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 20, Green Lanterns 20, Shade the Changing Girl 7 and Superman 20. Also, we’ll be discussing Batman 20 on Wednesday (sorry about the wait!), so come back for that! As always, this article containers SPOILERS!
Green Arrow 20
Michael: With the close of Green Arrow 20, “The Return of Roy Harper” meets its conclusion. Do the ends justify the means? Debatable. I am very happy to see Roy back in cahoots with Green Arrow, but a lot of the backstory presented — specifically in this issue — feels very rushed and less impactful than it was intended.
We have yet another flashback where Green Arrow finds Speedy in a state of disarray — this time strung out on heroin — and he just gets angry/disappointed and leaves. I understand that this is supposed to be the tragic backstory that broke the duo apart but the lack of compassion on Oliver’s part is laughable.
Benjamin Percy’s new iteration of Count Vertigo returns to prey upon the vulnerable Speedy, offering the numbing sensation that Roy seeks from drugs and alcohol. I thought this was a unique twist, but instead of playing into a metaphor for addiction Vertigo’s influence on Roy is merely mind-control. After Vertigo’s spell is broken, Roy declares that he is leaving Green Arrow and wants to blaze his own trail — seemingly free of addiction…?
Addiction is a serious and complicated matter that I just don’t feel got the attention it deserved in Green Arrow. Roy is an addict because he says he’s an addict, but it never feels authentic because we don’t see it in his actions.
The message we’re supposed to take about Roy and Ollie is muddled. Nothing illustrates this better than Eleanor Carlini’s side-by-side visual of Ollie coming to Roy’s rescue. This makes it seem like Oliver is Roy’s perpetual savior but that is not the case at all.
Green Lanterns 20
Mark: In our write-up of Green Lanterns 19 I expressed my hope that Jessica Cruz would have a chance to shine in future issues, and that’s clearly what writer Sam Humphries had in mind all along. Jessica’s journey as a Green Lantern has been all about learning to overcome and control her fear, and Humphries gives her a strong character moment in the opening pages of the issue as Jessica is able to turn what was once her greatest liability into her greatest strength.
Fear is also what drives Neal Emerson to finally give himself over to his Doctor Polaris persona — the fear that he will fail his brother Seth and fear that he’s already failed himself. The Doctor Polaris in his mind coerces Neal with the promise of respect and power, but it’s only when Neal feels completely powerless that he finally gives in to his darkest instincts.
While there’s sure to be plenty of superhero beat-em-up action at the climax of this arc, the groundwork has been laid for an emotional showdown that is equally satisfying.
Shade, the Changing Girl 7
Drew: Body Snatchers by way of Freaky Friday has always been a solid premise, but the slow pacing of Shade, the Changing Girl has prevented it from growing beyond that premise. There were interesting elements to explore in that holding pattern, but the series lacked for a grander sense of direction. Issue 7 lays out some much clearer motivations for Shade, and finally points her towards those goals.
It’s a surprisingly full issue, and each element is so satisfying, it’s difficult to know where to start. Shade shares her backstory — one of alienation and a deep longing for something different — with River and Teacup, and starts to see them as part of her “flock.” That is, for the first time in her life, she trusts and wants to be around people. Writer Cecil Castellucci cleverly leans into the alien nature of Megan’s body, forcing Shade to question whether these feelings are the result of personal growth, or some kind of hormonal artefact. Either way, she reveals her greatest aspirations for her visit to Earth: what amounts to a sightseeing tour, albeit with some woefully anachronistic goals including “ride a dinosaur.”
Establishing just how new Shade is to friendship makes teacups sudden-but-inevitable betrayal all the more heartbreaking, as Shade is effectively tarred and feathered at the school dance. She vows to leave Valley Ville to start her tour without her flock, setting a new direction for the series while emphasizing the loss of friendships she forged over the previous arc.
It’s a strong issue, made all the stronger by new artist Marguerite Sauvage, who brings a charm that really highlights the teen drama elements, all while maintaining the trippier imagery and layouts Marley Zarcone had established as this series’ style. The two come together beautifully in the issue’s finale, as the drama overwhelms Shade, sending her into a madness-induced hallucination that we might otherwise understand as a subjective experience of the scene.
That’s good stuff. Together, the new art and new direction gives me a renewed excitement for this series. Bring on the road trip!
Spencer: I love that Superman is raising his son in the country. He may have made Metropolis his home as an adult, but it just makes sense to me that he’d want to instill in Jon the same down-home principals that made him the man he is today. And it’s clear how much Clark loves his new home — in an issue filled to the brim with expressive, iconic art from Patrick Gleason, his strongest moment is simply the sheer warmth and love that bleeds onto the page as Clark contemplates his current life.
That doesn’t mean life on the farm is perfect, though. Though she often comes across as a model housewife in this issue, Lois’ pained glances at the mail addressed to “Mrs. Kent” betray a longing for her former independence, and perhaps even her former city life now that her family no longer has to live in the country in order to hide their identities (Clark, for his part, brushes off her concerns).
Even the country itself seems to be hiding some dark secrets. Batman suspects that something about the Kents’ home is stunting Jon’s growth, making him skeptical about the very environment Clark adores so much. Gleason and Peter Tomasi even frame Batman’s investigation as bit of a dark reflection of the page I posted above.
The thing is, Batman’s right; there’s something sinister going on at Cobbs’ Dairy, something that’s even been hinted at in previous Superman issues. This is a wonderful exploration of the duality of the country — which can simultaneously be free and wholesome but also creepy and regressive — but likewise a clever test of Clark’s values. Is his new rural life worthy of his intense affection, or is his optimism misguided? If Gleason and Tomasi continue to explore those questions with the humor, affection, and style that define this issue (seriously, this is a superb issue), this storyline should be a blast.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?