Aquaman #17 (Abnett/Eaton/Faucher): The narrative in this issue is a bit jumbled, as Arthur is simultaneously trying to fight Warhead and make a presentation to the United Nations. This throws the entire pacing of the issue off, as we go from fight to quiet scene at the U.N. to another fight. Warhead’s motives still aren’t clear, and this early in the game, they shouldn’t be—but even the story itself conveys how confusing it is that he’s trying to explain his problem and it’s not coming out. The overall story may read better in trade; this particular chapter isn’t great on its own. Rating: Two and a half tuna out of five.
Batman #17 (King/Finch/Miki): Tom King ran into the age-old problem in the “I Am Gotham” arc: how to bring the Justice League into Batman’s world while still allowing Batman to be the hero of his own story? In this case, there’s a cameo by Superman which…mostly works, but may have readers annoyed that Batman doesn’t just get Superman to punch Bane and let this story end. That doesn’t happen, and…oh well. Either way, Bane is coming, and the tension seriously ratchets up in this issue—though some of the imagery used here looks like it means something, but it’s not clear what. Like, what’s with those birds? Rating: Three and a half bats out of five.
Batwoman Rebirth #1 (Bennett/Tynion/Epting/Cox): This is Kate Kane’s third #0 issue in less than a decade. OK, technically it’s a “Rebirth #1,” but functionally, it’s a “zero” issue: an introductory piece which sets the tone without necessarily being substantive. Bennett and Tynion do that tone-setting, though: there’s only so many times we can retread Kate’s origin, so instead, they rapidly review it as a means of acknowledging that Kate’s life has been very directionless, moving from soldier to lost soul to superhero, to…? Well, the last page suggests that all three of those will tie together, with the book using one of those fun “coming up” preview pages. Oh, and that Epting art is pretty good too. Batwoman is the DC book to watch in 2017. Rating: Four and a half bats out of five.
Green Arrow #17 (Percy/Schmidt): Man, Green Arrow is inconsistent. Sometimes it’s dry or jumbled; this week, it’s actually readable. It still jumps around a little, with a touching funeral reflection giving way to a seemingly unconnected fight scene. The fight is connected, but there’s no meaningful transition and it feels like we’re reading two stories sandwiched together. But at least those disparate chapters are, separately, decent. Rating: Two and a half quivers out of five.
Green Lanterns #17 (Humphries/Pansica/Ferreira): The Scarecrow as a Yellow Lantern was one of the most brilliant and yet most underutilized moments of Blackest Night, so it’s nice to see the concept revisited here with a Batman twist. The issue mostly works, although it’s very heavy on Simon’s narration, which comes off a little forced at times. Also, Humphries has Simon make an important decision about one of the most controversial aspects of his original character design. Pansica’s art is OK, but a little inconsistent—sometimes looking as good as David Finch’s Batman work, but other times looking just a little too comical. Rating: Three rings out of five.
Harley Quinn #14 (Palmiotti/Conner/Evans/Timms/Sinclair): Comics creators often love to tap into old storylines from prior runs. This is good for people who follow those creators, and not so good for people who don’t. This week’s Harley Quinn brings in Atlee, a replacement version of Terra who Conner and Palmiotti introduced a decade ago in Supergirl. While this could make for some fun superhero antics—Harley’s definitely caught in a “this is bigger than me” scenario this time—it does lead to some lack-of-context confusion for readers who just want to see Harley do some more Batman stuff. Rating: Two and a half mallets out of five.
Justice League #15 (Hitch/Pasarin/Ryan/Anderson): Ugh. Compared to last issue’s straightforward and wonderful plot, this issue is a bit of a mess. It’s a time-travel story, so that’s likely intentional, but the format is still messy. The Justice League is getting interspersed through time, often to key moments in DC’s history, but it’s intermingled with the main plot of how they got there in the first place. The nonlinear nature of the presentation makes it very hard to unjumble the story until you’ve read to the last page. “Timeless” might make for an overall fun story, but this opening salvo—even with the excellent art—isn’t the best start. Rating: Two and a half leagues out of five.
Nightwing #15 (Seely/Jung/Sotomayor): Ouch. A mostly sweet issue, this week’s Nightwing explores relationships as they affect extended families. Dick and Shawn are dating, but couples don’t exist in a void, and so over the course of weeks they explore how they feel through their friends and families. Dick chats with Wally, Jason, and even Babs and Kory, about his new love, while we meet Shawn’s own friends and relatives. All of this builds up to how they actually feel about each other, until…that last page. Pay attention to Dick’s screw-up. Rating: Three and a half trapezes out of five.
Raven #6 (Wolfman/Neves/Jose/Blond): Meh, the conclusion of Raven was still a little bland. There’s a big thing and it’s doing a thing to people and Raven has to save them, but she can’t until she learns a little love. Admittedly, that part is touching, though it’s weird to see Raven’s demonology mixed with her adoptive mother figure spouting Bible verses at her. This is OK, but maybe not the best solo use of the character, and she may be better off in a team setting. Rating: Two shadows out of five.
Superman #17 (Tomasi/Gleason/Fiumara/Stewart): Awwwww. Tomasi and Gleason do these “breather” issues very well, where Superman takes a break from the big epic stories to focus on human and family centered dramas. This week, Jon’s at home alone watching horror movies when his friend Kathy begs him to help find her missing cow and grandfather in a spooky swamp. We get no clear answers on what Jon and Kathy experience, but maybe we’re not supposed to—instead, it’s just a dark adventure involving two scared kids, and even super powers won’t necessarily help him against the shadowy things that bump in the night. Rating: Four capes out of five.
Trinity #6 (Manapul/Luppachino/McCarthy/Santorelli): OK, this issue does a little bit better of a job than prior issues in tying together the disparate aspects of the Trinity into a cohesive story. At the very least, the battle with Mongul highlights the individual aspects of Wonder Woman and Batman which make them effective heroes, though Superman remains kind of incapacitated for this chapter. Now, if we could just get an arc that shows why these three work well together, we’d be onto something. Rating: Three lassos out of five.
The Winner: Batwoman? Yeah, it’s Batwoman. I’m reluctant to give this to a pure “setup” issue, but it’s pretty, well-written, and doesn’t try too hard to retread the original Williams/Blackman run. And once again: the use of the “coming up” page is a wonderful treat, and more DC books should use these.
The Loser: Raven, which is a shame because it’s written by her creator, and she’s still a popular character with the kids thanks to Teen Titans Go.