Hope you all had a great Labor Day. DC is back from the holiday with some killer books including the next chapter of The War of Jokes and Riddles in Batman #30. Superman tangles with some familiar Green Lantern foes and the Green Lanterns experience the threat of Volthoom first hand. Check out those and more below.
Initially, I was annoyed seeing the header of issue #30 hyping another interlude of the War of Jokes and Riddles. Then I saw it was part 2 of The Ballad of Kite Man and all was right in the comic world again.
Batman is now on Team Riddler and the war looks like it’s reaching its inevitable conclusion. For all his viciousness and unpredictability, Joker and his forces can’t beat Batman and Riddler’s army. Getting a front row seat to the chaos and splintering of Joker’s army is the sad sack Kite Man.
Writer Tom King is doing his best to make everyone a Kite Man fan. The first interlude did a strong job of making him a sympathetic character and this issue will make most Batman readers Team Kite Man. As he witnesses the carnage, Kite Man reflects on one of his final conversations with a son. It brings a tragic touch to a story that would otherwise be played for comedy. It’s not like Kite Man is keeping Batman up at night plotting on ways to stop his reign of terror.
The final page reveals the twist and exactly why he’s stayed around so long. And oddly provides enough reason to want to see Kite Man actually get one over on Batman and Riddler.
Clay Mann returns as artist this installment. Mann’s art is always solid, but Seth Mann’s inks seem softer this issue. It works in the context of the story, but it doesn’t showcase Clay Mann’s work as well.
While this issue doesn’t provide full insight on Batman’s plans and the uneasy alliance with Riddler, it is another can’t miss chapter in the War of Jokes and Riddles.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Dastardly and Muttley #1
The Hanna-Barbera inspired books have been surprisingly good reads. With the line’s reputation and modern day legend Garth Ennis writing, this was an obvious pickup. And for any readers considering it, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Most of the issue finds Dick Dastardly and his co-pilot Muttley (and his dog) on a recon mission looking for a missing drone. Dastardly is naturally disgusted at the extra passenger, but he can’t deal with that when the drone arrives spraying a toxic and radioactive substance. After an extended interrogation that gets progressively worse, Dastardly finally finds out what happened to his co-pilot … and his dog.
Ennis captures the Dastardly and Muttley dynamic nicely. The twist here isn’t a shock, but it’s still effective thanks to Ennis making perceptive readers wait for the big reveal. Plot elements get introduced subtly enough that Ennis will have plenty of material for the six issue series. There’s even some slight nods to the rival Looney Tunes characters.
Mauricet’s art is well suited for this story making for one of the better cartoon to comic translations in this series. There’s a strong animated feel thanks to the character movements and expressions. Mauricet understands the source material and doesn’t get too busy with backgrounds or unnecessary details just to show off. John Kalisz’s colors also reflect that animated tone with bright, vibrant choices and lots of orange and blues.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, but it only took a few pages to get me hooked. With this promising opening act, this will likely be another hit for the Hanna-Barbera series.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Defiance Chapter 3 is another strong entry in this intriguing arc. Priest has an inspired premise and he starts foreshadowing some cracks in Slade’s resolve.
There were lots of enjoyable moments here from Defiance starting to function like a highly trained team in taking down pirates and Jericho’s confrontation with Adeline. Jericho was a likable enough character pre-New 52, but his character has a lot more depth that makes him a lot more interesting. Slade’s training session with the team was also revealing while sparking a new mystery around Rose’s new sword.
Diogenes Neves’ artwork is good although some of the action sequences are hard to follow. But I’ll take those few off panels for the expressive character work Neves provides. Jason Paz’s strong ink work is necessary considering the team’s color scheme. Jeromy Cox’s colors are up to the task, particularly in creating the contrast of Defiance’s outfits. Priest sets up a few mysteries including a Society that’s calling Slade in. Maybe the Secret Society of Super Villains?
Priest has such a great sense of these characters that Deathstroke has become one of DC’s best team books. Deathstroke has really benefited from this fun and unpredictable change of status quo.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Green Arrow #30
Hard Traveling Hero finally reaches the team-up longtime readers have been waiting on: Hal Jordan. This arc has really been a fun excuse for writer Benjamin Percy to come up with various team-up scenarios for Green Arrow. But for some reason, this was one of the least engaging pairings yet.
Maybe the hardest part for Percy was trying to determine the characters dynamic and taking a different approach than the iconic Neal Adams/Denny O’Neil run. That means Hal and Ollie head off to space to dismantle a Ninth Circle satellite. That’s not a bad way to go, but the familiarity of the two felt off.
Rebirth writers have largely managed to avoid any pesky pre-New 52 continuity hang ups. This issue was confusing in regards to what is and isn’t canon now. Hal and Ollie travel in a pick-up reminiscent of their pre-Crisis ride across the country, but the New 52 versions never appeared that close. Percy tries to quickly establish a witty banter dynamic, but it’s too rushed. And as fun as the premise might sound, Green Arrow is definitely a character that works best on the planet.
The best aspect of the issue was Black Canary and Emi tracking down The Ninth Circle. That’s been a strong subplot that continues to impress.
Otto Schmidt’s art didn’t look as tight as normal. There was a looser, sketch-like feel to his work that lacked his normal polish and refinement. Overall, this was an off issue for Green Arrow. Hopefully as Hard Traveling Hero nears its conclusion, Percy can rally the troops and stick the landing.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Green Lanterns #30
Out of Time has quietly been one of the best stories in the ever increasing Green Lanterns run. After all the enjoyable setup with Baz and Cruz training the original Green Lanterns, things take a violent turn this issue when they confront Volthoom.
Sam Humphries has done a great job of tackling the mental breakdown of a lantern tapping into all the emotional spectrum. Volthoom becomes an unpredictable enemy capable of being as vicious as Atrocitus, using fear as a weapon like Sinestro or letting his greed turn him maniacal like Larfleeze. As a result, Volthoom is a very dangerous opponent — even for a squadron of Lanterns.
One by one, the First Lanterns start falling leaving Baz and Cruz to reconsider their strategy. Humphries had largely kept this story hopeful and optimistic and this issue was the first that fully showcased him as one of the more formidable any Lantern has faced.
For such a violent and action focused installment, maybe Carlo Barberi wasn’t the best choice. Barberi has a light and playful style that’s perfectly suited for Super Sons or Teen Titans. That doesn’t work as well during a hyper violent Superboy vs. the Teen Titans in Infinite Crisis type brawl with characters being ripped apart. The fracas ends up looking too clean and lacks the intensity of the moment.
Barberi can handle the demands in effectively rendering the action and has a good sense of perspective and ‘camera positioning,’ but this issue would have worked better with a more fitting artist.
I’ve really enjoyed this arc as everything is coming together wonderfully. If Green Lanterns remains at this level it’s going to become one of DC’s must-read books every other week.
Rating: 9 out of 10
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Justice League #28
Bryan Hitch maintains the terrific momentum of his final Justice League arc as the truth starts to come out in Legacy. This is the kind of story I’ve been wanting to read from this title all along and Hitch is delivering on it. Maybe not as soon as most readers would like, but three issues in and the story hasn’t stumbled yet.
Most of the League members welcome the potential offspring of their future selves. While apprehensive, the League at least is willing to hear them out. Hitch has a good handle on the levels of trust. Cruz and The Flash are the warmest while Cyborg keeps his distance. These are nice character moments that have largely been absent from Hitch’s run. Had Hitch focused more on team interaction and quiet moments than one bombastic end of the world scenario after the next, his run would be more fondly remembered.
Fernando Pasarin’s art has also held up nicely. Pasarin’s face construction was better, which was necessary with a less action packed issue. Brad Anderson’s color work continues to be some of the best in the business with bright and dark color schemes as needed. There’s a noticeable depth in the color shading providing the desired emotional response in looking at the pages.
The minor disappointment is Hitch never follows up on the Batman and Future Aquaman confrontation. That looked like it was going to be pretty interesting.
Spyral has played out like a fun epilogue to Grayson. For the finale, Tim Seeley seems to tie up all the loose ends with some fun and clever confrontations. Nightwing confronts the real cause of Spyral’s betrayal and with the help of Huntress, the Skullgirls … and Tiger, he just might save the day. And is Mouse really going to kill Blockbuster?
The big climactic action scene is decent, but Seeley has made his run on Nightwing much more about the battle repercussions and the effort to pick up the pieces afterward. There’s a twist bound to cause some major repercussions, but thanks to previous established bonds it doesn’t feel like a cheap stunt. For Grayson readers, this moment might feel a little too late. It’ll be important to see how Seeley plans on following this new development up in future issues.
Javier Fernandez handles the bulk of the art this issue. Fernandez seems focused here resulting in some terrifically atmospheric and moody panels. Miguel Mendonca steps up to handle the remaining pages. There’s a noticeable shift in styles, but it’s better than an even split of the art chores.
For Grayson readers, this has been a fun homecoming style arc. And even for those not familiar with that run, Seeley and Fernandez made it enjoyable enough that even newcomers can get in on the excitement.
Rating: 8 out of 10
I’ve got to give it up to DC creative teams for their willingness to share characters. Sinestro and Parallax have largely been absent from Hal Jordan and the Green Lanterns Corps since the first arc and their first big return story is told in Superman. That’s a commendable sense of teamwork and smartly delays resuming the Sinestro/Hal Jordan conflict. No sense keeping one of DC’s best villains on the bench until it’s time for a rematch.
Last issue, guest writer Keith Champagne had some fun crafting a mystery with Superman investigating missing children. With Parallax revealed as the culprit, Superman is under his possession just in time for Sinestro to return seeking his corps’ avatar. A Superman-powered Parallax seems like an insurmountable foe for Sinestro, but Champagne finds a clever way for Sinestro to even the odds. I was impressed with the strict adherence to ongoing continuity. Champagne definitely had a good understanding of what’s played out in Hal Jordan and the GLC and Sinestro doesn’t seem like another character.
This issue features the work of three artists Ed Benes, Tyler Kirkham and Philip Tan. Typically, that would lead to a mess of artistic cohesion, but the way Champagne sets up the story, it works. Benes did about half the issue and this was the best his work has looked in a while. Kirkham’s pages seemed more confident and assured this issue with some dynamic layouts and action sequences. Tan’s art was also solid so there was no weak link in the trio.
A Moment Longer was a very welcome change of pace for Superman with fresh adversaries and a well paced story. The regular creative team won’t be back for another two issues, but if this was any indication, the ship is still in great hands.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Image Credit: DC Comics