Do you have a “favorite” week with DC? Based on double-shipping, I find myself liking Batman and Superman weeks better than Detective and Action. This first and third weeks always seem to be more enjoyable than the second and third. So here’s what we got as we rocket into Free Comic Book Day week:
Aquaman #22 (Abnett/Briones/Elateb): The “Dark Water” storyline wraps up with a lesson that even levelheaded Arthur might be a little too impulsive at times. Then again, he’s holding a nuclear bomb that’s about to take out him and everyone else unless he can find a solution to both it and the mutate problem. He gets there, but gets a talking to in the process. Is this going to come back and bite him? Probably. Rating: Three tuna out of five.
Bane: Conquest #1 (Dixon/Nolan/Wright): Back in the 1990s, Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan were two of the key architects of the Batman comics, and they had a lengthy and impressive run together on Detective Comics. Now they’ve reunited for a Bane story and…eh, you can’t go home again. There’s nothing bad here, but comics have changed considerably in two decades and this all reads very standard compared to what we’re reading now. Also, I don’t think anyone’s clamoring for a Bane comic. Rating: Two and a half venoms out of five.
Batman #22 (Williamson/King/Fabok/Anderson/Bennett): Batman doing cosmic stuff is never the best fit. Crimefighting and espionage works fine, but getting him involved with time travel and metaphysical shenanigans is tricky, and even last issue’s opening salvo of “The Button” was at least a straightforward fight. King and Williamson at least work around that by having Batman spend much of the issue doing the touching wrap-up that he and his father never had. And “The Button” is getting more intriguing, with revelations about the Flashpoint universe, implications about Dr. Manhattan’s plan, and a Reverse-Flash twist that we should have seen coming. It’s still a good issue, if a very unorthodox Batman issue. Rating: Three and a half Bats out of five.
Cyborg #12 (Semper/Conrad/Richards/Nunes): The latest issue of Cyborg plays around with worrisome questions about cybernetics and genetics without fully engaging them. Is mixing tech with the body a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing? Cyborg seems to be the good end of that question, while the new villain, “Ratattack” (yes, that’s his name) is the bad end…and there’s hints of O.M.A.C. involvement here as well. Cyborg’s art is still inconsistent from month to month, but at least this issue’s work by Conrad and Richards is enjoyable to look at. Rating: Three microchips out of five.
The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #5 (Bates/Weisman/Conrad/Nunes): What is it with standard supervillains and their “mwahahahaha I’m evil” mentality? “Ultramax” is scary, sure, but he’s also very repetitive in his pattern of tracking down everyone he hates and killing them. Captain Atom, meanwhile, has to deal with the consequences of being an inadvertent deadbeat dad thanks to the miracle of time travel, which is the more compelling part of this book. Rating: Two and a half leaps out of five.
Flintstones #20 (Russell/Pugh/Chuckry): The Flinstones continues its laughs at modern society by taking a look at urban gentrification and the tendency to treat the “other” as an unpleasant novelty. There’s a theme of dishonesty throughout this issue, with the new neighbors only superficially liking Fred and Barney, Fred having to pretend to like Barney’s ugly-yet-meaningful gift, and Gazoo trying to convince aliens not to blow up the Earth. Are we better off with the truth? This issue suggests “no.” Rating: Three boulders out of five.
Green Arrow #22 (Percy/Ferreyra): Things go from bad to worse as Seattle is caught in the Four Horsemen’s chaos and Ollie’s team can barely respond to it. Worse, Ollie seems to be two steps behind everyone, with only the barest hints of the larger purpose behind the “Star City” plot. This is an intense, disaster-laden issue and probably the right point to jump into this comic. Rating: Three and a half quivers out of five.
Green Lanterns #21 (Humphries/Cliquet/Hi-Fi): Green Lanterns circles back for a decent jumping-on point as it turns out Jessica’s never had any proper GL training. Everything comes off a little too friendly and you might keep waiting for the trap to be sprung, but no—this really is a training run on Mogo that’s inevitably going to tie into the Hal Jordan title. Weisman’s art is extremely clean and very reminiscent of Alan Davis, so overally, this issue makes for an enjoyable package. Rating: Three and a half rings out of five.
Harley Quinn #19 (Conner/Palmiotti/Dini/Timms/Blevins/Etc.): Modern Harley is becoming the hero New York needs…or is that deserves? This issue is chock full of gross-out sight gags, but that’s what happens when you fight cannibals and get a Deadpool knock-off with a woodshop for an arsenal involved. The “classic” Harley backup is OK, but at this point, it feels like it’s missing some of the Timmverse charm. Maybe it’s because Joker’s been watered down from his abusive self…but you take that out of the equation, and horrifying as it sounds, his relationship with Harley just isn’t the same. Rating: Three mallets out of five.
Justice League #20 (Hitch/Henriques/Sinclair): Justice League has been very hit-or-miss since it launched, but fortunately, this issue falls into “hit.” “Endless” sees the team caught in an open “Groundhog Day” plot where a mystery explosion keeps sending the Flash back to earlier and earlier events, trying to find what’s caused everything. Hitch’s run has been asking whether the League inherently causes more harm than good, and the implication with this issue is that it’s the latter. Rating: Four leagues out of five.
Nightwing #20 (Seely/Fernandez/Sotomayor): Dr. Hurt tries to show Dick a future where he’s been corrupted to the point of no return…but the plan backfires badly, because that’s not who Dick is. The issue’s OK, but the wrapup is a little too rapid and feels a bit cheap since we’re overtly told that this is all a dream. On the plus side, there may yet be another “Rebirth” clue in here—is Dr. Hurt working for Dr. Manhattan? Rating: Two and a half batons out of five.
Superman #22 (Tomasi/Mahnke/Mendoza/Quintana): Looks like the Kents’ time in Hamilton County is coming to an end with some very unfortunate retcon revelations about their new home. This was inevitable, as Superman’s inherently a Metropolis-based hero, but the small town life was a nice turn for the family. At least this issue gives Lois a chance to shine in a very dangerous situation, with Clark sidelined until the end of the issue. And check out that Mahnke art. Rating: Three and a half capes out of five.
The Winner: I liked Justice League this week, which has made up for some of the shortcomings of the last run. Here’s a good faith hope that it doesn’t fizzle out before the end.
The Loser: Bane: Conquest just didn’t do anything special despite reuniting a legendary creative team and putting them back on the character they made famous. Not awful, but only a purist needs to pick this up.