So, DC is just crushing me this week. I’m not sure if they’re released more titles than normal this week, but it sure feels that way. Let me be honest: reading almost every DC title every week is exhausting, and with “Rebirth” running almost a year now, I’m getting dizzy looking for all the Dr. Manhattan clues. “The Button” is going to explode this week, but we’re seeing hints dropped in the Superman titles. What’s not clear is whether they’re appearing elsewhere as well. Is Justice League a Watchmen tie-in this week? Is Harley Quinn? Who knows anymore?
OK, on to the meat of the reviews.
Aquaman #21 (Abnett/Eaton/Faucher/Elateb): The secret of Dark Water is revealed as Aquaman once again shows that patience and perspective are better than simply punching your problems. This has become pretty standard for Abnett’s run by now, making Arthur a hero who reaches out to understand what he’s dealing with. (Why he’s not in Justice League of America, I don’t know.) The downside here is Mortimer: deranged and impulsive, he’s Aquaman’s opposite, but the contrast isn’t so apparent because the villain is so typically villainous. Rating: Three tuna out of five.
Batman #21 (King/Fabok/Anderson/Bennett): They said a DCU/Watchmen crossover couldn’t work.
Much is going to be written about part one of “The Button,” about its open homage to Watchmen‘s nine-panel layout, about its shock ending, and about how Dr. Manhattan finally makes his presence known in the DCU. There isn’t much we can elaborate on except to say that this issue goes for broke and succeeds.
Two observations, though: “Shuster” and “Taylor” are throughout the issue–are those references to Superman co-creator Joe Shuster and George Taylor, Clark Kent’s first editor? A comment on reality fighting with fiction? Maybe we’re overreading this. The bigger point may be that Dr. Manhattan now finds himself in the most ironic position an overt atheist can find himself in–if Tom King is commenting on anything, it’s that. Rating: Five bats out of five.
Batwoman #2 (Bennett/Tynion/Epting/Cox): This one turns Batwoman’s story into a tale of failure, redemption, and a twist on why Bat-people don’t do well in relationships. Turns out Kate’s ex-lover Safiah was a power broker on Coryana, and their breakup years ago led to the island-nation’s collapse. Whoops. So Kate’s trying to solve a larger mystery and realizing that giving her heart away to the wrong person can have serious consequences. Good issue, although Bennett and Tynion are working to build a new history for Kate, so expanding her mythos is a little disorienting—we don’t know most of these characters. Rating: Three and a half batarangs out of five.
Green Arrow #21(Percy/Ferreyra): Juan Ferreyra is back on this issue, and while I haven’t been the biggest fan of his art, it works here. Dark and depressing, this issue brings in four of Ollie’s enemies to lay siege to Seattle, and it’s not pretty. This is one of the sharper issues of Percy’s run to date…minus the last page, which forcibly inserts a classic DC city into the current continuity in an effort to give Ollie two cities for the price of one. Rating: Three and a half quivers out of five.
Green Lanterns #21 (Humphries/Rocha/Henrique/Sollazo): There’s a missed opportunity in this mini-arc with Doctor Polaris and Jessica both having mental illness struggles, but no contrast between them. Instead, the story is reduced to a slobberknocker where Polaris goes on a rampage driven by events in the story and the Lanterns having to clean up after him. Rocha’s art is good, but not as cheery as we’ve seen in prior issues. Tonally, this whole arc has felt off and isn’t as strong as those which focus more on the Lanterns and less on the villains. Rating: Two and a half rings out of five.
Harley Quinn #18 (Palmiotti/Conner/Tims/Dini/Linser/Etc): This book is getting weird. Red Tool is an open Deadpool parody, except now he’s being integrated pretty seriously into the cast and one has to wonder how long it will last. Parodies never shine well in their own light: Moon Knight will never be Batman, and the Squadron Supreme will never be the Justice League. But Red Tool takes the spotlight here (Harley is drugged up for much of the issue), and it’s…acceptable. But it can’t last, can it? Meanwhile, the classic Paul Dini backup is tolerable, though bits of the Joker’s abusiveness are starting to creep through. I wonder if this will stay fun? Rating: Three and a half mallets out of five.
Justice League #19 (Hitch/Pasarin/Ryan/Anderson): I want to like this “Timeless” storyline, especially for Pasarin’s wonderful layouts and ability to cram a lot onto a page. In execution, though, there’s a lot of half-baked ideas that never come to fruition in a way that will satisfy the reader. The League’s visitations to various timelines turn out to be little more than cameos, we only glimpse the helpers from the future (I guess one is Lex Luthor’s daughter, but that never develops past a factoid), and the big bad—Molly—just grumps a lot about how superhumans are bad. It’s very tempting to read this issue as a Watchmen tie-in, but it could be awhile before that’s clear. So, while this story and many before it are high-stakes, we never really get the fullest sense of what game we’re playing. Rating: Two and a half leagues out of five.
Nightwing #19 (Seely/Fernandez/Jung/Sotomayor): Dr. Hurt returns, and he’s out to put Nightwing through the kind of ridiculous psychological torment that supervillains often do. It’s a careful balancing act, as Hurt’s actions have been pretty dark in this book, and Nightwing is generally a lighter title. I think the book gets there, although it’s definitely walking a fine line, particularly with what happens with Damian on the last page. He’ll be fine: he’s in two other books this month. Rating: Three batons out of five.
Super Sons #3 (Tomasi/Jimenez/Sanchez): “So I saved a girl who was really a super-powered robot but who was a real girl on the inside?” Yes, Super-Sons is that wacky. The plotline is mired enough in continuity and weirdness that only comic books can pull off…but if you can get past that, you won’t care, because this book is still at its heart about two junior versions of Superman and Batman: all the best qualities, none of the maturity. It’s fun, and that’s what matters. Rating: Three and a half tykes out of five.
Superman #21 (Tomasi/Gleason/Gray/Kalisz): It seems like we won’t be in the sleepy farmland of Hamilton County for much longer. Superman’s new status quo suggests that the title will be moving back to Metropolis, and besides, things are getting a little too big for Hamilton. We’ve got giant squids and Jon’s mysterious friend and the public just isn’t trusting Superman. Tomasi and Gleason’s better stories revolved around small-town family life but it is clearly moving past the quieter aspects of the book, and that’s a shame. Rating: Three capes out of five.
Superwoman #9 (Perkins/Segovia/Thibert/Hi-Fi): Too bad this wasn’t Jimenez’s last issue, because this does feel a bit more like a closeout issue than the previous one did. Our new writer picks up from the old threads, and the transition is acceptable enough. (Try not to think too hard about how the continuity changes may make Superwoman impossible.) The bulk of this issue is introspection: what role does Superwoman have when she no longer has powers? Clark stops by to at least make her feel better about that problem, and let her know she’s still needed. This issue doesn’t explain how, though. Oops. Rating: Three capes out of five.
Trinity #8 (Bunn/Luppachino/McCarthy/Hi-Fi): So, it’s getting hard to tell how critical these “Rebirth” and “Superman Reborn” tie-ins are. A lot of times, crossovers and events have side-stories which seem to be important to the main event, but really, the authors of the main story don’t care about them, and if they don’t overly contradict the big story, nobody cares. Trinity #8 bills itself as a “Reborn” aftermath issue, really coming down to “Superman has a bad dream and tells Batman and Wonder Woman about it.” It’s an interesting issue in that it plays with the metatext of DC as both a continually changing universe and a comic book company, but at the same time, it doesn’t accomplish much other than hinting at “Rebirth’s” end. There’s some nice eye candy as we see incarnations of characters past, but this is not Luppachino’s strongest work and it feels like the inking/color combination brings it down. Rating: Three trios out of five.
The Winner: I was going to give this to Green Arrow this week. I’m normally hard on that book, but this issue worked in enough terror to make it compelling and straightforward. Go, Percy and Ferreyra. But then the review copy of Batman finally came in, and…well, sorry, guys. King and Fabok knocked this out of the park.
The Loser: Green Lanterns just isn’t up to snuff this week–it’s not horrible, but it is kind of “meh” against the usual stuff we’ve come to expect.