By Cat Wyatt
DC’s New Talent Showcase is an idea that the president of DC Entertainment, Diane Nelson, came up with as a way of showing off some of the recent students from their Talent Development Workshops (which sounds fantastic). The shorts in this issue are from the 2016 class, as the 2017 one only just wrapped up.
There are seven shorts in all, including a bonus story written by Scott Snyder, which brings the issue to a whopping 76 pages. Included stories are; Roll Call (Red Hood & Duke), To the Hilt (Katana), What We Talk About When We Talk About Family (Nightwing), Silent Screams (Poison Ivy), Mercy (Deadshot), The Cost of Magic (Doctor Fate), and finally, The Archive (Wonder Woman). So there’s something for everyone here.
Because there are so many different stories here, I’m going to give an individual score for each, and then give a final (combined) score at the end. I think that’s probably the simplest way to do it.
Role Call, as mentioned above, is focused primarily on Red Hood and Duke. They appear to practicing their fighting while in the center of Arkham Asylum. Not the more practical place to practice by any means. While Red Hood does provide some very good advice to Duke (“quips and retorts should only be used for distraction”) he should probably learn to listen to his own advice, as he failed to notice the doors to the prisoners have been opened. This isn’t exactly my idea of fun, but hey, I’m not a superhero raised by Batman, so what do I know. Thankfully our boys were only in as much danger as the simulator allowed, with a slight uptick in difficulty thanks to the mud formed villains (clever, that).
This was actually a pretty solid short story and a great start for these guys. They successfully showed Todd’s (emotional) weakness against the Joker, while also sticking to the art style that is more expected for Batman and his protégé. The villains were accurately portrayed (bonus points for that) even though there were so many of them shown quickly. The only thing is the cat shown (yes, a real cat belonging to Catwoman) looked a bit odd, though it probably isn’t something one would notice at a quick glance.
To the Hilt is based somewhere in the Huanshan Mountains (China), and immediately starts off with showing us a grievously wounded Katana, minus her famous counterpart, Soultaker. Apparently King Snake somehow (don’t ask me) got his hands on her sword during the fight, and despite all this (like that wasn’t enough) Waller is trying to recall Katana anyway. Which frankly is just plain silly, anyone with half a brain should know that Katana will not abandon Soultaker, or her husband. A flashback fills us in on the missing details here; a Suicide Squad mission (unsurprisingly) that went a little wonky, leaving Katana in the blast radius of one of Flag’s bombs. Well, that at least would explain both her injuries and her missing sword, to say the least. In the end it’s just Katana versus King Snake, and I think we can all safely assume how that fight turned out.
This short really read like a Suicide Squad comic, and to be frank, I think I liked this more than the current plot in the main series. Kudos. The artwork is very clean on the whole, though there’s lots of lines to show movement, sometimes to the point where the backdrop will be cut out in favor of it. I’m ok with this style of art, and I think it works particularly well with Katana’s fighting style.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Family; is the Nightwing story, though naturally there’s lots of Bat family characters that get cameos too. Even Green Arrow gets a mention; apparently he asked Nightwing to protect a couple of civilians, Abelard, Bilal, and their daughter from Count Vertigo (whom sees his half-brother, Abelard, as a threat to the throne). This one gets a bit…odd. We’re clearly seeing multiple thought boxes, which are supposed to represent other characters and how they’d think (or more accurately, how Nightwing would think they think). Things get a little tight in the end, and Abelard makes the (bold, brash, brave) decision to stay behind to buy his family time. Thankfully Nightwing was also thinking of his family, as he called them in for help, just in time to save the day.
This story felt a little busier, visually speaking. There were a lot of speech bubbles and thought boxes, which was distracting at times. The artwork itself had a more sketchy quality to it, but I personally really love that style. The color palette was also perfect.
Silent Screams; I’m not going to lie; I was exceptionally excited when I found out one of the short stories was going to focus on Poison Ivy (without a doubt one of my favorite villains). Somewhere in rural Georgia children have been going missing, and Ivy believes she knows the cause. Now, anybody that knows Poison Ivy knows better than to think she’s here for the children’s sake (she’s not exactly the maternal sort…at least not to humans). This led me to believe that the person hurting the children was also hurting plants in some way, which I feel like is an accurate guess, all things considered. Luckily for us, Ivy already knows who that person is (I’m going to skip her incredibly long and formal title), Nahemah, and has already made plans to kill her.
There were little points that I really loved about this story. For one thing there were a couple of Harley references (Ivy saying Harley wanted to help, and then later Ivy using Harley’s lighter in the battle). I’m a fan of Harley and Ivy (as friends or as more, I’m not picky) so I love seeing little things like that. There were a ton of dramatic poses throughout this story (it is Ivy after all), especially during the fight scene. My one complaint is sometimes the faces looked a bit funny, like they were overdoing it or something like that.
Mercy; based in Pateros, Washington; Deadshot is working on a solo-mission for Waller - not all that unheard of, really. He’s ideal when it comes to taking out targets. His target this time is a man named Dr. Bryenko; he has to take him out and get their tech back, all ideally without damaging the tech (…which is in Bryenko’s head…literally). For some reason this specific event causes Deadshot to think back on his first kill; he was trying to kill his abusive father, but instead missed his mark and shot his brother instead (talk about emotional turmoil). As any comic book fan knows, this information will become immediately relevant, as Deadshot sees his brother’s name on one of the papers on the desk. Turns out his brother may not be a dead as he thought. Apparently the ‘good’ doctor has been using his devices on disposable humans for years, including Deadshot’s brother (bet you money Waller knew), turning them into a hive mind army. While Deadshot does handle the situation, it probably goes without saying that this story took a toll on Deadshot’s psyche.
I’ll admit I just didn’t like the plot of this one too much; I’m not a fan of retconing in the best of times, but to give Deadshot a brother and then take him away just as quickly? It feels cheap. That being said, the artwork was pretty fantastic, with extra attention given to movement and details of the fires.
The Cost of Magic; I’ll admit this one right away; Doctor Fate is not a character I know a lot about. That being said, it was kind of nice reading a short story about him first, kind of get my feet wet, so to speak. We first see Doctor Fate fighting some sort of Egyptian (looking) three-eyed cat. Upon the battles completion it’s revealed that Doctor Fate is undergoing a physical transformation (away from being human) as the cost of being a hero. Many will find this cost too high, and Doctor Fate thought he was among those, but he can’t deny who he is, so inevitably he steps up to the challenge despite everything. When faced against the same monster, Doctor Fate decides to try a new tactic against him, and instead heals him of all the corruption he’s facing. I love the idea of using empathy as a weapon here, plus one can argue that Doctor Fate was capable of seeing the changes in others based on his very own transformation.
The artwork in this story was a bit more of a throwback than the others; it was borderline classic with a more sketchy quality to it. I absolutely adored it. Additionally this story read the quickest, and it was very much to the point.
The Archive; our final story of this issue; correlations are being drawn between Dian’s past (and her fascination with the weapon vault of her home) and the A.R.G.U.S. facility vault below D.C. Now, I saw this vault and immediately thought of the one shown at the end of Indiana Jones – the one where they lock away all the inexplicable and dangerous items. Which is basically what’s happening here. This vault is under the highest security possible, and it’s clear they’re intending to lock these items up forever, something Diana strongly disagrees with. While Steve is showing her the facility, a bunch of men in suits are watching the video footage in a conference room (creepy). One of them (never named) becomes enraged and sort of starts looking like the Demigorgon from Stranger Things (you know where the face opens up into four pieces?). I’m not sure if this was caused by one of the items in the vault, or if he was a plant (no pun intended) the whole time. I’m sure you can imagine what happens next, and let me just say I don’t envy that monster thing.
This story reminded me of a few other works (such as the vault being reminiscent of Warehouse 13), but I mean that in a good way. I like it when an author can blend little details from other worlds that they liked into a new world of their own creation. The close-ups in this were fantastic, though like I’ve noticed in other Wonder Woman issues the faces do lose a lot of quality the farther away they get (more so than in other series, I think). I’m not sure if this is intentional or not. Regardless, this was a fantastic story and the artwork on the whole really supported it.
Overall Score: 4/5
New Talent Showcase #1
Publisher: DC Comics