THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up team convenes for a roundtable discussion of notable new DC Comics titles including Superman: Son of Kal-El #5, Robins #1, and Wonder Woman: Evolution #1.
(A Note About Spoilers: The following discussion contains mild spoilers for the titles being covered. For a spoiler-free verdict on each title, scroll to the end of its respective section of the discussion.)
Superman: Son of Kal-El #5
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: John Timms
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artist: John Timms
Joe Grunenwald: Hey team, welcome back to another installment of the DC Round-Up Roundtable! We’ve got a few particularly noteworthy books this week, so let’s get right into it, shall we?
Let’s start with Superman: Son of Kal-El #5, and the news DC announced last month that current Superman Jon Kent is bisexual. What did you all think of that issue and how the reveal played out?
Cori McCreery: The issue itself was fine, nothing super special. Though I did like the idea of an overpowered Jon trying to do everything and burning himself out. That speaks to his character. As for the big moment? It did not go down the way I expected it too. There was a lack of agency for Jon as it happened and then some tongue-in-cheek humor immediately after that just didn’t sit exactly right with me for whatever reason.
Greg Silber: It’s interesting to compare it to the similar reveal Tim Drake had a few months back, and I don’t necessarily mean that as a value judgement. Tim’s big moment had a lot of build-up, and the internal narration was pretty clearly (if not explicitly) about him coming to terms with his sexuality. With Jon, there’s more of a… matter-of-factness to it? It’s presented as this casual thing that he doesn’t give a ton of thought to. I get what Tom Taylor may have been going for there, but also, maybe this SHOULD have been a bigger moment? I’m a bit torn.
Zack Quaintance: I had the same thought, that it was really sort of downplayed in a way that kind of sapped any romance from the kiss, regardless of who was involved in the scene.
McCreery: That’s a great comparison Greg, it’s a stark difference between the two moments, and clearly one shines above the other.
Quaintance: It speaks to an issue I’ve had throughout this run, which is that I like the ideas and what it’s trying to do, but there seems to be something slightly amiss with the execution.
Silber: I think you nailed it, Zack. This is the least romantic consensual kiss I can recall from a recent piece of fiction.
Grunenwald: I definitely feel like this series as a whole has been a lot flatter than I had hoped it would be, especially in comparison to Taylor’s run so far on Nightwing. The kiss between Dick and Babs there felt incredibly earned, and not just because of the decades of history between the two of them. Here I don’t get a sense of any chemistry between Jon and Jay, though I think I chalk that up more to the artwork than the writing.
McCreery: It wasn’t really even consensual from my mind. There was no consent given before Jay kissed Jon, he just did it.
Silber: I meant “consensual” in the sense that Jon seemed into it, but in retrospect you’re right. Oof.
Grunenwald: Interesting! I’m going to look at it again but I read it as Jon kissing Jay and not the other way around.
McCreery: The conversation after implied that Jay initiated it. Like clearly, Jon didn’t have a problem with it, but he also was not asked first.
Grunenwald: I read it as Jon kissing Jay in reaction to what Jay had said, but the art does have Jay leaning in more so than Jon. Again, I chalk it up to the artwork just not working.
McCreery: It just feels like it was overhyped and under delivered, I guess.
Quaintance: That was another thing. We’d already seen the page that was the big reveal.
Grunenwald: I totally agree there. For as big a moment as it is, it feels like it could’ve been even bigger if it had been more earned.
Silber: Oh yeah, Tim’s date wasn’t announced beforehand huh.
Quaintance: I get why they were out ahead on it (they like to sell comics!), but I’d have had a much different experience not knowing for like three issues it was coming. Other than that, though, I agree with what Cori said early on that Superman over-exerting himself to try to do everything is a nice plot device…and I hope the fellow whose arm he broke is okay, didn’t really see that person again…
Grunenwald: I also like that over-exertion element, and also the doctor who Jon kind of brushed off in a panel that was clearly being filmed through someone’s phone. It seems like we’re setting up a ‘the public doesn’t trust the new Superman’ thing, which I’m interested in seeing play out. (And I suppose we already saw some of that in Future State.)
Silber: “Public doesn’t trust the new hero” and “superhero exhausting himself to disastrous effect” are two tropes that always work for me.
Quaintance: Definitely, it’s also a classic failson narrative (or it’s teasing it might be…), and it’s a natural extension of the idea to have Jon takeover. Looking forward to exploring that further.
Silber: A bit meta, too. The readership is still getting used to Jon.
Quaintance: That’s all good stuff. I think Joe may be on to something about the artwork, in that it maybe isn’t serving the ideas super well. There’s good stuff in this run, but it’s not coming through as interestingly as it might.
McCreery: Yeah, I’ve never been the biggest fan of John Timms. So I’ll agree there. I think I’ll still recommend this to be a Buy just for the cultural significance.
Silber: I agree that it’s a Buy. We might be a tad bit harsher on this then we otherwise would be on this comic because it was so heavily hyped. But it’s well worth your time.
Grunenwald: I’d give it a Browse personally. It does have a brief Wally West appearance, which gives it bonus points in my book. I do think all the advance hype did it a disservice overall, though.
Quaintance: I have to give it a Buy, in part because I’m buying this tomorrow myself and also I just think this run has a lot of potential with the ideas it has on the board.
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Baldemar Rivas
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover Artist: Baldemar Rivas
Grunenwald: Next up, we’ve got the winner of DC’s controversial Round Robin tournament of titles, the appropriately-titled Robins! What do we think, team: did the right book win?
McCreery: Eh hard to say, considering we don’t have a lot to judge the other books with, but judging from what we got from this one? Probably not.
Quaintance: To quote Kent Brockman of The Simpsons, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – democracy simply doesn’t work.”
Silber: That’s hard to say, because what’s so frustrating about that whole stunt is that a lot of those books looked awesome and we’ll presumably never get to read the vast majority of them, but I actually enjoyed this quite a bit.
Grunenwald: I’m still so upset that we were robbed of a Stephanie Phillips and David Lafuente Jesse Quick series…
Quaintance: I’m interested to hear why, Greg… I didn’t follow that tournament even a little bit, so I was taking this comic in a vacuum, and I struggled with it.
Silber: It’s certainly not the comic I voted for, but separating it from that nonsense, I’m a sucker for Bat-Family dynamics. It’s like a bunch of siblings getting together for a night out without dad. Chaos ensues. Unambitious, but mostly gives me what I want from those characters.
Grunenwald: If those are the criteria, honestly, I think Wayne Family Adventures does that better than this book did.
Silber: Oh without question.
Quaintance: I was going to bring up Wayne Family Adventures!
McCreery: I think my biggest problem with it was it was too generic? Like it was a standard ‘introduce all the Robins’ issue, with a decidedly house style.
Quaintance: This comic felt like it was out of time to me. Everything in it is being done in a more interesting way somewhere else, from the family dynamic to where each of the individual characters are in main continuity.
McCreery: I also didn’t love Tim being remarkably catty towards Steph’s tenure as Robin. That felt out of character for him.
Silber: By no means am I saying this is nearly as good as Wayne Family adventures. And that moment in particular between Tim and Steph definitely didn’t land for me. But for a relatively by-the-numbers superhero adventure, if you like seeing the Robins fight crime and each other, as I do, it’ll give you what you want.
Grunenwald: My main objection here is along the lines of what Cori and Zack mentioned: it’s just kind of generic. There’s nothing here that’s new, even compared to the main Robin series, which had all of the Robins teaming up in it like two months ago. If I’m not already I’d like to go on record as having really enjoyed Tim Seeley‘s tenure on Nightwing, and I also think the best part of the Batman/Catwoman wedding were those Bat-family one-shots that he wrote. This book just didn’t connect for me, though.
Quaintance: I think we’ve been spoiled by the Batman family comics as of late, in that almost all of them are doing something really interesting with their characters. I don’t know what I expected with this one, but missing the sense of experimentation and exploring often bold ideas with some of these characters really made it a slog for me.
Silber: I should say I went into this with low expectations. That’s nothing against the creative team ( loved those wedding one-shots too!), I just really, really hated how DC handled that vote. So I wanted to be very conscious about the fact that that wasn’t Seeley and co.’s fault, and embrace the fact that I’m just a guy who likes the Bat-kids.
Grunenwald: I do think it’s clear that Seeley has a great love for the histories of all of the Robins, and I appreciate the little nods to past stories that come up here. Felipe and Jose Garzonas are names I never expected to read in a DC Comic again.
Quaintance: That’s all fair.
Grunenwald: I’m also very intrigued by the character reveal at the end, even if their introduction in the early pages of the issue is hilariously over the top.
Silber: It’s so silly, which the creators embrace happily.
McCreery: I think I’m sadly giving Robins one of my rare Skip reviews.
Quaintance: One of my rare Skips as well.
Grunenwald: Skip it unless you love The Obeah Man and Jason Todd pushing rapists off of buildings (Which, really, who doesn’t love that second one).
Silber: I’ll say Browse if you’re feeling indifferent anyway, but maybe Buy if your tastes are as simple as “I like watching the Robins hang out* as they can sometimes be for me.
Wonder Woman: Evolution #1
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Penciller: Mike Hawthorne
Inker: Adriano Di Benedetto
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Cover Artists: Mike Hawthorne & Jordie Bellaire
Grunenwald: Let’s talk about the other new title debut this week, the first issue of Stephanie Phillips and Mike Hawthorne‘s Wonder Woman: Evolution miniseries. I know I usually let you all go first with your thoughts but I want to say right up front that I thought this kickoff issue was fantastic.
Quaintance: Pretty rude of you, Joe. But I’ll let it slide here because I absolutely agree.
McCreery: Yeah, fully agreed here. Phillips definitely immediately captured the magic of the character, and the build Hawthorne gives her is just perfect too.
Silber: Yeah Cori, I especially like the way Hawthorne draws Diana. She just looks like someone who could beat the absolute shit out of you. Not just because he draws her so muscular, but even the shape of her face. It’s more severe than we usually see from her, but it absolutely works here.
Grunenwald: His Diana is an absolute powerhouse, while still feeling as elegant and graceful as ever. It’s a great look for her.
Quaintance: Hawthorne (who is inked here by Adriano Di Benedetto and colored by Jordie Bellaire) put out some really fantastic art. I bet the script was really helpful for all of them too though, as this is a fight-heavy comic and writer Stephanie Phillips plays hockey and also does Muay Thai. A good, clear fight scene that goes from panel-to-panel can be really hard to nail down in superhero comics, despite the outsized frequency, but it’s really well done and kinetic in this book. You feel those impacts.
Silber: I didn’t know that about her, but it tracks! She really gets what makes fights visceral and exciting.
Grunenwald: Absolutely. There’s also a lot of history between Wonder Woman and Silver Swan that makes their battle hit hard on an emotional level as well.
McCreery: But the book also nailed tender moments. Diana saving the little girl for example.
Quaintance: It did. The talking head scene with Superman was also fantastic.
Grunenwald: I would like to see more Stephanie Phillips-written Superman.
Quaintance: The two godlike characters there came off as really relatable, which isn’t easy to do.
Silber: That and the scene with the little girl really cinched it for me. Phillips gets what makes these characters appealing, and I’m always here for a scene in which a small child tells a superhero that they want to grow up to be just like them.
Quaintance: And (to use a cliche) the cherry on top is the really mysterious cliffhanger. Any thoughts on who that last narration might be?
Grunenwald: No clue, but I really like not knowing. I did chat with Phillips about this series back in September and it sounds like there are plenty of twists and turns to come with it even after we do find out who it is.
Quaintance: Suffice it to say, this issue is a BUY for me, no hesitation.
McCreery: Interesting. I agree with Zack. BUY this issue emphatically.
Silber: If you like Wonder Woman even a little, there’s no reason not to BUY this.
Grunenwald: It’s a Buy from me as well. DC’s putting out a lot of great Wonder Woman books, which is really nice to see.
Silber: Yeah, I was just thinking that. It’s a great time to be a Wonder Woman fan. Lots of great flavors being offered and all executed really well.
Grunenwald: Does anyone have any other books they want to give a nod to this week before we wrap things up?
Silber: I want to shout out Batman Secret Files: The Gardener, written by outgoing Batman writer James Tynion IV with art by the incredible Christian Ward. It’s predictably stunning-looking, and I really hope that what it teases for Poison Ivy gets followed up on soon. It’s about time she got a big push.
Quaintance: I liked that comic a lot too. It looked great, and those Secret Files books in general have done a nice job varying their approaches, themes, and tones. Really nice addition to this Fear State event.
Grunenwald: Christian Ward is such a fantastic artist. The Professor Pyg story he wrote and drew in Batman: Urban Legends last month was phenomenal.
Quaintance: Give Christian Ward a Black Label book, DC!
Grunenwald: And I agree that the Secret Files titles have gone a long way towards adding depth to a lot of the ancillary characters in Gotham. A lot of times those one-shots can feel kind of pointless, but that’s not at all been the case of late.
Silber: Between the anthologies and these one shots, DC has been on fire lately with the short stories.
Grunenwald: On that note, let’s close for another week. We’ll be back in a few weeks to talk about the conclusion of Fear State! Happy reading, everyone!
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