Saturday, February 24, 2018

Marvel's May previews reviewed: I imagine "A Fresh Start" will include the scare quotes, right?

So it seems like not all that long ago Marvel had correctly diagnosed one problem with their comics line: Their near-constant relaunches of their series with new #1s were no longer attracting readers, but were actually having a deleterious effect on their sales, as readers were using the relaunches as jumping-off points. In order to address that, they did so in probably the worst possible way, what they called "Legacy" numbering. This was just adding up all of the issues of all of the various volumes of titles starring particular characters throughout their publishing history to come up with a more-or-less randomly high number, so that books that were in the teens or twenties or thirties in their numbering were suddenly in their hundreds. In a worst of both words kind of way, the immediate result was another relaunch, only this one would make the books even harder to follow and more alienating to anyone who didn't already have subscriptions to them through their local comic shops.

The only plus side to the legacy numbering? Marvel was finally going to knock off the renumberings.

Of course, they then got a new editor-in-chief, a man who had previously defrauded the publisher, the comics press and comics readers by pretending to be a Japanese writer in a scheme that still hasn't been explained in any degree of satisfactory clarity and now where are we? "A Fresh Start," which will lead to the sort of line-wide relaunch that Marvel has been engaging in on a regular basis (The Beat counted seven in five years), complete with the release of a posed group shot of various characters, new #1 issues featuring mostly the same characters by mostly the same creators and, of course, new #1 issues.

Sigh...

The first bit of news was that image and the extremely uninspired slogan, "A Fresh Start."

The image was incredibly depressing in how...normal it is. If you scrutinize it, you'll see that, for the most part, none of the characters on it are new or much different than they are right now in late February of 2018, and that the characters in this image don't seem all that changed from one they might have released a few years ago.

Spider-Man changed clothes, putting on a previous costume. Thor Odinson has his, or perhaps just a, hammer again, and is dressed more Thor-ishly than he has been, but it's not like he's been away or off the pages of various Thor comics since he became "unworthy" at the end of 2014's Original Sin. Iron Man is apparently back, having spent the time since the conclusion of 2016's Civil War II as a hologram AI while his body was in suspended animation; again, he was hardly even "gone," and in Secret Empire, he was a major player, to the extent it seems only the colorist remembered that he wasn't supposed to be around in the usual form.

Let's see...Oh, the original, Logan-version of Wolverine is back, but then, we knew he was coming back for a while now, and seeing as Marvel had simply replaced him with the Old Man Logan version of himself--that is, they changed his hair color for a few years--I still haven't gotten around to missing him. Jean Grey is back, but she's already come back.

Hmm...She-Hulk is green instead of gray...? That's a change, albeit a small change, and a change back. Oh, speaking of Hulks, there's a pretty good chance that male hulk is meant to be the Bruce Banner version instead of the Amadeus Cho version, given the shorts, but it's difficult to say for sure, especially since the Cho Hulk is apparently growing more and more like the Banner Hulk in his comics.

What I found most interesting who is not in there. There are no Inhumans nor characters from Guardians of The Galaxy, characters that have been getting such big pushes from the publisher at late (If you look back through the previous promotional images to promote previous initiatives, you'll see Medusa or Rocket a lot, for example). The Thing may be there, but not the rest of the Fantastic Four; if they are coming back after half of them being missing since the end of Secret Wars, Marvel didn't announce them here.

Also, there's a distinct lack of the newer, more diverse versions of older characters. Sure, Spider-Man Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan and Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes, but they are pushed to the back. Where's Thor Jane Foster? (Dead, I guess? For reals?) Where's Wolverine Laura Kinney? Where's "Totally Awesome" Hulk Amadeus Cho? (If that is, indeed, Banner, of course). Ironheart Riri Williams?

Apparently Marvel heard many such questions, as Marvel Senior Vice President and Senior Editor Tom Brevoort told CBR not to read too much into who is and isn't in that image (he also made it sound like the numbering will be a combination of new #1's and continued "legacy" numbering, something Marvel did try for a while long ago). It's a fair point; obviously not every Marvel character that will be appearing in Marvel comics can be put in a single promotional image. That said, it does offer a clue into which characters Marvel is promoting, so if not seeing Laura Kinney or Riri Williams in the image isn't necessarily a reason to worry about their future, it's also not a reason to not worry, you know?

Beyond the image, what exactly Marvel intends to accomplish with this relaunch/re-branding exercise--that is, if it is only, as Tom Spurgeon recently put it, a matter of rearranging the deck chairs on the helicarrier, or if it is genuinely meant to be a fresh start for the publisher, their retail partners, their consumers and, most importantly, their potential consumers, well, we'll only be able to guess at that once Marvel starts releasing their plans for the near-future.

And guess what? They just released their solicitations for the comics they plan to ship in May of this year earlier this week! So far, it sure looks like deck chair re-arranging. Their are some new #1s, new directions, and new creators on different titles and characters, but, for the most part, they simply amount to the likes of, say, long-time Marvel super-comics writer Jason Aaron taking over Avengers from Mark Waid. Stuff like that. The coming months might offer more clues, as May features what looks to be the last issue of Brian Michael Bendis' run on the Iron Man character and as well as the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man he co-created.

I didn't notice any new and exciting names among the creators though, nor did I see Marvel addressing two systemic problems with their comics: They are way too expensive (still, on average, a dollar more expensive than a DC super-comics) and they over-produce them. For a good example of the latter, although they have whittled their Avengers line down to just one book, they are also publishing not one, not two, not three, but four four-issue Hunt For Wolverine miniseries. The X-Men still have four different teams in four different books that ship twice a month--Blue, Gold, Red and Astonishing--and that's just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of miniseries, wedding specials and mutants with solo books.

Oh, and they don't seem to have scaled back on the variant covers one whit. There are still a ton of those damn things, including "Deadpool variants" which are thematically mushy; some have various Marvel heroes cosplaying as Deadpool, others have Deadpool cosplaying as various Marvel heroes. I don't know; there is presumably a market for them, and they presumably help Marvel more than hurt them.

But enough big picture stuff, lets take a closer look and see what jumps out of Marvel's May publishing plans...


AVENGERS #1
Written by JASON AARON • Penciled by ED MCGUINNESS
Cover by ED MCGUINNESS
...
A NEW ERA DAWNS FOR EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES – courtesy of JASON AARON and ED McGUINNESS!
Thor Odinson. Steve Rogers. Tony Stark. The Big Three of the Avengers are reunited at last! And just in time to save the world from total annihilation at the hands of their most powerful enemies yet: the 2000-foot-tall space gods known as Celestials. Behold the coming of the Final Host.
Who will answer the call to assemble for a wild new era of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? Hint: one of them has a flaming skull for a head. And what strange, world-shaking connection exists between the Final Host and Odin’s ancient band of Prehistoric Avengers?
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99


Jason Aaron is a very good super-comics writer, and his Wolverine and The X-Men was one of my favorite X-Men runs ever, following only Grant Morrison's (As you guys probably know, I'm not really a fan of Marvel's merry mutants, though). I am sure this will be a good Avengers comics. Regarding how "fresh" a "start" this new #1 issue of Avengers is, however, well, Aaron's written long runs on Wolverine, the X-Men, Thor and Doctor Strange already, so this isn't exactly a big, exciting personnel choice. Rather, it's like when Brian Michael Bendis took over Iron Man.

Ed McGuinness is a similarly great artist, and will do a hell of a job on the Avengers...for the 2-4 issues he will likely stick around before work from fill-in artists start interrupting his issues, anyway.

The line-up seems like a pretty decent one for a single Avengers comic in the era of a mature and successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. She-Hulk and Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes are the only ones on the team that haven't starred in their own movies yet and/or aren't slated to in the near future, and Shulkie mainly seems to be there as something between a Bruce Banner-stand-in and to give the team a second female character, while a Ghost Rider has starred in two movies, and this Ghost Rider was on that one Marvel-related TV show I never watched, so there's that.

As noted from the Jim Cheung-drawn promotional art at the top of the post, She-Hulk has gone back to green, while she's been gray since Civil War II. Cheung's art seems to suggest she's back to her old self, wherein "hulking out" just makes her taller, greener and more voluptuous, whereas McGuinness' art suggests she is more angry, monstrous and brawny, in the way that Bruce Banner's hulk form always was.

I'm curious about Thor's arm and golden hammer too; is he wielding a hammer other than Mjolnir now...?

Anyway, you can jump on board for just $5! Or wait a few months and buy the trade for, like $16-$25! I know what I'm doing! (Actually, I will more than likely just read the library's copy when it comes in. That's free! That said, I think an Aaron/McGuinness Avengers comic is promising enough to spend money on).


Ha ha, everyone hates Spider-Man...!

That's the cover for May's Doctor Strange #390, by the same writer as the previous few issues. Aside from Avengers, the only #1 issues that aren't one-shots or miniseries are Black Panther #1, written by Ta-Nehesi Coates, who wrote the last Black Panther #1 and here paired with long-time Marvel artist Daniel Acuna and Venom #1 by Doctor Strange writer Donny Coates and long-time Marvel artist Ryan Stegman.


EXILES #3
SALADIN AHMED (W) • JAVIER RODRIGUEZ (A)
Cover by DAVID MARQUEZ
...
CAPTAIN CARTER KILLS THE RED SKULL!
That’s her mission, anyway! The fan-favorite Captain America — Peggy Carter of the Marvel Puzzle Quest game — faces off against an apocalyptically armed Red Skull! And the Exiles are just in time to join the fight — ’cuz they’ve been kicked off their mission! There’s a new team of Watchers in town, and they’re cracking down on the Exiles’ interference in the timestream — even if it means the death of everything. Can the Exiles salvage Peggy Carter’s world, fix the Tallus and get back to saving reality before the Time-Eater tracks them down again?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Guys, I have no idea what the fuck a Marvel Puzzle Quest game is, but Peggy Carter as Captain America is brilliant. Someone needs to get Hayley Atwell on the phone and see if she's down for playing the Captain America of the 1950s in a Secret Avengers movie.


INFINITY COUNTDOWN: CAPTAIN MARVEL #1
JIM MCCANN (W) • Diego Olortegui (A)
Cover by INHYUK LEE
...
Carol Danvers has crossed the borders of reality itself and returned in possession of the Reality Stone…and with it has contacted the Marvels of many worlds! Join the Captains Marvel for a cross-time adventure into the nature of the Infinity Stones!
32 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$3.99


Is that supposed to be Monica Rambeau, aka Captain Marvel, aka Photon, aka Pulsar, aka Spectrum on the far right there...? I kinda like the costume but man, hat is up with her hair. That doesn't loo quite right to me. But then, I am a middle-aged white man with no hair. Quick, someone ask the ladies of Misty Knight's Uninformed Afro...!


Okay, see, this is an example of one of those Deadpool covers in which a Marvel hero is apparently cosplaying as Wade Wilson, as opposed to vice versa. It is by Gerald Parel, it is for Marvel 2-in-1 and my God is it disturbing...!


That's Ulises Farinas' cover for Lockjaw #4. It is, as you can clearly see, awesome.


MIGHTY THOR: AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1
JASON AARON (W) • RAMÓN PÉREZ AND JEN BARTEL (A)
COVER BY NICK DERINGTON
...
THE LAST GOODBYE!
“The Death of the Mighty Thor” has come and gone. But Jane Foster’s power to inspire lives on — even in the far future! Don’t miss the tribute to Jason Aaron’s epic tale of Thor and the mighty hammer Mjolnir, drawn by rising star Jen Bartel!
And with or without a Thor, the War of Realms continues. As Malekith’s power grows, the realms will fall — and who is left to stop him? Eisner Award–winning artist Ramón Pérez kicks off the next stage of Jason Aaron’s ongoing saga.
40 PGS./ONE SHOT/Rated T …$4.99


My greatest fear of the possibility that Marvel will actually kill Jane Foster off once and for all (for now) here is that their Thor comics might morph into some kind of superhero Funky Winkerbean, with Jane being Lisa to The Odinson's Les.


Tradd Moore draws Star Wars! Sadly that's it. Just that image above. The cover for Star Wars Annual #4. The interior art? Not by Tradd Moore. I would be very, very interested in a Trad Moore-drawn Star Wars comic, if anyone cares.

Friday, February 23, 2018

DC's May previews reviewed

ACTION COMICS SPECIAL #1
Written by DAN JURGENS, MAX LANDIS and MARK RUSSELL • Art by WILL CONRAD, FRANCIS MANAPUL and JILL THOMPSON • Cover by WILL CONRAD
“The Last Will and Testament of Lex Luthor”! When Superman’s world was reborn, his greatest enemy became his most unexpected ally. But does that truly reflect Lex Luthor—or was it all a sham? Now, as Lex Luthor’s path toward righteousness reaches its apex, he finds himself involved in an adventure in which Superman stands to be destroyed. What choice will Luthor make? Will he save Superman or watch him die at the hands of a foe he could not possibly imagine? This oversized special also features stories from the acclaimed teams of Max Landis and Francis Manapul (in a story previously slated to appear in the DC UNIVERSE HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2017 #1) and Mark Russell and Jill Thompson!
One-shot • On sale MAY 2 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T


SUPERMAN SPECIAL #1
Written by PETER J. TOMASI, PATRICK GLEASON, MARK RUSSELL and IAN FLYNN • Art by SCOTT GODLEWSKI, BRYAN HITCH and KAARE ANDREWS • Cover by JORGE JIMENEZ
“THE PROMISE”! Superman’s world is about to change in a big way, but before it does, the Man of Steel has some unfinished business to attend to…on Dinosaur Island! Superman and a forgotten soldier of the past take one last trip together into the abyss of tomorrow, as Captain Storm now stands face-to-face with the world of today! This extra-sized special also features stories by writers Mark Russell and Ian Flynn with art by Kaare Andrews and Bryan Hitch!
One-shot • On sale MAY 9 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T


Curious. Based on the creative teams and the announced content, these appear to be the conclusions of the current runs on Action and Superman, shunted into specials as opposed to appearing in issues of the regular series, which writer (and Clevelander!) Brian Michael Bendis is slated to be taking over in the near future. But the page counts look pretty low, especially as both have back-up stories, so it's not like they are squishing multiple issues worth of content into them in order to justify the "special" (aside from those back-ups, of course). And there are no regular issues of Action and Superman scheduled for May, either. So I'm a little confused as to why these exist in this format at all.

I sure am interested to read Superman stories drawn by Jill Thompson and Kaare Andrews, in any case.


AQUAMAN: TEMPEST TP
Written by PHIL JIMENEZ, JOHN OSTRANDER, DAN MISHKIN and GARY COHN
Art by PHIL JIMENEZ, JOHN STOKES, ERIK LARSEN, ART THIBERT, SCOTT KOLINS and others • Cover by PHIL JIMENEZ
It’s the best of the hero sometimes known as Aqualad in these stories from TEMPEST #1-4, TEEN TITANS SPOTLIGHT #10 and 18 and SHOWCASE ’96 #1! While Tempest trains to reclaim his birthright, an ancient evil captures the very gods of the sea! And when that same evil turns its eye on Garth’s ally Atlan, the young hero gets some unexpected help from Tula, whom he believed was dead! Also features Garth’s true origin and why he was abandoned as a child.
On sale JUNE 13 • 168 pg, FC • $16.99 US • ISBN: 978-1-4012-8048-2


I am 100% certain that I did not read those Teen Titans Spotlight issues, and I am fairly certain I read the short story that would have appeared in Showcase '96, although I have no memory of it. I did read Jimenez's Tempest miniseries, though, and I quite liked it. It was a big part of why I liked the character at all. It's the story of how Garth went from being Aqualad to being Tempest, complete with a new costume and powers to go with his new codename; essentially, it was the Nightwing-ification of the original Aqualad.

The character got pretty screwed up after Peter David left Aquaman, to the point where he ended up marrying his mentor's love interest Dolphin and having a child with her, and then the publisher lost its collective mind in the fall of 2011, and Garth, like the rest of his generation of characters, has been screwed-up ever since. Still! This is a pretty great comic, with lots of great art! I have it in singles, but will be buying the trade.


BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #22
Written by JULIE BENSON and SHAWNA BENSON • Art by ROGE ANTONIO • Cover by TERRY DODSON and RACHEL DODSON
Variant cover by KAMONE SHIRAHAMA
“WHO IS ORACLE?” revisited! Batgirl and Black Canary must find Huntress and save her from Calculator and Blackbird’s nefarious plan. But everything comes full circle when the answer to Calculator’s question—“Who is Oracle?”—is at last revealed. The Birds of Prey have always been a tight-knit team, but here, in what could be their final hours, they truly become a family.
On sale MAY 9 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE


There's a gargoyle in Gotham City that looks exactly like Beast from Disney's Beauty and The Beast...? That's weird.

So it looks like the latest iteration of a Birds of Prey book has met its fate. I'm hardly surprised, and actually kind of pleased. Not out of spite for the creators, but because the book was pretty bad--at least that first arc or so of it that I read was pretty bad--and it seemed so ill-considered in the first place that it seemed DOA upon announcement.
I bet they would have lasted at least 36 issues.
The previous Batgirl creative team spent a lot of time gradually, effectively building up a new, cool Birds of Prey team spinning out of their book, including a new Oracle, and instead of following that natural momentum and releasing a Batgirl and The Birds of Prey that would naturally flow from Batgirl, DC instead hired a couple of TV writers to do something else, something that also involved introducing a new Oracle (but a different new Oracle than the other new Oracle, who ended up going by The Operator, because DC wouldn't let them call her Oracle, I guess...?) and a fairly forced feeling line-up that awkwardly grafted post-Flashpoint Huntress II/Helena Bertinelli III onto a team with Babs and Black Canary. (I imagine James Tynion having some plans for Spoiler in his Detective Run might also have been a factor in why DC went with the untested Bensons' pitch instead of that of the successful Batgirl creative team.)



BATMAN BEYOND #20
Written by DAN JURGENS
Art by MARCO CASTIELLO and MARK MORALES
Cover by VIKTOR KALVACHEV
...
“Target: Batman” part one! After his first outing as a vigilante, Matt is hungry for another chance to prove himself, but Bruce and Terry butt heads over what’s next for Matt. Will Terry shut his brother down for good, or will the original Batman succeed in training him to become the latest Robin? Meanwhile, a hostage crisis turns deadly, and Commissioner Barbara Gordon has to sort out why the Jokerz are resorting to far more violent and extreme measures than ever before.
On sale MAY 23 • 32 pg, FC, • $3.99 US • RATED T


I don't actually have anything to say about this comic. I just like to occasionally stop and marvel that it is still being published.




BOMBSHELLS UNITED #17
Written by MARGUERITE BENNETT • Art by SIYA OUM • Cover by PAULINA GANUCHEAU
The final chapter of the BOMBSHELLS epic begins! An invasion from beyond the stars comes crashing down upon a world at war, and all must unite before everything humanity is, and was, and could be, is lost—forever!
On sale MAY 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+ • DIGITAL FIRST


So just a couple of Wednesdays ago I was thinking aloud about how I was losing interest in Marguerite Bennett's Bombshells series, and was contemplating dropping it. It looks like I wasn't the only one losing interest. It's a really fun setting that the book takes place in, and there are some pretty neat characters in it, so I don't think the premise is necessarily creatively exhausted, and I imagine a different creative team could perhaps reinvigorate it. That said, Bennett has had a good long run on the series--remember, this iteration follows the 2015-launched DC Comics Bombshells--and it's kind of cool that DC respected the fact that the book has long since become "her" book that they aren't trying to relaunch it with a new writer or new direction.



This is Liam Sharp's cover for the May issue of the over-titled The Brave and The Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman miniseries. It features Batman riding a horse. I am always interested in images of batman riding horses.


DC NATION #0
BATMAN wedding prelude written by TOM KING with art by CLAY MANN
JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE PRELUDE written by SCOTT SNYDER, JAMES TYNION IV and JOSHUA WILLIAMSON with art by JORGE JIMENEZ
MAN OF STEEL prelude written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS with art by JOSE LUIS GARCIA-LOPEZ
Cover by JORGE JIMENEZ
...
These stories will appear only in this comic book and will not be reprinted in another comic book before each series’ collected editions. Only the first printing of this issue will have a cover price of $0.25. This issue will ship with four covers. Please see the order form for details.
Just in time for Free Comic Book Day, this special comic priced at just $0.25 US features three brand-new stories from a lineup of superstar talent—and each tale serves as a prelude to some of the biggest DC events of 2018!

First, find out how The Joker reacts when he discovers Catwoman has turned her back on crime and plans to marry his archnemesis. Can the Clown Prince of Crime stand to see Batman happy? Writer Tom King and artist Clay Mann set up the events that lead to BATMAN #50!

Then, DARK NIGHTS: METAL shook the DC Universe to its deepest foundations—now it’s time to rejoin legendary writer Scott Snyder, along with all-star artist Jorge Jimenez and co-writers James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson, for the prelude to JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE! Discover what universe-shattering mysteries have emerged from the most wondrous and chaotic corners of the cosmos to hunt the Justice League in DC’s summer blockbuster event!

And get your first glimpse at Superman’s new world in this exclusive preview of the upcoming six-issue miniseries MAN OF STEEL, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by José Luis García-López. With Truth, Justice and the American Way all under attack, both Superman and Clark Kent find there’s never been a more important time to stand up for what they believe in.
On sale MAY 2• 32 pg, FC, $0.25 US • RATED T


Well, you can't beat that price! 

I think a big component in how successful (and/or how readable) Bendis' Superman run ends up being is going to be which artists they pair him with. Other extremely exciting "gets" for the publisher have been sunk by having those writers work with artists who are considered hot or popular, but aren't actually very good. They certainly aren't making that mistake here, having Garcia-Lopez drawing one of Bendis earliest Superman stories.

Regarding the Batman/Catwoman nuptials, this solicitation reminded me a bit of the Mike Barr-written comics of the 1980s, most of which I've never read. But based on the bits I did read ("Catch as Catscan" from 1986's Detective Comics #569, which I read in the 1990 collection Stacked Deck: The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told from Longmeadow Press; I just went and checked), it seems as if there was a time there where Catwoman had gone straight and acting as Batman's crime-fighting partner as well as his girlfriend, up until The Joker intervened and made her into a bad guy again.


ELSEWORLDS: BATMAN VOL. 3 TP
Written by DOUG MOENCH, MAX ALLAN COLLINS, MIKE GRELL and BOB LAYTON
Art by JIM APARO, BRET BLEVINS, NORM BREYFOGLE, TOM GRUMMETT, MIKE MANLEY, GEORGE PÉREZ, JIM BALENT, EDUARDO BARRETO, MIKE GRELL, BOB LAYTON, DICK GIORDANO and others
Cover by EDUARDO BARRETO
More Elseworlds tales of the Dark Knight are collected in this new title, including BATMAN: BROTHERHOOD OF THE BAT #1, BATMAN: KNIGHT GALLERY #1, BATMAN: SCAR OF THE BAT #1, BATMAN: MASQUE #1 and BATMAN: DARK KNIGHT OF THE ROUND TABLE #1-2. In these stories, Ra’s al Ghul creates a league of Batman-like assassins in the far future; Batman takes on Al Capone in the 1920s; the Batman and Harvey Dent fight over the love of a ballerina in an operatic tale; and the Dark Knight seeks vengeance in Camelot.
On sale JUNE 13 • 328 pg, FC, $34.99 US • ISBN: 978-1-4012-6596-0


Yikes, they're on volume three already? I'm still less than halfway through volume one--I left off at Robin 3000, I think--so I guess I better hurry up and catch-up.

This volume will be an exciting one, if and when I get to it, because I don't think I read any of these the first time around, even though these are all from prime Caleb-buying-Batman-comics years. I am especially interested in Knight Gallery; in fact, just a few months ago I shopped around online a little bit seeing if I can find a copy of it. That is basically a collection of costume redesigns by Norm Breyfogle and others (I think) that were drawn up when DC was planning Tim Drake's new Robin costume. None of them made the cut, but there are some very weird, very fun drawings in there (I didn't buy it, but I remember flipping through it at a Waldenbooks in the Ashtabula Mall when it first came out). I believe there's a very basic framing devices serving to buttress the sketches into the foundation of a story too, like it is supposedly Batman's own journal when he was working on redesigns for Robin's costume and his own costume.


JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE #1
Written by SCOTT SNYDER, JAMES TYNION IV and JOSHUA WILLIAMSON
Art and cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL
DARK NIGHTS: METAL left the DCU transformed in ways both terrifying and wondrous—and only the Justice League is strong enough to face the threats to come…or are they? Four giant beings comprised of the universe’s major energies—Mystery, Wonder, Wisdom and Entropy—who sustain their life force by devouring planets are on their way to destroy the planet of Colu. The only way to take down this unimaginable threat is for the superhero teams of Earth to forget everything they thought they knew and form new alliances.

What secrets of the cosmos will Superman, Martian Manhunter and Team Mystery discover? Will Zatanna, Wonder Woman and Team Wonder awaken alien magic they cannot put back to sleep? What can Harley Quinn possibly have to teach the rest of Team Wisdom? And most importantly…why the heck is Beast Boy on Team Entropy with Lobo and Batman? Find out all this and much more in the most exciting, bombastic event of summer 2018!
In this kickoff issue to the four-issue miniseries, after Brainiac systematically takes down all of Earth’s super-teams, the last thing the League expects is for him to ask for their help! Without their aid, his home planet and the universe are both doomed!
WRAPAROUND COVER • On sale MAY 9 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 4 •$3.99 US • RATED T


One of the most interesting aspects of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and company's Dark Nights: Metal comic book series, which actually still has one more issue left to go, is how it is basically just a Justice League story with a few guest-stars, albeit the biggest and craziest Justice League story in a good long time. I was only a few pages into the first issue before I started wishing Snyder and Capullo would follow it with a run on a relaunched Justice League comic. It looks like I'm getting my wish...sort of.

This isn't quite that, at least not yet. In May, there will be a four-part Justice League series by Snyder, his frequent co-writer James Tynion and Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad writer Joshua Wiliamson. Rather than using an expanded line-up based on the events of Metal, it looks like the Leaguers will be allying themselves with a curios assortment of villains and Teen Titans and Justice League Dark alum, and they will be splitting up into little sub-leagues which evoke the theme Leagues from the deeply weird 2001 "Justice Leagues" story that ran through a series of one-shots, wherein each Justice Leaguer had their own JLA in which the A stood for something different (Justice League of Aliens, Justice League of Amazons, Justice League of Arkham, etc).

Also, they have uniforms, and they are all wearing very bright reflector-like lights, like trick-or-treaters whose protective parents don't want them to get hit by cars when they are crossing the street. While I'm a fan of temporarily altering the appearance of a superhero costume for the sake of a story, the vast majority of these look pretty bad (that's the Wonder Woman-led "Team Wonder," which is wearing pink because, I don't know, girls like pink...? (Girls and Etrigan, The Demon.) I think Cyborg might be the only character whose story-specific redesign actually looks kinda cool, but we'll see.

What I am most interested in--aside from seeing more of Metal's version of Starro in action, of course--is what will follow this. I am hoping it is a single, really good Justice League book written by Snyder and drawn by Capullo and featuring a larger team of heroes pulled from here and the cast of Metal (Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter, Plastic Man, Mister Terrific), and not a suite of two-to-four books. But I guess we'll see.


JUSTICE LEAGUE VOL. 6: THE PEOPLE VS. THE JUSTICE LEAGUE TP
Written by CHRISTOPHER PRIEST • Art by PETE WOODS and IAN CHURCHILL
Cover by PETE WOODS
When the League is confronted by three concurrent threats, a sleep-deprived Batman makes a crucial error that causes an unthinkable—and potentially unforgivable—tragedy. The team must regain its balance quickly, as an alien infestation threatens the Earth. But nothing can prepare them for an attack closer to home…one that will reveal devastating truths about the League itself!
Collects issues #34-39.
On sale JUNE 20 • 128 pg, FC, $14.99 US • ISBN: 978-1-4012-8076-5


I'm not sure that those issue numbers are quite right, as #39 just came out this week, and it is part one of a new Priest-written story arc, so it seems a strange place to cut the run...but then, there are so few issues left in it, and Priest is apparently telling one long story arc, so deciding where to cut for the sake of collection is probably harder than it might otherwise be. As I've said repeatedly over the last few months, this is the strongest the Justice League comic has been since at least Infinite Crisis, and while I understand the appeal of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee rebooting the World's Greatest Heroes as the kick off to the 2011 "New 52" initiative, in retrospect, the League books would probably have been in much better shape had they enlisted Priest for The New 52's Justice League #1.

Anyway, if you like the League, you should buy this. Aside from some janky continuity and uneven art, it's pretty good Justice League comics, and not at all boring, which has been the first word to come to mind whenever I've considered a Justice League comic in forever.


I would be a lot more excited about reading this Mister Miracle series if cover artist Nick Derington were drawing the interiors, and not just the covers. Because man, what a great cover that is. I love Kalibak's mini-dress too, showing off his hairy legs. That's how bad-ass he and his father are; they ain't the least bit self-conscious about what they look like in such short hemlines.


SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #36
Written by SHOLLY FISCH
Art and cover by WALTER CARZON and HORACIO OTTOLINI
Why has the Blue Falcon suddenly transformed from a bright, sunny superhero into a dark and gritty vigilante who sends his most monstrous villains fleeing for safety? Dynomutt wonders: could the Blue Falcon be…possessed? Scooby and the gang will have to join forces with the Dog Wonder to crack the mystery when the dark kite returns!
On sale MAY 23 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E


Well it's about damn time. I've been wondering where the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt have been.

Not only are they among the most obvious of Hanna-Barbera properties to team-up with Scooby-Doo, having co-starred in the 1976 Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt hour (which included crossovers between the two casts), and both B.F. and the Dog Wonder were on the Scooby Doobies in the 1977 Laff-A-Lympics. Much more recently, Dynomutt and Blue Falcon kinda crossed paths with the comics convention-set direct-to-DVD movie, Scooby-Doo: Mask of The Blue Falcon. Despite that, they were MIA from the pages of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, didn't pop-up among any of the many weird Hanna-Barbereboot books DC has been publishing (and they would have been pretty much perfect for Future Quest) or the Hanna-Barbera/DC Comics team-ups.

I've been waiting to see these two in this book for literally years now, and I imagine this will kick-off future appearances elsewhere. I mean, if the fucking Jetsons or Ruff and Ready get their own DC Comics, surely a Batman parody character could carry one; at the very least, I would hope to see a Blue Falcon/Batman crossover miniseries...


SUPERMAN: ZERO HOUR TP
Written by DAVID MICHELINIE, KARL KESEL, DAN JURGENS and LOUISE SIMONSON
Art by JACKSON GUICE, BARRY KITSON, PETE KRAUSE, DAN JURGENS, CHRIS BATISTA, JON BOGDANOVE, TOM GRUMMETT and others
Cover by DAN JURGENS and BRETT BREEDING
Time is collapsing in on itself. The villainous Extant has ushered in a series of black holes that are swallowing the universe—past, present and future! The result? Krypton never exploded. The Kents never found a baby in a field. Superman isn’t the protector of Metropolis. How can the Man of Steel put back time as it should be?
Collects ACTION COMICS #0 and #703, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #0 and #516, SUPERMAN #0 and #93, STEEL #0 and #8, SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL #0 and #37 and SUPERBOY #0 and #8.
On sale JUNE 20 • 320 pg, FC • $29.99 US • ISBN: 978-1-4012-8053-6


Say, I was imagining this very collection while reading DC's recent-ish Batman: Zero Hour and, in fact, had said it would be the next easiest Zero Hour-related collection to do, and look, here it is! I'll be a lot more excited to read this one than I was to read the Batman one though, as had previously read the majority of the Batman Family Zero Hour tie-ins and #0 issues, but I think I've only read a handful of these ones.

Hmm, now what will be next? Justice League: Zero Hour or Legion of Super-Heroes: Zero Hour...?


WONDER WOMAN #46
Written by JAMES ROBINSON • Art by STEPHEN SEGOVIA • Cover by EMANUELA LUPACCHINO • Variant cover by JENNY FRISON
“The Dark Gods” part one! In the wake of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, new secrets of the cosmos have been revealed and taken form…and though she doesn’t know it yet, Wonder Woman is at the center of their plans!
On sale MAY 9 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

WONDER WOMAN #47
Written by JAMES ROBINSON • Art by STEPHEN SEGOVIA • Cover by EMANUELA LUPACCHINO • Variant cover by JENNY FRISON
“The Dark Gods” part two! Wonder Woman seeks answers from the Greek pantheon about the strange new beings barreling towards Earth —but can she convince her creators not to abandon their creation?
On sale MAY 23 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T


I could have sworn that when James Robinson was announced as the new writer following Shea Fontana's fill-in arc, he too was going to be doing a one-arc fill-in run, but, well, this is a completely different arc, so I guess Robinson is actually kinda of a semi-permanent Wonder Woman writer now...?

Huh.

The plot description above sounds somewhat similar to what Marvel's Hercules was up to in his last book, fighting a new pantheon of dark, new gods that better reflected the current world than their ancient forbears, although I suppose it will remain to be seen just what these Dark Gods are and what they're up to.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: February 21st

Ant Wars (Rebellion) It wasn't just the simply, grabby title and that cover image that sold me on this trade paperback collection. I also flipped through it to see its providence--the title story is apparently a 1978 one from 2000 A.D.--and to make sure the art inside was at least as good as it was on the cover. It was, if not much better. (And black and white, obviously.)

The story, written by Gerry Finley-Day and primarily featuring artwork by Jose Luis Ferrer and Alfonso Azpiri, who gradually start trading chapters/"Progs" back and forth, is about a test of  an American-made experimental insecticide that has the unlikely--but dramatic!--effect of turning ordinary jungle ants into super-intelligent giants.

Our heroes are Brazilian military lieutenant Villa and "Anteater," a "semi-civilised Indian" who was abducted by the soldiers and put in an education camp of some sort. The pair are the only survivors of the first contact with the ants, and begin an epic, harrowing journey through South America, giant ants chasing them, and no one they race to believing them until the ants are upon them too.

Villa, like his short-lived men, shows a casual, contemptuous racism toward "Anteater"--so named because he and his people were first seen eating regularly-sized ants straight from a regularly-sized ant hill--which the story only rather clumsily addresses, by showing how much better at jungle survival and ant-fighting that Anteater is than Villa and, like, everyone they encounter. Gradually, Villa sees him as his only ally.

The story reaches a too-early climax in a battle for Rio, and then goes on several more chapters, as other ant eggs are discovered. The ending is unpredictable and ironic though, and lives up to the title in a surprising way.

Also included is "Zancudo," a short story written by Simon Spurrier and Cam Kennedy, set in the world of Judge Dredd (It's from a few 2005 issues of Judge Dredd Megazine). That it is set in 2127 and involves judges is at first only apparent from the slang and weapons used. Two judges are transporting a psychic villain, when their ship is down by a race of giant, intelligent mosquitoes. It eventually shows its connection to Ant Wars, when ants that have survived from that much-earlier story are involved in the climactic showdown against the mosquitoes and their people.


The Archies #5 (Archie Comics) Despite being a fan of much of the "New Riverdale" line of Archie Comics, I have yet to read a single issue of The Archies, the Alex Segura and Matthew Rosenberg-written, Joe Eisma-drawn ongoing about the band consisting of the core Archie characters.

I am, however, quite a fan of Tegan and Sara, so this issue not only seemed like a good time to try out the book, but was a comic I've really been looking forward to since, well, since it was announced, really.

The story? The squabbling Archies reach a crisis point when Jughead quits, just as they enter the Canadian leg of their tour. They are set to open for Tegan and Sara--well, actually, they are opening for the band that is opening for Tegan and Sara--but can they really continue without their drummer and, according to this issue, the only really talented member of the band...?

Don't worry; everything works out okay for them. There's a point in here about the value of playing for fun and being in a band as a means to simply hang out with your friends versus playing in a band to be rich and famous and adored, too.

Tegan and Sara have pretty minor roles, really. I liked the fact that so much of their dialogue involved the two of them saying the same thing at the same time, and/or one of them finishing the others' sentences. I don't think that's how they talk in real life--I've only seen them live once--but it conforms to my pop culture understanding of twins.

And they do at least  namedrop their cats, Holiday and Mickey.
While I am a fan of Tegan and Sara's music, I am also a huge fan of Holiday and Mickey's social media presence. They have the weird habit of sitting like human beings, and even sort of transforming their own bodies into fluffy bean bag chairs and then collapsing into themselves, like they are their own chairs that they are sitting in...?
Holiday

Mickey
If you like cat videos on the Internet--and who doesn't?--I would definitely suggest following Tegan and Sara on Instagram and watching their stories, like, daily.

So this was fun, but it wasn't my ideal Tegan and Sara comic from Archie Comics. That would probably have a lot more Tegan and Sara, and a lot less of The Archies. (Oh, by the way, I hate the way Joe Eisma draws Jughead's nose. The art is pretty great, but man, I do so hate his Jughead nose).

My local comic shop only had one issue left on the rack at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday--hopefully because crowds of fans bought the other 128 copies they had ordered, and not simply because they only ordered one rack copy--so I had no choice but the above cover.

The other two are pretty great:

I think I like the Thomas Pitilli one best, with Tegan and Sara wearing Betty and Veronica t shirts. The Joe Eisma one, with Hotdog in the lower left hand corner, is pretty good too. Not sure why Eisma didn't draw Mickey and Holiday sitting like weird old men next to Hotdog, though...


Batman #41 (DC Comics) I've grown pretty tired of Poison Ivy, who is one of the many, many Batman villains who has been badly overused in the past few years, in large part because not only has she appeared in the half-dozen various Bat-books regularly, but she's also been used so often in Harley Quinn and was even on the New 52 Birds of Prey line-up for a time (I know it doesn't make much sense to create and hand over new IP to DC, but writers really need to start making up new villains again). So I was pretty much the opposite of excited when cracking open the cover of this issue, which contains the first chapter of the story arc "Everyone Loves Ivy."

The main innovation writer Tom King brings to this Poison Ivy story is simply one of scale. Somehow--she mentions The Green, and she does appear to Batman and Catwoman in their dreams--she has taken over every single person on Earth, including superheroes and supervillains (she uses The Flash in an unexpectedly amusing way near the cimax). Wait, I said person, right? I guess I should say "sentient being," as there's a big, two-page montage in which various people all over the world say "I love you, too" aloud to her--Superman, Wonder Woman, Donald Trump--and one of those pictured appears to be a super-intelligent talking gorilla from Gorilla City.

And that's basically this issue. Event-wise, not a whole hell of a lot happens, I guess, but King is again paired with Mikel Janin, who is pretty great at visual storytelling, and thus there's a great deal of showing instead of just telling, that showing being quite elegantly, dramatically executed. I did like the trick of the lettering, too, in which Alfred's dialogue, when it is Ivy speaking through him, appears in green ink, rather than black.

When we are shown the real Ivy, she's wearing her New 52 body-stocking costume, which is a pretty uninspired look in general, particularly compared to, like, every other costume Poison Ivy has ever worn ever.

Oh, and maybe the oddest bi of the entire comic? Ivy-through-Alfred recaps the plot of a 1980s John Byrne Superman comic. What is particularly odd about it is that the month after he accidentally rewrote a 2000 Superman comic he had apparently never read or heard of, he references a far older Superman comic. Weird.

Anyway, this story was very not something I was at all interested in, but turned out to be very good, and the last page, in which Batman continually, curtly expressed what a loss he was at, made me pretty interested in the next issue. So good job, King and Janin.


Bombshells United #12 (DC) Oh. So it turns out that this book is going to be canceled; the just-released solicitation for a May issue says it is the beginning of the final arc. I suppose I need not bother dropping the book after all, then. I can stick around for two more arcs just for the satisfaction of having read the entire series and its longer-running predecessor series, DC Comics Bombshells.

Artist Sandy Jarrell joins writer Marguerite Bennett for this issue, which concludes the current arc involving Batwoman and Renee Montoya in a hidden labyrinth beneath Barcelona, where they are battling Black Adam over the control of Talia al Ghul's Lazarus Pit. The three-page sequence involving the resolution of that battle and Miri Marvel's role in it is pretty elegantly portrayed...and absolutely nothing like the more typically super-comics imagery of the cover.


Justice League #39 (DC) I liked Paul Pelletier's cover art there, but noting even remotely like that happens within the pages of the comic itself. Nor does Pelletier draw the interior of the comic. That is drawn by Ian Churchill, handling both pencils and inks while Alex Sollazzo colors, and it is by far the best Churchill art I've seen, although it's been a long, long time since I've seen Churchill's work (it was something I tried to avoid for a while there).

This is the first part of a new arc--"Justice Lost"--although it's really continuing the same story that writer Christopher Priest started with issue #34. The public is seemingly turning on the League, and they are being radically defended by a challenging new enemy they call The Fan, who proves to be a master of disguise able to impersonate any of the Leaguers to a pretty successful degree (although, given that he is a fan, maybe he's not a master of disguise so much as a master of cosplay...?).

Aquaman meets The Fan in the desert, while new chairman Cyborg has to deal with the public relations of the League, while the League team's up with the quirkier, poorly written Justice League of America to deal with a potentially deadly train accident. Their actions spark racial tensions, as they all swoop in to save the wealthier, whiter neighborhood, while seemingly ignoring the poorer, blacker neighborhood.

Priest does a thing I hate in comics, as he uses images of tweets to drive the narrative at a few points (this is the modern equivalent of Frank Miller's TV talking heads from The Dark Knight Returns), and something which is pretty unnecessary here, given that a character directly speaks to Cyborg and states the tension delineated in the tweets directly through dialogue.

That and the weird continuity are the only real downsides. There's a reference to the League's moonbase, which was excised during Flashpoint, and Cyborg is called a "newbie" at one point, even though he founded the League and his superhero career is, like, a few months shorter than that of the other Leaguers (and actually far longer than that of the two Lanterns). At the same time, there's talk of him being the first black chairman of the League, which might be true; certainly, in the post-Flashpoint Justice League, he's been the only black person on the Justice League, but if we're counting pre-Flashpoint continuity, well, there have been a decent number of black superheroes in various League line-ups. As to chairs, well, I don't recally there even being chairpeople post-Crisis.

Anyway, as I said before, continuity helps sell drama like this, as if there are no rules and no history, then saying something is happening for the first time, or is somehow unusual, doesn't have the same impact if its something the readers already know for themselves.


Nightwing #39 (DC) Nightwing is still battling The Judge in writer Sam Humphries' "Untouchable" story arc, but this particular chapter features another flashback to a previous encounter with The Judge. As with the previous flashback-centric chapter, a guest artist is enlisted to draw that flashback, and that artist is long-time Titans fan and artist Phil Jimenez. While The Judge has Nightwing in a pretty typical supervillain death trap--he's chained to a chair in a room slowly filling with water--he reveals his secret origin to Nightwing, while Nightwing remembers their second encounter.

This occurred when Dick Grayson was no longer Robin, but not yet Nightwing. He was at Hudson University then, but had decided to take a semester at Bludhaven College Law School. Please don't pause to consider how that fits into the post-Flashpoint continuity, given that in less than five years, Dick Grayson became Robin, stopped being Robin and then had already become Nightwing, been Batman for a while and went back to being Nightwing. I guess he squeezed at least a few semesters of college in there too, somewhere between quitting being Robin and becoming Nightwing...? Worse yet, don't consider the other continuity alluded too here, wherein a teenage Jason Todd texts him from Wayne Manor. He also seems to have had all of his Teen Titans friends, including New Teen Titans friends like Starfire, although I think Titans history has been in flux to some degree since DC Universe: Rebirth. I tried a few issues of Titans, but couldn't stand the art long enough to stick with it.

When there's a weird murder at his new college, Dick puts on a domino mask and workout clothes that look an awful lot like his original, George Perez-designed costume, and leaps into action. I am and always have been a big fan of Jimenez's work, and although it seems to have gotten a little softer in its line work recently, likely do to the increasing prevalence of computers in the production of comics art, it's still pretty great looking, and Jimenez' Dick Grayson always look a lot more like "himself" than when other artists are drawing him, if that makes any sense at all (Probably not, I know).

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: February 14th

Archie #28 (Archie Comics) This was another pretty great issue from Mark Waid and Audrey Mok, but the best part? Reggie Mantle casually popping kids' balloons with a knife as he passes them on the street, plotting a villainous scheme out loud to himself.


The shiny metal cover means there aren't decent images of it available online and I can't scan it so that it looks halfway decent either, so there's the two-page title splash by Jimenez.
Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1 (DC Comics) Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and company's extremely successful Dark Nights: Metal event series, which just published its penultimate issue last month, owes quite a debt to Grant Morrison. Not simply, or even primarily, that cool scene in the beginning where Kendra Saunders dramatically flips over the map of the Multiverse from the Morrison-written Multiversity and reveals that the black, back of the map is itself a map, a map of the so-called "Dark Multiverse." No, Snyder has also incorporated bits and pieces from Morrison's Final Crisis and attendant comics, and the root of Metal involves elements from Morrison's Batman run, particularly Darkseid sentencing Batman to the Omega Sanction.

So it is fitting that Morrison himself gets an opportunity to contribute to the series, with this laboriously titled one-shot special, one that functions more-or-less like Metal #5.5, detailing as it does what is going on with The Flash and Cyborg, the only one of the smaller teams of Justice Leaguers that was left out of Metal #5.

Morrison and Snyder are but two of the writers credited on this 32-page story. James Tynion an Joshua Williams are also credited, and the art is produced by Howard Porter, Jorge Jimenez, Doug Mahnke and Jamie Mendoza. Who did what isn't specified, so I'm not sure if Snyder and Morrison plotted and Tynion and Williamson divvied up pages to script, or if the entire thing was written rock band style as 52 reportedly was or...what. It's worth noting that it all reads an awful lot like Grant Morrison though, with a touch of Snyder evident. As for the art, the three primary artists have different enough styles that it is rather immediately obvious who is drawing one.

The secret origin of Detective Chimp is weaved throughout the story, which mainly focuses on Flash, Cyborg and Raven's mission to reach the House of Heroes in Nix Uotan's ship, while the Dark Knights pursue them in The Authority's carrier. Meanwhile, Detective Chimp and a collection of the world's greatest scientists--mad and otherwise--try to assist. There are a lot of callbacks to Multiversity, 52 and other Morrison comics, but the most surprising is that of the last page or so, a surprise appearance by the Primate Legion from the Gorilla Galaxy of the 853rd Century, from the pages of 1998's DC One Million 80-Page Giant, if I recall correctly.

As with almost all of the other tie-ins to Metal, there's a sense that this is just filler or, put more kindly, texture; nothing in this issue is necessarily important to the series itself (at least, not so far), and it is just the sort of thing that, were Metal Morrison's own comic, he wouldn't spend space on, but instead suggest that such things were happening and leave it to the reader to imagine what goes on in-between story beats. That said, it is of course fun filler/texture, with a few touches that bring it in line with a DC "crisis" comic, like when a version of The Flash Barry Allen heroically sacrifices his life, telling another version, "There's always a sacrifice."

Thursday, February 15, 2018

On Sideways #1


*...


...Yeah, sorry guys, I can't do it. My plan was to read and review at least the first issue of each of DC's "The New Age of DC Heroes" books, but I just can't bring myself to read this one. I like artist Kenneth Rocafort's work okay, although the relatively few books of his I've read haven't given me any reason to suspect that he's got a great new superhero concept in him and the storytelling chops to make a great comic book about that hero. The press release-articulated premise even shows some promise: "During the events of Dark Nights: Metal, high shcool junior Derek James accidentally fell through a rift into the dark matter dimension...In Sideways, he can create rifts in midair to leap through dimensions at will." Given the vast canvas of the DC Multiverse, that concept could be fun, at least for a certain kind of reader; is Derek James going to be DC's answer to Marvel's Blink...?

Still, try as I might, I just couldn't get by that single, poisonous credit on the cover: DiDio. This book is co-written by DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Dan DiDio.

There is something incredibly gross about DiDio, inarguably one of the most powerful and influential individuals in the North American, direct market-focused comic book industry, co-writing a high-profile comic book that is meant to be part of a new line, spinning out of a very successful miniseries. Actually, there are probably a lot of incredibly gross things about it, but it says one of two things to me, either of which is so icky I can't really sit down to try to read a 20-page comic book with such thoughts in my skull (And besides, I just got Green Lantern: Kyle Ranyer Vol. 1 and Superboy Vol. 1; I'm more than set with DC super-comics to escape into during my free time).

Here's one reading of DiDio co-writing Sideways, with Rocafort and Justin Jordan. From his place of power within his version of the comics industry, DiDio looked out all across the landscape for potential writers for a particular DC comic he knew was coming up on the schedule--current DC writers, former ones who could probably use a little work, new up-and-comers like those from the workshops DC has had the last few years, artist who would like to dabble in writing, Marvel writers who aren't on exclusive contracts, accomplished writers in other fields with an interest in comics, promising talent from the world of indie, self-published, online and mini-comics--and he decided that, out of all the possibilities, the very best candidate for the job would be he, himself.

That's no way to run a comics publisher, is it? Not only is it a complete waste of a valuable-ish gig, it demonstrates a lack of good taste, a lack of humility and a lack of understanding of your readership (He's hardly the first editor to write while in the position of relative power within one of the big two, but, unlike, say, Stan Lee or Jim Shooter or Archie Goodwin or Denny O'Neil, DiDio doesn't actually have a decent body of work that he didn't assign to himself, nor does he have anything in the way of a fanbase, or people who buy comics because his name is on them).

The other possible reading is that, from his place of power within his version of the comics industry, DiDio looked out all across the landscape for potential writers for a particular DC comics he knew was coming up on the schedule, and though he saw dozens, scores, even hundreds of potential writers who weren't looking back at him from his bathroom mirror every morning, he couldn't find any of them who actually wanted to work for him, work for DC Comics, or work on this Canceled-On-Arrival book starring what appears to be Blink-By-Way-Of-Spider-Man created by an untested artist. While that seems likely, it is a real possibility that the publisher could have trouble finding writing talent to work for them instead of any of the other, direct market publishers, or a prose publishing house with its own graphic novel imprints, or for themselves. There are lots of reasons that this unlikely-sounding possibility could be, from reservations about the culture of DC Comics to writers simply preferring to work on stuff they themselves own, but I have to wonder how DC's current publishing strategy of trolling-one-of-their-most-valuable-writers-ever-for-no-apparent-reason* is perceived by writers who consider working for the publisher in the future.

Those things--the culture at DC, the publisher's perception among writing talent, etc--are also things that are at least partially under DiDio's control.

So, beyond the fact that I never really enjoyed a DiDio-written comic for its writing--the Metal Men feature in Wednesday Comics is the only one I can recall enjoying reading, but then, that strip was quite elegantly drawn by José Luis García-López and inked Kevin Nowlan, so it almost couldn't have been anything other than enjoyable to read--it's hard to see his last name on the cover of this book and not think that it's very presence represents a failure to make good comics.

Anyway, that's why I'm not reviewing Sideways #1.



Previously...

On The Silencer #1

On Damage #1



*While I think doing Doomsday Clock is as dumb as it is crass and creatively bankrupt, the one argument that anyone (probably an asshole) could make for doing it--retroactively, of course--is that it so far seems like it is a sales success. By the standards of a comic book miniseries in 2018. Not by the standards of, say, Watchmen. I cannot, on the other hand, imagine what the fuck DC was thinking by tossing Promethea into Justice League of America this week, or Tom Strong into the upcoming "New Age of Bloodlines" series The Terrifics. Look at the most recent sales charts analysis; JLoA sells less than 30,000 issues a month and is dropping...likely headed towards cancellation anyway, as there's a franchise refresh on the horizon. Even if there were thousands of Promethea fans out there who like the character, dislike her creators and are willing to buy appearances featuring her by other creators just because they love her so much (and there aren't), even if that doubles the sales of JLoA for a month or two, what does that really give DC? A...book that sells about 60,000 units for a month or so before plummeting back down to the mid-twenties again...? Is that really worth all the drama of pissing off/alienating Moore, J.H. Williams III, fans of either of them...? I can't imagine how one justifies these ABC characters showing up in these DCU books that makes a lick of sense.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: February 7th

Batman #40 (DC Comics) This is the concluding chapter of writer Tom King's two-part Wonder Woman team-up, a story that was uncomfortably close to one Joe Kelly's "Immortal Beloved" in 200'0's Action Comics #761 featuring Superman and Wonder Woman a while back. I don't think King was lying when he said that he accidentally wrote the same story, having never read Kelly's, and I imagine he was genuinely mortified when dozens of people started pointing that out to him, but I still kind of can't believe that it ever even happened at all.

If King himself had missed the 18-year-old Superman story, if the artist and colorist and letterer didn't notice the similarities because they too hadn't read it, you have to assume that someone somewhere at DC Comics would have noticed. If not the editors on Batman, is there not someone at DC whose job it is to Google plots and make sure no one else already told almost the exact same story with in the last ten or twenty years...? Like, an intern? Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have been around so damn long now, that it's not unimaginable that more than one writer will come up with the same idea for some of them; DC really should get someone whose job it is to check that sort of thing.

And it really is a rather similar story, as the second half reveals, with Bruce and Diana not hooking up, just as Clark and Diana did not hook up in "Immortal Beloved." Diana perhaps comes out better this time around, as she and Bruce simultaneously realize that they can't do this because not only would it be unfair to their significant others, but because they are just too good of friends at this point; in the earlier story, it was Superman rebuffed Wonder Woman.

And, accident or not, it does show a certain degree of creative bankruptcy, if a second male writer, completely independently of the other, decides to do a Wonder Woman team-up, and the story that comes to mind is to tempt his male hero with a sexual encounter with Wonder Woman, using the hero's ability to resist her feminine charms as a device to illustrate his virtue.

Ugh, the more I think about this story, the more gross it seems...

Pretty stellar artwork from Joelle Jones and colorist Jordie Bellaire go a long way toward making this an enjoyable read, however.


Bombshells United #11 (DC) Hmm...

You know, I think I may be done with Bombshells. There's nothing particularly bad about or wrong with this issue, just as there hasn't been anything particularly bad or wrong with any of the previous issues in this particular story arc, but I feel like I've gotten to the point with the series where I got with Lumberjanes. Every issue wasn't bad, but it also wasn't better than good, and wasn't doing anything on a monthly basis that justified paying for and reading it in that fashion rather just waiting to check it out in library trade a few times a year.

Like Lumberjanes, the relaunched Bombshells has had arcs that tend to go on an issue or two too long (there have only been two arcs since the relaunch, and we're already up to issue #11). I suppose it doesn't help that we've gotten pretty far from the ships-fight-World War II premise, and this particular arc has been dominated by characters, concepts and storylines I've seen more than enough of in the regular DCU--Talia al Ghul, Lazarus Pits, Black Adam, his attempts to bring Isis back to life...

I don't know. I just get less and less out of each issue. Maybe writer Marguerite Bennett will introduce Cassandra Cain's Black Bat--teased in an earlier issue of the series--and Marguerite Sauvage will come back to draw before I get around to dropping the book from my pull...


Justice League #38 (DC) Okay, not only have I got no idea why Flash's eyes are glowing and his face looks purple--I thought he was Eclipsed at first, but I guess maybe he's just suffering from oxygen deprivation--but I can't even begin to guess what is up with his torso. I haven't been reading The Flash, but I thought Barry Allen was still a police scientist; is he a competitive bodybuilder now...?

Marco Santucci joins writer Christopher Priest--who seems to have changed his name again to just "Priest," based on the credits--for this issue, which continues to focus on the turmoil within the League, as the characters who aren't Green Lanterns express their disappointment in Batman as chairman. The action centerpiece, the thing on the cover, involves The Flash trying to rescue someone in space.

There's a lot of science--or, at least, comic book science--in some extremely wordy pages, as Barry thinks his way through how to use his powers in space to save someone without dying himself, but that's the trick with Flash's powers. As with Superman, it can be very difficult to write them being used in such a way that a few panels of drawings can explain.

There's a weird bit where Aquaman shows up wearing his old blue water camouflage costume, not seen in a long, long time, and no one at all comments on it. Maybe this is the arc's villain "The Fan" impersonating Arthur, but it's bizarre that such a big and obvious tell isn't brought up and dismissed by the characters.

Oh, and there's also something weird involving Bruce Wayne that seems to contradict the goings-on in Batman, and is especially interesting read during the same week that he almost kisses Wonder Woman but refrains from doing so at the last second, but I suppose we can put that down to this Justice League arc having occurred before his engagement to Selina Kyle...


Nightwing #38 (DC) Writer Sam Humphries seems to have a decent grasp on Nightwing's fan base. This issue includes a scene where Dick Grayson pretends to be a stripper, and is dancing around in his underwear while women stuff bills into them. 

Snotgirl #9 (Image Comics) Lottie and the Hater's Club are at a fancy hotel in the desert for Thankstravaganza, an "annual festival for us influencers" put on by some of the big brands. It was nice to see the girls all in close proximity, and without much in the way of interference from the male characters. The change of setting, in short, was refreshing.

Also, Lottie meets a rather vapid ghost that is apparently obsessed with Rihanna.


Swamp Thing: Winter Special #1 (DC) This prestige format 80-page giant--it even says that on the cover!--is pretty pricey at $7.99, but also worthwhile. It serves a dual purpose of honoring the late, great Len Wein by publishing the last comic he was working on for DC (as well as a few other little tributes to him) and offering an original story starring Wein's most famous DC Comics creation from currently hot writer Tom King and artist Jason Fabok.

Let's start with the King/Fabok story, as that's what the book starts with, and what is on the cover. It is a pretty great, 40-page Swamp Thing story, in which the monster hero is wanders through a blizzard, attempting to carry a little boy to safety, while struggling with his memory and dwindling powers and abilities, as the cold and snow muffle the power of the plant life.

King is an extremely interesting super-comics writer to read, because he is obviously very talented, and attracted to rather formal, showy structures in his comics scripts, but he also often makes curious decisions, and takes storytelling shortcuts. He's one of the few mainstream comics writers whose work I regularly encounter and end up metaphorically applauding while metaphorically rolling my eyes every few pages.

Here the curious decisions include opening and closing the story by allowing readers to "overhear" sports talk radio in which the host discusses a Gotham Knights quarterback's poor performance during a game against the New Orleans Saints. The content of what is discussed kinda sorta relates to the story, but nothing would be lost without it, and it's just a weird fit with the rest of the story, as there's nothing involving football, sports, games, competition or radio in the story. It is a little speech that comes out of nowhere.

The other is a "twist" that I suspect most readers will guess before they hit the halfway mark, one telegraphed by rather inelegant uses of "Later" to denote the passage of time, something that could just as easily have been denoted by the artwork, were the book scripted and/or drawn a little differently.

Over all though, it was a pretty solid Swamp Thing-as-horror comic protagonist story (I don't think he had to kill that bear though, given his powers; I realize the scene is there to demonstrate something that will be key later, but that demonstration could have come when he faced the human killer.)

I'm not, in general, a fan of Jason Fabok's work, although this made me think about why, as it is very strong work. It is certainly the first Fabok-drawn comic I took note of as being really good. He does a fine job of translating some very weird uses of Swamp Thing's weird powers--like the bit where he starts a fire, for example, or acts as a fallen log-style bridge to help the boy cross a crevasse--and his ornate style is well-suited for a character that can be drawn in almost endless detail.

I liked this much better than the last King-written Swamp Thing story I read, Batman #23, in large-part because Fabok's art is much more traditional and better-suited to the subject matter than King's partner on that story (and other works), Mitch Gerards. (Reading this did make me wonder if DC should talk to King about a Brave and The Bold series, given his team-ups between Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing, and his evident interest in DC characters as disparate as Swamp Thing and Mister Miracle).

That's followed by a two-page "editor's note" from Rebecca Taylor about Wein, and why and how they were presenting his last comic here and in this manner. It was to be the first issue of a sequel to his recent-ish miniseries with Kelley Jones. Wein finished scripting it--the eight-page script follows the comic--but he didn't finish the "lettering script," so what they print is Jones' inked and colored finish art, sans any dialogue or sound-effects. This is actually a rather poignant last work from Wein, which Taylor sets up by noting that "No one wrote Swamp Thing like Len," and so they didn't bother to have someone else finish that script; in a real sense, then, Swamp Thing is silenced in this story. (I suppose we could question pairing the comic with a story twice its length written by someone else, but I imagine DC decided the best way to get people to pick up the Wein/Jones comic was give readers a King/Fabok one to entice them to do so.)

Interestingly, it's actually pretty clear what is going on in the story even without dialogue. Especially if you've read very many Batman comics, for example, and then it's clear that if Commissioner Gordon goes off to stand in the dark away from a crime scene by himself for a few panels, then he's probably talking to Batman, even if we can't see Batman or overhear their dialogue (Batman appears; but not until the final page splash reveal).

The story involves a Gotham City kidnapping carried out by Solomon Grundy, which is why Gordon and Batman get involved. Jones doesn't disappoint with his insane artwork. He's particularly adept at depicting the way Swamp Thing emerges from plant life to appear somewhere far away, and I really liked the panel of Swampy retreating into the potted plant here, too.

There's also perhaps the most amazing, over-the-top sequence in which Batman captures a pair of thugs and blows up two boats using only a couple of extremely well-aimed batarangs, a scene that may be the best scene depicting batarang usage of all time, and then there's this:
Yes, that's Swamp Thing water skiing on a lily pad.

The rest of the book is filled with reprintings of tributes to both Wein and his Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson, including a Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez image of Wein with his co-creations Swamp Thing and Wolverine.


Young Monsters In Love #1 (DC) DC's Valentine's Day special takes an interesting tack this year, narrowing things down from the too-broad concept of "romance" to something more specific, "romance among monsters." While the definitions are loose (of these "young" monsters, at least three are specifically called out within the stories within for being centuries old, and they count Deadman, Monsieur Mallah and The Brain as monsters), it's a pretty smart move, one which allows for stories featuring many relatively little seen characters, and contributions from a few of my favorite DC artists, past or present.

I'm not quite sure why it costs $9.99 though; like the Swamp Thing special, it says "80-Page Giant" right there on the cover, but it lacks a spine, and is still two bucks more. Of course, it has more comics content within, but it's unusual for the Big Two to distinguish between comics and not-comics when doing their page-counts.

Anyway, let's look at this one at a time...

*"Nocturnal Animal" by Kyle Higgins and Kelley Jones

Cover artist Jones kicks the special off, marking the artist's second DC book of the week. It is a good week! Jones' Man-Bat, as previously, is big, hairy and scary, resembling a hulking version of a Rick Baker-designed movie werewolf with wings, his bearded face sometime looking skeletal depending on the angle. He spends most of the story on the ground, his wings barely visible, as he stoops and squeezes into panels mostly too small to contain him.

As in all of these stories, continuity is mostly shrugged at in favor of something more evergreen. I don't think this fits with what little we've seen of Man-Bat in the current, Flashpoint-born DC Universe, but I also don't think it much matters. Doctor Kirk Langstrom is trying to reconnect with his estranged wife Francine, who left him due to the fact that he occasionally turns into a giant were-bat monster. Throughout the story, Kirk sees and hears what is essentially an imaginary Man-Bat hovering above him, always trying to cajole him into taking the formula to become Man-Bat again.

Batman appears on the first splash page, and in maybe two other panels, part of Kirk's dream of being Man-Bat that opens the story. It was weird to see Jones drawing Batman's current costume, with the yellow-outlined bat-symbol and all the seams. He seems to have really toned down the ears and cape too, unfortunately.

*"Pieces of Me" by Tim Seeley, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Cam Smith

This is billed as "A Frankenstein Agent of SHADE" story, and finds the Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke-reimagined versions of Frankenstein and The Bride working under Father Time out of SHADE's Ant Farm base, as in the pages of the rather quickly cancelled New 52 book, Frankenstein Agent of SHADE book. They are on a mission to destroy robots that have been possessed by Satan--good job, writer Tim Seeley--although that mainly just gives them something to be doing while narration boxes are filled with a love letter than Frank wrote for his ex, romantically listing his various body parts and how they relate to her. Before he can even give her the letter, however, he realizes he lost her (apparently she is dating a female vampire now, I guess; so the cover is sort of accurate, just not the particular not-Frankenstein monster that she has wrapped her four arms around).

Camuncoli's art is pretty good here. It wasn't until the second page that I realized it was not Mahnke who was drawing it.

*"Buried On Sunday" by Mairghread Scott and Bryan Hitch and Andrew Currie

Superboy tags along with Superman as Solomon Grundy, the monster in this story, is allowed to visit the grave of his long, long dead wife. There's some fighting, but not much. Scott's read on Superman and the other members of his family seems spot on, but the thing that will stick with me most is the tie Grundy is wearing. I...don't understand it. For the longest time I just assumed the ragged clothing he was wearing was the clothes that he woke up with, but that tie seems way, way too new, too modern and it's still tied perfectly. So I guess he's changed clothes since he's come back to life. And tied that tie with his big fat fingers, somehow. Yes, that image of Solomon Grundy's tie may actually haunt me.

*"The Dead Can Dance" by Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing and Javier Fernandez

Co-writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing put Raven in a short story named after the Australian/British dark wave band, opening with a panel by artist Javier Fernandez that echoes one of the most famous images of The Exorcist.

It is, apparently, Valentine's Day, and we learn that her teammates have completely forgotten poor Raven, so she devotes herself to some supernatural investigation, as she's called to a house to deal with a resident ghost. She manages to put it to rest by fulfilling a wish of its, which also allows her to indulge in an appropriately spooky Valentine's Day activity.

It's a shame the art's not more clear, though, as the ghost is of a teenage boy and is supposed to be cute, but it's impossible to tell that by looking at the drawings of him.

*"Be My Valentine" by Paul Dini and Guillem March

EDILW favorite Guillem March does such a good job of evoking the style of Neal Adams, the artist most associated with Deadman, throughout this short Deadman story that when flipping through the book, I actually thought it was Adams who had drawn this story.

Writer Paul Dini crafts a story involving a grade school Valentine's party that almost went tragically wrong because of the actions of a bully. Using his possession powers, Deadman is able to save a kid's life, and then try to turn life around for a couple of other kids.

*"Heart-Shaped Box" by Mark Russell and Frazer Irving

And it's the second appearance by Swamp Thing in this week's batch of comics. Here he is drawn by Frazer Irving, who draws him as a man-shaped bush, almost always shrouded-in-shadow, save for his red eyes. A lot happens in such a short story, as Swamp Thing finds a new love and loses her, as well as exacting a rather cruel, but non-lethal vengeance on those that have wronged the pair of them. Interestingly, the final series of images are the exact same as those in the Swamp Thing: Winter Special.

*"Visibility" by Steve Orlando and Nic Klein

Given writer Steve Orlando's affection for the DC Comics work of Grant Morrison, it is perhaps unsurprising that his contribution to this anthology is an eight-page extrapolation of a joke from Morrison's script for 1990's Doom Patrol #34. That was the issue in which prominent members of the Silver Age Doom Patrol's mortal enemies The Brotherhood of Evil, disembodied brain The Brain and intelligent super-gorilla Monsieur Mallah, confessed their love for one another just before they were destroyed in an explosion.

At the time, the scene struck teenage Caleb as funny for just how weird and out-of-left-field it was, but then, that Caleb was still using "gay" as a catchall negative slang word (You know, "That movie was so gay," etc). Looking back, I guess that's pretty much what Morrison was doing with the story; it was a throwaway gay joke. That was the punchline: Ha ha, the disembodied evil brain and the evil super-gorilla with the beret on are totally gay for each other.

The scene stuck and became canon, and in most of their appearances since, the pair have been portrayed as romantically involved (Hell, Wikipediea refers to Monsieur Mallah as "the criminal and romantic partner of the Brain).

I suppose one could read this story as act of reclaiming negative portrayals of gay DC Comics characters from the late 20th century, similar to the way Orlando cast Extrano in a small role in his Midnighter comics (where he was essentially just a DC Doctor Strange).  On the other hand, given Orlando's buttressing of his comics by Morrison characters and concepts (and those of other writers working at DC in the 1990s), it could also just be seen as one more example of his homaging a favorite writer.

There's probably an essay to be written about how this pair of minor villains went from a ignorant gay joke to being among DC's recognizable out and gay characters--not the title of this story--but I'm certainly not the one to write that essay. Speaking of such characters, the plot here is that Mallah has taken hostages at a Lexcorp facility and is attempting to steal a doohickey that will restore The Brain's vision. The police negotiator? Maggie Sawyer.

*"The Turning of Deborah Dancer" by Alisa Kwitney and Stephanie Hans

This is an "I, Vampire" story, and as I have never read any such stories featuring the Andrew Bennett character before, I'm ill-equipped to appreciate this one. It seems to be following the recent New 52 series, as Andrew is portrayed as younger and sexier, and some past continuity is referred to.

Anyway, Andrew and his friend Deborah are investigating a killing, and get attacked by a vampire, which artist/colorist Stephanie Hans has drawn the hell out of.

Then they go off to have a bunch of sex. The end.

*"To Hell and Gone" by Phil Hester and Mirko Colak

I like Phil Hester's art so much that I'm always a little disappointed to see his name show up under "Writer." That's not to say there's anything wrong with his writing of course, this is a fine story, I would just prefer to see his writing paired with his drawing, you know?

I got a very Alan Grant/Garth Ennis vibe from this Demon story, in which Etrigan storms a particular part of hell in order to destroy a particular artifact for a particular reason. That sounds vague but, well, it's an eight-page story, so I wouldn't want to spoil what's in it.

I wasn't particularly enamored with artist Colak's Etrigan design; he looks like a pretty standard orange-skinned, nub-horned orc or ogre type, wearing his traditional costume. He's a very fun character to draw, and to look at drawings of, and this particular take wasn't as spectacular as those of many of the other artists to have drawn the Kirby-created horror hero.

Colorist Mike Spicer gives everything a warm, muted look that feels elegiac, and far from the expected cartoon bright colors or overwhelming darks one might normally associate with the character and his adventures.

*"Dear Velcoro" by James Robinson and John McCrea

You know who is probably my favorite Etrigan, The Demon artists? Why, John McCrea, who enjoyed a short run on The Demon with Garth Ennis and drew him in the "Ace of Killers " arc of Hitman (a story which Orlando plucked a few things from to use in his aforementioned Midnighter comics).

And here's McCrea! So that's Kelley Jones, John McCrea and Guillem March, all between the same set of covers. That's a pretty successful anthology in my book.

This is a Creature Commandos story, one using the original iteration of the characters and set during World War II. They are on a mission to take out Nazi-built killer robots, but in-between Vincent (the vampire) and Warren (the werewolf) have a heart-to-heart about Vince's girl back home.

 McCrea is great at drawing werewolves.