Wait, do we still have a Rebirth? Because DC just announced that the big Dr. Manhattan story will happen in a four-issue self-contained limited series in November. Once “The Button” wraps up, is there really a big Rebirth storyline to worry about anymore? Let’s look at each ongoing series and see if there’s any kind of a pattern here.
Aquaman #23 (Abnett/Eaton/Faucher/Elateb): Aquaman is getting back into Atlantean politics as Arthur and Mera find that they’re no longer welcome in their own kingdom. There’s a coup going on and Arthur’s loyalists are powerless to help him—Atlantean code, and all that. Atlantis is faced with competing choices between xenophobia and protectionism versus openness and expansionism—in other words, a metaphor that’s just a little too on the nose these days. That aside, this book continues to be clean and straightforward, so it’s about what you’d want from an Aquaman book. Enjoy this before DC decides to warp him to match Jason Mamoa’s portrayal. Rating: Three tuna out of five.
Batman #23 (King/Gerads): After three lengthy stories and two crossovers, Tom King takes a break with a guest artist to stretch and do something a little different—an offbeat investigation shared by Batman and Swamp Thing. A man is found murdered, the circumstances are strange, and the victim strikes a little too close to home for both characters. Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t quite follow up on Batman’s personal blow in “The Button,” and the nature of this story cries out for it. Not a bad issue, but it comes up short on the last pages. Rating: Three bats out of five.
Batwoman #3 (Bennett/Tynion/Epting/Cox): So, the villains’ master plan from this issue is kind of similar to what Tynion just did over in Detective Comics. It’s not precisely identical, but this is twice now that we’ve seen “blow up a large geographic area from underneath because we’re evil.” This issue of Batwoman has gotten a little superficial with obviously villainous villains and a lot of punching, and considerably less character development for Kate. Epting’s art is still great, but it needs a thicker story to go with it. Rating: Two and a half bats out of five.
Green Arrow #23 (Percy/Ferreyra): So is DC Comics philosophically set in the real world or a fictional one? Generally speaking, it’s fictional, with cities like Metropolis and Gotham existing in very imaginative and “real-like-but-made-up” locations. And then you’ve got Green Arrow, which wavers between the real setting of Seattle and the fake setting of Star City…and it seems like Percy is determined to just convert one into the other. Seriously, Percy makes a bold move this issue which, if permanent, could justify the utter transformation of a real place into a fake DC one. It does get a little weird with Black Canary discovering a prophecy involving the city and Ollie, with the mysticism a bit outside of this book’s purview. Still, things are heating up. Rating: Three quivers out of five.
Green Lanterns #23 (Percy/Pansica/Ferreira/Blond): Simon and Jessica have been relatively Earthbound, so it’s a good change to see them caught up in the larger cosmic aspect of the GL mythos. It’s still very grounded in the sense that the pair gets put through very brutal Lantern training, and with good reason: the universe is cruel and unforgiving, so they shouldn’t expect their tryouts to be any better. Guy in particular makes a very harsh boss for the anxiety-ridden Jessica, but at least she gets to top it off with a very bad move that’s nonetheless expected of anyone dealing with Guy. Rating: Four rings out of five.
Harley Quinn #20 (Palmiotti/Conner/Dini/Linser/Etc.): Harley doesn’t seem to catch a break, and this issue is very self-aware of that problem. In the course of a day, she gets to mourn the death of cannibalized homeless people, care for the injured Red Tool, learn that Harley Sinn has kidnapped her friends, and fight off a crazed attacker from the future who blames Harley for Batman’s eventual death. Everybody got that? Yes, this book is that complicated…yet it’s still very readable once you pick it up. I’m sorrier to say that Dini’s “classic Harley” backup is much weaker, with the Joker and Harley continuing to have a very “cute” relationship that lacks the tragic punch of its animated counterpart. It’s nice to go home, but not when it’s boring. Rating: Three mallets out of five.
Justice League #21 (Hitch/Henriques/Sinclair): Now this is a nice, clean wrapup to a relatively short story. The very lengthy “Timeless” story was unsatisfying, but “Endless” is a quick read between two issues with some decent art and a satisfying wrapup where the team works as a whole unit. The issue does end with a hint that all prior Justice League stories to date have been interconnected, precursors to a larger story. What’s unclear is whether Hitch is telling his own story or if there’s a bigger connection to Rebirth. The item in question in this story does harken back to a classic, missing DC character that will perk a few eyebrows, though, so maybe? Rating: Four leagues out of five.
Nightwing #21 (McMillian/Duce/Sotomayor): Newcomer McMillian gives us something this book has sorely needed: a guy’s night out. Even the prior storyline with Dick and Damian wasn’t that, but more of a mentor/mentee story; this one sees Wally dropping in for a visit, taking Dick out for a night of clubbing and crimefighting. This works as a good one-off young adult read while still hinting at upcoming stories. Rating: Four batons out of five.
Superman #23 (Tomasi/Gleason/Mahnke/Mendoza/Quintana): Bleak. Bleeeeaaakk. For a generally upbeat book, Superman #23 is probably the darkest issue of Tomasi and Gleason’s run, with everything in Hamilton turned upside-down. It’s not cute anymore, and everything we liked about the town has just gone wrong. Oh, and something awful happens to Lois—something I assume will be reversed by the end of the story, because she’s just fine over in Jurgens’ Action Comics. Still, when you see it, it’s bleak. Screw you, Dr. Manhattan. Rating: Three and a half capes out of five.
Super-Sons #3 (Tomasi/Jimenez/Sanchez): This one’s considerably lighter, although it’s apparently set before Superman and Action since everything is just fine and dandy on the farm. Anyway, Jon and Damian are just terrible superheroes. Well, maybe not Damian. But when [SPOILER] has to bail your ass out because you’ve been captured by a junior Amazo, you’ve still got a lot to learn—especially with the scolding they’re due for on the last page. Rating: Three tots out of five.
Teen Titans #8 (Percy/Abnett/Priest/Pham/Hester/Von Grawbadger/Charalampidis): In contrast with Nightwing, this issue is a little too complicated, as you’re stepping into part two of a multi-title story which pairs off the Teens with the adult Titans. There’s a mandatory set of pages which compares/contrasts the younger kids with their older doubles, but it doesn’t get too far past that. Still, if you’re a fan of new-Wally West, the issue focuses heavily on him…mainly in how gullible he is around Deathstroke. Rating: Three titans out of five.
The Flash #22: Just kidding. We didn’t get a review copy. Here’s a scary preview page, though.
Trinity #9 (Manapul. Really, just Manapul. OK, Steve Wands did the letters.): So if you like Francis Manapul, this issue is all him. The moral of this issue is that the Justice League would be screwed if it weren’t for the Trinity. Or maybe the Trinity just got lucky when a nasty alien attack hit the JLA satellite, but anyway, they’re hosed, and our heroes have to figure out how to keep bad from getting to worse. It’s an OK Justice League story, though not as strong as the actual Justice League issue also out this week. Rating: Three trios out of five.
The Winner: We actually had a couple of winners this week. I’ll say Nightwing just because it was such an atypical story with a little human-centered adventure.
The Loser: Batwoman, but only barely. It wasn’t awful, just not as deep as previous issues.
Meanwhile—there’s not a lot of Rebirth-iness this week after all. The Flash is probably the most rebirth-y issue, but we didn’t get a review copy, so nuts. Justice League is implied but not confirmed to be tying into the big threat, and Superman is dealing with the fallout of the timeline changes, but that’s it. Makes you wonder if Dr. Manhattan’s dealings are as big as we thought a year ago.