DC Spinner Rack: Secret Six 22, Teen Titans 84, Doom Patrol 11, Wonder Woman 600, Tiny Titans 29

Secret Six #22

Secret Six #22

Secret Six #22

written by Gail Simone; art by J. Calafiore; $2.99 US

This issue concludes the four-part “Cats in the Cradle”, exploring Catman’s childhood as he takes vengeance for the kidnapping of his child. I suspect that this descent into savagery may have been intended as a reminder that Catman, for all his name and cape, is not a hero.

This comic always astounds me, not for the usual reasons. It’s well-written and drawn, and the characterization is uniquely different and deeper than your usual superhero comic. Simone has a genius eye for just the right moment to show significant feeling and meaning, and what she comes up with is always unexpected and elegant. But what gets me is what Simone and Calafiore are able to get away with in terms of content.

This series has featured abusive relationships, mutilation (sometimes by someone biting off someone else’s body parts), and torture, including, in the previous issue, a kidnapper thrown alive to lions to be dismembered and eaten. The plot twists are raw, shown in emotionally disturbing, truly dark fashion. While other “adult” comics dump in violence and sex to pretend to be mature, this title really is handling complex themes for older readers… all in a superhero universe. These are a team of villains, after all, and their codes may not be the typical ones found in DC comics.

And then there’s the character interplay, as when Black Alice fights Scandal Savage for a spot on the team. Black Alice is one of the most impressive new character creations of the past decade. Her power is interesting, both conceptually and visually, and her personality is understandable, a suffering teen with abilities she’s often uncomfortable with and struggles to manage, powers that have caused pain to her loved ones. If you want to do angsty superheroes, this is the way to do it.

I can’t believe no one’s saying “maybe we should tone this down.” I admire Simone for her cleverness in handling such unusual material. She’s kept me reading a comic that repulses squeamish me. And I adore the pun, as Black Alice takes on the form of another well-known mystical character, of “the Demon Estrogan”.

Teen Titans #84

Teen Titans #84

Teen Titans #84

“Coven of Three: Dark Harvest, Chapter 2″
written by Rex Ogle; art by Ted Naifeh; $3.99 US

Speaking of Black Alice, I regret recommending the Coven of Three backup. (She’s one of the three, along with a boy Zatanna and Tracy Thirteen.) It’s predictably paced, boringly themed (I’ve seen “being tempted with one’s greatest wish in a fantasy alternate reality” before, and done better), and the dialogue is generic. The art’s ok, although in certain panels, the sight lines (what the character is meant to be looking at) aren’t quite right, to my eyes. The biggest problem, though, is the plot: Aside from wallowing in misery, once again, the question is raised, if demons who want to come to Earth are so powerful that they can do all this, why do they need to manipulate humans to get through their portal in the first place?

I have similar problems with the main story, by Felicia D. Henderson, José Luís, and Mariah Benes, which is horrible, only I’ve given up having any expectations at all for Titans stories of any kind. They seem to be a favorite of Mr. Co-Publisher Didio’s, which doesn’t bode well for getting entertaining comics out of the sub-brand. Especially at that high price!

Doom Patrol #11

Doom Patrol #11

Doom Patrol #11

written by Keith Giffen; art by Matthew Clark, Ron Randall, and John Livesay; $2.99 US

How can I not be sympathetic to a comic that begins with a conversation about how the general public can’t tell the difference between superheroes and supervillains? As usual with a Giffen comic, I don’t know what’s going on half the time, but I like the concepts — and I’m amazed to find that Ambush Bug is now living in the reconfigured Danny the Bungalow.

Giffen has ramped way back on the Bug’s humor, so now he’s just an obnoxious teammate. And there’s a bit too much crazy villain monologue and violence among unidentified characters for me to truly enjoy it. But between this and Justice League: Generation Lost, Giffen is managing to work within the nostalgia-crazy DCU in some unexpected ways.

I really need some annotations, though.

Wonder Woman #600

Wonder Woman #600

Wonder Woman #600

This schizophrenic anniversary issue illustrates, for me, the key problem with this character. Gail Simone and Louise Simonson, among others, write stories about a powerful warrior who puts her friends and others first. In Simone’s story, a bunch of female heroes come together to defeat robots that only mind-control men, but the important thing for Diana is getting done quickly enough to make it to Vanessa Kapatelis’ graduation (a wonderful call-back to my favorite run of Wonder Woman comics, back in the 80s). It’s beautiful that the story was drawn by the creator of those stories, George Pérez himself.

Amanda Conner writes and draws an amusing piece in which Wonder Woman and Power Girl crack Egg Fu. There’s a camaraderie demonstrated, as Diana goes on to help Karen with her pet problems, that is rarely seen among female heroes. In her story, Simonson, aided by Eduardo Pansica and Bob Wiacek, teams up Wonder Woman and Superman in fighting a god-powered villain.

In amongst these tales comes generic pinups of a fighter in a too-small bathing suit who usually leads with her breasts. Very few seem to understand the properties of metal, what the front of her costume is supposedly made of, preferring instead body paint. It’s that conflict, between Wonder Woman as sexual fetish and Wonder Woman as role model with unique personality, that traps most creators. I enjoyed reading the stories, but then I’d turn the page and there was someone else’s fantasy fodder.

I’m not particularly surprised that the stories, which give her more dimensions, are done by women, while most of the pinups are done by men. (I must make an exception for Adam Hughes’ amusing retro-styled piece. It’s his placement of the young girl in the background, wanting to emulate Diana’s strength, that gives it such charm. And Phil Jimenez’s historical overview is amazing, as always.) I’m not encouraged by the last piece in the book, J. Michael Straczynski’s new direction that removes everything unique about Wonder Woman in favor of giving her a generic costume and a story I’ve seen too many times before. I’d rather see someone write the character as she is, contradictions and challenges included, instead of conceding his failure by remaking her into something he finds easier to handle.

Tiny Titans #29

Tiny Titans #29

Tiny Titans #29

written by Art Baltazar; art by Franco; $2.50 US

It’s Supergirl’s turn to toddler-sit, which means lots more kiddie versions of hero characters. I adore their tiny twists on members of the DC universe; the Little Tiny Titans are made up of the stretchy Miss Martian, Jericho, and Wildebeest, whom no one understands but is funny to look at, all furry head and horns. The designs are so cute that panels where kids do nothing but stand around introducing each other are still entertaining, just to see the way they’re drawn.

And the kids act like kids. Beast Boy entertains the babysat simply by changing into baby animals, which elicits cries of “Again! Again!” Robin’s reactions to whatever happens provide a nice counterpoint. This comic is usually the cherry on the top of my comic reading, a light, sweet taste to end on.

13 Responses to “DC Spinner Rack: Secret Six 22, Teen Titans 84, Doom Patrol 11, Wonder Woman 600, Tiny Titans 29”

  1. David Oakes Says:

    I think that Secret Six and Titans are proof of the adage “It doesn;t matter what you do, as long as you do it well”.

    I had gotten disgusted with Titans even before Johns made it a slaughterfest, and it has only gotten worse, both in terms of quality and brutality. It remains my exempler for “I can’t believe they are allowed to publish this!”

    But if I were to be honest, yes, a lot worse stuff happens in Six. A lot worse. And yes, the Artist is often more subtle. “Subtle” being subjective. And yes, I can rationalize that the violence and the straight-up sociopathy are shown has having consequences. But it’s not like the team is sitting on death row going “Gosh, maybe mass murder wasn’t the solution to our problems. Stay in school, kids.” And yet I am not offended by the subject, because the craft is so well done, so evident.

    In the end, ripping off some one’s arm isn’t offensive because it’s gross. It is insulting because it is cliche. (And I have to think that Simone could have killed Ryan Choi in such a way that people would be sad to see him go, and not just yelling about losing Token Asian Guy.)

  2. James Schee Says:

    I usually love Perez’s work, but Diana’s face looks all wrong on that cover.

    I need to give Secret Six another look, I tried it in the past and loved some early issues then it got… weird. Maybe in a collection or something.

    I think part of Titans problem is DC doesn’t know what to do with it. They have tried so many variations, going back to the originals (which didn’t work well as the characters had roles elsewhere), to making it Young Justice V2 (which again didn’t work as they killed off most of the cast), to now what… villains?

    Its a book that exists because it used to be so popular, but it was the creators who made it so. Not the book’s title.

    Curious to see how the Wolfman/Perez GN does, and it renews interest by DC in doing something worthwhile with the main title or just letting it go away for a while.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Oh, Secret Six is still very weird. Demented, almost.

    I suspect the Wolfman/Perez Games will sell based on nostalgia only. I’d rather see the whole Titans franchise go away until someone has a good idea of what to do with it and people to work on it that respect the concept and the audience.

  4. Thad Says:

    It was a lot better than Superman #700, anyway, and while I’m not crazy about the origin retcon they seem pretty clear that it’s temporary. (Plus I like the self-awareness of the gods saying they’re doing it because people need to pay more attention to Wonder Woman.)

  5. Chad Says:

    The first time I flipped through Tiny Titans, I thought there might be too many jokes that require DC Comics continuity knowledge for it to work for its intended audience, but from the first issue I gave my kids, they have absolutely loved it, so what the heck do I know?

  6. Johanna Says:

    Me too, Chad. But as I’ve seen kids enjoy the comic, I think of it now as more of a shared bonding experience, as older readers tell the younger more about the characters.

  7. David Oakes Says:

    I can second the shared bonding. Though with all the SHOWCASE they have been getting from the library, they can answer their own questions as often as not. Thank goodness for Jericho!


  8. James Schee Says:

    Saw the Hughes piece on the DC blog. Loved it, also kind of neat as someone there pointed out that the kids in the piece are the cast of Friends as kids.

  9. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for pointing out it was posted there — I’ve added a link in the review to it and to some of the others.

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  11. Lis Says:

    Much as I enjoyed “Fuzzy Logic” in Wonder Woman 600, it’s disturbing to realize that it fails the Bechdel test.

    Power Girl and Diana spend the entire story talking about Egg Fu, “Kal” or Power Girl’s cat.

  12. Johanna Says:

    Oh, I don’t think pets really count in the test, do they? I take your point, though. Unfortunately, that’s life in a superhero universe — the guys do most everything worth talking about. :)

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