Thursday, August 31, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: August 30th

All-Star Batman #13 (DC Comics) It was interesting reading this just a few hours after I read The Beat's regular column on DC's month-to-month sales, as writer David Carter noted the dramatic difference between the sales estimates for July's issues of Batman (107,071 and 102,335) and July's issue of All-Star Batman (60,569), and quite reasonably noted that "Despite the involvement of Snyder, readers seem to have been treating this as a secondary Batman title."

It would certainly seem that readers--or at least the shops ordering things for their readers--are treating it that way. I suppose that's natural, as Batman and Detective are historically the main Batman books, and over the course of my time reading comics, probably in that exact order. That would make All-Star the tertiary title, and I think DC did a few other things to signal that it was an "unimportant" Batman book, including re-purposing the title of an out-of-continuity book from a special, out-of-continuity mini-line, featuring rotating artists, a higher price-point and back-up stories. The market was certainly trained to consider All-Star a less essential Batman comic, but a difference of some 40,000 units still seems kind of striking, doesn't it?

The weird thing is that much of Scott Snyder's All-Star seems to be much more relevant to a Batman-centric, DC Universe mega-plot--the "Dark Nights: Metal" stuff--than anything in Batman proper. At least before the "The First Ally" arc, the earlier issues were pretty much the only place to see much of Duke Thomas, and he starred in a pair of back-up story arcs. He certainly seems to play a significant role in Metal, and some relatively minor characters from the second arc, "Ends of The Earth," also showed up in Metal. Meanwhile, Batman is currently devoted to a "Year Two" flashback arc. Even Detective seems to be more relevant/important to wider DCU goings-on these days, given that there seems to be a degree of Metal tie-in to it, plus the series has continually referenced the post-DC Universe: Rebirth goings-on involving Mr. Oz and so on.

Anyway, that got me wondering how significant the pricing of Al-Star Batman is. It costs $4.99, as opposed to the $2.99 issues of Batman. I wonder if they excised the back-ups and used different cover stock, would All-Star be selling as much, or more comparably to Batman...? With All-Star about to be canceled, I guess we'll never know, and there probably isn't a good way for DC to experiment to find out if it's price is what kept it so far below Batman (and the Snyder-written Batman these last few months. Maybe it doesn't matter though, since the higher price tag on All-Star means DC and retailers don't need to sell as many issues to make as much money.

These are the things I was thinking about shortly after I put down All-Star Batman #13, which continues the "First Ally" arc...and I believe is the second-to-last issue of the arc and the series. Heavily devoted to the flashback sequences involving Alfred's training to be an English black-ops superhero type, with Batman, "The Black and Whites" and Briar and his Dark Knight all after "The Genesis Engine" which does...something important. There is a lot of talk of fathers and sons, which retroactively makes putting Tommy Elliott/Hush at the beginning of the arc seem an inspired move.

The back-up, written by Rafaels Albuquerque and Scavone and drawn by Sebastian Fiumara, continues to be well made, but kind of random feeling attached to the lead story, and appearing in this book at all, really.

Saga #46 (Image Comics) Wow, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples sure do know how to tell a story through comics. The entire sequence in the back-alley abortion place is handled just beautifully (although seeing what looked like Dumbo's mom on the next table did kinda freak me out a little). There's also a surprise coupling that occurs on the last page, and while one can see it coming--particularly in the panels immediately proceeding it--it makes for another great example of the Vaughan/Staples team's expert use of splash pages.

Wonder Woman #29 (DC) The penultimate issue of writer Shea Fontana's fill-in run finds Wonder Woman and Etta Candy fighting some more bounty-hunters. These include Cheshire, Plastique and three characters I am unfamiliar with. There's Cat's Eye, who on the cover looks a bit like Carrie Kelley's Cat Girl (or at least one of her Cat Girl costumes), but inside looks like she's wearing some kind of terrible costume meant to mimic the wrinkly skin of a hairless cat, and also shoots eye-beams. There's Abolith, a new character with noting noteworthy to define him in personality or powers. And there's "Baundo, The Warrior," a teleporter who quotes "The Art of War" in the fight and gets called out for doing so.

Their involvement basically just amounts to a single, multi-page fight scene, and given how awesome it was when Batman had a bounty put on his head and assassins (including Cheshire) came to collect it (in the first All-Star Batman story arc, "My Own Worst Enemy"), well, this really can't help but be disappointing.

The post-fight portion, when Wonder Woman discovers the reason why someone wants her body and decides that its a noble goal, despite the way in which they went about trying to get it, is much stronger, and very, well, Wonder Woman-y.

Inaki Miranda is the artist, and that makes her the third artist in just four issues, which is too many artists. Miranda seems to be drawing Etta closer to her original New 52 shape, albeit with her "Rebirth" haircut. It would probably behoove DC to work up some style sheets on their characters.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: August 23rd

Archie #23 (Archie Comics) This issue is technically the start of a new story arc, but it continues to explore the fallout from the previous arc, as Betty Cooper and friends deal with the extent of her injuries, which may result in her being bound to a wheelchair for the rest of her life (but I'm going to guess probably won't). Writer Mark Waid does find some room for jokes, as Betty's friends try to help her out by taking over all of her various volunteering and charity work for her, and each of them try to pass Archie off on one another as his legendary clumsiness makes a mess of everything, but for the most part this issue continues the level of drama of the previous arc. In retrospect, I really wish Waid would have invested another issue or so in setting up the rationale for the drag race; at the time, it seemed to be a little out of left field, and if the consequences are going to be this dire and have a semi-permanent-ish effect on the series, it would have been nice if they were a little more organic.

Perhaps to help distinguish this as the start of a new arc, Waid is joined by a new artist (or, as the back cover says, "NEW SERIES ARTIST") Audrey Mok, which is something of a blow to Josie and The Pussycats, which Mok was drawing before she got switched to Archie.

Detective Comics #963 (DC Comics) Co-writer Christopher Sebela joins James Tynion for "Utopia," a sort of in-between arcs story drawn by Carmen Carnero. Here we check in with what Spoiler Stephanie Brown has been up to since she fled Batman and Batwoman's Justice League of Gotham City at the end of "The Victim Syndicate," and zoom in on the Clayface sub-plot, the thing about how his clay brain makes him a bad guy, regardless of what he might want to be.

Steph has been working with Anarky, who Wikipedia tells me is actually the second Anarky in post-Flashpoint/New 52 continuity. This Anarky is apparently Lonnie Manchin though (Steph calls him "Lonnie" at one point), even though he has a new, dumb costume which keeps nothing of the original save the color scheme and the mask. The design is a weird one, given that the character was originally created around a particular costume design (artist Norm Breyfogle and writer Alan Grant wanted to do a character who looked like the one from V For Vendetta) and the A-for-Anarchy symbol has a fairly universal appeal, although this design has excised it from Anarky's costume entirely (instead, he wears a couple of straps that attach to his belt to suggest an "A").

Like most of the '90s characters inserted into this series, this version of Anarky reads like a pale shadow of his original self. It's not just the design; when creator Alan Grant was writing the character, particularly after his initial appearances, I got the sense that both Grant and Lonnie had read books I hadn't, and were talking about societal philosophy. Here Lonnie basically just talks in platitudes, and what he's up to exactly just feels like a sort of generic clash with Batman's worldview (he has apparently set-up an underground refugee camp near "Monstertown," the Gotham neighborhood created in the wake of "Night of the Monster Men").

There's also a flashback to before Tim Drake disappeared, as a way of reminding us that Tim and Stephanie did indeed have a relationship in the current continuity, even if it happened almost entirely off-panel.

Josie and The Pussycats #9 (Archie) This issue concludes the Pussycats' Tokyo adventure, in which Riverdale's up-and-coming band The Archie was opening for them...until they were kidnapped by an alliance of antagonists from throughout the earlier issues of the series. Mostly a chase scene, this issue resolves the kidnapping when the Pussycats receive aid from an alliance of friendly bands from earlier issues in the series, plus Alexandra's giant robot battle suits.

After the amount of set-up last issue, including the panel-time devoted to The Archies and the Josie/Alexandra/Alan love triangle, this issue felt like it resolved things a little too quickly and too neatly, but the fact that it felt off might have been due to the fact that regular artist Audrey Mok has been replaced by new artist Kelsey Shannon (Mok, as mentioned two reviews ago, has apparently been transferred over to Archie) or that the normal joke-per-page ratio was lower than usual.

There's still a rather sweet ending, particularly the panels of Josie tucking in the publisher's teenage mascot.

Lumberjanes #41 (Boom Studios) In a relatively rare mega-plot issue, Jo completes her invention to try to figure out what the heck is going on with the movement of time around the camp--41 issues does seem like a lot for a series that covers the span of a single summer, right?--and Molly moves to see what if anything she can do to slow it down even further, to delay her having to return to her maybe abusive mother. There have been hints about Molly's bad home life in the past, and we met her parents last issue and saw things weren't right, but writers Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh just kinda skipped over that for a return to the status quo here. There is something going on with the face seen in the waterfall at the last issue, but, um, I don't know what's going on. Lumberjanes has unusual rhythms for a monthly, serially-published comic. As I've mentioned before, the arc generally go on at least an issue longer than it feels they need to, and this issue seems like it should be the next part of the arc that may or may not have wrapped up last issue, but it could just as easily be the start of the next arc. Or a standalone story. I don't know; maybe it reads more smoothly in trade...?

Ayme Sotuyo is still drawing, and I'm still not crazy about her art.

The bit with the paper airplanes, which is what found itself on the cover, was interesting and educational though.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #29 (DC) I'm not really a fan of Top Cat and company, so this particular team-up didn't excite or interest me in the way that the DC superhero team-ups do. It's set entirely in TC's alley, as a series of different characters employ the legend of Hoagy's Alley to try and scare everyone away for one reason or another. It starts as Top Cat's scam to clear the joint out for an illegal poker game with some visiting cats, and Officer Dibble immediately calls Mystery Inc. in upon the ghost's first appearance. Regular writer Sholly Fisch is joined by artist Dave Alvarez, who has a pretty strong individual style that differentiates his Top Cat characters from those of the TV show, and even adds a dimension of dynamism to the Scooby-Doo characters, which too often in this book are so faithful to the cartoon designs that one wonders if regular artist Dario Brizuela doesn't just plop them into panels from a file folder of poses he's amassed over the years. Look very closely for a surprise Yakky Doodle cameo of sorts.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Marvel's November previews reviewed

See that? That's Dan Mora's variant cover for the brand-new Darkhawk series that Marvel will be launching in November with Darkhawk #51. Why #51 instead of #1...? Because somehow someone at Marvel got it in their head that all the complaining about the company's near-constant relaunching and renumbering wasn't simply that it made the comics confusing to follow, but was instead because Marvel readers wanted higher numbers.

So this fall they are doing this "legacy numbering" thing, which is the worst idea Marvel has ever had. Instead of relaunching their series with new #1's, they are relaunching them with more-or-less random numbers, arrived at through the dubious, arbitrary method of adding up all the issues of previous series starring the character or characters that serve as the protagonist of a particular book. So I guess there was a 50-issue Darkhawk series previously. Or a couple of Darkhawk series that add up to 50 issues.

The point is, Marvel apparently heard and took note of all the complaints regarding their relaunches, and decided the best way to address those complaints wasn't simply to stop doing the thing that annoyed everyone, but to do it again, but this time in a more annoying fashion yet.

So say I was interested in a new Master of Kung Fu series written by CM Punk (I'm not, but for the sake of argument, let's say I am; surely many people conceivably could be). Would I even know from the cover of Punk's first issue of the new series, which says that it is Master of Kung Fu #126 that it was a new series? Or would I just think I'm 125issues too late to the party?

This will all be confusing enough with the regular, ongoing series, but I think where it will really hurt is in getting people to try new series, miniseries and one shots. For example, I have to assume that getting readers too terribly excited about a Darkhawk miniseries or one-shots of Not Brand Echh and Power Pack was always going to be a heavy lift, but how much heavier is said lift going to be when those comics are numbered #51, #14 and #63, respectively...?


Anyway, it looks like The Beat has started carrying solicitations of The Big Two publishers now, so I'll link to their post laying-out all of the comics that Marvel plans to publish in November of this year (The Beat is far from perfect, but the site doesn't hurt my eyes and soul in the same way that Newsarama or CBR do). So go there to read them all, and stay here to read my commentary on a few of the more commentary-generating entries...

• When LAURA KINNEY took on the mantle of THE WOLVERINE she swore off killing.
• But does this make up for her past life as a child assassin?
• No matter how far she runs, it seems like Laura’s past will always catch up. And now it’s up to Laura and DAKEN, the son of the original Wolverine, to put that past in the ground.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

So wait, if Laura is a clone of Logan, and Daken is Logan's biological son, does that make Laura Daken's kinda sorta sister, or Daken's kinda sorta dad...? I have a very long, very dumb conversation about this with a friend of the other night, but we never came to a conclusion, as neither of us knew enough about how genes and stuff work.

Cover by ALEX ROSS
The High Evolutionary has put into motion an event that will destroy not one but two Earths — and neither the Avengers nor the Champions has the power to stop it!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Cool, the High Evolutionary has made The Lion of Olympus into a literal lion!

Lenticular Homage (LH) Variant Cover by ALEX ROSS
HOME OF THE BRAVE begins – and Steve Rogers is back in action in the red-white-and-blue! Steve begins a journey across America to restore his tarnished reputation – and the dangers he encounters along the way are unlike any he’s faced before! PLUS: Includes 3 bonus MARVEL PRIMER PAGES!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Good luck restoring your tarnished reputation, Steve Rogers! This is a great creative team, obviously, and if you don't believe me, then you should check out their collaborations on Daredevil and the (too) short-lived Black Widow series. Still, they seem like a very, very uninspired choice for the Captain America title following Nick Spencers' years-long mega-arc, itself based on elements from the end of Rick Remender's run.

Given both Waid and Samnee's classic comics story-telling sensibilities (and the fact that Waid has written Cap already before), this feels like a creative team chosen by the backlash to Spencer's Steve Rogers title. I'm sure they will do a great job, because I have a hard time thinking of any truly bad comics from either of these gentleman, but damn, talk about a safe choice...

Also, I see this is the first part of a particular it also the first issue of the series? Who knows, because it's labeled #695!

Also also, I found the mention of three "bonus" pages kind of funny, given that Marvel charges $3.99 for 20 pages of comics; so you get three extra pages for a dollar more than the Distinguished Competition charges for most of their books...? Bonus!

Issue #146 – Lenticular Homage (LH) Variant Cover by RON LIM
Issue #146 – Legacy Headshot Variant Cover by MIKE MCKONE
Issue #146 – Variant Cover by ADI GRANOV
THE GUARDIANS’ HUNT FOR THE INFINITY STONES BEGINS! Their first stop? Joining up with the Nova Corps, of course! Join the Guardians as they all take up golden helmets in the quest to keep the universe safe! Nuff said! PLUS: Includes 3 bonus MARVEL PRIMER PAGES!
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T+ …$3.99 (EACH)

I'm not entirely sure which cover is by which artist, but if I had to guess, I would say Kuder and Lim drew the two above. They're both pretty great covers though, huh?

Cover by R.B. SILVA
• THE SEARCH FOR TONY STARK continues, as some very surprising people from his present, past and future come together to help.
• Who will wield the power of Iron Man?
• It’s all building to one of the most-anticipated moments in Iron Man history!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Wait, isn't "the power of Iron Man" just a suit of Iron Man armor...? If that's the case, then I suppose the answer is Riri Williams, Pepper Potts, Victor Von Doom and Frank Castle (see below), right...?

When THE SILVER SURFER comes to Manhattan with a warning about an ancient cosmic menace on a collision course with Earth, you better listen up! But without the First Family of the Marvel Universe around to answer the call, who’s going to step up and solve the impossible? Lunella Lafayette, that’s who! Without Devil Dinosaur by her side, Lunella must join forces with some new friends who are missing their pals, too: THE HUMAN TORCH! THE EVER-LOVIN’ BLUE-EYED THING! DON’T MISS THE RETURN OF THE FANTASTIC THREE! PLUS: Includes 3 bonus MARVEL PRIMER PAGES!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

There are like four or five covers for this particular issue for some reason, but the one that I can't stop thinking about is the weird-ass Animorphs style cover. Man, Animorphs; I never read any of those books, but I've worked in enough libraries long enough that I couldn't help but run across them. They are some consistently disturbing covers. Especially the headshot ones, which seem to have prefigured Snapchat filters.

I like this cover too...
...but mostly just because it says "Moonsday" instead of "Doomsday," and I think that is funny, because I am so easily amused.

Variant Cover by JUNE BRIGMAN
In a twist of fate, four children gained incredible powers. And in a universe full of war-hungry aliens and terrorizing gangsters, they would need them. Thus Power Pack was born! But when an enemy from the past rears its head again, the youngest Power finds herself in a body-snatching nightmare! Big brother Alex better come around — or Katie is toast!
A never-before-told adventure comes to light as Katie Power revisits family history!
32 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$3.99

Oh my God, it's Devin Grayson! I haven't read any comics by her in a long, long, long time; in fact, I thought perhaps she gave up on comics for prose or some other medium. She is one of my top five favorite Batman writers, and my favorite Titans writer, despite the brevity of her run on the post-JLA incarnation of the team.

Anyway, it's good to see her byline again; hopefully her middle initial is okay.

Oh, and as yet another example of how dumb Marvel's numbering is, this is a one-shot--which, remember, means a single, standalone issue that neither follows any particular issue nor leads into another issue--and instead of numbering it with, say, a #1, or even not at all, Marvel decided to go with Power Pack #63.

J. Jonah Jameson’s got the scoop of the century — a once-in-a-lifetime interview with the menace of Manhattan…SPIDER-MAN!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Serious questions: Is Spider-Man feeding his penis on this cover? What is going on? Does Spider-Man maybe eat by placing he food directly inside his stomach, bypassing his mouth, throat and all that jazz?

For years, Frank Castle has been fighting a one-man war against criminals who endanger the innocent, but when a certain one-eyed operative offers him the tools to take his fight global…how could he say no? Find out how Frank found his way into the WAR MACHINE Armor! PLUS: Includes 3 bonus MARVEL PRIMER PAGES!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Everyone knows that Punisher stories work best when he's left to his own devices, divorced from the rest of the Marvel Universe as much as possible, maybe occasionally crossing paths with the likes of Wilson Fisk or Daredevil. That said, it's a blast when he does get involved in the more supehero-y parts of the Marvel Universe, for short stints, as it provides a sharp contrast to the other business. So me, I'm kinda excited about the idea of The Punisher as the new War Machine. Maybe if it's super-popular, they can do a second Punisher book, Punisher: War Machine--War Journal.

Due to the high volume of variants for Star Wars #38 and #39, I have no idea which of the many artists drawing covers for these two issues is responsible for the above image, nor which particular issue it will adorn. But I like the image, and I like the design of Luke's mount in particular.

• In this special standalone issue, Squirrel Girl has convinced, cajoled, and otherwise induced her friends in the Marvel Universe to make comics of their own! For the very first time, find out what kind of comics your favorite Marvel characters would REALLY make!
• Will Tony Stark write author-insert coffee-shop alternate-reality comics where everyone talks up how great he is? It seems likely, and yet, he has given us something EVEN CRAZIER to publish!
• Featuring TONS of special guest artists, including a legendary comic strip artist making his Marvel debut!
• This unique view of both Squirrel Girl and the Marvel Universe is sure to make readers laugh, turn the page, read a bit, see a new joke, and then laugh again! It may also make readers say, “Oh my gosh you’ve gotta read this comic; I’m so glad I purchased it at my local comic-book store and will definitely patronize them again in the near future!!”
• NO OTHER COMIC is making this explicit promise this month, so in our opinion you should definitely order our talking squirrel comic book.
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

At the risk of stating the obvious, this looks awesome.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

DC's November previews reviewed

Art and cover by CULLY HAMNER
Batman may own the night, but with new villains emerging during the day he needs an ally to defend the city when he can’t. Only one teen is up to the challenge, Duke Thomas. After months of training, he’s ready to step out of the shadow of the bat to become his own kind of hero. Meet Gotham City’s newest protector: The Signal! Spinning out of adventures in ALL-STAR BATMAN and WE ARE ROBIN, comics superstar Scott Snyder and newcomer Tony Patrick take our young hero to new heights in this exciting miniseries with artwork by Cully Hamner.
On sale NOVEMBER 8 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 3, $3.99 US • RATED T+

So, I suppose we should talk about this, huh?

I've been a fan of the Duke Thomas character ever since Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and company first introduced him as a little kid in their flashback Batman arc, "Zero Year." I've enjoyed what Snyder, Tom King and others have done with Duke post-We Are Robin, where he became Batman's new not-a-Robin sidekick and partner. The only frustrating element of his recent appearances in comics like All-Star Batman, Batman and the Metal preludes? He hasn't had a superhero codename. Realistically, a mysterious vigilante crime fighter doesn't have to have a codename, but well, this is Batman we're talking about, a guy so obsessed with branding that he actually dresses up as his own logo.

Part of what has made Duke's nameless status so frustrating is the fact that he's been dressing in a yellow, bat-themed costume, which doesn't lend itself to any bat-themed codenames. The best I, or any of you who have commented here, have come up with so far is The Golden Bat. Well, it looks like DC has finally settled on a superhero identity for Duke, and it is just awful: The Signal.

As in the bat-signal. I guess.

I kinda hate it. It's even worse than "Orphan," which Batgirl Cassandra Cain has been using for some reason, or "Orpheus," a short-lived attempt at an addition to the Batman Family.

I'm not too terrible fond of the new costume, either, which looks like a more fussed-over version of the one he's been wearing, which you can see on the solicited cover for New Talent Showcase #2017:
So looking at the history of Batman sidekicks and fellow crime fighters, they generally feature names based around a bat (Batgirl, Batwoman, Batwing, Chief Man-of-Bats), a bird (Robin, Red Robin, Red Raven, Bluebird) or something wing-related (Nightwing, Azrael). There are, of course, outliers (Oracle, Orpheus, Spoiler, The Red Hood).

Coming up with a bat-related name isn't easy, especially given the particular role that they seem to be setting out for Duke, as Gotham City's day-time Batman. Aside from Golden Bat or the less prestigious Yellow Bat, there's, let's see, The Bat, Batboy, Teen Bat, Batman Junior, Daybat, Dawnbat, Sonar*, Flying Fox! Kid Chiroptera! I like that one. No one use that! I've got dibs; maybe I can use it somewhere someday. (Unless you are Duke Thomas, then I suppose I will let you use it.) Now were it not for the day-time thing, I guess there are a couple of other bat-related names--Shadow Bat, Vampire Bat--that sound cool, but don't really work given Duke's remit (And if he weren't married to that color scheme, he could just use a cool color and be, like, The Blue Bat or The Red Bat. But not The Black Bat; I'm hoping Cassandra reclaims that at some point, if they insist that there can't be more than one person using the name Batgirl at a time.

As for birds, just about any cool-sounding bird you can think of has already been used for some superhero somewhere or other (He could probably use Redbird, the name of Robin III's old car, though, or maybe Firebird or Sunbird? Phoenix is taken). I've always liked Blackbird as a name for a bird-themed Batman ally, but given the fact that Duke is a black kid, it would seem a little blaxploitation for him, I think.

He could just go with a name that has nothing to do with bats or birds, of course. Azrael is named after an angel of death; Duke could use the name of the most frightening angel of all, and go by Morningstar. That works with his Batman-of-the-day thing, too. Most of the members of The Club of Heroes/Batman Incorporated had bat-free names. He could use the name of a DC hero not currently in usage, like, say the-generic-but-still-accurate-sounding The Guardian. Or maybe The Shining Knight, to contrast against The Dark Knight? Or just The Knight? Surely England's The Knight won't sure him or anything. Perhps The Creator or The Detective, playing off of nicknames of Batman?

He could also change his colors and costume and go by the name Gotham, previously used by the late brother of Gotham Girl, who Duke bonded with a little in the pages of Batman and during the "Night of the Monster Men" story. Or maybe The Gothamite? I didn't much like Gotham's costume, but I think it could be worked into a cool one for Duke, if it involved a jacket.

Well, I suppose it's too late now, and the die is cast, but man, I feel pretty worried, as I don't want the possession of the lamest name of any Batman ally ever to be the thing that drags Duke Thomas down and gets him killed off by The Joker or some dumb thing. I'm assuming the reason for his name will be explained in the series proper, and it will be a good enough explanation to sell it to me. That, or maybe I'll just get used to it if I hear it enough times. (But probably not! "Orphan" has yet to grow on me)

The Joker’s Daughter’s greatest stories are collected in one definitive book including her earliest appearances dating back to the 1970s from the pages of BATMAN FAMILY #6, 8, 9, 16 and 19, TEEN TITANS #48, DETECTIVE COMICS #482-483, TITANS SECRET FILES #2, TEEN TITANS/OUTSIDERS SECRETS FILES #1, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #23.4 and BATMAN: JOKER’S DAUGHTER #1
On sale DECEMBER 20 • 200 pg, FC, $19.99 US


So if you're familiar with the Batman: Arkham collections, they are basically big, fat "greatest hits" style collections featuring particular Batman villains, with "greatest hit" being defined as a story short enough to fit in an anthology with a bunch of other stories, as opposed to being a long enough one that it deserves its own trade.

I'm really quite surprised to see one devoted to The Joker's Daughter, given the character's relative obscurity; I would have assumed they would have done Arkham collections featuring Black Mask, The Ventriloquist, The Cavalier, Killer Moth, Catman, Ratcatcher, Anarky, Crazy Quilt, Calendar Man and maybe Cornelius Stirk before they got around to The Joker's Daughter. I mean, only two of the above comics are ones that feature the version of the character on the cover, the post-Flashpoint version who found The Joker's flayed-off face floating in the sewer and decided to start wearing it.

The others aren't even just pre-Flashpoint, the vast majority are pre-Crisis, and feature the original, 1970s iteration. I can't imagine how relevant those stories will be to modern readers. Perhaps the simple fact that the character has the word "The Joker" in her name makes an Arkham anthology starring her a more salable proposition than it might otherwise have been...?

Now, these Batman: Arkham books are always at least somewhat interesting to read, because they give readers a portrait of sorts in terms of what the publisher currently thinks of the character, and which stories best encapsulate what that character is all about. This one I will read for an entirely different reason than the curiosity that inspired me to pick up the other ones: A good 80% of these are comics I've never read before.

Designed by PETER KUPER
Sculpted by IRENE MATAR
Holy identity crisis, Batman! Who will win this epic battle of BATMAN BLACK & WHITE SPY VS SPY AS BATMAN statue? Designed by “Spy vs Spy” artist Peter Kuper and sculpted by Irene Matar, this statue stands on the trademark Batman Black & White symbol base.
Limited Edition of 5,000
Measures Approximately 7.47” Tall
$80.00 US • On Sale MARCH 2018
Allocations May Occur

If this isn't the weirdest fucking thing DC Comics has ever solicited, I sure would like to know what is.

Written by KURT BUSIEK
Art and cover by JOHN PAUL LEON
Young Bruce Wainwright lost his parents in a violent crime…and in the real world, no superheroes exist to save the day. But as grief and rage builds inside Bruce until he feels he can’t keep it inside anymore, something strange starts taking wing in the Gotham night! Perhaps Bruce’s grief isn’t inside him after all?
Modern masters Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon unite for the spiritual companion to the beloved SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY, putting a new spin you’ve never seen before on the legend of Batman—and the dark emotions that drive him!
On sale NOVEMBER 29 • 48 pg, FC, 1 of 4, $5.99 US • RATED T+

So when I first saw this, I immediately thought of Realworlds, that strange suite of prestige format comics that DC released in 2000, each featuring a story set in our real world, in which the fictional characters of DC Comics somehow influenced the action: Realworlds: Batman, Realworlds: Superman, Realworlds: Wonder Woman and Realworlds: Justice League of America.

I never read any of those. Suddenly I'm curious.

In reality, however, the closest like book is of course the very one mentioned right there in the solicit itself: Superman: Secret Identity, also written by Busiek (It was Stuart Immonen who drew that one, though).

Art and cover by CLAYTON HENRY
All-new mini-series by original creator Tony Isabella teamed with superstar artist Clayton Henry! Black Lightning is back and things are not the same! In his home town of Cleveland, high school teacher Jefferson Pierce is a role model for his students. As Black Lightning, he’s fighting to keep them safe, even as his city’s streets are invaded by local gangs with deadly super-weapons. And wait until you see who their supplier is! Real-world issues in a super-hero world! Expect the unexpected!
On sale NOVEMBER 1 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T

Cool snorkeling mask Jefferson, but I've gotta warn you--the Cuyahoga and Lake Erie are both a lot cleaner than they were back in the day, but they're still not great for snorkeling.

This is actually probably a pretty big deal for fans of Tony Isabella and/or Black Lightning, given the disagreements and tension between the writer and the publisher for...well, years. I've always liked the character, despite some difficulties with him (it is my firm belief that he should shoot black-colored lighting or, at the very least, purple-ish colored lighting that looks to be the same shade as that which emanates from a black light).

I'm pretty sure he was introduced into The New 52 pretty clumsily alongside Blue Devil, but I'm assuming Isabella's involvement means this series will move the character closer to the original, superior conception. Also, I'm pretty stoked that it's set in Cleveland.

“A LONELY PLACE OF LIVING” finale! Tim Drake is back on Earth — but if the deadly threat he brought back with him from outside of time has its way, it won’t be for long…and this shadowy figure wants to take one of Batman’s team down with him, too! Everything Tim died for the first time is at risk, if he can’t survive this attack!
On sale NOVEMBER 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Oh man, this would have been the perfect time to unveil Tim's new, non-terrible Robin costume! Ah well, maybe soon.
It's just too bad that DC couldn't get George Perez to handle this cover, which is a cover version of his cover for 1999's Batman #442, the conclusion of "A Lonely Place of Dying."
I think Perez and DC aren't talking to each other anymore, over the mess that accompanied the New 52 reboot of Superman they gave that still the case?

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by GARY FRANK
Variant cover by GARY FRANK
Lenticular cover
DC Comics presents to you a 12-issue maxiseries from the critically acclaimed team of writer Geoff Johns, artist Gary Frank and colorist Brad Anderson. You are not prepared for what lies ahead within these pages, good readers.
On sale NOVEMBER 22 • 40 pg, FC, 1 of 12, $4.99 US • RATED T+

No? Well I am ready to wait for the trade...!

I am honestly a little curious about how Johns will do on this, given that he hasn't written a comic book--or least, DC hasn't published a comic book that he's written--in a while. Johns was so prolific for so long that he was basically forced into being in great "shape" as a writer. As he accepted more responsibility as an executive at DC Entertainment and his scripts-per-month dwindled, I think there was a rather notable dip in quality of his work. On the other hand, that happened right around the time of the Flashpoint/New 52 reboot, which really kneecapped Johns' universe-wide momentum, and stripped him of his ability to use one of his greatest strengths as a DC comics writer, so it could be that as much as anything else I noticed.

Anyway, I'm glad he's the one doing it; one of the many, many things I disliked about Before Watchmen was that Dan DiDio, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns were selling the damn thing, but they had hired other people to that thankless (and frankly impossible) task of creating companion stories to one of the big three, industry- and media-changing works of the 1980s, without doing so themselves, despite being comics creators (well, DiDio seems to fancy himself a comics writer, anyway). I think Lee's variant covers was the extent of the trio's involvement in that ill-fated, ill-intended initiative.

Connecting covers by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
Variant cover by TBD
A METAL tie-in! “BATS OUT OF HELL” part two! The Dawnbreaker descends on Coast City, ready to suck its light away before moving on to the rest of our world. Backed up by the power of the Justice League, Hal Jordan stands ready to stop the perverted Lantern—until the Batman Who Laughs steps out of the shadows.
On sale NOVEMBER 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

Something tells me the solicitation copy writer means something different with the phrase "the perverted Lantern" than what I imagine when I hear it, although the book is rated "T+" so who knows?

Written by JEFF LEMIRE
One of DC’S greatest heroes is missing! No one has seen or heard from Carter Hall—a.k.a. Hawkman—in years. Reincarnated repeatedly since the dawn of humanity, Hawkman has spent his many lives uncovering history’s most fantastic mysteries, and now he has become one himself! Take a journey into the one of the darkest corners of the DC Universe as a mysterious man tries to piece together what happened to Hawkman, and how it all connects to the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL!

Oh good. If there's one sort of comic book story DC can never publish enough of, it's a new and totally-not-complicated-at-all origin for their Hawkman character.

I'm mildly curious as to what Lemire, likely working from whatever Snyder has cooked up in Metal, will do with the character; it certainly sounds like the current take is just Geoff Johns' take from JSA/Hawkman, which means the last, what, decade or so of Hawkman stories has just been one big circle...?

Written by BRYAN HITCH
Connecting covers by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
A METAL tie-in! “BATS OUT OF HELL” part two! The Justice League have been separated by the dreaded Dark Knights and are forced into twisted Bat-Caves designed to kill them! The Batman Who Laughs and the Murder Machine experiment on Cyborg, seeing how he reacts to the horrors of the Dark Multiverse! Can the Justice League survive their worst nightmares made real?!
On sale NOVEMBER 1 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Slightly depressing that the first time I've been even mildly interested in a Hitch-written issue of Justice League comic is one that is just a tie-in to Snyder's Metal. (This is probably a good time to say it again: Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo for Justice League!) I'm excited to see Sharp's name above though; he drew the League briefly in Wonder Woman, and he did a fantastic job of it. As I was reading the scene, I was wishing DC would hire him for a Justice League story.

“SURGICAL STRIKE” part one! After Batman leaves the team, the JLA is at each other’s throats! As Vixen tries to affirm her role as team leader and fill the vacuum, the villain Prometheus arrives in Happy Harbor to prove to the world that the Justice League must be destroyed and lay waste to the heroes once and for all. And he’s brought a friend.
On sale NOVEMBER 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

So it looks like Steve Orlando is going to be using Grant Morrison's JLA villain Prometheus...again. I didn't care for his use of the character as the villain in the first arc of his Midnighter series, for several reasons, most prominent among them is that worst-of-both-worlds impulse that is at the core of The New 52 reboot's problem (I know I've stated this before, but if you just tuned in, I'm referring to the fact that DC's creators want to keep using their favorite characters and writing and drawing allusions and homages to their favorite stories, but the reboot wiped all of those stories away, and was, in fact, designed so that a reader need not have any knowledge of, let alone affection for, the ins-and-outs of those stories; there's a comic-ruining tension between the desires of the creators and the mandate of the publisher that suffuses way too much of the DCU super-comics line).

Orlando, not unlike Detective Comics' James Tynion, seems to have a special affection for the characters, creations and stories of particular writers, and uses and reuses them in his own comics. If that first arc of Midnigher made me uncomfortable for its use of Morrison's Prometheus, the Midnighter and Apollo series was even worse, as it used several such direct homages/allusions/appropriations, the most confounding of which was a handful of minor characters from Garth Ennis and John McCrea's Hitman and a particular item from a particular one of those stories.

Now, I am not an idiot (despite the amount of evidence to the contrary), and I realize that Orlando and Tynion and anyone else aren't permitted, perhaps even encouraged, to use such characters and past plotlines as fodder for their own work, as it is their bosses DC Comics who own all the toys. Still, I think there's a pretty big difference between using The Joker versus using Anarky, or using Starro versus using Prometheus. Legally, yeah, sure whatever, it's okay. But ethically? Or just, like, socially? Is it cool to use Ennis and McCrea's Mawzir, Lords of The Gun and Ace of Winchesters, original creations of theirs that no one else has ever used in their comics...? I don't know; it makes me feel uncomfortable.

Too many of Orlando's comics, like too many of issues of Tynion's Detective, feel like paying to watch a cover band play the hits of their favorite bands, rather than writing new material of their own. The quality is almost immaterial; it's the principle of the thing that feels wrong, you know?

Art and cover by KELLEY JONES
Lobo’s secret—revealed! Only Batman has known why Lobo is in the JLA—until now! The Main Man’s secret is laid bare when he recruits Black Canary alone for a mission into deep space to take on one of the nastiest bastiches the galaxy’s ever known. But will this be a one-way trip for Canary? Legendary artist Kelley Jones joins series writer Steve Orlando to find out in what promises to be one of the greatest Lobo epics ever told!
On sale NOVEMBER 29 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

That said, I am totally going to read this because, as you may have heard before, Kelley Jones kicks ass.

So it was just a few weeks ago that I read the Jones-drawn Lobo/Roadrunner Special #1, and it occurred to me what a perfect artist Jones is for the Lobo character, and I found myself somewhat surprised that I was unable to come up with any previous examples of him drawing Lobo. Well, apparently someone at DC agreed that Lobo and Jones are perfect for each other, as Jones is the very unlikely artist for this Lobo-centric JLoA annual. Jones ability to draw attractive ladies is a little more hit-or-miss, especially of late, so seeing him draw Back Canary and Lobo in the same story should be interesting.

I dropped this book a few issues in--it wasn't a conscious decision so much as a I missed an issue, my shop ran out, and I figured I'll just trade-wait it from there on out--but I'll definitely pick this up.

Leave the world of the mundane behind and step through the magical doors of Mystik U! After a tragic accident, a young Zatanna Zatara, under the guidance of Rose Psychic, enrolls in a mysterious university that teaches its students how to master their unique brands of magic. Will Zatanna fit in with her new classmates (Enchantress, Sargon the Sorcerer, Faust and more!) and unlock her true potential? Find out in this exciting bimonthly miniseries from novelist Alisa Kwitney (DESTINY) and Mike Norton (Revival, Runaways)!
On sale NOVEMBER 29 • 48 pg, FC, 1 of 3, $5.99 US • RATED T+

Huh. This is a bit of a surprise. Those are two very interesting creators, and I found it intersting to see Kwitney referred to simply as a novelist (which she is), given her rather long history with DC Comics and Vertigo. She was a Vertigo editor for a while, and even did some writing for various Sandman adjacent comics like The Dreaming and Destiny, really rather daunting assignments that begged comparison to Neil Gaiman (From what I remember, her work held up remarkably well, but it's been a while since I've read any of those comics).

Speaking of Vertigo, I wonder if this might be better served as a Vertigo comic than a DCU one, as it would give Kwitney and company more latitude in terms of continuity (I know we've seen Zatanna, Enchantress and Faust post-Flashpoint, and they...don't lend themselves to this sort of story in the forms they were previously seen in. I'm not sure about Sargon; I really rather liked the legacy version of him that had appeared not too long before Flashpoint, though. I really like saying the word "Ibistick," by the way).

Also interesting is the format, which sounds like it might a prestige format miniseries, kinda like that Deadman: Dark Mansions of Boring Gothic Ghost Romance...I think that's the right title.

Written by CHUCK DIXON
In these tales from ROBIN #14-22 and ROBIN ANNUAL #3, Tim Drake takes on the mantle of the new Boy Wonder! These tales include appearances by Catwoman, Green Arrow and Spoiler, plus ninjas galore! Also includes the “Contagion” and “Legacy” crossovers.
On sale DECEMBER 27 • 280 pg, FC, $24.99 US

Keep 'em coming, DC! I lost my long box with all of my Robin comics, which has provided me the perfect excuse to buy these, and re-read those books of my youth hundreds of pages at a time, rather than 22-pages-per month. Looking at the issue numbers versus the contents, they don't really match up, as the "Contagion" issues are #27 and #28, and the "Legacy" ones are #32 and #33. Based on the issue numbers, "Troika" is the only crossover included. Tom Grummett, Mike Wieringo, Steve Lieber and Mike Parobeck penciled issues #14-22, so this was a pretty high point in terms of the series' art. The villains include some Tim's archenemies, like King Snake, Lynx, Cluemaster and The General, plus the KGBeast.

Following CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, Billy Batson returns in a story that begins with a new retelling of his origin! Then, Dr. Sivana brings Black Adam back to our reality to destroy Shazam—but how can a new hero defeat one with identical powers and 5,000 years experience wielding them? Plus, Billy Batson witnesses the creation of Captain Nazi! Collects SHAZAM!: THE NEW BEGINNING #1-4 plus stories from ACTION COMICS WEEKLY #623-626!
On sale DECEMBER 6 • 128 pg, FC, 7.0625” x 10.875” • $34.99 US

So I wasn't reading comics back then, at the tender age of 10 years old, but if this followed Crisis, then it was essentially DC's first attempt to fully integrate Captain Marvel into a shared universe (as opposed to a shared multiverse) setting, right? And therefore was their attempt at the Captain Marvel-centric version of, say, "Batman: Year One," John Byrne's Superman stuff, George Perez's Wonder Woman and Tim Truman's Hawkworld...? It obviously wasn't as successful as those first three; I've not read it, but I assume it's closer to Hawkworld in terms of its overall influence on the direction of the character/franchise?

There are a long, long list of Captain Marvel comics I would love to see collected in trade, and this particular one is near the bottom, but I'm honestly kinda glad it will be available in an easy to find and read format. Also, I'm pretty curious to see what the art produced by the Tom Mandrake and Jan Duursema of 30 years ago looked like...

Amanda Waller puts together a special team that includes Suicide Squad founding members Nemesis, Nightshade, Bronze Tiger and Deadshot for a personal mission to preserve the legacy of Rick Flag! Who will make it out alive? SUICIDE SQUAD VOL. 7 collects issues #50-58 of the classic series.
On sale DECEMBER 6 • 240 pg, FC, $19.99 US

Hooray! That leaves just eight more issues of the original (and by far best) volume of Suicide Squad, so one more collection ought to do it, although it might be a bit smaller than this particular collection, so maybe they'll have to find some other stuff to throw in there as well...?

Also: Ha ha, look at poor Katana's stupid costume! Sadly, I don't think that is even her worst one...

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
“SUPER-PETS UNLEASHED”! The World’s Furriest team Krypto and Titus—together at last! Tired of the boys stealing the spotlight, the doggy duo lead the Super Sons on a canine-powered epic!
On sale NOVEMBER 29 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

I am a big fan of any and all super-pets, so I'm pretty excited about this. Of course, I decided to drop Super Sons and trade-wait it, and I imagine this will show up in a trade of it, so I guess I'll have to wait...?

I don't think that Titus has ever met Krypto, but then, Tomasi seems to be the only writer he refers to the little menagerie of animals that Damian has assembled in the Batcave. Hell, I don't know if Titus has ever met Ace, the German Shepherd that Tom King and David Finch introduced in a well-written, poorly-drawn, Eisner-nominated short story, and they both live in the same house (granted, it's a big house). I suppose that's one oddity of the current state of the Bat-Family, that its members cross paths so seldom. Like, one rarely if ever sees Damian and Duke in the same story, even though they are both more-or-less serving as Batman's current sidekicks and partners (Sometimes I get the impression Damian has moved out of Wayne Manor and lives in Titans Tower permanently, but in other stories he and Batman are always together). Anyway, dogs-who-are-also superheroes! Hooray!

*Actually Sophie Campbell, one of my very most favorite artists, came up with that one. When I first reacted to Duke's new hero name on Twitter and said I hated it but couldn't think of a better one, she responded thusly: "Sunset, Sonar, Batmoon, Torpor, Yellow Bat." Woah, wait, wait, wait. Thinking about Batman and Sophie Campbell simultaneously just made me think--Can you imagine how great a Sophie Campbell Batman comic would look? I would love to see that. DC should hire her for an original graphic novel. Although I would love to see her working on something akin to the current Detective Comics premise, with all the teenage sidekicks in a single book. I'm thinking Wet Moon meets Batman...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: August 16th

Batman #29 (DC Comics) The generally well-written and well-drawn "War of Jokes and Riddles" continues, just as it continues to frustrate and irritate me with Tom King's insistence on using the multi-part story arc (this is the fourth issue, fifth is you count the "interlude") to tell us about the war between The Joker and The Riddler over and over without ever really showing us said war. The only character whose head we ever get inside is that of Batman and, to a lesser degree, perhaps The Riddler.

This issue is structured as an elaborate French dinner, hosted by Bruce Wayne at Wayne Manor and prepared and served by Alfred. On either side of the table sits The Joker and The Riddler. Wayne's stated is plan is to bring them together to negotiate a way of ending the war, promising one billion dollars to whichever of the two he decides to team with, telling them the funds should be sufficient to buy out their soldiers and help them capture and kill The Batman, which both have stated as their end goal in the war.

Like a lot of what King does, the formal structure of the script is interesting and ratehr clever, and artist Mikel Janin is perhaps the best of King's Batman collaborators.

Here are my complaints for this issue:

1.) Both The Joker and The Riddler bring not one, not two but three body guards. They are mostly terribly chosen. Behind The Joker is Mister Freeze, giant freeze ray rifle in hand, The Ventriloquist (the original) and The Penguin. Behind The Riddler is Killer Croc, Two-Face (still not sure why he's working with, let alone for, either guy) and Poison Ivy. Should a fight break out--and there is a point where everyone points their guns at each other--it's pretty clear that Mister Freeze would just freeze all of Team Riddler. Poison Ivy points her hand in the opposing team's direction during a short Mexican stand-off moment, but since they are indoors, I'm not sure what she hoped to accomplish. Everyone else has guns. Oh, except Croc, who has nothing.

It might have made more sense to have them bring their monster guys--like, if The Riddler brought Croc and The Joker either Solomon Grundy or Man-Bat--or their guys with heavy artillery. Like, since The Joker brought Mister Freeze, The Riddler could have brought Firefly.

As is, Mister Freeze could pretty easily have at least temporarily taken out Wayne, Alfred, The Riddler and his bodyguards with the push of a trigger.

2.) I initially thought that using The Penguin and The Ventriloquist as mere "muscle" (both are mob leader type villains, and neither particularly great in a hand-to-hand fight) was a really weird move, but then I got to thinking that maybe it was just The Joker being a dick? Like, selecting the two fat guys on his team to stand behind him and just watch while he eats a a nine-course meal...?

3.) Batman seems a bit like a chump here, as he gets both The Riddler and The Joker (and a half-dozen other top-tier rogues) under his own roof, and is unable to incapacitate and capture them all. I thought planning was, like, Batman's whole deal? King is aware enough to, before this issue/chapter ends, indicate that both The Joker and Riddler took a bunch of hostages to ensure their safety from the police throughout the dinner meeting, but why didn't Batman arrange to have them rescued? Batman seems really bad at his job in this story arc.

4.) King's portrayal of The Riddler continues to just be The Joker, but with a different name and design. The Riddler talks about having to behead people, and his fantasy of murdering all of Batman's friends and allies before murdering Batman himself. This doesn't scan like any version of The Riddler I've ever encountered in any comic or cartoon or movie or whatever before.

5.) I am always unconvinced by The Joker's occasionally articulated desire to kill Batman.

6.) Why Batman is fighting this war more-or-less solo has been a bit of a mystery to me, as the hyper-compressed post-Flashpoint timeline, in which Batman had four Robins in five years, all but dictated he had to have a Robin at this point in his history (this is around the beginning of "Year Two"), but we haven't seen anyone yet. When The Riddler talks of killing Batman's loved ones though, there's a panel clearly showing Batgirl and two other figures, both male; one appears to be wearing a suit, the other some kind of super-hero get-up. The panel is purposely rendered so as to obscure who the figures are. I'm guessing the man in the suit is either Alfred or Commissioner Gordon, and the other figure is a Robin, either Dick or Jason. Which only begs the question: What are Robin and Batgirl doing at the moment? Why isn't one of them rescuing the hostages or, like, checking in with Batman in the midst of this terrible gang war?

Otherwise, it was fine, I suppose. The point of all of this, despite what Bruce Wayne told his guests, was for him to decide whose side Batman should take, as it is apparently beyond his ability to stop them all (Tell that to Knightfall-era Batman, I say!). I get the feeling he's going to side with The Joker, based on the two villains' pitches both in terms of how they would kill Batman and why they feel they should be the one to kill him rather than their rival.

At this point, Batman is not unlike Detective for me; I'm not really enjoying what I'm reading, I don't think it is anywhere as good as it should or could be, but dammit, I still can't wait to see what happens next.

Dark Nights: Metal #1 (DC) Writer Scott Snyder and pencil artist Greg Capullo produced what was pretty inarguable the best of the post-Flashpoint reboot "New 52" comic books in their Batman run. Not only did it sell like hotcakes, it was (far more importantly) really rather good creatively, and, more often than not, the pair was able to use reboot in ways that helped rather than hindered their storytelling; few and far between were the intrusions of continuity rejiggerings, as Snyder seemed to want to keep all of what preceded him, focusing instead on writing his stories between and around the preexisting ones. Additionally, and importantly, he and Capullo actually went about creating new characters and doing new and different things with the characters they had, rather than lazily rehashing the hits like too many of the other 51 books did at the outset.

Here, DC lets them lets them do for the rest of the DC Universe what they did for Batman.

A pretty epic-scaled "crisis"-level event comic, the awkwardly entitled Dark Nights: Metal begins as a sort of Justice League comic, with the Big Seven that Geoff Johns and Jim Lee introduced in their rebooted, New 52 Justice League in the middle of a clash with Mongul. It involves all kinds of craziness, like the power-drained Leaguers locked in gladiatorial combat against robot monsters specifically created to fight each one of them. And then they make a Voltron. I should note that this was the first time I've read a Justice League story that I was honestly, earnestly excited about.

Back on Earth, things get weird in the way that the two preludes--the also awkwardly entitled Dark Days: The Forge #1 and Dark Days: The Casting #1--were weird. A mysterious mountain (Challengers Mountain, actually) appearing in the middle of Gotham City, The Blackhawks (including a new/old Lady Blackhawk) bringing the League to Blackhawk Island (which here has dinosaurs) and the dramatic and kinda clever introduction of the concept of a "Dark Multiverse." There's also a second neat cameo by one of my favorite DC-owned superheroes who has been MIA throughout the whole of The New 52, and a last page appearance by a character who may actually be the last one that I would have expected to see show up (The character has appeared in a DCU super-comic story once before; seeing the character here did fill me with a degree of dread though, given what DC has done with the characters from Watchmen over the course of the last few fact, when Before Watchmen was first announced, I immediately began to wonder and worry if DC would similarly fuck around with this character in a similar manner.)

Continuity is a little insane here, and I honestly can't remember, for example, whether or not Red Tornado has appeared since Flashpoint (the Earth-O/DCU one, not the Earth-2 one) or Kendra Saunders (ditto), or which of the (three?) Doctor Fates this one is, and I have never been less sure of what the fuck Hawkman's whole deal is, despite the fact that he's pretty dang central to this storyline (the metal of the title is, as you would have sussed out immediately during the first of the two poorly-named preludes, the Nth Metal from Hawkman comics).

That said, continuity being a little insane here seems like a feature more than a bug, as is evidenced in a panel where Flash makes a remark about Aquaman's "old harpoon hand" and an asterisk leads to an editorial box reading "See the 90s", or on at least one of the pictures hanging on the walls of the base on Blackhawk Island: Starman Will Payton (Oh man, have there been any Starmen mentioned in any post-Flashpoint comics, aside from maybe that weird-ass Shade mini that had one foot on either side of Flashpoint...?)

The fact that things are getting cosmic, and at least one of the settings is on a place where time is literally out of whack, helps serve as an excuse, of course, but, more broadly, because Snyder is writing a story that isn't based on prior knowledge of a previous continuity means that continuity has been more-or-less negated here. The story doesn't oppose any of its elements, which is the occurrence that makes a reader think about continuity in the first place. As he did during his long, healthy run on Batman, Snyder isn't concerning himself with past stories in such a way that a reader would dwell on them.

As I may have mentioned before in discussing The Forge and The Casting, there's something very Grant Morrison about Snyder's approach here. Like Morrison, he is throwing big, crazy ideas onto the page and letting them happen in such a way that it's up to the reader to fill in certain blanks (the in media res Mongul adventure, for example), and, also like Morrison, he's doing a grand act of synthesis here, taking various elements of DC comics history and combining them in new ways, in some sort of attempt at a unified history of the DC Universe. (Morrison's DC super-comics are pretty directly referenced in at least two points too, as when Morrison's Multiversity map of the multiverse is pulled out and when Snyder uses a particular character in what is essentially a Justice League's the same one that Morrison used during his JLA run).

There's still plenty of time for this to go off the rails, and there's even a real danger of it given the 22 (!!!) comics yet to follow, only five of which are chapters of Dark Days: Metal, but as I said on Twitter earlier in the week, this is the most excited I've been about an in-continuity DCU comic since Morrison, Howard Porter, John Dell and company's JLA, maybe, and if Snyder and Capullo aren't named the next Justice League creative team then I don't know that there is any justice in this world.

Oh, and regarding that cover? I didn't understand the weird-ass arrangement of the characters, nor why Aquaman was missing but his trident was just kinda floating there horizontal to the remaining Leaguers, or what the shape at its tip, spanning the space between Green Lantern and Batman was supposed to be. Not until I held the comic in my hand, and realized Capullo had drawn the Justice League in the shape of someone throwing up devil's horns with their right hand. It's kind of idiotic, cool and hilarious at the same time, and if you add those three adjectives up, you get awesome.

It's a little awkward, really, as Hal isn't a "finger," and Flash and Cyborg aren't really posed as if they were, exactly, but given the existence of the classic "Fantastic Fingers of Felix Faust" cover... well as various riffs upon it, well it works for this particular group of characters.

That cover is, of course, only one of, let's see...13 covers for the book, and some of those variants are quite cool, featuring as they do Justice Leaguers atop dinosaurs or, in one case, Simon fucking Bisley drawing the Trinity fighting a fucking dragon (Is there a better choice of artist for a comic book called Metal than Bisley?).
Don't get me wrong, Capullo's art is great, but there's just no out-metalling Simon Bisley.
Normally the prevalence of cool variant covers and a confusing presentation--this series has a seriously dumb title, and the 25-part total event sprawls in various and often many inconsequential directions--make for a good argument to just wait for the trade or trades. But Snyder, Capullo and company seem to have come up with the best way to battle the impulse to trade-wait: Simply making a super-comic so exciting one can't wait until the next issue, let alone six months for the trade collection.

DC Comics Bombshells #33 (DC) This is the final issue of Marguerite Bennett's surprisingly long run on a comic book series based on Ant Luca's superheroes-as-pin-ups statuette designs, which gradually became a sort of Elsweworlds story in which ships fought World War II. It also gradually became less and less focused on the reality of World War II, or even the pretense of it, but just sort of drifted off, so that the penultimate story arc dealt with a team of characters fighting robot animals in a fictional African country, and this final arc that was nominally about the Siege of Leningrad ultimately dealing with a milieu-smashing assortments of odds-and-ends.

Bennett ties up many of the plotlines she was juggling, at least those featuring the particular group of characters involved in this arc (as the series progressed and the cast expanded, Bennett took to featuring swathes of characters in each arc, rather than keeping up with what all of them were doing).

The issue is a little disappointing, in large part because of the fact that all of the characters seem to be summing up in every line of dialogue, as if they were all delivering closing remarks. It all feels very artificial, but not in the, say, self-aware of Bennett's Josie and The Pussycats.

Of the villains, one dies and two are captured, while one hero--well, she's more of an anti-hero--dies, so it's the good guys who win. It's only 1942, meaning we've still got another three years worth of world war. That may be why this isn't the end of Bombshells; it's just being replaced by the Bennett-written Bombshells United, which looks like it will be a bit more focused, with arcs featuring a single character as the star and, I think/hope, a single artist per arc.

It certainly sounds promising, especially since Bennett will be doing a Wonder Woman arc introducing two Wonder Girls, with Margeurite Sauvage providing the art, for her first United story. If they can indeed re-focus the story to feature more manageable casts per arc, fewer artists than the current three-per-issue and maybe hew a little closer to history, at least in terms of sequence (not in exact events, obviously), than the cancellation and relaunch could be a real improvement of an already pretty solid comic.

Nightwing #27 (DC) Nightwing and Huntress vs. Spyral, with all not being as it seems, which, given the nature of superhero spy agencies in super-comics, is kinda sorta exactly what one would expect. There's some slightly more interesting stuff going on back at Bludhaven while Dick and Helena are trying to sort out Spyral overseas, but the part of the issue that most fascinated me was that it appears that Spyral has a Manhawk, or something awfully similar, working for them now...?

Sheena: Queen of The Jungle #0 (Dynamite) My first thought when I saw this among the week's new books at the shop was, "Lemurs? This better be set in Madagascar, because there are no fucking lemurs in Africa!" My second thought was, "Woah, this is only 25-cents?!" Reader, I bought it.

I kind of love the Sheena character, or at least I love the (too) few Golden Age Sheena comics I've read; in a perfect world, whoever holds the license to her character should be cranking out trade paperbacks collecting her original adventures at least as fast as they try to tell new, contemporary stories featuring her. Additionally, it's kind of hard to hold the thought in one's mind in 2017, after she's been lost in a sea of her own jungle girl imitators, and she tends to be thought of as nothing more than a distaff Tarzan, but the Jerry Iger/Will Eisner creation was kind of a big deal, being the first female hero to earn her own solo comic book and scoring plenty of mass-media adaptations over the years.

As you may have noticed, I don't read a lot of Dynamite comics, despite having at least a passing interest in the many licensed characters they produce comic books around. Their $3.99 price point is a deterrent, and Ohio libraries don't seem overly keen on stocking Dynamite collections, based on the fact that I can never find any in the various catalogs. But at 25-cents, this is a perfect price point!

This 15-page ad-free story is co-written by the apparently extremely busy Marguerite Bennett and Christina Trujillo and drawn by Moritat, late of some of the better-drawn DC-published comics. He's an unexpected choice for a Sheena comic, but I like his art a lot, and was glad to see what his version of Sheen looks like, even if it's not idea.

He draws her as he does his typical beautiful woman. She has big-eyes and baby doll-like facial features on her round head, and her body is all lithe limbs attached to a curvy, voluptuous torso. She's toned, but not particularly ripped. I know a librarian with more defined arms than Sheena, and she doesn't spend her days climbing trees and swinging from vines. Still, Sheena's one of those characters that I would kinda like to see everyone draw their version of, eventually, and I would be much more likely to follow a Sheena drawn by Moritat than by some artist I wasn't familiar with.

There's not a whole lot to go on, in terms of story. This Sheena--there's a "Sheena Reboot by Steven E. DeSouza" and a "Sheena originally created by S.M. 'Jerry' Iger and Will Eisner" credit--makes her home in the Amazon (where there also aren't any lemurs, dammit). One day she sees some kinda weird "flying turtle" (a drone, I guess), and when she shoots it down, it lands in a forbidden temple. Sheena ultimately decides to risk the taboo of entering the temple herself in order to retrieve the drone, which might lead to more outsiders desecrating it. Inside, she faces a mess of traps, but comes out unscathed. She doesn't notice a different breed of drone, which reveals her presence to a noodle-slurping college kid and...that's the end.

Moritat's figures and backgrounds are as great as one would expect, but I was a little confused by some of the storytelling. The first panel on page six took some puzzling over, the last panel on page 11 has Sheena's knife hand disappearing under a mess of a bright, blue splotches that I never did figure out, and on the following page her knife disappears and reappears and changes hands through the remainder of the sequence.

Still, it's twenty-fives. You can't beat that price! That's only 1/4th as much as Marvel's True Believers (there was a well-timed reprinting of the original Captain America #1 this week I saw; you know, the one where Cap is socking Hitler on the jaw on the cover?). I probably won't read this monthly (although maybe if they supplemented each issue with a reprint of a classic Sheena strip...), but I may look for the trade in six months or so. And I will say a prayer that Dynamite sees fit to publish trade paperbacks of Sheena's original adventures, in something like the format of DC's Chronicles collections.

Superman #29 (DC) The regular writing team of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason (the latter of whom often also doubles as pencil artist) is still MIA, making this three issues in a row. That's somewhat surprising, given the fact that this particular story arc--which, with it's sudden jump from Hamilton County to Metropolis, feels like just as much of a fill-in as the previous two issues--so heavily involves the Geoff Johns-era Green Lantern lore, an are that Tomasi and Gleason spent so much time working in during their run on Green Lantern Corps.

More than a few wags on the Internet dismissively referred to the primal, god-like entities/mascots of the various sections of the emotional spectrum--You know, Parallax, Ion, The Butcher and so on--as Pokemon, so it's interesting to see that this issue opens with a little boy playing a generic, off-brand version of Pokemon Go and encountering a tiny Parallax, whom he mistakes for part of the game (As to how Parallax got on Earth, I confess complete ignorance to the state of the Green Lantern mythos after the series of reboots and relaunches following Flashpoint; I was pretty clear on all of it up until then, but just as Johns and company's Brightest Day was exploring the White Lantern, DC decided to reboot the rug out from under Johns, and the Lantern books have grown ironically more confusing, in large part because they ignored the reboot for a year or two before acknowledging it. I am, honestly, as lost when it comes to what's what with the Lanterns these days as I am with, say, The Legion of Superheroes, or the X-Men circa 1993).

Long-time DC writer and/or inker Keith Champagne, who also has some history with the Lanterns, is writing, while the pencil art is being handled by Doug Mahnke who is one of the two primary pencil artists of the series (As is so often the case, Mahnke is working with more than one inker; here, it's three, plus two colorists).

Champagne's plot has Superman desperately searching Metropolis for missing children, who go missing at a rate of about one per night. After a while, he tumbles upon who or what is taking them: The Parallax entity, who Mahnke draws in such elaborate detail on splash page I actually had to go back and check to make sure that Ethan Van Sciver weren't also drawing some of the book. Parallax wants Superman body--in a possessing kind of way, not a sexy way--and while even a fearful Superman is just too damn brave to be taken by the god/mascot of fear, he eventually surrenders himself to save the children.

On the last page, in a rather Johns-ian ending, the one character with perhaps the most experience with the yellow fear bug version of Parallax shows up to take it back. Hint: It's not Hal Jordan.

There's not a whole lot to the issue, but it's all rather well done, and I really like Mahnke's art. Of particular note here is how he and his collaborators work the word "Fear" into the artwork, sometimes in ways that are subtle, and sometimes in ways that are anything but (Like when a bolt of lightning in a stormy sky takes the shape of the word "Fear"). Also, Mahnke is one of the greatest when it comes to drawing the guy on the last page.


Hey, speaking of Parallaxes, isn't the original version from Zero Hour still loose in the DCU somewhere, thanks to the events of Convergence...? I remember reading him in a story featuring long-haired, green coat-wearing Hal Jordan in Green Lantern a while back, but that's the last I've seen or heard of him...

Wonder Woman #28 (DC) The pacing on writer Shea Fontana's five-issue Wonder Woman run feels a bit off. I guess it is a single five-part story arc after all, but the previous issue's second part really seemed like the conclusion. This issue, the third of Fontana's run, still bears the "Heart of the Amazon" story title on the cover, and the title page bills this is "Heart of the Amazon Part Three." Additionally, Fontana is joined by a new artist this issue, with David Messina taking over for Mirka Andolfo.

Commander Etta Candy, injured in a bomb at a family wedding in the first issue, has been released from the hospital into Diana's care, but that might not be the safest place in the world, as assassins are after Diana, intent on fulfilling a contract for delivery of her body (apparently the government doctor who was after her body last issue wasn't the only one). The cliffhanger ending has Wondy and Etta surrounded by five assassins, only two of whom I can positively identify (Cheshire in her classic garb, Plastique in her New 52: Futures End design, which had the unfortunate side effect of reminding me that Futures End existed).

The best part of the issue is maybe the revelation of Wonder Woman's last name.

It continues to be a pretty okay comic. Nothing great, but also nothing objectionable either.