Action Comics #970 (Jurgens/Zircher): We’re on part four of the Luthor-might-be-a-tyrant-in-the-future story and it’s still not done. Even with the double-shipping schedule, the stretch of this story is starting to wear thin, and it’s what hurt the first arc of Action as well. It’s tolerable, but the one- and two-off issues of Action were much easier to digest. Mind you, Jurgens and Zircher are doing fine, but the bloat is hurting the book long-term. Rating: Three capes out of five.
All-Star Batman #5 (Snyder/Romita/Miki): Snyder and Romita Jr.’s first independent arc wraps up, and it’s…confusing? As exciting as Snyder’s take on Batman is, his weakness is that he tends to convolute the story by having too many immoral options in front of the hero that are grounded in just a little bit too much science. So there’s a tough choice to be made in Batman’s attempt to cure Two-Face, save Gotham, and prevent the police from finding the Batcave…and if you haven’t been paying careful attention, it isn’t going to make sense. Like other “Rebirth” titles, this book might be better served if Snyder gave us some one or two-part issues (some of his best Batman issues were one-offs). Rating: Two and a half batarangs out of five.
Batgirl #6 (Larson/Albuquerque): Billed as an epilogue to “Beyond Burnside,” Batgirl #6 really serves as a standalone transition issue between the last arc and the next. It’s also a chance for the creative team to stretch their muscles outside of the multi-issue format, and it works. Babs just happens to be on the same flight as Poison Ivy, who’s carrying a rare plant that blooms out of control in the upper atmosphere. It’s a fun issue that shows the strength of both artist and writer, and a good opportunity to jump on this book. Rating: Four Babs out of five.
Batman Beyond #3 (Jurgens/Chang): It feels like Jurgens still hasn’t figured out what to do with this book, even though he’s four issues into his second run on this title. Terry’s in disguise, spending the entire issue trying to sneak Dana out of Jokerz custody. This unfortunately means we get very little Batman in his own book, at least in his own costume. We do get a surprise ending which makes up for the frustrating twist of the first issue, and while the twist points the title in the right direction, it doesn’t save the issue as a whole. Rating: Two and a half schways out of five.
Blue Beetle #4 (Giffen/Collins/Fajardo): This book’s still not working. Blue Beetle could be another teen angst book, a Miles Morales for the DC Universe. Instead there’s too much and not enough going on all at once, and it’s bordering on incomprehensible. All we know for certain is the scarab is killing Jamie and Dr. Fate doesn’t like it, but beyond that, it’s really hard to get into this story. Rating: Two scarabs out of five.
Detective Comics #947 (Tynion/Martinez): Funny that nuclear proliferation is back in the news. Tynion has just missed an opportunity to bring that up in Detective, because that’s basically where the ongoing hero/villain warfare in Gotham is going: heroes create villains who create more villains. Spoiler’s sick of the whole thing, and the new, compassionate Batman has to figure out what to do with it. Like Tynion’s last arc, this story hurts, but in a good way. Rating: Four and a half bats out of five.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #11 (Venditti/Sandoval): The use of Brainiac makes a little more sense now that we know Larfleeze is manipulating him. It’s not the greatest use of Larfleeze, as Venditti just hasn’t captured the unique voice Geoff Johns gave him. Also, the Hal plotline continues to be divorced from the Lanterns, but it looks like they’re finally going to zipper back together…which is good, because now this book’s title will finally make sense. Rating: Three rings out of five.
Harley’s Little Black Book #5 (Palmiotto/Conner/Adams): An open parody of Superman vs. Muhammad Ali essentially recreates the original comic—in some instances, panel-for-panel—excepting that it inserts Harley and her goofball wisdom. Caught somewhere in the vast space between amazing and ridiculous, the book is impressive in that it essentially gets Neal Adams to recreate one of his seminal works. The downside is that it really helps to be familiar with the original story. Spaceballs is a fine movie in its own right, but most of the jokes are lifted from Star Wars and it really helps to know the source material. Most kids today probably haven’t read Superman vs. Ali, although maybe they should. Rating: Three and a half mallets out of five, losing half a point for a groan-inducing “Kryptonian Balls” joke.
Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #2 (Williamson/Daniel): If you went into this expecting a crapfest…well, it’s not. It certainly is a slobbernocker, but at least some of the matchups are either classic (Batman vs. Deadshot; Flash vs. Boomerang) or inspired (Aquaman vs. Killer Croc), with only one (Harley vs. Wonder Woman) being outright ridiculous. There’s no reason for the League to lose this fight, but the solution to the story is horrifyingly impressive. Given that JLvSS doesn’t have 30 useless tie-ins each week, maybe we should just enjoy this for the junk food story that it is. Rating: Four punches out of five.
Teen Titans #3 (Percy/Pham): I was thinking this book was getting a little overboard in the darkness, since it’s pitting four peppy teenagers against Damian’s League of Assassins connections and that’s like oil and water. However, the Teen Titans themselves address this problem—Damian’s grandfather may be a bleak killer, but Raven’s dad is a demon and Starfire’s sister is a tyrant. They’ve all dealt with this to some degree. In other words, this book can be teenage antics and still bring in the grim world of Ra’s al Ghul successfully. Well played. Rating: Three Titans out of five.
The Flash #13 (Williamson/Googe): Christmas issues in comics usually mean either quiet introspection or a villain having a sweet moment. This issue gives us both, with only one half really being effective. Barry and Iris try to have a holiday date, while Nu-Wally tries to cover for the Flash by taking out a villain on a Christmas robbery. The latter half works well, even if we’ve seen this story before (I’m remembering a very similar one from a DC Holiday Special a decade ago). The Barry and Iris introspection doesn’t quite get there—although they get their quiet date, we never get a full exploration of why these two belong together even though they’re one of DC’s great couples. Rating: Three lightning bolts out of five.
Titans #6 (Abnett/Booth): Speaking of great DC couples: the initial rebirthed Titans arc comes to a conclusion as Wally figures out the secret to defeating Kadabra…and it isn’t Linda. While the Wally-Linda door is left open by a crack, fans of their relationship in the 1990s and 2000s will be sad to see that for now, it’s done. Wally-Linda was one of DC’s better, stronger relationships, and it’s set aside for a “friendship is magic” kind of solution. This is otherwise Abnett and Booth’s strongest offering in this series to date—it’s just that the little gut punch hurts. Rating: Three Titans out of Five.
The Winner: Detective Comics, although Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is a surprising close second for a big event story. The loser: The Hellblazer #5, which I didn’t even review in this article. It had an entire conversation about how Swamp Thing uses the bathroom and I couldn’t get past that part.