Crud, there’s a lot of Batman this week. Even where Batman’s not in a book, like Harley Quinn or Batwoman, he’s casting a shadow over it. Maybe “DC Comics” should just become “Batman Comics.” I get that Batman is where the money is, but…man. Anyway, on to the reviews.
All-Star Batman #8 (Synder/Camuncolli/Francavilla/Morales/White): Snyder wraps a neat story into a larger puzzler here. There’s a broader story about some dangerous virus threatening the world, but that’s mostly cast aside for an apparent homage to a famous Mad Hatter episode of Batman: The Animated Series. “Perchance to Dream” gave Batman a fantasy world in which everything was perfect, but false. This issue poses the dangerous question that Batman is the fantasy, created by the Hatter. We know that’s not true, but Snyder makes the story delicious enough to be plausible. The backup takes a quieter look at Duke as he tries to figure out his place in the Bat-family, and maybe he’ll have a code name by the end of this. Rating: Four bats out of five.
Aquaman #19 (Abnett/Briones/Eltaeb): This issue introduces us to a special U.S. military team with sea-based powers. They’re an interesting addition to the book, but then they end up not doing a whole lot. Maybe they’ll be explored in the next chapter, but for now, they’re just window dressing (and at least one of them has a redundant name with a Batman villain). We do have a returning villain with a new power set that makes them particularly terrifying in an Aquaman context, so otherwise, not a bad issue. Rating: Three tuna out of five.
Batman #19 (King/Finch/Miki/Scott/Hope/Bellaire): So the pattern with these Tom King “I Am…” arcs is that they’re all a reflection of how we view Batman—as the heart of Gotham, as a suicidal warrior, and now…as Bane? This issue is a break from the ongoing narrative, but like it or not, it is King’s thesis on who Batman is as reflected in Bane. And wow, is Bane nasty; taking down Batman’s entire rogue’s gallery because Bane, like Batman, is just that unstoppable and that determined. It gets a little redundant at times, as he just plows through villain after villain, and it’s definitely a jarring break from last month, but that Finch art continues to be really pretty. Rating: Three and a half bats out of five.
Batwoman #1 (Bennett/Tynion/Epting/Cox): A decent first issue which sets the plot for this first arc in the way that last month’s “Rebirth” issue didn’t. That issue set the Batwoman’s tone; this one sets the story. Kate’s still firmly entrenched in the Bat-universe, but just independent enough to tell her own story, with the underutilized Julia Pennyworth serving as her Alfred. Kate’s hunting down international terrorists, but the one she finds this issue cuts a little too close to home, and it looks like we’ll be peeling back the onion on her past just a little more with this story. Hopefully, this will be the Batwoman story which sticks. Rating: Four bats out of five.
Green Arrow #19 (Percy/Carlini/Andolfo/Prianto/Hi-Fi): This issue gives us more context to why Roy and Ollie don’t get along anymore, with considerable echoes to the classic “My Partner is a Junkie!” storyline. It’s a decent youth versus elder perspective, although one which is wrapped up a little too easily, with tension turning into friendship without any meaningful transition. But there’s still that “Dakota Access Pipeline” story going, so there’s that. Rating: Three quivers out of five.
Harley Quinn #16 (Palmiotti/Conner/Timms/Linsner/Sinclair): OK, I’ve been hard on Harley Quinn in the past, but this issue is probably one of the stronger ones so far. Zorcrom’s ready to conquer the surface world, and the only solution is to…send him on a date with Power Girl? There’s not a whole lot that Harley herself does here, but the story otherwise has the perfect mix of action and humor, and, in the case of how Zorcrom is finally stopped, it has both. And there’s more than enough boob and “Harley has a thing for PG” jokes to make the humor here distinct. Power Girl can’t be in every issue without giving this book a name change…but otherwise, this is the level of storytelling that needs to be repeated every month. Rating: Four mallets out of five.
Justice League #17 (Hitch/Pasarin/Ryan/Anderson): The good: this issue does a great job showing how inspirational the League can be, as our time-tossed heroes rally peoples across centuries to fight back against the Timeless. Even divided in time, the team is working in concert to bring about victory, and Hitch writes a great story showing how the actions in one century echo forward to the next. The bad: Superman comes off really annoying here, explicitly showing Clark as somebody who only cares about Lois and Jon. Ouch. Superman’s supposed to love everybody even when he’s committed to one woman (and now their kid). I hope this is a ruse, because Superman really doesn’t act like this. Rating: Three leagues out of five, and this would have been a lot higher if Superman wasn’t such a jerk.
Nightwing #17 (Seely/Fernandez/Sotomayor): It seems like so many of these “Rebirth” books are caught up in character theses: “What does it mean for X to be X?” In Nightwing’s case, Dick is actively reexamining whether he even wants to be Nightwing, what with Shawn maybe being pregnant and all. And meanwhile, the rest of the world keeps demanding that he be Nightwing, both in Damian challenging which of them is Batman’s successor, and the new Deathwing making a mockery of Dick’s past. It’s an interesting character study, and it’d be neat if this were all building to Dick’s retirement…which, let’s face it, won’t happen. Rating: Three and a half nightsticks out of five.
Superman #19 (Tomasi/Gleason/Gray/Kalisz): With Jon missing, Clark and Lois have to run through a Mxyzptlk-created funhouse to get him back. Unfortunately, what we get here is a cacophony of unrelated imagery which is trying to come off as tense and meaningful, but isn’t. Lois doesn’t remember Jon, but that’s not really explored. Mxy puts them through a maze, but that’s not really explored. Jon meets up with some surprise guests (who offer some payoff to last week’s issue of Superwoman), but we don’t hear them talk, so that’s also not explored. The Tomasi and Gleason team are great, but they really don’t have the ability to explore anything in the short space of this issue, and unfortunately, the big cosmic stuff isn’t as well-done as their quieter, standalone issues. Rating: Two capes out of five.
Super-Sons #2 (Tomasi/Jimenez/Sanchez): See, I like this Tomasi story a lot better than the cosmic mayhem in Superman. It may be dealing with a half-alien kid and the grandson of an international assassin, but it works on a very human level. Jon and Damian are, effectively, a pint-sized Superman and Batman, aping their fathers’ mannerisms while still focused through the lens of two kids; at least one of whom is having very kid-like reactions to Lex Luthor and brutal murders. Bravo, well done. Rating: Four brats out of five.
Trinity #7 (Bunn/Mann/Mendonca/Desjardins/Anderson): Opposites, duplicates, and thematic copies—these are things that DC deals in heavily (especially this week, where Bane is presented as a mirror of Batman, Nightwing fights his evil twin alongside his junior replacement, and Aquaman teams with a bunch of aquatic Marines). So inevitably, a book like Trinity is going to do something on doubles for the Super-Bat-Wonder team in the form of their three worst enemies. There’s little reason for these three to work together—Luthor and Ra’s Al Ghul, understandably, have friction from panel one—but at least Bunn has an excuse on the last page from them to team up with Circe. That thing that Mann and/or Mendonca drew, though…euuuughhh. Rating: Three and a half trios out of five.
The Winner: I’ve been mean to Harley Quinn lately, so let’s give top prize to that. It was worth it just for the gag on where Power Girl keeps her money, and where Harley’s face just happens to land when she crashes into P.G.
The Loser: There’s no really bad books this week. Justice League was pretty good, but I’m irked at the whole “Clark only cares about his wife and kid, and screw the rest of the uiverse.” If this turns out to be a ruse, all is forgiven. But man, stop that.