Thursday, September 28, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: September 27th

Archie #24 (Archie Comics) There's a pretty solid, honestly amusing Jughead gag in here, which is only really that remarkable in that the title is still very much in melodrama mode, following the terrible injury that put Betty Cooper in a wheelchair (temporary, I have to assume). Mark Waid is really showing off his skills as a comic book script writer with this series of late. While Reggie gets the cover, and there's some pretty high emotion involving he and his parents (but what does Vader, the "Me" in Reggie and Me, think?), most of the issue is devoted to Archie's heartbreak at not being able to see Betty, and the lengths Mr. Cooper is going to in the hopes of preventing them ever seeing one another again.

I admittedly enjoy the "fun" new Riverdale comics, including the earlier arcs of this series, but Waid and new artist Audrey Mok are doing pretty great work on the book.

Bombshells United #2 (DC) So one of my hopes for this new iteration of Bombshells, which appeared to be focused on a single character in a single story arc, rather than the more sprawling casts of dozens in the previous incarnation, was that a single artist would be involved with each arc, giving the book some much-needed visual consistency.

That turns out not to be the case, after all. Though Marguerite Sauvage did indeed draw the entire first issue--in DC Comics Bombshells, each issue had three art teams--she only manages half of this issue, with Marcelo DiChiara taking over about halfway through. As was the case in the last series, both artists are good, they are just different.

In the opening half, Dawnstar explains her self and her origins to some of her fellows, and there's a neat exchange where this Legion of Super-Heroes character seems to be talking about what it's like being a member of that oft-rebooted and rejiggered part of the DC Universe.

Dawnstar: I exist in many planes at once. I exist in an alien world, where my people rule along nebulas, soaring skies, cresting galaxies, building ships that carry us sweeping around the curves of the moons. 
I exist in a world where I lived and died in the desert, for lack of water and a poisoned well. 
Emily Sung: You hold them all in your head at once? 
Dawnstar: And see many lifetimes, all of w hich I have lived or am living or will live. 
Emily Sung: That sounds unbearably complicated.

Yep. Sounds like the Legion of Super-Heroes to me!

On the next page, Dawnstar tells the girls "What is The United States, but a history made and remade?" Dude, that's totally DC Comics!

As much as I'm enjoying the book so far, I do have to call bullshit on at least one line of writer Marguerite Bennett's dialogue. When Yuki sees her sister Yuri pointing a crossbow at her, she exclaims, "Holy Wile E. Coyote."  This story is set in 1943. But Wile E. Coyote wouldn't debut until 1949...!

Of course, this is alt-history story, set in an alternate universe to a fictional universe, so I suppose it's possible that among the many differences between the Bomshells-iverse and our own world is that the cartoon short "Fast and Furry-ous" was released some six years earlier in that world...

Detective Comics #956 (DC) Not unlike Batman writer Scott Snyder's evocation of  classic Batman story "A Death in the Family" early in his run with "Death of the Family," Snyder's sometimes collaborator James Tynion is deliberately echoing "A Lonely Place of Dying," the 19 introduction of third Robin Tim Drake, with his latest story arc, "A Lonely Place of Living."

Tynion and his artistic collaborators Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira are going a lot farther than just the title though, and it goes well beyond Barrows' homage to George Perez's cover for Batman #441 (below).

In addition, Tynion and Barrows are borrowing entire scenes from earlier Batman comics, images as well as dialogue, in re-telling Tim Drake's origin. Here are just a few of the more prominent examples.

That's the first page from this issue of Detective, which was colored by Adriano Lucas, followed by one from 1989's New Titans #60, by George Perez, Tom Grummett, Bob McLeod and Adrienne Roy. The panels in Barrows' page, which seem to be falling out of the envelope as Dick Grayson frantically flips through them, contain dialogue from the scene on the following page of the New Titans issue.

In that regard, it's a good thing that the credits for the issue include a thanks to "Lonely Place of Dying" creators Marv Wolfman, George Perez and Jim Aparo, but they probably should have kept handing out thanks.

For example:

That's a two-page splash from this issue of Detective, followed by the spread that inspired it from 1990's Batman #457, by Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle, Steve Mitchell and Adrienne Roy.

There is a lot more of that going on throughout the issue. I would like to talk about these acts of "sampling" in a separate post at some point in the near future, likely when "Living" is completed, in large part because it involves several issues I am personally fascinated with, but for now I think it's at least worth pointing out.

One thing that is immediately obvious, of course, is how different the art style of Barrows is compared to that of pencil artists and Breyfogle. I've never been a fan of Barrows'--having spent the most time with his work in the rather revolting, gory era of Teen Titans--but credit where credit is due, it takes some chutzpah to directly invite comparisons between your work and that of such talented, all-time greats like Jim Aparo, George Perez and Norm Breyfogle (One of whom, Aparo, is probably one of the artists many discerning readers consider the definitive Batman artists).

I don't think it holds up all that well, but still, kudos for the courage!

Now, the thing I kind of hate about this particular issue is a thing I've hated about Tynion's run from the start. It is basically an ideal example of DC's pervasive "worst of both worlds" problem, where the publishers and editors and perhaps even some creators have tried to sell 2011's reboot as a, well, as a reboot, a fresh start excising old comics continuity in favor of a blank slate continuity and ideal jumping on point, but the fans-turned-writers insist on playing with the toys and building blocks from the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe.

Tim Drake was given a brand-new origin in The New 52-iverse, on which pretty directly contradicted his previous one, and which the one recounted in this story fits rather awkwardly with. If, like me, you get all the references to the comics of the early '90s, then you likely weren't a fan of the reboot, and might have your attention drawn to the differences. If you started reading sometime around the start of the New 52, elements of this story will likely feel either incongruous with what you've read previously, or alienatingly specific--fan service for a previous generation.

(What actually made me yell out loud at the comic was seeing the original Robin costume, the one worn by both Dick Grayson and Jason Todd, in the glass case in Barrows' spread above. If you've been reading New 52 Batman comics, or even just me griping about them, then you know that costume never existed at all post-Flashpoint. Dick's Robin costume more closely resembled a very busy version of Tim Drake's original costume in the new continuity, and Jason Todd wore a different costume than that. No one ever wore the one in the case above. There's also a panel in this issue that samples a later scene in "Dying," where Batman and Nightwing are in trouble and, in an act of desperation, Tim Drake grabs the original Robin costume out of a display case and rushes to save them in it; here Tim's drawn wearing Dick's costume. So what the hell is that other Robin costume doing in a glass case in Barrows' spread...?)

And, I should note, this single issue doesn't just refer back to Tim's original origin stories and Tynion's 'Tec run to date. Tim has been kept in a mysterious prison alongside the likes of Mr. Mxyzptlk and Doomsday, held there by the mysterious, hooded Mr. Oz, who is working in concert Doctor Manhattan, the character from 1986-1987's Watchmen (and more recent spin-offs Before Watchmen spin-offs and DC Universe: Rebirth).

In the pages of Action Comics, Mr. Oz was just recently revealed to be...spoiler warning!...Superman's father Jor-El.

When I read that issue, I just kind of threw my hands up at the news, as I have completely lost track of Superman's continuity at this point (as I understood it, the current Superman is the pre-Flashpoint Superman, altered during Convergence, who has merged with and overwritten the continuity of post-Flashpoint Superman, or, put another way, he is a soft-rebooted, de-rebooted version of the rebooted Superman, living in a rebooted DC Universe). So which version of Superman's dad this is, well, your guess is as good as mine. He's wearing a version of his original costume, but then Kryptonian fashion has see-sawed back and forth repeatedly over the years of occasional continuity clean-up that began with Crisis On Infinite Earths.

In this issue, Jor-El interrogates a very forthcoming Red Robin Tim Drake, who breaks free, only to be let go by Jor-El, who leaves him there in the prison. Tim finds an unlikely ally in Batman...but not his Batman. Instead, this Batman appears to be the one from the 2004-2005 "Titans Tomorrow" arc from Geoff Johns' run on Teen Titans.

So the 2011 edition of Batman: A Death In The Family (which also collects "Dying"), Teen Titans Vol 4: The Future Is Now, Robin: A Hero Reborn and Watchmen...that's kind of a lot of homework to do just to read this fucking thing, isn't it...?

Justice League/Power Rangers #6 (Boom Studios) There's nothing like months of delays to kill the momentum of a comic, especially one like this, which, despite whatever juice the crossover element might have, is out-of-continuity, so there's not even any sense of suspense of the sort that might come with, say, a badly delayed event comic like Civil War II or Secret Wars or whatever.

I really dug at least one bit of this fairly pro forma, even generic crossover. After the fight is over, the Leaguers doff their costumes to hang out in Ernie's Juice Bar with the Rangers after the battle is ended, and Bruce Wayne scares away Bulk and Skull and, later, tries to pay for everyone's food with a 100-dollar bill bearing the face of President Lex Luthor. I think I would have liked more of that, actually.

There's a horror movie like ending, in which a vanquished threat is revealed to be not-so-vanquished after all, but I kind of hope Tom Taylor and Stephen Byrne don't follow up on it. I mean, I wouldn't mind seeing more DC Universe/Power Rangers crossovers, but this one didn't do a whole lot for me, and I say that as a fan of both the Justice League and the Power Rangers.

Saga #47 (Image Comics) The focus shifts to the new mystery villain on the cover there and her captive, one of the earlier and once awesomer characters in the series, although he's fallen on some pretty hard times of late. She uses a magic VCR to plunder his memories, so Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughn get to show us many of our old faves at various points in their pasts, like The Will, Lying Cat, Gwendolyn, The Stalk and The Will's uncle, The Letter (and his sweet animal sidekick).

There is, as per usual, a lot of weird-ass designs and some incredible violence. There is also extremely well-drawn naked ladies, a super-cool space ship (maybe the coolest so far...?) and the usual demonstration of  the mastery of this sort of narrative by Vaughan and Staples.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #30 (DC) The official guest-stars in this month's issue, by the regular creative team of Sholly Fisch and Dario Brizuela, are The Challengers of The Unknown, but as is Fisch's wont of late, he packs in as many minor DC guest-stars along a particular theme as possible. This issue's theme is apparently pre-superhero adventure teams akin to the Challengers, so within these mere 20 pages we also get The Sea Devils, Cave Carson and his crew, Rip Hunter and his crew and the original Secret Six. I was about half-way through before the thought occurred to me that wow, that is a whole lot of white people. Out of about 30 characters, there are just two people of color: One of the two FEMA agents who kick off the plot, and one of the members of the Six. Other than that, it's a sea of Caucasian faces. This makes sense, of course, given the era in which all of these characters originated, but it's a pretty stark demonstration of how much comics and cartoons have changed in the past half-century or so...for the better.

As for the plot, a Gnome King goes to an office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ask their help in securing the ingredients necessary for a "mystic elixir" to help "save this world!" Faced with "a mysterious super-natural menace," each of the two agents thinks of a different team to call. One of them calls upon The Challengers of The Unknown, the other calls upon Mystery Inc.

The two teams race to the various inaccessible locations in order to get the ingredients, and keep running into other Challengers-like teams along the way. It's pretty awesome, really.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 6: Who Runs the World? Squirrels (Marvel Entertainment) Okay so normally when I buy a new graphic novel or trade collection t the shop on a Wednesday evening, I just post the cover image and title and say something like, "I haven't had time to read this yet, obviously, but I'm going to go ahead and list it here in order to obey the rules of this feature that I've set up for myself."

But this time, I actually did read already! That's how much I love Ryan North and Erica Henderson's Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. I couldn't wait to read it, so as soon as I finished the new floppies I got this week, I sat right down and dug into this collection, without bothering to type up these hastily-written, off-the-cuff "reviews" of the other comics I bought and read.

This volume collects issues #17-#21, and basically includes just two stories, one a four-part arc in which Squirrel Girl gets a new mentor and a new flying squirrel suit, and a done-in-one about Koi Boi, Chipmunk Hunk and Brain Drain having a "boy's night."

Both feature some pretty ingenious evil plots. The first has a fairly elaborate plot in which a new villain has found a way to control and weaponize pretty much any animal on Earth, although her end game of discrediting and/or destroying Squirrel Girl seems like kind of a waste of the power she accumulated. The second has common thieves dressing up both as supervillains and the heroes that show up to stop them; I have a feeling I've read the supervillains-and-superheroes-in-cahoots scheme somewhere before, but I can't recall where. And it hardly matters, as that's basically just the superhero part of the conflict in the story, and it also gives Henderson to draw all sorts of Marvel characters who aren't really in the story.

There are a lot of good bear-related jokes in the dialogue and in the visuals, as well as a pretty great look at what shows are big on Broadway in the Marvel Universe at the moment. The best part might have been how Squirrel Girl was able to talk The Rhino down (Shh! No one tell him there is already at least one other Marvel villain using that particular name!)

I was also quite relieved to see that Tony Stark has continued to play his role as one of Squirrel Girl's not-Twitter friends; apparently the AI version of himself that has "survived" his being put in a coma can still post on the Internet. I confess that when I saw Tony's fate at the end of Civil War II, the thing that worried me most about that status quo was that maybe he wouldn't appear in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl anymore. So this was actually quite a relief for me.


Hey, how did Squirrel Girl get out of having to do anything with Civil War II...? Even Patsy Walker had a kinda sorta tie-in issue. All we get here is a not-tweet tweet from Tony Stark @-ing Squirrel Girl, "Hey just a heads up: there was a really big super hero fight, a 'civil war' if you will. It was definitely a good idea, buuut..."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Marvel's December previews reviewed

Those are three of the "Phoenix Variant" covers that Marvel will be affixing to some of their comics in December, the basic idea of which is just "What might Spider-Gwen or Whoever Look Like if They Possessed The Phoenix Force?" Why are they doing this? Well, they do so like their variants, and as far as those go, it's not a bad idea, basically akin to their "Venomized" ones where they simply had artists draw portrait-like images of various characters possessed by the Venom symbiote.

Aside form that, apparently the dead Jean Grey, last killed off at the climax of Grant Morrison's millennial run on New X-Men, back when the previous Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada was taking his "dead means dead" pledge pretty seriously, is coming back in December, so that gave the publisher all the excuse they needed for that particular variant covers scheme.

It is, of course, just one of many variant cover schemes they've got going on. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, for example, will publish its 27th issue in December, and yet that issue will have four different variants attached (although, oddly enough, not a Phoenix one).

If the publisher has been making moves to de-clutter the more overstuffed franchises within their line, as we discussed the other day, they certainly aren't giving up on the sales-through-variants strategy.

Other than that, it seems like a fairly quiet month, with a limited-to-the-Spider-Man-franchise crossover going on and the launch of a rather unexpected X-Men comic from the Hip Hop Family Tree cartoonist that I expect to be very well read by comics readers in general, and very poorly sold in the direct market.

Anyway, here's what jumped out at me...

Wait, wouldn't this Alex Ross cover for Amazing Spider-Man #793 be better if the symbiote was on the other face...?

I think so.

Say, has J. Jonah Jameson ever been possessed by the Venom symbiote? That really should have happened in an issue of What If...? at some point, right? What If...The Venom Symbiote had Possessed J. Jonah Jameson? Like, he finds a new black tie that makes him feel really strong, and confident and powerful, and starts editing the fuck out of the Daily Bugle, until the tie gradually takes over his mind and his life...?

Cover by BEN DUNN
East meets West as your favorite heroes are reimagined in hyper-kinetic style! It’s a new dawn as the Marvel Universe emerges like never before. Brace yourself for a kaiju-esque Hulk and a mecha-style Iron Man! Plus: Versions of the Avengers, Spider-Man, Punisher, Ghost Rider, the X-Men and more unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! The excitement only builds with a fresh take on the Galactus saga! Can the Fantastic Four and friends save the day, or are they destined to meet their Doom?! Make yours Marvel manga!
392 PGS./Rated T+ …$34.99 • ISBN: 978-1-302-90765-5

This was a weird project, which only looks weirder in retrospect--seriously, I just completed a very long reorganization of my comics midden, and I ran across a cover with what looked like furry versions of T'Challa and Tigra on it, and I was like, "What the fuck even is this...?
Why, it was the cover to the penultimate issue of Marvel Mangaverse, of course! Drawn by none other than off-and-on Ms. Marvel artist Takeshi Miyazawa!

It was produced in 2000, which was around a creative high-point in Marvel publishing history, at least in terms of trying crazy new things. Reading that first suite of books, there was a rather palpable tension to it; you could see that someone very high up at Marvel had said, "Hey, the kids seem to like the mangas and the animes these days; can we get in on it?" and the people below that person had varying degrees of expertise with real manga in the wild.

And so various Marvel characters were assigned various analogues or tropes, some of them extremely specific (with Doctor Strange borrowing his hairstyle from Osama Tezuka's Black Jack, for example), much less so, with The Hulk being turned into basically just Godzilla, and The Avengers  into a Voltron-like team piloting ships that combined to form Iron Man (Giving a new meaning to the "Avengers Assemble!" battle cry).

If you look at that list of creators, there are some who were very obviously deeply steeped in manga, like Ben Dunn and Adam Warren, and who had producing popular work for North American audiences inspired by manga for years, as well as creators who were heavily influenced by manga like Kaare Andrews, Lea Hernandez and the artists of Udon studio. And then there are long-time American superhero creators like Peter David in there, and some genuine outliers who don't really fit neatly into those categories.

I confess to liking some of those original ones a lot more than others, but even the ones I liked least tended to be interesting in a, "Well, this is kind of insane"  way, like David and Hernandez's "What if The Punisher....were a Japanese school girl?" take.
(That said, check out the skull-shaped knot on her back!)

A $35/400-page book is a big ask for the merely curious, and I suppose a lot of these individual issues won't be too hard to track down in single issues, but overall the Marvel Mangaverse has the EDILW seal of approval, for whatever that's worth (not much!), and I'm actually looking forward to revisiting it in this format. I'm fairly certain I didn't read everything collected in, and I'm curious to read it now that I have an additional 17 years worth of familiarity with manga to call upon when reading it.

As big as it is, it doesn't look like it's completely complete though, as I don't see a mention of Spider-Man: Legend of The Spider Clan (Kaare Andrews, Skottie Young and Khary Randolph's 2002 mini-series) or X-Men: Ronin (J. Torres and Makoto Nakatsuka's 2003 miniseries).

But if you want the very best Marvel-related manga project? You have to look beyond Marvel Comics/Entertainment to Raina Telgemeir, Dave Roman and Anzu's 2009 X-Men: Misfits, published by Del Rey as a black-and-white tankobon (It has my favorite Beast and Colossus designs of all time in it).

THE FOUR ARE NO MORE, SO TWO MUST DO! Something is very wrong with THE HUMAN TORCH and only THE THING can help him! It’s the Marvel Universe reunion you’ve all been waiting for (well, HALF of it, at least!). Plus: What monumental secret has DOOM been hiding since the end of SECRET WARS, and how will it completely change the lives of Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm? PLUS: Includes 3 bonus MARVEL PRIMER PAGES!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

So Marvel's current plan for the Fantastic Four has been to cancel the book and let the characters "rest"...or at least to let the duller half of the FF, Reed Richards and Sue Richards, rest, having The Thing hanging out with The Guardians of The Galaxy (which, conceptually at least, sounds like it would work; I only read maybe a trade's worth of GOTG comics with Thing in them), and The Human Torch with the Inhumans (which sounds a little more forced, despite The Inhumans original status as spin-offs from Fantastic Four, and Johnny's long-time relationship with Crystal).

Now it appears the fun half of the FF are reuniting for this title, which has a pretty interesting creative team, given Zdarsky's propensity for comedy (and ability to make that comedy sometimes somewhat poignant) and Cheung, a very "straight" comics artist who I wouldn't expect to be a good fit for Zdarsky...or at least the Zdarsky whose Marvel comics I have read so far. In fact, seeing the pair work together, and on these particular characters, actually makes me pretty intensely curious about this book.

I don't know if this means Marvel has figured out what they want to do with the FF exactly now, and this is the first step towards their return, or if this is simply a new way to keep the Thing and Torch in circulation while they figure it out, but, honestly, Zdarsky seems like he might be a good fit for that particular franchise (the market, which seems to reject every attempt at FF revivals, may disagree, of course).

If Marvel is still looking for ideas for what to do with the FF, I had one while reading the excellent Ghost Rider: Four on the Floor.

Just do this--
--but with The Totally Awesome Hulk, The All-New Wolverine, Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes and...well, I was going to say Spider-Man Miles Morales, but maybe Peter Parker would work better, since he apparently owns the Baxter Building now...?

Oh, and put them in team uniforms too, okay? I think that looks cool.


You know, Galactus' original color scheme wasn't exactly one a lot of people could pull off, but it has certainly become an integral aspect of his rather iconic look over the decades. This new one just looks kind of...wrong to me, for some reason.

Oh, that's the cover to Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #26, by the way. You will note a rather distinct lack of Devil Dinosaur on the cover.

I'm still not entirely sure why Marvel is publishing an Old Man Logan title, let alone one that has now gone on for more than 30 issues, but I do kind of like the over-the-top nature of Mike Deodato's cover for the December issue. That is just so many arrows and shuriken and stuff. The story, by Ed Brisson, involves (a) Wolverine fighting ninjas, which, you know, isn't exactly the most compelling of hooks for a Wolverine comic at this point, is it?

She will return, like a Phoenix from the ashes. Years ago, Jean Grey died and the X-Men mourned her. Since then, the world has changed, her teammates have lived without her and died without her. And now, when strange events start happening all over the world, those teammates can only come to one conclusion – the one true Jean Grey is back!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

I find that title, with the word "adult" in parentheses to distinguish this particular Jean Grey from the somewhat younger Jean Grey who has been running around the Marvel Universe for a couple of years kind of hilarious.

I hope that when Wolverine returns, it's in something with an even more laborious title, like Logan ReXcarnation: The Return Of Wolverine (Not The Old Man Version Or The Young One From The Ultimate Universe, But The Other One).

Cover by Geoff Shaw
Phoenix Variant Cover by RAHZZAH
Thanos has journeyed to the end of time to the moment of his complete victory…and he’s not happy with what he sees! Writer Donny Cates and artist Geoff Shaw (God Country) continue the tale of the Mad Titan’s biggest glory and ultimate shame!
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99

No idea what's going on here, and who that particular Ghost Rider is, but I kinda dig his space-bike. It's an intriguing concept for a space motorcycle. The space motorcycles I see most often are generally the varieties that Lobo drives, and they just forego wheels, rather than using some sort of sphere of energy in place of a wheel.

LH Variant Cover by VERONICA FISH
Legacy Headshot Variant Cover by MIKE MCKONE
Variant Cover by Michael & Laura Allred
Trading Card Variant Cover by JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER
What happens when we take Squirrel Girl back to her roots? Well, we shoot her into space, OBVIOUSLY. Nancy and Tippy find themselves on an alien world where all is not what it seems. Squirrel Girl needs to find a way to get to the other side of the universe to save ’em, STAT. Intergalactic transport through the cosmic realm? This sounds like a job for the Sorcerer Supreme! I’m sure Doctor Strange will be happy to he – I’m sorry, what’s that? Doctor Strange is gone and now LOKI is Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme? Oh. Well, I’m sure he’ll do his best. After all, what could possibly go wrong? Guess what, in this issue, everything possible goes wrong! PLUS: Includes 3 bonus MARVEL PRIMER PAGES!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Okay, see this is one reason why I prefer to trade-wait certain series...How could I possibly choose one from among all of those great covers? Why should I try, when they will all be available in the trade collection...?

Peter Parker, Eddie Brock and Flash Thompson have one major thing in common – the Venom symbiote changed all of their lives. The inky black alien life-form is doubling down on our heroes – and they’re not the only ones about to be put through the ringer. VENOM INC. kicks off here and rolls into AMAZING SPIDER-MAN & VENOM as a familiar face rises to new levels of villainy!
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T …$4.99

I kind of love how complicated the title is for this particular comic book, whatever the heck Venom Inc ends up being, and the fact that Marvel deigned give it both the word Alpha and a #1, because I'm pretty, pretty sure there's not going to be an Amazing Spider-Man/Venom: Venom Inc. Alpha #2 (Although there may be an Amazing Spider-Man/Venom: Venom Inc. Omega #1).

Character Variant Cover by ED PISKOR
From Eisner award-winning creator Ed Piskor (Hip-Hop Family Tree) comes a thrilling new series chronicling all of X-Men history! X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN stitches together the most important moments in mutant history, creating a comprehensive narrative celebrating the X-Men’s past, present, and future. The first in a trilogy, GRAND DESIGN returns to Charles Xavier’s assembly of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel, and Beast! A must for fans looking to brush up on their X-Men lore or as jumping-on point for Marvel’s merry mutants.
48 PGS./Rated T+ …$5.99

Hip-Hop Family Tree and Wizzywig cartoonist Ed Piskor gets to do whatever he wants with the X-Men, which seems like a pretty good idea for a comic book series. Marvel really should do more of these sorts of "Hey, Extremely Talented Cartoonist, want to play with out characters and let us publish the results in exchange for money?" projects.

I have no idea if it will be an actually good comic book or not, but I know this is the first time I'm excited about reading and X-Men comics in...well, since Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely were on New X-Men, I guess.

Please note that this series will also have multiple covers--it looks like two variants, in addition to the "regular" cover--but Piskor is drawing all of them himself.

Monday, September 25, 2017

DC's December previews reviewed

Say, did you know that DC released the solicitations for the comics they intend to publish last Monday, a full week ago? I completely missed them, which came as something of a shock to me, as I used to live for those things. Even before I started blogging, I enjoyed devouring those things, and looking forward to what was coming up a few months hence.

The fact that days and days can pass without my even noticing the solicitations these days probably speaks to my growing disinterest in monthly super-comics, sure, but it also speaks to the sorry state of online comics coverage. I used to read Comic Book Resources and Comics Alliance daily, and so I would inevitably see the solicits there. CA is, sadly, no more, and if something somewhere has sprung up to replace it, I haven't heard of it yet. And CBR is...a lot different than it was when I was contributing to the Robot 6 blog they hosted. While I'm sure there are still a lot of fine people who contribute there, it's gotten noticeably more Hollywood-focused and, well, Wizard-y. Plus the ads generally make reading it a chore.

I mainly get my comics news now from Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter, sometimes The Beat when I'm bored (I mostly enjoy the month-to-month sales analysis there) and Twitter, which is where it seems that most comics news comes from these days anyway.

This is a long way of saying that basically Tom Spurgeon needs to start running solicitations on his site. No, it's really a long way of saying, "Damn, this monthly feature I do is late as hell this month!" The weird thing, I'm not sure that anyone noticed, or at least no one raised their fists and demanded to know why I hadn't written "DC's December previews reviewed" and "Marvel's December previews reviewed" yet. Which lead to a slight existential dilemma--regarding the exist of these posts, not my own existence, of course--should I keep doing them...?

I mean, I probably will, because I pretty much write about everything comics-related I read these days as a reflex, and doing so is a good form of procrastination that keeps me from writing the things I should be writing, but, anyway, I was thinking about it...

Anyway, here is your very, very late look at the comics DC plans to publish in December...

Written by ALAN GRANT
Following the devastating earthquake that rocked Gotham City, Anarky becomes one of thousands of refugees streaming out of the ruined city. On the hunt to find his missing parents, Anarky must confront the possibility that his biological father is none other than the Joker!
Collects ANARKY #1-8.
On sale JANUARY 17 • 200 pg, FC, $19.99 US • ISBN: 978-1-4012-7534-1

Say, have you enjoyed Anarky Lonnie Manchin's recent appearances in Detective Comics? Really? You have? Well then I suppose there's a pretty good chance you didn't read this rather short-lived 1999 ongoing series by the character's creators, which have him in a much cooler costume--a mild-ish, better-fitting version of his original costume, which served a particular function in the first story in which he appeared--and demonstrates that he's actually a much smarter character well-versed in political theory and philosophy than the guy who showed up recently in 'Tec.

The series began after a 1997 waters-testing miniseries, during which Anarky moved from Gotham City to operate on a world (or worlds, really) stage, becoming more an outlaw superhero than an outlaw urban vigilante. When he learns of a monstrous threat to the Earth, he seeks to warn the JLA, who are skeptical of him, and then attempts to take matters into his own hands, by stealing Kyle Rayner's Green Lantern ring (which lead to a GL redesign of his costume, which is one of the earliest such instances I can think of in which a superhero gets a Green Lantern ring that essentially amalgamates his regular costume with a Corps-specific design; 1994's Batman: In Darkest Knight did this to a degree with Batman's costume, then whiffed when other heroes got GL rings, essentially just giving them GL logos on their regular costumes).
From there, Anarky comes into conflict with Ra's al Ghul, participates in the Day of Judgement crossover (which means we get to see The Haunted Tank in action)
and, for the series finale, wrestles with the knowledge that he real father is one of Batman's worst enemies...or at least, one of Alan Grant's favorites from among Batman's worst enemies.
Given how short the series was, it's kind of a disappointment that DC isn't also including the four-part miniseries, which featured appearances by Etrigan The Demon, Darkseid and, of course, Batman (Breyfogle draws one of the all-time best Etrigans, in my estimation). Of course, that was collected in a trade format by itself once before, but I'd bet you $5 it's out of print at the moment...

Anyway, I heavily endorse this product, as it is the work of one of my favorite Batman creative teams, the all-around best Batman artist and it stars one of my favorite Batman characters...

Speaking of great Batman artists from the 1990s, this is the cover for Graham Nolan, Chuck Dixon and company's Bane: Conquest #8. Damn, check out that Batman in the lower right corner...

Variant cover by KEVIN EASTMAN
The team behind the smash-hit crossover series is back to reunite the Dark Knight and the Heroes in a Half-Shell. When Donatello goes looking for a new mentor to help him improve his fighting skills, he opens a doorway to another reality, hoping to summon the Turtles’ one-time ally, Batman. But instead, he gets sent to Gotham City and someone else comes through the open portal—Bane! Suddenly, there’s a new gang boss in New York and he’s out to unite all the other bad guys under him. Can Donnie get back in time and bring Batman with him to help his brothers before Bane causes irreparable destruction? Co-published with IDW.
On sale DECEMBER 6 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

I assume the first of these sold pretty damn well, as this is the third one, and it's a direct sequel to the original, with the exact same creative team. It is still not at all what I want and, in fact, that this is a sequel to the original makes it even more disappointing, as there is just so much ground to cover with these characters. The number one thing I want from any crossover between these characters is to see Batman artists past and present (Tim Sale, Kelley Jones, Graham Nolan, Jim Lee, Riley Rossmo, John Romita Jr, etc) drawing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and TMNT artists past and present (Jim Lawson, Eric Talbot, Mark Martin, Sophie Campbel, etc) drawing Batman and company.

Seeing comics like this exist makes me wish I was a professional comics writer who could pitch publishers, even though the industry around the medium can seem so toxic, because man, there are very, very few things I would like to see happen exactly as I want them than a Batman/TMNT crossover...!

The crossover just before this one was the IDW-spearheaded Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures series, which was a crossover between the Batman: The Animated Series version of the Batman characters and the latest cartoon version of the TMNT characters. It wasn't great, but it was at least as good as the Tynion/Williams series, and had some memorable moments. More importantly, it was something different, and this particular series sounds like it will be anything but that.

Art and cover by TONY S. DANIEL and DANNY MIKI
Ethan “Elvis” Avery just wanted to serve his country. Instead, he’s been changed into a monster! Tasked as the government’s own living, breathing, ticking time bomb, Ethan retains no control when the monster takes over. Cheaper than a nuclear warhead and twice as effective, Ethan fights to rein in the damage he unleashes when the beast inside him springs free for one hour a day. With everyone around him in danger, Ethan struggles to contain the DAMAGE he inflicts on the DC Universe.
On sale DECEMBER 20 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • FOLDOUT COVER • RATED T+

Yikes! Well, I guess that's one way to keep the "Damage" trademark, but this looks the opposite of promising. In fact, it looks awfully Hulk-y, doesn't it...?

DC Comics’ finest talents have assembled to bring you a holiday special like you’ve never seen before! Join Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash as they deliver powerful messages of hope like only The Worlds Greatest Super-Heroes can! Plus: Sgt. Rock fights the Nazis on Hanukah, the Teen Titans take on the literal ghost of Christmas past, and Swamp Thing battles that creeping feeling of existential dread! And don’t miss the legendary Denny O’Neil’s return to comics with an all-new Batman story!
ONE-SHOT • On sale DECEMBER 6 • 96 pg, FC, $9.99 US • RATED T

These are almost always somewhat disappointing, but I love them nevertheless. That's a pretty swell cover by Kubert, at least in conception--I think he should maybe take another pass on The Flash there, though. "Swamp Thing battles that creeping feeling of existential dread!" sound a little too...real for a Christmas special, doesn't it? If there is a scene where someone's Christmas tree turns into Swamp Thing, and he steps out of the tree skirt, gradually brushing off ornaments and lights but forgetting the fact that he's wearing a star on his head like a hat, I'll be fine with it though.

Written by PHIL HESTER
Art and cover by STEVE RUDE
For years, archaeologist turned superhero Ray Randall has aided Inter-Nation in their quest to make the world a safer place as the one and only Birdman! But when a group of ancient gods reemerge to destroy everything in their path, Birdman must choose between following them or fighting them for the fate of the planet. Can Birdman and his falcon companion, Avenger, find out who’s behind this resurrection before it’s too late? Don’t miss the first part of this epic three-issue adventure!
On sale DECEMBER 20 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Okay, yes it's weird that DC Comics has Steve Rude willing to draw superhero comics for them, and the particular superhero he is drawing is fucking Birdman instead of, you know, pretty much anyone else. That's fine. One takes one's Steve Rude-drawn superheroes wherever one can find them.

I have no idea what on Earth is going on here on Guillem March's cover to Gotham City Garage #5, but I'm into it.

Written by JAMES TYNION IV • Art and cover by JIM LEE and SCOTT WILLIAMS
“THE END OF FOREVER” part one! There is a secret history to the DC Universe of heroes who have protected humanity from the shadows since the dawn of time…and who can live forever. Enter the Immortal Men! The team, headed by the Immortal Man, has waged a secret war against the House of Conquest for countless years—but Conquest has dealt a devastating blow. When their base of operations, known as the Campus, is savagely attacked, the Immortal Men must seek out their last hope—an emerging metahuman known as Caden Park! Caden’s emerging powers may be able to ensure the Immortal Men’s survival—but will Conquest get to him first?
On sale DECEMBER 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • FOLDOUT COVER • RATED T+

As with the above Damage, this one looks like it's going to be a very, very heavy lift to get over in the current market. A title about DC's many, many immortals, who play a sort of collective role in Dark Nights: Metal, could be compelling, particularly if it spans history, real and DCU, but there's a lot of x-factors here.

The fact that Jim Lee is drawing should help a lot--and I think that's the best way to deploy Lee, honestly, putting him on title that need the help--but if Immortal Men follows the trend that the "Rebirth" relaunch of Suicide Squad did, Lee won't be on the title for too long, and sales will react accordingly.

Art and cover by PETE WOODS
Variant cover by NICK BRADSHAW
“LOST” part one! When the Justice League is confronted by three concurrent threats, a sleep-deprived Batman makes a crucial error that causes an unthinkable—and potentially unforgivable—tragedy. Legendary Eisner Award-nominated writer Christopher Priest (Deathstroke) is joined by artist Pete Woods for a brand-new must-read Justice League story like you’ve never seen before!
On sale DECEMBER 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Art and cover by PETE WOODS
Variant cover by NICK BRADSHAW
“LOST” part two! Still greatly affected by the shocking events of the previous issue, the Justice League attempts to regain its balance when an alien infestation threatens the Earth. But nothing can prepare them for an attack closer to home…one that will reveal devastating truths about the League itself!
On sale DECEMBER 20 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Fun fact: Way back in 1999, Christopher Priest wrote a two-part story arc in Legends of The DC Universe starring the Justice League of America, and it was one of my favorite non-Morrison, non-Waid League stories from back then. It was sharp, creative, fun and funny, and I remember thinking--hell, maybe even writing a letter to the editor back then--that Christoper Priest should really do more Justice League stories.

Well, it's about time...!

I'm not sure if this is going to end up being a fill-in or if Priest is the new writer for the book, but I'll be buying this arc either way (Here's another fun fact: I haven't bought an issue of Justice League since...I forget, actually. Johns' second arc, maybe...?). Priest is, on a technical level, one of the publisher's better writers at the moment. Shouldn't someone as good as him be writing the book that, by all rights, should be their flagship title, seeing as it stars like six of their biggest, most popular, most recognizable heroes...?

I still think Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo should take over Justice League following Metal, but I'll gladly settle (or should I say "settle"...?) for Priest and anyone-who-is-not-a-poor-artist. Woods is good. But do you know who is even better? Nick Bradshaw. Why the fuck is DC wasting Bradshaw on variant covers--as they have been for a while now--instead of interiors?!

Another great, crazy-looking Guillem March cover, this one for Ragman, who still just looks like a mummy on the covers, which is kind of a waste of an incredible character design.

In 1984, legendary writer/artist Jack Kirby returned to DC to illustrate tales of the Justice League of America in the pages of SUPER POWERS. At last, DC collects the first two SUPER POWERS miniseries in a single collection! These tales pit the Justice League of America—Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and more—against the forces of Darkseid, Lord of Apokolips. These stories are the only time in his long career that Kirby would draw the Justice League, elevating these stories to legendary status.
Collects SUPER POWERS Vol. 1 #1-5 and SUPER POWERS Vol. 2 #1-6.
On sale JANUARY 17 • 272 pg, FC, $39.99 US • ISBN: 978-1-4012-7140-4

This trade is pretty much a literal dream come true for me. I mean, in 2007 I wrote a post about how a collection of Kirby's Super Powers comics would essentially be a dream trade. It took DC a decade to get around to it--Good God in heaven, I have been blogging here for ten years now? And I still haven't gotten around to buying my own domain name?--but better late than never!

Hey, speaking of Super Powers, does anyone know what became of Tom Scioli's Super Powers back-ups in Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye...?

In the aftermath of the “Death of Superman” and the return of the Man of Steel, the new Superboy moves to Hawaii! But as his powers develop, the young clone of Superman must learn to be a hero as he battles villains including Sidearm and Knockout, and faces the effects of the dread clone plague!
Collects issues #0-11.
On sale JANUARY 3 • 296 pg, FC, $24.99 US • ISBN: 978-1-4012-7513-6

Geoff Johns has a fairly well-deserved reputation for rehabilitating Silver Age and Bronze Age DC superheroes who lost their way--Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Hawkman, Flash Barry Allen, all the characters that weaved in and out of his run on JSA--but one character he did no favors for was poor Superboy. The character's book changed direction a lot over the years, and by the time Johns became the character's main writer in the pages of Teen Titans, he started doing some darker, dumber things with the character, slowly draining all of the joy out of him until the cocky, smart-ass teen was a fairly dour downer.

I don't know what became of him after Flashpoint's reboot, as he mainly appeared in Teen Titans, the one New 52 book so bad that it actually hurt my eyes to look at, but with Superman and Lois Lane's son Jon using the Superboy name, I doubt we'll be seeing any iteration of this Superboy any time soon.

Unless we pick up this trade, which I likely will (as with Robin, my reading of Superboy was sporadic, and I basically read the issues that looked good to me, rather than reading it monthly).

Based on the solicitation, this is starting with the first issue of the post-"Reign of The Supermen" Superboy series, wherein Superboy picks maybe the nicest place in the United States of America to set up shop as resident superhero: Hawaii. He'll fight Knockout, The Scavenger, (the original and best conception of) King Shark, Parasite, Sidearm, the original Superboy (in the Zero Hour tie-in) and since they are apparently including the Milestone Comics/Superman franchise crossover "World's Collide," he'll also meet Rocket and Static.

If it sells well enough that they keep going, the next volume will include Superboy's first meeting with Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, he and some of his villains temporarily joining Amanda Waller's then little-seen Suicide Squad, a team-up with mostly-forgotten "New Blood" Loose Cannon, and an appearance by the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Friday, September 22, 2017


September is drawing to a close, which means there are just three short months left in this year, which means a whole lot of people who write about comics are going to be writing and publishing their best-of-the-year lists before long. If you are one such person, I would like to offer you a piece of advice: Be sure to read Hamish Steele's Pantheon: The True Story of The Egyptian Deities before you begin compiling your list.

It is probably the best comic I've read so far this year. At the very least, it was the funniest, and also my favorite. It is exactly what it says it is in the sub-title, and it manages to read simultaneously straightforward and like something akin to a parody, with the characters themselves sometimes offering sarcastic exegesis in their dialogue to their own fairly fucked-up actions. And comics proves to be the ideal medium for stories that were famously told in hieroglyphics (Here's a review, in blurb form: "Hamish Steele's Pantheon is as good a comic as Gods of Egypt is a bad movie!").

Given that the only place currently paying me money to write about comics is School Library Journal's Good Comics For Kids blog, and Pantheon is most definitely not appropriate for kids, there's a very good chance I won't actually formally review it anywhere, because it is so good, and it will be, well, like work to try and write a decent review of it. So instead, I will just offer my endorsement: Hamish Steele's Pantheon is the best comic, and you should all read it.

I reviewed Abby Howard's Dinosaur Empire here. I was genuinely surprised by how great it was.

I reviewed Man-Thing by R.L. Stine here. I was genuinely surprised by how bad it was.

Namor tries to explain the diminishing returns of relaunches to a Marvel executive.
The other day Tom Spurgeon linked to this essay at Paste, explaining how the nebulous "Legacy" initiative wasn't going to fix whatever it is exactly that has gone wrong at Marvel Entertainment's comics division of late. I say "whatever," but the real answer seems pretty obvious to me: For years and years and years now Marvel has increasingly relied on marketing and publishing strategies that offered fairly enormous short-term gains, but risked long-term damage to the market and their own brand. It seems like the short-term of all those strategies is now over, Marvel has entered the point that used to be long-term, and now the chickens have come home to roost, it is time to pay the piper and other such similar such metaphors.

I think Marvel still regularly publishes a lot of great comics, and, in truth, I read pretty much as much of the line as I possibly can, excepting the corners of the Marvel Universe that bear little to no interest for me--The Inhumans, The X-Men, Captain Marvel Carol Danvers, Deadpool--and the series I do genuinely like, but often get lost trying to read. (Of course, I do read them in trades that I borrow from the library, so Marvel gets almost no money directly from me: I still buy the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl trades, and I bought the R.L. Stine's Man-Thing trade mentioned above, but for the most part, I spend hardly any money at all on Marvel Entertainment products anymore).

Anyway, while reading this latest of think pieces and explainers about what the heck is wrong with Marvel on a Wednesday, the day I generally re-visit Midtown Comics's website to look at the week's new releases, I was reminded of something I notice every time I do so. Because I don't buy Marvel in serial format, I always just scroll quickly through their section of the shipping list. And it always takes forever compared to the time it takes to scroll through the sections devoted Dark Horse, DC, Image and Dynamite. Sometimes it's even longer than the time it takes to scroll through the section devoted to "Independents," which is basically "Everything Else," including sizable publishers like Archie Comics and Boom Studios.

This week, I thought I'd count, just out of curiosity. For the week of September 20th, DC had 36 entries in their section, a full 17 of which were variants, so that's actually just 19 new comics DC published this week, in all its imprints and sub-lines. Marvel had 44 entries, of which 16 were variants, so that's 28 new comics that Marvel published, and their line isn't broken up to the degree DC's is--it's mostly just Marvel Universe stuff and Star Wars licensed comics. There were only 81 comics in the non-Big Five category, to give you a sense of how many comics DC and Marvel published this week.

I was actually surprised they were so close, as Marvel always feels like they dwarf everyone else so much more dramatically with their weekly releases. So I looked ahead to next week, September 27th. There I see DC had 44 listings, while Marvel had 62, and 35 of those are variant covers, a hell of a lot of which are for a Legacy #1, which seems to be the start of a crossover event series of some kind...? So in addition to the gimmick covers and the re-numbering, Marvel is also doing a series to go along with the more cosmetic aspects of the initiative, and they are promoting it with...let's see...17 covers.

Anyway, in short, Marvel seems to publish too many damn comics every week. I think they've gotten better, and corrected the more obvious problems, like publishing two Doctor Strange books instead of just one, or three Black Panther books instead of just one, and actually even reducing their Avengers line to just two books (In December's solicits, Avengers and Uncanny Avengers are the only Avengers books; and even if you count Champions, which is written by Avengers writer Mark Waid and was built as a spin-off of his All-New, All-Different Avengers line-up, that's still three...the lowest number of Avengers titles in a while).

There is still room to cut though, and I don't think it needs to be (or should be) the more out-there low-selling titles, which are obviously meant to appeal to niche audiences and to sell in trade paperback form in other markets.

For example, come December there will be eight ongoing X-Men books: X-Men: Blue, X-Men: Gold, Astonishing X-Men, All-New Wolverine, Old Man Logan, Iceman, Jean Grey and Weapon X. That's a lot of X-Men books, particularly at a time when the franchise isn't selling so hot. Were I Marvel, I would probably start by cutting two--Astonishing, probably, since three books starring X-Men teams seems pretty excessive in the best of times, and Old Man Logan--and then maybe go from there, with Weapon X next on the chopping block and then maybe another solo title.

The Spider-Man franchise is even more crazy. Sure, they canceled Silk and Spider-Woman, so there's now just one book starring a female version of Spider-Man instead of three books starring a female version of Spider-Man, but there's still eight books: Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spider-Man/Deadpool, Spider-Man (starring Miles Morales), Venom, Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider, Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows (set in an alternate reality) and Spider-Gwen (ditto, although she seems to cross over a lot with the "real" Marvel Universe). There is a lot of room to cut here, and if the majority of your Spider-books are selling super-low, and they are all serving the same audience anyway, why give the Peter Parker version two ongoings, plus one for his clone (I think?) and another for an alternate reality version of Parker?

I am far from an expert, but these are the first things I would suggest Marvel try: 1)Publishing fewer titles per franchise, 2) Quite relaunching with new #1 constantly and 3) Knock it off with all the variants.

As I said, they do seem to be starting to put some of this into practice already, although not always in the best ways possible (as I've complained frequently, the new "Legacy" numbering is basically the same as relaunching with a new #1, only more confusing). And if variant covers are a problem, and I think they probably are, well, they don't seem to be backing away from them, as the number of them on next week's shipping list attached to Legacy #1 attests...

This is just one of the three covers for this issue, naturally.
Marvel's Generations time-travel team-up one-shots aren't directly related at all to Marvel's upcoming Legacy series, but I keep forgetting that, because the names are so similar. The Ms. Marvel one is the first I've actually read. There are actually a few that they've published so far that I was at least somewhat interested in, but I was, of course, trade-waiting (I assume they will all end up in a big Generations collections, or in the trade collections of the most relevant titles or, hell, maybe even both). My friend Meredith purchased this one though, so I read her copy.

The weirdest thing was that there isn't even a the barest attempt to explain why Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan has traveled back in time from the year 2017 to the 1970s. She just does, and everything else having to do with it comes via narration, based on her own understanding of genre conventions. It reads an awful lot like a tie-in to an event series or, perhaps, like an annual from an old-school thematic crossover, but, as far as I can tell, there is no one-shot or book-ending miniseries explaining why a bunch of the modern marvel characters like Ironheart and The Totally Awesome Hulk and Thor Jane Foster are travelling back in time to meet the original heroes that they are legacy versions of (Also, what, no Moonboy and Moon Girl?). That seems really fucking weird to me. At one point, Kamala does mention a cube, so maybe I'm just missing the tie-in...maybe they all spin out of a scene of Secret Empire...?

The comic is written by regular Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson, and drawn by Paolo Villanelli ; there's a kind of cute effect where the scenes set in the past are colored so as to suggest time-faded, old school comics paper. It's pretty disappointing though, at least given the premise. Kamala randomly travels back in time to 1970s New York City, wherein her namesake Carol Danvers was running a women's magazine--called simply Woman Magazine--for J. Jonah Jameson. Meredith has repeatedly texted me pictures of panels from the Essential Ms. Marvel trade collected those original comics, and they are awesome. I would have loved nothing more than a teenage girl from the year 2017 being inserted into the angry conversations about women's lib that Jameson and Danvers were having and shutting Jameson up (and while it's not like sexism is over or anything today, not by a long shot, it is certainly the case that Kamala grew up in a world where she didn't have to have as many of the fights that Danvers and her generation did, because those fights were already fought and won and popular opinion shifted so far away from the 1970s Jameson position and towards that of 1970s Danvers).

Alas, it was not to be. Jameson's in it, but it's little more than a cameo, and he barely screams about ladies, being more concerned with Kamala--who he mistakes as a new intern--being late, than whether women should work or be stay at home moms and so on. In that respect, I don't know that there's anything in the entire issue that's as funny as some of the random panels in Essential Ms. Marvel (The best gag is Kamala's shock at how far $20 goes in the 1970s, but then, I just saw that gag a few weeks back when Jughead discovered how much food he could buy in the 1970s when he and The Archies traveled back in time to meet the Ramones).

The thing that really struck me about this issue though? Guys, it is is sent in the 1970s. I was born in 1977, and I turned 40 this year. Let's be really, really generous and say that Carol Danvers was as young as 20 in the the 1970s, and that "the 1970s" is 1979. That would make Carol Danvers 58-years-old in the present day, but, more likely somewhere in her early-to-mid-sixties. Based on the way most artists draw her, I don't think she's really meant to be that old.

No variants, but the cover is "foil-stamped" with shiny Nth Metal ink or whatever.
I also read Batman: The Red Death #1 this week. That's the one-shot Metal tie-in detailing the origins of one of the seven bad Batmen from the Dark Multiverse, specifically The Flash/Batman amalgam. It was by the/a regular Flash creative team of Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico.

I was honestly a little confused at the beginning, as it is said to be occurring on "Earth-52," which I at first mistook to be the central Earth of the current DC Multiverse, but it featured Batman and The Flash fighting. The action will later move to "Earth-0," at which point I remembered that the 52 Earths of the DC Multiverse are numbered from Earth-0 to Earth-51; Earth-52 must therefore be the first Earth of the Dark Multiverse, that on the back of Grant Morrison's map of the Multiverse. Weird that the numbering would continue though, rather than there being 52 "Dark Earths" or whatever...although if the idea of the Dark Multiverse is that it is full of Earths that are always being destroyed, maybe there shouldn't be numbers there at all...?

As for The Batman vs. The Flash fight, the former was using the weapons of The Rogues, and wearing Captain Cold's glasses, for some reason. The idea is kinda cool, but also ridiculous; there's no way a Batman/Flash fight lasts longer than a few seconds, unless Batman has done some serious prep work, and having a freeze ray, weather-controlling staff and the ability to jump in and out of mirrors doesn't really cut it.

The Red Death's origin is pretty straightforward: Batman chained The Flash to the roof of a Batmobile and then drove into the The Speed Force, until he amalgamated himself with The Flash.

The story did not answer one question I have about The Red Death: Why is it that when he runs, he turns into a flock of glowing red bats? I mean, it looks cool as hell, but I'm not really sure why or how laser bats are the equivalent of lightning bolts when he uses super-speed.

Oh, and I suppose it is worth mentioning--if only because I personally find DC's obsession with the work Alan Moore did for them in the 1980s so fascinating--that there's a pretty direct and dramatic call-back to The Killing Joke in the script, as The Batman Who Laughs quotes from it.

There were three different covers for this issue too, one of which was blank. Seriously.
I also also read this, the first issue of a six-issue crossover being written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Aaron Lopresti and inked by Matt Ryan. This isn't that particular creative team's first crack at Wonder Woman, either; Simone had a 30-ish issue run on the Wonder Woman book between and 2007-2010, with the Lopresti and Ryan team  providing art for much of it (This fell between Allan Heinberg's aborted run and J. Michael Straczynski's aborted run, if you're trying to remember exactly where to place it).

I wasn't a particularly big fan of Simone and company's Wonder Woman, and I only lasted about an arc and a half or so, with occasional check-ins for interesting-looking issues (the return of Etta Candy, a Black Canary team-up, etc). That said, this miniseries by that particular old Wonder Woman team is remarkably well-timed. 

With the regular Wonder Woman title about to be temporarily turned over to writer James Robinson for a story that fans seem to have rejected upon hearing its synopsis--it's a follow-up to "The Darkseid War" and will feature Wonder Woman's brother--I imagine there will be plenty of Wondy fans dropping the main title. This could provide a pretty good home for them until DC finally figures out what to do with Wonder Woman again.

How good a Wonder Woman comic Wonder Woman/Conan actually ends up being will remain to be seen, of course. This first issue is really more of a Conan comic than a Wonder Woman one, and Diana's presence in his regular milieu isn't quite explained just yet. She's suffering from amnesia, apparently somewhat de-powered and missing her lasso and costume, although she's refashioned a crude likeness of her costume out of mud and rags.

Simone's take on Wonder Woman always seemed to accentuate her warrior aspect over every other aspect, which I found kind of grating and boring, but I suppose that will prove perfectly appropriate in a Conan comic, which Simone nails the language and rhythms of. Lopresti's art looks pretty great, but I can't help but wish one of the cover artists--Darrick Robinson and Liam Sharp--were drawing the interiors instead, or perhaps someone more completely over-the-top, like Kelley Jones or Simon Bisley.

At any rate, if you're a Wonder Woman reader distressed by the upcoming new direction of Wonder Woman, there's a pretty good chance that Wonder Woman/Conan will provide a solid substitute.

Speaking of not liking the sound of the upcoming Wonder Woman arc, I dropped the title from my pull while I was in the shop this week, and as long as I was dropping one book, I went ahead and dropped a second as well: Lumberjanes

My local comic shopkeep informed me that I was one of only two customers who had Lumberjanes on my pull, and now that I had dropped it, there was just one customer left. I didn't ask how many they were pulling at the high-point of Lumberjanes' popularity--I probably should have--but he did indicate that they had lost a lot over the years, and congratulated me for making it 42 issues. I outlasted everyone who patronizes my local comic shop, save one person!