This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on August 13, 2016.
Superwoman #1 (DC Comics)
Phil Jiminez (A) Phil Jiminez and Matt Santorelli (C) Stephen Downer (L) Rob Leigh
Earlier this week I wrote about how All-Star Batman #1 managed to both embrace the superhero genre without stumbling over too-familiar tropes, managing to somehow feel fresh and familiar. It is a best case scenario for a DC Rebirth comic in many ways. Superwoman #1 is an example of the worst. While technically proficient, Superwoman #1 manages to offer nothing of note or interest and sells itself entirely on its title.
That is not to say Superwoman is without potential. The characters, plot machinations, and action set pieces all have the faint whiff of being new, but read like a million other Superman comics. Writer Jiminez relies on tropes that are not only familiar but already being hammered in other comics across the Rebirth Superman line. Distrust of Lex Luthor, mixed feelings on a new superhero, and what Superman means are all there in the most expectable fashion. The big twist of a cliffhanger in Superwoman #1 may provide fodder for rumors sites, but it’s hardly notable in presentation or meaning. It’s a cheap spin to give readers any reason to return for #2.
All of this story is packed into dense pages, but the layouts do not support that density in a visually pleasing manner. While every page is readable with clear work from letterer Rob Leigh, action is rarely exciting. Much ofSuperwoman #1 is dedicated to large swaths of expository dialogue that packs in pages with nine or ten panels. When planes begin to fall and the story speeds up, these same small, disjointed panel provide plenty of moments that fail to land.
The one moment where Superwoman #1 really soars comes in a heroic teamup to rescue a ship. Rather than homaging Superman, it discovers a moment that feels unique and makes the heroes of the comic soar. But it is an exception to a field of mediocrity. While dialogue, layouts, and plotting may all be deemed proficient, that may be a worse curse than inadequacy. As it stands Superwoman #1 is just another superhero comic in a field filled with more interesting work that is only memorable so long as it is directly in front of you.
Detective Comics #938 (DC Comics)
James Tynion IV (A) Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, and Al Barrionuevo (C) Brad Anderson and Adriano Lucas (L) Marilyn Patrizio
The Batman line under editor Mark Doyle is setting the bar for DC Comics under the Rebirth initiative and Detective Comics is its premiere team book. The story so far has been building to a final showdown between a militarized group of Batmen and Batman’s own team of aspiring heroes. In Detective Comics #938 that build reaches a climax and it is one that reveals the promise of this title as an ongoing series.
There are plenty of climaxes in this issue that pay off well, but the action itself serves as the weak link. It’s regularly difficult to understand how actions connect between panels with bodies moving so far in space as to suggest five or more seconds have elapsed in what should be quick beat-to-beat moments. Not much attention is paid to setting or antagonists as the Bat-army rolls across panels like the ocean with no continuity. There is a much greater focus on individual moments that look cool, but never add up to a real sense of momentum. Even the details in these moments take away from the joy of speeding ahead in a comic like this as bullet holes magically disappear around Orphan rather than just barely missing her.
Most of the moments themselves do function though. Each character on the team is given a triumph that fits with their personality. The payoff for Orphan going “upstairs” is a great splash panel and Clayface is able to let loose in a really delightful series of images. This team is diverse enough that each character could be someone’s favorite (while Batman remains a stick in the mud) and Detective Comics #938 gives them all their due. It also continues a strong trend of building stakes and tensions. The final moments turn a victory into an entirely new battle that could be far worse; it provides a reason to keep reading without robbing this issue of its own import.
There is nothing being done in Detective Comics that has not been done before or better, but it is delivering an entertaining combination of elements. The mix of characters, regular delivery of exciting moments, and inclusion of sympathetic villains provides plenty to chew on. This isn’t a comic that soars, but it does fulfill its promise as a Batman-team-up comic.