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 Gotham Academy Second Semester 9, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 20, New Super-Man 11, Shade, the Changing Girl 8 and Wonder Woman 22. Also, we will be discussing All-Star Batman 10 on Monday and Bug: The Adventures of Forager 1 on Wednesday, so check back for those! As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Gotham Academy Second Semester 9
Taylor: As Gotham Academy has moved toward its climactic finale, the focus of the series has shifted from adolescent angst to something much deeper. Instead of focusing on teen relationships and lighthearted mysteries, the Gotham Academy crew now finds itself wrapped up in a story that explores the very notion of Gotham itself. In last month’s issue, we learned that Gothamites have been acting nasty since the town was founded. This week supplies another illustration of the nastiness of Gotham, only it comes from an unlikely source.
With the spirit of Amity Arkham coursing through her body, Olive is now set on avenging the death of her ancestor. This leads her to Harvey Dent’s house, since it was one of his ancestors that burned Amity for witchcraft ages ago. Olive is successful in finding Harvey, but just as she is about to deal a death blow to the two-faced villain, he makes a connection with her.
Harvey feels that he has been a victim of Gotham’s cruelty just as Olive and her family have. This might seem odd given Two-Face’s penchant for murdering and plundering this Gotham, but it hints at a deeper relationship between Gotham and its citizens. At one time, Gotham offered Harvey all it had – fame, fortune, and power. In a stroke, however, it was taken away when he was scarred, so now he looks to hurt the city that first hurt him. The parallels between Harvey and Amity are clear and that suggests something about the source of Gotham’s troubles.
Whenever Gotham hurts someone, they look to deal that pain back to the city. One has only to look at Bruce Wayne to know this is true. However, when this pain is dealt, it just creates more pain and anger, which just spawns more pain and anger, which…you get the idea. It’s amazing to think that Gotham Academy in these last two issues has so deftly and confidently proposed a thesis that so wholly explains why Gotham is the infamous city we know it to be. That’s damn powerful and damn good writing and just another example proving that Gotham Academy is more than just a typical teen school comic.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 20
Patrick: “The Prism of Time Part Three: Dogfight” is a mouthful of a title. It’s made even wordier if you also have to include the series’ 7-word title before it. That all speaks to the incredibly crowded nature of the action in this issue. Writer Robert Venditti is working on jamming together ideas and concepts from the length of his run with these characters, leaning on the unintended consequences of characters’ actions. Particularly Hal’s messing around with Krona’s gauntlet. The result is that there are these future-beasts made out of the same stuff of Green Lantern constructs terrorizing the Green and Yellow Lanterns. If that sentence is dizzying and repetitive to read, the action on the page is just as muddled. It is the odd panel that is not totally overwhelmed by shiny green light. The whole thing is crazy and overstuffed, but that’s also exactly what Venditti is showing us isn’t effective
That’s because our idiot heroes are trying to fight fire with fire. We get one tiny reprieve from the titular “Dogfight” as Hal mediates on how he may have caused this whole thing in the first place.
Artists Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona and Tomeu Morey don’t exactly let up on the overstuffed green aesthetic, but some clever paneling (and the use of some much needed empty space) put this moment into startling clarity. Hal doesn’t know exactly what he needs to do to ward off these attackers, but he knows it’s not “keep fighting them this way.” Not that it isn’t fun to watch Guy and Arkillo (“The Ark” is sticking around DeLaney, get used to it) try and fail to land a blow, but any salvation has to come from Hal figuring out what he did wrong. That’s classic Green Lantern right there.
New Super-Man 11
Mark: New Super-Man has always had a fairly limited scope. Even though it’s dealing with superpowers to rival the Justice League’s, the villains and even set-pieces Gene Luen Yang has put our heroes up against have been personal to them or physically contained to a small area. Yang excels at this more intimate, character-focused approach, but large-scale action set pieces tend to trip him up. That was true of his Superman run, and it’s true of New Super-Man 11.
The final third of the issue introduces a Doomsday Virus-fueled sea monster who breaches onto the shore of Shanghai, causing a massive tidal wave that floods the city. This would be a major crisis in a city as populated and dense as Shanghai, but after a few cursory civilians are saved, Yang isn’t able to maintain the heightened stakes. Rather, he defaults to the limited dynamic we’ve seen play out almost every issue: Bat-Man, Wonder-Woman, and Super-Man standing around arguing about what they should do and who’s in charge. It’s a missed opportunity to fully use the largest canvas Yang has given himself.
Pacing continues to be a problem in New Super-Man, one that will be mitigated when read in trade collections, but makes reading as a monthly book feel poorly balanced. The issue devotes an inordinate amount of time to Avery and Kenan’s superspeed footrace through China. It’d be easier to overlook this sightseeing digression if it deepened our understanding of either character, but there’s nothing here to justify the handful of pages eaten up, especially given how little notice the sea monster seems to warrant in contrast.
It all comes down to a book grappling with the issue of scale, and not always being able to strike the right balance.
Shade, The Changing Girl 8
All art is political in the sense that it serves someone’s politics.
Drew: I wouldn’t disagree that all art is political, but for most art, those politics are served at the level of aesthetics, rather than narrative. That is, the way the work values certain elements (say, humanity or beauty) over others (say, naturalism or abstraction) is inherently political, even if the content (say, a bowl of fruit) isn’t. Of course, artists can choose to bring overt political messages to the content of their work — and many great artists have succeeded in that realm — but it’s a choice that is fraught with some risks. The most obvious is that any political message may potentially alienate an audience, but even a politically sympathetic audience may balk at a political message for being trite, superficial, or worst of all, boring. Such is the case with Shade, the Changing Girl 8, which goes out of its way to advance a political argument I absolutely agree with, but at the cost of telling a satisfying story.
Er — I say that I agree with the politics of this issue, but it’s so all over the place, I’m honestly not sure what it’s trying to say half of the time. But I do appreciate Shade’s attitude to immigration, being a literal alien.
Unfortunately, my appreciation for this message actually makes the issue more offensive because of how poorly it’s executed. I was excited to see Shade set out from Valley Ville for a voyage of self-discovery, but the fact that we get so much Valley Ville action makes it clear that Shade’s not really leaving it behind, she just left as an excuse to espouse the ham-handed political views of this issue.
And even that could have still worked if writer Cecil Castellucci had bothered to spend any time developing Shade’s political views. But rather than demonstrating the value of getting to know people from different places and backgrounds, this issue find Shade flitting from neighborhood to neighborhood, kind of blanky observing that people are different. She doesn’t learn anything, she doesn’t grow, leaving this issue feeling more like a trite PSA than an actual story.
Wonder Woman 22
Spencer: Under different circumstances, Diana and Veronica Cale could have been friends. That’s my main takeaway from Greg Rucka and Mirka Andolfo’s Wonder Woman 22, which finds the two women essentially on a date, albeit a date for charity predicated upon several layers of deception on Veronica’s part. It’s hard to know how much of what we see from Veronica in this issue is an act and how much is genuine, but there does seem to be some legitimate chemistry between the two women, which is aided greatly by Rucka’s flirty dialogue and some coy glances on Andolfo’s behalf.
Surprisingly, their chemistry only seems to grow once they slip into their street clothes — it’s so rare that we see Diana in casual wear that it has the immediate effect of making her seem more open, down-to-earth, and approachable. Again, it’s hard to tell where the real Veronica Cale ends and the act begins, but I get the feeling that there’s a lot of truth to her speech about justice; she and Diana have an interesting dialogue going there before they get interrupted by the assassins, and I honestly think that these two women could accomplish a lot of good together (not only for the world, but for Veronica’s daughter as well) if only she was open to the possibility.
It’s like Diana herself says: she’s “almost always honest,” while Veronica is lying in several different ways about her true goal for the evening. It’s her deception that seems to have Diana the most angry at the issue’s end, and what’s sad is that this issue shows how unnecessary Veronica’s entire web of lies has been. The Diana who we see offer herself up as a date for charity and gamely go along with Veronica’s scheme with the assassins would have gladly helped Veronica try to rescue her daughter if only she had asked. I’m still not sure if it’s anger, pride, or resentment that has caused Veronica Cale to shut Wonder Woman out, but whatever quality Veronica’s displaying here, it’s certainly her worst.
(I really love how different this issue feels from the rest of Rucka’s run. From the fun details like Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor’s bidding war over Diana to her working for a charity that helps war survivors, there’s a lot of thought put into this story, and the lighter, more playful tone is a nice change of pace from the darker stories Rucka has told in other issues [especially the odd-numbered ones]. With Rucka’s run coming to an end, I think what I might be most sad about is the lost chance for more issues like this once the over-arcing “Lies and Truth” stories wrap up.)
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?