Comic Reviews 6/22/16 and 6/29/16: DC, The Spirit, James Bond, Megalopolis, and Bitch Planet

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Grayson Annual #3

There’s an episode of Batman: The Animated Series called Almost Got ‘Em, where a bunch of Batman’s villains gather to tell stories of the time they almost killed the Batman. It’s one of the series more memorable episodes, one that shows the audience a number of short vignettes about Batman that come together as a whole by the end.

This issue does very much the same thing for Dick Grayson, only, instead of villains, its C-list heroes telling each-other how they came in contact with Agent 37. Its four short stories of Dick Grayson helping people out and leaving his mark on them as a hero, each by a different creative team. Nothing mind-blowing, very skippable in terms of plot and continuity, but fun nonetheless.

 

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Justice League #52

This is the story of how Lex Luthor attained the dead Superman’s cape, which he has been wearing along with what we learn is mother-box infused armor, in Rebirth issues; and why Lex decides to become Metropolis’ new Superman.

The issue gives us a deeper cut into Lex than we’re really used to, reading his inner monologue and seeing him acknowledge some of his basest character flaws. The book takes him in an entirely different direction, seemingly ending the 75 year chapter of Luthor as villain and beginning a sincere journey into heroism. I’m finding it jarring, to be completely frank, and I’m not sure if I’m hoping it sticks or that we get a return to evil Lex in due time. Either way, we’re in for something interesting, and that’s usually a plus.

 

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Action Comics #958

Things fall quickly into chaos when a stronger, faster, smarter Doomsday appears in Metropolis, and Superman and Lex have to team up to defeat it and save the city.

It’s admirable how after so many iterations, this issue makes Doomsday feel scary again, with Superman and Lois both remembering and hoping to avoid what happened the first time Superman fought Doomsday. Also, from the belt up, the new Superman costume really does look classic Superman for the first time in years – no more stupid armor lines or collar.

The issue is mostly fight scene, but because of Doomsday now using strategy and attacking the city to distract Superman and Lex, it’s one that manages to sneak some exposition in. The biggest chunk is near the end, with Superman slowly coming to terms with a heroic Lex, but besides that, there’s all the characters trying to wrap their heads around the mysterious appearance of another, seemingly powerless, Clark Kent. There’s a lot going on in the middle of this fight scene, but it feels like a controlled chaos. Things are confusing because the characters haven’t made sense of things, not because the writer hasn’t.

 

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Detective Comics #935

Bat-Woman pushes Red Robin, Orphan, Spoiler, and Clayface to their limits in training simulations in order to find the cracks in each of them. Those aren’t the only cracks in Batman’s new team however, as Tim considers leaving for academic pursuits; and Kate talks to her father, who has his own doubts about the team’s, and Batman’s, effectiveness. Meanwhile, Batman has his first run in with The Colony – an army of Arkham Knight-esque soldiers.

This book is going in a direction I didn’t expect from issue one by involving a lot of the characters’ lives outside the masks than I thought it would. Tim, Stephanie, and Kate all seem to have deeper lives outside costumes that the book is fleshing out, and it’s hinted that Clayface and Cass will soon develop outside lives of their own, too. It makes things more interesting, and gives all the characters another dimension to grow into.

There’s one art thing I want to mention about this issue, and it’s that random panels in this book have a more painted style than the comparatively more comic book-y style of most of the book. It’s nice, but a little distracting to see a sudden shift in style.

 

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Wonder Woman #1

Diana, still trying to find out her true history, ventures into the rainforest asking for help. She’s being tracked by commander Etta Candy, who is also working with Steve Trevor with a field operation near where Wonder Woman happens to have just arrived.

We’re given a Wonder Woman that declines to fight until pushed, and then pushed farther, but who will surely always win. And Steve, the masculine soldier, is shown to still have a soft spot for Diana. There’s still not much actually going on yet in this story, but what is here is solidly done. Next issue is the start of an entirely different arc, a “year one,” so we’ll see if that moves any faster.

 

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The Flash #1

We get a brief retelling of Flash’s origin story and are thrown right into a day in the life, with Flash rescuing and helping out as many people as he can, with his inner monologue revealing that he wishes he could do even more. Despite his speed, Barry is late for work, and a meeting with Iris and Wally West where Iris tries to tell him that he should focus on doing one thing well instead of trying to do everything. As soon as he hears that, he’s off once again, caught between rescuing people from a fire, or intervening in a police shootout involving a work friend, August, who was also with Barry the night he was struck by lightning.

There’s nothing in this issue that really leapt out at me, and while it’s fun to see a friendly Flash, the fun is lessened when scenes of him rescuing children are sandwiched by self-pitying inner monologue acknowledging that Barry can’t be everywhere at once and help everybody.

 

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Dark Knight III: The Master Race #5

DKIII is shaping up to be a weird book, as it seems to be apologizing, in a way, for the grim-darkness that the original The Dark Knight Returns inspired 30 years ago.

In this issue, Carrie Kelly works with Aquaman to rescue Superman; while Bruce recruits Barry Allen, who had his legs broken last issue, to help him with his anti-Kandorian plan while his legs recover. Then Bruce gears up in the Bat-Armor to face the Kandorians, monologues a bit about fear in what reads as the most Dark Knight thing in the issue before being joined by something completely ridiculous and ridiculously awesome. Honestly, pick this book up for yourself to find out what it is – it’s worth the $5.99 by itself. I’d never thought I’d use this word, but DKIII is delightful.

The same, unfortunately, can’t be said of the Lara mini story. It would be a good enough mini of Lara realizing she actually does kind of care about humans a little if Miller’s art didn’t make it seem like she flies everywhere butt-first, and is always puffing her chest out at everything.

 

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The Spirit #12

This is one hell of a finale! It’s Batman and Indiana Jones smashed together, and it’s amazing.

We begin with Satchet narrating her backstory in rhyme, and find out she’s very much in the mould of Talia Al Ghul – daughter of an international criminal kingpin raised to be his successor – and her crush on the Spirit stems from him being the only man she couldn’t manipulate.

Then we cut to the present, where Makado Vaas has captured the Spirit, gave him cement shoes, and sent his men to bring Central City to its knees so he can rescue his daughter. And Vaas ups the evil from being a Nazi by also threatening to sell Ebony White into slavery!

Almost every heroic character introduced in the previous issues gets a chance to be in the spotlight and contribute to saving the day on this issue. And with Nazis, a jailbreak, a seaplane escape, and a brawl in a warehouse, this book checks off everything needed for pure pulp action.

 

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James Bond 007 #007

Ellis’ second arc with Bond starts with a stronger hook than the first, and delivers probably the best burn on the USA I’ve seen from a comic.

Bond travels to LA on a mission to extract an undercover MI6 agent from the Turkish consulate whose cover’s been blown and is being hunted by the Turkish secret service, the MIT. Meanwhile, an MI5 agent is going around quieting anyone who knows anything about a project Eidolon.

Some of Ellis’ previous Bond issues sacrificed single-issue structure for arc structure, but this issue does both incredibly well, weaving together exposition with clever dialogue and repartee, like a conversation between Bond and Felix Leiter; and managing to have a nice long action beat that includes a car chase, shootout, and some close combat. The whole thing is paced like the opening of a Bond film, covering lots of ground in a single short issue. Overall, so for Eidolon is looking like marked improvement over Vargr.

 

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Surviving Megalopolis #5

With only one issue left, things are ramping up towards the ending in a big way. First, Overlord has risen, and he is pissed. Then, after some bonding time, Mina and Cody race towards an alarm, which happens to be coming from where the rescue team has rendezvoused with the super-villains, who are planning to “save the day” by killing all the mad-heroes. Unfortunately, Mina and Cody were followed. And Ethan and Rain discover what’s on the bottom of the hole.

We’re introduced to many of Megalopolis’ villains in this issue, and from the Lex Luthor-y Valiant to a murderous Mime, they’re just as colorful as the heroes. And I’m really curious to see how they resolve the huge reveal about what’s in the hole in only one issue, if they plan to resolve it at all.

 

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Bitch Planet #8

For the first time in this series, it’s a man at the emotional heart in this issue. After an opening that introduces some new trans-women characters to Bitch Planet, and shows how they’re treated compared to the book’s cis-women; and a buddy-cop act 1 type conversation between Kam and Whitney where Whitney learns about the rescue and escape plan; there’s the scene where Makoto finds out about the death of his daughter – and it’s utterly heartbreaking; literally drew some tears from me. And importantly for the plot, it reawakens his non-compliant side.

Kelly Sue’s letter to the audience and one of the back-matter essays deals with issues of trans representation in media, while the other essay is about the stereotypes regarding black bodies and criminality. Both essays are great, thought provoking reads as usual, and if there isn’t a collection of them already, there really should be. But even without the essays, Bitch Planet remains a front-runner for the most important comic book being published right now.

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