Aquaman #18 (Abnett/Eaton/Faucher/Elateb): DC’s doing a little bit more with mental illness in comics lately, first with Jessica Cruz having anxiety in Green Lanterns, and now we get an explanation for Warhead’s behavior in Aquaman. We’ll have to let readers who relate to those issues decide if it’s a respectful treatment or not, but it’s at least good on DC for cracking the door and exploring the issue. Not a bad issue, it continues the idea that Aquaman is equal parts tough and compassionate, looking for a third way between violence and surrender. Rating: Three tuna out of five.
Batman #18 (King/Finch/Miki/Bellaire): Sometimes, a comics team will do a scene where they repeat a scene between two characters to show how they’re totally alike. I’m thinking of a scene from Batman: Dark Victory where young Bruce Wayne was contrasted against young Dick Grayson to show that they’re the same person with just a little bit of contrast. So King and Finch do the same thing here, showing how, oh my gosh, Batman and Bane are totally the same person with just a hair of a moral difference between them. It could be effective, but over 20 pages, it gets a little boring. There’s good beats in between here with a few surprises along the way, but man, that repetition drags the story down. Rating: Three bats out of five.
Cyborg #10 (Semper Jr./Conead/Nunes): Ew. Cyborg faces the worst possible set of Detroit-based villains imaginable this issue, ones that will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth and very unpleasant dreams. That aside, Semper does a good job this issue expanding Cyborg’s world with a growing supporting cast, a new base, and a new villain who’s paired with Anomaly. DC definitely has a thing with “heroes being framed” lately, though—Aquaman, Green Arrow, Nightwing, Batman in Detective, and now Cyborg…what’s up with that? Rating: Three and a half microchips out of five.
Death of Hawkman #6 (Andreyko/Lopresti/Buchemi/Livesay/Blond): Well, that was the most telegraphed ending ever—between the cover and the title, there’s no question how this book was going to end. Death of Hawkman is a very strange book that lacks any significance to it despite the fact that it’s openly killing a major DC character (with a second one lost, but not dead). It’s readable, but also very standard superhero schlock and lacks that factor that can drawn in the few Hawkman fans out there. Maybe this has ties to the upcoming Scott Snyder “Metal” event, but even that’s unclear but for the open ending of this last issue. Rating: Three wings out of five.
Flintstones #9 (Russell/Pugh/Chuckry): Russell and Pugh continue to beat us over the head with social commentary…but it works dammit. A club may be a blunt instrument, but if it gets the job done, who cares? In this case, they continue to pick on the throwaway nature of our society, going beyond the “crap” of each issue and looking at how men (and cavemen) treat other people. Workers fire employees, men dump their women, and in Bedrock’s case, people dump their sentient appliances. It’s best not to think too deeply about cartoons, because the family’s talking animals raise some disturbing questions about what to do when you no longer need a vacuum or bowling ball. Rating: Four yabba dabbas out of five.
Green Arrow #18 (Percy/Carlini/Prianto): We keep viewing Green Arrow as a hit-or-miss book, but fortunately, this issue’s a hit. Percy takes us into the post-reboot history of Oliver and Roy, with some modernized spin and a transparent reference to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, but otherwise keeping consistent with his origins from way back in 1941. (Yes, Speedy is that old.) Roy’s a little wilder than he appears to be over in Titans, but this is otherwise a good read and a nice start to another arc. Rating: Three and a half arrows out of five.
Green Lanterns #18 (Humphies/Rocha/Henriques/Sollazzo): This is really a mythology-building issue that goes deep into the history of Volthoom (and my gosh, is it thick) and his connection to the Green Lantern corps. If you’re a GL nut, this story is for you. If you’re more nuts about Simon and Jessica—well, they’re not anywhere near this issue. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing—the Simon/Jessica stories are new reader friendly, and kids coming in off the street are not going to be well-versed in 60 years of GLC drama. They need issues like this to get them into the bigger drama. Rating: Three and a half rings out of five.
Harley Quinn #15 (Conner/Paliotti/Timms/Evans/Linser/Sinclair): If you needed any evidence that Harley Quinn is in its own continuity, this is it. The appearance of a specific character who shouldn’t be in this book, let alone on this Earth, makes that clear. Unfortunately, said character is poorly used—despite being a DC powerhouse, it takes her the entire issue to actually do anything. Now, the Harley parts of the book are funny, as she walks an underground alien through how life in New York City works. It’s just that the side plots—including a scene in the future that’s completely divorced from this issue—make no connection with the parts that work. Good art this issue, but three artists is a bit much. Rating: Three mallets out of five.
Justice League #16 (Hitch/Pasarin/Ryan/Anderson): This issue is much better than #15 with the temporal chaos cleared up some. Most of the JLA is stuck in the past at key events, with Batman and Superman in the present trying to clear up the confusion in the face of something much, much bigger than them. There’s not a lot to say here beyond what we seem to say with every issue: the story is epic in scope, and the art is cinematically dynamic. There maybe isn’t as much attention given to each Leaguer—Superman dominates, while Cyborg gets a whole panel to himself—but other than that, it’s great. Why aren’t you reading this book? Rating: Four leagues out of five.
Nightwing #16 (Seely/Fernandez/Sotomayor): Well, great. Last issue’s tragic ending gets even more tragic when Dick gets some news about Shawn that turns his world upside-down. Whether Seely follows through with this plot or has it end early in either tragedy or a fakeout, we’ll just have to wait and see. The tension is ratcheted up, and a lighthearted ego moment with guest-star Damian Wayne calms it down a little, but not a lot. We never do get an answer to the question, though: who’s the heir apparent to Batman? Rating: Four nightsticks out of five.
Superman #18 (Tomasi/Gleason/Gray/Kaliz): Just like in this week’s Justice League, we learn that Clark’s family is his new Kryptonite. This has been an ongoing theme since “Rebirth” started, and…well, this will probably keep being a thing for the foreseeable future. There is something a little unsatisfying about this issue, and not just because it still doesn’t answer the questions about creepy-Clark and whether Superman is “real.” The Tomasi/Gleason run has been great—as have a lot of these “Rebirth” books—but these multi-title crossover issues prevent us from reading a “pure” version of a creative team’s vision, and it shows here. It’s OK, but a permanently incomplete chunk of their story. Rating: Two and a half kryptonites out of five.
The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #3 (Bates/Weisman/Conrad/Nunes): Holy flashback, Batman, I just notice Cary Bates is writing this. He’s a long time DC Silver Age veteran (and wrote most of the Captain Atom series in the late 80s), so no wonder this book is so readable, and audiences should note the significance of DC putting him back on a book. Now, this particular issue is a little slower, dealing with the fallout of last issue’s time-travel hijinks and Adam trying to reestablish himself in the present. This is an introspective book, not for readers who want action-action-ACTION each issue. But it is a good book on an “Astro City” level that takes a deeper look at the high cost of superhero living. Rating: Three and a half quantum leaps out of five.
The Winner: It’s a close race between Nightwing and Justice League, but we’ll give it to Nightwing for pulling the rug out from under us two issues in a row.
The Loser: Eh…I don’t have the heart to do it this week. Superman and Death of Hawkman are our lowest-rated books, but the former only because it’s not very meaty and it’s caught up in a crossover. Superman isn’t bad, it’s just shy of what we normally expect from Tomasi and Gleason. The overall “Reborn” storyline is going to be important, so in context, it may turn out better. Death of Hawkman is weak, but not “sucktackular” weak. So this week: hooray! Everyone’s a winner!