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 our team is here to help with, every Wednesday, with the DC Round-Up!
THIS WEEK: Supergirl takes the lead in a story that actually feels like it might matter, as she hunts down Krypton’s destroyer. Also, look how much fun the Titans are having! PLUS: Zack offers a bonus review of the Sandman Universe’s House of Whispers #1.
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.
Script: Marc Andreyko
Pencils: Kevin Maguire
Inks: Sean Parsons
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Tom Napolitano
As a series, Supergirl has always felt kind of…skippable? That’s not really a knock on any particular run of the series, more an observation of her typical place in the comics line.
The character herself is a fantastic concept — Superman’s “older” cousin Kara Zor-El, who actually has memories of growing up as a teenager on Krypton before she was sent to Earth in much the same way as the baby Kal-El. The reason she appears quite a bit younger than him now is that her rocket ship took the scenic route and held her in stasis for decades while Superman grew up in Kansas and later moved to Metropolis. So even though she used to babysit him, he now has years of worldly wisdom on her. It’s a very neat wrinkle to the Superman family mythos and allows for some unique storytelling opportunities.
But really, when does Kara ever participate in a central plotline or feature prominently in any other DC characters’ stories? I can think of two examples: her death in the 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths (which featured pretty much everybody) and her reintroduction in Jeph Loeb’s and Michael Turner’s Superman/Batman around 2004. I’m sure there’s at least a couple other examples in the past 15 years (does Wednesday Comics count?) but the point is that Kara mostly keeps to herself. Her rogues gallery is a Who’s Who of forgettable nobodies and she rarely even shows up for Kent family barbecues. She just sort of does her own thing. Which is fine, but if you’re a cash-strapped collector looking to keep up with the DC Universe then the adventures of Supergirl aren’t exactly required reading.
Which is why this current story arc feels like a breath of fresh air. When Rogol Zaar showed up out of nowhere in Bendis’s Action Comics #1000 story claiming to have been the one who destroyed Krypton, you’d better believe Supergirl was there getting her ass kicked right alongside her cousin. The weekly series that followed, The Man of Steel, unpacked that scene a bit more and showed how Superman and Supergirl had just discovered that the bottled city of Kandor, the last remaining piece (and people) of Krypton, had been destroyed by the same genocidal monster. Remember, Supergirl grew up on Krypton so the loss of Kandor was felt even more viscerally and painfully by her. She’s very much front and center in this unfolding drama.
After Rogol Zaar was temporarily put on ice (by Kara!), Supergirl took his weapon and left Earth to search for answers. She still didn’t know who he was or if his claims about Krypton’s destruction were true, but she couldn’t bear to play this one safe. She needed to know who killed her family and friends. So she headed to the largest data repository in the galaxy; the Green Lantern citadel on Mogo.
While this story arc — titled “The Killers of Krypton” — obviously has a heavy undertone, Supergirl #22 manages to remain a lighthearted book with plenty of cute moments. Her companion is the sweet supermutt Krypto, who naps in the back of her spaceship and creates small whirlwinds by wagging his tail. When the ship loses control and flips upside down, Kara faceplants into the windshield with a satisfying THWACK! She then insults Green Lantern officer B’dg by calling him a squirrel (and let’s face it, he’s basically a space squirrel) before Krypto starts chasing him across the night sky.
The plot that began in Action Comics and Man of Steel thickens in this issue as Kara attempts to sneak into the Green Lantern archives to research the strange markings on Zaar’s axe. The weapon itself appears to have an animating force as it changes size periodically and attacks threats all on its own. It’s a mystery that will have to wait for a later issue as Supergirl is caught by the Green Lanterns and brought face to face with another powerful being who has been known to rip worlds apart himself.
Finally, this feels like the right blend of adorable and angsty for this character. Above all, it’s nice to see Kara Zor-El back in the spotlight in a story that is likely to matter.
Writer: Dan Abnett
Art: Brandon Peterson, Guillem March, Denis Medri
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Dave Sharpe
If it seems like we’ve been discussing Dark Nights: Metal a lot in these reviews lately, it’s because that series set the tone for the DC Comics line this year in a big, big way. What almost seemed like an afterthought in the final issue of that series (“We won! Oh, and by the way we broke the Source Wall…”) has permeated so much of the content that has been created since. In response to the new threat of energy pouring through the breach in the Source Wall, the heroes have rebuilt the Hall of Justice and formed several new teams to handle the fallout. If you skipped Metal, you’ve surely caught on by now that it was a Big Deal.
While the Damian-led Teen Titans have basically gone rogue, this Titans team has gained a newfound respectability and an official status. Dick Grayson was as surprised as anyone when Batman offered his group a grunt of approval and a room in the Hall of Justice. They assembled a retooled roster rather quickly and in just their third issue together (fourth if you count Titans Special #1) they’re functioning as a pretty capable team. Their specific mission? While the Justice Leagues Dark, Odyssey, and Vanilla take the fight to the source (wall), the Titans stay back to mop up the smaller threats at home. A strange energy is seeping into the universe and Nightwing’s team is doing their best to keep our cities and people safe until the Justice League can solve the root problem.
Surprisingly, these grown-up Titans are way more fun and less grim than the Teen Titans. Maybe that’s because the roster of this team is a mirror of the Teen Titans Go! cartoon’s lineup. You’ve got Beast Boy and Raven and Dick Grayson, with stand-ins for Cyborg (Steel) and Starfire (Miss Martian). If you watch the cartoon, the relationships and specialties of this team’s members will feel familiar. Donna Troy is the sixth and final member and fills a “fight first and ask questions later” role.
The result feels like a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously, instead opting for high energy fun and pseudo-scientific bombast. The team meets at a T-shaped table and rides around in a teleporting cargo ship they call the “Boom Room”. The threats they’ve faced have taken the form of giant rats, Tolkien-esque ogres, and giant mechanoid war machines. Last issue, Beast Boy got in a unicorn fight. If you want street level realism you’re in the wrong comic. If you want to see Nightwing and Miss Martian get sucked into a television and act out a scene from Casablanca, well then this might be the Titans book for you.
As ostentatious as the story has been, there’s a great deal of interpersonal drama driving the plot forward. Raven’s soul self is trapped in a fictional fantasy realm and Beast Boy is being affected by these emergent energies as much as the threat targets they are investigating. Miss Martian is secretly reporting the team’s actions to Martian Manhunter, and Donna Troy is a belligerent drunk who really just wants to hit things. The missions and fights serve more as a backdrop as we slowly get to know each character and watch as they argue and bond and sometimes read each other’s thoughts.The visuals in this issue are a real strong point. Even though the duties are shared by three different artists, the story is broken up in such a way that the switches aren’t at all jarring. The characters are expressive and dynamic, the backgrounds are full of detail. The colors pop in a cartoon-like fashion, with halos of red and yellow lights emitting from screens on the doomsday device. It’s obvious when the team is sharing a mind link by the electric green panel borders. The use of shadows, reflections, and translucence make this a top-tier book.
It feels strange to say, but…If you like the Teen Titans, don’t read Teen Titans. Read this book instead.
BONUS REVIEW by Zack Quaintance
House of Whispers #1
Writer: Nalo Hopkinson
Artist: Dominike “Domo” Stanton
Colors: John Rauch
Letters: Deron Bennett
I am, shamefully, somewhat of a Sandman neophyte. I’ve known the Neil Gaiman-authored series is a seminal comic for half my life but have never taken time to read it. I’m correcting this, and currently about one-third through…which is all a self-indulgent way of saying House of Whispers #1 is part of DC’s new Sandman line but doesn’t require total Sandman mastery. This is essentially a comic that relies less on existing mythos than on newness, be it new characters, settings, ideas, perspectives, etc., and it’s this newness that makes the book a unique point of entry for the Sandman world, one viable for new and returning readers alike.
Writer Nalo Hopkinson is a celebrated author of speculative prose, work that—not unlike Gaiman’s own—is heavily informed by folklore and culture. Although the two are, to be sure, very different, Gaiman being an Englishman who writes with a straight white male perspective, and Hopkinson growing up between Canada and the Caribbean, writing with a queer feminist lens. This, simply put, gives House of Whispers a fresh feel within the world of Sandman.
House of Whispers, however, is still definitively a Sandman book, featuring many ideas (and some characters) from the original story. It’s basically that vaunted thing in modern comics: a new story grown from something old and beloved, a familiar-feeling extension rather than a total reimagining. Part of this, I think, is Dominike “Domo” Stanton’s artwork. Stanton has a nuanced command of Sandman-esque aesthetics and pacing. It shows in where he uses detailed heavily-rendered panels—be they lavish or terrifying—versus where his work gets hazier. The style is very much his own, yet still evocative of Sandman, expertly guiding the eye between reality and dreams, forcing it to linger on the especially frightening or profound. Stanton doesn’t quite hit the highest heights of some of the original’s most memorable visuals, but he sure does come close.
So yes, House of Whispers is quite good, though not without an occasional blemish, one or two confusing visual shifts that sent me back to re-read for comprehension. What’s clear, however, is that both Hopkinson and Stanton are major talents with a deep love for this material. Their works suggests they are awed by this world they’ve been allowed to play in, determined to create a story that honors such a rare opportunity.
- Also in Supergirl #22, we get our first glimpse at Supergirl’s new outfit. Costume. Uniform? Whatever. It’s okay. It looks like what you’d get if Elastigirl from the Incredibles wrapped herself in a flowy hooded cloak. Kara looks to be wearing her old duds on the next two covers, so I’m not sure we need to get too attached to this look.
- It was nice to see our old friends the Seven Soldiers of Victory make an appearance in Sideways #8. About half of them have been put to good use since Grant Morrison’s SSOV mini in 2005. The other half are Bulleteer, Klarion, and Shining Knight. It is strange to see that group back together again, apparently still fighting the Sheeda and warning about the coming Harrowing. Alas, even this once pristine concept is now getting stitched onto the Dark Nights: Metal overstory. I’ll be so happy when we no longer see the “Batman Who Laughs” show up in random comic books.
- Barry Allen is learning more about the strength force as he continues to hulk out in The Flash #54. Or am I supposed to say “Damage” out when referring to the DCU? Anyway, the relevant Flash Fact here is that the strength force allows one to control local gravity. Good to know. Next issue we’ll learn more about the sage force.
- If you want to see Batman slumped over a toilet bowl looking like he’s about to pass out from all the puking he just finished, you’ll want to check out Superman #3. It’s oddly satisfying.
- As I’d hoped, Carter Hall’s time-hopping adventures allowed us to revisit the Hawkworld version of Thanagar in Hawkman #4. He keeps meeting versions of himself throughout time and space, collecting clues that point toward the greater mystery. Oh and kicking his own ass. He’s really good at that. There’s a joke in here somewhere about karma.
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