1. Batman and Robin #19 by Paul Cornell and Scott McDaniel
I’m of two minds about this book. First, the good: the art is really attractive and keeps the high standard on the book from the Grant Morrison run. I also really like the characterization on Damian here, as he’s just the tough little bastard you’d expect him to be in the face of a villain, with just enough jerkiness to slightly undermine Batman in attempts to help.
The issues, however, are greater than these strengths. First, the Absence, who’s supposed to prove what problems Bruce’s callousness can cause. Given that Bruce is absurdly good planner for literally everything in every other appearance, I just don’t buy it. I also have issues with the entire backstory of the Absence with brains that line her brain walls and being fully functioning with a hole in her head. It’s just absurd, and not the good kind of absurd, rather the kind that upsets my suspension of disbelief. It’s also notable that Dick is entirely incompetent here. A rookie villainess catches him in a deathtrap that would succeed. The guy has been doing this since he was ten and dealt with everyone from Deathstroke to the Joker. This woman completely plays him and gets away. It just doesn’t fit. I think Cornell fell a bit in love with his new creation and went overboard. 3/10
2. Secret Six #29 by Gail Simone and Marcox Marz
From a book Cornell wrote, albeit poorly, to one he didn’t, yet surely had a lot to do with the quality of as it’s the second part of Simone’s Secret Six crossing over with his own Action Comics. This is great stuff. We get a ton of awesome character work as everyone is bluffing one another and scheming over a bomb all issue. Sure, that’s mostly used to juxtapose Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage, but they’re both hugely prominent villains, certainly monsters after their own right, yet not really the same. This is chock full of awesome character moments from Lex sending away Black Alice when he realizes everyone might die (a humanizing moment he won’t admit) to Savage telling Lex Scandall’s background story, which leads to Lex realizing what a monster Vandal is. Luthor, pure ego though he is, does just what he feels he must in his immense pride, while Savage is callous about life and human relationships for everyone on the planet ever save his former wife and daughter. Add into their power struggle Bane, who has no problem getting in both their faces, and we have three major players all throwing their weight around. Bane, of course, cares deeply for Scandal and will happily throw his resources against any that might harm her. We’re left with a Luthor who will help when it doesn’t affect his own goals, Vandal who will harm, even when it spites himself, and Bane, who will do horrible things to satisfy his honor. It’s a strange, twisted morality tale of giants in the villain universe. 9/10.
3. Red Robin #19 by Fabian Nicieza and Marcus To
With that done, let’s take a tour around the rest of the Bat-family books this week starting with Tim Drake. Niceza has Drake visiting Darkseids Uternet, a virtual world where villains are meeting to make plans. Drake, along with his subconscious represented by the Riddler, girlfriend and Anarky, try and take it back. Anarky is a personal favorite of mine, as Alan Grant’s mini-series and ongoing starring Lonnie Malchin are both fantastic reads. Anarky being written well here alone is enough to make me like the character, as the Objectivist (Ayn Rand’s philosophy) character uses his indomitable will to great affect. Moreover, we have Riddler representing the way Drake solves problems. That’s an awesome touch, as now I want more Riddler/Drake interactions. The final panel doesn’t work, it introduces Catman trying to hunt Drake, as I think Catman only works with the Secret Six now, but even so, this is a creative, mildly insane issue, despite the Catman issue and poorly defined antagonists. 6/10.
4. Birds of Prey #8 by Gail Simone and Guillem March
Birds of Prey features the continuation of the Death of Oracle story, wherein Calculator wages war against Oracle and the Birds with Batman around trying to be helpful. Batman’s inclusion is great from both a characterization standpoint and, more, because here it’s revealed that Oracle mind-wiped Calculator and Batman has huge issues with that stemming from Identity Crisis. Beyond that, Black Canary and her crew are in a fight with hired goon villains and the characterization on Canary is phenomenal. She’s a competent, experienced pro in this book and if she weren’t wearing that absurd costume, it’d be easy to see why she’s so highly valued in the hero community. The art really is good here, with a great Penguin in particular, managing to keep the cheesecake to bearable levels and tell a clear story. This is pretty good big fight comics thanks to strong characterization and a really interesting thematic subplot with the mindwipe. After all, what else was Oracle to do? 7/10
5. Batgirl #17 by Bryan Q Miller and Pere Perez
I’m going to say this twice this week, so here’s the first time: Please, read this book. Here we have the formerly unlikable Stephanie Brown teaming with Damian Wayne to stop a group of child abductors. The issues filled with awesome banter between Brown and Wayne. Robin (Damian) tries his hardest to be impressive, League of Assassins trained tough guy, but can’t help showing a bit of 10-year-old boy and his attempts to be impressive are here punctuated by his meanness to Batgirl, in the pulling the girl you have a crush on little kid way. It’s absolutely as endearing as possible in this character. Stephanie, meanwhile, is fully competent enough for this mission with Damian first as just an annoying tagalong, then someone she sympathizes with for having no childhood. Ultimately, this issue makes both stronger characters, built around a fun adventure. If you want to enjoy your comics, get good story and drama without drowning in darkness, this is an excellent place to start. 9/10.
6. Thor: Mighty Avenger #8 by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee
Well, you guys went and let the best book Marvel has published in years die. Good job, this is the final issue. Thor here meets Iron Man as he escapes his capture from last issue and tries to regain the trust of the common man. The book is the epitome of charm, with amazing relationships and developing characters. This is, indeed, all ages, as anyone human can enjoy the pure joy splashed onto these pages. Langridge’s inscription from the final page says it better than I can, so here we are:
Whosoever holds this comics book, if they should have
romance in their hearts, shall possess the everlasting
gratitude of Thor, the Mighty Avenger.
Please, buy this book. 9/10.
7. Marvel Adventures Superheroes #10 by Paul Tobin and Buchemi
Apparently we’ve been quietly building a conspiracy story in self-contained issues as to why Reed has gotten sue to join the Avengers. This issue is Reed explaining that as Sue and the Avengers storm Four Freedom’s Plaza. All around, this is good fun, but I’m not a huge fan of this much time paradox in my Marvel Adventure’s comics. It’s needlessly complicating the awesome adventuring the heroes usually do, although there are quite a few seeds planted for the future I’m quite curious about, so I guess, in its own way, it was effective. 5/10.
8. Justice League: Generation Lost #17 By Judd Winick And Joe Bennett
I left this book months ago, but at Grey’s urging, I gave it another shot. Blue Beetle is captured, Checkmate is dissolved and Max Lord is still one step ahead of our heroes, who keep tripping over their own lead feet. There’s not much by way of characterization for anyone but Max here, and, honestly, there’s really not much here. Max Lord is doing what he was doing in issue 1- making the heroes lives hell in various ways while he pursues his mysterious ploy. Some things have happened, but no progress has been made. I am not pleased. 2/10.
9. Rebels # 24 by Tony Bedard and Claude St. Aubin
Bedard’s space tale continues with straightforward space opera. We have out romantic plot between Starfire, who’s breaking the heart of Captain Comet because he has feelings over their fling, yet might be in love with the married Adam Strange. We also have Blackfire increasing her relationship with Brainiac 2, but that’s so clearly leading to betrayal, it’s hard to take seriously. Meanwhile, the Starro threat shows up again, returning the book to the focus it had when it was strongest, and, with that, the quiet issues of soap opera take a backseat to the explosions. I can’t say I’m sad for that. The relationships here have been quite obvious and one-dimensional, while the constant give and take of the space wars, with Vril’s intellect have lead to really creative plotting. Still, this is as good as either Emerald Warriors or Green Lantern Corps, so if you like either, try this. 6/10.
10. Superman #707 by Chris Roberson and Allan Goldman
Roberson takes over here, scripting over the plots of JMS and, as much as I want to love this (iZombie is great), I just can’t. Superman is a whiny mess here, unable to tell right from wrong and totally out of line to Lois. The book manages an excellent dilemma for Superman to worry over and he might even be doing the right thing, but his whining about shades of gray and bossing around of Lois are entirely out of character. This is a mess and I have absolutely no interest in reading a Superman this poorly characterized. Worse yet, there’s a suggestion that this comes down to some kind of mind-control, which just means none of the human drama matters as it will be hand waved away. I have absolutely no interest in seeing where this goes. 2/10.
Tags: Batgirl, Birds of Prey, bryan q. miller, chris roberson, fabian nicieza, Gail simone, JMS, Paul Cornell, Paul Tobin, Red Robin, Secret Six, Superman