CAPES & COWLS: This Week In SUPERMAN & BATMAN (Jan. 25)

This week, even more members of the "Bat" and "Super" families have fallen prey to the evils of H'el and Joker.

In two of the most high-profile crossovers in the post-New 52, "Hell on Earth" is raging through the Superman titles, and "Death of the Family" is Joker-izing the Batman books.

But this week also saw some other events with Super- and Bat-characters who were busy with their own, Joker-free events in the DCU.

In our second installment of "Capes and Cowls," we bring you up to speed with what's happening in these two corners of the DCU (and you can check out last week's recap if you need a refresher on where we left off).

Superman Family

 

Supergirl #16

This chapter of "H'el on Earth" was full of super-fast punching as The Flash battled Supergirl, trying to take her away from H'el. As the two of them duked it out, they vibrated through several walls of the Fortress of Solitude, and we got to see the vastness of Superman's base.

(Probably the most Super-rewarding part of the "romp through the Fortress" took place when Supergirl met Krypto. Or at least met him again, on Earth. Woof!)

It wasn't a deadly fight, though, because Supergirl didn't want the Flash to die, and in turn, Barry Allen was just hoping to separate Supergirl from the influence of H'el. (Clueless Kara still thinks H'el's plan is a good idea. Will someone please inform her that the solar system will be destroyed if he does this thing?)

The battle ends when Flash starts using an anti-Kryptonian weapon that Clark had told him to use as a "last resort." Score one for Barry (with assistance).

But wait -- H'el comes to Supergirl's rescue at the last minute. He teleports Barry's butt back to the Justice League Watchtower. So... Supergirl for the win (with assistance).

The last we see of Supergirl and H'el, they're about to set off the device that will cause the destruction of the Solar System.

But the issue also revealed that H'el's arrival on Earth was observed by an alien herald of the Oracle. (So we're thinking the big alien at the end of last week's Superboy was also a herald of the Oracle. We're thinking this Oracle dude must be important.)

Who's the Oracle? The end of Supergirl gives us a glimpse, as the massive "Oracle" is flying through space and gets to the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy. A group of lizard-like aliens who come close to the path of the traveling Oracle are staying clear. "We can't fight it," the captain of their ship says. "We can't stop it. All we can do is pray for those who try."

Looks like H'el isn't the greatest threat to the Super-folks after all.

 

Superboy Annual #1

Even though the original solicitation for this comic had Ravager on the cover (kissing Superboy, no less), the issue got a new cover before publication and a new direction. Instead of a Ravagers reunion, Superboy Annual #1 is all about Superman and Superboy sharing snarky banter and bonding.

The two have landed in a pocket dimension they accessed while in the Fortress of Solitude (see last week's recap of Superboy #16). This pocket dimension contains a couple named Blastor and Lasara, who mess with the Super-dudes for awhile, hoping to utilize their powers to get out.

It's worth noting that, as Superman and Superboy are chitchatting and trading barbs, they also share their basic résumés. (That's handy, because maybe now we'll find out how somebody got a sample of Superman's DNA in order to clone Superboy.)

But they end up escaping when Superboy uses his empathy powers to free everyone, blasting Blastor (sorry, couldn't help myself) and Lasara to the other side of the universe.

And just like we saw in Supergirl, the issue ends with Kara and H'el about to set off the device that will cause the destruction of the Solar System.

Batman Family

 

Nightwing #16

As the issue begins, the "Death of the Family" attack by the Joker has already hit Nightwing hard, as his friend Jimmy and ex-girlfriend Raya were both killed. The Joker carved an invitation in Raya's stomach for Dick to attend a "surprise party hosted by Haly's Circus."

As Dick arrives at Amusement Mile, the Joker has a gruesome scene set up for him: the corpses of past circus performers filling the circus tent. Nightwing goes ballistic, but Joker has hidden explosives in the bodies, releasing his toxin. Dick gets his "rebreather" to his mouth for protection, but he's forced to watch as all his hard work on revitalizing the Amusement Mile is destroyed by the Joker's well-placed explosives.

Nightwing starts to beat up Joker (between all the Bat-family punches this month, surely Joker's getting a few broken bones, no?). But of course, the Joker has another surprise. Telling Dick that he's "the one that makes my Batman the weakest," Joker reveals that he has Joker-ized dozens of Dick's beloved friends from Haly's Circus. The smiling zombie-like crowd comes toward a truly disturbed Nightwing in a nightmarish scene.

But the creepiest Joker-ized friend is the little girl named Christina (in an early issue, Dick swore to her that he'd protect her). This revelation breaks Nightwing. Joker hands Christina a spiked mallet, and the Joker-ized girl knocks Dick out. Joker drags his body somewhere and, as Nightwing comes back into consciousness.... Joker pulls out a silver platter covered in blood.

Like most of the other Bat-books this month, the Nightwing "silver platter" story will play out in Batman #17.

 

Red Hood and the Outlaws #16

The issue picks up in the midst of a team-up between the Teen Titans and Outlaws. They're in Gotham City because of their missing teammates Jason and Tim.

But now they find themselves surrounded by a warehouse full of Joker-ized hobos and the fighting begins. When there's a break in the battle, Arsenal reveals that he used an "analysis arrow" to Wi-Fi information about Joker's toxin back to his lab (of course he did!). He sends some of the team to the lab to get the toxin's cure, while Arsenal and Bunker stay to hold back the smiling tide of crazed bums.

Long story short: The gang returns with the cure. Crisis averted.

But in a few cut-aways during the action, we also get other information:

1) A flashback into Arsenal's deadbeat past shows him holed up somewhere in Gotham, recovering from drug addiction. Well, no... not just somewhere. He's in the former lair of the Toy Man, and he's being rehabbed out by none other than Killer Croc. So that was pretty wild.

2) We get a glimpse of Dr. Hugo Strange in the New 52. The captions describing the scene indicate he's still a supervillain. It's revealed that Dr. Strange has written a book called "What's So Strange About Being Happy?" and he's signing copies in St. Louis. (His son Eli appeared in Detective, but we're pretty sure this is the first we've seen Hugo post-relaunch. Isn't it?)

3) We see that the mercenary assassin Deathstroke has his eyes set on the three Outlaws. (We know this because he throws knives at each of their pictures. More on that soon, I'm sure...)

4) Last, but not least, the issue reveals that Joker is putting the finishing touches on a Red Hood mask, saying, "aren't you in for a surprise!" (Poor Jason doesn't get a silver platter like other Bat-family members, but we're guessing he won't mind.)

 

Birds of Prey #16

Black Canary and Starling are surprised that Batgirl would suggest a Talon ("Strix") as a new team member. While they're discussing it, the team's Japan friend Condor shows up and attacks Strix, thinking she's a villain.

Oops.

It turns out Condor has info on the Basilisk tech dealer from Birds of Prey #0, and three weeks later, they all join forces on a mission to take him down. (And by "all," we mean the new team, which is Condor, Strix, Starling, Batgirl and Black Canary. However, in two months, Christy Marx takes over from current writer Dwayne Swierczynski, so this may be a temporary team roster.)

But the team has bigger problems than some tech dealer. Dinah's powers have really gone awry. One of her Canary cries erupts from her body at a level she cannot control, and Dinah levels the surrounding area and knocks out power to much of Gotham City.

Oops again.

 

Batwoman

Well, before we get to the plot points, let's just get this out of the way: J.H. Williams III drew this issue. (In other words, as we talk about the story, make sure you picture all this stuff looking really, really cool. And incredibly beautiful.)

So with that visual in mind.... the issue falls in the middle of a storyline that teams Batwoman and Wonder Woman against the gods. Medusa and a slew of villains have laid siege to Gotham City, and things have gotten personal for Batwoman because her home-base building has just been destroyed by Killer Croc-turned-Hydra.

As Wonder Woman battles the Hydra, Batwoman goes to rescue a group of children that have been taken by Medusa. And we're shown that the battle for Gotham involves many of Batwoman's allies and villains. We've got the Hook versus Mr. Bones and Bette Kane (in her new Flamebird costume). And then there's some action from Cameron Chase, Maggie Sawyer and Abbott and the Religion of Crime.

But the "main event" of the big battle is Batwoman's efforts to thwart Medusa's evil plan. We find out that Medusa is trying to summon her mother, Ceto, the mother of all monsters, and she's getting assistance in the effort from Maro and the Weeping Woman.

In a series of those sort of "captions-without-boxes" that make this comic so unique, we find out the story of Ceto. And we learn that in order to complete the process of summoning her, Medusa needs children's souls to bind her to this world.

Despite Batwoman's best efforts -- and attempt to get Weeping Woman on her side -- she appears to have failed as the issue ends. Ceto is coming.

 

Catwoman #16

We join Selina as she has snuck into the Black Room at A.R.G.U.S. to get the Black Diamond (which was placed there during a recent issue of Team Seven). Catwoman infiltrated A.R.G.U.S. security by disguising herself as "Professor Gretchen Klimt."

After getting her paws on the Diamond, she's trapped inside the Black Room with a scientist named Darwin, who warns her about the dangers of the Black Diamond. But Selina is seduced by its power.

In the process of getting into the Black Room, she has freed some of the darkest entities in the universe. After battling some of the mystical creatures housed within the Black Room, she busts out by driving the Haunted Tank. Again disguising herself as the "professor," she sneaks away with the Diamond, giving it to her "fence," Trip Winters.

We get a hint at a possible relationship between Selina and Trip, but the end of the issue shows a Selina who is worn out from her escapades. However, readers do find out that Trip was retrieving the Diamond for none other than Alex Montez, better-known pre-New 52 as Eclipso. As he turns into Eclipso, Selina is shown swearing to never be seduced by diamonds again. (Bet she can't keep that promise.)

Elsewhere in the DCU

 

Justice League #16

We won't get into too many details of this issue, because it's not technically a Superman or Batman family title. And right now, it's truly Aquaman's show as the team's in the middle of the JL/Aquaman crossover "Throne of Atlantis."

That said, there were a couple of interesting moments for Superman and Batman in the League's battle with the Atlanteans. After Gotham was flooded in the story, Batman decided he wasn't playing Mr. Nice Guy anymore (heh... does he ever?). He released powder into the ocean, calling it "enough potassium to spark an exothermic reaction with the water." Aquaman became angry and also took off the kid gloves (but left on his green ones) as he punched Superman across the ocean. Then Clark responded by heating the water enough to boil the Atlanteans.

Ouch.

But those tactics were all for naught, because Ocean Master's trident was powerful enough to knock out Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman, who are now being dragged into the ocean.

How will they escape? Well... without completely spoiling the issue, let's just say Justice League was full of name-dropping this week, and it ended with Cyborg recruiting some new members. Yes, NEW members of the Justice League.

Since this column is about the Capes and Cowls, you'll have to read Justice League to find out who all the new candidates are, but we will reveal that one of them is Black Canary of Birds of Prey.

Character We're Most Worried About

The Joker was pretty rough on Dick Grayson this week, and that has us a little worried about Nightwing's well-being. All the Bat-family has suffered at the hand of the Joker. But since the relaunch last year, Dick's been established as the "bright light" in Gotham. If Dick survives this, we have to wonder if he won't be a little less "bright" and a little more "disturbed."

Place We Most Want to Live

This week, we want to live in the Fortress of Solitude. Quantum habitat zoos? Pocket universes? Armories of alien gadgets? Yes, please -- we wants them all! Just warn Krypto we're on our way.

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