- Batman and Robin #9, by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart (DC)
- Blackest Night #7 of 8, by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert (DC)
- The Flash: Rebirth #6 of 6, by Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Scyver & Scott Hanna (DC)
- Justice Society of America #36, by Bill Willingham, Jesus Merino & Jesse Delperdang (DC)
- Madame Xanadu #20, by Matt Wagner, Joëlle Jones & David Hahn (DC/Vertigo)
- Victorian Undead #4 of 6, by Ian Edginton, Davide Fabbri & Tom Mandrake (DC/Wildstorm)
- Avengers: The Korvac Saga HC, by Jim Shooter, Len Wein, Roger Stern, David Michelinie, George Pérez, Sal Buscema, David Wenzel, Klaus Janson, Pablo Marcos & others (Marvel)
- Fantastic Four #576, by Jonathan Hickman & Dale Eaglesham (Marvel)
- The Marvels Project #6 of 8, by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting (Marvel)
- Irredeemable #11, by Mark Waid, Peter Krause & Diego Barreto (Boom)
This month’s Batman and Robin is hands-down the best issue of the series so far. Overlooking the rather obvious solution to getting the critically-injured Batwoman out of the cave where the two Batmen fought last issue (ah, the joys of a readily-available deus ex machina), Morrison manages to pull off everything he tries here: The faux Batman returns to Gotham and faces off with Robin, who’s recovering from a spine transplant (!). The impostor speaks in broken English with a mix of old and new styles of Batman jargon, and is gradually decaying as the story goes on. Robin and Alfred put up a stiff fight (always nice to see Alfred show he’s more than just a butler), and then Batman and Batwoman show up to put things away. Robin gets a justified jab in at Batman’s behavior at the end. And Cameron Stewart’s art is outstanding, the finest the series has yet seen (I hate the hair style he and Frank Quitely have saddled Dick Grayson with, though). For a change, I liked this issue better than Greg Burgas did.
The series has been something of a mess so far, because Morrison spends too much time messing around with either peripheral elements, or with the “bigger picture” of what’s going on in the Batman universe, even though that bigger picture is rather silly. (Consider, after all, the Batman here doesn’t even wonder who might have put a fake body – which managed to fool Superman – in place of the original Batman.) If he could just focus on the relationship between Batman and Robin, this would be a much better series.
The delayed finale of The Flash: Rebirth shows up this week. Although Ethan Van Scyver’s artwork is always nice to see (though it seems much less detailed here than usual), this has been a rather pedestrian story all around, certainly not nearly as good as the last time Geoff Johns brought a hero back from the dead. Of course, Green Lantern: Rebirth had to explain why Hal Jordan went bad so he could return to being a hero, whereas Barry Allen has been sainted by DC heroes and fanboys for decades now, so this story was just about giving him a threat big enough to reinstate him among the DC pantheon. And Johns pulls in all the usual Flash tropes, most of them (naturally enough) from Mark Waid’s remarkable run on the title: The Reverse-Flash, the extended Flash family, and the Speed Force. He throws in a retcon where Barry’s father was arrested for the murder of his mother, and a bit of time travel involving the beginning of Barry’s career, but it’s otherwise a pretty routine modern-day Flash story, actually not up to the standards of Johns’ own run on Wally West’s series.
To be fair, a friend of mine described Johns’ Green Lantern relaunch shortly after it began as “the least necessary relaunch in comics”, and it ended up being considerably more interesting than that. With an ongoing Flash series on the way, Johns may be able to work similar magic there. But this isn’t a promising start.
Why do I get the feeling that we’re finally getting to the Justice Society of America story that Bill Willingham really wanted to tell? The last several issues have been nothing more than a fairly stupid way to split the JSA into two teams, getting (mostly) the marginal members into the JSA All-Stars series (where they can be safely ignored) and paring the core team down to manageable levels. Here we jump right into the story – 20 years in the future, where Mr. Terrific is imprisoned by a new regime which has captured and is executing the JSA members. He’s dictating his memoir, expecting his own end to come soon, explaining how the new regime came into power, with a group of Nazi-oriented villains attacking the JSA and killing Green Lantern.
It’s not like we haven’t seen set-ups like this before, but Willingham seems to enjoy and excel at telling war stories, so even if this ends up being resolved through the miracle of time travel, it could still be fun.