Tuesday, November 17, 2015

DC's February previews reviewed

Well, February looks like it's going to be an extremely weird-looking month for DC Comics, thanks in large part to the massive contributions from the post-Batman: Odyssey Neal Adams handling their themed variant covers, most of which are included in their pencil form in the solicits.

Not only is Adams doing all the variants, but he seems to be basing the variants on some of his own most iconic imagery from the past, albeit it substituting characters to make for some pretty weird scenes. Like Superman apparently telling Batman that his sidekick Robin (Tim Drake iteration) is a...JUNKIE!

The swaps tend to be pretty random, as in this cover to JLA, which has Superman in for Ra's al Ghul in a re-enactment of one of the Dark Knight Detective's many shirt-less, hairy-chested sword-fights against The Demon's Head:

Others, are nice and straightforward, like this Superman cover, featuring the title's hero striking probably the most iconic Neal Adams Batman pose, the one you no doubt think of when you think of Neal Adams' Batman:
It might have got pretty repetitive, but I would have probably been A-OK if all of the Adams variants were just drawings of different heroes all rushing into action in that pose.

Also of interest is the fact that Adams seems to be drawing pretty much whatever versions of the characters he wants. Many–most, actually–look like they are the most classic or iconic versions of the character costumes (i.e. Batman and Superman wear their shorts instead of their New 52 armor, etc), while some of the characters that didn't quite exist in their present forms pre-New 52-boot are drawn in their current costumes, like Red Hood Jason Todd and Trucker-Hat Arsenal. The Flash, on the cover of The Flash, looks to be wearing his new New 52 costume...sans a glove?

I hope the final covers all include some text to help contextualize them a bit.

So, why is February Neal Adams month? Well, the fact that he has a new Superman mini-series launching probably has a lot to do with it. It's one of several big projects that DC is launching that month, some of which are long-awaited (like the Grant Morrison-written Earth One: Wonder Woman), others of which seem to come out of left-field (Another Frank Miller-related project? Does that make it DK IV, or will it just be an epilogue of sorts to DK III?).

Otherwise, it seems like a fairly quiet month for the publisher, with nothing being canceled, nothing major being launched, and only smaller, easy-to-ignore books (Aquaman, Teen Titans) getting new creative teams or directions. It's depressing to realize, but aside from Morrison's Wonder Woman graphic novel, the books I'm most excited about in this round of solicitations are all of collections of books from the 1990s or so, when I first started reading comics, but didn't have the money or interest to read, say, the beginnings of Dan Jurgens' Justice League run or all of War of the Gods (although I later assembled partial collections of both from dollar bins).

For the complete solicitations, you can check out Comics Alliance or Comic Book Resources. For my babbling about them, you should probably just stay where you are.

Look, I don't know much about first aid or anything Barbara, but I'm pretty sure that when you're applying a bandage to a wound you should, you know, look a the wound while you're doing it.

Written by FRANK TIERI
On sale FEBRUARY 10 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Catwoman’s been on the run before, but now it’s not just the cops that are on her tail! With a bounty on her head, it seems like every member of the New York underground is gunning for her…and that includes some familiar faces from Gotham City! When sometime allies Batgirl and Killer Croc decide to get in on the chase, Catwoman might be all out of tricks.

I'm not really looking forward to Frank Tieri's run on this book. I've liked some of his writing in the past, but he's not a writer I would think would have much of any great interest to say about this particular character (I just read the first issue of his Hangman, the latest in Archie Comics' revival of their superhero line under the new "Dark Circle" branding and it was...well, it wasn't very good. It's dark and gritty and tiresome, a crime comic with a dash of the supernatural and superhero, and looks and reads a lot like something Marvel might have published in the early '00s. It's does what it's attempting well enough, but I'm not sure the racks really needed another comic like that–of the four revivals I've read so far, only The Fox has been a particularly enjoyable read for me personally. The others have all been a bit of a slog).

I am very intersted in the work of Inaki Miranda though, and while I rarely find myself able to read superehro comics just for the art for very long, this is an issue I certainly wouldn't mind checking out, as it will allow Miranda to draw both the title character and Batgirl.

Cover by ANT LUCIA
On sale MARCH 2 • 200 pg, FC, $16.99 US
In these stories from issues #1-6 of the hit series, learn the story behind this alternate reality where the Second World War is fought by superpowered women on the front lines and behind the scenes! It all begins with the stories of Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Supergirl.

If you missed the single issues–and the digital versions too, I suppose–then don't miss this. This comic is really, really good. I swear. You may be skeptical, given its origins. Hell, I was skeptical, but Marguerite Bennett has crafted a fairly incredible Elseworlds-style story of the DC Universe of heroes all blossoming in 1940, with the focus squarely on the superheroines. The art is occasionally awesome–particularly when Marguerite Sauvage is drawing it–and even when it's not, it's never awful.

Wonder Woman fans in particular should be sure to read it; I'm pretty sure this is the best long-form Wonder Woman comic story since...Hell, I can't even remember.

Here Adams references an old Green Lantern/Green Arrow cover, in which the Emerald Archer interrupted GL's ring-charging ritual by shooting an arrow into his power batter. Adams has, of course, reversed their positions.

This was previously done on the cover of one of the 1996 issues in the story arc chronicling then Green Lantern Kyle Rayner's first meeting with then Green Arrow Conner Hawke, by Paul Pelletier:

On sale FEBRUARY 3 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T+
Guest-starring Green Lantern! Black and red are kind of Harley Quinn’s thing…so when the most unique power ring in the universe crosses her path, she has no choice but to put it on, right? Unfortunately for Harley—and everyone else—this hybrid ring is fueled by rage and death…and things are gonna get out of hand very quickly!

While I don't think the Red Lantern Corps or "Agent Orange"/Larfleeze or even Sinestro and his yellow lantern Corps are good subjects for ongoing monthly series, I do like the various rings Geoff Johns and his collaborators cooked up, and, in particular, the temporary promotion of various pre-existing DC characters to Lanterns of various colors...and getting new, hybrid costumes to go along with them.

So Harley Queen getting some kinda red/black ring...? That actually sounds like a fun story to me; count me in.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Variant cover by NEAL ADAMS
Batman triptych variant cover by KIM JUNG GI
On sale FEBRUARY 17 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
The massive “Darkseid War” epic continues to set the stages for the future of the DC Universe as we reveal the secrets behind its newest major player: Darkseid’s daughter, Grail! And if the Justice League is not careful, the spoils of war will all end up with her! See the truth behind Grail's role in this war and the future of the DC Universe as she tears her way across it. Don’t miss this extra-sized special offered at the regular price of $3.99!
Plus, world-renowned visualist Kim Jung Gi puts his stamp on the DC Universe with a wall-to-wall-to-wall action triptych featuring the Big Three!

Holy shit, this is still going to be going on in February...? They're publishing like a half-dozen specials tying in to the "Darkseid War" story arc of Justice League.

Perhaps instead of "Darkseid War" they shoulda called this arc "Darkseid Bataan Death March"...?

There is not an issue of Justice League being solicited for February though, so this isn't an extra installment, but the regularly allotted one.

I'm not sure what the "extra-sized" refers to though, as it says it's only 32 pages, which would be the regular length of your standard DC comic: 20-22 story pages, plus 10-12 pages of ads.

Art by ACO
On sale FEBRUARY 3 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Spyral wants the deadly Perdition Pistol back—so they turn to the only man who stands a chance of recovering it: Midnighter! The only problem is who has possession of it now...the near-unbeatable Suicide Squad!

Near unbeatable? I don't know, de-powered Superman and Goofy Costume Wonder Woman kicked their asses pretty thoroughly recently, even if it did take them a few pages longer than you would expect a Suicide Squad vs. Superman and Wonder Woman fight to take...

This is a great Scooby-Doo-crossing-the-Delaware cover, far superior to DC's previous attempt to homage the iconic paining, on the cover of an issue of the ill-fated Prez.
As per usual, the variants program only extends to the comics within the main, DCU superhero line, and not any of the Vertigo, kids books or digital-first series. Which is too bad, because I would love to have seen a Neal Adams drawing of Scooby and the Gang...

Written by MAX LANDIS
Art by JAE LEE
Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale FEBRUARY 17 • 32 pg, FC, 4 of 7, $3.99 US • RATED T+
Clark travels to Metropolis for the Cerberus Summit, a rare meeting between three of the world’s most prominent young chiefs of industry: Lex Luthor, Oliver Queen, and the enigmatic Bruce Wayne. Landing an exclusive interview with any of the three would all but guarantee Clark a prestigious internship with the Daily Planet…but Clark runs into some unexpected competition when he meets another college journalist named Lois Lane.

I just read the first issue of this limited series, by writer Max Landis and a different artistic collaborator each issue, and it was really good. Surprisingly so. I'll be really curious to see if Landis can keep it up.

I can't quite make sense of all the symbolism on it, but I really like Ryan Sook's cover for this issue.

Written by DAN JURGENS and others
On sale MARCH 23 • 412 pg, FC, $17.99 US
In these 1990s tales from JLA #61-67 and JUSTICE LEAGUE SPECTACULAR #1, Superman convinces the team to aid his former foe, Maxima, in freeing her homeworld from a tyrant. Then, the JLA must rescue the Elongated Man and Sue Dibny from the Royal Flush Gang.

After the writing team of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis finally left DC's Justice League franchise, which they reinvigorated to the point that they had taken it from a flailing, failing book and turned it into a fan-favorite, critically-acclaimed multi-book franchise, some poor sap had to take on the unenviable task of trying to follow them.

Writer/artist Dan Jurgens rose to the challenge, handling the main book in the franchise, adding Superman, who had obviously had some history with, and his own creations Maxima and Bloodwynd (It's complicated) to holdovers from the Justice League cast, Fire, Ice, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold.

It's been a while since I've read any of his work from this era, but I seem to recall it going a lot better than I would have feared, and while this isn't the best run on a Justice League title between the end of the Giffen/DeMatteis iteration and Grant Morrison's 1997 JLA, it's far from the worse.

The re-titling of the collection is probably telling, although check out that price point: Over 400 pages for $18...? That's a damn good value.

On sale MARCH 30 • 296 pg, FC, $19.99 US
In these stories from SUPERMAN/BATMAN #27-36 and ANNUAL #1, the Martian Manhunter attacks Batman! The Parasite and Titano return! Superman’s allegiances are tested in a story involving the Green Lantern Corps and more! Plus, a tale from the days before Superman and Batman were a team—and Deathstroke was gunning for Bruce Wayne!

DC's Superman/Batman ongoing was an odd beast. I remember describing an issue during Jeph Loeb's run as its writer by saying "a bunch of random stuff happens," and someone answered, "Wait, isn't that every issue of Loeb's Superman/Batman...?" Fair enough. Hell, at least it was usually drawn pretty well.

If I recall correctly, this collection includes the point in the run where the book just completely fell apart, as it went from Jeph Loeb + Popular Artist on each consecutive arc, to Popular-ish Writer + Popular-ish Artist on each arc, to...well, "garbage" is too strong a word. At least for some of these stories.

That first issue is a done-in-one team-up of the (original) Earth-2 Power Girl and Huntress,a s drawn by Kevin Maguire. It's followed by a Verheiden-written story arc involving many of DC's alien characters that was started by Ethan Van Sciver, but then went to increasingly poor fill-in artists to finish and then a Pat Lee-drawn arc featuring the Metal Men and a few other robot-related characters (An arc that probably represented the absolute nadir of the series).

The one story in here that is unquestionably awesome is the one the cover is taken from. THat's the Joe Kelly-written, (partially) Ed McGuinness-drawn annual. Set in the early days of Batman and Superman's partnership, when they were still frenimes, it involves Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent and Lois Lane on a cruise ship together. While Deathstroke is trying to fulfill a contract on Wayne. And they get visitors from Earth-2 (which, at the time of that story, was the Pre-Crisis Earth-3 equivalent world from the Anti-Matter Universe that Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely re-created for their JLA: Earth-2 original graphic novel). These are, of course, Ultraman and Owlman and...Deathstroke's opposite number, who is basically a slightly off-model Deadpool, written and drawn by one of the best-loved Deadpool creative teams (A Deadpool analogue being Deathstroke's opposite isn't really that unusual; Rob Liefeld based the character of Deadpool on Deathstroke after all).

Now that I'm stopping to think about this, if you're at all curious about this trade, you're probably better off just looking for Superman/Batman Annual #1 in a back-issue bin.

Written by NEAL ADAMS
Art and cover by NEAL ADAMS
On sale FEBRUARY 3 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T
From legendary writer/artist Neal Adams comes a threat so epic it will take more than one Man of Steel to handle it in this new 6-issue miniseries!
As Darkseid and the hordes of Apokolips lay waste to the world, even Superman is overwhelmed—but not for long, as three heroes from the miniaturized city of Kandor emerge at full size, armed with all the vast powers of Kal-El, ready to become the new Supermen!
This battle of titans also features the machinations of Lex Luthor, plus fan favorites Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane aiding in the fight for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Here's the aforementioned Adams Superman comic. The storyline would probably be a bit more exciting had DC not already devoted like 1,000 issues of the Superman line to stories involving the un-shrunken Bottle City of Kandor in that "New Krypton" jazz. Seeing all those different guys wearing Superman costumes reminds me of Captain Marvel and The Lieutenant Marvels.

Art and cover by YANICK PAQUETTE
On sale APRIL 6 • 144 pg, FC, $22.99 US
In this new installment of the New York Times best-selling Earth One original graphic novel line, Grant Morrison (THE MULTIVERSITY) joins with Yanick Paquette (SWAMP THING, BATMAN, INC.) to reimagine Wonder Woman for a new era. Encompassing the vision of her original creator, William Moulton Marston, Morrison presents a Diana who yearns to break free from her mother and the utopian society on Paradise Island to learn about the forbidden outside world. Her dreams may come true when Air Force pilot Steve Trevor crashes on their shores, and she must defy the laws of the Amazons to return him to Man’s World.
Is she ready for the culture shock that awaits her in America? And is the world ready for this Wonder Woman?

Well, I'm definitely curious. I'm also pretty frightened by Morrison's version of "the vision of her original creator, William Moulton Marston," as he didn't seem to quite get it when discussing it in interviews in t he past, but this has been in the works for, what, 40 years now...? Likewise, Paquette's not the artist I'd most want to see on this project, but is probably in keeping with the level of skill and popularity that has been assigned to the other three "Earth One" series.

I'm exceptionally crious about that "Vol.1," as it was my understanding that Morrison was writing an original graphic novel–didn't they decide at one point it would be published not as part of the Earth One line, but under the title The Trial of Wonder Woman?–but "Vol. 1" definitely implies at least a second volume.

On sale MARCH 23 • 304 pg, FC, $24.99 US
When Zeus and his fellow Gods of Olympus go to war with other deities from across the heavens (and beyond), the heroes of the DC Universe are stuck in the middle. Teaming with Superman, Captain Marvel and others, Wonder Woman must stop a battle that could destroy the galaxy, and discover who is pulling the strings behind the scenes! Collects WAR OF THE GODS #1-4 and WONDER WOMAN #58-62!

So here's one of those '90s books I'm really interested in reading. I read the main series, but I don't recall reading any issues of Wonder Woman. And I'm pretty sure I read something like 30 tie-in comics. I believe this tied into pretty much everything DC was publishing at the time, and some of those tie-ins were extremely tenuous (Like, I remember a Batman tie-in where Batman and Robin basically just fought Maxie Zeus, the crazy Batman villain who thinks he's Zeus; that was close enough for the auspices of the tie-ins to this).

It does have George Perez drawing the whole DC Universe though, and it is therefore pretty goregous; I think this was the best Donna Troy looked since the 1960s. I imagine the story behind the crossover is at least as interesting as the story itself, as I seem to recall it being somewhat troubled, and man, it is not easy coming up with a story that includes such disparate characters as Etrigan, Lobo, the Ostrander-era Suicide Squad, Captain Marvel and so on.

So while this is 300 pages, it leaves out all of the tie-ins that weren't issues of Wonder Woman. I'm pretty sure if DC collected all the tie-ins, this would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 pages.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to finally reading this as at least whoever edited this collection thinks it was meant to be read.

As for who is pulling the strings behind the scenes, I forget. Probably Ares or Darkseid.

Written by EVAN DORKIN, ALAN GRANT, and others
On sale MARCH 30 • 296 pg, FC, $16.99 US
Bat-Mite stars in this collection of misadventures with appearances by Superman, the Justice League of America and Superman’s equally magical—and annoying—foe, Mr. Mxyzptlk. Collects SUPERMAN AND BATMAN: WORLD’S FUNNEST #1, BATMAN: MITEFALL #1, WORLD’S FINEST #6, DETECTIVE COMICS #267 and more!

Oh hey, I just mentioned the title story the other day, in discussing the Anti-Life Equation. World's Funnest lives up to its name. The Dorkin-written, 2000 one-shot featured a slug-fest between the Silver Age incarnations of Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, which they take from dimension to dimension, time period to time period, and Earth to Earth, until they've destroyed pretty much the whole DC Multiverse. Dorkin worked with somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 artists on this ting, with the appropriate artist usually showing up to draw the appropriate setting (When they appear in the pages of Kingdom Come, for example, Alex Ross handles art chores). If your favorite artist was working in comics in 2000, the chances are pretty good they contributed.

It looks like DC is filling the collection with other imp stories, like the Alan Grant/Kevin O'Neill Mitefall special and the first appearance of Bat-Mite (Tec #267). I'm not sure why World's Finest #6 is included, as it predates both characters. Maybe it's a typo? World's Finest #113 or #123 would work, though.

As for the "and more," your guess is as good as mine, but I would imagine 1992's Batman: Legends of The Dark Knight #32 by Grant and O'Neill is in there, as Mitefall was a sequel to that done-in-one comic introducing the post-Crisis Bat-Mite (as a possible drug-induced hallucination).

Anyway, Superman and Batman: World's Funnest is a must-read, and everything else I know is in here is excellent, so I would definitely recommend this.


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I worked at a comic shop when War of The Gods came out. Customers were annoyed that the tie-ins were all numbered and almost all were out of order. One week we might have books numbered 3, 5, and 9. (Superman, etc.) I'd try to explain that it really didn't matter, but most avid readers tended to think I was BSing them because I wanted them to continue to buy the books.

SallyP said...

Its sad that the best things on this list are World's Funniest and the old JLI.

googum said...

I bought War of the Gods #1 off the racks, but didn't read #2 until this week! I'm hoping to finish the series by 2063. "Read" might be too strong; I flipped through it and was just baffled by the inclusion of stuff like evil Captain Atom and Martin Stein Firestorm. That's gonna be clear as mud in that collection.

Unknown said...

I'm glad that the Darkseid War is still going on. Maybe DC has finally realized that big epic stories can't be told in a mere six issues (not with modern levels of comic decompression anyway). I am so sick of reading a storyline with a well-paced exciting beginning that devolves into a rushed finale because the writer realized that they were on issue six.

Maybe I'm being unrealistic in expecting the payoff of a story to be as long and intense as the setup was. But I'm sick of reading stories that act like they're building up to something enormous, and then either rush it or fizzle. If they're going to tell a big epic story they need to either make it super-long, compress the comics back to Eighties levels, or have lots of relevant tie-ins (the tie-ins to Darkseid War have so far mostly been plot-lite character pieces about what JLA members do with God-power).

David page said...

I can't believe dc skipped the end of the giffen demetris run

David said...

I wouldn't call Prez ill-fated. It was always going to be two six-issue volumes and Dan Didio has confirmed multiple times on Twitter that the second volume is still going forward.

Although it makes me sad that all of Marvel's Tumblr pandering drek like Unreadable Squirrel Girl get so much attention while stuff in the same milieu that's actually good remains ignored.

Bill said...

That World's Finest #6 is probably from the Karl Kesel-written miniseries from 1999. The GCD shows that as a Bat-Mite & Mxyzptlk story.

Anonymous said...

Yanick can be quite a fun & dynamic artist-- I enjoyed his short-lived run on Batman Inc. --but his breast fixation is way over-the-top. (cf. his rendering of Catwoman)

Then again, the first time I encountered his work he *was* drawing smut...

No, not my first choice for drawing Diana. Cameron Stewart or Becky Cloonan would have been friendlier, particularly for female audience. Oh well.