Bottom of the Pile - September 14th, 2016

Last week's.  I'm gonna say this week's hits this weekend but if it doesn't happen pretend like this was a mirage.
Astro City
Astro City's overarching plot since it returned--about The Broken Man and whatever mysterious, all-seeing threat he's fighting against--started out being one of the things I was most excited about.  But ever so gradually, that excitement waned as I remembered that Astro City isn't that type of universe.  It's the type of place where you focus on the mundane in the fantastic--one where the story of heroism is less important than who that heroism affected.  If anything, the most interesting thing about a potential fight against an unseen foe is how that would cause the already complex world of Astro City to change.  

And on that note, that's why this second part of Broken Man's story is a bit more interesting than the first--to learn that Astro City/Romeyn Falls once had a protector that was a living personification of the music of the time.  Of course, that leaves the question: what would that protector have looked like through the eras of rock-and-roll, or hip-hop?   And what would they look like now?  

The next Astro City comic is a two-parter starring the Hanged Man, so obviously we won't get that answer today.  But I'm absolutely hoping we're not left hanging for too long.  (Ugh, I do apologize for that awful end pun...)

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey
We're a long way from the days of Gail Simone's Birds of Prey, but we're getting pretty close, with the Benson sisters managing to emulate the same witty style that made these characters fan favorites in the first place. 

It's still a little unsettling that we're basically starting from scratch with Huntress.  I mean, she's one of the oldest members of the Birds but with her new origin it's like she's basically never known them at all. Still, this issue goes a long way towards showing how she's both nearly as capable a fighter as Black Canary and nearly as intelligent as Barbara, basically explaining why she deserves a spot on the team.  And though we are starting at zero, it adds a necessary point of conflict that just wouldn't otherwise be present with such a small team that (usually) has such a storied history.

If I was concerned last issue that they were trying to make Deathstroke likable, that concern completely vanished with this issue as we're reminded that Slade is an unapologetic piece of shit who has no problem killing anyone who gets in the way of his goals.

What's most interesting, though, is that Chris Priest seems completely devoted to building an actual world around Deathstroke--telling a non-linear story that jumps between past and present to fill out both parts of the villain's life and give us an idea of just how terrible a person we're choosing to read about from month to month.  This month, we're shown the previously thought unseen Doctor Ikon--someone who's so disgusted by Slade's willingness to murder anyone in his way that he actually decided to, seemingly, become a Christian superhero.  

This gives me hope for future adventures in Slade's world--him and Wintergreen are already making themselves out to be quite the evil Dynamic Duo, and I'm pretty sure all hell's going to break loose whenever Slade's new wife debuts in the modern part of this story.

Detective Comics
So in a weird way I managed to be both wrong and right.   Last issue, Tim Drake re-programmed all the Colony's drones to attack him rather than their intended targets--members of a supposed League of Shadows.  As I suspected, he managed to fight them off, using the drones against one another to defeat them...until a second wave appeared that promptly burned the exhausted teen genius to ash.

...Or at least, that's what the world thinks.  In what's my favorite Rebirth-related twist since DC Universe: Rebirth special itself, Tim Drake finds himself teleported off to the realm of the mysterious Mr. Oz, who people seem to believe is Ozymandias.   That remains to be seen (but is becoming more likely), but if true would confirm the idea that the Watchmen universe is a "higher plane of existence", as the completely human Ozymandias now seemingly has godlike powers.   Either way, he decides to take Tim Drake out of action because he was helping to restore some of the ties that have been torn from the DCU. 

Granted, this raises a question: was Tim actually going to die, here?  If he was, then this is a bit of a plot hole--Oz has no reason to take him if that's the case, since how many ties could he restore as a dead man?  But perhaps he had some sort of miracle play?   (Probably not.) 

Either way, this raises another question: we've seen Oz kidnap Doomsday, so this isn't something new to him.  How many other characters have gone missing because of him?  And where's this all lead, because I can't see this ending without some sort of soft reboot that restores all these characters in a grand sweep.

Green Lanterns
Bleez always felt like the best candidate for the Red Lanterns to finally give up on her rage and the Red Ring, but they never quite pulled the trigger on it.  She's not really evil, just misguided, and the greatest redemption story would be if she became a Blue Lantern, but who the hell knows what happened to those guys...

New Super Man
 The "Justice League of China" has their existence finally unveiled to the world.  To me this feels like a thing that's been missing from the "New 52" version of the DC Universe--China's Great Ten, Japan's Super Young Team, even the global Justice League International.   As we approach an era where people expect their heroes to come from places not just in America, New Super Man has found what I'm hoping is DC's way back into exploring those strange, unique characters that are another country's twist on what is so intrinsically an American idea.


 Reasons to love Superwoman:

1.) Lana Lang is front and center in the DC Universe once more, and a proper bad-ass in it at that.
2.) Phil Jimenez will never not be one of the greatest artists of our time, and he's a pretty damn good writer to boot.
3.) It's embracing the theme of Rebirth, where we get to see connections start to come back.  Pairing her up with John Henry Irons is brilliant, and allowing the original black woman inventor to come back and design a friggin' Insect Queen armor is both a neat reference and perfect timing.  I've been saying for years DC beat Marvel to the punch on diversity, and I'm glad Rebirth is finding ways to bring back some of my favorite characters from that Infinite Crisis to Brightest Day era. 
4.) It's been a while since Metropolis felt like a living, breathing world with more things happening in it than Here's What Superman's Doing This Month.

The Flash
Godspeed's identity is one of those things I saw coming like, right before it happened--which is soon enough to be impressive to me but late enough that everyone else can go "Pfft, so what?" 

Anyways, on a superficial level I'm loving the almost anime-like way Godspeed and even nu-Wally have been armoring up.  They're literally layering themselves in the Speed Force, which is something that Mark Waid had Wally doing as early as the mid/late-90's, but it's never quite had the visual flair that it does when artist Carmine Di Giandomenico does it.

Having said that, after two years of The Flash's television series, I'm a little tired of seeing characters introduced that are faster than him.  It kind of makes Flash's "Fastest Man Alive" tagline a bit of a lie.  Wally faced plenty of speed-based villains in his day but it wasn't very often at all that any of them were outright faster.   Still and all, I'm fine with letting things play out to see who ends up on top.  If Barry has to "trap" Godspeed in the Speed Force, Phantom Zone-style because he's realized he'll never be able to beat him?  I'll end up kinda bummed.  But the story doesn't necessarily have to play out that way, so let's see.

In any case, with this arc nearly done I'll say that I've come around on Josh Williamson's Flash.  His willingness to develop the mystery of the Speed Force, allowing characters to have different abilities that don't all manifest in something as blunt as pure speed, has given a unique spin to the character and his world that I haven't really seen very often in the ten years I've been reading the character.

Wonder Woman
This might be my stating the obvious, but I feel like Nicola Scott is doing the work of her career on Wonder Woman right now.   The way she captures that look of innocent wonder (pun not intended) on Diana's face at her own unique abilities is something that probably only a handful of artists could've ever hoped to achieve.  More importantly, while there have been a number of critics of Greg Rucka using two artists to tell two different stories--I'm mostly converted.   Liam Sharp's Wonder Woman looks older, more confident and sure of herself--forged by the years of battle she's had as Wonder Woman.    On the flipside, Nicola's Wonder Woman looks more trusting, more uncertain of her actions.  That contrast makes the usage of two different artists mean something.

Plus to be honest it's about time someone gave Wonder Woman's origin a proper re-telling.  We keep calling them the Trinity, but Wonder Woman always gets the short end of the stick.  Bats and Supes get a revision of their origin every few years (Superman's had something like four in the last decade or so), but Wonder Woman always remains shrouded in darkness.  Watching this tale of how she meets Etta Candy, Steve (ugh) Trevor, and even her nemesis Barbara Minerva feels like a long (yet deserved) time coming.  


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