THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up team takes a look at Shadow War Alpha #1, The War for Earth-3 #2, and more.
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bolded verdicts within the chat transcript below.
ZACK QUAINTANCE: Hey everyone and welcome in to another DC Round-Up team roundtable. This week we’re talking multiple comics with the word war in the title, starting with Shadow War Alpha #1. What did you all think about the kickoff to this crossover?
CORI MCCREERY: I am a little disappointed to be honest. Pick a better artist to kick off your big crossover Batman and Deathstroke event than the guy who is most notable for his bad opinions about women’s safety and being the fill-in artist on the not Dan Mor issues of Detective Comics. Viktor Bogdonavic is a cookie-cutter Greg Capullo clone, and really doesn’t work well for this story, in my opinion. And I really dislike his faces, because boy does it look like everyone has gobs and gobs of mascara on their eyelashes at all times.
GREG SILBER: I agree, even when you set aside Bogdonavic’s embarrassing social media antics, he just doesn’t have the skills to excite me about what otherwise could be an intriguing premise. I’m actually really into the idea of Ra’s Al-Ghul trying to do a face turn (or is it a heel turn? I’m not a wrestling fan) and taking a new approach to his usually-insanely-misguided mission to save the world. But so far, the execution hasn’t mustered much interest beyond “that’s kind of a neat idea I guess.”
JOE GRUNENWALD: I mean to be fair we don’t really get to see Ra’s carry that face-turn out because he gets shot in the head. Spoilers? Let’s put a spoiler warning at the beginning. I agree with what you’ve all said about Bogdanovic’s artwork, though. It’s…fine? I don’t care for it personally but it gets the job done. I know Zack had some pretty specific issues with it, though.
ZACK: Look, I just feel obligated as the Washington, DC, resident in this group to point out that the city doesn’t have skyscrapers…AND YET…this issue has a skyline in the background of a DC establishing shot and then again in a few other panels. But I got past that once I groused about it a bit with you all. For the most part, I kind of had fun with this issue. Since we’re already doing spoilers, I’ll say that specifically I thought the second big twist (after Ra’s getting blown up) wherein someone is dressing as Deathstroke to frame Deathstroke was a nice hook.
JOE: I was very interested to see how Deathstroke got sucked into this and I agree that’s the most intriguing part of the story for me so far. Also coming off of last week’s issue of Deathstroke Inc. and the reveal that Respawn is a clone of Slade and Talia adds an interesting level of personal connection for the characters to the event.
ZACK: There definitely seems to be a family affair theme at work here, with the Bruce-Damian reunion and continuing to deal with the death of Alfred being part of that as well.
JOE: Bruce is so bad at being a dad. It was rough.
GREG: It actually bothered me, the degree to which Batman is bad at dadding in this issue. He can be a little distant, sure, but I don’t buy that he’s completely oblivious to his son’s feelings.
CORI: Yeah the “I could have saved him” line just landed like a lead balloon to me. Bruce ain’t the best at emotions, for sure, but he’s not that cold and callous. It just feels like this is maybe treading a bit too much water for all three titles involved. What’s the end goal of this crossover? Is there a point other than to fill a month of issues before Williamson leaves both Batman and Deathstroke, Inc.?
ZACK: So, I don’t have an answer to that, but I did sit in on a press roundtable with Josh Williamson recently where he cryptically noted it would tie-in to what’s coming in Dark Crisis…does that pique any of your interests at all?
JOE: Considering again the tease at the end of the most recent Deathstroke Inc. about a tie-in to Dark Crisis, that doesn’t surprise me. I’m pretty hyped for that story so if this ties into that that’s exciting.
GREG: I don’t know enough about Dark Crisis yet to have strong feelings about it, but if Shadow War is just meant to be a lead-in to another “event” comic, that makes me less excited to see where Shadow War is going. I’m not interested in teasing just for the next tease. Give me a substantial story.
CORI: I’m with Greg here. How many lead-ins to the next thing do we need? Infinite Frontier begets Justice Incarnate begets Shadow War begets Death of the Justice League begets Dark Crisis. It’s just a lot of lead-in, ya know?
GREG: This is a problem DC has had as long as I’ve been following DC Comics regularly, back at the dawn of the New 52. Events that accomplish little narrative purpose other than to lead into the next event.
ZACK: I mean, in this one Damian and Bruce reunited and they started talking about Alfred’s death, so I don’t think it’s just people running around yelling, “Dark Crisis is coming!” or something, but points taken. Let’s wrap it up on this one, there is after all more war to discuss. Where are we landing on verdicts here?
JOE: It’s a BROWSE from me, I think. It’s a decent kick-off and I’m interested to see where the story goes, but the art really drags it down in my opinion.
CORI: I’m also gonna go BROWSE. Not to ride Joe’s coattails, but for much the same reason. I’ll keep reading but the art really didn’t sell me enough to recommend.
JOE: My coattails have plenty of room for everyone.
GREG: Well I’m going to reject Joe’s coattails by saying PASS. The team might change course, but as of right now, there really wasn’t much compelling in this first issue that makes me pumped to keep going. I don’t hate it, or even necessarily dislike it, but I don’t recommend it.
ZACK: And nobody googling pictures of Washington, DC aside, I’m a BUY on this one. I thought it was a good time, nice Deathstroke content that built upon a very solid Robin run, with an explosive reunion for Bruce and Damian. I also just like the layers of family stuff here. Anyway, on to the next item of business…how did we all feel about War For Earth-3 #2?
CORI: Ra’s al Ghul also had an explosive reunion with a bullet, hey oh. I feel like War For Earth 3 both started and ended strong, though two of the issues in the middle kind of dragged a bit for me (Flash and Teen Titans Academy). I think that this was a great way to end this event, and actually gave me a surprising twist that I didn’t expect going in.
JOE: I agree with you, Cori, that parts 3 and 4 didn’t really add much to the event (though I did really enjoy the Flash tie-in as just an issue of The Flash). This was a pretty solid Suicide Squad story with some Titans sprinkled in for some reason, which is fine. It could’ve been tighter, but I still had a lot of fun with it, and I agree that this concluding issue was a blast and had some great twists in it that gave it that extra push. I also appreciate how it’s slowly building out the Earth-3 that we saw in Future State in an interesting way, but not such that we know where things are going already.
GREG: I like the chaos of this series. I’ll admit, as a guy who’s admittedly behind on his DC reads I found a lot of it hard to follow, but I think the creators had a lot of fun with the premise. “Evil Justice League” is such an inherently silly, simple concept that I think you need that tone. Also, this will make Joe happy: it made me want to seek out more Ambush Bug comics.
JOE: If you like Irwin here (his real name is Irwin), you’ll love him in the original Keith Giffen appearances.
ZACK: I enjoyed Ambush Bug in this one quite a bit, as I have been of late. This was also maybe the best Amanda Waller story in I don’t know how long.
CORI: Yeah the Wall was great in this. I fully expected this crossover to end with her in Belle Reve herself but again was pleasantly surprised by the ending where she actually won.
JOE: Did anyone else snicker at the “And just like that…” caption on the last page? Or am I the only one who watched the Sex and the City reunion…
GREG: I thought exactly the same thing. Someone who’s actually watched that show should tell me which member of the cast Ultraman would be.
JOE: Ultraman’s a total Carrie.
CORI: I sure as heck didn’t watch the Sex and the City reunion joe.
ZACK: I knew the Sex and the City reunion would come up in these chats if we kept doing them. Did you all have any favorite characters aside from Waller and Ambush Bug in this one? It had a pretty large and varied cast, I thought.
JOE: There were almost too many characters to keep track of, which I think added to the chaotic feel of the whole affair. I’ve never been super-fond of any of the Suicide Squad members, but I grew to appreciate Rick Flag and Bloodsport in this book.
CORI: I love Earth 3 Donna Troy an awful lot. She’s just a perfect Superwoman.
JOE: She really is great. A nice variation and building onto the Morrison/Quitely version of the character.
ZACK: Ambush Bug referring to the Earth-3 Flash as I think it was “topless Flash” was good fun, too.
GREG: I actually do love Ultraman. We get so many door takes on “what if Superman was EVIL” that it’s a nice change of pace when creators are like “yes it would be scary, but also hilarious.”
ZACK: So, before we get to verdicts any more closing thoughts about War For Earth-3 #2?
JOE: Just that I enjoy this week that we’ve got two small mini-events – I really enjoy that model of crossover and think DC is utilizing it to pretty strong effect of late.
CORI: God, why am I agreeing with Joe so much this week? Am I sick? But anyway, yeah, as much as I said I didn’t like lead-in after lead-in above, when it’s done right, it works really well, like it did here with the Crime Syndicate mini-series and the Suicide Squad main series feeding into this event.
ZACK: I’ll kick us off with the verdicts on this one, I’m going BUY, with the caveat that if you’re not reading Teen Titans Academy or The Flash, you can probably just skip those issues and be fine for this whole event.
JOE: Agreed there, Zack – it’s a BUY from me as well. This was a romp.
CORI: Is this gonna be an unanimous BUY? Because that’s my verdict too.
JOE: Greg don’t screw this up for us!
CORI: Do what you want Greg, don’t let Joe bully you into an opinion.
GREG: Wow, look at the intimidation tactics I have to put up with. Seriously though, it’s a BUY from me as well. I had a lot of fun with this one.
CORI: Actually, before we go, I did want to give a shout out to the Sensational Wonder Woman Special #1, specifically the first story by Paula Sevenbergen and Paul Pelletier. In a wonderfully heartfelt story about a class of grade schoolers that have a “hero” day at school, one kid named Will wears a Wonder Woman outfit to school. And while Will uses male pronouns throughout the issue, and is bullied for his choices, at the end of the issue it’s pretty clear that she’s actually a trans girl just coming to terms with her identity. She asks Wonder Woman “What if wearing a costume like yours helps me feel more like my true self? At least for now?” and in a very, very touching scene Wonder Woman gives Will her tiara. I’d like to see the Texas government arrest Wonder Woman for helping affirm a trans youth.
GREG: Hell yeah. I loved that story too and hope it helps some kids.
ZACK: Glad we had a chance to end this DC Round-Up chat with that blurb review. That’ll do it for us this week, folks, thank you as always for following along!
Miss Any of our earlier DC Round-Up reviews? Check out our full archive!