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 The Flash 20, New Super-Man 10 and Wonder Woman 20. Also, we discussed Gotham Academy Second Semester 8 yesterday and will be discussing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 18 on Tuesday. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
The Flash 20
Spencer: Iris West has, unfortunately, always been a character more defined by her relationships with men — Barry’s love, Wally’s mentor, Bart’s grandmother — than by any desires or personality of her own. Joshua Williamson and Neil Googe’s The Flash 20 doesn’t exactly make Iris a deep character (all other DC reporters live and die in the shadow of Lois Lane), but it does give her a much-needed (and appreciated) spotlight issue all to herself.
There’s a lot this issue does right. First of all, it uses its one-off story to advance several different long-gestating subplots, such as the return of Black Hole, the fate of Meena Dhawan, and Barry and Iris’ relationship (and, more specifically, the secrets Barry keeps from her — she’s gonna discover he’s the Flash soon, right? Or does she think he’s somehow Black Hole’s S.T.A.R. Labs mole?). It also allows Iris to prove herself smart, driven, and confident — the Flash gives her a vital assist at one point, but she returns the favor, and not only manages to track down Black Hole before Flash does, but to hold her own in a tricky situation (while defending her integrity in the process!).
While I love seeing Iris being so independent and competent, though, it’s not the ability to fight that makes a female character (or any character, really) interesting — it’s their having desires and motivations all their own. Thankfully, Williamson and Googe provide that too, not only in Iris’ desire to expose the truth, but her sympathy for Black Hole’s victims. Her mission isn’t just to get a story out, but to bring those victims some closure, and that’s a goal I can get behind. The Flash 20 proves that Iris West is a hero in her own right, not only making her a better match for Barry than ever before, but a more interesting character to read about as well.
New Super-Man 10
Mark: New Super-Man continues to be a book characterized by strong individual character moments surrounded by head-scratching structural and pacing problems. In New Super-Man 10 the good outweighs the questionable; Kenan learning to harness his Qi to embrace his superpowers, Ox-Head and Horse-Face revealing that Kenan’s parents aren’t really dead, Kenan letting Superman carry him to the airport — all really memorable beats…that are sometimes placed awkwardly.
With Avery in danger, Superman urges Kenan to take action. Instead, Kenan turns to Superman and says, “I gotta ask you, Superman. There’s so much pain out there and you hear it all. How do you handle it?” To which Superman turns and gives a genuinely affecting answer:
The moment is great on its own, but the placement in the issue is terrible. The demons of Hell are literally on the loose and attacking Avery. Maybe not the best time for a heart-to-heart?
Gene Luen Yang continues his deft intermingling of Chinese folklore and superhero mythos to great results. Qi in traditional Chinese culture is material energy or energy flow, which makes it a perfect companion to the idea of superpowers. However I have to admit to being rather disappointed that Ching Lung is revealed to merely be Master I-Ching in disguise. Compared to the promised reclamation of a previously stereotypical character (ala Extrano), this feels like the easy way out. Why bother bringing Lung back at all to only quickly hand-wave him away?
Wonder Woman 20
Michael: With the announcement that Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp will be leaving Wonder Woman after issue 25, it’s hard not to see how things are headed to a conclusion in-story. In that regard it seems that Rucka and co. might have spent just as much time developing Veronica Cale as they have Wonder Woman – if not more.
Wonder Woman 20 is the story of how Veronica Cale gets even with the cheeky god bastards that turned her daughter into a faceless zombie. Cale enlists the aide of Circe the witch to transform Deimos and Phobos into those creepy pet Dobermans we’ve seen in the present day. But like all “deals with the devil” Cale finds out that what she wants comes at a price. In order to free her daughter, Veronica Cale must also free Deimos and Phobos’ father Ares.
As great of a Wonder Woman writer Greg Rucka is, he’s placing a lot of focus on Veronica Cale. Almost everything that is set in motion in Wonder Woman is a means to her ends of retrieving her daughter. Wonder Woman’s fight with Circe featured on the cover is not much more than another distraction to use Wonder Woman’s powers for an ulterior motive.
Maybe I’m being too judgmental; Rucka has formed this family unit of Diana, Etta, Steve and Barbara. Maybe Rucka’s intention with “Wonder Woman Rebirth” isn’t to get Wonder Woman back to basics but to flesh out her foes Veronica Cale and The Cheetah?
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?