She may have had investigative intentions, but Babs’ date with Cobblepot plays out with her flirting, bantering and blushing. It’s kind of adorable and if he weren’t a tech baddie jerk, I may be into it. In addition to the date, we get to see Babs helping out with the kid coders and her evening with friends at a gentrified laundromat-bar.
What’s great about the scene here is that we get a moment in Babs life that has nothing to do with her hero-ing or even her own ambitions. Instead, the scene is about Alysia’s pain and Babs inability to offer comfort. Alysia and Jo’s path to having a baby is separate from the larger arcs in the series but grounds the story. Adding to the narrative weight of the scene is that Larson places this beat directly before Babs shifts into Batgirl mode for the rest of the issue.
The fight itself looks pretty awesome. Magpie is pretty easily dispatched complete with pop art look.
The scene reminds me why I am glad this is not just a ‘Babs’ normal day’ series, because as compelling as those scenes are, it’s so much fun to see her take down the villains of Burnside with a batarang and a mocking quip.
The Flash 17
Spencer: The Flash 17 digs further into a lot of the ideas I brought up in our discussion of the previous issue. The dynamic between Flash and the Rogues (specifically Captain Cold) all comes down to projection: Barry projects his goals and higher aspirations onto a group who are already more than happy where they are, while Cold and the Rogues project their selfishness onto the Flash.
Barry ultimately rejects Cold’s claim, showing that while, yes, he does enjoy being the Flash, he also simply enjoys making other people’s lives better — he’s always thinking of others, and that’s why he’s so happy. The Rogues, though, after being defeated and imprisoned, embrace Flash’s critique, aiming to do more with their lives by becoming the undisputed crime bosses of Central City. It’s not at all what Barry wanted, but then again, if he ever really understood how the Rogues thought, he wouldn’t have encouraged them to make goals in the first place.
Writer Joshua Williamson crafts a dense, action-packed conclusion, but not all the action tracks. Try as I might, I can’t figure out what Mirror Master and Weather Wizard are trying to do in the following scene, nor what Marco’s random outburst is all about.
Despite Marco’s request, it’s not even raining in this scene!
There’s three credited pencillers (Carmine Di Giandomenico, Davide Gianfelice, and Neil Googe) and two credited colorists (Ivan Plascencia and Chris Sotomayor) working on this issue, and while the transitions between the various teams are never jarring, there are some obvious inconsistencies between their work, such as the lightning effects surrounding the Flash or the Trickster’s age (Axel is supposed to be young, but one of the artists draws him with lots of creases and lines on his face) that are distracting nonetheless. So while I like the speed with which DC can deliver stories with their double-shipping model, I continue to have concerns about its sustainability.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 15
Patrick: The scene above is from one of my favorite stories in Simpsons history: Homer finds a bunch of sugar, and then maniacally chases a better life by trying to sell it door-to-door. The game is so clear — Homer thinks sugar will unlock fame and fortune — that these scenes stand out as a highpoint in the episode. Which episode is it? I have to look it up every time: “Lisa’s Rival.” The A-story in that one is a perfectly serviceable Lisa story, bubbling with all the smarts and irreverence of golden age Simpsons, but it will be forever overshadowed by a simple compelling B-story. That’s what we’ve got going on in Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 15.
Hal and Kyle have discovered the long-lost Blue Lantern Saint Walker on a planet that appears to be the living embodiment of misery. This arc is titled “The Quest for Hope,” and Hal, Kyle and Walker are three enormous mythological gears in the great Green Lantern plot engine, but nothing really happens on Misery World. There’s some weird split-screen wish fulfillment kind of stuff, but a) I’m not totally clear on how that came out of Misery World’s attackand b) Hal and Kyle’s visions of their ideal futures are hollow and generic. A family? Spreading light throughout the galaxy? Non-specific and boring.
The juicy part of this issue, and the thing that my mind keeps going back to when I reflect on it, is Guy Gardner challenging Arkillo to a bare-ringfinger brawl. Frankly, I’m not even sure if Guy’s math makes any sense — Arkillo is less a Gardner analogue than the classic supervillain attack-dog — but the broader idea is too fucking cool to put down. Two blowhard idiots taking off their ultra-powerful space rings to duke it out and decide who gets to be the wildcard on the combined Green-Yellow Lantern corps? Hell yes. Plus, it means we get to see Guy in full-douchebag mode (and nothing could really make me happier).
It is a bummer that Guy’s adventure is the most proactive the storytelling gets in this issue. Writer Robert Venditti makes the baffling choice to illustrate the Green-Yellow team-ups through John and Soranik announcing the partnerships. It’s a waste of space: my mind does theoretical match-ups of Lanterns all the time, and it never starts with them getting the assignment. Put those motherfuckers in action!
Kamandi Challenge 2
Drew: Less a coherent narrative and more a silly writing exercise, Kamandi Challenge definitely isn’t for everyone. I have no doubt that it’s fun for the creators to make — that fun is actually communicated quite well — though I’m not sure “fun” is enough to justify this series. Indeed, without any real characters or motivations beyond “run for your life,” this series reads more like a list of cliffhangers than an actual story. We can read those cliffhangers with a smile, knowing that one writer is leaving a mess for another to clean up, but unfortunately, “cleaning up messes” doesn’t make for a satisfying through-line.
This month finds Peter Tomasi teaming up with Neal Adams to deal with the massive nuclear missile currently counting down in Tiger City. Their solution: it’s not a bomb, after all. Instead, it’s a trojan horse the gorillas used to infiltrate Tiger City. It’s a goofy twist, but is kind of irrelevant: Kamandi needs to run away in either case. Upon running away, Kamandi finds a…time machine? Transportation device? Magic chair? Whatever it is, it carries him to his next cliffhanger — literally jumping off of a cliff.
It’s fun, yes, and Neal Adams lends it some of his signature dynamic style, but it’s hard not to read this issue as a belabored transition between two cliffhangers. It’s all about how it “solves” the previous cliffhanger before creating another of its own. I suppose that’s why they called it Kamandi Challenge and not Kamandi Satisfying Reading Experience, but it really feels fixated on the creative process over all else. That lends it a certain kind of creative interest, but definitely not a narrative one.
Wonder Woman 17
Michael: We are 17 issues in Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman and I still can’t really tell you what is “The Truth” and what are “The Lies” when it comes to Diana Prince. Diana’s inability to reconcile what memories she can trust is what landed her in Nightsong Hospital in the first place.
Once again Diana is visited by the snake who tries to help her make sense of it all. The snake’s intentions aren’t clear but it’s highly likely that he’s not a friend, right? He does a little bit of word association with Diana, for what I assume is to find the location of Themyscira. Everyone wants to find Themyscira these days.
Liam Sharp reveals the snake’s deviousness panel by panel in this sequence. The snake goes from cartoony to menacing to ghoulish and skeletal. This is all framed in front of that mysterious rotted tree that we keep coming back to. The combo of tree and menacing snake makes me think Garden of Eden, but no particular Greek myth.
Just like Mr. Snake, Veronica is playing her own little manipulation game. In order to find Themyscira she needs a demigod, so she threatens team Wonder Woman in order for Barbara Ann to transform into The Cheetah once again.
Veronica frames this proposal to Barbara as if it’s this grand opportunity of feminist empowerment. Instead of being controlled by the “misogynistic demigod” Urzkartaga, she’d be the one in charge of that power and grace. That’s a very corporate/political turn of phrase but I dunno. She’s still gonna be a cheetah lady…so I don’t see the upside in that argument.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?
Flash was so great and weirdly tragic in his handling of the relationship. Williamson nails the Flash V Rogues dynamic as unique cycle that can occasionally evolve, and not always for the better.