Bottom Of The Pile: Nov. 8th, 2017 – Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey, New Super Man, Detective Comics, Titans, Unbelievable Gwenpool, X-Men Gold

by Sage Ashford

Well, it’s that time again.

Welcome back to Bottom of the Pile, where I talk about some of my favorite comics on a week to week basis, the series that I personally save until the end because who doesn’t save the best for last?  This column can range from commentary on the state of a given series or comics as a whole, pointing out similarities between issues, to mini-reviews; both because because I love shaking it up and also because I’ve got the attention span of a goldfish crossed with an overactive puppy.  So let’s talk comics…

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #16
“Manslaughter Part 2: Crisis Mode”
Writers: Julie Benson & Shawna Benson
Artist: Roge Antonio
Colors: Marcelo Maiolo

I almost called this DC’s “A-Force”, only DC was doing Birds of Prey even before Marvel thought this was a good idea. This isn’t anything new for them, but this massive version of DC’s premiere lady team is a bit of a change of pace. I don’t talk often about Batgirl and the Birds of Prey because it’s not one of my absolute favorites, but every week it’s a solid read filled some of the most gorgeous, expressive art in comics. This latest arc, though, has been all kinds of fun: the men in Gotham City have been infected with a mysterious virus that’s made them all sick–from the normal pedestrians and crooks to actually known characters like Commissioner Gordon and Batman. The only ones left to save them wind up being the Birds, who’s ranks rapidly expand as the women try to save their teammates and significant others.

And as I was reading this issue I wondered: why not do this all the time? The Birds only existed initially because Barbara couldn’t walk and she needed someone to handle the crimes she knew about but couldn’t quite stop. But since she gained the ability to walk, the book has just felt…off. Like, having the team hasn’t made as much sense since she no longer needs any help. But what if instead of focusing on how Batgirl prolly has Gotham under control, you took things global?   Why not use a large, rotating cast of women superheroes kicking butt not just in Gotham, but wherever said butts required said kicking? These are always some of the most fun issues of the Birds, so just lean into that for like a year or three?

New Super Man #17
“Equilibrium Part Three”

Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Pencils: Joe Lalich
Inks: Richard Friend
Colors: HI-FI

Despite Batman’s mecha Batmobile firing more missiles at the Justice League than Gundam Heavyarms, most of this episode isn’t really a fight between the two Leagues. Instead, the teams get to be quite friendly with one another…y’know, apart from the bit where Kenan gets into a fight with Superman and Lex Luthor over Lex having the Red Jade Dragon, the artifact he needs to get his mater back, in his possession.

There’s a lot to love in this issue, starting with Batman being a hard-ass who still wants to offer advice to someone intending to do good, which goes along with Batman’s continued growth in the Rebirth era as Bat-dad, an older hero who realizes he’s got to pass along his knowledge to younger heroes because he can’t keep wearing the cape and cowl forever. There’s also the hint that we’ll eventually get a Green Lantern of China, though I suspect he’ll work differently than any of the usual Corps members.

If I can do a bit of fan-booking for a minute, the remainder of New Super Man would be devoted to three things: establishing a relationship between the Justice League of China and the original team, adding a few more members to the group to round things out, and finally a full-on showdown between them and the Great Ten. It’s obvious that those two teams don’t see eye to eye regarding their purpose in keeping China safe, so why not develop that and highlight their differences? With the series’ sales dipping to the 10k mark, it’s probably not a bad time to start developing a way to relaunch this book into a Justice League of China series a few months down the line–Kenan’s almost completed his training anyway, it might be time to transition to a larger focus and develop DC’s international landscape.

Detective Comics #968
“A Lonely Place of Living Conclusion”
Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils: Alvaro Martinez
Inks: Raul Ferdinand
Colors: Tomeu Morey

This week at DC: evil future versions of heroes come to the past to offer ominous warnings. First in Detective, where we finally reach the end of “A Lonely Place of Living”. Despite his best attempts, dark future Tim gets sent back to his own era thanks to a chronal energy build-up, where Hypertime forces him back to his own era after multiple failed attempts to kill off Batwoman.

While he’s there though, he hints at all sorts of delicious things that stand a strong chance at coming true in one way or another, starting with Batwoman being the reason everything falls apart. While I hope the group isn’t actually undone, I can easily see her actions leading to a source of massive stress for the group as we gear up for whatever’s coming in 2018. No Justice, perhaps?

The finale to this shifts gears, as older Tim’s victory becomes less of a foregone conclusion and more of an impossible wall he simply couldn’t climb, the sound and fury of the earlier chapters gradually being blown away by the futility involved in trying to alter the path of history. Older Tim becomes much more pitiable as you realize he’s forced to be resigned to his fate, trapped in a world where all of his friends have either quit, died, or abandoned him.

Titans #16
“The Fall of Troy”
Writer: Dan Abnett
Pencils: Minkyu Jung
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: Blond

Evil Future Versions of Heroes With Ominous Warnings, Part Two!  While future Tim tries to save the entire Bat-Family, future Donna Troy tries to save herself from dealing with the deaths of her friends, while reminding us that she’s still the most complex character in the DC Universe. We fixed Hawkman over a decade ago, but Donna gets a new origin every time she’s focused on for longer than a year and none of them ever stick. This time, she’s an immortal weapon created by the Amazons to wreck face. In her case though, she’s strangely bringing up things that have already happened–Dick becoming Batman, Roy turning to drugs. She talks about villains that were beaten before Flashpoint: Maggedon, Solaris, Brainiac and more. It’s almost as if she’s returned to a version of her past, but not quite her real past.  Hmm…

(By the way, there’s only two weeks remaining until Doomsday Clock…)

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #22
“Doom Sees You”
Writer: Christopher Hastings
Artist: Irene Strychalski
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg

As much fun as it is to watch Hastings play around with the idea of gutter space and how time would work if you could manipulate it via the panels of a comic (this issue Gwen gets herself out of a trap by traveling back through the pages), methinks Gwen’s a little overpowered at this point.  Just to be clear, since defeating her future evil self, she’s decided to become a “good” hero. Aware that she’s a comic book character, she doesn’t want her book canceled and so she decides to become famous by joining the Avengers–but since the Avengers won’t take notice of her without some major accomplishments, she’s been taking villains and dropping them into the non-existent barriers between panels: the gutter.

It wasn’t happening fast enough, so she went at Doom, one of the biggest boys the Marvel Universe has to offer. Unfortunately, Doom’s a good guy right now…but that doesn’t help her, so because she wants to fight evil Doom so badly, she slashes the good version and cuts him open, reverting him to his older, twisted self. She’s not even a superhero anymore, she’s just an editor.  “Look, Hero!Doom isn’t getting the job done, bring back Villain!Doom.”

X-Men Gold #15
“Mojo Worldwide Part 5”
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Penciler: Diego Bernard
Inker: JP Mayer
Colorist: Rain Beredo

The downsides of Disney potentially owning 21st Century Fox outweigh the good sides by far.  But the one upside would be that hopefully Disney would actually care about what’s happening to the X-Men because they’d be Marvel’s Merry Mutants again. Mojo Worldwide isn’t a bad comic, after all, few comics with Longshot in them are anything less than entertaining.

But this opening page gets under my skin, because can you imagine how a newcomer fan would react to this?  You’ve got two versions of Storm–one from the primary universe, another a vampire from an alternate world. You’ve got Wolverine except he’s old and from another universe, and his son-that’s-not-his-son, Daken.   Then you’ve got a young Jean Grey (though they’re bringing back original Jean Grey next month) and her “daughter” from the future, Prestige–and they both look alike ’cause this book isn’t confusing enough. They should have just let slice this whole page and given us the early 90’s team. Or at the very least, they could go back to pointing out who all these characters are in little boxes beside the characters, so people can jump in as easily as possible.

See you in seven!