Action Comics #967 (Jurgens/Kirkham): After the six-issue (or longer) arcs that “Rebirth” initially put us through, these two-part stories are a nice change of pace. This round of Action focuses on “Superman” Lex Luthor following two brief arcs about “Clark” and Lois…but still with enough time to check in on Clark and Jon and the mystery of who kidnapped Doomsday. We don’t get any answers on that, but we do get a deadly prophecy which shows the consequences of Luthor messing with Apokolips’ technology. Fairly balancing all these stories, Action Comics has hit its groove and the Superman titles are, surprisingly, the best they’ve been in a long time. Rating: Three and a half out of five capes.
All-Star Batman #4 (Snyder/Romita/Shalvey): Scott Snyder’s Batman is becoming a bit…predictable. He enjoys doing three things: 1) putting Batman through the ringer and still having him overcome it, 2) grossly ramping up Batman’s villains, and 3) having a sidekick who helps Batman get through it all. The pattern continues here: Two-Face blinds Batman, but he’s prepared even for that—and he’s got Duke where he isn’t. If you can get past the Romita Jr. art—which is an acquired taste at this point—then you’ll get a Snyder offering that’s fun, but none-too-different from what he offered on the main Batman title before. Rating: Two and a half bats out of five.
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #4 (Benson/Benson/Antonio): This issue mostly gets us into Helena’s head, giving her a backstory that’s moderately consistent with her post-Crisis, pre-Flashpoint counterpart. This is a necessary move, as the book needs to distinguish her from the Earth 2 character and get her back to her roots in the 1990s Birds of Prey comic. The Bensons manage to keep BOP-Helena in her dark, Mafia-hunting roots, while still keeping her sympathetic. It’s one of the better issues of this series to date. Rating: Three crossbows out of five.
Detective Comics #944 (Tynion/Barrows): Tynion’s latest arc, “The Victim Syndicate,” looks at the unseen aftereffects of Batman’s war on crime: the people caught in the crossfire. It’s rare that we see what happens to a poor schmuck hit with the Joker’s laughing gas or the Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Tynion’s assembled a team of villains who are just those victims, and they’re out for revenge on Gotham for letting them down. It’s a bit hokey—why are these guys mad at Batman and not his rogues?—but at the moment, they’re too powerful and terrifying to worry about those questions. Sure, this will probably work out for our heroes, but it’s dark and tense enough to be an interesting ride. Rating: Three and a half out of five bats.
Earth 2 Society #18 (Abnett/Redondo): Still technically not a “Rebirth” title, but the re-creation of the original Earth 2 makes it clear that this title is heading for a relaunch of its own. Not much new happens in this issue—our heroes are still lost in this shadowy, limbo version of the old Earth—though the final pages at least move things into the next phase of the story. Still, Redondo’s art is clean and comfortable to look at, and Abnett has a handle on the characters. This is a good sign that the Earth 2 title is back on track after a few years of being a hot mess. Rating: Three Earths out of five.
Flash #10 (Williamson/Watanabe): An improvement over last issue, this issue of The Flash showcases the downside of mentoring a junior hero. Barry just doesn’t have the same relationship with Nu-Wally that he had with classic Wally, and it shows in the former’s impulsiveness (ha!). Nu-Wally is anxious to be a hero, and he just hasn’t earned Barry’s trust yet. However, this brings him into conflict with a scary-ass villain who’s been missing in the New 52, giving us yet another clue about the nature of “Rebirth.” Rating: Three and a half lightning bolts out of five.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #8 (Venditti/Van Scriver): Ethan Van Scriver deserves a lot of credit for this issue, giving the Hal Jordan book an epic scope fitting for a sci-fi/military title. The two-page spread of a Starro attack on Xudar alone proves this. The story is otherwise OK, with the Green and Yellow Lantern Corps forming an alliance after the apparent deaths of both their leaders. (Hal’s fate is very openly ambiguous.) The appearance of a longstanding DC villain certainly raises the stakes here, although continuity buffs may be annoyed at his appearance since a certain recent crossover suggested we were forever done with the guy. But hey, that art. Rating: Three and a half rings out of five.
New Super-Man #5 (Yang/Bongdanovic): A quick caveat here. Of late, the “Rebirth” books have an annoying habit of repeating plot points with no connection across titles. New Super-Man has a similarity to this week’s Hal Jordan, and while it’s different enough to be coincidence, these plot redundancies are starting to get annoying and suggest some intracompany coordination is needed. Anyway, New Super-Man continues the fun of a young person learning what it means to become a hero. Kenan learns that there’s no black and white answers to what side he should be on—China’s government-run Justice League may be oppressive, but his father’s Freedom Fighters have their own dark secrets. Kenan’s got to find a third way before it’s too late. Different and yet very familiar, New Super-Man continues to surprise each month. Rating: Three and a half capes out of five.
Scooby Apocalypse #7 (Giffen/DeMatteis/Porter): I’ll give this book credit: the creative trio has been consistently delivering the same level of quality since the first issue. There isn’t much new development this month, with the Scooby Gang having to figure out how to work together to escape an expy Wal-Mart that’s surrounded by monsters. To date, there’s a lot of tension in this team—Daphne doesn’t trust Velma, Fred loves Daphe, and this issue, Shaggy really has to pee. But at least this month, they’re reluctantly learning to work as a unit, with one member making a huge sacrifice for the sake of the others. Rating: Three Scooby Snacks out of five.
Supergirl #3 (Orlando/Ching): Supergirl’s back on Argo, but her father’s created a cheap imitation of what it once was. There’s not a lot of true moral tension here—it’s very clear that Kara can’t have the original Argo back—so we’re left with action instead of struggle. The story’s OK, but it’s hard to get over the fact that it’s a pseudo-imitation of the Supergirl TV show. Also, it’s hard adjusting to Brian Ching’s art—it’s impressive in places, but his version of Kara looks far too young and anorexic. Rating: Two and a half capes out of five.
Superwoman #4 (Jimenez/Luppachino): Superwoman finally acknowledges Lana’s appearance in Action, indicating you ought to get caught up on Action #965-66 before coming back here. There’s still an inconsistency between titles where Lex Luthor is running around find in Action, but a prisoner of his sister Lena here. That’s just one problem, though: the other is that this issue is thick with storylines: Lana’s powers are killing her, Lois is a ghost, Lena is on a rampage, Traci 13 says that magic is going haywire, and much more. I like a book that can pack a lot into 20 pages, but Superwoman #4 is a little too thick to digest easily. Rating: Two and a half stars out of five.
This was a pretty decent week, and even the stinkers are at least tolerable. We’ll call the winner The Flash for having improved art and being a decent mix of classic and modern DC. The loser is All-Star Batman. We generally like Scott Snyder, but this run on Batman is getting formulaic, and JRJR’s art doesn’t help.