Thursday, March 30, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: March 29th

Harley's Little Black Book #6 (DC Comics) Like the previous issue, an homage to the classic Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali that was drawn by that comic's original artist Neal Adams, this issue's team-up with Lobo was assigned to Simon Bisley, the artist of the first two Lobo miniseries and some of the better one-shots and specials of the early 1990s. You couldn't ask for a better pairing of character and creator, really, and as a fan of Bisley's work, it was nice to see DC finally finding a good showcase for it after handing him only some pretty minor work in the past five or six years (the covers of the first volume of the New 52 Deathstroke comic, a Midnighter/Apollo short story).

Unfortunately, Bisley's heavy metal, British comics aesthetic is overshadowed by some extremely questionable editing of the material. Regular Harley Quinn writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have constructed a plot that involves the two white-skinned maniacs being naked or semi-naked for the majority of the 38-page comic. Harley loses her gear and her garb on a spaceship when it undergoes explosive decompression, stripping her down to just her bra and panties. Accidentally rescued by Lobo on a critically damaged space motorcycle, she loses even her bra on when it burn up on re-entry, while he loses most of his clothes and a whole bunch of his flesh. She fashions a makeshift bra of two large leaves, and he makes a loincloth of what's left of his pants, but it's basically the Blue Lagoon on a harsh alien planet for the rest of the book.

That's all well and good. The comic is rated "T+" ("Appropriate for readers age 15 and older. May contain moderate violence, mild profanity, graphic imagery and/or suggestive themes."), and it plays to the Conner/Palmiotti interpretation of the Harley character, and to Bisley's strength of drawing cartoonishly-proportioned muscular men and buxom women (while also mining a never-before explored attraction between the two characters, who are here meeting for the first time*, which actually makes a great deal of sense--Harley's type is, after all, chalk white-skinned and prone to acts of mass slaughter). But DC apparently didn't care for the art as drawn, and rather than insisting Bisley re-draw it or carefully re-coloring it, they decided to insert these weird, clip-art looking anthropormorphic red flags.

Most of the them seem unnecessary, appearing over images of Harley's bare ass (The title of this story, by the way, is "Bare-Assed and Belligerent"). One appears over what would have been her bikini area from the front, although given it is an extreme long-shot of her, I can't imagine there was any more detail than a v-shape where her legs met her hips, which is basically the same sort of Barbie doll nudity in any manga with a similar rating showing "nudity." One is where Lobo's penis would be. And, amusing, two of them are over the backside of Lobo's bulldog Dawg, so I'm assuming Bisley drew testicles on the dog, which couldn't be shown.

There is so much that is so weird about this, but what confounds me is that I have to imagine most of the nudity would actually be okay under that rating (maybe not Lobo's flaccid penis), and that DC's attempts to self-censor isn't even, like, funny, in the way that say, black bars, bars reading something like "Censored!" or the placement of, like, the Vertigo logo or something over the offending parts of the images might (I'm thinking here of that one scene early in the Mark Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye run where Clint jumps out of bed naked and into an action scene, and his crotch is covered with a big image of Silver Age Hawkeye's head).

I have to assume that not only would simply have changing the rating to M ("Appropriate for readers age 17 and older. May contain intense violence, extensive profanity, nudity, sexual themes and other content suitable only for older readers.") have been an easier fix (you only have to change a little of the fine print on the cover), it would have looked better, and not drawn attention to an aspect of the comic they were apparently trying to actively avoid.

As for that comic, it certainly plays to Bisley's strengths. His Harley is pretty great, only we only see her in her traditional garb on his variant cover and a few of the first pages, in which she accidentally releases and kills all the prisoners of an intergalactic bounty hunter.
His design for Lobo's spaceship is pretty fantastic. It's shaped a bit like an erect penis, with two giant round engines beneath a long, phallic ship, which terminates in a clenched fist, giant skulls where the knuckles would be, an an outstretched skeleton hand giving the finger as a hood ornament. His motorcycle is here basically a big angry face with a seat and engine attached.

The book is full of weird, scary, Bisley-looking aliens--humanoid and monstrous--and cartoonishly colorful rival bounty-hunters. It's really too bad that what it is most likely going to be remembered for is the clip-art cartoon flags covering up parts of a half-dozen or so of his panels. Hopefully Bisley's not too upset about it, or whatever arguments must have gone on behind-the-scenes, because I'd love to see him doing more interior work on comics and characters that compliment his strengths in the future for DC.

Jughead: The Hunger (Archie Comics) The fledgling, delay-plagued "Archie Horror" line returns for a one-shot with a pretty simple premise founded on basicall a single joke. You know how Jughead is always eating a lot, especially meat? What if it it was because...he was a werewolf?! And that's basically all this 41-page/$4.99 Frank Tieri and Michael Walsh comic is.

A serial killer nicknamed The Riverdale Ripper is ripping up Riverdale residents, with Ms. Grundy getting decapitated in an opening, three-page sequence. The Ripper is, as all of the covers reveal, really Jughead Jones, who is a werewolf. There's a back-story delivered in a sequence that covers a two-page spread, which basically amounts to an ancient Jones family curse...which the Cooper family has combated over the centuries, with Betty being the latest of the Cooper family werewolf-hunters (In fact, being friends with Archie, Jughead and the gang was only her cover for being nearby if and when he turned).

The shock value of the Riverdale gang in a straight-up horror narrative like this will likely have worn off, and I imagine after you watch, say, half an episode of the TV show Riverdale it will be hard to find the pairing of the innocent, all-American teens with anything subversive all that shocking any more. Unlike, say, Archie Vs. Predator, the artwork here is in the style of the new Riverdale line of comics, with Michael Walsh and Dee Cunniffe's coloring of Walsh's artwork aligning it visually with Afterlife With Archie. Unlike Afterlife..., however, the only "Mature Content" is the violence, as opposed to sex, incest and so on.

It is very well-made though, particularly on the visual side of things. Walsh draws great werewolves, in the Bernie Wrightson model (wolf heads, man-like torsos, "backwards" wolf legs). His Jugwolf has long, creepy arms, and his transformation sequences are particularly cool, with Walsh drawing the limbs particularly fluid, and Tieri and letter Morelli filling them with lots of cringey sound effects.

At this point, Archie Horror has certainly lost some punch as a genre, but that's the fault of the context, not this comic, which is a perfectly decent one-shot horror story with effective artwork. (Rich Tommaso's She Wolf is still the best werewolf comic you're going to find in the comic shop these days, though).

Justice League of America #3 (DC) Hey look,, it's Lobo again! I hope you don't buy this comic specifically for how gory Ivan Reis' cover featuring Lobo fighting Sabretooth Tracer is, as their battle inside the book is decidedly less bloody and brutal (although Lobo does put out his cigar in Tracer's eye).

Writer Steve Orlando continues his kinda head-scratching story of Batman's new earthbound, heroes-of-the-people Justice League battling The Extremists, DC's old team of extra-dimensional villains based on various, usually quite obvious Marvel villains, to liberate a fictional European country from them...even though it seems like their leader, Doctor Doom Lord Havok is taking that country and it's various fictional neighbors over more-or-less fair and square (also, the League is usually kind hands-off when it comes to international politics; this is about the time Superman and the other Justice League should show up to kick Batman's team out).

The idea here is that they are just there to even the odds, removing the super-people from the equation so that the people of the fake country can retake it for themselves. This is problematic, as Batman's no-killing policy doesn't really work in warzones, where regular human soldiers with guns are shooting at other regular human soldiers with guns.

This issue, drawn by pencil artist Diogenes Neves and inked by Ruy Jose and Marc Deering, is broken into mostly one-on-one confrontations between Leaguers and Extremists, with some (like Lobo and Black Canary) fighting their opponents, while others (like They Ray, and Killer Frost and The Atom) attempt to talk it out with theirs. The climax is pretty nonsensical. I had to read the penultimate page a few times to make sense of what exactly happened, but it ends with Batman holding a glowing red shield with the word "Liberty" and the face of Miss Liberty on it. I guess that post-Flashpoint, there was no Golden Age of superheroes, but there were superheroes in the late 18th century...?

Reggie And Me #4 (Archie) Reggie Mantle's machinations finally come to a climax and, man, his plan is so dumb! He steals Archie's phone, sends Midge a bunch of texts from it and essentially acts as a stalker, and then, through the phone, tells Midge to meet him (i.e. the mysterious stalker) under the bleachers at night (which she does, apparently unafraid of being raped or murdered or even just having an incredibly awkward conversation with a nutcase), he tells Archie to find his phone under the bleachers, he tells Moose that Midge's stalker will be under the bleachers and he calls and speaks to Mr. Weatherbee, telling him there will be a fight under the bleachers. They all show up at the appointed time, and while Reggie expects Moose to attack Archie and Weatherbee to expel them both from school, instead the obvious thing happens: They all just immediately sort things out. It was not a very good plan at all, Reggie!

There is a horribly dramatic, if nakedly manipulative, clliffhanger at the end though, one that has me really rather worried, as it would explain why there's a "To Be Concluded!" tag. I can't wait for the next issue, but only because I can't wait to be reassured that everything is going to be all right.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: March 22nd

Action #976 (DC Comics) Sigh...

Okay, so in last week's penultimate chapter of "Superman Reborn," it was revealed that somehow Superman and Lois Lane were divided into Superman-Red and Lois-Red (The New 52 Superman and Lois) and Superman-Blue and Lois-Blue (the pre-Flashpoint, post-Convergence Superman and Lois). During the course of the issue, Superboy fused them together to make one Superman and one Lois.

And in this final issue, he does it again, apparently to drag out what was already confusing enough even longer. I guess when Superboy redirected the Red energy at his parents, it knocked the Blue out of them, and so much of this issue repeats events from the last issue, as the Reds struggle against Mr. Mxzyptlk until Superboy meets two orbs of blue energy, and fuses them with the Reds.

The mysterious Mr. Oz narrates what supposedly happens over a two-page spread featuring scenes from the pre-Flashpoint continuity and a few panels set after Clark and Lois' wedding dealing with Jonathan. "This changes everything," Oz says. "A new, existence-wide, single reality built from two."

During my first reading, I interpreted this to mean that the two distinct continuities of pre-Flashpoint and post-Flashpoint Superman were being melded so that both somehow happened, in the same hand-waving way that so much of post-Flashpoint continuity was meant to have happened (i.e. the five years that happened since the debut of Superman and all those #1 issues published in fall of 2011, the secret, implied continuity that was so full of blanks, only some of which got filled in during the years that followed).

But according to this piece on Comics Alliance, the pre-Flashpoint Superman continuity has overwritten that of The New 52 Superman, which isn't what I got from the story, but since writer Kieran Shiach quotes from a Comics Alliance interview with writers Dan Jurgens and Peter J. Tomasi, I assume that is indeed the correct reading.

That's actually pretty problematic, not to mention exhausting, as it gives us a reboot of one big chunk of the continuity, but not the whole shebang. This is like "Brand New Day" to the Marvel Universe then, as opposed to Crisis on Infinite Earths. Superman's continuity is not only re-written, but that renders large swathes of the post-Flashpoint continuity into that weird-ass gray area where the stuff involving Superman and/or Lois Lane happened, just differently than in the comics we read (Take, for example, all of the Justice League comics). The solution to the perceived problem, and here is the exhausting part, is more reboots. Gah!

I can't get very far when it comes to thinking about how the events of "Superman Reborn" actually impact the larger DC continuity, but I'm certainly glad I quit reading Superwoman almost immediately (The Superwomen apparently got their power from Superman-Red's death, remember).

While this story arc finally solves the Two Supermen and Two Lois Lane problems, after so much page-space of the "Rebirth" era's Superman and Action Comics were devoted to that very subject, both Mr. Mxyzptlk and Mr. Oz refer to "Him" ominously throughout. The last three panels have the "camera" move from the Earth, to the moon, and then over the moon to settle on Mars. Who is "Him"...? J'onn J'onnz?! Wait, no; that's where Watchmen's Doctor Manhattan, set up as the heavy in DC Universe: Rebirth, settled, huh? Whatever's coming then is, um, still coming.

Regular Action writer Dan Jurgens wrote this chapter, while occasional Superman pencil artist Doug Mahnke and a trio of inkers provided the artwork. I can't say I'm pleased with the story at this point, but I am glad its over, and I do kinda hope we can just move on from this business and collectively forget that so much of the New 52 even happened, I guess.

Oh! Wait! Does this mean Martha Kent is still alive, or not? Because she was pre-Flashpoint, and she wasn't post-Flashpoint...? Also, this rather unfortunately means one of the best parts of the New 52, the first few story arcs of Grant Morrison's Action Comics, never really "happened"...farewell T shirt and jeans, Superman!

Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77 #3 (DC) After the bulk of two issues set in Batman's past (and the first season of the Wonder Woman TV show), this one is set in Batman's present (and therefore between the first and second season's of Wonder Woman). Batman and Robin convince Catwoman to be their "chaperone" as they journey to Paradise Island to warn its champion Wonder Woman that nefarious villains have their sites set on it. Those villains are Ra's al Ghul, his daughter Talia and some goons, who have come seeking a Lazarus Pit in the middle of a monster-filled maze on one the nearby islands.

While writers Jeff Parker and Marc Andreyko have a lot of fun with the Batman characters wandering around Paradise Island and, especially, Robin and Catwoman's reactions to what goes on all around them, the climax comes in their getting pencil artist David Hahn and inker Karl Kesel to draw Batman riding on a griffin. Really, that's what superhero comics are all about.

The griffin and a giant cyclops are the two monsters encountered, and are among the scenes in either the Batman '66 comics or the Wonder Woman '77 comics that would have been almost impossible to imagine happening on either show.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5 (IDW Productions) The highlight of this issue Matthew K. Manning, Jon Sommariva and Sean Parson's crossover series, teaming-up the characters from Batman: The Animated Series with those of the current Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon (i.e. the good one), is a two-page, 16-panel sequence that inserts Robin and Michaelangelo (in a home-made Bat-mask) into that fantastic opening sequence to Batman: The Animated Series.

There's some other fun bits to this concluding (?) issue, like Batgirl meeting Ice Cream Kitty, but it's pretty hard to top that sequence. My only real complaint here is that when The Mad Hatter, who turned out to be the very unlikely final boss of the series, comes face to face with a teenage mutant ninja turtle, he merely says, "Are you a large... a large turtle man?" and makes no reference at all to The Mock Turtle from Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

I have to admit to be pretty confused as to whether or not this actually is the last issue of the series or not. First, a five-issue miniseries is a really rather odd number for a comic book miniseries, and while this issue completely wraps up the conflict, ending with Batman, Robin and Batgirl scarfing pizza while posed atop a Gotham City skyscraper in their home universe, the epilogue features four-pages of The Scarecrow designing a new costume, the final panel showing us what he's come up with: The later costume with the noose around the neck he would adopt when the various Batman: The Animated Series characters all get redesigned. Then there's a little box reading "Not The End."

I would guess that means there are plans, or at least hopes, for a sequel to this series, in which the TMNT characters will meet the Batman: TAS redesigned characters, but then the next page is a full-page illustration saying "Next Month" and featuring The Kraang...and Batgirl in her redisigned costume and the Tim Drake version of Robin. So, I guess there is one more issue to go? Although, if that's the case, they probably shouldn't have had such a final feeling ending here, and used the word "epilogue"...

And what next? Will this be the last Batman/TMNT crossover...? I hope not, because we still haven't gotten what I most want out of such a crossover: To see a mess of old Mirage era artists drawing Batman, and a bunch of Batman artists drawing Ninja Turtles. I just so happen to have a great idea for a next, ultimate Batman/TMNT crossover, if anyone at IDW wants to get in touch with me. Sure, I've never written a comic book script I didn't draw and publish myself before, but I can do it, I swear!

Deathstroke #15 (DC) Okay, I have no idea what to make of this cover, which includes the tag "A Blind Assassin...", which is accurate, as Deathstroke is an assassin and he has lost his eyesight, albeit almost certainly temporarily, but goes on to say "...And His Hound of Death!", which, um, is not accurate. The only dog in this is apparently Power Girl's German shepherd, and he is not a hound of death, whatever the hell a hound of death is, exactly.

In this issue, still written by Priest (not Christopher Priest, just "Priest") and currently featuring art by Larry Hama (breakdowns), Carlo Pagulayan (pencils) and Jason Paz (inks), Power Girl and Dr. Villain examine Slade's eye-ball, while P.G. gives him a new and improved suit, and the pair of them go into action in order to stop a hit by Deadline, a fairly lame assassin whose main selling point was his Mister Miracle-style flying discs. He uses those to great effect here, and is lacking his dumb helmet, thus improving his design considerably.

In the final panel, Slade introduces himself as a new superhero, which was obviously pretty unexpected. I feel a little uncomfortable about him spending too much time around female teenage superheroines affiliated with the Titans, given his history, but I'm growing to like this new Power Girl; this is actually the longest I've read any story featuring her before.

Meanwhile, the various plotlines involving Slade's Shakespearean tragedy of a family continue. I really like this comic, although I've recently been told DC is going to raise the price of it by about 33%, which will mean I'll be dropping it soon, and I'm afraid that means a bunch of other people might too, and then it will get canceled.

Detective Comics #953 (DC) I'm a little reluctant to speak too harshly about this book, as I do like so many of the characters that appear in it (at least, I liked their pre-Flashpoint incarnations) and I do appreciate writer James Tynion IV's attempts to get the mangled-up versions of them in front of readers again, but there's no way around it: This comic is garbage.

In this issue, Cassandra Cain, who was Batgirl pre-Flashpoint and is Orphan post-Flashpoint, battles first Batman and then Lady Shiva, and both fights are very poorly choreographed and drawn. The previous Cassandra fought both characters in the pages of her own series, which DC has been re-collecting and re-publishing and I've been re-reading, and these fights are just terrible compared to every single fight scene in the Scott Peterson/Kelley Puckett/Damion Scott/Robert Campanella Batgirl.

Cassandra challenges Batman who wants to stop her from going after Lady Shiva. He says he refuses to fight her, but she fights him; so the "fight" is just Cassandra hitting him for a few pages, Batman not attempting to block or dodge, and Cassandra not attempting to evade or incapacitate him. In fact, her second move is some kind of claw strike aimed at his heart area, which somehow tears through all the armor this version of Batman wears and draws blood. Just go around him or KO him, Cass!

Then she confronts her mom Shiva, and this time Cass refuses to fight, so we get Shiva hitting her eight times before knocking her out and having her League of Shadows throw her into an open manhole. Artists Christian Duce and Fernando Blanco depict the majority of their fight by simply drawing their two figures on a white background, with no panels or borders, just a repetition of their figures, with Shiva striking Cass in unnatural ways that don't flow from one move to the next, each strike accompanied by a sound effect that Doug Moench never would have put in a kung fu fight ("Stomp"...? "Bump"...? What the hell, guys?).

Around the fights, the vague war of shadowy conspiracies continues, but I've actually officially lost the plot here. I think Shiva's groups, The League of Shadows, is/was a splinter group of Ra's al Ghul's League of Assassins; the former is in Gotham City to destroy it. They have stabbed and captured Batwing, Azrael and Batwoman. Batwoman's dad Jacob Kane had his own shadowy group, The Colony, stationed in Gotham to stop the Shadows, but Batman's team defeated them, and although there are apparently some still running around, they haven't gotten involved yet. On the final page, Ra's appears, presumably to ally himself with Batman. Guys, I am so sick of Ra's al Ghul! DC needs to start using him like they do The Joker; no more than one story every year or three.

Also, I thought the part where Clayface hands Cassandra the Collected Work of Shakespeare to comfort her as kind of funny, but only because the last time I read a comic book featuring her she couldn't yet read. I actually don't know if this Cass can or not. Oh, and oddly enough one of the groups of ninja assassins cuts Clayface into pieces and spreads him all over The Belfry. This happens off-panel, of course, saving Tynion from explaining how exactly you "kill" and/or hurt a shapeshifter made out of sentient clay he can control whether it is attached to his main mass or not with edged weapons.

I suppose this would have been slightly less infuriatingly poor had I not read the first 36-issues of Batgirl between reading Detective Comics #952 and this, but it's too late now!

Empowered and The Soldier of Love #2 (Dark Horse Comics) The Empowered one-shots Adam Warren occasionally writes between installments of Empowered always look and feel a little off, as they are in color rather than black-and-white, and most of Warren's characters tend to look really weird when not drawn by Warren himself (although, on the other hand, seeing a variety of non-Adam Warren artists draw those characters is also one of the most appealing aspects of the one-shots).

Well, this is different. Not only is this one-shot a miniseries, bu t artist Karla Diaz shares just enough of Warren's own sense of style and design that it looks Warren-esque without being Warren-ish, if that makes sense.

In this issue, we learn the origin of The Soldier of Love (well, if we speak Spanish we do, so I didn't catch the majority of it), while the only three capes not besotted by her powers--Empowered, Ninjette and Captain Rivet--continue to try and figure out what the hell is happening. The two title characters come face to face on the last pages.

Lumberjanes #36 (Boom Studios) The Lumberjanes defeat the sasquatches in the big roller derby match upon which this arc was built, despite the sasquatches decisive advantage in size, the death-traps accidentally activated around the track and Molly's lack of confidence of her skills. This would seem like a good place to end the arc then, right? After all, the conflicts introduced in the first chapter of the story have now all been resolved. But! There's a "To be continued" box in the very last panel of this issue, seemingly indicating that once again a Lumberjanes story arc is oddly paced, and likely to go on at least an issue longer than it needs to.

That aside, this was a pretty fun little story, and I really liked the way that the yetis decided to circumvent the conflict that the 'Janes had decided to try and resolve for them. Of course, I am fond of yetis, sasquatches and other cryptids, so am generally down with any comic book featuring such creatures, even if it does involve the boring sport of roller derby.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #24 (DC) Not only is it great to see Martian Manhunter wearing his classic costume once again, I kind of love the confident smirk he has on Dario Brizuela's cover. J'onn actually looks like he's having fun for once!

While he is the main guest-star in artist Brizuela and writer Sholly Fisch's story "Out Of This World," he is but one of the DCU alien heroes to appear. Someone posing as J'onn has taken to the airwaves to declare war on Earth, urging his fellow aliens to rise up and help him overthrow humanity. This has lead to shadowy government agency The Persons In Plaid to start rounding up aliens, so J'onn approaches Mystery, Inc. to help solve the mystery on behalf of himself and the handful of alien allies yet to be captured: Jemm, Son of Saturn; Starman (Mikaal version, though there's a fantastic panel in which he explains to Fred which of the many, many Starmen he actually is), Starfire and Ultra, The Multi-Alien.

So this is another of the title's occasional category team-ups, where Scooby and the gang meet a whole category of DCU characters within the confines of a single issue. The heroes pretty obviously have the eventually revealed villain over-powered, but the conflict is really nothing more than an excuse to introduce a bunch of DC's cool, under-utilized alien characters and bolt jokes onto them, some of which are pretty good, like that Starman bit, or the look on J'onn's face when Fred tells him his full name is Fred Jones and "we J'ones Boys have to stick together!"

Suicide Squad #14 (DC) So the peculiar format of this volume of Suicide Squad, in which one artist draws most of the issue as one story, and then another artist draws the rest of the issue as another story, has completely broken down. Here the two stories aren't just different chapters of the same story, or two concurrent events told from different points-of-view. Here, it's just a narrative mess, with the stories overlapping and covering the same ground in what appears to have been a pretty garbled, pretty transparent attempt to pull a 20-page script into different sections for two different artists, almost at random.

I don't know if writer Rob Williams is still writing to this particular format, or if he and/or his editors are trying to rearrange his scripts to fit it, but it feels more like the latter at this point. Hopefully they'll get the book figured out soon, because this doesn't work, and I can't imagine they'll keep trying it for too much longer, based on how much it doesn't work here.

In "Burning Down The House" Part 4, penciled by John Romita Jr., Rustam and his Burning World team have attacked Washington D.C., with new recruit Deadshot in tow (although he pretty clearly seems to be a double agent). Meanwhile, Harley discovers the body of Hack, and after trying to rouse her fellow Squad members with a speech, she goes after the Burning World solo, getting shot by Deadshot in the process.

That's followed immediately by "Live Free. Die.", penciled by Eddy Barrows. This focuses on what the various Squad members were doing and thinking while Harley was trying to convince them to join her. Captain Boomerang was drinking a lot, and trying to commit suicide by Killer Croc, while The Enchantress plays with a giant snake that doesn't look like it should be in a Louisiana swamp at all (Barrows draws Croc at vastly different sizes, depending on the panel). Then they belatedly join Harley in attacking The Burning World, although obviously that's a beat what would belong in the "main" story if these are really meant to be parallel stories for some reason, and then Amanda Waller shows up, not dead and, again, that's a pretty big deal for the main story, not just the back-up.

Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe: The Movie (IDW) This is a welcome but unexpected return to the weird, weird world of Tom Scioli's Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe comic, and here it's all Scioli, without Editor/co-writer John Barber. This is Scioli's adaptation of a movie (that, unfortunately, does not actually exist) based on his comic book series, Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe. Does that...does that make sense? This is the comic based on the movie based on the comic, even though the movie is imaginary.

It's very existence is, of course, fun and slightly crazy, but it doesn't stand up to the source material, despite sharing a creator. Scioli has hyper-condensed his epic, so this moves super-fast, but in so doing he's also streamlined the cast to the sort of tiny casts of a handful of heroes and villains that have appeared in the live-action Transformers and G.I. Joe movies, and, for the most part, he's been forced to excise all of the spectacularly awesome moments from his comic, as they would just lose their impact here.

I should note that while this issue is big, it's not that big. At only 21 story pages, if it were adapting a movie, it would necessarily be doing so by leaving a lot of that movie out, and while Scioli does have some filmic moments, there are several elements that don't feel cinematic in the least, like the section narrated by Snake Eyes, via letters to his sister.

So Scarlet is the latest recruit to join G.I. Joe. Hawk and Flag send her with Duke, Snake Eyes, Roadblock and Stalker (and a few other Joes without lines) to Cybertron, where they ally themselves with Optimus Prime and the Autobots to fight an alliance between Cobra and The Decepticons. She has a special bond with Optimus Prime, bordering on the romantic. At one point, she wakes up in a hospital, where Dr. Venom is caring for her, and he explains that the entire war is just a delusion, based on nostalgic memories of TV cartoons from the 1980s (this was one of the more phenomenal issues of the actual comics series, here boiled down into just a few panels). She quotes part of the Voltron transformation sequence and becomes the Headmaster to a decapitated Optimus, the late Chris Latta-voiced Cobra Commander and Starscream team-up, and Destro, Snake-Eyes and Cobra Commander are all unamasked in rapid succession.

It has its moments, but just a few, and far fewer than in any given issue of the series it is kind sorta spun out of, really.

It's accompanied by a lot of back matter, some of it rather weird. There's a portion of an interview ith the actress who pays Scarlett in the movie, a feature on the special effects, another featuring the actor playing Optimus (who isn't just voicing him, as in the Michael Bay movies, but is here a guy in an Optimus Prime costume), commentary by Scioli on the events of the comic, ten pages of Scioli's 2014 sketch version of the comic and three-pages of pin-ups.

Wonder Woman #19 (DC) Wonder Woman gets hugged out of her delusions by a minotaur, Greg Rucka again reminds us that bull-headed man-monsters aren't technically "minotaurs" if they are not from Minos, something confusing is still going on with the Amazons, Rucka still insists on writing about Sasha Bordeaux, Maru shoots Wonder Woman through the chest which may or may not kill her (I guess not) and Liam Sharp is still very good at drawing.

I know that sounds like a lot of stuff, but it doesn't read like a lot of stuff. Wonder Woman has rather Rucka-ishly entered this phase where nothing seems to happen in individual issues, but only in aggregate, making this a good candidate for trade-waiting...were it not for the unusual publishing schedule, which argues in favor of serial issue reading.

The art is excellent, but the writing mediocre. That's better than bad, of course, but still not as good as good. I don't know. I'm going to keep reading it, but I'm also going to keep wishing it were better than it is.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Marvel's June previews like 18 paragraphs about race and Iron Fist, which surely no one could possibly be sick of talking about yet

Apparently Marvel's Gwen Stacy variant covers did well enough that Marvel is going to go back to the well--Well, not that exact well, but a well right next to it. And so the comics they release in June will include variant covers featuring Mary-Jane Parker Watson playing the role of whatever hero whose name is on the book, often with her one-time husband Spider-Man in tow. The above example is from Avengers, and I chose it because it is drawn by Mike Allred, and I like the way that guy draws stuff.

What else in Marvel planning to release in June? Click here to find out, and/or just keep reading this post for a few of the things I found noteworthy...


From the mind of comes this retro futuristic B-Boy Zombie Thriller, fusing together the unlikeliest of genres with ease!
Masters Of The Sun mixes L.A. Gang culture, B-Boy-ism and Egyptology to tell the heroic tale of a Hip-Hop group from East L.A. who must battle an ancient, alien God sent to earth to continue a Black Curse which turns drug dealers and gangsters into zombies. With a deep love of the Hip-Hop culture, Zulu-X and his crew go head-to-head with a nefarious ancient order that has infiltrated the inner cities to settle an ancient score. What happens next can only be described as the perfect blend of action, ancient wisdom and street-smarts all rolled into one epic adventure. Boasting one of the most eclectic ensemble cast of characters, Masters of The Sun delivers a powerful social allegory in the form of a new movement… #stayWOKE!!!
120 PGS./Parental Advisory …$24.99
ISBN: 978-1-302-91084-6

There's a lot about this that gives me pause, from the fact that I'm not terribly familiar with the Black Eyed Peas to all the punctuation in the title to the eye-rolling hashtag at the end of the text. That said, it is penciled by artist Damion Scott, whose Batgirl run I've just re-devoured in the last month or so, and he's one of those artists whose work I'll always at least check out.

• As Steve Rogers enacts his grand vision for a new Hydra world order, he is forced to confront an old friend. But will Namor, the Sub-Mariner, prove to be ally or deadly enemy?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

So here's a neat thing about superhero comics. The plot synopsis above says that Captain America Steve Rogers is taking over the world, and his old war buddy Namor, The Sub-Mariner is going to confront him. It was just a few years ago that the shoe was on the other winged foot, however, and Captain America was confronting Namor, who with a quartet of X-people had come into possession of the Phoenix Force and took over the world. In the superhero game, this is the kind of conversation you get to have from both sides at some point in your career.

Charles Soule (W) • GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOLI (A)
The most fearsome villain of all time returns with an all-new series! When Anakin Skywalker fell, both to the pull of the dark side and to the blade of Obi-Wan Kenobi, he rose back up, more machine than man. Having lost everything that was once dear to him, the former chosen one must take his first steps into a darker world…as Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith! Join Vader as he learns a new way — the way of Darth Sidious and his newly formed Empire…the way of the dark side.
ISSUE #1 – 48 PGS./Rated T …$4.99
ISSUE #2 – 32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99
Star Wars © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved. Used under authorization. Text and illustrations for Star Wars are © 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Oh. So Marvel is relaunching the Darth Vader book they recently canceled, presumably in order to make way for a Doctor Aphra book. But this volume of Darth Vader is seemingly set long before the previous, first volume of Darth Vader (this series sounds like it will be set between Revenge of The Sith and A New Hope, closer to the former than the latter, whereas the previous one was set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back).

That first volume of Marvel-published Darth Vader lasted 25 issues, producing four collections, labeled Darth Vader Vols. 1-4. So at some point in the near future, maybe about two years or so, there will be two Darth Vader Vols. 1, two Vols. 2, and so on, with the ones that were published first being set after the ones that were published second.

That sounds about right.

Daredevil! Luke Cage! Jessica Jones! Iron Fist! Individually, these four heroes have been on the front lines of the battle to keep the streets of the city safe and secure! But now, with a deadly enemy from the dim past making a major move to unite the underworld, they will need to become more — they will need to become DEFENDERS! Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez unite to bring you the next great super-team, in the tradition of NEW AVENGERS!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Hooray, a new Defenders series! That's...Oh, wait, it's those Defenders. The Netflix ones, not the real ones. And Brian Michael Bendis is writing them. That sucks.

I've probably mentioned this to you guys before, but in the wake of the various Netflix series, if I were in charge of such things at Marvel, I'd launch a new Defenders series consisting of the four big guns of the original team--Doctor Strange, The Hulk, Silver Surfer and Namor--with the four street-level, Marvel Knights-style team appearing in the series above.

Actually, I suppose it would end up being more of a Doctor Strange and the Netflix guys, with guest-appearances from the other three, as Strange and those guys are all based in NYC, while Namor, Hulk and The Surfer are pretty remote, and would have pretty long commutes to get to many of their adventures. And The Hulks are kind of a mess right now, I guess, with Bruce Banner dead, She-Hulk gray and angsty and "Totally Awesome" Hulk Amadeus Cho on The Champions. Hey, two of those things happened because of the events of the Bendis-written Civil War II...!

I just read that, by the way, and am currently trying to work up the strength to write about it. The one good part of it? David Marquez's artwork, and he's the guy drawing this book. Well, there were a lot of weak parts to the visuals of Civil War II (mainly every action scene), but Marquez draws good faces emoting, and I'm assuming that's what 95% of this comic will consist of.

• Sir Isaac Newton, Sorcerer Supreme of his day, has mastered an ancient, evil magic and has gone power-mad.
• It’s up to the Sorcerers Supreme to stop him from sending the world – and all of their own individual timelines – into chaos.
• Unfortunately, even with the Avengers on their side, it seems like they are still no match for Newton.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Try distracting him by hitting him on the head with an apple!

EDGE of VENOM-VERSE starts here!
The series that sets up the epic VENOM EVENT of 2017 STARTS HERE! Each issue introduces another major Venomized character that will feed into VENOMVERSE itself! THIS ISSUE, the young mutant clone designated X-23 collides with a cryogenic tube containing a strange alien symbiote during her frenzied escape from The Facility, . Bonding with the alien enhances her already considerable abilities, and aids in her escape, but it begins to alter her mind! On the run from the very people that made her, can X-23 hold it together or is she doomed to give in to Venom!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

That's...actually a pretty good idea for a series, really.

Any thoughts on who The Venom with all the little extra heads is supposed to be, presuming all the Venoms on that cover are Venomized Marvel heroes, and not just Elseworlds What If...? Venoms...?

Bobby Drake has been in the super hero game longer than most. But while reflecting on what he’s accomplished over the years, he realizes that the legacy he’s built is a few good one-liners and a string of failed relationships. Not only that, but now a younger version of himself has emerged from the timestream and he’s more put together than Bobby ever was: already a world-class hero in his own right, but also totally comfortable in his own skin, complete with a relationship with a handsome Inhuman to boot. In this new ongoing series penned by Sina Grace (Burn the Orphanage, Self-Obsessed) and drawn by Alessandro Vitti (SECRET WARRIORS), Bobby realizes that the time is never or now, and sets out to build a life and legacy he can be proud of…and be the best ICEMAN he can be!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I wonder if this will end up lasting any longer than any other non-Wolverine solo X-Men titles do...? In theory, Iceman should work perfectly well as a solo star, but for some reason the X-Men's team affiliation seems to sour their attempts at ongoings.

You know, I really hate that costume he's wearing these days. I think I like his Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends look the best...

• Desperate to find any information that will help her stave off possession by
the Phoenix, Jean Grey ventures to Atlantis to entreat its surliest former host: NAMOR, THE SUB-MARINER!
• But Namor has his own fish to fry…
• And when Jean is swept up in the Sea King’s madness, will she find herself in over her head?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Hey, it's Namor again! It looks like he'll be having a pretty good June...

They’re making their dreams come true — and they’ll do the same for you! It’s all your favorite Muppets, in pint-sized antics from their youth! There’ll be adventure! Romance! Great jokes! And more! Like the ghostly tale of the haunted nursery! The fable of Kermit and the Beanstalk! And the quest for the Idol of Doom! The Muppet Babies will be lost in time and lost in space, they’ll caper in Story Land and they’ll take flight as super heroes! They’ll even end up in a comic book! And your favorite fantasy-loving frog will step into the shoes of some of fiction’s greatest heroes! Plus: Relive the Muppet Babies’ first appearance in an amazing adaptation of The Muppets Take Manhattan! Collecting MUPPET BABIES #1-26 and MARVEL SUPER SPECIAL #32.
680 PGS./All Ages …$75.00
ISBN: 978-1-302-90825-6
Trim size: oversized

So this is the single book I was most shocked to find in this round of solicits...even when the Black Eyed Peas graphic novel is taken into account.

That is a very big, every expensive book.

Cover by Dan Mora
• As Richard Rider struggles to come to terms with the revelations from his return to the Cancerverse, Sam Alexander struggles with homework, his family and (gulp) dating!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

For an entire split-second, I thought that said "the Canadaverse" rather than "the Cancerverse," and it seemed a lot more interesting.

Written by KATE LETH
Hellcat has had nothing but bad luck ever since the Black Cat crossed her path. And now that Felicia’s got a whole girl gang in her claws, how can Patsy possibly win this cat fight?! Find out in the big showdown — gato a gato! Then, Patsy will be laid low by sickness — but this is far from a common cold! Is she having fever dreams or living nightmares? As chaos breaks out all over Brooklyn, Hellcat must rely on her nearest and dearest to put out the fires — and make soup! All she wants is to get better and hang out with Jubilee at the mall: swing by the food court, catch a movie, share a fashion montage. Certainly there’d be no fighting villains. What would a villain possibly be doing at the mall? Uh-oh! Collecting PATSY WALKER, A.K.A. HELLCAT! #13-17.
112 PGS./Rated T …$15.99
ISBN: 978-1-302-90662-7

Ah-ha-ha! "Careless Whiskers"...! This book is a delight.

This is the "villain variant" of Secret Empire, which reveals that...Baron Zemo got a new hood? I like it!


Doug Moench is joined by Gene and his brothers Day — Dan and David — to rise and advance Shang-Chi to this final Omnibus collection! Demons from Shang-Chi’s past return: Razor-Fist, Pavane, the Cat, Zaran and even the Master of Kung Fu’s father, the devil doctor Fu Manchu! It all builds to the ultimate battle between father and son, stoked by years of conflict. The stakes are final, and Moench’s story and Gene Day’s shadow-drenched artwork make every moment stunning. The saga also introduces new enemies: Dark Angel, Death-Dealer, Argus, Shadow-Hand — and possibly Shang-Chi’s own mother! These iconic Marvel masterpieces have never been reprinted before, so don’t miss your chance to experience the Master of Kung Fu! Collecting MASTER OF KUNG FU (1974) #102-125, MASTER OF KUNG FU: BLEEDING BLACK and material from MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS (1988) #1-8.
784 PGS./Rated T+ …$125.00
ISBN: 978-1-302-90132-5
Trim size: oversized

Is Shang-Chi the most prominent Marvel Comics character of Asian descent?

The reason I ask is, like many of my peers, I have been thinking a lot about Asian and Asian-American representation among Marvel's superhero characters a lot of late, due to the conversation prompted by the Netflix adaptation of Roy Thomas and Gil Kane's Iron Fist character.

As a straight white man, I realize I'm not always terribly attuned to issues like representation in superhero comics and/or TV and film adaptations of them, having never been starved for characters who look like me, but I must admit that I've been pretty perplexed about elements of the conversation swirling around the Iron Fist character, in particular the demands that Marvel should have cast an Asian-American actor to play him in the Netflix series.

If I had to guess, I suspect some of that reaction is rooted not simply in the character, whose specific superpower can basically be reduced to "being really good at kung-fu," but in the timing. As pointed out by Abraham Riesman, Iron Fist is just the latest in a string of superheroes going back a dozen years now who at one point or another travels to the East to have a transformative experience and learn either wisdom and/or an ancient art from an Asian master: Batman, Iron Man, Doctor Strange. That, and the fact that "The Marvel Cinematic Universe" is now about ten years old, mean that it is probably high-time that some Asian faces started showing up in these damn things (In the official MCU films, who would be considered the most prominent Asian or Asian-American character? Hogun The Grim from the Thor movies? The doctor who treats Hawkeye's wounds in Age of Ultron? The scientist who helped straight, white male billionaire Tony Stark turn his life around in the first Iron Man film? Or on TV, would it be Daredevil season 2's Elektra, played by an actress of French and Cambodian descent?)

That and, I would further guess, the fact that Iron Fist doesn't seem to be terribly well-received (I've only seen the first episode so far, but it seemed fine to me; it was really no worse than the first episodes of Jessica Jones or Luke Cage, and not much worse than the first episode of the first season of Daredevil. It does suffer a bit from being the fourth of these things, though, and thus the audience is less forgiving of the fact that it's no worse than the three previous ones).

Based on my Twitter feed and my conversations with the one friend of mine who talks to me about such things in real life, I am surely in the minority here, but I think it would be worse if Danny Rand were an Asian-American character. While there is a degree of off-putting cultural appropriation to the character's origins--American finds Asian fantasy land, comes back with the powers and wisdom of the Orient to fight Occidental evil like a pulp adventure hero from the 1920s and '30s--I don't think "The Asian Guy Knows Martial Arts" is any better, really.

To make the MCU's only superhero of Asian descent be the one who knows kung-fu, whose "powers" are, in fact, just kung fu, seems more offensively retrograde to me (again, not that I'm the best judge of such things*) than keeping Danny Rand white (Looking just at the Netflix series, it would have made more sense to make Jessica Jones or Daredevil Asian-American than Danny Rand...although I guess Daredevil also mastered Asian martial arts, although he picked them up from another white guy who mastered them, rather than from a master in some Asian fantasy land). It would have made more sense still to just not make an Iron Fist show in 2017, and I'm assuming the only reason they even considered making an Iron Fist movie was because of Danny's friendship with Luke Cage in the comics, although in that case maybe they would have been better served by using Iron Fist as a character in a future season of Luke Cage, in the same way that Marvel heroes like Elektra, Hellcat, The Punisher and Misty Knight surfaced as secondary characters in shows named after and starring other heroes.)

Of course, whether a European-American Danny Rand or an Asian-American Danny Rand is worse is besides the point when it comes to representation of characters of Asian descent in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The point, if I understand it correctly, is that maybe it's time to get some Asian characters on screen? (It took Marvel excrutiatingly long to get female and black characters on screen in the official MCU films too, of course, and they're just now ramping up to make movies starring female and black characters).

And here we run into a bit of a problem, as Marvel's "field" of Asian-American or Asian characters isn't all that deep, which is why I asked about Shang-Chi a couple of paragraphs ago. Eliminating the X-Men, since Sony has the film rights to those characters, we lose Jubilee, who I think is probably Marvel's most prominent, certainly most visible and well-known Asian-American character (This has been a problem for the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general; while not having the X-Men--or Spider-Man or The Fantastic Four--to lean on has more-or-less forced them to focus on the comic book universe's second-tier of characters, it also sucked most of the diversity out of their stable of characters. I mean, the first half-dozen or so female Marvel heroes not derived from a male counterpart that I could think of to star in movies are all X-Men characters.) (No X-Men characters also gets rid of Sunfire, Lady Deathstrike, The Silver Samurai, Armor, one version of Xorn and probably another dozen I can't think of at the moment, not that it's easy to imagine many or any of those guys starring in their own film, anyway.)

And then, after Jubes? Is it Shang-Chi? Now, Marvel could have done a Shang-Chi series instead of an Iron Fist one for Netflix, although there are some problems, including his origin (he was originally the son of Sax Rohmer's pulp fiction villain Dr. Fu Manchu, and it's been fun watching various writers and editors deal with that over the decades at Marvel, as more often than not they can't actually use Fu Manchu anymore), the fact that he is basically just a martial arts film character deposited into the Marvel Universe (a 2010 movie or TV show starring Shang-Chi would have thus been dumb in the same way I think a Black Widow film would have been back then; now, however, the Cinematic Universe is established and developed enough that the setting could help power any such film and differentiate it from Generic Martial Arts Movie...or, in Black Widow's case, Generic Spy Movie) and, of course, that he would be The Asian Guy Who Knows Martial Arts. And that latter one is maybe not the way to go with your first and only Asian superhero, you know?

(Interestingly, during Secret Wars, Marvel basically combined the character of Shang-Chi with the world of Iron Fist in the miniseries Master of Kung-Fu, and blending those two characters into one would certainly have been a way to jettison Shang-Chi's Fu Manchu connection and eliminate the cultural appropriation element of Iron Fist while keeping the secret mystical city and a guy who has a fist like unto a thing unto iron aspect. That's a Secret Wars tie-in I've yet to read, but I imagine it could have provided a decent road map for how Marvel/Netflix could have made an Asian or Asian-American Iron Fist show...although, honestly, I have to imagine they were caught off guard by the negative reaction to the casting of the lead in Iron Fist.)

So if Shang-Chi and Jubilee aren't likely to star in Netflix TV series or Marvel movies any time soon, which Asian heroes?

Currently, Amadeus Cho is the highest-profile character of Asian descent in the Marvel Comics Universe, unless you want to count Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel. With Bruce Banner dead, Amadeus Cho is currently The Hulk (appearing in The Totally Awesome Hulk), although if and when he appears in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems more likely to be as Hercules' sidekick than as a Hulk, since they've already got a Hulk in the Avengers, and Marvel Studios doesn't seem overly keen to make more Hulk movies (And Cho can get in line behind She-Hulk if they do, anyway!). Fun fact? His mom is in Avengers: Age of Ultron; she's the doctor who treats Hawkeye!

And then we have Jimmy Woo. Created by Al Feldstein and Joe Maneely in 1956 for short-lived espionage series Yellow Claw, secret agent Jimmy Woo was folded into Marvel Comics' SHIELD stories in the late 1960s, and headed up SHIELD'S Godzilla-hunting efforts when the publisher briefly held the rights to publish Godzilla comics in the 1970s. Writer Jeff Parker rather completely reinvented Woo for the various Agents of Atlas comics, in which Woo lead a group of Atlas-era heroes to battle The Yellow Claw, transformed from the generic yellow peril villain in various interesting ways.

Parker actually did a lot of great, subversive things regarding the traditional depiction of Asian villains in Western pop culture, and Woo's portrayal became something akin to an early-90s Chow Yun Fat playing James Bond in Hong Kong action flicks. He also lead a team of 1950s era sci-fi/action-adventure stereotypes: A killer robot, a gorilla and an emotionless alien, plus a pair of lady superheroes in the form of a female version of Namor and a love-powered superheroine.

So, after Jubes and Shang-Chi, I'm gonna have to guess that Woo is Marvel's most prominent Asian or Asian-American character, the one best-suited to appear in a movie or TV show that wouldn't be offensive and might actually be totally awesome...? (Of course, I'm not real great at predicting what Marvel Studios will do).

Of course, they could always just cast Asian-American actors to play heroes who were white in the comics, as so many people have been suggesting they should have done with Iron Fist. But man, Marvel's starting to run out of characters, aren't they? I mean, there's really no reason Iron Man or Hawkeye or Star-Lord or Ant-Man or Captain Marvel couldn't have been played by actors of Asian descent. Of the films I've heard mentioned as being in some level of development, I think Runaways promises Marvel's first Asian-American hero, in Niko Minoru. But we'll see.

So, in conclusion, Marvel Studios should probably just make an Agents of Atlas movie ASAP, is the point I'm getting at here.

Spider-Man and his amazing friends!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Oh hey, it's Goldballs! He outlived Bendis' run on the X-books after all! And...some other person! I feel like I should recognize that other person, but I'm coming up blank; who is she?

A hero returns — and an epic saga begins! Dan Jurgens ushers in one of the greatest eras of Thor — and it begins with blockbuster art by John Romita Jr.! The Thunder God walks the Earth once more, but his new lease on life comes with new enemies — and a new mortal alter ego! Will Thor’s comeback be cut short by Dark Gods, the Destroyer and Doctor Doom? Then, on the Eighth Day, the unstoppable Juggernaut will be just the beginning for Thor, Iron Man and Spider-Man! The heavy hitters keep on coming — like Mangog and Thanos! But if Thor is busy saving Midgard, who’s protecting Asgard? Collecting THOR (1998) #1-35 and ROUGH CUT, SILVER SURFER/THOR ANNUAL 1998, THOR ANNUAL 1999-2000, PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN (1999) #2 and #11, IRON MAN (1998) #21 (B STORY) and #22, and JUGGERNAUT: THE EIGHTH DAY.
1,232 PGS./Rated T+ …$125.00
ISBN: 978-1-302-90813-3
Trim size: oversized

Are these the first Thor comics to follow Marvel's weird experiment in letting Image do a handful of their heroes under the "Heroes Reborn" banner...?

I was actually thinking about "Heroes Reborn" a lot while reading the recent Superman story arc, "Superman Reborn." Specifically, I was wondering if it would be possible for DC to do something similar to what Marvel did, essentially declaring the New 52 period their "Reborn" era and then just resuming their previous continuity with a "Return" era, but I suppose it's gone on too long now, and there were too many good comics published along with all the chaff of the last five years to make that anything approaching feasible.

That said, I don't understand "Superman Reborn" and its ramifications for the DCU continuity at all.

Hey look, it's Ares! On the cover of USAvengers! And he's...not ripped in half anymore...? Neat! I don't remember seeing him anywhere since The Sentry killed (or is that "killed"...?) him during Siege; is this the first time he's reappeared since then...?

THE WEAPON X PROGRAM IS BACK! Their goal is a simple one…ERADICATE ALL MUTANTS! And they’re starting their hunt with the most dangerous group of mutants on planet Earth — Old Man Logan, Sabretooth, Domino, Lady Deathstrike, Warpath and…the Hulk?! But with an army of genetic cyborgs at their disposal, this may just be the beginning…
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$4.99

The Hulk with Wolverine claws! Has no one thought of this before...? Why has no one thought of this before? It seems so obvious!

*And I do find somewhat persuasive the argument that any hero of Asian descent, even a lame, potentially offensive one, is perhaps better than no heroes of Asian descent at all. Like, DC's Manitou Raven character, a Native American super-shaman of sorts, is head-slapping to a certain degree, but, at the same time, he was a Native American superhero on the Justice League, and he wasn't named "Apache Chief."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

DC's June previews reviewed

Remember a while back, when DC did a month's worth of variant covers depicting their superheroes interacting with Looney Tunes characters? Some of those covers were awesome, some were terrible, but one thought I had repeatedly while looking at them was that I wished the contents of the comics, rather than just the covers, featured crossovers, which, awesome or terrible (or even just good or bad, or mediocre) would have at least been interesting (My other thought was to remember the old Superman/Bugs Bunny crossover comic, with I read the first three-fourths of without finishing).

Well, guess what? Now DC is doing actual Looney Tunes crossovers (and collecting that Superman/Bugs Bunny crossover!) and, oh boy, do they look weird! There is precious little to go on here, just titles, cover images and a sentence or two of solicitation text, but based on that precious little, these seem to be at least partially inspired by the publisher's Hanna-Barbereboot, and the upcoming DC/HB crossover books they have on deck, as the various Looney Tunes characters all seem designed in the direction of the DC characters, rather than vice versa (or meeting in the middle, or staying true to their own designs and making the design clash a feature, as in the Superman/Bugs Bunny crossover).

The particular characters chosen are kind of unusual too, as you'll see in a moment, with relatively popular Looney Tunes characters like Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Sylvester and Tweety MIA, and a few relatively obscure DC heroes incapable of carrying their own books anymore, like Jonah Hex and The Legion of Super-Heroes (and maybe Lobo) present, instead of, I don't know, Harley Quinn, Green Lantern or The Flash (I guess they already did The Flash-races-Speedy Gonzales and The Road Runner gag though).

I see the books will all be rated "T for Teen," which is in keeping with most DC super-comics, but which seems unusual for a comic featuring Looney Tunes characters; another suggestion that the books owe more to Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits and Scooby Apocalypse than to Scooby-Doo Team-Up).

Finally, each of the solicits ends with mention of "a Looney Tunes backup story" that "features DC characters," whatever that will mean.

The creators of the lead stories mostly seem to be whoever DC had laying around, like, maybe the editors just looked at their inboxes and doled out assignments to every fifth name or so, and there's only one that I am genuinely super-excited about based on the characters, the story suggested by their pairing and the creators, but, to be honest, I can't wait to see all of them as, if nothing else, they should prove to be really, really weird, maybe about as weird as the Big Two can get outside of The Flintstones reboot or having Tom Scioli do the Justice League in Cave Carson back-ups....

Anyway, let's start this month's look at DC's solicitations for comics to be published three months hence with the Looney Tunes crossovers, and then go from there...

Written by TOM KING • Art and cover by LEE WEEKS • Backup story art by BYRON VAUGHNS
After a chance meeting with billionaire Bruce Wayne, Elmer Fudd’s obsession quickly escalates into stalking Batman through the dark alleys and high-class social settings of Gotham City. Welcome to Bat Season! And the bonus Looney Tunes backup story features DC characters written by Tom King and artwork by Byron Vaughns.
On sale JUNE 28 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

I don't even know. Weeks' cover is stylized enough that we don't get to see either of the characters beyond vague suggestions of how they might look, but that fact alone lets us know this will apparently be much more of a Batman comic than an Elmer Fudd one. Fudd, by the way, is one of the oddest choices here, as he's not exactly a top-tier Tune, but rather an antagonist to the likes of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Which I guess puts Batman in the Bugs Bunny role? See what I mean? These are weird. Notably, King is the regular writer of Batman, so who knows, perhaps this will be a canonical encounter.

Art and cover by MARK TEXEIRA
Backup story written by BILL MATHENY
Backup story art by DAVE ALVAREZ
When miner Yosemite Sam strikes it rich, word gets out as everyone comes gunning for his wealth! To protect himself and his new riches, he hires bounty hunter Jonah Hex-—but the man protecting him may be his worst nightmare! And the bonus Looney Tunes backup story features DC characters written by Bill Matheny and artwork by Dave Alvarez.
On sale JUNE 28 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

This one is unusual in that neither character is a particularly popular one--Sam is about at Fudd's level, while Hex's books have generally sold at cancellation level since DC kept publishing Palmiotti and/or Justin Gray-written Hex comics. It's also unusual in just how compatible the characters are, both coming from a similar milieu...and both boasting similar fashion sense.

I'm curious who the giant bird is. His size makes me think Foghorn Leghorn, but I suppose he could also be a radically redesigned Beaky Buzzard.

Backup story written by JUAN ORTIZ
Backup story art by JUAN ORTIZ
The Legion of Super-Heroes always thought they had taken their inspiration from the 21st Century’s Superboy. But when they try to bring that hero into their future time, the team discovers to their surprise the caped champion isn’t who—or even what—they expected! And the bonus Looney Tunes backup story features DC characters with story and art by Juan Ortiz!
On sale JUNE 14 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Bugs looks really fucking weird here, although I like the idea that it wasn't really Superboy/Superman who inspired the Legion, but Super-Rabbit. Reality warps details as real people become legends, particularly when time is measured by centuries; is it really so hard to imagine that a Super-Rabbit could become a super-human over a millennium...?

I really hate the Super-Rabbit redesign, though!

Art and cover by KELLEY JONES
Backup story art by BILL MORRISON
Wile E. Coyote travels to the far reaches of space to hire Lobo to hunt down and kill his greatest nemesis of all time, the Road Runner. And when the Coyote and Lobo are
after him, the Road Runner knows if they catch him—he’s through. And the bonus Looney Tunes backup story features DC characters with story and art by Bill Morrison!
On sale JUNE 21 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

This is the one I'm most looking forward, to. As you probably guessed. Not only do I love Kelley Jones' work, but the story suggests itself from the mere juxtaposition of the characters' names, and Bill Morrison is one of the back-up artists' whose name I recognize immediately. Lobo, like other bounty-hunter and assassin types, fits easily into the antagonist role of the basic Looney Tunes formula generally occupied by hunters and predators, and Jones' stylized art ought to look every bit as weird as applied to Lobo as it would the cartoon characters.

Backup story written by JIM FANNING
Backup story art by JOHN LOTER
Martian Manhunter tries to halt Marvin the Martian’s determination for world domination. J’onn is conflicted with his own Martian identity as he attempts to stop the hapless, determined Marvin from blowing Earth to bits in order to gain a clear view of Venus. And the bonus Looney Tunes backup story features DC characters written by Jim Fanning with art by John Loter!
On sale JUNE 14 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Yeah, that one looks about perfect, doesn't it? Not crazy about J'onn's dumb-ass costume there, but I suppose he's worn worse.

Written by TONY BEDARD
Backup story art by BEN CALDWELL
Cover by JIM LEE
Not since the twelve labors of Hercules has a Greek warrior faced as great a danger and as destructive a peril as the Tasmanian Devil! And the bonus Looney Tunes backup story features DC characters with story by Tony Bedard and art by Ben Caldwell!
On sale JUNE 21 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Yikes. That particular image comes courtesy of Jim Lee, who was also responsible for the Scooby Apocalypse redesigns, which were terrible. Unlike some of the others, this one doesn't really suggest a storyline, so it will be interesting to see what Bedard comes up with. Personally, I would like it to include a lengthy scene in which the DC superhero named Tasmanian Devil confronts Taz and complains about how his entire career he has had to put up with stupid questions about why he doesn't spin around like a tornado and so on.

That, or a Captain Boomerang appearance.

In these stories that immediately followed BATMAN: YEAR ONE, the Caped Crusader learns what kind of compromises he must make to be the hero that Gotham City truly needs. As he battles against the deadly Reaper, the city’s first vigilante hero, Batman must work with the man who murdered his parents and a cadre of mob bosses to protect Gotham City. Collects DETECTIVE COMICS #575-584 and BATMAN #413-420.
On sale JULY 5 • 440 pg, FC, $49.99 US

Huh. This is an interesting collection. Detective Comics #575-578 are "Batman: Year Two," the Todd McFarlane-penciled sequel to "Batman: Year One" that used to be a big enough deal to deserve a trade of its own, but is now just sandwiched in with a bunch of other business and, in fact, its not even McFarlane who gets the cover, but Mike Mignola, who drew that cover for 'Tec #584. As for the rest of those issues from Detective, Norm Breyfogle drew #579 (featuring The Crime Doctor), Jim Baikie drew a Two-Face story in #580 and #581 and then there are three more issues penciled by Breyfogle.

Over in Batman, you've got Aparo-drawn comics mostly written by Starlin, the climax of which comes in the form of the four-part "Ten Nights of The Beast" story arc, introducing the KGBeast.

If you had $50 to spend and the patience to look for them, I'm fairly confident that you could find all of these comics and still have a decent chunk of that $50 in your pocket, but there are certainly worse ways to spend your money than on 400+ pages of classic late 1980s Batman comics from some of the very best Batman artists of all time.

Holy shit. That is some cover.

Written by LEE ALLRED
Art and cover by MICHAEL ALLRED
Backup story written by and art by JAMES HARVEY
Bug’s tumble through dimensions ends up taking him back in time, to the start of General Electric’s mad scheme. In the remote Himalayas, the mad scientist leads his robot army in search of a precious magical metal. Sandman, Sandy, Blue Beetle and the Losers are already out in the snow looking to stop him, but only Bug knows that the fate of the multiverse hangs in the balance. Plus, we begin a new backup feature by James Harvey (Masterplasty, We Are Robin).
On sale JUNE 7 • 32 pg, FC, 2 of 6 • $3.99 US • MATURE READERS

Team Allred doing Kirby? That sounds exciting enough but man, check out the other obscure heroes appearing in this issue: The original Sandman (during his post-gas mask phase), the original Blue Beetle and The Losers? I imagine this is going to be either continuity-lite or set in the pre-Flashpoint DCU, but I'm not entirely certain. The other Young Animal books all seem to fit loosely into the pre-Flashpoint DCU, and Mother Panic seems to fit into DCU continuity before or after Flashpoint, but I honestly haven't thought too deeply about it. Cave Carson is the only one I've stuck with, and I'm actually an issue behind on that.

Speaking of which...

Written by JON RIVERA
Art and cover by MICHAEL AVON OEMING
Backup story written by MARK RUSSELL
Backup story art by BRANDON BIRD
Team Carson continues in hot pursuit of Cave’s cybernetic eye, which has its sights set on the emotionally draining and life-sucking Whisperer and its cult. But just where are they going? Or better yet, when?
On sale JUNE 21 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US• MATURE READERS

Hey, back up by Brandon Bird...? Where's Tom Scioli's Super Powers feature? It can't possibly be over already, can it? Is it taking a month off? Did DC decide to move it to an original graphic novel or something? I need to know, as I've been reading CCHaCE mainly for the back-up.

DARKNESS COMES TO THE DC UNIVERSE WITH THE MYSTERY OF THE FORGE! Aquaman, The Flash and more of DC’s pantheon of heroes suspect Batman of hiding a dark secret that could threaten the very existence of the multiverse! It’s an epic that will span generations—but how does it connect to the origins of one of DC’s most legendary heroes?
The great comics event of summer 2017 is about to begin courtesy of superstar writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV and illustrated by a master class of comics artists: Andy Kubert, Jim Lee and John Romita Jr.! You do not want to miss this one!
ONE-SHOT • On sale JUNE 14 • 40 pg, FC, card-stock covers, $4.99 US • RATED T

Oh good, finally DC is going to do a dark comic book featuring their characters.

I think the creators have done some press on this, or DC has issued some press releases, but all I've seen about it is what you see above. I like all the creators, and it's interesting that DC is enlisting creators who are both popular and talented instead of just having Geoff Johns and Jim Lee or whoever do it (not that those guys aren't talented, but I don't think Johns has ever written anything as good as some of Snyder's better work, for example).

I can't guess from what is above whether or not this is the Watchmen vs. The DCU event that DC has been teasing for so long now (there's a hard tease in this week's super-confusified conclusion to "Superman Reborn," by the way). Part of me hopes that it is not; as much as I'd like DC to rip that bandage off and just get on with it, part of me also thinks Geoff Johns needs to put his name on that eventual travesty. We'll see.

As for the identity of "one of DC's most legendary heroes"...? Fingers crossed for Crimson Avenger...!

The miniseries from 2000 that first united the best-known heroes from two very different universes is back in a single issue collection featuring SUPERMAN/BUGS BUNNY #1-4! All the Looney Tunes are making their way into the DC Universe thanks to Mr. Mxyzptlk and the Do-Do—and only Superman stands a chance of keeping the universes apart…with the help of a certain wascally wabbit!
On sale JUNE 7 • 96 pg, FC, $7.99 US

Hooray! This is the trade I was hoping to eventually get, although I guess this will be in the trade-with-ads format that previous "100-Page Super Spectacular" collections have been in. I recall it being pretty insane, and not as bad as one might think; the presence of Mr. Mxyzptlk helped, as his presence excuses pretty much anything, no matter how weird, in a Superman-related narrative. Despite the title it was originally published under, this is really much more of a Looney Tunes/Justice League crossover, and, if I recall correctly, it will have some particular legacy characters that will date it to the year of its release, like having Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and Green Arrow Conner Hawke present (Wally West is, of course, The Flash in this, but as he and Barry Allen look so similar, I doubt that will be an issue for anyone).

These alternate histories of the Justice League are collected for the first time! Includes JLA: ACT OF GOD #1-3, SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS #1, BATMAN: NOSFERATU #1 and WONDER WOMAN: BLUE AMAZON #1, plus ELSEWORLDS 80-PAGE GIANT #1!
On sale JULY 19 • 424 pg, FC, $34.99 US

Based on this cover, I don't think I read that particular 80-Page Giant (I loved and miss those, by the way, but I suppose they are no longer economically feasible to do). The Trinity-specific one-shots are all excellent, if you're wondering. This is a pretty good $35 investment in solid DC Elseworlds comics, I believe (I'm still only about half-way through the first Elseworlds: Justice League collection.

You are now leaving Bedrock! The Great Gazoo is on his way home to the stars, while Fred and company leave the Church of Gerald, and Mr. Slate leaves behind being a jerk— at least for a little while. Say good-bye to Pebbles, Bowling Ball, Philip the turtle, Fred and Barney, and the whole cast in this final issue of what critics are calling the best comic of 2016!
On sale JUNE 7 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE

On the one hand, I'm shocked this lasted 12 issues, given how insanely weird this comic was. On the other hand, I'm kinda surprised that this and Future Quest--i.e. the "good" Hanna-Barbereboot books--have been canceled, but Scooby Apocalypse is still going on (The fourth of the mini-line, Wacky Raceland, was both the worst and the first of them to be canceled).

Hey, some new iteration of The Terrible Trio will be appearing in Gotham Academy: Second Semester in June--Hey, wait a minute! That's a crow, not a vulture! What is going on here...?

With a new semester under way, Olive and the rest of the Detective Club have a new mystery: the Book of Gotham! The club must find out why this book is so important as Olive faces her destiny! Collects GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #1-3, #5-8.
On sale JULY 19 • 160 pg, FC, $16.99

Check out that title. It strikes me as unfortunate that a book that is as bookstore and library-friendly as Gotham Academy is going to have a confusing numbering of volumes due to the "Rebirth" reboot and accompanying title change--from just Gotham Academy to Gotham Academy: Second Semester, but I guess DC was more-or-less forced into it by the decision to reboot and re-title. Although I guess they could have just collected Second Semester under Gotham Academy in trade, right?

I'm switching to trade on this due to the price increase, but I just wanted to use this opportunity to recommend Super Sons. Those are two great characters, and that book has been pretty good so far. I do love this title; I wonder if I will ever get to the point where Batman's robot dinosaur doesn't amuse and delight me whenever I see it...?

Art and cover by DARIO BRIZUELA
A fortune-teller has predicted doom for Plastic Man’s sidekick, Woozy Winks! Plas needs the Scooby gang to find out if the fortune-teller’s curse is a scam. But if the curse isn’t real, who’s behind the series of accidents that might guarantee that it comes true?
On sale JUNE 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E

I'm actually slightly shocked that it has taken this long for Plastic Man to appear in the pages of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, especially when one considers that Plas had his own cartoon show, even it was a Ruby-Spears rather than Hanna-Barbera production. This will actually be the first Plastic Man comic of any kind DC has produced in quite a while now; in fact, the only ones that they've published since Flashpoint that I can think of right now are that one Injustice annual and then the two-issue Convergence-related mini-series, Plastic Man and The Freedom Fighters. I know Geoff Johns introduced an Eel O'Brien who gets shot full of holes and goes all melt-y during Forever Evil, and it sure seemed like a New 52 Plastic Man was on the horizon, but if he or anyone else at DC were planning on going anywhere with that, plans apparently changed at some point.

Writer Greg Rucka weaves together the threads of “The Lies,” “Year One,” “The Truth,” and “Godwatch”—every story in WONDER WOMAN since the start of the DC Universe Rebirth era—in this extra-sized anniversary issue!
On sale JUNE 28 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • Each RATED T

If that's accurate, that should be quite a feat of writing, as that is a lot of different threads.