Look, up in the sky! It’s a- well, it’s not really a bird. A plane, maybe? No, not that either. It looks like a– starfish?
That’s right, it’s raining Starro, and who better to save Earth-3 than the Crime Syndicate? The sophomore issue of this book is here, and it’s back in force. Admittedly, while there were some problems with the last issue that had me a little worried for the future of this series, a lot of them seem to be fixed here.
So. without further ado…
Andy Schmidt returns to helm this issue, and he’s done a wonderful job. This time around, the story is narrated by Owlman, assuaging my fears about the rest of the Syndicate getting their times to shine, and Schmidt has captured him beautifully. My favorite thing he’s done here has to be giving Owlman the best character trait I think he’s ever had: the “nothing matters” philosophy from his appearance in Crisis on Two Earths. This is my all-time favorite interpretation of Owlman, and I’m absolutely ecstatic to see it here.
Just because Owlman gets the narration blocks in this story doesn’t mean the focus is all on him, though. The majority of the plot in this book is still based around the conflict with Starro, and things are ramping up. Last time we saw Ultraman, he was wrecking everything in sight, desperately trying to fight off the influence of the alien starfish invading his mind. Unfortunately for, well, the world, it looks like he’s lost that fight. Fortunately for us, it gives Schmidt a chance to shine. It’s probably my favorite take on Starro-possessed people I’ve seen in a while. Instead of the mindless Starr-drones that shamble around doing their master’s bidding, each person it infects here retains all of their personality and most of their agency. It’s a really nice opportunity for character work and I really appreciated seeing it in action.
A large chunk of the book is the fight between Superwoman and Ultraman, which takes them all over the globe, but the book manages to remain out of pure slugfest territory. A decent amount of time is spent with Emerald Knight as well, this book’s take on Power Ring. And let me just say, he’s awesome. Schmidt adds a new dynamic between the ring and its wielder. Where previously, the Power Ring essentially bullied its host into doing its bidding, berating them and making them afraid of it, Emerald Knight’s ring has more of a back-and-forth with him. It’s really great to see him sling shit right back at the ring or just outright ignore it sometimes.
This book has been fantastic so far, and really feels like a love letter to the DC Universe. All of the characters are over the top, Owlman in particular. I love Schmidt’s use of the prep-time gag, having Owlman instantly concoct a plan involving stuff like hacking a power ring and capturing a Starro really feels exactly like the kind of harebrained Bat-scheme the early 2000s loved to give us.
The end of the book contains another mini-story, again by Schmidt, this time focusing on the origins of Owlman. It’s a fantastic spin on his origins, and genuinely fascinated me. For me, it hit much better than the Ultraman origin.
The art here seems significantly better than the last issue. Artist Kieran McKeown and inker Dexter Vines still give the characters that stylized, Bronze Age vibe that characterizes the book, but the strange contortions of bodies and faces aren’t as prominent. The colors, done by Steve Oliff, are still bright and campy, doing a wonderful job both of capturing the wacky air around this book while offsetting the darker tone of Earth-3.
That being said, I still have one major issue with this book.
I don’t like Owlman’s cowl.
I know, I know, I said that last time, but it’s just… so BAD.
I don’t know what it is about this cowl. It could be the lack of face shape, it could be the similarity to Nite-Owl, but my best guess would have to be the eyes. There’s no life in these eyes. They’re not expressive, they’re just… circles. An argument could be made that it adds to the inhuman terror he tries to inflict on his victims, but it just doesn’t work. Especially when we have an infinitely better suit in the origin story!
Bryan Hitch knocked it absolutely out of the park with this design. I know I was ragging on the eyes of the other suit, but the lit-up goggles work infinitely better than the silver circles. It’s such a small thing, but when coupled with the extra ridges on the cowl, it really completes the look here.
- You like the Crime Syndicate.
- Crazy, off the rails, pure dumb fun sounds awesome.
- A good alien invasion really makes your week.
This is a significant improvement on the last issue overall. The characters are great, and all of them are actually present this time. Owlman is technically the main focus of this issue, but unlike Ultraman, it doesn’t feel like he’s hogging the page. Most importantly, I think the story is turning out to be fun. I came into this series hoping for a fun romp in a world where my favorite heroes were evil, and that’s what I’m getting. I’m glad the book seems to be straying away from the dark and gritty side of things.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.