Friday, October 20, 2017

Marvel's January previews reviewed

Congratulations, Marvel Entertainment! You know officially have so many comic book properties in development for television and film that I have lost track of them all. It was days before I realized that the New Mutants trailer I was hearing people talking about was for a film, not a  TV show, and that New Mutants, the movie, was an entirely different thing than The Gifted, the TV show.  That likely explains all the New Mutants trades in this month's round of solicitations.

What else have they got going on? Let's take a look, shall we...?

AVENGERS goes WEEKLY for the stunning sixteen-part saga that will write the end of an era! The Earth has been STOLEN! The sky burns while mysterious cosmic objects crash down from above, wreaking havoc across the world! The Avengers are the last line of defense between Earth and the mysterious forces threatening to tear it apart. It’s time to ASSEMBLE! The teams you know and love from AVENGERS, UNCANNY AVENGERS, U.S.AVENGERS and OCCUPY AVENGERS come together to face a threat beyond any they’ve faced before in a weekly epic adventure that will define the future of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

A massive Avengers adventure by all of the Avengers writers, shipping weekly...? I would be very excited about that if I read Marvel comics serially. I love weekly comics, even though they are so often poorly-drawn!

I will look forward to the trade collection, though.

CABLE #153
EXTERNALS RISING! In the hunt for the EXTERNALS killer, a blast from CABLE’S past is revealed! Have Cable and the New Mutants walked straight into the killer’s trap? And what is BLINK’s role in all of this? Whose side is she really on?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

And what is she wearing?

Kraven the Hunter has a new target – and it’s Steve Rogers! Trapped in unfamiliar territory, stripped of his shield and on the run, Cap must find a way to evade Kraven long enough to save an innocent life – but this time, that might be impossible! And just wait until you see the final page…
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I'm sure this is going to end up being pretty okay, since Waid doesn't really write bad comics and Samnee is a hell of an artist, but I like what Ryan North and Erica Henderson have done with Kraven in the pages of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl so much I don't know if I will really be able to get into a more serious take on him.

Following their staggering loss in their adventure with the Avengers, the Champions decide to double down on their mission to make the world a better place – but they know now they can’t do it alone! That’s right – it’s time for a membership drive!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Hooray! I love membership drive issues! I was actually wondering why The Wasp didn't join the other young All-New, All-Different Avengers in forming The Champions the other day, when I read The Unstoppable Wasp Vol. 1, which opens with her hanging out with then-fellow Avenger Ms. Marvel.

Not sure which if any of these young folks will end up joining the team, but I have a few questions.

First, I thought the new Falcon died in the pages of Secret Empire or a tie-in to said storyline...? I guess that's not the case? That's cool. I kinda like him, but I wasn't sure what Marvel would do with him once Sam Wilson took the name Falcon back, as now they have two Falcons.

Second, who is the person in red between the patriotic-looking kid from the pages of The Falcon and Spider-Gwen...?

ISSUE #151 – GERRY DUGGAN (W) • Mike Allred (A)
ISSUE #151 – Cover by AARON KUDER
Issue #150 – That’s right – as more and more parties take an interest in the Infinity Stones, a man with serious Infinity experience joins the fray! Plus: Nova Rocket leads the charge against the Raptors!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Issue #151 – Adam Warlock is back! But how? And why? Has he come as a savior? Or is he here to take the Infinity Stones for himself? Find out as the galactic tale of the Infinity Stones’ return enters the next exciting phase!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Why? Probably because of the after-credits teaser scene in this past summers Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 movie.

OLD MAN HAWKEYE #1 (of 12)
The super heroes have fallen. The country has been divided into territories controlled by super villains. Among the wastelands lives CLINT BARTON – one of the few Avengers to survive. But it’s been 45 years, and he’s no Avenger. Trying to eke out a living anyway he can, the former HAWKEYE is confronted with a startling discovery: the sharpshooter is going blind. With time running short, Clint realizes there’s one last thing he wants to see: revenge for his fallen comrades-in-arms. Rising-star writer ETHAN SACKS and superstar artist MARCO CHECCHETTO take you back to the Wastelands in a story set five years before the original classic OLD MAN LOGAN.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

What? Seriously? This is going to become, like, a line of books now...? Sheesh.

Also, shouldn't it be Old Man Clint...?

Reminder: Marcos Martin is the best. Please note that he is only providing the cover to this month's issue of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, however, and not the interiors. Those will be drawn by Adam Kubert, who is alright, but is no Marcos Martin.

The Bombshells are back together?! Lana has been through so much and has grown into a hero, but with her mom back in the equation, things look bad for her. Know who they look even worse for? MILES MORALES, SPIDER-MAN! And with Electro in the mix as well…?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Say, is Marvel allowed to have Bombshells...?

This is it! The Red Room wants Nadia back, and they’ll pull out all the stops to get her. The clock is ticking, and both Nadia and her friend Ying’s lives are in the balance. That means the geniuses of G.I.R.L. are up against their first real science challenge: to outsmart the Red Room! Whatever happens, Nadia’s fate will be forever altered — but can the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne, help her find a way forward? When they get together, few can resist their sting! Plus: In a classic tale, Janet Van Dyne meets Hank Pym, and a heroic legacy is born as Ant-Man and the Wasp battle the Creature from Kosmos!
PGS. 120/Rated T+ …$15.99 • ISBN: 978-1-302-90647-4

I just wanted to point out that I just read the first volume of this series, and it is really, really good. I could sort of see why a lot of people might have given it a pass or otherwise slept on it based on Nadia's handful of appearances in some Avengers books and how she and her book might seem superficially similar to a few other books Marvel has been publishing, but I was surprised and delighted about how good it ended up being. If you haven't read the first volume yet, please do so. Then you too will be as excited as I am about the upcoming release of this second volume.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

DC's January previews reviewed--The search for more Alan Moore characters to use continues!

Ugh. These guys.

Well, I managed to get all the way into the T's in the list of the books DC Comics are planning to publish in January of next year before feeling a weird mix of disappointment, anger, irritation, nausea and confusion...

Written by PETER DAVID
Peter David’s classic run on Aquaman begins in this volume collecting AQUAMAN: TIME AND TIDE #1-4 and AQUAMAN #0-8.
From his abandonment on a reef to his upbringing by a dolphin to his first encounter with surface dwellers, these tales chronicle the origin and ascension of the mythic figure known as Aquaman.
On sale FEBRUARY 7 • 320 pg, FC, $29.99 US • ISBN: 978-1-4012-7746-8

This is the book that made me a fan of Aquaman, with a little help from Grant Morrison, Howard Porter and John Dell's JLA run, which made him the grumpy bad-ass of the group. I have all of these issues in singles, but that doesn't mean I won't reread this in trade format early next year. I'm actually kind of curious how the art holds up. I really liked Martin Egeland's art at the time--hew drew that cover, for example--but it's pretty of-its-time. He's another artist of that era whose exact whereabouts I'm curious of, as I haven't seen the name in any credits in a long, long, long time.

Just quickly reviewing the character's origins, as summarized in the solicit copy, reminded me that Geoff Johns reversed just about everything about the post-Crisis Aquaman that emerged in this series. Oddly enough, it's this bearded, long-haired, often semi-shirtless Aquaman that seems to have most informed the upcoming Justice League movie's conception of the character, rather than the more clean-cut, Silver Age version that appeared in Johns' own Justice League, Aquaman and Brightest Day comics.

Written by TOM KING
“SUPERFRIENDS” finale! Since the beginning, the friendship between Batman and Wonder Woman has stood at the heart of the DC Universe. Now that friendship is coming apart, and as it does the universe itself begins to crumble. Don’t miss the conclusion of Batman’s epic team-up with Wonder Woman!
On sale JANUARY 17 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Has it...? I mean, any way you define "DC Universe" and "the beginning," that doesn't really seem to be the case, does it...?

Written by K. PERKINS
“PYGSTY”! It’s the New Year, and Professor Pyg needs new Dollotrons for his latest artistic endeavor. As Batwoman tries to put her personal demons to bed, she must stop the madman from carving out his sick intentions.
On sale JANUARY 17 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+

Say, that's not how you spell "Marguerite Bennett"...! Is this a fill-in, or is Bennett no longer writing Batwoman...?

Also, the Bat-family needs to start making their own villains. I feel like I just saw Professor Pyg menacing Nightwing and Robin in the pages of the former's book, like, an arc and a half ago...

Talia’s tour of the labyrinth has led Batwoman and Renee to a shock: the Cheetah reached the Lazarus Pits before they did! Now that revenge is at hand, can Renee and Kate find peace within their hearts instead?
On sale JANUARY 3 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST

Before anyone can come to terms with what their enemy has revealed, the team and their temporary allies must cheat death by finding a way through the collapsing maze.
On sale JANUARY 17 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST

At least Bennett is still writing the better of the two Batwomen currently appearing in DC Comics. It looks like my dream of a one-artist-per-arc version of Bombshells is really and truly dashed, however...

That's a pretty nice drawing of a minotaur.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by GARY FRANK
The story takes a turn in the third chapter of this 12-issue series you never thought you’d see, from writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank.
On sale JANUARY 24 • 32 pg, FC, 3 of 12, $4.99 US • RATED T+

Still gross.

Art and cover by CULLY HAMNER
Batman may own the night, but with new villains emerging during the day, he needs an ally to defend the city when he can’t. Only one teen is up to the challenge; Duke Thomas. After months of training, he’s ready to step out of the shadow of the Bat to become his own kind of hero. Meet Gotham City’s newest protector: the Signal! Spinning out of adventures in ALL-STAR BATMAN and WE ARE ROBIN, comics superstar Scott Snyder and newcomer Tony Patrick take our young hero to new heights in this exciting miniseries with artwork by Cully Hamner.
RESOLICIT • On sale JANUARY 3 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 3, $3.99 US • RATED T+

As much as I hate that codename, I do really like Duke's weapon...

Art by DOUG MAHNKE, IVAN REIS and others
Continued from the pages of the bestselling DARK NIGHTS: METAL! The Dark Knights ride through the farthest reaches of the Multiverse to track down the unlikeliest of teams: The Flash, Cyborg, Raven and Detective Chimp. The mission: keep these heroes from completing their desperate quest to save all of existence! Plus, Challengers’ Mountain crackles with dark energy that will release an army of the world’s worst nightmares into the streets of Gotham City!
This one-shot also answers the question: Where are the Metal Men? And who is the latest addition to the team?

Not sure who these "others" will end up being, but the so-called Dark Knights should really be right up Doug Mahnke's particular aesthetic alley. As for the "latest addition" to the Metal Men, I'm hoping/assuming it is one made of Nth Metal, which is actually something I was wondering aloud about on Twitter not too long after Metal first kicked off...

Art and cover by YANCEY LABAT
From the highly successful DC SUPER HERO GIRLS line of original graphic novels comes the latest title, starring Batgirl!
Catwoman is out on the prowl one night when kaboom! An explosion at S.T.A.R. Labs rouses the heroes from their slumber. Star students Batgirl and Lois Lane both know the lab incident is fishy, and they meet later to share clues. But nothing could’ve prepared Batgirl for what they see next: Batgirl’s dad out on a date! Batgirl is grossed out until her friends convince her that dads get lonely, too. And with the school dance coming up and everyone pairing off—heck, even Principal Waller has a date with a guy called Deadshot—maybe it’ll be okay. The girls place a personal ad for Commissioner Gordon while they delve deeper into the mystery surrounding the explosion, but they’re about to discover more than who is behind the attack on S.T.A.R. Labs. Could it be that posting an ad looking for dates for the commissioner is like advertising catnip for criminals?
On sale JANUARY 31 • 128 pg, FC, 6” x 9”, $9.99 US • ISBN: 978-1-4012-7878-6

It probably says as much about me as it does DC that I find the idea of Barbara Gordon and her friends helping Commissioner James Gordon go on dates to be the most exciting plot point in this month's round of solicitations...

“FLASH WAR” prelude! The biggest Flash story of 2018 starts here, with a special story starring the classic Wally West, who’s conflicted over whether to let Iris West know he is alive—and he’ll need the help of the Flash to figure out what to do! But when Magenta, Wally’s old love, needs his help, the Flash returns home to Keystone City where he is confronted with violent memories of an unknown world…A major turning point for the Flash family that sets the path for earth shattering stories in 2018!
On sale JANUARY 31 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

I don't know Wally; all three are pretty good costumes...

Diana takes Kara on a trip. Literally and figuratively.
On sale JANUARY 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+ • DIGITAL FIRST

Colleen Doran!

So, have any of you been reading this series...? Any good...?

Written by TOM TAYLOR
Harley Quinn and Lucy pay a visit to Harley’s sister, leading to an encounter between Harley and Poison Ivy. Plus, tensions grow between Gorilla Grodd and Solovar over Ra’s al Ghul’s plans. Meanwhile, Professor Ivo unleashes his weapon of mass destruction: Amazo!
On sale JANUARY 3 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST

Ha, when I first saw that cover I thought, "Hey, it's the real Plastic Man!" And then I scrolled down and saw which book he was appearing in.

Is it weird that the Plas from some alternate-dimension type comic set in a dark, violent, fallen version of the DC Universe looks more like the real Plas than the one who is appearing in the real DC Universe, in the pages of The Terrifics...?

“QUEEN OF FABLES” part one! The Might Beyond the Mirror, the great threat that Batman assembled the Justice League of America to stop, has finally arrived in the form of the Queen of Fables. With her reality-warping power, her intent is to take over the real world and the imaginary and rule over everything—and without Batman, does the Justice League stand a chance against her? Or will reality crumble at the Queen’s whim?
On sale JANUARY 10 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Orlando continues to recycle 1990s League villains. This time, it's Mark Waid, Bryan Hitch and company's Queen of Fables. Oh wait! I just checked. The Queen debuted in 2000, not the 1990s, making her something of an outlier among the characters appearing in Orlando's JLoA book.

Variant cover by BERNARD CHANG
“A Day in the Life”! The New Super-Man and Justice League of China changed the metahuman landscape of China forever, and Laney Lan has reported on their heroics since day one. But there’s more to Shanghai’s ace reporter than meets the eye, and when faced with turmoil in her own family, Laney’s commitment to reporting the truth will be tested like never before.
On sale JANUARY 10 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Hmm...someone who is not Gene Luen Yang is writing Gene Luen Yang's New Super-Man...

Tamaki's got a pretty good track record, at least when it comes to original graphic novels. The only bit of her super-comics work I've read was the first issue of Supergirl: Being Super, which I didn't care for all that much.

Art and cover by TREVOR McCARTHY
It all ends here! As Lex Luthor feverishly attempts to repower Superman, the Crusaders are closing in on the Resistance, aiming to shut them down for good! Meanwhile, Nightwing makes a deal with the devil in an attempt to save his son’s life…and it may cost him everything.
On sale JANUARY 24 • 32 pg, FC, 6 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T+

Nothing about this weird-looking Elseworlds miniseries has intrigued me to date...until I saw this cover, which, if nothing else, features a whole bunch of super-characters rarely seen these days, including a version of Martian Manhunter, some of the JSA and...Black Vulcan? Huh.

Written by SHOLLY FISCH • Art and cover by DARIO BRIZUELA
Batgirl, Black Canary and their teammates call themselves “Birds of Prey,” but they may become prey themselves when Gotham City’s besieged by mythical birds. Still, they might be able to unravel the mystery with the help of the two newest Birds of Prey team members: Daphne and Velma!
On sale JANUARY 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E

Weird that Brizuela drew Batgirl Barbara Gordon and Black Canary in their original costumes, while putting Huntress in her relatively short-lived, Jim Lee-designed one from the pages of "Hush"...

Art and cover by KENNETH ROCAFORT
During the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, high school junior Derek James accidentally fell through a rift into the dark matter dimension! Now, as Sideways, he can create rifts in midair to leap through dimensions at will! But with that much power comes great liability—and cracks are starting to form in the fabric of the space-time continuum…
On sale JANUARY 10 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • FOLDOUT COVER • RATED T+

Spider-Man, is that you...?

Well, this is co-written by DiDio, so you can start your cancellation countdown now. I'm going to bet on...eight issues.

“PLAIN SIGHT” part three! While Kara’s worried about whether Ben Rubel will ask her or rival Belinda Zee to the National City Tech High School dance, Director Bones from the D.E.O. figures out what high school Supergirl attends and crashes the annual party. Will the danger and destruction be enough to finally force Kara to reveal her super-heroic secret I.D.?
On sale JANUARY 10 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Do the Kryptonian equivalent of pigs bleed green...?

Written by K. PERKINS
“THE MIDNIGHT HOUR” finale! A day in the life of Superwoman…but someone else is in the driver’s seat! Will Superwoman manage to break her mind free from Midnight’s digital grasp and dispel her twisted protocol once and for all?
On sale JANUARY 10 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE

This lasted much, much longer than I would have expected.

Written by TOM KING
Art and cover by JASON FABOK
Bonus story written by LEN WEIN
Bonus story art by KELLEY JONES
Tom King and Jason Fabok pay tribute to the legendary creators of Swamp Thing, writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson, as they join forces for an earth-shattering Swamp Thing passion project!
In this new, squarebound one-shot, Swamp Thing is out of his element as he shepherds a lost boy through a blinding blizzard and other hazards of a strange, frozen tundra. In this touching and harrowing tale of survival, the pair must navigate countless threats throughout a bewildering terrain—with a bloodthirsty snow monster hot on their heels. But how long can they rely on each other? Separated from the Green and stripped of his powers in this dead world, Swamp Thing struggles to fight for their lives and deliver the boy to safety. Disoriented and decaying, Swamp Thing’s fading understanding of his surroundings forces the duo to confront their desperation and uncover the true identity of the snow monster that hunts them.
In addition, this special features the final Swamp Thing story from the monster’s co-creator, Len Wein. Originally intended as the start of a new series, it is presented here both in its original script form and with art by Kelley Jones.
ONE-SHOT • On sale JANUARY 31 • 80 pg, FC, $7.99 US • RATED T

I'll be buying this for the Jones art, which I am pretty sure will put me in the minority of people who will pick this book up.

Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Cover by IVAN REIS
Bound together by fate, united by the spirit of exploration and hope for tomorrow, the Terrifics are bound from the Dark Multiverse of Metal! When Mr. Terrific, Metamorpho, Plastic Man and Phantom Girl find themselves literally bound together by a tragic accident, our team of unlikely allies must rely on one another to make their way back home. But a startling revelation on their return trip brings them face to face with a new mystery: Where in the universe is Tom Strong?
Advance solicited • On sale FEBRUARY 7 • 32 pg, FC $2.99 US • FOLDOUT COVER • RATED T+

Tom Strong? Tom Strong?! What the fuck--? I just sort of assumed that this book that designed to tweak Marvel Comics, given how Fantastic Four-ish it is (in the solicitation copy as well as the appearance, powers and name of the group), but apparently the real target is to further irritate Alan Moore? I just assumed the dumb Justice League vs. Watchmen series would be the climax of DC's trolling of Alan Moore, but apparently they're going to circle back to strip mine whatever they can from the writer's short-lived America's Best Comics imprint too.

This is extremely disappointing, as I was kinda looking forward to checking this book out, and I'm extremely disappointed in Lemire, who is an accomplished enough a creator who seems like he's able to work for Marvel and DC more for fun than out of necessity.

Legality, which some Internet  a-hole always wants to argue about whenever someone said "Hey, it's not cool the way DC keeps using Watchmen"  aside, it's just a straight-up dick move to do something you know a fellow comics creator has asked you repeatedly and loudly not to do.

I don't care what the rationale is. If you're working on a Watchmen comic book and/or one with Moore's ABC creations--and WildStorm and DC's shenanigans regarding ABC is a whole thing--you're a jerk, and I don't see any other way around that reading.

The tragic thing here is that there's no reason to throw in Tom Strong. This book already had a weird, compelling hook, an interesting cast and some talented, well-regarded and popular-ish creators working on it. It doesn't need to parade around an Alan Moore character against Moore's will, but that, apparently, is just where DC's head is these days. For some reason.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: October 18th

Batman #33 (DC Comics) As anyone who has read Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley's The Dark Knight Returns can attest, there is only one thing better than Batman, and that is Batman on a horse. By that measurement, this issue should be one of the very best Batman comics in years, given just how much Batman-on-a-horse it boasts, starting with that cover. Unfortunately, it's not as good as it should be, given all the panels of Batman on a horse.

The plot is this. After Catwoman Selina Kyle accepted his marriage proposal at the end of his long, dumb story about that time he tried to stab The Riddler in the face but The Joker stopped them, Batman has gone off the grid with his new fiancee, in order to perform a task that must be completed before he can marry (This story's title? "The Rules of Engagement." Get it?!). I have to admit, the gradual revelation of that task is actually quite well-handled, particularly given how much build-up--almost 20 pages worth--that goes into making it seem like something of world-threatening proportions (I'm not entirely sure it scans with relatively recent stories in comics like Robin: Son of Batman, but whatever).

So Batman puts on the end-of-the-world outfit from the most incoherent part of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and then he and Catwoman saddle up on horses and ride them through a Middle Eastern desert for some reason, to get to a secret, forbidden place to do something. Meanwhile, Alfred calls "the family"--that is, all of Batman's closest, male sidekicks that are currently alive--to announce to them that Bruce proposed to Selina, Selina said yes, and now he's gone off to do something stupid that requires League attention.

The issue is drawn by Ladykiller (note the title of Damian's book) and Supergirl: Being Super artist Joelle Jones, who is a female. This is, unfortunately, worth noting, because in the 75-ish years that there has been a Batman title, I think maybe, like, one issue was drawn by a woman. No woman has had a run as the book's regular artist yet, and if Jones simply draws this entire story arc, she'll set that particular record. It would be nice if she stayed on for a while so that, in a few years' time, it might not even be worth remarking on the fact that a woman is drawing Batman, but given the book's now twice-a-month schedule, she'll have to turn the baton over to someone else pretty quickly. (Me, I'd like it to be Jan Duursema, perhaps inked by Tom Mandrake, and then Jones and Duursema could trade alternate arcs back and forth, but no one cares what I think.)

Jones does a pretty incredible job, and is quite adept at the various characters' faces and their expressions. She also draws a very, very good Ace...perhaps 1,000,000-times better than pencil artist David Finch did when he introduced this particular version of Ace not too long ago. She even does a reasonable job of distinguishing the many black-haired young men from one another when they're not wearing their costumes (With Tim Drake MIA, Dick, Jason, Damian and Duke gather with Ace and Alfred to hear the news).

Because she does such a good job, and because a lady drawing Batman is still so rare, I feel like a heel saying anything bad about the art, but, well, I don't like her tall, lanky version of Damian, who looks five years older than he does when drawn by most other artists, and that first panel of Tiger King on page eight looks like it's facing the wrong way, given how the characters are posed. Alfred looked a bit off to me too, and then I realized why; colorist Jordie Bellaire gives him gray hair, like that of the Batman: The Animated Series Alfred, and the last time I read a long stretch featuring the character prominently was in All-Star Batman, where his hair is still black and he looks remarkably young.

Anyway, this is a pretty nice-looking comic, and as I so actively dislike the work of David Finch and find Mikel Janin's art good but kind of cold and relatively lifeless, this may be my favorite issue of the current volume of the series, visually.

I found the bit where Batman cocks a shotgun and hands it to Catwoman so she could shoot a dying horse, putting it out of its misery, really, really weird, given Batman's overall aversion to guns and the sacredness with which he regards life. As I questioned the scene, a voice in the back of my head started to argue, "The horse was probably injured and suffering, wouldn't it be crueler for Batman to not have it shot?" but then I immediately stifled it with the thought that this is all just stuff writer Tom King is making up, so why the fuck would he even come up with that dumb-ass weird scene?
The Whirly-Bat never collapses from exhaustion, never needs to be shot in the head with a rifle to be  put out of its misery.
Why not just not have the horse die? Also, if we're going to ask ourselves questions about what is and what isn't realistic when it comes to Batman and Catwoman travelling through the desert in their costumes, why is Batman taking horses instead of using a teleporter, or a Batplane, or a Batcopter, or a Whirly-Bat or or a Batmobile or a Bat-dune buggy or a Bat-bike or a robot T-Rex or a robot horse or virtually any other mode of transportation available to the world's richest man who is also a superhero...?

Also, why is Alfred so loose with Superman's secret identity? Did Jason, Damian and Duke all know it already? That's a pretty wide circle of people who know it!

Bombshells United #4 (DC) This issue officially introduces two new "teams" into the Bombshells-iverse, The Wonder Girls, who call themselves by that name after a rather unlikely power-up I never in a million years would have seen coming (well, maybe not a million years; let's say a hundred), and The Mud Pack, a whole platoon of Clayfaces (That name, by the way, was first used in the 1989 Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle Detective Comics story arc in which original Clayface Basil Karlo united his three, super-powered "descendants" into a team of sorts. It was awesome).

Writer Marguerite Bennett gives a couple of very nice lines to the original (I think) character Emily regarding Wonder Woman, lines that emphasize what was one of the compelling aspects of the original, Golden Age conception of the character that has been lost in more modern interpretations:
They get her legend wrong.

She isn't the Wonder Woman because she wiped her enemies off the map.

She doesn't have any more enemies because she turns them into friends.
Here, here! Part of my hopes Bennett is DC's eventual choice for the "regular" Wonder Woman writer, based on how well she seems to get her in the pages of this book and its predecessor, but then, I didn't really care for Bennett's Batwoman at all, so I wonder if maybe she wouldn't fare so well in the DCU as she does when playing in her own little corner of it as she has been in these books.

The rapid rotation of artists continues, with this issue being half drawn by David Hahn and half drawn by Pasquale Qualano. I liked the Han half better, but then, I'm more familiar with his work, and had some pre-existing affection for it.

Nightwing #31 (DC) Despite the mention of The Orca on the cover, it should be noted that Orca, the Whale Woman does not actually appear within this issue. She is name-dropped, and the leader of the last gang she was hanging with tries to turn herself into a whale woman, which seems like something that could lead to there being a second, legacy version of Orca, The Whale Woman, and, well, do we really need to go down that road, Nightwing writer Tim Seeley? Why complicate something as pure and simple as Orca, The Whale Woman?

A bunch of plot stuff happens here, but the issue is most noteworthy for its use of horseshoe crabs. I don't know for certain, but I think this is the first time in a superhero comic that someone has tried to pull off a crime that involves horseshoe crabs and the first time someone used horseshoe crabs as a weapon in a fight scene. There's a cheeky editorial box explaining why horseshoe crabs appear in here at all. I just learned about them and that they are actually a pretty valuable resource a few months ago when I read the chapter on them in Willy Ley's excellent The Lungfish, The Dodo & The Unicorn: An Excursion Into Romantic Zoology, which I would recommend everyone read.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

On Justice League: Their Greatest Triumphs

This bargain-priced 170-page, $9.99 trade paperback seems to have been assembled specifically to give retailers something to point anyone interested in DC's premiere super-team because of next month's movie towards.

As a long-time fan of the Justice League, I was pretty curious about its contents, as "greatest hits" collections are almost never actually that. Given that their limited page-count, they are inevitably limited to single-issue stories, and the editors generally stick to in-continuity, relevant stories rather than looking to something from, say, a comic based on a cartoon or in an alternate universe (So I wouldn't expect anything from Justice League Adventures or Justice League Unlimited, or from Adventures in The DC Universe or the Paul Dini/Alex Ross one-shot JLA: Liberty & Justice).

Of course, the sub-title here doesn't necessarily promise the greatest or best stories, but the greatest "triumphs," whatever exactly that might mean (Given that they are limited to one-issue stories, though, it's not like they can actually include their greatest triumphs, as those generally come at the end of stories of some scope and size. I guess they could use the final issues of story arcs like "Rock of Ages"...?).

These sorts of books also generally reveal more about where the publisher's collective head is regarding a franchise: What they consider the best or most important stories, which iterations of the League are the most important or relevant ones, which characters and creators they find important or relevant to the line at the moment. I knew without even cracking it I was probably going to disagree with many of the inclusions.

Looking solely at the table of contents, there are only three distinct teams or "eras" represented: Grant Morrison's "Big Seven Plus" roster (although nothing actually written by Morrison is included), Brad Meltzer's short-lived, one-arc team and Geoff Johns' post-Flashpoint team. To the extent that any earlier iteration of the team exist, it is only in flashback form in the Meltzer-written issue.

The average age of the stories is nine-years-old, with a Mark Waid, Mark Pajarillo and Walden Wong story from 1999 being the oldest, and a Bryan Hitch, Daniel Henriques and Scott Hanna story from 2016 being the most recent. Geoff Johns scripted three of the seven issues, with the four other writers each getting an issue a piece of the remaining ones. Three of the stories are set before Flashpoint, the other four in the post-Flashpoint DC Universe.

What accounts for the selection? The heavy representation of Johns feels slightly icky given his current prominence in the publisher's leadership--President & Chief Creative Officer--so it feels a little like flattering the boss. On the other hand, from what we know of the upcoming movie, it seems to be somewhat inspired by Johns' first Justice League story (which was also the basis of the direct-to-DVD animated film, Justice League: War), and the film's line-up reflects the post-Flashpoint, Geoff Johns inclusion of Cyborg on the team (aside from a weird, seemingly aborted line-up initiated by James Robinson, Cyborg was never on the team until Johns' relaunch).

It's possible the specific stories are included to offer suggestions of villains in the movie, but that actually seems a little unlikely, as in addition to a Parademon or two, these include The White Martians, The Construct, Ocean Master, a couple of cameos by Crime Syndicate of America and whatever the hell was going on in Bryan Hitch's first "Rebirth" Justice League arc.

Here are the comics included within...

Justice League #1
By Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair

This is the 2011 first issue of the previous Justice League series, the official launch of The New 52. Despite having the New 52 version of a Big Seven on the cover--all of whom are appearing in the film, save Green Lantern Hal Jordan--the actual issue just features Batman, Jordan and, on the last page, Superman. A pre-Cyborg Victor Stone makes an appearance (in his origin for the League, Johns tied Cyborg's origin to the invasion of Apokolips and the formation of the team), as does a Parademon or two.

Given the collection's sub-title, it seems like a random choice, with the final issue of the arc seemingly a better one (That at least features the whole roster, as well as Darkseid). Johns and Lee, another DC Comics executive, only collaborated on two story arcs, neither of which is very good, and neither of which was broken into strong individual chapters in such a way that would make the inclusion of any single issue read smoothly all on its own.

So on the one hand, while I totally get why a chapter of this arc is in here--it's Johns and Lee, it's apparently a pretty strong inspiration for the film--it also doesn't make much sense at all to include it here.

If a reader wants to find out what happens next, this story is collected as Justice League Vol. 1: Origin.

JLA #33
By Mark Waid, Mark Pajarillo, Walden Wong and John Kalisz

This one actually kind of baffles me. Waid did have a decently well-written run on JLA, picking up the baton from Grant Morrison at the conclusion of Morrison's World War III arc. Waid's run kicked off with a pretty great, over-sized original graphic novel with Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary (JLA: Heaven's Ladder), and  then ran through issues #43-60 of the ongoing monthly title. Unfortunately, the art was a mess, as he was officially teamed with Hitch, who was unable to ever complete an arc (In that sense, the Waid/Hitch run peaked before it even began, as Heaven's Ladder was the only complete story Hitch managed, start to finish).

Waid was writing JLA stories before his run began though. In addition to scripting the prequel miniseries A Midsummer's Nightmare and then JLA: Year One, he wrote two great, two-issue fill-in arcs during Morrison's run, and returned again for two-issue fill-in stint in 1999, featuring two done-in-one-ish stories that kinda sorta dealt with the "No Man's Land" mega-story in the Batman titles. This was the last Waid-scripted fill-in, and it was penciled by then frequent JLA fill-in artist, Mark Pajarillo.

A follow-up to Morrison's first arc, which had the League re-forming to stave off a White Martian invasion, this issue has Batman assigning then-Leaguers Orion, Big Barda, Steel, Plastic Man and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner to investigate Bruce Wayne (actually a White Martian assuming Wayne's identity), while Superman and Wonder Woman investigate The (or is it "a"...?) Flash, a new version with a new costume who was refusing to reveal his true identity to just about everyone.

This was a fun story in several ways, including Pajarillo's drawings of Orion fighting with the tuxedo he goes undercover in, and one of Plas' skeeviest disguises as an inanimate object, plus an overall weird grouping of heroes interacting in the ways that Morrison's ongoing narrative rarely allowed for. It's still a weird choice for the book, though. Not only do few of these heroes seem to appear in the film, but it ties in to a couple of pretty specific and temporary plot points from other comics.

If DC wanted to choose a Waid-written issue, JLA #50 might have been a good one, as it was a stock-taking issue that transitioned between the arc that had just ended and the one that was beginning (and featured bearded Aquaman; he is clean shaven and short-haired in all of these issues), and aside from a compelling cliffhanger, it had some pretty classic Justice League-ing.
The best done-in-one, fill-in from during Morrison's run, however, was probably JLA #27, by Mark Millar, Pajarillo and Wong.

Essentially an Atom story, it features classic Justice League villain Amazo and the entire Justice League reserves (i.e. everyone that was a Leaguer and was still alive at the time) showing up before it's all over. It's a very clever story, too, harkening back to classic, Silver Age League comics. It feels weird suggesting anyone read a Millar comic in 2017, but this was back in the days when Millar seemed to really want to be a comic book writer, before he realized he could used comics as a stepping stone to Hollywood films, and started turning his Elseworlds pitches into analogue comics to entice filmmakers into adapting them.

Morrison had a lot of great short stories, but these were generally two issues long, rather than a single issue long. The only done-in-one of his I can think of is JLA #5, which was full of guest-stars and had some good Martian Manhunter moments but, for the most part, was a Superman and Tomorrow Woman story. Unfortuantely, Superman was going through his electric phase at that point, so I wonder if it would just confuse and repel readers of this particular trade collection...?

At any rate, I'd recommend one read the entirety of the Morrison run and, once that's finished, check out the Waid run as well...or, at the very least, Heaven's Ladder.

Justice League of America #1 #0
By Brad Meltzer, Eric Wight, Ed Benes, Alex Sinclair, and a whole bunch of artists

Huh. That's weird. The table of contents refers to this as Justice League of America #1, the first chapter of Brad Meltzer, Ed Benes and company's "The Tornado's Path" story arc, but it's actually JLoA #0. This was the start of prose novelist-turned-terrible-comics writer Brad Meltzer's run on the newly relaunched JLoA in 2006. Following the events of Infinite Crisis, this over-sized issue was mainly a vehicle for an exploration of Justice League history, as revised on the fly by Meltzer, although because it was coming off of a cosmic, continuity rejiggering, this time there was at least an in-universe explanation for the changes (Those in his Identity Crisis, on the other hand, were just mistakes).

Among those changes was to reinstate Wonder Woman as an original member of the Justice League of America--following Crisis On Infinite Earths, Black Canary II was a founding member in Wondy's stead, as Wonder Woman was being introduced into the DCU for the first time in the then-new continuity--and this issue was basically Meltzer having the "Trinity" of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman getting together to discuss who should be on the new Justice League of America line-up, flashing back to various meetings between the three at various points in DC history as it existed at that point and, oddly, a few glimpses into future meetings of the three.

It is mainly noteworthy for all the great artists involved. Ed Benes, who would be Meltzer's main pencil artist for the remainder of the writer's short, 12-issue run, drew many of the modern day scenes, and Eric Wight drew many of the earliest past scenes, with an all-star roster drawing everything in between. Among the artists were those who had worked on previous runs of Justice League comics before, including Kevin Maguire, Dan Jurgens, Howard Porter and George Perez.

In that respect, it is probably a good issue to include in here. If you want to find out what happens following this story, and I wouldn't recommend it, you can check out Justice League of America Vol. 1: The Tornado's Path. In retrospect, the most interesting thing Meltzer brought to the franchise was including new blood in the form of Black Lightning, Hawkgirl and Arsenal-turned-Red Arrow Roy Harper, but the line-up Meltzer spent 12 issues gradually assembling would begin being dismantled almost immediately.

This volume of the League book ultimately lasted five years and 60-issues, and featured work from talented writers like the late, great Dwayne McDuffie and James Robinson, but it was a complete mess, and perhaps the nadir of League history. (Seriously; I'll reread the Detroit Era and Extreme Justice before looking at these comics again.)

Justice League #16
By Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis

This is a particularly perplexing inclusion, as it is the third chapter of the six-part Justice League/Aquaman crossover "Throne of Atlantis," and, as such, doesn't really stand on its own at all. The basic story is that Aquaman's evil brother Orm, AKA "Oceanmaster," is leading the armies of Atlantis against the United States and the Justice League, and Aquaman is caught in the middle. In this particular chapter, he fights Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, while Cyborg is trying to sort everything else out elsewhere.

"Throne" was a pretty decent story, maybe the best of Johns' run, and Reis' pencil art was pretty great, but as just a single chapter, this is kind of a pointless read as anything other than perhaps an enticement to buy the trade it is collected in (Actually, this story appears in two different trades, both of which reprint the entire thing, which I imagine must have been awfully fucking frustrating for anyone following both of the Johns-written series in trade; Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis and Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis). It does feature characters that appear in the film, so I guess there is that.

Justice League #29
By Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy and Rod Reis

This is the final inclusion from Johns' Justice League, a 2015 issue tie-in to that year's Forever Evil event series, which was also written by Johns. It has a rather striking cover, featuring the Metal Men appearing in the shapes of the Justice Leaguers, but little else to recommend it. It is basically a Cyborg solo story, and sees Vic recruiting Doc Magnus and The Metal Men to help him take on The Grid, the evil version of Cyborg that was colluding with the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3.

If you read this and find yourself dying to know what happens next (and I can't imagine you will), then it is included in context in Justice League Vol. 5: Forever Heroes, and you'll probably also want to check out the poorly-drawn Forever Evil collection.

JLA #107
By Kurt Busiek, Ron Garney, Dan Green and David Baron

So, if you had asked me at the time who should follow Mark Waid on JLA, I would have told you that Kurt Busiek would have been the ideal choice. Instead, DC chose Joe Kelly, a writer who wouldn't have even been on my radar at the time, but who nevertheless turned out a remarkably strong 30-issue run on JLA, which then continued into his Justice League Elite book and then returned for a single issue of JLA before reaching its conclusion. That was probably the last high-quality run on a League book until...well, I don't think anyone's matched it since, actually.

For whatever reason, DC de-emphasized the importance of JLA around 2004, perhaps because they were focused on Identity Crisis and the ramp-up to Infinite Crisis. The result was about two years in which the book became an anthology series, with different arcs by different creators, few of which had anything to do with one another, let alone with the DC Universe at large: Denny O'Neil and Tan Eng Huat did a forgettable two-parter; John Byrne, Chris Claremont and Jerry Ordway did a barely readable seven-part storyline that included a soft reboot of the Doom Patrol; Chuck Austen and Ron Garney did a series of solo stories which kind of defeated the purpose of the book (all of these character already had at least one solo book at the time, after all, with the exception of Martian Manhunter) and then there was "Syndicate Rules," of which this is the first chapter.

If anyone was still paying attention to JLA, they would have been rewarded with this eight-part story written by Busiek (finally!) and penciled by Garney, featuring a rematch with the Crime Syndicate, the first since Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely reintroduced them in their original graphic novel JLA: Earth-2. Entitled "Maintenance Day," it featured what was left of the Big Seven version of the League, which now included Green Lantern Jon Stewart in for Kyle Rayner and The Atom apparently out of his self-enforced semi-retirement.

While the storyline would eventually grow pretty epic in scope, this first issue is kind of a low-key start, a day-in-the-life type of story in which the impatient Flash Wally West and Martian Manhunter perform a series of tasks needed to keep the Justice League's lunar Watchtower in working order. This includes a conflict with The Construct.

It was a strong enough story arc that it became all the more depressing that the JLA/Avengers writer never had a proper run on JLA, but he would kinda sorta get his chance a few years later with the weekly Trinity series. To read all of "Syndicate Rules," you can try to track down the out-of-print JLA: Syndicate Rules trade or JLA Vol. 9, which includes it along with Geoff Johns and Allen Heinberg's Identity Crisis tie-in, "Crisis of Conscience."

Justice League: Rebirth #1
By Bryan Hitch, Daniel Henriques, Scott Hanna and Alex Sinclair

No, I don't know why these books aren't presented in anything approaching chronological order, but instead keep jumping back and forth.

After his poor showing as the pencil artist during Mark Waid's run on JLA, and a rather poor showing as a writer/artist on his own book entitled Justice League of America (which he hadn't yet finished when this series launched), Bryan Hitch got another crack at the League with the relaunched, "Rebirth" version of the title. The line-up was essentially the same as it was when Johns and Lee relaunched the rebooted League in 2011, only instead of one Green Lantern in Hal Jordan, they now had two Green Lanterns in new, Johns-created characters Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. Oh, and instead of New 52 Superman, they now had pre-Flashpoint, post-Convergence Superman. What his deal was would eventually all get ironed out in the Superman books, but, at this point, much of the character's interactions with his teammates were colored in distrust, as they didn't know who exactly he was or understand what the fuck was going on with Superman continuity (Join the club, Justice League!).

As with all of Hitch's League writing to date, I read this--three times now!--and couldn't really tell you what happened in it, or why. It's all apocalyptic, wide-screen, disaster picture stuff, but it is also strangely boring, lifeless and unsubstantial. If you read the chapter and find yourself intrigued, however, you can see how it all plays out in the pages of Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machines.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

On DC's Rebirth line, vis-à-vis my own personal pull-list

A few Wednesdays ago, DC shipped the fourteenth and final issue of All-Star Batman, crossing another of the publisher's "Rebirth"-branded ongoing series off of my pull-list, and reducing the number still on that particular list to just three. It seemed like a good time to revisit the May 2016 publishing initiative, seeing as how precipitously my own purchasing of the Rebirth line had dropped in the past year and a half, and that it wasn't just me gradually dropping books, but also DC canceling some of them.

(Quick caveat: I don't know that this will be of any particular interest to anyone out there, but, well, the same could be said for everything else on this blog. I know I would be interested in reading it if I weren't me though, so I'm going to write this up (um, which could also be said for everything else on this blog). I know I'm just a single, incredibly persnickety comics reader, so this isn't a diagnosis for any particular problem with the publisher or the initiative, just my own personal takes on the various books that I like enough to start buying and reading, and why I eventually stopped buying and reading them. If it's evidence of anything it is, therefore, just anecdotal evidence.)

To review, in May of last year DC published DC Universe: Rebirth #1 by the writer (and the company's president and chief creative officer) Geoff Johns and a handful of popular, talented artists. The stated goal was to reinvigorate the DCU setting and line, not unlike what Johns had previously done as the writer (and just writer) for specific franchises with Flash: Rebirth and, more remarkably, Green Lantern: Rebirth.

It introduced an odd, "Everything You Thought You Knew About The New 52 Is Wrong!" mystery, which was mainly odd in that DC had not yet gotten around to really explaining what the deal was with The New 52 and the character Pandora's role in creating it (er, in-story, of course). It also teased an eventual, perhaps inevitable crossover between the characters from Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and company's Watchmen and the DC Universe in general. These various plot-lines would very, very gradually be explored in a variety of books, including Detective Comics,
The Titans, the Superman books (Action Comics in particular) and a Batman/Flash crossover story, "The Button."

More palpably, it was an in-universe justification for the publisher's "Rebirth" initiative, which was closer in spirit and effect to their June 2015 "DCYou" effort than 2011's "New 52" reboot. They may have re-set the dials on all of their books' numbering with new #1 issues as they did with The New 52 (with the exceptions of Action and Detective, which saw their pre-New 52 numbering re-stored), but continuity remained the same. There was a greater emphasis on new creative teams, new directions and a handful of new books, much of which seemed like a course correction for many of the mistakes of the hurried New 52 launch, but, beyond that, there was also unified cover dress and a two-tiered schedule tied to price-point: The more popular books would still cost $2.99 and would ship twice a month, while the others would cost $3.99 and ship monthly...and we have seen a handful of titles slip from the first category into the second as their sales gradually dwindled.

I actually tried the first issue of every single one of the "Rebirth" titles (as you may or may not remember), in large part because I had the opportunity to do so without buying them all personally (I was still writing for the Robot 6 blog on Comic Book Resources and Comics Alliance at that point).

So, after trying at least one issue of each, the below titles are the ones I added to my pull-list, whether or not I kept buying them and why not...

All-Star Batman (Canceled by the publisher.) I really loved the first arc of this book, in which regular writer Scott Snyder collaborated with John Romita Jr. on the biggest--and only second, really--Two-Face story of the post-Flashpoint era.

Romita, by the way, was really the "All-Star" referenced in the title, as the stars referenced there seemed to be the creators, rather than the character which, after all, was just Batman and his friends and foes, month in and month out. After that initial arc, structured like an over-the-top action movie in which a bunch of massively redesigned minor Bat-villains--mostly for the better, for a change--tried to collect a bounty on Batman, who was on some mad quest to "rescue" his captive enemy Two-Face, something literally the entire world, from Commissioner Gordon and Alfred to the KGBeast, was attempting to prevent.

The two arcs that followed weren't quite as strong, and the second one suffered somewhat from changing artists each chapter, but this has been the all-around best-made of the three Batman books since the "Rebirth" re-launches. I was quite surprised to see how much worse it sold than Batman proper, however. Sure, it was more expensive at $5, but each issue did feature a back-up, and for the first two arcs at least, those back-ups seemed rather important.

Additionally, with Snyder attached as writer, All-Star has been the Bat-book that most directly followed his run on Batman, and rather directly leads into his Dark Nights: Metal epic (and to the Batman and The Signal miniseries, though I can't imagine people are going to be as excited about that as they are about Metal). Put another way, much more so than Batman itself--which has spent the summer absorbed in an extended flashback story arc--All-Star has been the one Batman book that "mattered," but it hasn't been selling as such.

As DC's third best-selling book at the moment, this cancellation is more likely about trying to find a different format at which Snyder-writing Batman can move more issues--at least, that's my understanding, as the plan is apparently for the stories Snyder was originally planning to tell with the artists he was planning on working with in All-Star are going to show up somewhere or other.

Batman (Still reading.)Tom King's scripts are often quite well-written, and even his current "The War of Jokes and Riddles" story arc is technically well-written, although it engages in far too much telling-not-showing for a comic book, and is supremely frustrating for a fan with even passing knowledge or interest in any of the many characters involved, as few seem to be acting much like themselves, the title character most particularly. Unfortunately, how good the comic ends up being often depends on who is drawing it. Because it is a twice-monthly book, it has two primary artists, one good and one bad, and then fill-in artists are occasionally needed as well.

I can't say I won't drop the book ever--I might have already done so if the poorer of the two primary artists were drawing this current storyline, for example--but for now, this seems like the DCU book I am least likely to drop, as well as the DC book that is least likely to ever be canceled, as it's the publisher's best-selling book that isn't Dark Nights: Metal by a long, long way.

Deathstroke (Dropped due to price increase.) This was an unusual case in which I was a fan of the writer, not the character, and became a fan of the book despite the subject matter, so skilfully was Christopher Priest scripting it. The art was even more uneven than many of the other twice-monthly books, but it was never too poor.

Unfortunately, when DC moved it to a more sensible monthly schedule--this was the third time they had launched a Deathstroke book since 2011, so if selling it once a month was challenging, surely trying to sell it twice as often was a little over ambitious--it also moved from the $2.99 price-point to the $3.99 price-point, which is pretty much a red line for me when it comes to consuming Big Two comics serially.

Detective Comics (Still reading.) I was on the fence with this book as soon as it was announced, as I was okay with the writer, liking more of his comics than I've disliked (James Tynion), not a fan of the primary pencil artist at all, even though few DC Comics could have regular artists at the twice-monthly pace (Eddy Barrows) but intrigued by the cast and concept.

That concept was basically that of having Batman organize his many allies into a kind of super-team, a little like Batman, Incorporated, but as a Gotham City-based team of heroes-in-training, as opposed to a worldwide network of Batmen.

I don't think its yet met its potential, and I confess that this is the comic book I continue to read despite not really liking it, month in and month out (I may drop it after the current story arc, which I'm reading out of pretty intense curiosity).

More than any of the other books, 'Tec seems to suffer from the worst-of-both-worlds phenomenon inherent in DC's post-Flashpoint New 52-boot, and it suffers further from the fact that it feels so much like fan-fiction. Even more so than, say, Nightwing, which has similarly relied on particular characters created by and associated with particular creators, 'Tec has a tendency to read like fan-fiction.

I know that's probably a charged term, and might even sound nonsensical when describing the comics for a corporate entity like Warner Bros' DC Comics or Disney's Marvel, given that almost all of the books they publish feature creators who didn't create the toys they are playing with, but I think there are degrees to the ickiness, depending on the age of the characters and the number of other creators who have worked on them before (That is, DC may technically own Batman and Anarky and Doctor Manhattan, but, for now at least, using those last two feels a little wronger to me than it does to use Batman, as Anarky still feels like more of a Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle character and Doctor Manhattan an Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons one, while Batman is so far removed from his first few years under creators Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and their collaborators that, well, it feels less fan fiction-y to me to read a Batman comic than it would, say, a Superman vs. Doctor Manhattan one, as DC has in the works, or Tynion's run on 'Tec, which has basically been a Batman comic in which Tynion has paraded his favorite Batman characters from the '90s through a New 52 filter).

I might be more forgiving if Tynion were doing new or interesting things with all of the characters, but aside from his attempt to turn Clayface into a good guy, the series has been a really weird arc by arc cycle of Batman and his team discovering a new secret society and combating them, only to discover a new one in the next arc (The Colony, The Victim Syndicate, The League of Shadows, The Order of St. Dumas).

Gotham Academy: Second Semester (Canceled by the publisher.) On the one hand, it's kind of shocking that this book wasn't an gigantic hit for the publisher. Even if the finicky direct market rejected it, Gotham Academy really seemed like something that should have done gangbusters in the bookstore and library markets, as the elevator pitch was basically "Batman + Harry Potter" (Which I say having never read any Harry Potter books, or watched any movies after that first one; perhaps it's more accurate to describe it as a book about a Gotham City Hogwarts, only with detective work and vigilante crime-fighting instead of magic, maybe?).

On the other hand, once it was clear that the book didn't catch on in its first year, it is not at all surprising that it didn't survive the Rebirth era. In fact, it wasn't quite ready for the Rebirth era relaunch, and thus it took a few months to start being published under its new title (That is, with the colon and the words "Second Semester" attached).

I'm kind of loathe to diagnose exactly what or where the book went wrong.

It's possible that it was at once too Batman-specific (see the school's teaching staff, which consisted mostly of half-forgotten villains from Batman '66) while not being Batman-specific enough (Bruce Wayne and Batman flitted through the book more than once, and Robin Damian Wayne had some memorable guest-appearances, but despite the occasional tie-in to Batman franchise crossovers like "Endgame" and "Robin War," it wasn't exactly mandatory reading for the Batman audience).

I've also heard that there may have been some behind-the-scenes problems, particularly regarding the particular art process that gave the first volume of the book's early issues' every panel the look and feel of an animation cel.

From my standpoint as a comic book reader and a semi-professional comic book critic, DC did everything right to promote the first volume of the series, and by the time they launched Second Semester it really felt like the publisher must have known it was on it way out, and gave what was left of the creative team plenty of space to finish up their ongoing story in a way they saw fit (I do wonder if the length and scope of that ongoing story may have hampered the book too; Brenden Fletcher and company played a very long game in terms of plotting overarching, intertwined mysteries, but the book was at its most fun when it was concentrating on smaller, more immediate events). The "Yearbook" story arc, which basically just hit the pause button on that story (or any story, really) for months and months, temporarily turning the book into an anthology series, was probably ill-considered.

I'm definitely going to miss Maps though, and, in a perfect world, we will get Maps and Damian team-ups...somewhere or other, eventually.

New Super-Man (Dropped due to the price increase.) The Gene Luen Yang-created (or re-created, I guess) Superman starred in the most intriguing book in what was originally a overly ambitious five-book Superman line, as he was a brand-new character, his story was set in China and, well, he was the creation of Gene Luen Yang, one of the most influential and talked about cartoonists of the last decade or so.

I was a little conflicted about the book, almost from the beginning. I really liked Kenan Kong, the title character, who in everything from his age to his arrogance reminded me of the 1990s Superboy, the young clone of Superman who emerged during the "Reign of the Supermen" storyline. The stories were cool, featuring a rather remarkable swathe of the DC Universe filtered through a new, rarely-seen setting and culture (in addition to a Chinese, teenage Super-Man, there was also a Wonder-Woman and a Bat-Man, and their first villains were modern Chinese echoes of The Freedom Fighters, favorite characters of mine), as well as pre-existing characters like I-Ching and The Great Ten and maybe the most unexpected character of all time, who is arguably the publisher's first characters.

The book also featured perhaps what is--no lie, no hyperbole--the greatest cliffhanger in DC Comics history. I saw the last page of that issue in the shop, but I didn't see how it turned out, so maybe it ended up being a head fake?

As much as I liked the characters, the scripting and the overall direction, however, the art was fairly lackluster, and, in a time of seemingly peak comics like this, "just okay" or even just "pretty decent" art isn't really worth paying attention to anymore. Viktor Bogdanovic was the original pencil artist, and I understand Billy Tan has come and went a few times since.

The design work was always solid, but the art just didn't grab me, and it seemed particularly poor compared to that of everything other Yang comic I had read or seen, and I think I would have preferred this if any Yang collaborator from projects past had been attached (the same could be said for Yang's pre-Rebirth work on the Superman franchise too, though). I understand the argument for a visual style that more closely fits in with the median of the DCU line's artwork but, on the other hand, I don't know that this book's ideal audience is the direct market (sales analysis suggests that it is now), but the book store/library market where Yang's past work has flourished, so it seems to me a smarter move to hire more Yang-friendly artists.

So when sales apparently slid to the point that New Super-Man made the jump in price-point from $2.99 to $3.99, I wasn't exactly broken up to move it from my monthly pull-list to the Wait For The Trade list that exists in my head.

Nightwing (Still reading.) Putting Dick Grayson back in his Nightwing costume, and his pre-Flashpoint color scheme was a smart and welcome move, as was eventually putting him back in BLudhaven, after the somewhat flailing narrative arc of the character over the course of the past five years. I wasn't crazy about this book's first story arc by now long-time Dick Grayson writer Tim Seeley, but when he returned to Bludhaven, it started to feel a lot more like a Nightwing book should, while managing to retain new elements from more recent Dick Grayson-starring comics, like his relationship with current Robin Damian Wayne, his time as a super-spy in Grayson and so on.

The art hasn't been anything special, and the art teams have changed with enough frequency that I couldn't even tell you who the primary artists on the series have been. Given the always-increasing focus on how sexy Dick is suppose to be, I'd kinda like to see an artists who specializes in sexy dudes take on the series...and/or the cover, but I don't know that the Big Two have ever been especially adept at drawing beefcake to go with their cheesecake.

A new creative team is coming on shortly, and sales on the book have looked poor enough that I wouldn't be surprised to see it go to the $3.99 price-point before too long.

Suicide Squad (Dropped due to chaotic art/format.) In the heady days when the Suicide Squad movie was still just an awesome-looking trailer, this book seemed to have the makings of an "it" book, and it looks like DC went to some pains to more closely align it to the version of the team that would be/did/had appearing/appear/appeared in the movie. They even got Jim Lee to draw it! Of course, in order to get Lee to draw it, they came up with a rather weird format, in which Lee drew short chapters of a continuing story arc in each issue, and the rest of the issue would be filled-up with an origin story for one of the characters, each of these drawn by a guest-artist.

That worked fine, but, once all the origins were told, the book then had the problem of filling 20-pages a month. Which, really, shouldn't have been a problem once Lee moved on, as it's not like they had to accommodate the extremely popular artist (and company co-publisher) any longer. Suicide Squad could very easily have resumed a "regular" format, with a single art team drawing a 20-page chapter of an ongoing serial narrative each issue.

That's not what they did, though, and the narrative then got pretty damn messy, as art chores as well as stories were seemingly arbitrarily divided into chunks. I stuck with it through the end of the John Romita JR-drawn arc because, well, because it was JRJR drawing it, but that's as much as I could take, and w/out an artist of his caliber there, it wasn't really worthwhile.

I do think writer Rob Williams did a pretty great job on the book...I certainly read it a lot longer than I read the last two attempts at a Suicide Squad ongoing (As with Deathstroke, the Rebirth initiative marked DC's third attempt at a Suicide Squad book since September 2011).

I think one of the essential problems with his take, one that is thrown into sharp relief when one is reading issues of it between DC's releases of trade collections of the original John Ostrander-written series, is that the team is too consistent, with very, very few comings and goings. While Ostrander's Suicide Squad had a core cast, both among the civilian support staff and the super-villains, it also had a lot of guest-stars, and characters who would be there for an issue or an arc or 20 issues and then leave, either because they were needed/being used elsewhere, or they paid off their debt to society/Amanda Waller or because they were killed in action. For a task force with the word "suicide" in their nickname, this squad never seems to take any casualties.

The other problems are ones that can't really be addressed, and, actually, contribute to the one I just mentioned.

I've likely said this before, but because the post-Flashpoint DCU is so young, it's not stocked with minor characters from decades worth of scores and scores of comics Williams could use as cannon fodder, or even just to give the cast character. I mean, as we've seen in the previous two iterations of the book, there are minor characters aplenty that can be used, but on the other side of a reboot, they don't really matter in any way, as they are just recycled codenames attached to costume redesigns.

Finally, because of the short history and relative instability of the post-Flashpoint DCU, there's no real sense of place, history, consistency or import to the setting. Ostrander's Suicide Squad was set in a world that was a fantastical version of the real world, where there were multiple government agencies dealing with meta-humans, and where real-world politics and/or fantasy versions of real-world politics set in and around fictionalized countries played a role. Now Amanda Waller doesn't really have anyone to engage in bureaucratic battle with, because I don't know that there is a Checkmate, a Peacemaker Project, a Project: Captain Atom and so on. I mean, I've heard "Checkmate" mentioned, but don't know what it means anymore. I don't even know who the President of the United States is. Is there a Kobra, and is it like I thought it was? Is it the same from issue to issue, book to book, appearance to appearance?

The team books all suffered the most from the New 52-boot, and Suicide Squad and Justice League more than most: Saving the world isn't terribly compelling when "the world" is vague and ill-defined, you now? The former can work, and often does, but it worked a lot better when it had a cohesive, consistent universe to operate in.

Superman (Dropped due to unscheduled fill-ins.) With Action Comics' attention devoted to various continuity hijinks, making sense of the pre-Flashpoint/post-Convergence Superman replacing the dead New 52 Superman and the Mr. Oz plot, this has been the Superman comic worth reading, as writer Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason steamed ahead telling new stories starring Superman, Lois Lane and the new Superboy, their son Jonathan, mostly in the rather non-Supermanly setting of rural Hamilton County.

When DC did their latest Superman reboot--which, I admit, completely lost me--this book got a bit confused too, but, for the most part, it has managed to not dwell on continuity overmuch. Frequent guest-appearances by Tomasi, Gleason and sometimes pencil artist Doug Mahnke's apparent favorite characters, like Batman and Robin and Frankenstein and The Bride and a very unexpected character from my favorite comic book series ever (which Tomasi used to edit for DC) helped keep it fun.

After the last big arc--which was mostly designed to push the Kent Family out of Hamilton County for good, but had the unfortunate side-effect of revisiting a modern classic Superman story for the fifteenth completely unnecessary time--the direction seemed to have stalled out for about a half-dozen issues, and the "regular" creative team (which, admittedly, on the twice-monthly Rebirth books gets less and less regular as the weeks pile up) went MIA, Superman lost focus. And I lost interest.

One thing Marvel has taught me over the last few years is that it's really not that hard to just wait for the trade.

Wonder Woman (Dropped due to new creative team/direction.) I found the specific strategy on this twice-monthly book, in which the one writer would tell two storylines set in different time periods of the character's life in alternate issues, alternating between two different time teams, to be interesting enough to be intriguing at first. As Greg Rucka's run wore on, however, the same general issues I had with his previous run on an earlier volume of the title--like, three launches and at least one major reboot ago--began to become apparent again, and, in retrospect, I found Rucka's return a little frustrating, as he essentially just told a single, if complexly structured, origin story, and then bounced. (In that respect, it reminded me of Brad Meltzer's poor run on Justice League of America, which was just a very long origin story, the modern equivalent of a writing launching a new series and then leaving as soon as the first script was submitted.)

I was more than willing to give the next writer Shea Fontana, a temporary fill-in writer, a chance, based on how strong her work on the various DC Super Hero Girls original graphic novels was, and my curiosity regarding how she would fare with a script in the tonally opposite and overall much more constrained DC Universe shared setting. She did fine though, and I read all the issues of her run.

I was much less willing to to give the writer who followed her, James Robinson, that same chance, having read plenty of poorly-written Robinson comics in the past, particularly given the announced direction of his arc: Following up on plot points from Geoff Johns' Justice League arc, "The Darkseid War," which now seems forever ago.

That being said, this is Wonder Woman we're talking about, so chances are I will be back before too long.

As long as I'm talking about my pull-list, here are the other serially-published, ongoing comic book-format comic books currently on it: Archie Comics' Archie, Josie and The Pussycats and Jughead; DC's Bombshells United and Scooby-Doo Team-Up; Image Comics' SagaSnotgirl and Sun Bakery and...I think that's it, actually.