DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as Young Animal, Wildstorm, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu, entertainment editor Kyle Pinion, and contributor Louie Hlad are here to help you with.
THIS WEEK: Kyle takes a look at the end of James Tynion’s Detective Comics run, Doc Shaner’s arrival in The Terrifics, and very (VERY) quick peek into the beginning of Flash War
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Detective Comics #981
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Eddy Barrows
Inker: Eber Ferreira
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
I often hear, and have repeated to myself, the mantra: it’s not the destination, it’s the journey – and in superhero comics, where long runs are often capped with creators having to put the toys back on the shelf, as it were; that’s not a mantra, it’s basically the law of the land. I should be used to this kind of thing, having been immersed in this medium for a very long time. But, darn it if the twinge of disappointment doesn’t hit me every time I get a little non-plussed about the conclusion of one of these runs that basically ends exactly in the same place it started just to clear the decks for the next creator. It’s just exhausting, and maybe I’ve garnered an outward distaste for the monthly grind over the past few years, but I was really hoping that I’d come away from one of the longest runs of the Rebirth era feeling like I had just witnessed one of the better recent Batman runs, but instead I’m zeroing in on the negatives more than anything else – surely not the intended effect attempted to be cast by Tynion and team.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy a good deal of what the former Snyder protege brought to the title…after a less than exciting start, I felt like the title really snapped into place right around its second arc, and at points really started to scratch that Bat-family itch that I hadn’t felt really been dug at since the early 2000’s. A book that brings back Azrael, Spoiler, and Cassandra Cain to the forefront of the Gotham cast is always going to end up being a favored read of mine, and to be fair, I found this to be the title where Tynion really found his storytelling voice. For a number of years, it seemed like he was maybe a bit overly inspired by his mentor to a degree where it was difficult to tell just what a James Tynion comic actually read like. I’m happy to say, for the most part, pretty enjoyable, though there were some times where that became a little more debatable than I’d like; specifically, I’m thinking back to the Orphan-centered arc that featured Ra’s Al Ghul as one of the books respective low points. A good example of poor art really dragging down a decent script to the point that the storyline struggles to be readable.
As for this week’s comic at hand? It’s totally fine. It brings the conflict between Kate and Tim full circle, while Bruce and the rest of the crew serves to try and thwart the OMAC-fueled machinations of the General. Though thanks to the recent timeline-fueled shenanigans that both Cassandra and Stephanie took part in last issue, Spoiler gets to properly live up to her name, infusing Tim with the full reveal of just what happened between Future Batwoman and Batman in the lead-up to the latter’s murder. It all leads to an eventual catharsis between these two characters that have been perpetually at odds throughout the course of the series, either through basic disagreements regarding methods or being outright foes, either through the mislead efforts of Future Tim Drake or The General. This final issue puts a bow on that ongoing conflict and ends it with a somewhat ghastly panel of Batwoman and Red Robin embracing and finally reaching a point of understanding. Though somewhat offputting composition aside, Eddy Barrows sure draws a finely textured cape!
All kidding aside, there’s something oddly rushed feeling about how this entire mega-arc reaches its conclusion. As the final OMAC tinged storyline reads a bit like editorial told him to wrap it up in time to give adequate space for whoever is moving in next. That’s just me spitballing, but the actual wrap-up never quite satisfies, utilizing basically deus ex machina to resolve its key struggle. A “you didn’t know the whole story” reveal rarely escapes feeling cheap…needless to say, Tynion and Barrows do not escape unscathed. The rest of the issue then returns to the very status quo resetting moments that I bemoaned earlier. Batman decides to split up the team he and Tim put together, and everyone basically goes their own ways – either into new comics, completely written off like Luke Fox, or off into the sunset into a more to be determined status. Unless Tim and Steph’s mission somehow dovetails with the same struggles that Wally West is dealing with over in The Flash, I wouldn’t be surprised if this stuff never comes up again, happy to be wrong though. It all just reads like one big excuse to wipe the slate of a lot of this stuff, which is never how you want to feel about two years worth of comics.
The Terrifics #4
Storytellers: Doc Shaner & Jeff Lemire
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
A few weeks back, I discussed my struggles with the New Age of Heroes titles that DC has put out. I don’t think they’re necessarily bad comics in the Birds of Prey/Cyborg sense, but I’ve yet to really fall deep into any of the titles the way I’ve wanted to (I liked the first issue of Curse of Brimstone, but have yet to crack open the subsequent chapter). The real exceptions being the delightful New Challengers, which I thought was a blast last week, and I’m so jealous Louie got to review, and The Terrifics. Now, I think Jeff Lemire is currently on one of the hottest streaks in mainstream comics right now, at least if you’re willing to allow the idea that Black Hammer is maybe the best regular superhero title on the stands. I’m in awe of it. So having him on board for a Fantastic Four riff was welcome news indeed.
And actual book has been solid thus far, with a good pitch that ties into the Metal aftermath in a way that’s far less forced than a lot of these New Age titles, and gives a pretty decent rationale for why this errant crew is stuck as a foursome. The lone struggle I’ve had was that I’m not wholly certain that the “Marvel style” of storytelling really suited Ivan Reis’ first two issues, which were a bit too decompressed and required some speedy resolution on the part of Joe Bennett to close the opening arc off in a mostly satisfying fashion. But with Issue #4, Doc Shaner has finally arrived.
For those who don’t know, Shaner designed the team’s costumes, and I believe – unless I imagined this, he was originally supposed to be pencil the opening arc but was unavailable. So with this week’s installment, it feels like we’re getting The Terrifics we were always supposed to receive. And what a gorgeous ride it is; centered on the team’s attempt to return Phantom Girl to Bgztl, they fall prey to group of space scavengers who take them captive. It’s a narrative centered on a small scale escape set-up that allows the team members to play off one another to really bake in their relationships, which something that Lemire excels at (again, go read Black Hammer!) and Shaner uncanny ability to make his characters pop right off the panel as if they’re talking to you is really something. He’s basically a new generation Alex Toth, and Lemire just hangs back and lets him do his thing. You can tell Shaner especially loves working with Plastic Man, and watching him play around with his various permutations, such as the astronaut suit, and his very Johnny Storm type relationship to Metamorpho’s Ben Grimm is a real joy.
And Nathan Fairbairns colors really just bring a vibrancy to it all that’s hard to understate. Take a look at that T-sphere panel, where it shoots off into hyperspace. The reflection on the sphere itself gives way to a control of light that I’m very much astounded by. On top of that, if you view how he approaches the faces of each team member, I love his approach to Mister Terrific’s mask especially, or Metamorpho’s skin, or the youth glow he gives Phantom Girl. This issue was a bit of a visual feast for anyone who wants to take in actively great comics art. Fullest endorsement! Plus, as a long time Legion fan, a showcase on Phantom Girl (even if it’s a Tinya ancestor) is right up my alley.
The Flash #47
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Howard Porter
Letterer: Steve Wands
And just a real quick look here: after what feels like months and months of build up following an initial announcement that came quite some time ago, Flash War, the big event taking over (capping off?) Josh Williamson’s Flash run has finally kicked off. While I’m still having a hard time feeling all that convinced of older Wally’s emotional troubles within the context of this series alone – why is he mad at Barry again? Putting Iris in danger? Okay – this first chapter is a fun little read and really zeroes in on why the larger beats of his tenure on the book has worked really well. While Williamson gets in his own way sometimes with the leaden exposition in an attempt to nail down the character flaws inherent in the title hero, his larger plotting clicks together pretty well and I’m especially engaged in his usage of Eobard Thawne and Hunter Zolomon within the context of their relationships to their respective Flash mantle-bearers. Also the return of the Renegades gives way to some enjoyable action beats, and I especially thought Golden Guardian being a member of the Sinestro Corps was a clever touch. Solid start, Howard Porter rules. It’s not a book I’m in love with, but if you’ve gotten this far, what’s stopping you now just when it looks like it’s all coming together?