Saturday, July 06, 2019

A Month of Wednesdays: May 2019



BOUGHT:


DC's Year of The Villain Special #1 (DC Comics) At just 25 cents for an original 24-page story, this is one of those occasional so-cheaply-priced super-comics that seem like one would be foolish not to buy a copy, and so I but it I did--although I suppose I would have paid as much as $3.99 for it, given that it is basically a chapter of Scott Snyder and company's Justice League series, interrupted by a preview chapter of Brian Michael Bendis's story that will be playing out in Event Leviathan.

There's a lot of DC's better-selling talent involved in this--in addition to Snyder and Bendis, there's a sequence written by James Tynion IV, and the artists include Justice League's Jim Cheung and Francis Manapul and Event Leviathan's Alex Maleev--and I imagine it will be quite effective at getting people to try out the books it's essentially advertising (or, more likely, to get the people who were always planning on buying those books to be more excited about doing so).

Set up as three "chapters," it opens with an eight-page sequence by Snyder and Cheung entitled "Doom." The Legion of Doom attack Amanda Waller in the Oval Office, Brainiac sucks information out of her brain, Luthor and Brainiac go back to the former's skyscraper and, after previewing his plan to Brainiac, Luthor kills himself by detonating the building.

This is the first time I really stopped and thought about Brainiac's Christmas-colored dialogue balloons and I've decided I don't like them and don't really get them. I have no idea what they are meant to indicate that his voice would sound like, other than "different from everyone else's".

A full page of this story seems to be devoted to previewing whatever Tom King is up to in Batman, as there's a splash page break in the Luthor/Brainiac conversation depicting a swollen Bane hunched uncomfortably on a throne--it's probably his scuba tank full of neon green steroids making it hard to sit--with Flashpoint Bat-Dad and Psycho Pirate on either side of him. Luthor's dialogue is imposed over the image: "See how even those who have grand plans of their own, like our 'friends' in Gotham, are helping build to the same end."

That Snyder/Cheung story is followed by an eight-page chapter two, by Bendis and his old Daredevil partner Maleev. Teasing Event Leviathan, it features Green Arrow and Batgirl Barbara Gordon cornering a panicky Merlyn in Seattle, after which point something happens--a building blows up? Or implodes? Or gets sucked into a portal?--and someone in a mask makes Barbara Gordon an offer, referencing her out-of-continuity continuity, like the fact that she hacked her way into the Suicide Squad back in the '80s, and was even a member of an ad hoc Seven Soldiers of Victory for all of one adventure during the Mark Waid-lead 2000 Silver Age event series* (that team appeared in the Geoff Johns-written, Dick Giordano-drawn Silver Age: Showcase issue). He/she/it makes Babs an offer, but it is a different offer than the offer that Luthor is making supervillains as part of "Year of The Villain", and then there's a page set in the Batcave, where Damian tells Batman he needs to help disproving a theory, that "this new Leviathan threat... ...isn't The RED HOOD of Gotham. Your old partner... ...Jason Todd."

That isn't just phrased extremely oddly, but it's almost certainly not true, given the exchange we just witnessed between the Leviathan person and Batgirl.

This chapter/story left a lot to be desired. Bendis' Leviathan arc and Snyder's Justice vs. Doom war storyline don't really seem compatible with one another, or at least they don't really seem like they should be running at the same time. Both represent big threats, but Bendis' is very much in the smaller, more grounded analogous-to-the-real world part of the DCU setting, seemingly involving various espionage and law enforcement and intelligence agencies and crime syndicates, while Snyder's story is at a cosmic scale involving the multiverse, gods, creation and the end of all things. Both are all-hands-on-deck kind of stories, but the Leviathan thing so far seems like relatively extremely small potatoes, something Batman doesn't have time to deal with when he and the Justice League are consumed by trying to keep all of existence in existence.

It doesn't help that the thing which apparently convinced DC that the two storylines are thematically similar enough to tease in the same special, that they both involve villains, are maybe too similar, and that both Luthor and the mysterious, masked Leviathan character are simultaneously making offers to various players in the DCU.

I also just found the storytelling in this sequence irritatingly familiar. Perhaps it is just because Bendis is here once again working with a long-time partner from his Marvel days, but this all felt like the same old tired Bendis scripting I've read a million times, rather than the more exciting "new" Bendis I've seen of late, as he's been paired with new-to-him artists on new-to-him characters in a new-to-him setting. Maleevs's art is realistic to a fault, the action all vaguely implied by fairly static poses in the art (or, in the case of Meryln blocking Green Arrow's arrow by shooting it out of the air with his own arrow, the sound effects). There's one three-panel sequence that that makes no visual sense at all. A ship appears in the sky, it either shines a spotlight or shoots some sort of weapon at the rooftop the three are standing on, and then there's either an explosion or a blast of electricity or a flash of light, and then part of the building is missing...or maybe not, since we never got an establishing shot of the building, there's no way of knowing if the top few floors blew up or teleported or collapsed or if they were never even there, and the lighting effect was just so big that it obscured the space above the building, rather than the building itself.

Anyway. Lots of dialogue, Barbara and Ollie bantering like Stock Bendis Hero Character #1 and Stock Bendis Hero Character #2, and lots of repeating panels of tight head shots, with Maleev barely altering the images or repeating them at different levels of closeness to spare himself drawing too much (in an eight-page story!). This is basically what I most feared we would be getting when Bendis' move to DC was first announced. I was rather pleasantly surprised that we didn't get it...at least, not until now.

After that interlude, it's back to the Justice League for chapter three, only now Justice League fill-in writer Tynion is scripting, as is obvious from the over-narration of a couple of sequences that don't really need words, let alone 500 words in little boxes. The long and the short of it is basically that the Justice League is back from the future, and they are still dealing with the repercussions of the breaking of the Source Wall, evacuating planets and stuff like that. At one point, the League has one of their psychic meetings, at the end of which Batman dramatically declares, "We call everyone. And then we go to war." He says this on a two-page spread over which Manapul draws what looks like most of the DC Universe that is currently starring in comic book series, including the teams from the pages of Teen Titans, The Titans, Justice League Dark, and The Terrifics, plus a handful of the currently book-less, like Firestorm, Animal Man, Captain Atom and Metamorpho. There's also a bit featuring Perpetua, a reminder that The Batman Who Laughs is still around and then an indication that, shock of shocks, maybe, just maybe Lex Luthor isn't really totally dead forever after all.

After those three eight-page stories, there's another eight-pages of advertorial type material, basically prose pieces with images from other comics inserted into them. These include a checklist of sorts of the 20 July comics tied into "The Offer" portion of the "Year of The Villain" branding event/mega-story/crossover.


DCeased #1 (DC) I really liked the title of this comic; it is a really solid clever/dumb gag. Unfortunately, that was the sole part of this first issue I liked, and I stopped enjoying it immediately as I read past the title and got to the cover image, a pretty uninspired image of Batman fighting off a SWAT team; you'll even have to look somewhat closely to see that they lack pupils and a couple are tearing at their own scalps; the blood stains aren't from Batman beating on them. They are, instead, DCeased's version of zombies.

Writer Tom Taylor is a pretty great super-comic writer, and one who has consistently managed to surprise me with his ability to turn even dross like, say, a years-long adaptation of that dumb-looking Injustice video game into...well, if not gold, than at least not-dross. And this is a real lay-up of a comic book premise: An out-of-continuity DC Universe vs. Zombies comic, DC's belated answer to Marvel Zombies, only less inspired (That is, this is just straight up heroes fighting a zombie pandemic of the sort that has been in 500,000 different movies since 28 Days Later reignited zombie interest in the mainstream, rather than Marvel's What If...All Our Heroes Had Been Turned Into Zombies? take).

I am sure it has crossed the minds of, like, everyone who writes super-comics and/or reads them; hell, it generally crosses my mind every time I watch a zombie movie, because, um, Batman, Superman and The Justice League are, like, always in the back of my mind. And because I have given some thought to this before, I do think there are some pretty interesting directions one could go in with this, like how the World's Finest's complete and total refusal to ever kill would apply to fighting a horde of the undead...do they just capture them and transfer them to giant zombie prisons while trying to figure out a cure? Do they come to blows with Wonder Woman and Hawkman or whoever over whether or not it's "okay" to kill the undead? Does Batman find himself at a disadvantage when it comes to killing his foes, because he's trained his whole life to fight without killing?

Taylor, at least in this first issue, doesn't seem to do much but fill in the blanks necessary to buttress the pitch though, and so the main points of interest are seeing the writer solve relatively easy problems like, for example, how a zombie apocalypse scenario might come about in the DCU, and how zombies might even prove a threat to the DC heroes, considering their abilities (Plop Superman down in pretty much any zombie movie you've ever seen, for example, and he would solve the problem before Patient Zero manages to bite three victims; and even if the pandemic does manage to spread to a few thousand people before he gets involved, if Superman did have no qualms about killing zombies, then, dang, it would take about five minutes for him to save the day).

An unseen, never identified narrator who is apparently one of the superheroes--or at least on speaking terms with Cyborg--tells us that the Justice League has just staved off Darkseid's latest invasion of Earth, a week-long battle between the heroes and the forces of Apokolips. (Here, the League means The Trinity, The Flash, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Black Lightning, Green Arrow, Black Canary and Nightwing, all costumed as they are in current DCU continuity).

As Darkseid retreats into a Boom Tube and tells the heroes he got what he came for, they suddenly notice that Cyborg is missing. That's because Desaad--as with the other New Gods characters featured, he appears in his New 52 incarnation--already has Cyborg nailed down to a table. Apparently, Darkseid has found the other half of the Anti-Life Equation inside of Cyborg, and as the dark gods prepare to unleash it, they pump a bit of extract from The Black Racer into Cyborg in order to control how quickly he dies, introducing an x-factor that instead turns the Anti-Life Equation into some kind of modern zombie movie disease that makes those afflicted try to rip open their own heads to get it out before they turn into ravenous, flesh-eating fast zombies.

To save himself, Desaad Boom Tube's Cyborg back to Earth, and there the equation/disease starts to leap through the Internet onto people's screens, turning them (similar to the Stephen King novel Cell, and the movie adaptation of the same name). Superman manages to save Lois, his son Jon and Jon's friend Damian Wayne, who is visiting, but things don't go so well over at Wayne Manor. Batman is immediately confronted by the already equated Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, both in Wayne Manor and in costume for some reason, who attack him; the last image is of Nightwing biting deep into Batman's neck and Tim's gloved fingers somehow scooping right through Batman's costume and deep into his flesh.

And that's the premise, really. DC Universe vs. Zombies by way of Darkseid and Cell.

There's some clever-ish dialogue in here, mostly in the passage where Cyborg tries to trash talk his captors and a few lines from Green Arrow in his traditional questioning-authority role on the League, but it's mostly a Point A-to-Point B sort of plot, and one that brings nothing fresh or original to the zombie genre, and, given how violent DC Comics have gotten in the last few decades, nothing particularly noteworthy to the DCU setting, either.

The apparent loss of Batman right at the start of the story--after some panel-time is spent demonstrating once again how he is a few steps ahead of all of his peers and plans for absolutely everything--is somewhat subversive, I suppose, but it too is disappointing, as Batman vs. Nightwing and Robin fight to the former's death should be a lot more intense and emotional than the six panels it gets here (Maybe if DCeased was an ongoing like Injustice was, Taylor could have fleshed this stuff out more).

It obviously doesn't help that Taylor doesn't really have an artistic partner in the endeavor, but there are instead two art teams on the very first issue. Trevor Hairsine and Stefano Gaudiano draw 18 pages, while James Harren draws an eight-page passage that separates the Hairsine/Gaudiano passages. The separation of the art teams is somewhat organic in that the former draws the stuff set on Earth, while the latter draws the part set on Apokolips, but their styles don't really mesh, and it's not a great sign that a six-issue miniseries couldn't go even one issue with a single art team.

I suppose there is still plenty of time for Taylor and company to turn the book around, but the issue certainly failed the baseline test of the first issue of any comic book series. That is, it didn't make me the least bit interested in picking up the next issue.


Drawing Blood #1 (Kevin Eastman Studios) Okay, I've read this comic a couple times now, and am writing about it almost a full month after I read it for the first time, and I'm still not entirely sure what to think of it. This is the latest work from Kevin Eastman, and while he's been productive to the point of prolific contributing covers and artwork to IDW, DC Comics and even Marvel comics of late, this is his first self-published work in a while, and his most ambitious.

It stars a rather Keven Eastman-like character, Shane Bookman, who co-created a comic book property that became successful beyond his wildest imagination, and then fell on hard times. Now Eastman and his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird have maybe the most interesting real-life stories in all of comics to tell. Through hard work, perseverance and a bit of eureka, bolt from the blue inspiration, they were joking around one day and came up with a weird concept, and a four-word title for a comic book that was practically a magical spell.

Together they managed to create a comic book that fused their various influences and passions into something entirely new, a work that took the best of both of them to succeed (I don't think it's too controversial an opinion to state that the very best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics were those by Eastman and Laird, and that the Eastman-without-Laird and Laird-without-Eastman TMNT comics were inferior to those they did together). Mindful of how their comics creator heroes were often screwed over by their publishers, and how those creators suffered by virtue of not owning their own work, Eastman and Laird did pretty much everything themselves, even as their creations swelled to global phenomenon status, and eventually the amount of work necessary and the time spent together destroyed their working relationship--although the exact details seem to be known only by the two men themselves, and those around them. I certainly don't know the specifics, but it seems somewhat tragic that Eastman eventually sold his part of the property to Laird, and then Laird eventually sold it all to Nickelodeon, and the creations they labored so hard to protect eventually ended up being owned by a big entertainment corporation anyway, and, somewhat sadly, Eastman is now working on TMNT comics for IDW, who has the license from Nickelodeon.

I mean, I say "somewhat sadly," but I don't know how sad Eastman really is about it. Nor am I sad about it, as it means we get to see the characters' co-creator working on them rather regularly. Just, seen from a distance, there's an element of a cosmic tragedy in the Eastman and Laird story.

So Eastman doing a semi-autobiographical comic book about an Eastman-like cartoonist's life after his TMNT-like creation? That sounds amazing. I'd love to read that (Not as much as I'd love to read a straight Eastman biography, though, or a straight Laird one. I hope both of those men are writing or co-writing their own biographies, preferably in prose format, although I guess comics memoirs would be interesting, too. I also hope some enterprising comics journalist with my level of interest in the subject, but with far more social skills, far more interviewing and writing talent and far fewer anxiety disorders is busting his or her ass interviewing the hell out of Eastman and/or Laird and trying to write the definitive book on what is maybe the most interesting comic book industry story of all time. Seriously, I assume there will be a prestige Eastman and Laird biopic released in some award season in our life time...maybe a decade or so after the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby biopics).

Anyway, this is not that. This is...I don't know what it is. I knew more after I finished reading it, when I got to the back matter, and I didn't like that at all.

But first, the comic. Eastman shares a "Created By" and "Story By" credit with David Avallone, a writer whose name I had never heard before, but who, according to comics.org, has written a sizable number of books for Dynamite and American Mythology, mostly Bettie Page comics. There's a David Avallone on IMDb.com, but I'm not sure it's the same guy; in any case, that David Avallone's credits are mostly as editor, and there are only two writing credits, both from the '90s.

The artwork is where it gets really interesting. That isn't by Eastman either...or, at least, most of it isn't. Instead, a Ben Bishop draws the bulk of the book. All of it save for the flashbacks, which are laid out by Bishop but finished by Eastman, and the "hallucinations", which are finished by artist Troy Little.
Ben Bishop
My mind started to boggle on the very first page, in which we see our narrator and protagonist, the Eastman-like artist character, sitting in a parked car on a dock, snorting cocaine with his best friend Nigel "Beastly" Boswell, who hands him a pistol. On the second page, some gangsters show up in a second car and, well,it becomes quickly apparent that this is just another fucking crime comic. That...that is extremely disappointing. As the meet goes south, as ten out of ten such meets go in crime comics, TV shows and movies, Shane "Books" Bookman's narration resumes with "I guess the first thing I should have told you is... I'm a cartoonist. "

And then we get a flashback leading us to this point. Shane is trying to get a Broadway show going when an artist friend tells him that his publishing partner Frank Forrest has just killed himself. Shane then flashes back--yeah, a flashback within a flashback--to a 1986 New England comic con, where Shane and his brother Paul first met Frank. They were kids, he was a successful cartoonist. When young Shane tells his hero he wants to grow up to be a comics artist some day and wants to know what it's like, he responds, "Honestly? If I'd known what the life of a professional cartoonist was like, I'd have cut my drawing hand clean off." After he reviews Shane's art, he gives him his condolences: "The is good. That means someday you're going to feel exactly the same way I do about it. Sorry, kid."
Bishop and Eastman
Shane soon discovers that Frank had embezzled a lot of money from their company, leaving Shane with a great deal of debt, some of which is owed to organized crime. Hence the opening sequence.

There are hints from Shane's life that seem to reflect Eastman's own life. For example, when his lawyer tells him exactly how dire his financial straits are and he asks what he should do, she responds, "Can you create another beloved billion dollar worldwide franchise by next week? I mean...you did it once, right?" Later, when he's trying to process his feelings at the drawing board, one of his creations--the Raphael-like member of the Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls, a mutant cat analogue to Eastman's TMNT--appears to him in a hallucination, berates him, beats him and accuses him: "You betrayed us! You sold us like slaves and gave up!"
Bishop and Troy Little
How reflective this is of the real Eastman's real feelings--certainly the former bit with the lawyer has occurred to him repeatedly in his life time--is anyone's guess, but it makes a reader curious. Of course, that's one of the problems with this book...or, at least, this initial issue. Sorting out what's real and what's not, and what's meant to be real and what's not is kind of troubling. Honestly, if Eastman cast himself as the star of the book, and then went off in a crime direction with his own life, that would be one thing, but because Shane is an analogue character, and a transparent one, it's hard for a reader to get swept up in the story and stop wondering if other characters are meant to correspond to real people. For example, is Frank supposed to be Peter Laird (no), Jack Kirby (no), Frank Miller (nope), some real-life business partner of Eastman's, a complete fabrication pulled form the ether, or some sort of composite...? I don't know. But I wondered, and would tick off the various way the character might have corresponded to real people from Eastman's career I might know of, and other ways that eliminated them. I don't think this is a good way to read a comic, and yet with each new character I found myself doing the same (For what it's worth, if there's a Laird analogue in here, I have to assume it's going to be Shane's brother Paul, as that was his co-creator on his analogue TMNT).

I was still puzzling over why Eastman and Avallone decided to go in such an uninspired, generic crime story direction given how much more interesting, unusual and compelling the behind the scenes stuff of a cartoonist who lost control of his greatest creation and was now struggling to find something else as creatively fulfilling and financially successful really is (That is a story only Eastman could tell, while anyone who's watched four episodes of Law and Order coulda come up with these crime comic scenes).

I got the disappointing answer in the back matter. There's a two-page prose piece from Avallone dated "July 2018, Hollywood" explaining how the book came about. The pair were talking and drinking at a hotel bar at a comic con when Eastman told Avallone about his idea for a movie called On The Shoulders of Giants about "a comic book creator facing a personal crisis...a man with a biography similar to Kevin's, but not identical."

After Avallone gave him the better, more Hollywood-friendly title of Drawing Blood, he told him "This isn't a movie. It's a TV show. Like a 'quality TV' cable show." And, ugh, that's where this Kickstarter-funded series really came from. Avallone explains that this is planned as a nine-issue series that would cover the first season of the TV show.

Given that ambition, I suppose the fact that there's a faux-Eastman in it makes more sense, as Nickelodeon certainly wouldn't let an animated Raphael appear to punch out the actor playing Kevin Eastman, but there's something...sad about the whole thing. Comics-as-Hollywood pitches seems like a very '00s phenomenon, back when publishers were flooding the market with high-concept miniseries that were transparently the work of wannabe screen writers adapting their pitches into comics with the end goal of getting a trade paperback collection to bring with them to pitch meetings. Most of those comics not only weren't very good--it's not easy to take a film script and turn it into a compelling comic, particularly when compelling comics aren't even the goal--and all of them were depressing, making the comics industry seem like a stepping stone overly-ambitious writers would try to slum in, even though they were the only ones who thought they were actually slumming.

It's quite depressing to see Eastman, one of the most successful comics creators of all time by many metrics, engaged in that now, even though I know some of his past comics projects were created with an eye towards mass media adaptation (Fistful of Blood, for example). On the other hand, because Eastman has made comics for so goddam long, and to have made them pretty much from scratch back in the 1980s, he knows a thing or two thousand about putting quality comics together, and Drawing Blood is therefore much, much more compelling than pretty much every comics miniseries-as-Hollywood pitch comic that has preceded since the turn of the century. Even something simple, like the three artists for different types of scenes, isn't something one would have seen from similar projects from the publishers who specialized in this sort of thing (most of whom are no longer around, and those that are still around seem to have minimized those sorts of books in their overall output).

I...don't really need to or want to watch Drawing Blood on Netflix in a few years. I do want to read the rest of this comic book series though. And, someday, read that Eastman biography...


Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls #1 (Kevin Eastman Studios) This comic is pure gimmick, but it's straightforward and unapologetic in its gimmickry, and it's a pretty clever gimmick, really. This is a real one-shot by Kevin Eastman and company that is meant to be read as the comic within the comic Drawing Blood; that is, this is the comic book that Drawing Blood's protagonist Shane Bookman supposedly created with his brother Paul, the book that became a runaway media sensation and global phenomenon he's been unable to top. It is also, obviously, a pretty transparent stand-in for Eastman's own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic with Peter Laird, making this a rather heady, meta-comic. This is the co-creator of Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, an indie comics juggernaut that spawned a half-dozen barely-veiled imitators, analogue and parodies, first in comics and later in cartoons, doing his own TMNT imitations/analogue/parody.

That, in and of itself, is pretty remarkable, and justifies this issue's existence.

In addition to providing the rather Frank Miller-esque cover, complete with TMNT-style lettering, Eastman handled the lay-outs, and gets credits for creation, character designs and story. His Drawing Blood co-creator Daivd Avallone handles the script, and gets story and created by credits, while Troy Little is credited with "final artwork"; Little is one of the three artists who drew portions of Drawing Blood, handling the "hallucination" sequences featuring the in-story TMNT-knock offs.

These particular knock-offs are cats--I eventually realized that it may be intentional that Eastman's own TMNT copycat characters are actual cats, and they are three rather than four in number. They are also sisters, rather than brothers. But much of their story will sound familiar, although I suppose it's worth noting that Avalone and Eastman didn't follow the TMNT template as closely as they could have; the book echoes the original, first issue of the Mirage TMNT comic quite directly at points, but not so zealously that it's a point-for-point pastiche (In the storytelling, I thought the most direct echo was the two-page spread on pages two and three, when the RRRR are introduced leaping towards the reader in the same way the TMNT did in pages two and three of their first issue.

Tezuka, Otomo and Miyazaki are sword-wielding mutant cats who are busting up the designer drug operation of a villain named Overdog. On their way back to Tiger Sushi, where they live with their adopted parents, they save a young boy from bullies and, their existence revealed, take him into the restaurant. They tell him their story, of how they were once orginally kittens who were taken to a secret laboratory and exposed to a serum that made them smarter. When the lab is attacked, they flee gunfire, running through the gamma ray lab, the cosmic ray lab and the genetic mutagen lab. Thoroughly mutated--or "radically rearranged," I guess--they run into the city, eventually finding an old man and his wife being threatened at gunpoint by a protection racket. They intervene, and are rewarded by being adopted. Their new father trains them in martial arts, but he is later killed, and the three of them have sworn vengeance on the an responsible, Overdog.

I don't know that I would want to read a whole series featuring these characters or anything, but for 36-pages it was fun. Eastman is really good at action lay-outs, and while I probably would have preferred to see him draw the whole book, Little is a pretty great artist; his cat-women reminded me a bit of Jeff Smith's art, while his human beings reminded me a bit of Judd Winick's character designs. No one gets a lettering credit, but those look a bit like those of Steve Lavigne or Eastman's in the old Mirage comics, so even those looked a bit familiar to me. It's in full-color, but other than that, this is a very TMNT-y homage/parody to the TMNT...by one of the guys who did TMNT, given the excuse to do so by the fact that although this comic is a comic, it's meant to be read as the comic within a comic.

There are no less than eight covers for the issue--so it's really a product of its time, rather than trying too hard to imitate the original TMNT #1--and some of these are pretty interesting. Eastman provides two of teh covers; one of which is sort of similar to the general lay-out and poses of the Turtles on TMNT #1. Two of the covers are by artist Alan Quah, and those are even more closely modeled on TMNT #1. Among the other covers are one by Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles artist Freddie Williams II and one by Stan Sakai, featuring Usagi Yojimbo fighting side-by-side with the Ragdolls.


Hamlet Starring Donald Duck (Dark Horse Books) Hamlet, perhaps the best-known drama to feature a conflict between an uncle and nephew in the entire Western canon, is perfectly suited for an adaptation casting Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and the various Disney ducks as the principals. After all, the the cast of Disney's duck comics are almost exclusively uncles and nephews, and almost always in some state of conflict with one another.

Sadly, this book by writer Giorgio Salati and artist Paolo De Lorenzi isn't at all what I originally expected when I originally ordered it, nor is it precisely what I wanted it to be. It is not an adaptation of Hamlet in the way that Mickey's Christmas Carol was an adaptation of Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol, wherein the various Disney characters are playing the parts of characters from the original work, with character-specific jokes and parodic elements thrown in.

Instead, it is akin to Disney Don Quixote, in which Disney's cartoon characters find themselves in a highly fictionalized plot that parallels the plot of a work of classic literature, rather than any sort of direct adaptation. As with the Don Quixote comic, the only one of these I've previously read, if one weren't pretty familiar with the work being adapted already, one might not necessarily be able to recognize it from the resultant comic.

It is worth noting, however, that the Hamlet adaptation lacks a layer of complexity that the Don Quixote comic had, as the latter featured Mickey, Goofy and their supporting cast playing different versions of themselves who then enacted the Cervantes-inspired plot. Here, the action begins with Uncle Scrooge taking his nephews Donald, Huey, Dewey and Louie to Denmark to inspect his smoked kipper supplier, and there the nephews sneak off to read William Duckspeare's tragedy "Ducklet," the bulk of the comic being the dramatization of "Ducklet", starring Donald, Scrooge and their supporting cast.

While Donald obviously stars as the Hamlet analog, Scrooge doesn't play his antagonist uncle Claudius, but, instead, the ghost of "King Scrooge" (I suppose casting the heroic Scrooge as a murderous, wife-stealing Shakespeare villain was a bit too far for the creators and/or Disney). The Claudius role instead goes to John D. Rockerduck, who plays Rocklaudius (all of the character names are basically clumsy portmanteaus smooshing the ducks' original names into those of the Shakespeare characters).

The Ophelia and Laertes roles are obviously filled by Daisy and Gladstone, while Ludwig Von Drake plays their father, Polonius/Drakonius. Rounding out the cast are Gyro as Horatio, Brigitta MacBridge as Queen Gertrude and Gus Goose and Fethry as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The boys play multiple roles, appearing first as the traveling players who Ducklet enlists to perform a play to prove Rocklaudius' guilt, and, later, as the gravediggers who appear in the scene with Yorrick's skull, which is now played by a pumpkin.

Perhaps because this is a Disney comic book, all of the death, madness and allusions to sex are taken out of the play...which means there is a lot that needs to be sanitized. Because Hamlet is a tragedy and pretty much the entire cast is dead by the end of it, that means writer Giorgio Salati had to go to some pretty absurd lengths to make a death-free version of Hamlet and, luckily, it's absurd enough that the changes all play like gags.

So the "ghost" of Scrooge isn't really a ghost at all. Rather than pouring poison in a sleeping Scrooge's ear, Rocklaudius poured "nonsense juice" in his ear, rendering him "transparent and incorporeal... ...like a ghost", so that only a very close relative like Donald--er, Ducklet could see him.

Rocklaudius wasn't interested in the queen as much as the crown...and Scrooge's wealth. In fact, neither Scrooge nor Rocklaudius seem to have any real interest in the queen, whom they regard as if she has cooties. Ducklet doesn't stab Draklonius through the curtain, but instead steps on his foot; this sends him hopping about on his other foot until he konks his head with Ophelia/Duckphelia, knocking him unconscious and rendering her...silly, I guess. It is for these injustices that Gladertes wants revenge on Ducklet rather than, you know, killing his dad and driving his sister to suicide.

And as for Yorrick's skull in the graveyard, it has been replaced by a "Yorick-O'-Lantern" in the pumpkin patch.

Some of these changes are obviously greater reaches than others, but even the least elegant solutions are at least funny in the great lengths to which the creators have gone. Additionally, while some of the relationships are somewhat mangled by being run through a Hamlet-ization process, others work extremely well, like Scrooge haranguing Donald (albeit it here in a ghostly form no one else can see or hear) and Donald and Gladstone coming to blows with one another over Daisy (here with maces dipped in nonsense juice).

While I didn't much care for Don Quixote, and was disappointed by the premise of this one--and likely will be by all those that will follow, if the pattern of these two holds for the Dracula and Frankenstein books I've already ordered--I liked this one a lot more. I'm not sure if it was because there were fewer hoops involved with the adaption process, or my preference for Donald and Scrooge over Mickey and Goofy, or my greater familiarity with the source material, or if it was just plain better made, but I suspect all of those factors played some role.



Justice League #23 (DC) This is only chapter four of "The Sixth Dimension," but it feels more like chapter fourteen to me. There's not much forward progression, at least not any more than one could assume from having read the last issue. Superman is stuck in an inescapable trap of sorts (although I guess his flashback to hanging out with his son was unexpected and interesting, particularly as I worry that that Superboy might be in the process of going away), Batman is still talking with the World Forger, and the imps are still battling on fourth-dimensional Earth. Most of the action of this issue is concerned with the rest of the League's attempts to escape the future's Apokalyptian prison, and the unexpected help they get from the future's remaining Legion of Doom members. It's all perfectly okay, and aside from the somewhat slow and stalled-out pacing of the arc, the only thing that really bugged me was the continued misunderstanding of Martian Manhunter's powers. This issue seems to suggest, for example, that he is a powerful telekenitic which...is not the case. Or at least wasn't the case. Who can keep up with things like character, consistency or continuity in a constantly rebooting shared universe setting, anyway...?

The best part was probably a riff on a the "Darkseid Is" slogan from Grant Morrison, Howard Porter and company's "Rock of Ages" arc from JLA; the moment is actually kind of dumb, but just the right sort of dumb to make the gag work.

I got the variant cover, which I liked better than the regular cover...
...despite the fact that it features two characters who haven't been in the book for a while now--Aquaman and Cyborg--and that it has John Stewart using the most powerful weapon in the universe to wish for a coupla guns yet again, once more demonstrating a lack of imagination and/or cultural awareness on the part of the character and/or his creators.


Justice League #24 (DC) The bit where the Legion of the Doom of the future prepare to stay behind and fight to the death while sending the League back to fix this whole fucked up timeline for them gave us the above bit with Grodd--who appears to have had an Ultrahumanite make-over at some point, which artist Jorge Jimenez uses to illustrate his having gotten old. That's actually just the first and weaker of the jokes that Scott Snyder has Grodd tell on that very page, though.

The sequences in this issue are pretty much identical to those in the last: Superman remembers time spent with Jon as he seeks to escape the prison he's in, the League attempts to escape the Apokalyptian prison with the help of the Legion, Batman talks to the World Forger. At least it ends with a couple of big splashes indicating a League vs. League climactic battle...which I just realize will occur in the 25th issue of the series. Perhaps that explains why this arc seemed to drag a bit (Well, the fill-in issue scripted by James Tynion IV didn't help, obviously). Perhaps Snyder and Jimenez were trying to time it so that the arc would end in issues #25 because that's a number that serially-published comic books generally treat as a big deal.


Marvel's Greatest Creators: Invaders #1 (Marvel Entertainment) Given that this is a one dollar reprint of an old Marvel comic, I'm not entirely sure how Marvel's Greatest Creators varies from True Believers, but, as a reader, I guess it doesn't really matter. This is a reprint of 1975's Invaders #1 by writer/editor Roy Thomas, artist Frank Robbins and inker Vince Colletta.

It is apparently not just the start of a new series, but of a story arc, as the first page is a splash page featuring the words "The Ring of The Nebulas!" as a title, and the last panel features the appearance of a trio of Axis-aligned Teutonic gods challenging our heroes to battle ("Continued in Invaders Classic: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 TPB", the slug on the bottom of the page informs us). So while this doesn't provide a whole story, it does provide some World War II-era adventuring starring the unlikely team of Namor, The Human Torch, Captain America and sidekicks Toro and Bucky. There's plenty of Nazi-fighting--in the air over Britain, no less!--and plenty of in-fighting, as Toro and Bucky bicker with each other, and Namor is a sassy, sarcastic bitch to everyone.

There's a bit on the second page where Cap and The Torch discuss their dislike of the team name Churchill gave them, and Torch says "I'd like a name like the Revenge Squadron, or the American Avengers, or--" and then Namor cuts him off.
"My name means "Avenging Son"-- and I prefer to keep it to myself!", he says while literally giving Torch side-eye. Which makes me wonder, when Namor came out of his amnesia or whatever in the 1960s, did he have words with The Avengers about using that name? Because he seems like he considers the word "Avenge" and all derivations of it to be proprietary here.

Actually, all the best parts of this issue are just those of Namor piloting his special bat-winged Atlantean submarine airplane with the rest of The Invaders irritating him from the backseat, like a grumpy dad driving his restless children on a road trip. I half expected him to snap at them, "Settle down back there, or I'll turn this submarine plane around and no one will get to invade Nazi Germany!"


Scooby-Doo Team-Up #48 (DC) While not as great as Batman's rogues gallery, there's no denying that The Flash has one of the better sets of adversaries in the all of super-comics, maybe falling third or so, after Batman's and Spider-Man's, but before Superman's. This issue, by the regular creative team of Sholly Fisch and Dario Brizuela, offers some supporting evidence of just how compelling The Flash's villains are--compelling enough that they are the characters that Scooby-Doo and the gang are teaming up with in this issue, rather than The Flash (Of course, Scooby-Doo had previously teamed-up with The Flash in 2016's #15).

The gang answer a summons from The Flash to meet him at the outskirts of Central City, but instead of the Scarlet Speedster waiting for them they find The Rogues. It turns out it was they who sent the message, in the hopes of engaging Mystery Inc's services. Our teenage heroes are reluctant to help The Rogues--here, Captains Cold and Boomerang, Heatwave, The Trickster, Mirror Master and Golden Glider--who want them to catch The Top, who has been stealing all of their ill-gotten gains as soon as they complete a heist. Among the excuses they offer the armed villains is that they specialize in supernatural mysteries, at which point The Rogues reveal that this is precisely why they've contacted them. See, "The Top hasn't been alive for a long time!" Mirror Master announces, just as the ghost of The Top makes a timely entrance.

The kids are eventually cajoled into helping, and suggest that the Rogues try to pull off an even bigger heist to attract The Ghost of The Top. So they all visit The Flash Museum, where Fred, Daphne and Velma attempt to use the various weapons on display there to fight the bad guys, in the process summoning The Top and "unmasking" the ghost as another Flash villain. In their usual thoroughness, Fisch and Brizuela manage to catalog a pretty huge swathe of characters. In addition to the seven or so Rogues with speaking parts, another handful of Flash bad guys get name-dropped or make cameos, and, spoiler alert, Kid Flash Wally West and original Flash Jay Garrick both appear for a couple of panels.

As is usually the case, Fisch gets an amazing amount of content into such a short, relatively simple story, with enough Easter eggs and gags to please older fans like me, and Brizuela takes advantage of the opportunity to draw as many DC Comics characters as he can get away with. There are a lot of neat details in the art, like several sequences in which Brizuela draws homages to famous covers and images from Flash history, and I particularly liked the way he drew some of the Rogues, with Captain Boomerang looking a bit like a compromise between his Bruce Timm-derived Justice League design and Brizuela's own style, or Captain Cold looking a bit like a compromise between his Super Friends design and Brizuela's style. Oh, and Brizuela also draws Trickster as considerably younger-looking than his fellow rogues, even though his costume is that of classic Trickster rather than the later one, a detail long-time Flash readers might notice, even if many in the all-ages target audience don't.

I know I say this almost every month, but Scooby-Doo Team-Up is honestly one of the best comics featuring the best versions of DC's superhero stable, and I'm pretty bummed to hear that it's not going to be around much longer. Hopefully DC finds a home for Fisch's particular abilities to tell short, sharp stories distilling various corners of the DCU into their most compelling elements.


BORROWED:


Birding Is My Favorite Video Game: Cartoons about the Natural World From Bird and Moon (Andrews McMeel) I picked this one up solely for its clever title and cover image, completely unaware of cartoonist Rosemary Mosco's online presence, although now that I am looking still more closely at the cover I see Bird and Moon, her website, is quite prominently featured in the sub-title for the book. So you could theoretically begin reading her comics right this very second, without having to buy her book or borrow it from your local library or wasted another second of your life reading a these sentences of me writing about it.

Mosco's subject matter is the nature, which is really a broad enough subject so as to be boundless. Her approach varies form strip to strip. Some of them are more or less straight informational, just colorful charts or diagrams with animal facts in them, like one entitled "Relatives Sizes of Some Animal Relatives, which shows silhouettes of, say, the meter-long Hyacinth Macaw next to the teeny tiny Buff-faced Pygmy Parrot. Some are just plain silliness, like one entitled "Top Ten Posts," which is a drawing of ten different fence posts in various natural settings. Most blend such educational content with a degree of silliness, making for strips that pair dumb jokes with smart content.

Maybe the best example of this element of her work is the strip entitled "Foraging Patterns." Four-panels long, the first three show the different foraging patterns of three different birds and they move about the trunk of a tree. So panel one shows the Brown Creeper moving diagonally up around the trunk of a tree. Panel two depicts the White-breasted Nuthatch moving diagonally down. Panel three shows the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker as it moves horizontally around the trunk. And, in the climactic panel four, they all collide into one another, complete with a little yellow explosion symbol and a "BONK" sound effect.

And those are the kinds of comics Mosco excels at, marrying basic slapstick gags to the lives of plants and animals, or having animals and plants give voice comment on their behaviors in very human-sounding dialogue. (A good example of this might be a strip on the "Threat Displays of Non-threatening Animals," in which the animals announce their defense mechanisms, like the Red Cornsnake saying, "I am shaking my tail vigorously!")

Mosco is even able to tell jokes about maybe the scariest, least funny subject in all of human history: Climate change. They're obviously not exactly knee-slappers, but she tackles that subject, and the general fragility of some animal species' very existence, bravely and repeatedly.

Her artwork has a very pristine, almost diagram-like preciseness, with relatively little variation--only the humans generally look "cartoony," while the animals mostly look as if they could have come straight out of a science textbook, albeit a very brightly-colored one.

Anyway, if you don't check the book itself out, do give Bird and Moon a few clicks to sample Mosco's unusual, particular approach to her subject matter.


PTSD (First Second) This is First Second's translated and re-published edition of artist Guillaume Singelin's graphic novel about a veteran's struggle with the post-traumatic stress disorder, drug addiction and homelessness after she returns home from a brutal jungle war, where the government and too many citizens refuse to engage with veterans and their problems. As an American reader, the particulars of the war and the general experience of protagonist Jun reminded me of the Vietnam War--or, at least, what I learned of it in school and read about later--but Singelin's story isn't meant to be specific to any single conflict or even setting.

The nameless city the the graphic novel takes place in is apparently an Asian one, although of the sort seen in anime movies set in the near-term future. It is huge, crowded and colorful, a riot of urban details and signifiers piled atop of one another to create a megatropolis that is every city, all cities and no city in particular. Singelin's plot meanders a bit, focusing on Jun's initial suffering and flashbacks to her time in the service as she rebuffs offers of help from a kindly single mother who runs a noodle shop...before Jun starts to get her life in order and becames a vengeful vigilante striking back against the drug-dealing gangs that prey on her fellow veterans, and then becomes something of a freelance doctor, aided in her path toward recovery by a loyal dog and an older veteran who seems to have gone through much of what she did.

It's a bit shaggy, but it all hangs together, and the great pleasure of the book isn't necessarily tight-plotting, so much as the detailed and compelling world-building of Singelin's art, and the the time spent living in that world with that character. The Japanese popular art influence extends far beyond the anime dystopia-inspired city, as his big-headed, cute-faced, large-eyed characters also have a distinctly Japanese feel to them. He gives his characters four digits per hand instead of five, with each of the three fingers being the same size. I know cartoon characters having four fingers per hand is a thing, but I don't like it, and it felt particularly off-putting here. But that's just me.

I'm sure this book won't be to everyone's taste, but it is certainly fun to look at and spend time with.


Return of Wolverine (Marvel Entertainment) It doesn't seem like Marvel and writer Charles Soule were quite on the same page regarding the resurrection of Wolverine, which makes this follow-up to 2014's Death of Wolverine rather fitting, as they didn't quite seem to agree on how big a deal his death was, how absent he would really be from the Marvel Universe during all that time, and how big a deal his return would be--Hell, even when, where and how he returned seemed to be something of a work in progress, as he started "returning" in other books before this, something that needed hand-waved away when someone somewhere on the upper floors of the House of Ideas changed their minds.

So just as Death of Wolverine read like a rather small story, like writer Charles Soule's response to an assignment by Marvel, so too does Return. The five-issue miniseries has no connection to the Death, despite the fact that Soule wrote it, and doesn't really act as any sort of payoff to that story or the years of Wolverine's absence (an absence blunted, of course, by the fact that another Wolverine from another dimension immediately replaced Logan upon his death). Despite the character's long-time centrality to the Marvel Universe (and Marvel's publishing plans), this is more-or-less a solo Wolverine story; the X-Men guest-star in the third issue, in which they go looking for Wolverine, find him and fight him, and then retreat.

Let me tell you the plot. Wolverine awakens in a surreal and violent scene, having apparently regained consciousness after having participated in a terrible battle. He has no memory, though; it's like his brain just suddenly turned on. This is, in fact, exactly what happened. Soule introduces a new mutant villain with the very convenient plot-specific mutant ability of being able to resurrect the dead. Or at least semi-resurrect them. She can bring the dead back to life and control them as more-or-less mindless drones, but they lack consciousness. Given Wolverine's abilities, he was an attractive drone (As to how he got out of the adamantium shell he was left in at the end of Death Of, that's not covered or even mentioned here; that happened in a different comic).

This new mutant villain's long-term plan is to kill off everyone on the planet--save for the scientist and other special people she has secured on a base orbiting Earth to help her with the annihilation and management of the world to come--and then use her powers to bring them all back, under her control. What she didn't plan for was Wolverine's healing factor, which apparently restarted when she raised him, as it allowed him to break her control. And that's basically it: An amnesiac Wolverine, urged on by his memories and aspects of his personality, must save the world while gradually remembering who he really is.

Oh, and he has "hot" claws now, for some reason.

It's a fine story on its own terms, and would likely have seemed excellent had it been published in, say, issues #146-150 of a Wolverine ongoing series, but it feels oddly small and flat given the build-up to the event. Because not only did Marvel put this storyline in its own special miniseries--there being no Wolverine comic it could have run in--but it was preceded by a Hunt For Wolverine one-shot (written by Soule himself, despite barely connecting to Return of) and five separate mini-series sharing the "Hunt For Wolverine" branding, in which large swathes of the Marvel Universe try to find out where Wolverine ended up after his grave was discovered to be empty (Oh yeah, Hunt For is the comic that explains how his corpse got out of the adamantium shell).

I didn't read any of those comics yet, but if they somehow tied into this story, it wasn't apparent from reading it. As I mentioned, the only other Marvel characters to appear is a handful of X-Men, who are only present for about one-fifth of the story. That's fine, of course; Wolverine should be the star of a Wolverine story, but how can such a tight focus on a single character not feel disappointing after 20+ issues of half the Marvel Universe looking for the guy in a manhunt marketed as the lead-in to this very story...?

The artwork leaves something to be desired, too. Soule reunited with Steve McNiven, who drew the entirety of Death Of...but only temporarily. McNiven pencils the first and fifth issues of the series, while Declan Shalvey draws the three issues in-between. Both are solid superhero artists, although I personally prefer Shalvey's style, but regardless of their talents and skills, their styles are quite far apart, and thus the book looks pretty inconsistent (and not just in the style or level of detail; there's a pretty weird and glaring costume change that apparently took place between the last scene Shalvey drew and the first scene of the last issue that McNiven drew). It's easy to see why Marvel would want to have McNiven attached to this book, keeping the Death Of team together, but if McNiven didn't have time to draw all of it, they probably would have been better off just having Shalvey draw the whole thing.

Read in a vacuum, it's a really rather solid Wolverine story that stands pretty well on its own. Read as part of the ongoing Marvel shared-universe story, it's a disappointingly inconsequential story incapable of justifying the build up to it.


REVIEWED:


Disney Princess: Ariel and the Sea Wolf (Dark Horse Books) Sea Wolf is the name of an aquatic Nazi supervillain introduced in Roy Thomas' Young All-Stars, although I first saw the character in a late-in-the-run issue of Peter David's 1990s Aquaman. He was basically a sea-going werewolf. A Seawolf--one word--is also the name of a Dungeons & Dragons monster; a lycanthrope whose monster form is basically just a seal with a scary wolf's head on it. These two facts lead me to believe that there is probably some folkloric antecedent to aquatic werewolves called sea wolves, probably from Germany, but now that I am actively searching on Wikipedia for some confirmation, I can't find it. The term's gotta come from somewhere though; the Pennsylvania town I went to college in had a baseball team called the Sea Wolves, and there's a rock band and and all sorts of military stuff named "Sea Wolf."

Anyway, I mention this all here because I--not unreasonably, I'd say!--assumed from the title that this was an original graphic novel for young readers in which The Little Mermaid fights an underwater werewolf and, on that point at least, I was sorely disappointed.

This is still a pretty good first graphic novel for young readers, of course.


Spidey: Freshman Year and Unstoppable Wasp: GIRL Power (Marvel Entertainment) What's that you say? Didn't I already discuss these books at some length in last month's installment of "A Month of Wednesdays"...? Yes. Yes I did. Those were just my just-finished-reading-them reactions; basically first drafts for later, more focused reviews in which I would think about things like, who my audience was, rather than just babbling at whoever still reads this blog, like I generally do in these posts. Look, you don't have to go read the reviews at Good Comics For Kids just because I'm linking to them here, okay?


The Worst Book Ever (Drawn & Quarterly) Another cute, funny, rather silly comic book/picture book from Elise Gravel, The Worst Book Ever provides a nice, thorough list of all the "don'ts" a young person just beginning to think about writing should keep in mind. Don't believe the title though; it's nowhere near actually unseating the champ.



*Have they really still not collected this series? I know I've said this before, but it's a Justice League comic featuring the writing of some of the most popular writers in the market, including Waid, Johns, Kurt Busiek and Mark fucking Millar! There are also a bunch of other talented writers and a murderers' row of great artists involved, but it seems like any comic with Waid, Johns and Millar's names on it should probably be an easy-ish sell in today's market, no matter how intentionally retro it is.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Marvel's September previews reviewed

ABSOLUTE CARNAGE: AVENGERS #1
LEAH WILLIAMS (W) • Salvador Larroca (A) • Cover by Clayton Crain
...
CAPTAIN AMERICA! HAWKEYE! THE THING! WOLVERINE!
Years ago, Cletus Kasady used the Carnage symbiote to take over a small town called Doverton, Colorado, as well as the team of Avengers who arrived to stop him! Barely able to free themselves from his control during their first meeting, this small band of heroes will have no choice but to assemble once more after they discover that Doverton’s entire population has recently fallen victim to Carnage’s more lethal designs…
40 PGS./One-Shot/Rated T+ …$4.99


The Absolute Carnage miniseries and crossover event continues into September, and picks-up still more tie-ins. In addition to this Avengers one-shot, there's two even weirder-looking ones, Absolute Carnage: Symbiote of Vengeance, featuring Danny Ketch and a Ghost Rider I've never heard of, and Absolute Carnage: Symbiote of Vengeance. Oh, and an issue of Amazing Spider-Man ties in to the story, as well.


CAPTAIN AMERICA #14
TA-NEHISI COATES (W) • JASON MASTERS (A) • Cover by ALEX ROSS
IMMORTAL WRAPAROUND VARIANT COVER BY TBA
“THE LEGEND OF STEVE” CONTINUES!
As Steve Rogers continues to try to prove his innocence and remain one step ahead of the pursuing Nick Fury, he and Mockingbird journey to Iowa, where a town is held in the thrall of the mysterious group known only as –THEM!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Huh. If an Avenger was going to square off against Them, I would have assumed it would have been Ant-Man.


This is a pretty striking cover by Julian Totino Tedesco. How striking? Well, the night I first saw it, I dreamt about it. In my dream, there was an old, beat-up comic from the '80s or '90s that had the same basic concept, only it was Wolverine's head under some kind of metal character's head, like Death's Head or someone, and, in my dream, I thought, "Oh, that's where Tedesco got the idea for his cover." But that was all a dream!

Anyway, my point is that this image was striking enough that it embedded itself in my subconscious.


This is Terry Dodson's cover for the second issue of Gwenpool Strikes Back, and it's a pretty nice offering from the artist, whose many characters-just-posing covers can kind of blend together sometimes. I like the little details on Mister Fantastic in which he is stretched out of proportion, but just slightly so, as you can see in his neck and how weird his fingers look.


Wow, look at Charles Xavier's bald head shine on that cover! I don't think he just shaves his head. I think he polishes it, too.


IMMORTAL HULK #23
AL EWING (W) • JOE BENNETT (A) • Cover by ALEX ROSS
IMMORTAL WRAPAROUND Variant Cover by TBA
• The war has come home – and Shadow Base is the battleground.
• The stage is set for the final confrontation between the new ABOMINATION...
• ...and the IMMORTAL HULK.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Yikes, check out the face of the new Abomination. That design is certainly abominable. I know I've talked about how powerful the horror imagery in this book has been, both on Alex Ross' covers and even more so in artist Joe Bennett's interiors, but I think this is perhaps the best of Marvel's serious comics...that is, the one's that aren't also comedies, which tend to be the ones I generally gravitate towards.


SAVAGE AVENGERS #5
GERRY DUGGAN (W) • MIKE DEODATO JR. (A) • Cover by DAVID FINCH
IMMORTAL WRAPAROUND VARIANT COVER BY TBA
• The Marrow God has eaten the sentient population of entire planets, but he never had to dance with the Savage Avengers. Kulan Gath is on the verge of defeat...or is that what he wanted the entire time?
• A Pyrrhic victory lights a fuse that will only burn more of the Marvel Universe.
• Plus, the Punisher is curious about Crom...
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99


I'm not sure a white suit is a good idea hanging around this particular group of characters.

The last bullet point in this solicit is the one that excites me the most. That it's only one of three bullet points tells me that this is not, in fact, the case, but I would like nothing more than 20-pages of Conan trying to convert the presumably atheist Punisher* to Crom worship.


Nice cover for Magnificent Ms. Marvel by Eduard Petrovich.


MAN-WOLF: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION TPB
Written by GERRY CONWAY, MARV WOLFMAN, DOUG MOENCH, TONY ISABELLA & DAVID ANTHONY KRAFT
Penciled by GIL KANE, ROSS ANDRU, JOHN BYRNE, GEORGE TUSKA, GEORGE PEREZ, SAL BUSCEMA, MIKE VOSBURG, JIM SHERMAN & ALAN WEISS
Cover by JOHN ROMITA SR.
When J. Jonah Jameson’s astronaut son, John Jameson, brings a strange red gemstone back from the moon, he finds himself transformed into the macabre Man-Wolf! Becoming a lycanthropic creature on the loose, the Man-Wolf battles Spider-Man, Morbius, Kraven the Hunter and more — while investigator Simon Stroud comes ever closer to the Man-Wolf’s true identity! Jameson soon discovers the truth behind the gem — but does his destiny lie in Other Realm wielding the sword of the Stargod? Or will the parasitic stone mean his destruction? Man-Wolf takes on Frankenstein’s monster, She-Hulk and more — but can Spider-Man save him from a fate worse than death? Collecting AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #124-125 and #189-190; GIANT-SIZE SUPER-HEROES #1; CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #30-37; MARVEL PREMIERE #45-46; MARVEL TEAM-UP (1972) #36-37; SAVAGE SHE-HULK #13-14 and material from PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #3.
408 PGS./Rated T …$39.99
ISBN: 978-1-302-92000-5


I reeeaaallllly want to read this comic, based on how bonkers the Man-Wolf character has always looked and sounded to me (I've never really ran into him at any great length before though...just a few issues of some She-Hulk comics here and there (Remember when the Raimi Spider-Mans mentioned John Jameson? Just think, if Sony managed that franchise as tightly and ambitiously as Marvel Studios managed theirs, we would have not only gotten that Spider-Man 6 movie in which Tobey Maguire fights Alfred Molina's Sinister Six by now, maybe there would even be a Man-Wolf spin-off franchise by now. Sigh...)

That said, $40 seems like a pretty big investment in a comic book about a super space werewolf whose dad is the coolest character in the Marvel Universe, you know...? Even if it is a 400-page monster of a book. Maybe Amazon will have it at a deep discount...


MARVEL-VERSE: IRON MAN GN-TPB
Written by FRED VAN LENTE, DAVID MICHELINIE, BOB LAYTON & KURT BUSIEK
Penciled by JAMES CORDEIRO, GRAHAM NOLAN, JACKSON GUICE & SEAN CHEN
Cover by DAVID MARQUEZ
ON SALE NOVEMBER 2019
Iron Man is one of the greatest heroes in the Marvel-Verse – and these are some of his most action-packed adventures! When the genius Tony Stark is held captive and forced to make weapons, his best chance of escape lies in building the greatest weapon of all – the very fi rst version of the Iron Man armor! Then, Shellhead meets Webhead as Iron Man and Spider-Man team up to take down the deadly Radioactive Man! And when Tony Stark makes a dramatic public return to start the next chapter of his business life, a newly-souped up Iron Man finds himself targeted for death! Finally, does Iron Man stand a ghost of a chance battling the Marvel-Verse’s most fearsome armored foe — the dastardly Doctor Doom?! Collecting MARVEL ADVENTURES IRON MAN (2007) 1, 7; IRON MAN (1968) 234; IRON MAN (1998) 1.
120 PGS./AGES 10 & UP …$9.99
ISBN: 978-1-302-92117-0


Okay, I give up--what the fuck is "the Marvel-Verse"...? This looks like a mix of those continuity-lite, all-ages comics Marvel was publishing off and on in the '00s, paired with a couple of old, canonical comics of relatively great age. There's another Marvel-Verse collection solicited featuring Thanos, but all of its contents seem to come from the MCU proper.



MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #10
SALADIN AHMED (W) • JAVIER GARRON (A) • Cover by MAHMUD ASRAR
VARIANT COVER BY JAVIER GARRON
VARIANT COVER BY ED MCGUINNESS
IMMORTAL WRAPAROUND VARIANT COVER BY TBA
SPIDER-SEMIQUINCENTENNIAL OR BIG 250th ANNIVERSARY ISSUE?
That’s right, it’s our 250th issue and it’s Miles Morales’ birthday! But YOU’RE getting all the gifts! A mystery dating back to Miles’ first appearance? Answered! A terrifying villain destined to become one of Miles’ greatest adversaries? Revealed! Special guests, like maybe Peter Parker: Spider-Man? YOU KNOW IT! All busting out of 25 pages by main series storytellers Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón, PLUS a bonus back-up by Ahmed and a special guest artist delving into the history of your new favorite character, STARLING! Your FOMO is well-founded! DON’T MISS IT!
40 PGS./Rated T …$4.99


Your tenth issue can't be your 250th issue! That's not how counting works!



Dang, Tradd Moore is so good...


SON OF SATAN: MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #12
FACSIMILE EDITION
Written by GARY FRIEDRICH
Penciled by HERB TRIMPE
Cover by HERB TRIMPE
From Hell he came! By day he is Daimon Hellstrom, but by night he is known as the Son of Satan! Trident in hand, striking birthmark on his chest, and with the strength of a hundred men, Daimon is on the trail of his accursed father — and woe betide anyone who stands in his way! Watch in terror as the Son of Satan fights his way through an army of demons as he pursues the ultimate family feud — with the soul of Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider, at stake! It’s one of the all-time great Marvel comic books, boldly re-presented in its original form, ads and all! Reprinting MARVEL SPOTLIGHT (1971) #12.
32 PGS./one-shot/All Ages …$3.99


Having read the above issue and the first chunk of Son of Satan comics in Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1, I've been disappointed with almost every later appearance featuring the character. Like, when you first appear wearing a shirt but no cape, holding a trident made of psycho-sensitive devil metal "netharanium" and riding on a flaming chariot pulled by flying demon horses, it's kind of hard to maintain that level of intensity for, like 40 issues, let alone 40 years. But when he just shows up in a red suit and casting the occasional urban magic spell these days, well, it's almost always something of a let down.


SPIDER-MAN #1 (OF 5)
J.J. ABRAMS & HENRY ABRAMS (W) • SARA PICHELLI (A)
Cover by OLIVIER COIPEL
...
WHO IS CADAVEROUS?!
The most shocking and incredible comic of 2019 is here as J.J. ABRAMS (STAR WARS, STAR TREK, SUPER 8) and his son HENRY ABRAMS are joined by superstar artist SARA PICHELLI (MILES MORALES, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) team up for SPIDER-MAN! What do they have planned for Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson?! Who is Cadaverous?! The Modern Master of Mystery Makes His Marvel this September!
40 PGS./Rated T …$4.99


Hm. This is an unexpected writing team. I suppose Abrams earns a gig writing a Marvel comic via the good at/popular in another medium route that many non-comics writers before him have scored such gigs in the past, but what about his son Henry Abrams? Is he there just because his dad is J.J. Abrams? (I don't see any writing credits for him at comics.org or IMDb.com). That, of course, doesn't necessarily mean he will be bad at writing comics or anything, but the nepotism is particularly in your face here and, in general, it's not like nepotism is a generally positive force in this world. Who am I to judge them personally, though? Like, I'm pretty sure if my dad was a pretty famous movie director, I'd ask him to help me get a gig writing comics, too. And I guess you can't blame Marvel too much either, as getting a popular filmmaker to write a comic for them was probably pretty appealing no matter which relatives he wants as his co-writer (Although I imagine the editors are hoping this goes better than that Iron Man comic Jon Favreau started, or Kevin Smith's Daredevil: Bullseye. Hopefully they've learned to not solicit miniseries from filmmakers until all of the scripts are in.)

That's a particularly strange choice of title for the comic, given that it's just a miniseries. I can't imagine why it isn't called Spider-Man: Cadaverous or something like that; it will certainly be sold in trade format with a sub-title.



STRIKEFORCE #1

TINI HOWARD (W) • Germán Peralta (A) • Cover by ANDREA SORRENTINO
...
NO COMPROMISE. NO MERCY.
ALL NEW, ONGOING SERIES!
From the dark minds of rising stars Tini Howard and Germán Peralta comes a tale of the underside of the Marvel Universe! A new threat is secretly taking over the planet -- and the more people who know about it, the more powerful the threat becomes. Blade dealt with this threat once before, and hoped to never have to again. He can’t bring the Avengers in on this -- not just for their own safety, but for the safety of everyone on Earth. So he must recruit a team of heroes accustomed to darkness -- a strikeforce. Blade, Angela, Spider-Woman, Wiccan, the Winter Soldier, Monica Rambeau and Daimon Hellstrom join forces to fight the fights that no other Marvel team can take on!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Based on the cover, the organizing principle of this team book is...characters chosen from a hat containing the names of all the Marvel characters...? There are a couple more mentioned in the solicitation copy, but they are just as random as all of those pictured on the cover/s. I'm unfamiliar with the work of the creators, and the team features such an odd make-up--like, original Champions odd--that I'm not sure what to make of the book. I do like Son of Satan (although I prefer him as he was in the comic pictured above, where he was more akin to a Satanic Namor than a ginger John Constanine) and Blade, so...we'll see.

It's a shame that Spider-Woman is back in her dumb bodypaint costume so soon after her redesign (and that she appears to be completely Porcupine-less).



*This is something I think about a lot, but I often wonder if the heroes who live in superhero universes are made more or less likely to have particular religious beliefs or practices, based on what they saw. Like, if you've been to hell or heaven and died and come back repeatedly or used ectoplasmic guns to hunt evil people for angels or whatever, does that make you 100% certain in the existence of God and the immortality of the soul and afterlives as sketched out by various religions, or do you instead just assume that those entities are just aliens and their realms of existence just alternate dimensions, like, I don't know, the god-like Watchers and Celestials and Asgardians and The Negative Zone and Asgard and so on. I think these questions are magnified in intensity in the DC Universe, where more characters have died and been resurrected more often, and The Spectre has been walking around and talking to the heroes for decades.

Anyway, the fact that The Punisher kills criminals like he's swatting insects makes me assume he hasn't given too much stock in heaven and hell, but I could very well be wrong, given I've missed something like 10,000 Punisher comics. A conversation between Conan the Barbarian and Frank the Punisherian makes me excited to read this series, though.

Friday, June 21, 2019

DC's September previews reviewed

Something about those piles of rubble in the foreground of this cover image to Batman #78 by Tony S. Daniel looks weird to me. I guess it's mostly that when we get a Batman "pose" cover like that, he's usually posing atop a gargoyle, rooftop or maybe even a sign or fire escape, rather than a pile of rubble. That is, presumably, reflective of the contents of the issue, and Daniel wanted to show that Gotham City was in more dire straits than is usually the case when Batman and/or Catwoman pose for covers.

On the other hand, the rubble piles are stacked in such a way, and lined up just so, that they also happen to obscure both characters' feet, which makes me wonder if the image wasn't composed specifically so that Daniel wouldn't have to draw feet. If so, mission accomplished! There are two people in the image, which equals four feet, but he ended up only having to draw, like, half a foot.

Man, the more I look at it, the more crowded and unsightly the image looks. Daniels has gotten to be pretty accomplished and Jim Lee-like figure work, but overall, that's a not-very-good cover image. I wonder what it will look like with the logo and other stuff added, making it still more of a jumble and, I imagine, obscuring important-ish information like Batman's head and the bat-signal.


Catwoman's ears look weird and horse-like here and I don't like them. Um, that is all. I didn't mean to dump on Daniel so much this post. I'm sorry, Mr. Daniel.

Oh hey, the lady Catwoman is attacking, is that Magpie...? It looks like her costume from Beware The Batman, but with her original, John Byrne-designed glasses. I really rather liked what they did with the character in that show; in fact, I think that particular cartoon is really underappreciated. The computer animation was not to my taste, and they certainly made some unusual choices, but I really dug the fact that the creators seemed to have sat down, reviewed all of the Batman villains ever, and then restricted themselves only to ones that hadn't appeared in all the previous Batman cartoons, so that instead of The Joker, Catwoman and Bane we got Anarky, Magpie and The Silver Monkey. It was a really weird show, but it was a good, refreshing kind of weird.

What was I talking about...?

Oh yeah, Batman #79's cover. I kind of love that Bane stamped his "logo" on those boxes. The solicitation mentions that Batman and Catwoman are teaming up to attack Bane's supply line or some such, and it doesn't look like it would take the World's Greatest Detective to find Bane's supplies...

Oh hey, Daniel didn't draw any feet on this cover, either! But see how much more natural the image looks? Like, the lack of feet was the tenth thing I noticed, not the first, and it doesn't seem to be an intentional design choice in the way that the awkwardly-placed rubble piles in the previous image did.


BATMAN AND THE JUSTICE LEAGUE MANGA VOL. 3 TP
written by SHIORI TESHIROGI
art and cover by SHIORI TESHIROGI
In the next chapter of the manga adventures of the World’s Greatest Super Heroes, Ocean Master has summoned a massive tidal wave to flood Gotham City! While Aquaman tries to reason with his brother, Batman is determined to stop him by any means necessary. Superman soon joins the fray, but the challenge becomes even greater when the mysterious oni known as Akurou summons a giant snake to engage the heroes. Plus, new villains arrive on the scene—Sinestro, Reverse-Flash and Cyborg Superman...and the nexus point of the greatest congestion of ley lines on Earth is revealed to be directly under the Batcave!
ON SALE 10.02.19
$12.99 US | 208 PAGES


Reminder: This series is great and I love it. I'm looking forward to meeting the new characters--well, new to this narrative, of course--and seeing how Teshirogi has redesigned them. That Reverse-Flash chest emblem, for example, looks neat.


Oh hey look! It's a Kevin Nowlan cover randomly atop an issue of Batman and The Outsiders! That's cool. Comics generally look better when they have Kevin Nowlan covers atop them. And look, he even incorporated black-colored lightning bolts into it, of the sort I've argued that maybe Black Lightning should be throwing around these days.

Sadly, Nowlan's just drawing the cover, and not the interior pages. Sadder still? He did not get to redesign poor Cassandra Cain's dumb "Orphan" costume...


BATMAN/SUPERMAN #2
written by JOSHUA WILLIAMSON
art and cover by DAVID MARQUEZ
variant cover by JEROME OPENA
The Batman Who Laughs’ plot is bigger than either the Caped Crusader or the Man of Steel realized. Following a showdown with the devious killer’s first sentinel, a jacked-up, Dark Multiverse-infected Shazam!, the pair has to figure out who else has been targeted for similar transformations. Their first two guesses: someone very close to Batman and the one hero that would make failure nearly impossible—Superman himself!
ON SALE 09.25.19
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | RATED T


Oh come on now. Is there a single Captain Marvel/Shazam fan on the planet who wants to read about a "jacked-up, Dark Multiverse-infected" version of the character...? No, the answer is no, there is not. And if a wisenheimer out there says that they are a fan of the character, they just wish he was a little more jacked-up and Dark Multiverse-infected, they are liars. Liars, I say!

Also, the jacked-up, Dark Multiverse-infected Shazam looks dumb...though not really any dumber than the New 52 redesign of the character, I guess. I wish they would have at least gone comically evil in the design, and given him, like a curly mustache or purple and green costume or something...

...

Oh no. I can't stop saying "jacked-up, Dark Multiverse-infected"...!


DCEASED: A GOOD DAY TO DIE #1
written by TOM TAYLOR
art by LAURA BRAGA, DARICK ROBERTSON and others
cover by RYAN SOOK
variant cover by FRANCESCO MATTINA
horror movie variant cover by YASMINE PUTRI
While the mainstays of the Justice League—Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman—battle the worldwide infection in the pages of DCEASED, a group of other heroes work to stop the impending apocalypse—no matter who they have to kill!
Mr. Terrific assembles a motley group of surviving heroes including Mister Miracle, Big Barda, John Constantine, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold as they attempt to fight back against the tide of death. Can this ragtag group save the world where the Justice League has thus far failed?
ONE-SHOT | ON SALE 09.04.19
$4.99 US | 48 PAGES
FC | RATED T+


I've only read the first issue of DCeased so far, but I really, really didn't like it.

It just read like DC's Marvel Zombies, but somehow even less inspired than the original Marvel Zombies which, remember, was a spin-off of a Mark Millar comic (Granted, that was before Millar had completely given up on trying, and had yet to transition into having popular artists draw up the notes from his old Marvel/DC pitch files as pitches for Hollywood movies starring Marvel and DC analogues but still).

I think it was all the more disappointing than it might have otherwise been because I've seen really rather great work from Tom Taylor, and a lame comic from a great comics writer will always read worse than a lame comic from a mediocre comics writer.

Anyway, it's apparently selling like hotcakes, so it's getting a spin-off featuring John Constantine and some of the publisher's fun third-stringer characters.

I'll try it again when they release it in trade, which I imagine will include this as well.


DOLLAR COMICS: DETECTIVE COMICS #854
written by GREG RUCKA
art by J.H. WILLIAMS III | cover by J.H. WILLIAMS III
Reprinting the first chapter of Batwoman’s epic clash with the Religion of Crime.
ON SALE 09.04.19
$1.00 US | 32 PAGES | FC


This appears to be DC's answer to Marvel's True Believers series of $1 reprint comics. I've never quite understood the exact economics of those, but my guess is that Marvel considers them as a sort of advertising for trade collections and/or runs of trades (certainly most of the ones I've bought and read end with a "Continued in..." slug referring the reader to a collected edition of some form).

The particular titles that DC is starting with here are the first appearance of Batwoman outside of 52 (the first chapter in her first starring solo arc), the first chapter of the "Hush" story arc in Batman (which is not a very good storyline, although it doesn't fully fall apart until the last chapter or so, and up until then is mostly an okay "Greatest Hits" type of story in which Jeph Loeb has a popular artist draw all the Batman characters), the first issue of the first New 52 Harley Quinn ongoing (which I sort of hated, as it was the introduction of the Jimmy Palmiotti/Amanda Conner "Deadpool, but sexy" take on the character, but I was and am obviously in the minority there) and the first issue of Crisis On Infinite Earths (which every DC fan should read, if only to see George Perez draw the entire DC character catalog circa the mid-1980s).

In addition to being single issues that point toward particular collections, three of the four have multi-media tie-ins, in the form of an upcoming Batwoman TV show, a direct-to-DVD animated adaptation of "Hush" and a Harley Quinn animated series (plus that Birds of Prey movie). Actually, I think the "Arrowverse" stuff have been doing things with the infinite Earths and Monitor, so hell, maybe that counts too, I don't know.

I'm certainly on board with DC publishing $1 reprints, as I like cheap comics and have always preferred DC's characters to Marvel's, but I won't be purchasing any of these, on account of the fact that I've already bought and read all of these.



DOOM PATROL BY JOHN BYRNE OMNIBUS HC
written by JOHN BYRNE with CHRIS CLAREMONT
art by JOHN BYRNE, DOUG HAZLEWOOD, JERRY ORDWAY and others
cover by JOHN BYRNE
The original World’s Strangest Heroes are back, in the way that only the legendary John Byrne can deliver! Picking up in the wake of the events of “The Tenth Circle” saga in JLA, this series reunites Robotman, Elasti-Girl, Negative Man and Niles Caulder with a host of edgy new superheroes! They’ve defeated the vampire Crucifer...or have they? This title collects JLA #94-99, DOOM PATROL #1-18, SUPERMAN #20, a story from SECRET ORIGINS ANNUAL #1 and behind-the-scenes material.
ON SALE 02.19.20
$75.00 US | 7.0625” x 10.875”
672 PAGES | FC
ISBN: 978-1-779500847


I'm sort of surprised to see this here, although I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, as there is a Doom Patrol TV show now, and that show looks pretty good from what I've seen of it (that is, trailers on YouTube). In addition to John Byrne's relatively short-lived Doom Patrol series, this collects the JLA arc by Byrne and Chris Claremont that rebooted the Doom Patrol independently of the rest of the DC Universe (in my reading experience, those types of reboots never work, and will just be cleaned up in the next line-wide reboot anyway), and, if memory serves, this signaled the ruining of the Doom Patrol characters for a bit and, more relevantly to me at the time, the beginning of JLA's slide into irrelevance prior to its relaunch after Infinite Crisis.

Prior to this JLA arc, the book was written by Grant Morrison (with fill-in issues and arcs by Mark Waid, Mark Millar and Waid and Devin K. Grayson), then by Mark Waid (with one fill-in issue by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty), then Joe Kelly (with a fill-in by Rick Veitch), and then there was a three-issue arc written by Denny O'Neill where the book got...weird, essentially becoming an anthology series, with an arc apiece from Byrne and Claremont (bad!), Chuck Austen (bad!), Kurt Busiek (great!), Geoff Johns (better than Identity Crisis, at least!) and Bob Harras (okay!). The Byrne and Claremont  arc was the second of those arcs from the "Fuck it, it's an anthology now" period of the book. So while it's not necessarily Byrne's fault, when I think of the Byrne Doom Patrol, I think about my once-favorite comic book title falling apart.

That said, I never read any of these comics. I think I read JLA #94 and maybe #99. I do not feel any great compulsion to read it now, either.

I like the reference to "edgy new heroes" in the solicitations, though. The only "new" Doom Patroler I remember was a gorilla who had not two but four arms. That's twice as many arms as gorillas usually have! Edgy!


GOTHAM CITY MONSTERS #1
written by STEVE ORLANDO
art by AMANCAY NAHUELPAN
cover by PHILIP TAN
...
Leviathan has dismantled S.H.A.D.E.—and that means Frankenstein is once again a free agent! Now he can set his sights on his former mentor, Melmoth, the one evil that got away. With bad things happening all across the Multiverse, this may be Frankenstein’s last shot at setting things right. Of course, Melmoth has his own agenda, and it’s going to take more than a lone monster to take him down. So Frankenstein heads to Gotham City in search of allies and recruits Killer Croc, Lady Clayface, Orca and vampire Andrew Bennett. But will even these dread creatures be enough to save humanity before the entire cosmos collapses in on itself?
ON SALE 09.11.19
$3.99 US | 1 OF 6 | 32 PAGES
FC | RATED T+


Steve Orlando, an apparent Grant Morrison fan turned professional comics writer who writes Morrison creations, gets his hands on another Morrison co-creation...or, re-co-creation, I guess.

I've read enough of Orlando's work to know this is very much not for me (and I'm still pissed off about that Promethea appearance), but I think it's worth pointing out the appearance of Orca, The Whale Woman on the team line-up. Everyone thought it was so funny when Larry Hama and Scott McDaniel introduced her in a 2000 Batman arc and now, not even 20 years later, she's been in a movie and is a Lego and has become a recurring villain in the pages of Nightwing and now a new miniseries called Gotham Monsters featuring, like, one to three monsters from Gotham.

Orca is a good example, I think, of creating new characters for your Big Two super-comics, even if it means you lose ownership of them (Especially if they're just so-so characters; like, Hama and McDaniel were unlikely to ever do an Orca, The Whale Woman ongoing series at Image and then see it optioned by a studio and turned into a blockbuster movie). Maybe Orlando will create some new characters some day. In the meantime, I guess he'll stick to those Morrison has created and worked on...?

"Lady Clayface" is a particularly weird inclusion on the team. I only remember her appearing in a couple of Batman stories proper (as opposed to Batman and The Outsiders), most memorably "The Mud Pack" four-parter by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, and she was thus never much of an ongoing presence in Gotham City. I think the last I saw here was when Jean-Paul Valley was Batman, but Wikipedia says she is in Johns' Watchmen II: The Story Continues, sooooooooo maybe this is a post-whatever-Johns-is-doing-to-continuity storyline...? That, or she's being reintroduced here for the first time; Clayface continuity is probably the part of Batman continuity most screwed up by The New 52boot.

 Like, yeah, obviously the Robins and Batgirls are all fucked up now in terms of who came when and which stories happened and how, but the Clayfaces aren't really touched on...they seem to have just given Clayface I the powers of Clayface II and left it at that; I don't know if Clayfaces II-IV even existed anymore...


Hey, that's the least terrible Carol Ferris has looked in a long time...! Another high five for the The Green Lantern artist Liam Sharp!


HARLEY QUINN AND POISON IVY #1
written by JODY HOUSER
art by ADRIANA MELO
cover by ELENA CASAGRANDE
...
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are taking their show on the road in this new miniseries! They’ll have to evade villains and heroes alike while they explore their relationship and unpack their time and experiences at Sanctuary. Set after the events of HEROES IN CRISIS and smack in the middle of “Year of the Villain,” it’s a journey across the DC Universe that will change their friendship forever...if they live that long!
ON SALE 09.04.19
$3.99 US | 1 OF 6 | 32 PAGES
CARD STOCK VARIANT COVERS $4.99
FC | RATED T+


What's the comic book equivalent of the term "box office poison"...? Is it just "comic shop poison"...? Because I've gotten the sense that no one really liked Heroes In Crisis much at all, and I wonder how series spinning out of and deliberately name-checking DC's logic-defying story of superhero PTSD/super-mass shooting-esque events/hero-turned-murderer will be received. Usually these two characters are played for laughs when they are together, but then there's that whole Heroes In Crisis angle, as well as a reference to the "Year of the Villain" effort, which seems to involved Underworld Unleashed-like villain upgrades.

By the way, what the fuck is going on with Ivy's design on that cover...? She looks oddly Swamp Thing-y...



INFERIOR FIVE #1
written by KEITH GIFFEN and JEFF LEMIRE
art and cover by KEITH GIFFEN and MICHELLE DELECKI
backup story written by JEFF LEMIRE
backup story art by JEFF LEMIRE
variant cover by JEFF LEMIRE
The citizens of Dangerfield, Arizona, are beset by strange goings-on after the “Invasion” that rocked the DC Universe, but only five misfit kids seem to notice them. Can they uncover what’s happening before some sinister force collects them all? Find out in this new miniseries!
And in the backup feature with story and art by Jeff Lemire, the Peacemaker is on a top-secret mission from Checkmate and Amanda Waller to find a mysterious weapon before the Russians can.
ON SALE 09.18.18 | $3.99 US
1 OF 12 | 32 PAGES | FC | RATED T


Weird. Given that the solicitation copy seems to suggest a "new" Inferior Five rather than the originals--last seen in the pages of Scooby-Doo Team-Up!--and that their story is the work of Keith Giffen, I am going to hazard to guess that the existence of this book has something to do with trademark renewal, but that doesn't mean it won't also be worthwhile. I imagine some folks will be more excited by the prospect of Giffen doing his own art (or at least part of it) than by the fact that there's an Inferior Five reboot coming down the pipeline.

The fact that the book is being paired with a Peacemaker back-up is also kind of weird, and that's another character so out-of-left field that I have a feeling that characters was on the same list as the Inferior Five, in terms of IP DC has to do something with every so often for some legal reason. Or maybe in hopes of getting a sixth CW show going, I don't know. A Checkmate-related story seems oddly timed too, given that Bendis' big event comic was premised on Leviathan dismantling all such organizations.

Anyway, that too will have Lemire drawing his own comic, for the first time in...way too long, really. I was just thinking the other day how weird it is that I've enjoyed all of Lemire's personal work for Top Shelf and elsewhere, but his superhero writing has always left me cold, and I wondered if part of it wasn't just the corporate, doing-it-for-the-paycheck aspect as much as cartoonists tend to do their best writing when they are also drawing that same work.

Anyway, this is the all-around most surprising solicit of the month, I think.



JUSTICE LEAGUE #31
written by SCOTT SNYDER and JAMES TYNION IV
art by JORGE JIMENEZ
cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL
variant cover by JULIAN TOTINO TEDESCO
“The Justice Doom War” part two! The culmination of Lex Luthor’s plan hinges on his beating the Justice League to the prize, ratcheting up the peril as the Year of the Villain continues! The Totality has shattered and its pieces have been tossed across space and time. Thus, the Justice League must also split apart, forming three search teams to comb the past, present, and future to re-combine the Totality before the Legion of Doom can get its villainous hands on the cosmic weapon. What allies will our heroes find in these other timelines? In the future, it’s the Last Boy on Earth, Kamandi! But in the past, there are the familiar faces of the Justice Society of America!
ON SALE 09.04.19
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | RATED T+


Oh wow, I really like that first cover, which is Julian Totino Tedesco's variant cover for the issue. I like that all of the pictured characters seem to be striking poses that are fairly natural-ish for them, and to be all doing so on the same cover. The Batman pose is pretty nice, too; on a Batman comic (or in a Batman comic) we would see him coming at us from the front, but here, on a JLA cover, we see him from a different point of view. I also lie that everyone seems to be wearing spandex or tights of some kind, rather than weird, sectional armor (aside from Wonder Woman, of course). Hell, I don't even see The Flash's stupid lightning bolt-shaped eyebrow patterns on his cowl, but maybe that's just because it's far away.

As nice as that cover image is, though, that's probably not the one that will be talked about most, given the fact that the JSA is on the cover of the other one, and while this may involve some dumb multiverse stuff, where the JSA ends up inhabiting some kind of Earth-2.9 or whatever, I'm hopeful that the DCU is being restored to it's post-Crisis, pre-Flashpoint continuity, at least regarding the Golden Age heroes having existed in the DCU, as foreshadowed in DC Universe: Rebirth. Maybe Geoff Johns' Watchmen Vs. Justice League story is finally wrapping up and they can make good on shooting off all the Chekov guns in that one-shot from a million months ago...

Anyway, the JSA is back! Hooray!


That's quite an unfortunate haircut on poor Klarion, The Witch Boy, a kid not really known for having decent-looking haircuts. The Floronic Man and Solomon Grundy have both seen better days too, come to think of it...


LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: MILLENNIUM #1
written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
art by JIM LEE, DUSTIN NGUYEN, ANDREA SORRENTINO, ANDRE ARAUJO and others
cover by RYAN SOOK
...
Brought to you by some of comics’ greatest talents, this epic story spans the course of 1,000 years and, for the very first time, connects all of DC’s future timelines! Starring the unlikeliest of DC heroes as she learns to cope with newfound immortality and roams through the disparate societies of Batman Beyond, Kamandi and Tommy Tomorrow, wrestling with her own inner demons and desperately trying to find her purpose in an ever-changing world. Do not miss this truly unique take on tomorrow’s DC Universe, all leading up to a special launch on the millennium!
ON SALE 09.04.19
$4.99 US | 1 OF 2 | 40 PAGES
FC | RATED T


Hmm. I have no particular interest in the Legion of Super-Heroes characters or comics--although I do find a couple of aspects of the basic concept extremely compelling--so I am not one of the many, many DC fans who will likely be very excited that DC seems committed to bringing them back in some capacity (a return that, like that of the JSA, was teased forever ago now, in the pages of DC Universe: Rebirth). I think the fact that Bendis appears to be attached to their return in some capacity also means DC is committed to making it work this time too, in the way the team's way too many past reboots indicate that DC wasn't too terribly invested into whatever was going on 1,000 years in their future.

Personally, I thought writer Geoff Johns had done a pretty solid job of "fixing" the franchise forever ago, when he was writing Action Comics and did that Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds series, but just like everything else Johns seemed to have fixed for the publisher, that too was jettisoned in The New 52 reboot.

I hope I'll be able to read this one day. Andrea Sorrentino's inclusion makes me think I might not be able too. Like, I know this is more a matter of personal taste than the quality of the art or the talent involved in producing it (although Sorrentino's storytelling does leave a lot to be desired), but I just have a really, really hard time reading his art.

Given the subtitle, and its history at DC Comics, I can't help but wonder if this will have any kind of connection to the 1988 crossover event, particularly since Millennium seemed to have such an influence on Bendis' Secret Invasion series.


LOIS LANE #3
written by GREG RUCKA
art and cover by MIKE PERKINS
variant cover by NICOLA SCOTT
Jon Kent surprises his mother with a visit to her hideout in Chicago with big news that ties directly into the events of SUPERMAN #15, also on sale this month. While Lois must deal with her now-17-year-old son making life-changing decisions, the two Questions—Renee Montoya and Vic Sage—try to understand their own confusing continuity.
ON SALE 09.04.19
$3.99 US | 3 OF 12 | 32 PAGES
FC | RATED T


Wait, Jon is 17 now? Jeez, the last time I saw his age mentioned in a comic book he was still too young to technically qualify to be a Teen Titan. They really do grow up fast.


NAOMI SEASON ONE HC
written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS and DAVID F. WALKER
art and cover by JAMAL CAMPBELL
DC’s biggest, newest mystery starts here! When a fight between Superman and Mongul crashes into a small Northwestern town, Naomi begins to uncover the last time a super-powered person visited her home—and how that might tie into her own origins and adoption. Follow Naomi’s journey on a quest that will take her to the heart of the DC Universe and unfold a universe of ideas and stories that have never been seen before. Join writers Brian Michael Bendis and David Walker and breakout artist Jamal Campbell in Wonder Comics’ massively ambitious new series and star...Naomi. Collects NAOMI issues #1-6.
ON SALE 10.23.19
$19.99 US | 160 PAGES
FC | ISBN: 978-1-4012-9495-3


I can't believe how wrong they spelled the word "volume." It's V-O-L-U-M-E, not S-E-A-S-O-N.


SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #50
written by SHOLLY FISCH
art and cover by SCOTT JERALDS
Magical fanboy imps Bat-Mite and Scooby-Mite are back—and they’ve brought along a host of Batmen and Scooby-Doos! But when the mites conjure up the ultimate trans-dimensional menace for our heroes to battle, will even a League of Batmen and Society of Scoobies be enough to save their infinite Earths? Plus, can they unravel the mystery behind the shadowy figure known only as…Scrappy-Doo?
ON SALE 09.25.19
$2.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | RATED E
FINAL ISSUE


What?! "Final issue"...?! That's...that's about the worst comics news I can imagine! Scooby-Doo Team-Up is one of only two regular, ongoing series that I order in single issues anymore (the other is Justice League), so this, like, the second-to-last nail in the coffin of my comic book buying, as opposed to graphic novel buying, I guess.

The good news is that this sounds like it might be a particularly awesome issue. I've often wondered about some sort of "Crisis of Infinite Scooby-Doos" type of comic or cartoon story, in which the various Scooby Gangs of all their many iterations intersect in some way. I doubt that's what this will be--like, I don't see Freddie Prinze Jr or Robbie Amell's live action Fred Jones appearing alongside the trap-obsessed lunkhead from Mystery Incorporated and the pint-sized, buzzcut conspiracy theorist of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, as awesome as that might be--but rather Scooby-Doos from alternate dimensions. I hope those Scoobies will correspond to extant worlds in the DC Multiverse that correspond to the Batman's that appear. Like, I would love to see Earth-3's evil Scooby Gang, Earth-2's World War II-era Scooby Gang, Earth-X's Nazi Scooby Gang...maybe a Scoobies from the world of Kamandi where he's a hyper-evolved dog man and the kids are barbarians, or from the world of the Atomic Knights, where the gang rides around on Scooby's back or...Oh man, is there a Scooby-Doo from the Elseworlds Red Rain-verse? A Scooby-Doo '66? (If so, would Scooby and company even be distinguishable from the characters in the first season of the original Scooby-Doo cartoon?) Does the Dark Knight Returns-iverse have a Scooby-Doo? Is there a Scooby-Doo One Million?!

Oh man, the more I think about Scooby-Doos from all the worlds that have Batmen, I am getting more jazzed--I hope this is 80-pages long and drawn by an all-star roster of artists...

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I have to go write some Scooby-Doo Meets Vampire Batman fan-fic, and imagine everyone looks like Kelley Jones drew them...