My power has been in and out the past few days thanks to a string of heavy thunderstorms, so I’m getting this to you guys a little later than I intended. This week in Break From the Bat, we’re splitting our focus between “Milk Wars” and DC’s New Age of Heroes.
Milk Wars: Shade the Changeling Girl/ Wonder Woman Special #1
I’m not too familiar with Shade, the Changeling Girl, so I initially found this issue a little jarring and confusing. I’m familiar enough, however, to know that if this is your first interaction with Shade, it probably won’t serve as the best first impression. While this special has the psychedelic qualities, it presents the core character beats that make Shade so intriguing in a completely different way. Here, Shade is split into different bodies, each representing a single emotion – kind of like the movie Inside Out. I consider this issue a little jarring because initially, it isn’t clear that this is the case. Once the realization of Shade’s state becomes clear though, the plot suddenly fits together nicely. The reading experience also becomes more enjoyable and engaging as the multiple iterations of Shade express various reactions to simple, common issues.
Like the previous chapters of “Milk Wars,” Shade the Changeling Girl/ Wonder Woman is wonderfully weird, except this dive into the Young Animal imprint is way more trippy. Wonder Woman’s ties to this story help ground the narrative and creates a commentary pertaining to a “woman’s role” in society. Seeing Diana as your stereotypical 50’s housewife, recognized only as a domesticated figure is… odd, but the theme of the story is quite insightful. I couldn’t help but feel that struggles Shade faced trying to make Diana Wonder Woman again, had to have been similar to the struggles Wonder Woman’s creators faced when introducing a heroic, female character. This issue proves we’ve come a long way, but also highlights how much further we still need to go. Much like it’s two predecessors, Shade, the Changeling Girl/ Wonder Woman surpass the crazy, offbeat appearance to deliver a worthwhile story. It’s not perfect, but it’s quite good.
Milk Wars: Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye/ Swamp Thing Special #1
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye/ Swamp Thing is easily my least favorite chapter of “Milk Wars.” There are a number of factors that play into this, but the biggest reason is that this chapter felt the most disconnected from the rest of the crossover… Which is odd considering that Cave Carson’s eye has been the constant for every story so far. I also find the disconnect of the issue odd because it has more direct ties to Retcon than any of the previous chapters. Despite these advantages – because these two aspects should serve as advantages – the book never feels fully realized.
The story itself is fine, and if I’m being honest, it’s probably the easiest narrative to follow from “Milk Wars,” but it fails to embrace the charm that excelled in the first three chapters. The story is weird, but not “wonderfully weird” in the way we’ve come to expect. Even Swamp Thing’s presence doesn’t feel as inspired as the other DC brands – though his introduction to the story did give me a laugh. Unlike its predecessors, this story also fails to include a relatable theme. Yeah, it might be entertaining, but I wouldn’t consider it engaging. Things may be happening, but there’s a lot of fluff in between.
To make matters worse, the art is sub-par. Langdon Foss has a clear style, but it doesn’t excite me. There’s not much definition to his pencils, and it looks rather cartoony – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it seemed to clash with the tone of the script at times. I mean, people are being ripped apart, having their heads popped off, and so on. But in these moments, I kept finding myself questioning whether or not the intention was to make this humorous or play it straight. The book isn’t terrible, but it’s not worth reading unless you’re feeling super committed to “Milk Wars.”
Exactly one month ago, Damage #1 was released, debuting DC’s New Age of Heroes imprint. I was excited for this line – mainly because it was initially teased to be a more mature line – but I grew quite concerned after reading Damage #1 because there wasn’t anything exciting about the book. There was barely a plot, no character development, and it was clearly a rip-off of Hulk. In fact, the only positives worth speaking to were Tony Daniel’s art, and the tease of the Suicide Squad… Which is the main reason we’re even taking the time to discuss this book.
Before we get into some of the finer details about this issue, if you’re strictly interested in seeing the Squad, I’ll forewarn you that they don’t play a large role in the chapter. There’s some nice action, but aside from Deadshot and Harley, the roster isn’t comprised of the villains you’re most likely wanting to see – or maybe Giganta, Grundy, and Parasite make you giddy as a goose. If you’re indifferent concerning the Suicide Squad’s roster, then you’ll be happy to know that the quality of this issue is immensely better than its debut! Daniel actually takes a little time to develop the lead character, Ethan, while also providing insight into the reality he’s living. Where the debut read like a mindless action flick, this chapter actually creates a bit of an identity and tone.
I won’t say that I’m sold on Damage, but I am intrigued, and curious to read more. There are some potential problems for the book though. On a conceptual level, I have concerns that Ethan can only Damage out for one hour at a time. Yes, the problematic nature of the scenario could create some interesting plots, but I could also see it becoming overused very quickly. And then there’s the reality that Ethan apparently sleeps for roughly twenty hours after operating as Damage… I can’t imagine this leading to smooth narratives as there will clearly be day-long gaps between Ethan operating and coming to.
Speaking of smooth, the transition from the first issue to this issue isn’t that great. We left off in issue #1 with Damage preparing to go toe-to-toe with the Suicide Squad. This issue picks up a day later, with Ethan waking up in a shelter. Based on this issue, he hasn’t even confronted the Suicide Squad yet, so if you read these chapters back-to-back, or trade wait, you’ll probably give this miss in execution a bit of side-eye.
Damage is decent, but I can’t say that I feel it’s worthy enough to be its own title. There’s still a lot that needs to be fleshed out – and potentially reworked – so until that happens, I’d recommend DC ditch the title and insert Ethan somewhere else (probably Suicide Squad).
Sideways has a lot going for it! Considering all of the New Age of Heroes titles are receiving a “From the Pages of Metal” tagline, it’s a bit disappointing that neither Damage nor The Silencer actually have ties to the event (so far). But Sideways fixes this trend, because the main character’s origin is based on the events of Metal! Hooray! It’s actually relevant here!
Beyond the small satisfaction of there actually being ties to Metal though, I really enjoyed the lead character, Derek. He’s got a lot going for him, and I feel he’ll be relatable with many people – especially teenagers. On one spectrum of his personality, he’s just Derek: a mess of a kid who’s in need of a self-esteem boost. But then there’s his superhero alter ego, Rift, and when he’s in the suit, he’s quite similar to Spiderman, but with Nightcrawler-like abilities. Yes, Marvel already has both of those characters, but the combination (allegedly… to a degree) is entertaining.
Unlike Derek, the plot and supporting characters could use a little help. There’s not much in the way of plot for the debut, but I feel the character work more than makes up for that in this issue. The ending was a little lackluster, but mainly because DC – for whatever reason – chose to feature the final pages as their preview pages for this title. As for the supporting characters, I’ll say I’m curious. I need to see more of them before I’m able to build a valid opinion. So while it isn’t perfect, I’d say Dan Didio does a solid job of crafting a decent, fun story. Will Sideways survive the test of time? Mmmm… I’m not too certain any of these New Age of Heroes books will except for one (The Terrifics), but for now, I say we embrace the character and get to know him!