Saturday, November 21, 2020

Marvel's February previews reviewed

Marvel's King In Black events keeps on...King In Black-ing, I guess, with 18 new installments of varying degrees of importance scheduled for February of next year. That's less than half of the 54 new, original comic book-comics that Marvel will be publishing that month, but man, that's still a lot, isn't it? It seems like a lot. 

Among them will be a couple of new one-shots, because apparently the series just wasn't big enough, starring Captain America and Black Panther (of course, this tactic of character-specific one-shots does spare those characters' ongoing books from being invaded by the King In Black event, so it's probably not a bad way to go).

Anyway, let's see if anything Marvel has to offer looks particularly noteworthy, shall we...?


All of these be-Phoenix-ed re-designs on Leinil Francis  Yu's cover for Avengers #42 look so dumb that I love them. A Luca Marseca will be drawing the interior art, although one asumes the same coold/dumb costume redesgns will be present within the book as well...


I confess to some confusion over why Avengers: Mech Strike #1, the first part of a five-issue miniseries by writer Jed MacKay and artist Carlos Magno,exists at all, and what, precisely, the difference is between an Avengers Mech and a Marvel Mega Morph. 

The Mega Morphs were what they called the big, giant robot suits that various Marvel characters wore in the 2005 miniseries Mega Morphs, which I recall buying becaue it looked kind of stupid and kind of cool (much like this!), and because then fellow Columbusite Sean McKeever scripted it (I don't recall much about it at this time, aside from the fact that the Hulk also had a Mega Morph in that series, which raised the question of why the Hulk would want/need a giant robot suit, and if he would be able to pilot it). 

As for the reason these exist, one of the variant covers is referred to as a toy varaint, so I assume this is one of those very occasional Marvle comics produced to tie-in with a Marvel-branded toy line. As for the differences between Mega Morphs and these mech suits, I think the Mega Morphs transformed—er, morphed into vehicles. That, and apparently girls can drive the mech suits, as it looks like both Black Widow and Captain marvel are represented on Kei Zama's cover above. 

I plan to read this in trade, at which point maybe I will re-read Mega Morphs so I can compare and contrast...



I don't even remember a solicit for King In Black: Planet of The Symbiotes #1, but King In Black: Planet of The Symbiotes #2 sure looks relevant to my interests, if it involves Kyle Hotz drawing a giant Venom dragon fighting something called American Kaiju. 



Well that's weird. Among the stories Marvel is collecting in Shang-Chi: Earth's Mightiest Martial Artist is one written by Warren Ellis. Like the Distinguished Competition, then, I guess Marvel's A-OK publishing work with Ellis' name attached, even though one would assume that his presence on a book would be enough of a poison pill to turn off most comics fans who have followed the comics news over the last terrible year or so.

What's particularly perplexing about it is that Ellis is just one of the five writers credited, and there are some 47 years worth of Shang-Chi comics in existence now. Surely it couldn't be that hard to find a decent Shang-Chi story not written by a guy with the sorts of allegations that have piled up against Ellis. 

The only other Marvel book with his name attached in February's solicits is the X-Men: Age of Apocalpse Omnibus, but presumably the nature of that book makes not including Ellis' contributions a bit more problematic than simply leaving him out of a anthology of random-ish Shang-Chi comics. The only unifying theme here seems to be comics in which Shang-Chi teams up with other Marvel characters, but there can't be only five of those...

Ugh. Of course, Marvel is still collecting and publishing Jason Latour comics, as is the case with this $125 Spider-Gwen Omnibus, so maybe the fact that they included an Ellis-scripted book in their Shang-Chi collection isn't that surprising...


Have I mentioned my love of Kyle Hotz's art lately? Oh, I have? Well, let me tell you again: I love Kyle Hotz's art. He's drawing the cover for King In Black: Thunderbolts #2, but not the interior. However, the interior art is by Juan Ferreyra, and that guy's pretty good at drawing comics, too. 


Well, this is terrifying! That's the cover of Venom #33, I believe by Iban Coell (there are, of course, a coupla covers).


Did anyone read this year's Werewolf By Night miniseries and, if so, was it any good? I liked the original Werewolf By Night comics, but there seems to be nothing connecting this new series, which will be collected as Werewolf By Night: New Wolf Rising, to those comics or even the original character, aside from the name. Additionally, this is apparently co-written by a Black Eyed Pea, which gives me some paws. I mean pause!



I don't recall ever seeing the costume that Angel is wearing on the cover of X-Men Epic Collection: The Sentinels Live, and, well, I can see why it's not one that gets seen a lot. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

A Month of Wednesdays: September 2020


BOUGHT:

Detective Comics #1027 (DC Comics) To celebrate the 1,000th consecutive issue of Detective Comics to star Batmanand ignoring the time in 2011 when DC reset the dial on the book back to #1 before eventually resuming the original numberingthis issue of the publisher's namesake title has been transformed into a format that will be familiar from all those 80th anniversary super-specials published earlier in the year. That is, it's an anthology special featuring a bunch of short-ish stories in a prestige format, interspersed with a handful of pin-ups and published under a whole mess of variant covers (although I can't imagine anyone wanting one other than the Frank Quitely one because wow, just look at that!). 

The main thing that differentiates it from other recent, similar comics is its length: There are a full dozen stories here, all of them 12 pages long save one, making for an overall sizable package of 145-ish pages. 

As for the contributors, they too can be pretty much inferred from recent like books. They are mostly dudes (Kelly Sue Deconnick and Mariko Tamaki are the only female writers, and Emanuela Luppachino the only female penciler or inker) and, of those dudes, most of them are writing or have previously written Batman and/or Detective Comics and/or other Batman books: Tom King, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Peter Tomasi, Marv Wolfman. The art is a little less predictable; though many of the artists involved have of course drawn Batman somewhere or other in the past, few of them have worked too extensively on the character on a run on one of his books. In that regard, Detective Comics artist Brad Walker, who has drawn much of Tomasi's run, is something of an exception.

All of the comics do a fairly decent job of being about Batman as an iconic figure and/or as a character, rather than Batman simply being a character in the story. Almost all of them have something to recommend them, and even the stories I found the least engaging tended to have excellent art or a clever construction to them.

After spending an afternoon thinking about it, I'm fairly certain the one-time Batman, Inc creative team of Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham produced the all-around best story of the lot, in the form of the cleverly entitled eight-page story "Detective #26."  Essentially just a joke story, featuring the origin of an embryonic "mystery man" named "The Silver Ghost" who was just about to debut as Gotham City's much-needed champion at a chemical factory.
"If The Silver Ghost doesn't tackle the scourge of crime in Gotham, who will?" he narrates, "Who will?"

And then a turn of the page offers the answer, as we find the story intersecting with the climax of "The Case of The Chemical Syndicate," the very first Batman story from the pages of Detective Comics #27, and we get to see Burnham's version of First Appearance Batman (making his first of two appearances in this very issue, by the way).

 It's a quite effective story, made even more so by how much work Morrison and Burnham put into making the Silver Ghost seem kind of cool. His narration is purposely terrible, of course, but man, what a cool design and name (the echo of The Gray Ghost seems intentional, as that mystery man appears on a rooftop crowded with many others in one panel). Burnham also does an amazing job of making the crime-ruled, pre-Batman streets of Gotham City look grotesquely, colorfully decadent, with every character in one panel looking like a Dick Tracy villain.

I had some nitpicks with Tynion's script for "Ghost Story," a Batman/Deadman team-up, but it was honestly one of my favorites of this crop. Tynion seems awfully loose with the "rules" of how Deadman interacts with living people like Batman and Robin Dick Grayson (he both has to possess one of them to talk to the other, and also doesn't...? At only 12 pages, it shouldn't be that hard to pick one and stick with it), and the bit at the end in which a supernatural DC superhero offers to reveal to Batman the fate of his dead parents was something we've seen previously, but, on the other hand, it is a pretty fun riff on a relatively regular if off-beat team-up of two of DC's "-man" heroes; maybe not the World's Finest but, as Deadman puts it, "The World's Spookiest." 

Of course, much of the reason the story is so fun is that it's drawn by Riley Rossmo, who always kills it in these anthologies, and who I would love to see get a nice, substantial run on a Bat-book someday. His version of Deadman is unlike any of the others I've seen before, as he draws Boston Brand not simply as a floating corpse (although he does that too), but trailing a long tail of ectoplasm; his Deadman moves around the pages like a comet, like red and white smoke circling the heroes or climbing inside them.

When he possesses one of the Dynamic Duo, their eyes turn red, and their dialogue bubbles similarly gain a red border (colorist Ivan Plascencia and Andworld Design deserve some credit here too). The purpose of the team-up is to help Deadman take down someone calling himself The Specter Collector, a mad inventor who has developed special gauntlets that allow him to touch ghosts and seemingly suck up their energy (At one point, he even grabs Deadman and uses him to bludgeon Batman; I don't know how that would work, exactly, but it looks funny and cool).

Beyond all the ghost effects, Rossmo's Batman and Robin are both really cool-looking, and I love the big-eyed version of the characters he's come up with. 

I was also rather fond of Deconnick's contribution, "Fore", drawn by John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson. It shows a brilliant billionaire version of Bruce Wayne (note his high-tech golfing accessories) golfing with an extremely intimidating businessman, and doing some crime-fighting simultaneously, seemingly helping his friend James Gordon (the Wayne/Gordon friendship, mentioned in the very first Detective Comics story, isn't one that gets played up much anymore, certainly not to the extent that the Batman/Gordon one is; Snyder, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado's story covers that ground here). That sequence is, of course, interspersed with scenes of Batman Batmanning, allowing for lots of nice JRJR/Janson drawings of smashing glass and big, chunky figures colliding; I'm quite fond of how JRJR draws Batman's ears, as not only are they rather long, as I like 'em, but also rather broad (Not unlike Quitely's on the cover, really). 

There are several other noteworthy stories, each noteworthy for different reasons.

 Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez's "The Master Class" has Batman, Batgirl, Spoiler and all of the Robins all coincidentally coming across the same dead body and working the case together (I really liked Marquez's drawings of the various members of the Bat-Family, even as  I wondered why Duke Thomas and Cassandra Cain were MIA, and  I thought his Spoiler was particularly good. Is it worth noting that Tim Drake was wearing his Red Robin costume from Tynion's 'TEC run again, rather than his dumb "Drake" get-up...?)

Greg Rucka and Eduardo Risso's "Rookie" is a nice portrait of a Gotham City police officer dealing with the department's corruption, one in which Batman is about as behind-the-scenes as he could possibly get. This one actually works as a sort of companion piece to Rucka and co-writer Ed Brubaker's Gotham Central comic, which similarly put the police at the forefront of a crime comic narrative that the colorful superheroes and supervillains intersected with rather than drove.

King's contribution, "Legacy", sees the former Batman writer teaming with probably the biggest and most surprising "get" among the book's artists: Walt Simonson. Their story, dedicated to the late Denny O'Neil, is a Batman vs. Doctor Phosphorous story, in which cancer is the greatest, deadliest threat. Typical of King, it's well-constructed, although it might prove tiresome to some readers to see him once again returning to the Earth-2-like future in which Batman and Catwoman are married and grow old together (which is apparently going to be the one-third of the premise of his upcoming series featuring the pair?). Still, it's clever, with the villain managing to kill Batman while still losing to him, and showing Batman's rather humane response. Also it's drawn by Simonson, so that alone makes it a joy to read. 

There's some pretty interesting penciler/inker pairings in Wolfman, Luppachino and Bill Sienkiewicz's "Odyssey" and Dan Jurgens and Kevin Nowlan's "Generations: Fractured," the latter of which has Nowlan finishing Jurgens' lay-outs. That last one, along with Mariko Tamaki and Dan Mora's "A Gift," are the two stories here that seem to be launch pads for future ones, as the Jurgens/Nowlan short seems to set up the Generations: Shattered one-shot solicited for December,  and the Tamaki/Mora story ends with the words "Not The End..." and slugs for storylines in both Detective Comics and Batman

All in all, this was $10 well spent. 


Runaways By Rainbow Rowell Vol. 5: Canon Fodder (Marvel Entertainment) Rainbow Rowell does such a good job of creating a minor superhero in Doc Justice that there was a moment or two early in this volume where I began to wonder if maybe the character wasn't actually based on some minor, pre-existent Marvel superhero. 

This volume, drawn mostly by Andrews Genolet (although Kris Anka draws one issue), is a more-or-less complete story, following the team as they join Karolina and Nico back into active superheroing, this time allied with Doc Justice as his new "J-Team." Everyone gets a new name and a new costume, and, under their new mentor's tutelage, a new lease on life. The superpower-less Gert, however, has reservations, and they only get deeper as she trains to be the teams "man in the chair." Is this new arrangement too good to be true? Spoiler alert: Yes, yes it is. 

This continues to be a smart, well-made series, a super-comic that functions both as an enjoyable superhero dramedy and a commentary on the genre. 



Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #108
(IDW Publishing)
Sophie Campbell is still unfortunately relegated to just a "story" creditI guess what I thought might be a fill-in issue is actually more of a fill-in arcbut, as with last issue, writer/colorist Ronda Pattison and artist Nelson Daniel do a fine job, and I've no complaints at all about the quality of their work. It's just not what I want from Sophie Campbell's run on TMNT, you know...?

The Slithery, the eel monster introduced last issue, has apparently just been collecting Mutant Town children, and it adds the Turtles to its collection. For some reason, it stores everyone in a weird slime web evocative of the alien larder from Aliens

The Turtles deal with the eel monster rather quickly, and the tough moral position they are put in, one reinforced by Lita, who asks them not to kill or hurt it, is resolved for them when it escapes the sewers and heads out to sea while they are still debating what to do with it. 

As The Slithery differs quite a bit from all the other mutants in Mutant Town, not being an anthropomorphic animal, but just a giant eel with arms and a degree of intelligence well short of the ability to speak, it brings up an interesting question that might get explored in the futurewhat are the longer-lasting environmental effects of the mutagenic bomb that created Mutant Town? 

Campbell and Pattison do some plot-moving here, especially with Baxter Stockman and April O'Neil, and the wider cast including Alopex, Mona Lisa and April all gets some stuff to do involving saving the kids from The Slithery that doesn't involve fighting it. 


Uzaki-Chan Wants To Hang Out! Vol. 1 (Seven Seas Entertainment) Well, I've found itthe absolute weirdest cover gimmick in comics. You can't tell by looking at the image of the cover above, but it's partially embossed, and do you want to guess which parts of it are embossed? See the young woman on the cover? That's Uzaki Hana, the Uzaki-Chan of the title, and her breasts are embossed. 

So, were you encountering the book in real life, there's a subtle but odd 3-D effect to the image, so that her large breasts look even more pronounced. Oh, and because her breasts are embossed, that part of the cover obviously feels differently than the rest of the cover, making this the rare comic book a reader can feel up. 

So here we are, over 20 years since the end of the 1990s, the decade of weird comics cover enhancements, and Seven Seas has managed to outdo the entire North American direct market's weirdness.

As for the comic itself, the work of manga-ka Take, it's not nearly as pervy as its cover. Uzaki is a college student at the same school as Sakurai Shinichi, one year her elder, and a kinda sorta friend from high school. Uzaki is effervescent to an alarming degree, the polar opposite of Sakurai, who prefers quiet and spending time alone. Uzaki, unable to process someone wanting to be alone all the time, interprets this as some sort of problem she needs to fix, and so she spends all the time she can spare with her senpai, often to his great annoyance.

Despite their odd couple nature, the two obviously also have a degree of affection for one another, and may actually turn out to be a perfect couple, something that will be as obvious to the readers as it is to some of the incidental characters, like Sakurai's boss and his co-worker at the family restaurant he works at. 

Step one, of course, is for Sakurai to admit that maybe he doesn't actually mind Uzaki's attentions, which vacillate wildly from annoying little sister to motherly concern over his "lone wolf" attitude and the deficiencies of his bachelor life-style.

 
Although Uzaki's boobs are the centerpiece of the cover designand those of the future volumes, although I haven't seen those ones in person so I don't know if they are embossed as welland one of the most striking elements of her character designs (she's also extremely petite, a good three heads shorter than Sakurai), they're not the focus of the story, although there are definitely gags revolving around them. There are several sexy gags of various kinds, but were this a live-action American film, it would probably get away with a PG-13 rating (I think there's just one panel of partial nudity, and Seven Seas rates the book "Older Teen"). 

Some of these are too-long walks to an awkward moment, as when Uzaki somehow gets herself stuck in a bush and Sakurai grabs her by the waist to pull her out, but most of them revolve around Uzaki doing something blithely titillating and Sakurail trying to convince her to stop and/or not think impure thoughts about her.

So it's your rather standard will they, won't they manga romantic comedy, differentiated from many by the slightly-older-than-usual age of the characters, the particular character dynamic and Take's decision to make "extremely busty protagonist" a focal point. 

Well that, and the weird cover, of course. 


BORROWED:

Marvel Action: Avengers: The Ruby Egress (Book Two) (IDW Publishing) I so enjoyed IDW's Marvel Action: Captain Marvel: A.I.M. Small (reviewed here) that it reminded me I was behind on their Avengers book, and so I sought to remedy that. This volume, collecting Marvel Action: Avengers #4-6 by writer Matt Manning and artist Jon Sommariva, is a fight book in probably the truest sense of the term. Relatively little other than fighting occurs in its pages, and that which does seems to still revolve around fighting: Talking about the fighting that's in progress, reviewing the the fighting that just occurred, getting ready for the next fight. This volume certainly lives up to the "Action" part of the line's name.

The arc begins in media res, with Thor and Captain Marvel trapped "somewhere else," engaged in constant battles that distract them from their goal or rescuing Doctor Strange from a far off mountain. Something is clearly wrong, as their eyes repeatedly turn run when they are fighting, and their opponents will all be familiar to Marvel fans: The Mindless Ones, Zzutak, Taboo and some really strange creatures I didn't recognize, but whose design was extremely cool.

Meanwhile, Iron Man (in a neat new stealth suit), Captain America, Black Panther and Black Widow all try to keep Count Nefaria (dressed in his most supervillain-like outfit, the one with the big, dumb "N" on his belt) from stealing a special museum piece which, when united with magical ruby he already has his hands on, will form a super magic maguffin that will allow him to summon an army of monsters and warriors from within the gemincluding Thor, Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange, who we gradually learn are actually trapped inside it. 

The two teams wage their war against him on two fronts, and I don't think it counts as a spoiler to say that the good guys win and the bad guy loses. As with the first volume, there's an intimation of a new, different and greater threat waiting in the wings. At the end of the first volume, it was Nefaria. At the end of this volume, it's "The Fear Eaters." On the last page, Madame Masque, who appeared in the first volume, reappears and makes a report to A.I.M. that the events of this volume didn't work out the way they had hoped, and that they will need a new strategy, as "The Fear Eaters will be here soon." Those final words appear over a panel of a swarm of purple something-or-others headed toward the planet Earth.

I like Sommariva's art quite a bit, and I don't think I would have enjoyed this story nearly as much were it drawn by another artist. There's a real energy to his work, and his figures all seem to stretch and lean into their actions in a way that gives the static images a dynamic sense of animation. I also like how he exaggerates the designs and expressions just enough to accentuate the action and drama, but not so much that it sacrifices storytelling. 

And Manning certainly gives him plenty of fun things to draw here, from all-time great Ditko and Kirby designs to Nefaria's furious, scenery-chomping expressions to a battle-mad Thor throwing down with monsters and Captain Marvel.


Marvel Action: Avengers: The Fear Eaters (Book Three) (IDW) Remember how I was just saying how much I liked Jon Sommariva's art on the previous volume, and I don't think I would have enjoyed the story quite as much without it? Well guess what? The next volume in the series, collecting issues #7-9, isn't drawn by Sommariva, at least, not beyond that pretty great cover, featuring a particularly cool image of everyone's favorite Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing. 

For this three-issue arc, Marcio Fiorito handles the art chores, and while there's nothing particularly wrong or bad about the art, it is a definite shift in style and, therefore, tone. It's far more realistic, far less expressive and far less dynamic. In fact, Fiorito's artwork looks far closer to what one might expect to find in the pages of many Marvel comics published by Marvel Entertainment proper.
The title threat are these extremely weird-looking alien creatures that look a bit like sea monsters and a bit like microorganisms. They generate fear through some sort of natural ability of theirsthat is, beyond the fact that they are fucking terrifying lookingand, as their name implies, they feed off of that fear. Here that manifests by summoning visions that cloud the minds of our heroes, mostly the Black Panther, who spends much of the volume combating the phantom of his father, who he believes has returned to challenge his worthiness as the new Panther and the new king of Wakanda. 

Though Manning has made each of these collections distinct, standalone arcs, the previous ones continue to feed back into the newer ones. So, for example, in this volume, Iron Man fiddles with the helmet on his stealth suit so that it will hide his thoughts, because Count Nefaria was able to see them in the previous volume. And Madame Masque and her hired help the UFoes from the first volume return, in part to keep AIM tied into the events of the series. In the face of the threat posed by the Fear Eaters, MODOK and AIM are prepared to leave Earth in a giant rocket ship, and maybe return in the future to retake the planet from either the Avengers or the Fear Eaters, depending on who wins.

This isn't your first super-comic though, so you already know who wins.

 As with the previous two volumes, this one ends with a splash page revealing a big, cliffhanging threat for the next volume: 
AIM has either taken over a bunch of Avengers that we haven't yet seen appear in this title (although some of those guys have appeared on some of the variant covers), or created their own versions of them (as the fact that there's an orange Hulk would seem to imply).

So yes, this book remains a lot of well-made fun, even if I personally prefer Sommariva's art to that of Fiorito. 

Oh, and my favorite part? In the midst of a global emergency, in which aliens are swarming the planet, Black Panther's plan to save the day involves customizing Iron Man's stealth armor so that it amplifies thoughts and feelings rather than hides themso he can use his own fear as "bait" to draw the Fear Eaters to himbut he takes the time to redesign the helmet so that it has cat ears. No emergency is so urgent that a superhero can't take the time to make sure his branding is on point, after all. 


REVIEWED: 


The Nutcracker and The Mouse King: The Graphic Novel (First Second) Cartoonist Natalie Andrewson's comics adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffman's original story (the basis for the basis of Tchaikovsky's ballet...and thus just about every pop culture riff on the Nutcracker you've ever seen) is a real delight. I was a bit skeptical of it for the some of the first chapter, as I thought it might be a little heavier on narration than necessary, but once the book gets going, it really sings. You can read my full review here


Teen Titans Go! To Camp! (DC Comics) The manic, absurd Teen Titans Go! cartoon was never a great fit for comics adaptations, but the original graphic novel format? That works much better, as I think Sholly Fisch and Marcelo DiChiara prove here. As a long-time DC Comics fan, there was a lot for me to like here, as I previously pointed out on EDILW. In that respect too, it's much like the show. Probably the most fun part, however, was seeing the work of all of the many guest artists who each do a page here and there to dramatize various camp-goers' letters home. More here

Sunday, November 15, 2020

A Month of Wednesday: August 2020


BOUGHT:

The Harrowing of Hell (Iron Circus Comics) I've been fascinated by the story of the harrowing of Hell ever since I first heard of it. Cartoonist Evan Dahm mentions in his brief afterword that he grew up reciting a version of the story in church, in a few vague snippets of the Apostle's Creed: "[Jesus Christ] suffered under Pontius Pilate,/was crucified, died and was buried:/he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again..." 

Although it is a tenet of Christian faith, the story doesn't appear in any of the canonical books of the Bible; in the four gospels, the action never leaves the plane of Earth, and whatever happened to Jesus between his death and resurrection is left to the imagination of the reader. The apocrypha is another matter, and there are accounts of Jesus' descent into Hell in such writings as The Gospel of Nicodemus. In the Middle Ages, passion plays built up a whole tradition around Jesus time among the dead, in which he descended into Hell, freed the virtuous pagan dead and, in some tellings, defeated and chained Satan and the demonic jailers. 

I suppose that's why the stories have fascinated me; they are among the ultimate untold stories embedded within perhaps the best-known, oft-told story in human history, and they feel like secrets, or, perhaps, deleted scenes. Or, to use comic book terminology, they feel a little like Biblical Elseworlds or Imaginary Stories, you know? 

I first heard of Evan Dahm's graphic novel while writing about Jeff Loveness and Jakub Rebelka's Judas, which follows the most problematic disciple into the afterlife, and rather unexpectedly intersects with a version of the harrowing story (If you liked Judas, I'd recommend this book, and if you like this, I'd recommend Judas; they both cover some similar ground in terms of Christianity as story).   

Dahm's book opens with a pair of quotes that encapsulates the contradiction that it will spend its page count chronicling and wrestling with. The first is from Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You, regarding how Christianity abolishes the concept of government; the other is from Eusebius Pamphilus' The Life of The Blessed Emperor Constantine,  and notes what is ultimately the turning point in Christian history, when the emperor adopts Christianity, making it the official religion of the government that once tried to stamp it out, a government that ultimately shaped Western history:
He saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, Conquer By This. 
That spelled out, Dahm will shift from scenes on Earth and in Hell, those on the former plane each set in a particular city, its name spelled out over a two-page establishing shot. The first of these is Jerusalem, wherein we see Pontius Pilate's questioning of Jesus, followed immediately by the crucifixion and Jesus awakening in Hell.

Dahm's Christ is a small, unimposing man, less Samson than David from the Goliath story, with big, wide eyes, messy, curly hair, a beard and a round nose; he's drawn in quite sharp contrast to the smooth-faced, almost statuesque Pilate and the Roman soldiers that attend him. 

The art is all presented in black and white and red, with that last color used for emphasis; the robes of Roman soldiers, the cross, the round wounds on Jesus' wrists, the landscape of hell, Lucifer and, ultimately, the red on the banner of heaven a militant Jesus waves in a scene in which the devil explains how humanity will want to see Christ, these are all rendered in red; red, then, is the color of opposition to Jesus. 

After his death, on his way down toward the red hellmouth, Jesus sees a valley of churches and temples, each topped with a cross, a symbol of his death, and the world's rejection of him. His journey through Hell, facing the creatures that live there and freeing, or attempting to free, all those imprisoned there, is intercut with scenes from his ministry on Earth: Talking in parables about why he talks in parables to his disciples on the sea of Galilee, healing a faithful blind man in Bethsaida, clearing the moneychangers from the temple and then arguing with the Pharisees there. 

The crux of the conflict comes when Jesus stands before the devil figure, the one he calls "adversary" (and thus we'd call Satan), who looks like larger, redder, more abstracted Pilate. It is he who names Jesus "Christ," which Jesus doesn't want to be called, and through this Satan Dahm draws a connection between Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, when the devil takes Jesus to a mountain top, shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and tempts him, "All this I will give you, if you bow down and worship me." 

Jesus refused in the Bible, of course, but, as The Harrowing of Hell notes, through the events of history, Jesus received "all the kingdoms of the world" as his own anyway...or at least all of the Western world's  kingdoms for a time, and, indeed, much of the world still belongs to Jesus. 

Theology as comic book, I don't think Dahm necessarily comes to a conclusion regarding whether Jesus was wrong or Jesus had failed, certainly not so much as he comes to various observations, pointing out the ironies of history, and humanity's blockheadedness, something Jesus faced during his earthly ministryas we see during Thomas' questioning of him, or that of the Pharisees or Pilate in this bookand which his message continues to run up against today.

 Dahm's story, with all of its heady ideas, is beautifully, elegantly, simply told. The subject matter may be extremely weighty, but the book is a deceptively fleet read, and one that requires and rewards re-readings. I was quite struck by much of the imagery, and how it integrates element of the Bible and later Christian tradition (many of the demons of Hell resemble giants with clams for heads...although their heads echo Dahm's design of the hellmouth Jesus entered; they are, then, literal citizens of Hell and, it turns out, all mouth, no eyes or ears). 

Similarly, there's a great moment where Jesus rends a veil of fabric as he prepares to ascend back to Earth, awakening in a sort of large stone coffin as if it were a horizontal doorway to and from the land of the dead; this image is from the crucifixion narrative, as when Jesus dies the veil in the Temple, the one between most of mankind and the Holy of Holies, was torn in half. It's just a panel, but it's a great one. 

I'm curious how much resonance this will have with readers without Dahm's, or even my, background with Christianitythat is, people who didn't grow up reciting the Apostle's Creedand I'm equally curious about how certain Christians, the sort who might be distressed to hear that every twist and turn in history wasn't necessarily part of God's plan, and that we humans seem to fuck up a lot when it comes to making sense out of what Jesus was telling us, will receive the questions Dahm raises.

Wherever you fall on that spectrum, I think this was a very thoughtful, very well-made comic, and one of the better ones I've read this year. 


Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of The King of Comics (Ten Speed Press) I had pitched a review of Tom Scioli's Jack Kirby biography to The Comics Journal, but it had already been assigned to someone else, a fact that I ended up being rather glad of. First, I think Matt Seneca is probably a better comics critic than I, and his piece ended up better than mine would have; secondly, it meant I could enjoy reading a review of the book; and, finally, it meant I could turn my critic's brain off (to the extent that doing so is ever entirely possible; perhaps turning it down is more accurate) and enjoy Scioli's loving biography as a comic book meant simply to be read and enjoyed, rather than a work that had to be analyzed and eventually critiqued. 

And I did enjoy it quite a bit. In fact, I suppose there's another reason to be glad I didn't get assigned a review of itmy review would likely have been embarrassingly gushing, I dug the book so much. Tom Scioli should need not introduction to readers of this blog, as if you've been reading EDILW for very long, you've seen me ranting and raving about each and every issue of Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe and The Go-Bots for IDW and his Super Powers back-up in the first few issues of DC's Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye book. Scioli's also responsible for American Barbarian (which was my introduction to his work), as well as the more straightforward Kirby riffs Godland and The Myth of 8-Opus

That last book was actually the first I had ever heard of Scioli, having seen him selling it at comic conventions, and it was his very earliest work. It is therefore pretty safe to say that Scioli has been a Kirby fan all his professional life and, beyond that, Kirby's work has informed his own in an even more direct fashion than Kirby's work has informed most American comics artists (It is nigh impossible to overstate Kirby's influence on the American comics industry, and I'm quite sure there are artists whos work owes great debts to Kirby's who aren't even aware of his influence on them, so much has he permeated the field at this point).

In short, it's hard to think of a better, or more interesting, choice for a cartoonist to tackle a Jack Kirby biography. Not only does Scioli's own particular style mean that there is a lot of Kirby style in the book about Kirby, but there are countless instances of Kirby's art appearing within the panels of the book, instances where Scioli's ability to work as a Kirby clone when necessary or desirable is perfect for the book. Sure, many talented artists can ape Kirby's style, but Scioli can inhabit it. 
In terms of tackling the subject matter, of which there is a lot, Scioli chooses the interesting route of having Kirby serve as narrator. The very first panel begins with narration, "My folks were from a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire called Galacia," and the entirety of the book is basically formatted around Kirby telling the reader his life story, hitting all of the more important bits, but without getting too deep into any particular rabbit holes.

So, for the most part, it reads like a string of anecdotes, reassembled into a narrative. Many of the stories were familiar to me, and will be to other readersscanning the bibliography, I recognize books I've read like David Hadju's The Ten-Cent Plague, for exampleand, indeed, may be stories you've heard second- and third-hand repeatedly, like how much Kirby's experiences with neighborhood kid gang battles influenced the big city-as-urban playground nature of the rooftop-running superhero, or of Nazi-sympathizers calling into the offices of Timely/Marvel and Kirby offering to meet them outside to fight them, the creations of characters and books and genres, the first meeting with Stan Lee, an annoying office boy who played a flute, the bitter struggles with Stan Lee and Marvel near the end of his career and so on.

There was also a great deal I had never heard, and I had never really read these stories in this sort of context or in the shape of a story before. It would be too easy to say that Kirby lived the sort of life that was every bit as dramatic as those of the heroes who he created, and it wouldn't be accurateso many of his characters were so over-the-top that of course Kirby's own life couldn't compare with their cosmic doings, but there are four or five different book's worth of life story in Kirby's life, and Scioli does a fine job of compressing them into a single, relatively short (at 190-pages) and fast-moving story.

The Kirby telling his life story directly to the reader conceit is only broken three times. Twice it was broken to allow for other narrators to tell their side of the story. The first is a page devoted to Rosalind Goldstein, who would become his wife Roz Kirby; the gets a six-panel page in which she tells of how they met one another, and how he invites her up to his room to see his etchings: "I was disappointed," she narrates. "I thought he wanted to fool around. It was the first time I saw Captain America. I'd never seen a comic book in my life." (She'll return later to tell another anecdote)

The other goes to Stan Lee, who gets four pages to tell the reader what had become of Timely after Kirby left and before he returned. "That's how Jack remembers it, but neither one of us has a good memory," the Lee section begins, and it's a rather poignant passage, showing Lee's side of things. Because we mostly see Lee through Kirby's eyes, and the two would have such conflicts over the years, it was nice to see Scioli, and thus Scioli's Kirby, giving Lee, or at least Scioli's Lee, space to tell some of the story, even though we don't check back in on Lee much throughout, at least, he doesn't regain command of the narration boxes. As much as their stories intertwine, after all, this is Kirby's story.

I laughed out loud twice during the book, both times during Lee scenes. The first is of the flute scene, which I vividly recalled from Hajdu's book. I just love the idea of Lee irritating co-workers like Joe Simon and Jack Kirby at that early state, something that seems funnier when one realizes the antagonism that would follow.
The second scene I wouldn't share now, if this book hasn't already been out for months, for fear of spoiling it. When we see the adult Stan Lee, he looks like a balding, middle-aged, unremarkable man, completely unrecognizable as the guy who would go on to cameo in dozens of superhero movies over the course of the last few decades, looking infinitely more ordinary, and, oddly enough, older in the 1950s than he would look in the '00s (I had first learned who Stan Lee was in the early 1980s, so I had never known a mustache-less, bald Stan Lee).

Then there's this panel:
The final breaking of the format comes when Kirby dies, his death presented as an all-black panel with the date in the corner, after which the six-panel format changes to a 12-panel per-page one, and then Kirby returns for two more panels to speak an epilogue directly to the reader. 

Those 12-panel pages begin with a couple of immediate tributes to him, including a panel from Stan Lee and two of Frank Miller's euology, followed by images of the Dan Turpin-as-Kirby from Superman: The Animated Series, Stan Lee being a bastard/being Stan Lee, and then image after image of Kirby created or co-created heroes in films, demonstrating just how many goddam billions of dollars Hollywood had made off of Kirby characters in the past 20 years or so.

It's a really great book, and I think everyone should read it. 

...

(You know, as I am re-reading this post one last time before I hit the publish button, it occurs to me that I read three superhero comics in August, and all of them are based on Kirby's work. He co-created the Avengers, whose current line-up includes his co-creations Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther and a distaff version of The Hulk; their base is in a Kirby-created Celestial; in one of the volumes they encounter The Silver Surfer, in another the Deviants from The Eternals appear. The Unkillables doesn't feature any Kirby creations among its many characters, although the premise for the entire DCeased franchise is that Kirby's Anti-Life Equation lead to a zombie apocalypse on Earth when his Darkseid and Desaad tried to control it.)


BORROWED:

Avengers By Jason Aaron Vol. 5: Challenge of the Ghost Riders (Marvel Entertainment) The focus shifts to Avenger Robbie Reyes, the newest Ghost Rider, in this volume of Jason Aaron's Avengers run, which is, for this collection at least, now mostly drawn by Stefano Caselli (Luciano Cecchio draws issue #24). I've mentioned before how it's kind of lame that the writer gets their name in the title of the collections, but the artists do not, right? It's kind of lame, but it's also kind of unavoidable, at least as long as Marvel never lets any books have a "regular" artist, instead switching them up every few issues.

After the events of the the third volume, The War of The Vampires, Robbie's not so sure about his Ghost Rider gig, and is ready to give it up for good after a strange, evil disembodied voice comes out of his hellchargernot that of his late, serial killer uncle Eli, but a new, different evil disembodied voicethreatening his little brother.

Turning to his super friends, Robbie hopes they can perform an exorcism on his car and free him of the his Ghost Rider curse, and they call in a specialist, The Son of Satan/Daimon Hellstrom, whom Caselli draws in a terrible new design that includes a bald head, pointy-ears and a long-red goatee sans mustache (To be fair, I don't know if this design is Caselli's, or that of a previous artist who drew Hellstrom in the recent past. Whatever the case, it's far from his original and best look).

The results of the ritual are to 1) Send Robbie and his car to Hell, where current king of hell and former Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze challenges Robbie to a race, and 2) Release the mysterious spirit from the car into the Avengers Mountain itself which, remember, is built within the body of a dead Celestial.

As the action in the mountain resolves itself, the identity of the mysteriously powerful spirit is revealed, and it won't come as much of a surprise to anyone who looked at the cover before reading the book: It's the so-called Cosmic Ghost Rider, writer Donny Cates and artist Geoff Shaw's surprisingly popular creation. I say "surprisingly" simply because CGR is just a blending of a couple of different characters. He's an alternate universe version of The Punisher, Frank Castle, who has bonded with the spirit of vengeance to become an alternate universe version of Ghost Rider, and he has The Silver Surfer's power cosmic. So "What if...The Punisher was also Ghost Rider, with Silver Surfer's powers...?", basically (Unfortunately, he's not as ridiculous looking as he sounds; he doesn't ride a flaming surfboard, for example, but a simple flying space motorcycle).

Having never read any previous appearances of the characterCosmic Ghost Rider, Cosmic Ghost Rider Destroys Marvel History, Revenge of The Cosmic Ghost RiderI was quite surprised to find that he's basically just a Marvel Universe answer to DC's Lobo, at least as Aaron writes him here. His personality is not anything at all like any Frank Castle I've ever read. Instead he's loud-mouthed, belligerent, flippant and incredibly chatty. I half-expected him to say "frag" at any moment (The fact that he can go toe-to-toe with the universe's strongest heroes, rides a flying space motorcycle that comes when he calls it and fights with a chain only solidifies the resemblance).

So while Robbie races against Johnny across the landscape of Hell, with Johnny cheating as much as possible and Robbie receiving aid from all the Ghost Riders past (many of whom, I have to assume, appeared in Aaron's earlier Ghost Rider run), until the Avengers come to a detente with CGR and descend to Hell in order to aid Robbie in his race.

It's as over-the-top crazy as one would expect, given the previous four volumes of Aaron's Avengers, and I liked Caselli's take on all of the characters (Hellstrom aside) quite a bit. Caselli doesn't seem to have hit any plateau, as his art generally looks better each time I see it.

The book ends with what looks like a preview of what's to come, featuring Iron Man stuck in the distant, prehistoric past (Iron Man was off on his own while the others all dealt with the Ghost Rider business), and then a reprinting of Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore's All-New Ghost Rider #1 from the short-lived monthly introducing the Reyes version of the character. It's a somewhat odd inclusion, given that this is the fifth volume of the Avengers comic in which Reyes is one of the main characters, and presumably curious fans would have sought out All-New Ghost Rider Vol. 1 some time ago, but hell, reprints save Marvel money by adding to the page count of the their trade paperback collections, so what are you going to do...?


Avengers By Jason Aaron Vol. 6: Starbrand Reborn (Marvel) This volume kicks off with a one-issue story introducing the prehistoric Avengers' Starbrand, who has previously been portrayed as their answer to The Hulk, one of the occasional origin stories of that team's members that, if the book had a regular artist, might give said regular artist some time off to catch up. That issue, the series' 26th, is mostly penciled by Dale Keown, well-known for his Hulk comics. I suspect he didn't get enough of a head start on it, though, as Andrea Sorrentino draws a two-page sequence, and there are three inkers credited in addition to Sorrentino.

In this story, there appears to be a male Neanderthal and a caveman who are in love, named Vnn and Brrkk (I woulda named them "Adm" and "Stv", because I'm an asshole). They have found a special garden and are happy there...until The Deviants from Jack Kirby's Eternals comics invade. One of the pair of of prehistoric men dies, the other becomes Earth's second Starbrand, following the heels of the first, who was a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

After that issue, Ed McGuinness returns to draw the collection's four remaining issues. It is about as pure a "fight comic" as you can get, with Aaron himself seemingly finding some of the set-up boring, and skipping past a few key scenes to go from Point A to Point C.

Gladiator's people detect a huge swathe of destruction ravaging planets throughout a prison galaxy and the mohawked, caped strongman goes to investigate, leaving instructions to call The Avengers if he doesn't return in a given amount of time. He doesn't, and so Captain America recruits Black Widow to join himself, Thor, Hulk, Captain Marvel, Ghost Rider, Blade and Boy-Thing for a space adventure (Black Panther stays behind on Earth, searching for the now-lost Iron Man).

The source of the destruction is, of course, the birth of the latest Starbrand. Gladiator wants to find and kill said Starbrand. So too do Silver Surfer, Terrax and Firelord, referred to collectively as "The Heralds"  The Avengers have to fight their way through the prison galaxy and then fight all those guys in order to get to and save the Starbrand, an Earthling whose reveal is unexpected in a couple of ways.
McGuinness and Aaron reveal new, if temporary, looks for many of the characters throughout. Hulk gets a new purple-and-black bikini that looks like something Jack Kirby might have designed for Big Barda, although it's supposedly has a new function: It helps her focus her gamma energy into blasts. Captain Marvel gets too close to a white hole, which somehow triggered her old Binary form ("so...my head's on fire now"). Thor was infected by the Brood during the time-jump, and now looks like a particularly humanoid Brood in a Thor costume. Captain America's costume got wrecked in his fight with Thor, and so he wears some Starjammers hand-me-downs. Widow and Blade also get some new threads donned in moments of necessity, but they're kind of cool surprises, and not worth spoiling, nor is Ghost Rider's new, temporary ride (although it is something I was thinking about while reading the previous volume of this series). 

As is usually the case with Aaron and company's Avengers, there's not much to it, really, but what's there is a lot of fun. 


Komi Can't Communicate Vol. 8 (Viz Media) While the bulk of this volume is devoted to a class trip, and all of the hijinks that entailsincluding bathing together, the sleepover-like scene of the students in the hotels and Komi separated from Tadano for long periods of timethe opening pages reveal the aftermath of the rather romantic encounter in which Komi nurses a delirious-with-fever Tadano from the end of volume seven, and introduces a new character with a new quirk, narcissist Naruse (as a boy, his addition to the cast means there's finally enough weird boys that the scene in the boys' bath later in the volume is even funnier than that in the girls' bath). There's also a genuinely tender scene set on the train-ride home that swelled my heart a bit. 

This is still my favorite ongoing manga by far. 


DCeased: The Unkillables (DC Comics) I didn't much care for Tom Taylor, Trevor Hairsine and Stefano Guadiano's 2019 series DCeased, which was basically DC's answer to Marvel Zombies, an Elseworlds-like story which fused elements of Jack Kirby's New Gods comics with Stephen King's Cell for a story in which DC's heroes fought a losing battle against a zombie apocalypse. 

I therefore would have skipped this sequel series, were it not for the most fan-ish of reasons: It featured Batgirl Cassandra Cain, apparently the version from the 2000-2006 Batgirl series, as opposed to the "Orphan" iteration that replaced her in 2015 and hell, I like and miss that character. (As for her presence here, it points to one of the awkward elements of the book; unlike most good Elseworlds/Imaginary Story/What If...? sorts of comics, DCeased didn't start with a familiar status quo and depart from it, but was set in a sort of muddled version of the DCU that seemed to blend the pre- and post-Flashpoint continuity at random).

This, it turns out, is much better than the original series, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, pencil artist Karl Mostert's work is far superior to that of Hairsine. It's crystal clear yet incredibly detailed, and the action sings. Mostert inks some of his pencils himself, although there are three other inkers credited. Rex Lokus colors the book, and it is similarly clear and refreshingly bright; it's not as dark or murky as the original DCeased was, nor, indeed, the majority of DC's current line. 

While the plot isn't any more original than that of the first seriesin fact, in many ways it is even more familiar to the standard zombie survival plotI found it more compelling, perhaps because it slots more easily into the genre.

DCeased showed us how Superman, Batman, The Flash and the other Justice Leaguers dealt with the Anti-Life Equation's zombification of Earth, and how they ultimately fled the planet. Unkillables focuses on the villains, and a handful of other characters who didn't appear in the original series.

So we open with Deathstroke on a job when the plague hits, and he finds his healing factor saves him from zombificationor, at least, when he becomes infected, its temporary. He's recruited by Vandal Savage to join a cabal of villains (and The Creeper) who are essentially waiting things out on a secret island (These include Solomon Grundy, The Cheetah, Captain Cold, Lady Shiva, Bane, Deadshot and Mirror Master, whose powers are used for transportation). 

Meanwhile, Red Hood Jason Todd, Commissioner Gordon, Batgirl Cassandra Cain and Ace the Bathound team-up in Gotham City and make their way to Bludhaven, where they find a boarded up school full of orphans they endeavor to protect from the zombie hordes.

When Savage betrays Deathstroke, and Zombie Wonder Woman attacks the island, the survivors of the two groups unite, train the orphans and make a last-ditch effort to escape the school and  head for sanctuary. 

Oh, and Mary Marvel is in it, too. Taylor does a pretty good job of finding little-used, fan-favorite characters and giving them a bit of spotlight in his books (Like, I honestly can't remember the last time I've seen The Creeper in a comic; this version felt way off from the version of the character I thought I knew, but it was still just kind of nice to know the guy still exists, you know?). 


REVIEWED:

Beetle & The Hollowbones (Atheneum Books) There are a lot of little things about Aliza Layne's debut graphic novel that I likeda limited shape-changing character who keeps a theme in each form, a character who "talks" in comics within the comic, a really cool skeleton cat design, a world full of neat monster background characters like some kind of scary Richard Scarrybut the whole thing is good, too. It was a surprise of a book, as I wasn't familiar with Layne and it wasn't on my radar until it was right in front of me, but it was a very pleasant surprise. 


The Contradictions (Drawn & Quarterly) Sophie Yanow's coming-of-age semi-autobiographical webcomic is now a graphic novel. I wrote about it at The Comics Journal. 


Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer (Dial Books) Gillian Goerz's charming graphic novel about a pair of grade-schoolers who team-up to rescue one another from their respective summer camps is a fun little mystery comic, but beyond the case of the kidnapped gecko they embark on solving, there's also the mystery of what, exactly, is up with Shirley and her interest in Jamila. That is, why, exactly, is she so weird? And is she just using Jamila, or does she want to be...friends...?

Saturday, November 14, 2020

DC's February previews reviewed

Yikes, is it that time of the month again already? Apparently so. February of 2021 will look an awful lot like January of 2021 at DC Comics, as the Future State event continues. Some of the miniseries that began in January will continue into February, and there's at least one new one-shot. It's all very hard to pre-judge, and I mostly just feel curiosity about it rather than any genuine excitement. However curiosity is a feeling, so there's that!

I didn't do the math this time, so I'm not sure how much of DC's comic book-comics this month will be taken over by Future State, but it seems to be quite comparable to January, with future issues of the same books that weren't part of Future State being solicited this month, as well as a handful of intriguing original graphic novels I didn't mention at all and a couple of cool-looking trade collections.

Anyway, here's what jumped out at me, aside from Brian Bolland's fantastic cover for Future State: Dark Detective #4, of course...


I can't believe we're getting a Batman: Arkham: Talia Al Ghul trade before one featuring Calendar Man, Catman, Anarky or Killer Moth. 


I'm trade-waiting the new Batman: Black and White series, but February's Batman Black and White #3 is going to be particularly hard to not buy off the rack, as it's going to have a Kelley Jones-drawn story in it.


Warren Ellis might be (rightly!) cancelled, but his latest major work for DC sure isn't! In February you can buy the $40 The Batman's Grave: The Complete Collection, but can you actually go through with the purchase, knowing you may be financially supporting Ellis? And can you actually read it without getting icked out thinking about its creator and the damage he's done to untold women...? 


The perhaps oddly-titled Black Canary: Bird of Prey collects some 300-pages of Black Canary comics from the Golden Age to the Bronze Age, from creators like writers Gardner Fox, Robert Kanigher, Denny O'Neil and artists Murphy Anderson, Carmine Infantino and Alex Toth. That is a lot of talent, and a lot of comics starring a character probably best known as supporting character or member of an ensemble cast like on teams like the JSA, JLA and, of course, the Birds of Prey. This is one I'm definitely pre-ordering. 


Oh, now this is a good one. The 1996 weekly event series The Final Night, written by Karl Kesel and penciled by Sutart Immonen, was somewhat unusual for a superhero crossover series. The four-issue main series focused on the latest threat to Earth, a "sun-eater" that was consuming our solar system's sun, and, as the sun slowly began to extinguish, the world grew steadily darker, colder and more chaotic. The heroes, which here included some time-lost Legionnaires an eager-to-help Lex Luthor, raced to save the day, but what was most intriguing about the series was the idea that this time was really it, and while many heroes were involved with the threat, many more tried to lessen its damage, doing temporary, disaster-relief like tasks. Many of the tie-in issues just worked the dimming sun and growing cold into what were obviously pre-planned plots, but others basically addressed the question of how would a particular hero spend their last night...?

The day is obviously eventually saved, by Hal Jordan, who was then Parallax and rather fresh off his mad attempt to de-create all of time and space and then recreate it without the destruction of Coast City in Zero Hour. He does it, but at the cost of his life. This collection includes Parallax: Emerald Night #1 (by Ron Marz and Mike McKone) and Green Lantern #81, so the focus here is on the main series and its plot, but, if I recall correctly, most of the best bits of the crossover occurred in the many tie-ins. (GL #81, by the way, was the funeral of Hal Jordan, and it included a then very rare appearance of Swamp Thing and John Constantine in the DCU). 

Scanning the Wikipedia page, it looks like there are 18 tie-in issues, and some of those include some all-but forgotten books like Takion and Soviergn Seven. Collecting the entire event might take another book or two, but I suppose they could always do something like they did with Zero Hour, and just collect the tie-in issues of the popular families of books, like the Bat-books (Batman, Detective, Robin, maybe Gotham City-based Hitman and Green Arrow or something for filler) or Super-books (Superboy, Supergirl and the four Superman books).

I know I read several of the tie-ins, but the one that I remember best is Garth Ennis and John McCrea's Hitman #8, in which Tommy Monaghan and his friends boarded up the doors and windows at Noonan's Sleazy Bar and decided to spend the last night on Earth drinking and swapping stories until either the superheroes saved the world or it really ended this time. 

As for Superboy and Robin?


They spent their time smooching. 


I don't know; I think future Superman aged a hell of  a lot better in DC One Million than he does in Future State, based on this cover for Future State: Superman: House of El #1...


This cover for Future State: Kara Zor-El, Superwoman #2 featuring giant space eels seems to be by artist Paulina Ganucheau, and it is definitely awesome. Ganuchea is not drawing the interiors, but Marguerite Sauvage is, so this should be a very nice looking comic book, inside and out. 


The solicitation for Future State: Shazam #2 mentions the "deadly new threat" Raven, so I am guessing that's supposed to be Raven there on the cover, ripping Billy Batson out of Shazam's lightning hole. I feel like we've seen a Raven-embracing-her-father's-side-of-the-family enough times in the past for it now to seem kind of boring, but I guess this look is a bit different; she usually has red skin, right...? 


Here's Jenny Frison's variant cover for Future State: Wonder Woman #2. I really like this costume design, and that breast plate looks really cool, although I confess I don't understand how practical it is. I mean, what if she drops her sword and has to pick it up? Can she bend at the waist, or would her breast point poke her in the tummy too hard? Or am I overthinking the practicality of a super hero costume, which doesn't have to be practical, given that the person wearing it and her adventures aren't even real? I think that one. 


We've already seen Kyle Hotz's cover for Man-Bat #1, but it's worth sharing again because oh my God is it awesome and horrifying. Sadly, Hotz is just drawing the cover. I'm not super familiar with the work of Sumi Kumar, but this seems to be one of those cases where having a cover artist who is different from the interior artists might be a bit of an anti-incentive, as now I really just want to read Kyle Hotz's Man-Bat, rather than Kumar and writer Dave Wielgosz's...


It looks like DC will begin doing what they've been doing with older, based-on-a-cartoon Justice League (Galactic Justice, Time After Time) and Batman (BatgirlA League of Her Own, Nightwing Rising) comics lately with Superman ones next, judging by Superman Adventures: Lex Luthor, Man of Metropolis. That is, publishing thematic collections. This will feature five issues culled from the 1996-2002 all-ages companion series to Superman: The Animated Series. These issues all feature Luthor prominently, obviously, and will include some unlikely writing credits, like Mark Millar, Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer. 

If you weren't reading much DC back in around the turn of the millennium, it might be hard to believe now, but Mark Millar wrote an extremely good Superman, and probably the best writing of his entire career was on this title. His Superman Adventures comics have been collected previously, and I have them, but this is definitely a book for any Superman fan of any age to check out. And at just $9.99, it's about as perfect a value as one can get in comic books these days. 


DC published a Superman Vs. Shazam trade paperback collection in 2013, and while this one will contain a swathe of the same material1978's All-New Collector's Edition, 1981-1982's DC Comics Presents #33, #34 and #49, 1984's DC Comics Presents Annual #3this new volume is about 50 pages longer, and contains some far newer material. These are  1997's Kingdom Come #4, 1999's The Power of Shazam #46 by Jerry Ordway and Dick Giordano and 2005's Superman #216, in which Judd Winick has an Captain Marvel combat an Eclipso-possessed Superman, in a repeat of a plot point from the 1992 annual event, Eclipso: The Darkness Within. I'm not sure what the providence of the new Andy Kubert cover is (the 2013 volume used Rich Buckler's cover from the Collector's Edition), and I'm curious if it's a new, original piece or not. 


This is the first I am hearing of Truth and Justice, a digital-first "new team-up series." But! That's a pretty good title for a Justice Leaguer-centric team-up title, and this debut issue will have an extremely interesting team-up: Vixen, and Impala of The Global Guardians, a pretty cool team full of pretty cool international superheroes that I don't think we've heard much from (certainly nothing much good from) since the days of Keith Giffen and J. M. Matteis' Justice League run. (One of my dream comics is a Jack O'Lantern miniseries by Garth Ennis and John McCrea). 

I'm not familiar with the writer, Geoffery Thorne, but I like the work of artist Chrisscross quite a bit. 


Good news? DC is collecting their Who's Who, which is pretty much the ideal book for me, as I love both encyclopedias of stuff and DC superheroes. The bad news? Their Who's Who Omnibus Vol. 1 will cost $150. That's actually not that much considering the value, but I always have a hard time parting with such a large chunk of change; hopefully the Republican Senate will get off their asses and pass another stimulus bill so I can pre-order this and stimulate the economy; it is my patriotic duty!

I imagine this will make strange reading, as the information produced in the book was all current between 1987-1989 or so, meaning immediately post-Crisis. That was...God knows how many reboots ago (Having not read Doomsday Clock or Dark Nights: Death Metal, I honestly don't know if those contained reboots or not), and man, I 'd have a hard time telling you the history of my one-time absolute favorite characters or teams since 2011 at this point, continuity/DC Comics history is so goddam muddled. (Personally, I've always thought if DC isn't prepared to do a Who's Who and/or a timeline like that at the end of Zero Hour, then they shouldn't bother with any cosmic continuity reboots at all; like, if it isn't worth doing the work and figuring out, then it's not really worth doing). 

That said, I remain the sort of person who enjoys reading fake histories of fictional characters, and I know enough from what I've seen online and in the backs of various trades that these character profiles will be illustrated by a, well, a who's who of great artists. 

So yeah, this might be the most exciting offering in this month's solicitations. I guess I better start saving up now...


I don't think I even knew Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette had a third volume of Wonder Woman: Earth One in the works. I assumed DC had dropped the Earth One initiative some time ago, as it seems to overlaps awkwardly with their YA-focused original graphic novels, most of which do a far better job of presenting alternate takes on the heroes that the Earth One books do. In retrospect, the Earth One books all seem like pitches for expensive TV shows featuring the characters more than anything else, although I thin Morrison and Paquette's Wonder Woman books were the best of them all, based largely on the fact that they seem so devoted to doing William Moulton Marston/H.G. Peter's Golden Age Wonder Woman for a modern audience.