Aquaman #16 (Abnett/Walker/Hennessy): Abnett’s Aquaman continues to be pleasant, if quiet. This is mostly a pure “cleanup” issue where the aftermath of the N.E.M.O. battle requires a lot of repairs. It’s also a chance for both Mera and Erika to reassess where they stand with Arthur, both very nervous of him for different reasons. Arthur, in his newfound celebrity status, still remains humble to both. Also, there’s a new bad guy, but we know little about him except that he hums a lot. Rating: Three tuna out of five.
Batman #15 (King/Finch): Yay, David Finch is back, and Batman returns to the same well-balanced superhero tone that we got in the first five issues. It’s well suited to King’s mix of humor and horror in this issue. There’s plenty to enjoy in this issue when Bruce meets with his three-and-a-not-quite Robins in a, er, Batman-themed fast food joint. The humor belies the tone, though, because the story drives home that Bane is coming, and that carries all the dread of an approaching hurricane. The last page is an obvious fakeout, but damn if it isn’t a good one. Rating: Four and a half bats out of five.
Cyborg #9 (Semper Jr./Pelletier): The bad: Anamoly’s past is revealed, and it’s kind of rote–he’s a tortured cybernetic creation with a slight twist in his origin. So he’s “Cyborg gone wrong,” and while every superhero needs their dark opposite, this one feels like nothing new other than being distinct to Cyborg. The good is that Vic now has a non-powered sidekick, a video gamer who gets put to clever use in this issue. On interpersonal relationships and human drama, Cyborg remains a lot of fun, even if the larger plots are a bit unoriginal. Rating: Three microchips out of five.
Death of Hawkman #5 (Andreyko/Lopestri/Buchemi): This is a weird book in that it’s not getting a lot of coverage. The title openly telegraphs the death of a major second-tier hero, and it’s got a war between two of DC’s major planets with significant ramifications for both. It’s not a great comic–there’s a significant timeskip in the issue that makes reading it jarring–but it does feel significant and high-stakes. However, DC at large has been so grounded in the “Rebirth” mystery of late that classic sci-fi space battles don’t seem all that important outside of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps. Rating: Two and a half zeta beams out of five.
Flintstones #8 (Russell/Pugh): Thomas Hobbes said that life prior to civilization was nasty, brutish, and short…but Hobbes never read DC’s rebooted Flintstones, which reminds us that human beings inevitably yearn for their nasty, brutish, and short ways. Civilization–even a stone-age one–may be more comfortable than Hobbes’ state of war, but for some reason, we don’t do very well with it. Fred and Barney part ways with Betty and Wilma for an issue and, left to raise the kids, reflect on what exactly a man’s purpose is, while Pebbles and Bam-Bam get an accurate and yet hysterical reflection on exactly how economics works. If this book had a laugh track, it’d be perfect. Rating: Four clubs out of five.
Green Arrow #16 (Percy/Ferreyra): Kind of a weird issue, in that we’re in the middle of a mystery (who’s killing people with arrows?) and yet this very much reads like a wrapup issue. Ollie makes peace with the locals, reunites with Emiko (who takes a surprising and yet appropriate new name) and everything seems to be going right…except the last page. But it’s all paced very weird–there’s literally a page where Ollie is told that the bad guys are escaping, and his priority is the impromptu family reunion. It’s a little hard to tell what we’re to take from this issue. Rating: Two and a half quivers out of five.
Green Lanterns #16 (Humphries/Edwards): Turns out this is a stealth tie-in to “I Am Bane” over in Batman (read that first). But that aside, this issue’s a lot of fun, with what should be a Bat team-up turning into an ideological conflict between Simon and Batman. Who’s the better detective? Does Simon’s gun have a place in Batman’s Gotham City? Both heroes are simultaneously right and wrong, and the last page is a sucker punch in a fun way that calls back to a very specific Green Lantern story from a few years ago. Rating: Four rings out of five.
Harley Quinn #13 (Conner/Palmiotti/Tims): Well, that was a bleak issue. Harley Quinn certainly plays fast and loose with continuity, and the Joker’s appearance made it seem like the book was finally going to tie back into DC’s main storylines. Spoiler: it doesn’t…but that’s OK, as Conner and Palmiotti solve the story with elements of the story they’ve been telling, and it works out fine if you’re a long-term Harley Quinn reader. But man, it’s bleak. Rating: Three mallets out of five.
Justice League #14 (Hitch/Henriques): This is a throwaway issue, in that a Death Star-level threat (that’s an intentional reference) is tossed at the League and it’s dealt with off-panel. But it’s also a very important issue, as the League as a whole comes to a catharsis about what it means for these specific eight heroes, including the “wrong” Superman, to be the Justice League. Hitch has only 20 pages in which to give each character an equal voice, and yet he does it wonderfully, even managing to reference an infamous JLA story from two decades ago. This issue is a lot of talk and will remind older readers of a famous Secret Wars scene, but it’s very powerful. If you need a jumping on point for Justice League, this is it. Rating: Four and a half Star Wars references out of five.
Nightwing #14 (Seely/To/Sotomayor): Giving a distinct “feel” to a fictional comic book city is hard, but Seely at least makes a go at giving Bludhaven some personality. It’s not quite clicking yet, but this issue drives home that Dick does love Bludhaven, whatever it is. Issue #14 does give us a good feel for the cops: not quite corrupt, but definitely hardcases, with Dick ending up in a twisted version of the Batman/Gordon relationship. This issue is OK, though a little unfocused. Rating: Three batons out of five.
The Rise and Fall of Captain Atom #2 (Bates/Wiseman/Conrad/Nunes): If you saw Back to the Future as a kid, you probably considered the 1950s the distant past. Odds are, your parents saw it as the recent past, and it probably weirded them out. Captain Atom #2 echoes a similar idea, as Atom is trapped in the 1990s and older readers will get to relive things that are probably still relatively recent news in their minds. It’s a weird headtrip and makes up for the relative lack of action in this issue. It’s also an interesting look at the past of the current DC Universe–it’s hard to wrap our heads around this, but it had no superheroes in the 1990s thanks to the New 52 reboot. Rating: Four quatum jumps out of five.
Superman #16 (Tomasi/Gleason/Daniel/Mann): Sadly, this feels like Tomasi and Gleason’s first bust on what’s been a marvelous title to date. Grant Morrison posited that there’s an “essence” of Superman that echoes through the multiverse, variable but still pure Superman at the heart. The army of Supermen in “Multiplicity”–and this was already done in Final Crisis, mind you–is kind of boring and whiny, with only the “true” Clark coming off as a symbol of hope. Add to that an ill-defined villain and a lack of explanation for how the heroes get out of things, and it adds up to a weak issue. There is a great, inspirational death in this issue, but of all people, it’s not a Superman who bites it. Rating: Two and a half capes out of five.
The winner: Close call against Batman and even Captain Atom was pretty good, but Justice League gets it for being a deep, deep reflection on years of DC history packed into a tight issue.
The loser: Death of Hawkman isn’t doing much over here. It’s not bad, but again, it’s very uneventful for a colossal cosmic war story which is apparently about to kill off a major character. Oh, who are we kidding–nobody cares if Hawkman dies again.