Friday, March 30, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: March 28th

Dark Nights: Metal #6 (DC Comics) That's Jim Lee's variant cover for this week's final issue of Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and company's Dark Nights: Metal event series. I didn't buy it. I got the Capullo cover, but I didn't use that here because it has that weird metal ink on it and a gloss that means you can't really see decent images of it online. So I'm using the Lee one to illustrate this post instead.

As you'll note, it features a few alternate Batmen from alternate dimensions/"Earths", which is something that I'll get to further down. But, for now, I would just like to point out that one of those Batmans in apparently meant to be the Kelley Jones-designed vampire Batman from the trilogy of vampire Batman original graphic novels that Jones did with Dough Moench, and, off the top of my head, this is the first instance of Lee drawing a Jones design that I can think of. I am not impressed. Those ears should be much, much longer. They look like they barely crack six inches there!

Anyway, the final issue of this Batman-centric, Justice League story with Multiversal implications ends as strongly as it started, maybe a little more so, as the various teams of heroes all fulfill their tasks, play their various aces in the hole and reunite for what feels like the ultimate battle between good and evil for the fate of the all big Justice League stories should.

This is perhaps my favorite thing that Snyder has written to date, and I was pretty thoroughly impressed with how he played various notes and themes throughout: Metals, the power of story and dream, how all are one.

In the afterword, Snyder thanks various writers for inspiration and advice, and it's unsurprising to see Neil Gaiman (whose post-Sandman Dream/Daniel and Lucien play roles within it) and Grant Morrison (whose Batman run, Final Crisis and Multiversity inspired plot points and themes throughout; Metal is built as a sort of continuation of elements from Final Crisis and "Batman: RIP"/The Return of Bruce Wayne). I was actually even a little taken aback to see how much the climax echoed that of "World War III," the final story and climax of Morrison's JLA run (That's the story, remember, where it took the combined effort of every single human being on the planet, including you, the reader, using our newly gifted superhpowers against Maggedon, The Anti-Sun).

(An even bigger surprise, the biggest, really, was how the story broke a literal barrier in the DC Universe and, in doing so, seemed to break a long-standing, retroactively foundational rule of that fictional shared-setting).

Anyway, this is a very skilled writer taking inspiration from a few of DC's best writers to tell the biggest, Crisis-level story of his career, and the biggest that DC has dared in a long while...and, unlike the last few they've tried, it seemed to be immediately of consequence, as it set the stage for, like, everything the publisher has planned in the near future, most obviously the new Justice League comic (er, family of comics, I guess) and "The New Age of Heroes" line.

The book is divided into two pretty distinct sections. The first 32 pages are the conclusion of Metal, written by Snyder and drawn by Capullo--and that's 32 story pages; there are no ads here. It is followed by a 12-page "Coda" written by Snyder and his occasional co-writer James Tynion IV, and drawn mainly by Batman artist Mikel Janin.

The coda begins with Alfred inviting the Justice League, and new additions J'onn J'onnz and Kendra Saunders, into a formal dinner. He apparently tailored tuxedos for all of them, which is a pretty weird thing to do. (The scene reminded me of that nice piece of art from a while back, where Adam Hughes dressed various super-ladies from the DCU in dresses. It inspired me to draw their male counterparts in was pretty poor art on my part, as per usual, but I think the ideas were solid. I'm a writer, not an artist, dammit!)

Batman makes a long-ass toast/speech, and yields the floor to Kendra for a long-ass info dump, and it doesn't appear anyone gets to eat anything, but the talking part makes for a decent transition of Snyder's focus from Batman to the Justice League, while catching us up on how the DC Universe and Multiverse may have changed, if Hawkman's going to be okay and teasing the way in which "The New Age of DC Heroes" might actually connect to Metal ("Tell us, Immortal Man," one of the characters appearing in The Immortal Men asks the one that is apparently Immortal Man, "what does it mean?" as they regard images of Sideways and some other characters, and Immortal Man answers, "This is the dawn of a New Age of Heroes... If they can survive what's coming for them." Presumably he's taking about market apathy, low sales and cancellation...? Anyway, that panel is how those series all tie into Metal, I guess!) and, somewhat tiresomely, glimpses of future events across various DC books, a scene that looks like it was written and drawn after the creators had already seen the solicitations for coming months (A new version of Darkstar suit appears, there's a mention of "The Flash War," the "Dark Pantheon" from upcoming issues of Wonder Woman, etc).

Then this new-and-improved League enters a room where many other players from the drama are also dressed in formal wear, while Damian, Jon and Alfred's band performs. I kind of hated this image, if only because there were so many characters I couldn't recognize in it (I suspect many of the ones I don't recognize are meant to be the Titans...not the Teen Titans, but the other ones).

On the last page, Bruce Wayne walks Clark Kent and Wonder Woman into a room where he tells them he has a plan, and we see the blue prints for a "Hall of Justice," which looks pretty much just like the one from Super Friends. I do not approve. That version of their HQ officially entered the DCU when Brad Meltzer briefly wrote Justice League of America, and it is most memorable for a kind of basic, hilarious mistake that got both real world history and DCU continuity super-wrong*. In cartoons, we've seen that  basic base reconfigured in a few different ways, putting it atop a skyscraper, for example, or covering it in a dome and having it orbiting earth as a satellite, but I'd prefer to see something new.**

Anyway, as I've praised Metal so much in past reviews, and everyone else has had so many nice things to say about it over past months, I just want to concentrate on the things I didn't like about Metal #6 here, if that's cool with you guys (and even if it's not, I'm going to go ahead and do so anyway).

So, here are The Things I Didn't Like About Metal #6:

1.) There are way too few Batmen on page 10. So, a major plot point of the event, the one that lead to all those one-shots, is that Barbatos has recruited a Justice League's worth of failed, nightmare Batmen from various fallen worlds to serve as his army, right? On page nine, a voice from off-panel tells Barbatos "Well, we've been across the Multiverse, too. And we see your evil Batmen..." And then, on page 10, we see that the speaker is Cyborg, and he finishes the sentence: "...And we raise."

It's a splash page, and a Cyborg and a few tiny figures--Flash and Raven--are shown in the distance, on the bridge of Nix Uotan's Ultima Thule. Detective Chimp, Mr. Stubbs and a handful of alternate Batmen from across the Multiverse are shown leaping into the fray.

It's...disappointing. There are only four Batmen, after all, from The Dark Knight Returns, Red Rain, Red Son and Gotham By Gaslight (I think) and...that's it. If you're going to raise, shouldn't you have more Batmen, not less...? Or at least, like, an equal number of Batmen? (There are seven Nightmare Batmen). I guess Stubbs and Detective Chimp do make it seven, but neither of them are Batmen--not in this universe, anyway--so it's a very weird page, one where the writing seems to suggest something much, much bigger and more dramatic than the art reveals. I would have expected a page full of Batmen (also, these are some weak-ass Batmen to bring into a superhero fight; Speeding Bullets and In Darkest Night Batmen would be better-suited to the task than 3/4ths of these Elseworlds Batmen).

Oh, and where the hell are the Primate Legion...?

2.) It's super-weird that we never see Flash or Cyborg before the coda.  Other than that glimpse of them in the extreme background of page 10, where I wouldn't even know for sure that the characters in the image were Flash and Cyborg had I not read the tie-in The Wild Hunt, they spend the climax of the series talking to the other Leaguers over the radio, but we never see them on-panel.

3.) I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the breaching of the Source Wall, but I suppose it will depend on when or if that is ever followed-up on. I'm pretty sure the Wall's been traveled past or through before--didn't Kyle Rayner do so since the Flashpoint/New 52 reboot?--but I don't have any clear memory of what's on the other side exactly, so I won't know how well this will line up with previous stories. But like finding out what the Anti-Life Equation is, it just seems like one of those things better left mysterious.

4.) I hate Wonder Woman's dress. I don't know if Alfred made that for her, or if it's her own, but I found it to be pretty hideous, mirroring her regular costume too much. I think she should have rocked a tuxedo like all the guys did. If former President Trump enabler Hope Hicks could pull it off, certainly Diana of Themyscira could.

5.) The tie-in to the "New Age of Heroes" was pretty weak. And I had, at this point, assumed there wasn't even going to be a tie-in within the pages of Metal.

6.) I already mentioned the bits about the last three pages I didn't like. I should add that it seems weird to find Mister Terrific at the after-party, but not Plastic Man. Neither of them are at the dinner, and neither will be part of the new Justice League, which seems...well, a little unnatural given the events of the series, but then, I suppose that's because of The Terrifics. From what I understand, they are lost in the Dark Multiverse or something in that book, but here we see Mister Terrific at the party, Plas-less.

And I didn't notice this, but I suppose it can be listed among the flaws of the issue...

7.) Mike Sterling caught a pretty egregious typo. 

I have some concerns about what follows--No Justice and then a new, too-big Justice League line of books with a Snyder-written main book at its center--but Metal was a blast, and I hope Snyder is able to have as creatively strong and successful run on that book as he was on Batman.

Saga #50 (Image Comics) Fifty issues is a lot of issues. Especially in this decade. And especially from a single creative team in this decade. Let's take a moment to appreciate and applaud what Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have managed to accomplish here, presenting a compelling, 50-issue narrative (so far!) powered more by imaginative character design and character-focused writing than on any sort of particularly hooky premise of the sort that generally drives new series.

My only criticism of this particular issue? There are two panels on page three. I wish the bottom panel were removed, and the top one filled the entire page, making it the best splash page in comic book history. Because it would have a double-meaning in that context, you see. Or you don't see, unless you are looking at the page in question, or...never mind.

Another good issue of a great series.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #36 (DC) Sure, Dark Nights: Metal is the DC comic that everyone's going to be all jazzed about this week, but I think it's well worth pointing out that this particular issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up features almost as many characters as the penultimate issue of Metal, and its DC character catalog deep cuts are far deeper than the deepest you'll find in Metal.

While regular writer Sholly Fisch and artist Dario Brizuela's DC superhero team-ups sometimes focus on a particular character or team, they occasionally do thematic issues, in which Scooby and the gang encounter, say, all of the ghost characters, or all of the alien characters, or all of the superhero dogs and so on.

This is one of those issues, which is why the title of the story--"Too Many Kooks"--appears on the cover instead of  the words "Angel and The Ape,"who are on either side of Shaggy and Scooby on that cover. The monster seen in silhouette is also a relatively obscure-ish and comedic DC Comics character, and his name, at least as it appears in the title of his feature, is "Monster."

The theme for this issue? A bunch of the kookier DC characters, I guess, including analogues of Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope, who used to have DC comics (and whose names the publisher apparently can't use as cavalierly as they can use Angel and The Ape).

A young Jerry Lewis Louie Jervis is hosting his regular charity telethon when he sees a monster just off-camera. Luckily for him, in the audience are Scooby-Doo and Mystery, Inc. As well as private investigators Angel O'Day and Sam Simeon.  And superhero team The Inferior Five.

But wait, there's more! Stanley and His Monster, The Maniaks, Bob Hope Rob Pope...and that's not even mentioning the even more obscure characters who get name-dropped, or spoiling the identity of some of the meddling kids.

This is one of, if not the best, issues of the series to date. Many of the above guest-stars would have provided enough material to fill a 20-page Scooby-Doo crossover. But with all of them together in a single book? There's barely space for a slow or dull panel.

*Remember when Brad Meltzer had his short-lived Justice League of America say they built their Hall of Justice in Washington D.C. on the site of the All-Star Squadron's HQ, which was itself built on the grounds of the 1939 World's Fair, which was in New York, not D.C.?

**That said, I can't actually think of a good place to stick the Hall. It's been in Metropolis, in D.C., in orbit...At this point, it's got to be getting kind of hard to think of a place to put any Justice League HQ that feels new and fresh and unique. Personally, I thought the Watchtower on the moon was the very best location, but it feels weird to return to one particular base of operations just because the creators might like it best. Like, what's the in-story justification for abandoning the satellite--which did just crash out of orbit--and the Sanctuary in Happy Harbor for the moon or...wherever Snyder decides to stick the new Hall...? Based on Metal, I thought the League might end up on Challengers Mountain or Blackhawk Island, but that doesn't seem too terribly likely the closer to the relaunch we get. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

On a few collections of DC comics from the '90s: Aquaman, Green Lantern, Robin and Superboy

Aquaman By Peter David Book One

Peter David started writing Aquaman almost as soon as the previous ongoing series had ended. The thirteenth and final issue of the Shaun McLaughlin-scripted series shipped in 1992, while Peter David's four-part miniseries, Aquaman: Time and Tide, was released in 1993, paving the way for David's ongoing series, which began in 1994.

So hardly any time at all had really passed between the end of one series and the start of another, and yet reading David's Aquaman, it felt more like an entire age had passed, he so completely reinvented the character. His Arthur Curry--whose real Atlantean name Orin is used more and more--is a brooding, grumpy, self-pitying misanthrope, a former king more or less forced to continue his career as a superhero, because no one will leave him alone.

It is the visual shift that occurs in the early issues of Aquaman that are best-remembered, though. This is when Aquaman grew his hair long and grew a beard--it's more or less impossible to imagine Jason Momoa having been cast to play Aquaman in the Warner Bros live-action movies without this run of Aquaman comics having been published--and it's when he lost his left hand in perhaps the most ironic fashion imaginable, replacing it with a harpoon. By the end of this first collection of David's run on the character, he is wearing his new costume, too, his makeover complete.

The visual changes were all quite intentional, signalling not only a break with the character's clean-cut, Silver Age past, but an attempt by David, as he has his protagonist explaining within the scripts, to come up with an iconic symbol of his own, in the form of a weapon...specifically a weapon that surface-dwellers used against the creatures of the sea, repurposed and turned back on them by the sea's greatest defender.

Say what you will about the darker, more bad-ass take on Aquaman, it certainly worked. The series was the longest-running one Aquaman has ever had (David left after the 46th issue, but it continued under writers Erik Larsen and then Dan Jurgens, making it all the way to 75 issues). It was also, in my opinion, the best. This is the version of Aquaman that appeared throughout Grant Morrison's JLA, and has been around ever a degree. During the New 52, Geoff Johns reasserted the character's original, Silver Age origins over those of David, Robert Loren Fleming and other Aquaman writers of the 1980s--in addition to upping his power levels to Golden Age Superman levels--but otherwise kept much of the character's chip-on-his-shoulder surliness.

Much of the strength of David's run came from neither reinventing the wheel--this isn't the self-conscious, revisionist, "Ultimate Aquaman" of Johns' more recent run, for example--nor jettisoning continuity, but rather of picking the character up where he was last left, giving him something new and life-changing to deal with (not the hand thing, so much as his discovery of The Atlantis Chronicles and coming to terms with what he learned in them), while fashioning for him interesting adventures dependent on interpersonal drama and as much mythology as superheroics. David never fell into the trap of recycling Aquaman's rogue's gallery--in this volume, Ocean Master and Black Manta both only appear briefly, and in flashbacks or dream sequences--or thinking of him as a reactive superhero who had to deal with, like, sea-going crime.

There was also a great deal of rewarding long-term plotting, some of which you can see here, as the events of Time and Tide inform those of the first year or so worth of the ongoing, as well as just good old-fashioned, shared-setting comic book scripting. The first issue of Aquaman I read monthly was #26, although I was easily coaxed into the series by well-executed guest appearances, each of which felt organic to an ongoing narrative, while also doing the job of drawing eyeballs to the book (For example, in this volume, Aquaman fights Superboy in one issue, and Lobo in another; the former is there because his turf is Hawaii, where there happens to be a pretty big naval base that Aquaman has business with, while the latter comes to Earth in order to avenge some dolphins, the only thing he cares about in the universe).

It also helped that David had a hell of a creative partner in Martin Egeland, the pencil artist who draws the bulk of this collection. I really liked Egeland in the 1990s, and his work remains pretty solid today, too. His characters are all quite expressive, and though he is prone to the excesses of the era--and there's an image or two where the muscles get out of control  and one shouldn't look too long at them or one will wonder why said pages were ever even allowed to go to print--there's a nice, fluid grace to the characters' implied movements. There are some incredibly dynamic scenes of Aquaman and Aqualad swimming, leaping and, in one memorable image, sort of skipping along a tunnel.

Looking back form 2018, I see a bit of Todd McFarlane in Egeland's style, although his fundamentals seem far better than McFarlane's ever were. (Does anyone know whatever happened to Egeland? I searched the name on after finishing this volume, and found relatively little beyond Aquaman and some superhero work from that time. Did he quit comics, or is Egeland a pseudonym, or...?).

This Book One collection begins with Time and Tide, which was drawn by pencil artist Kirk Jarvinen and inker Brad Vancata. The premise of the series was that Aquaman had retreated to his Aquacave in an attempt to continue the Atlantis Chronicles by writing about his own life, leading to a series of flashbacks. The first issue depict his first encounter with a superhero--The Flash Barry Allen--at the dawn of the Silver Age.

The second is devoted to his childhood, in which he is rescued from Mercy Reef as an infant by Porm, a friendly dolphin, who raises him as her own among her pod. It's a very Tarzan of The Apes sequence, and, in fact David takes quite a bit of inspiration from Tarzan in his portrayal of Aquaman, who he sees as something of an Atlantean answer to Lord Greystoke.

In the third, he is a teenager, and visits an Inuit village in Alaska, where he befriends--and inadvertently makes a baby with--a young woman named Kako. He also fights a polar bear and the first of the mythological deities he'll face during David's run.

And finally, in the fourth, we see Aquaman and Aqualad at the height of their Silver Age status quo, as they encounter Ocean Master who, at that point, is just another supervillain to Aquaman.

When Aquaman begins, Garth pulls Aquaman out of his cave--where he's sprawled like Conan on a throne of coral--to help him investigate a downed nuclear submarine for the US Navy. It turns out to be a trap set by new, short-lived villain Charybdis, who has already captured a minor DC aquatic adventurer, Dolphin. It's in this battle with Charybdis that Aquaman ultimately loses his hand.

After he's slightly healed--or at least has managed to affix a harpoon to the stump--he and his new running crew head to Pearl Harbor in order to get answers about the trap the Navy sent them into, where they have to fight Superboy (whose Spider-Man-like fight chatter makes him a better fit for David than Aquaman, whose jokes sometimes feel out of character). Before they get their answers, they are sent to Japan in order to rescue Porm, and there meet Lobo.

The last four issues of the collection are an arc of sorts in which Aquaman returns to Kako's village with Dolphin, only to discover the son he never knew he sired--Koryak, who will become a supporting character in the series--and a group of Fourth World villains, The Deep Six. Meanwhile, Garth goes off on a mission of his own, to follow a lead that he thinks might indicate that his late girlfriend Tula (or Aquagirl, as you and I know her) is still alive, meeting Letifos, who will play a role in the Tempest miniseries. It's during these issues that Jim Calafiore's work appears for the first time; he's just there to fill-in for an issue or so, but he will eventually take over as the series' primary the detriment of the series, if you ask me.

This collection, which includes 13 issues altogether, also includes a new introduction from Peter David, in which he describes how he approached the series and how he tried to sell it. I was glad to read it; as I always say, all trade collections should have introductions. If they don't deserve introductions, then maybe they don't deserve to be collected at all, you know?

Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Vol. 1

I was a fan of the Kyle Rayner version of Green Lantern, DC's sole Green Lantern for much of the 1990s and the one that was featured in the Grant Morrison, Mark Waid and Joe Kelly runs on JLA. I could go on at some length about the virtues of the character versus that of his predecessor, Hal Jordan, but the two main things that attracted me to the character was that 1) he was new and debuted around the time I started paying attention to the DC Universe outside of Gotham City and 2) a coffee-obsessed, twenty-something, freelance artist based in New York City was a lot more appealing to me than a middle-aged, former test pilot-turned-space cop from a blandly generic imaginary city.

I never quite understood the vehemence with which so many Hal Jordan fans hated the change at the time. Of course, the very first issue of Green Lantern I read was 1996's Green Lantern #76, which featured Kyle Rayner soaring through the sky above Gotham City, the bat-signal in the background. This was the first issue in the three-part "Hero Quest," in which the green Green Lantern went from city to city seeking some form of guidance from his more established peers: Batman and Robin in Gotham, then Captain Marvel in Fawcett and, finally, Wonder Woman in Gateway (He had already met Superman, The Flash, Donna Troy and the Titans in his adventures).

That issue, for what it's worth, was a good 20 issues of Green Lantern into Kyle's career, plus Zero Hour and several issues of New Titans and whatever other appearance he made in his first two years or so wearing the ring. While I read earlier issues too, I did so out of back-issue bins, meaning out of order. I had never read Kyle Rayner's first year or so as Green Lantern in the way it was meant to be read, the way it was published. DC is making that possible though, collecting his adventures into Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner, which begins with his very first appearance...that means three issues of "Emerald Twilight," in which Hal Jordan was still officially the Green Lantern of the title.

These issues are rough. It's not until #57, when Kyle moves to New York City, that the book starts to feel like the Green Lantern I knew, and thought the book was; that's a good six issues into his time as Green Lantern. Writer Ron Marz is the poor guy who had the job of turning stalwart Silver Age hero Hal Jordan into a cosmic-scale villain, doing away with the Green Lantern Corps and The Guardians of the Universe and all the trappings of the franchise from the past few decades and introducing a new character--in just three issues.

He doesn't do as good a job in the space allotted as I always assumed he had done, but then, I think Dan Jurgens also did a lot of the work in (retroactively) justifying Hal Jordan's heel turn in the pages of Zero Hour. I guess I had just filled in the blanks in my imagination, or imagined that they were filled in in the pages of Green Lantern.

So the book begins with "Emerald Twilight." The first issue, penciled by Bill Willingham and inked by Romeo Tanghal and Robert Campanella, is really quite good. In the crater that was Coast City, utterly destroyed in the events of "Reign of The Supermen," Hal uses his wish-granting ring in an attempt to bring it back...although this mostly amounts to his conjuring holograms or hard-light constructs of it as he remembered it, and having conversations with his loved ones...though he's essentially just talking to himself through the medium of his ring. Anyway, it's all handled pretty well; I've always thought having your city completely erased from existence, including just about everyone you know except your friends from work (with "work" being "the Justice League" and "The Green Lantern Coprs") is as good as any other contrivance to drive a fictional character mad more-or-less overnight.

In the last few pages of part one, the Guardians tell Hal to quit fucking around and come back to Oa. Pissed at them, them streaks off to comply, while Kyle makes his first appearance; seeing Hal in the distance, he thinks he sees a shooting star.

The next two chapters? Things get dicey. (Visually, as well as in the story. Part two is penciled by a Fred Haynes, in a very '90s style with lots of splashes. Darryl Banks, who draws much of the rest of the book and is the artist most closely associated with Kyle, comes on during the third chapter)

During the second chapter, Hal is confronted by a series of allies from the Corps, each trying and failing to either calm him down or beat him up, as at this point it's pretty clear his trip to Oa isn't going to be a friendly one. He fights and defeats eight Lanterns, stealing each ring and adding them to his own fingers, increasing his power as he collects rings. When he gets to Oa, he's faced with Killowog. He tells Killowog that he didn't kill any of the Lanterns, but left them with enough power to survive. The two of them fight though, and The Guardians play their last, desperate attempt to stop Hal: They release Sinestro, newly empowered with a GLC power ring.

The bulk of the last issue is a fight to the death between Hal and Sinestro, with our hero breaking his archenemies neck and then killing Kilowog and destroying the main power battery and, apparently, The Guardians...?

In the last pages, the lone surviving Guardian, Ganthet, meets Kyle Rayner in an LA alley, seemingly at random, and hands him the last power ring in the universe, then disappears forever or so.

And the torch is thus passed.

Regarding "Emerald Twilight," what surprised me most is how few Lanterns Hal actually faces. It was my understanding that he killed the entire Green Lantern Corps which would have meant some 3600 Lanterns, right? Although I have absolutely no idea what was going on in Green Lantern comics just prior to this storyline, so maybe there were only a handful of Lanterns left at that point...? Or did destroying the battery somehow kill everyone? I have no idea.

Things stay rough for the next five issues, the first of Kyle's career. These issue's are pretty notorious, mostly because of what happens to Kyle's girlfriend, Alex DeWitt--this is the storyline from which the term "women in refrigerators" came from. And while it doesn't read any better in 2018, I do now wonder if perhaps this story wasn't a sort of necessary evil? Like, if it wasn't so egregious that it served as a sort of straw-that-broke-the-camel's back, drawing so much attention to the trope, giving it a name, that it was easier for other creators to avoid in the future? (Not that the phenomenon of killing off or visiting violence upon the female loved ones of male heroes as a way to motivate their actions went away afterwards, of course, but it's always easier to address a problem once that problem has been named.)

I'm also a little curious about how on-the-fly these decisions were made (This comic book series at this time in comic book history is a nexus for so many aspects of the mainstream comics industry and fandom that followed, that I think there could probably be a book written about it). The Kyle Rayner that seems to be getting introduced in the first few issues is a completely different one then the one who emerges a few issues later. When we first meet Kyle, he's a slacker in LA with a girlfriend trying to break into news photography, making for yet another superhero-with-a-media girlfriend pairing (Superboy, introduced just before Kyle, would also get a media girlfriend, in the form of Tana Moon).

She is killed off-panel and infamously stuffed inside of a refrigerator within issues of her first appearance, however, and after Kyle contemplates killing her killer in an act of vengeance, he ultimately leaves the city to begin a new life, at which point what would emerge as steady aspects of his turn as the main Green Lantern would emerge: His job, his city, his landlord, his relationships with super-women (First Donna Troy, then Jennifer-Lynn "Jade" Hayden). It makes me wonder if the sharp change in direction was intended to be subversive, or if Marz was making it up as he was going along, reacting to input from his editors.

In the middle of all that, DCU events intervene. Kyle briefly meets long-haired Superman and teams up with him against Mongul, the guy responsible for Coast City's destruction in the first place. Directly after Alex's death, Kyle finds Green Lantern Alan Scott--or perhaps he was Sentinel Alan Scott at that point?--waiting for him in his dark apartment, wanting to recruit him into helping with the whole Zero Hour thing (He does, but you have to read Zero Hour for that; here Scott does give Kyle a quick history of the Green Lantern Corps, told across four very full pages).

In Green Lantern #0, which seems to follow immediately on the heels of Zero Hour, Kyle and Hal battle on Oa, and there's a pretty interesting fake-out where it seems like Kyle might return the ring and legacy back to Hal, as if maybe his time as Green Lantern was meant to be more story-line specific, like when Jean-Paul Valley replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman, rather than when Wally West replaced Barry Allen as the Flash.

The collection includes two issues of New Titans, part of a crossover with that series that initiated Kyle's brief stint as a Titan (This era of Titans comics weren't all that great, but that was honestly my favorite line-up of Titans, with the possible exception of the Devin Grayson-written team), and the first issue of REBELS '94.

I suspect the next volume will be when the series starts to get pretty good, but these issues are all still intensely interesting, particularly from the perspective of what was going on with DC comics in the early 1990s, and various trends that were waxing and waning. Knowing how things have changed since only make some elements of these comics even more interesting too. For example, it's easy to imagine a young Geoff Johns reading these comics and getting pissed off, daydreaming about one day being able to undo all of the changes Ron Marz wrought.

And young Geoff Johns' dream came true!

Robin Vol. 5: War of The Dragons

One problem with these complete packages of particular series is evident from the first pages of the fifth issue of Chuck Dixon and company's long, healthy run on the Tim Drake version of Robin. This particular collection covers Robin #14-22, Robin Annual #3 and Detective Comics #685 and #686. Robin #14 was part of the four-part "Troika" story that introduced Batman's then-new costume and ran through the four main Batman books of the time. Actually, Robin #14 was the fourth part of it, so this collection opens with the conclusion of a story; it's beginning and middle somewhere else, probably uncollected (The solution, I suppose, would have been to either stick the first three chapters in here, or just collect "Troika" as its own, 90-ish page trade).

There's another multi-book arc collected in this trade, the title one, but the two Detective Comics chapters of "War of The Dragons" are included, perhaps because that entire arc was written by Dixon, who was then writing 'Tec as well as Robin, or because of how Robin-y that story was, as the warring dragons were King Snake, Lynx and The Ghost Dragons, the villains from the very first Robin mini-series.

So after the opening, in which Robin must try and hold his own against The KGBeast, there's a two-part story penciled by Tom Grummett featuring Batman, The Spoiler and Cluemaster; the three-part "War" featuring art by penciller Steve Lieber and inkers Klaus Janson and Enrique Villagran (Huntress and Nightwing put in guest-appearances, and The Silver Monkey is introduced) and then the volume contains the transition from Grummett to new pencil artist, the late, great Mike Wieringo, which accompanies a series of extremely well-made shorter one and two-issue stories, which are something of a relief after the relative chaos of the Bat-family titles up to that point, with their years worth of inter-book crossover epics.

The unfortunately also late, but also great Mike Parobeck and Stan Woch draw "The Mouse That Ate Gotham," in which Robin meets an unlikely foe that causes chaos by attacking key points of key infrastructure. Ringo then takes over as penciler for a two-parter involving the return of The General (a badly bowlderized version of whom has been appearing off and on in the James Tynion-written Detective), which is followed by a second two-parter, this one sending Tim undercover to infiltrate a ninja-themed summer camp in order to stop a string of robberies by faux ninja second-story men (and women).

The final chunk of the book is the third Robin annual, one of 1994's Elseworlds-themed annuals. In this one, Batman is a samurai in feudal Japan, and Robin is his orphaned apprentice, who must try to complete his final mission after Batman is killed off. There are a clan of cat-eared female ninja , but beyond those Batmanly touches, it is mostly just a pastiche of samurai flicks. Villagran handles the art.

Reading and/or re-reading all these comics today--the annual, The Mouse and the ninja camp stories were the only ones I hadn't read when they were originally published--what seems most striking to me is how much effort Dixon put in to trying to make the teenage characters seem semi-realistic as crime-fighters. Batman was very protective of Robin, and Tim had to be very careful about who he fought and how, so as not to risk his life needlessly; when he confronted someone like The KGBeast, it stuck out as a dramatic moment because it was so relatively rare. In this volume, for example, he mostly deals with younger opponents, and/or the sorts of crimes that might not necessarily warrant Batman's undivided attention.

Dixon's Spoiler is as different from Tynion's Spoiler as his Tim Drake is; rather than hyper-competent, she's very much an amateur and work-in-progress, and it's a lot more fun to see her arguing with the Dynamic Duo, as, on the one hand, she's totally right to call Batman and Robin out for being sanctimonious jerks to her, but, on the other hand, they're proven right that she's really not ready to be a crimefighter (as when Robin takes two in the chest due to her recklessness, for example; thank God for Kevlar!)

I was also struck by how much The General--a ridiculously brilliant and mature military strategist who just so happens to still be a little kid--seems like a precursor to Damian, right down to his look. Here he basically looks like Damian with a different haircut. All of which kind of makes me want to read a comic featuring the current Robin and the original version of The General, although I suppose the New 52 reboot and Tynion's version of The General would make that impossible-ish.

Robin was in pretty great hands with Grummett handling the art for so much of the first year or so of the book, but Ringo was pretty much born to draw the character, and it is great to see the energy he pours into these early issues. I can remember being a teenager and finding myself much more excited about the book when Ringo's art started appearing under the covers. My esteem for all of these artists have only grown in the years since then, but yeah, there's a pretty clear line in the book's look as Grummett gave way to Ringo.

Looking ahead, it looks like the next dozen or so issues will contain the "Underworld Unleashed" tie-in (during which Killer Moth becomes Charaxes, something I recall hating and writing a letter to the editor about), a few issues of "Contagion" and probably "Legacy" tie-ins, and guest-appearances by Green Arrow Conner Hawke and Wildcat.

Superboy Book 1: Trouble In Paradise

DC begins its perhaps belated collection of the 1994-2002, 100-issue Superboy series with this 270-page, 11-issue trade paperback. The particular Superboy in question is, of course, the '90s one, the clone who was introduced in the post-"Death of Superman" 1993 storyline "The Reign of The Supermen" and then graduated to his own title, by his creators writer Karl Kesel and artist Tom Grummett.

This volume makes for some curious reading, as it starts off with what appears to be four issues of a very solid ongoing comic book series, then detours into four issues of almost impossible to make sense of crossovers, before getting back on track for a few issues.

Kesel writes all 11 of the issues included herein, and Grummett pencils most of them, usually inked by Doug Hazelwood. As for those first four issues, they are most remarkable in for how quickly they establish a premise for the series, which needed a pretty dramatic form of differentiation from the then-four Superman monthlies, and how quickly the creators start filling out Superboy's cast with new characters.

That differentiation turned out to be geographic, as Superboy, his manager Rex Leech, his manager's teenage daughter Roxy Leech, and Superboy's Cadmus-appointed chaperone Dubbilex, a psychic "DNAlien", arrive in Hawaii for the next leg of their "Superboy National Tour," an attempt to turn a buck on Superboy merch, and they more or less decide to large part because Superboy's crush Tana Moon has relocated there from Metropolis, where she firstmet and was covering Superboy for a time.

We immediately meet Sidearm, a low-level bad guy whose gimmick is a couple extra robot arm attachments; Silversword, the curator of a Hawaiian cultural museum who comes into the possession of a super-powered "animetal"; The Scavenger, a collector of mystical and super-powered artifacts (not to be confused with the Aquaman villain of the same name) and, of course, Knockout, a super-powered stripper who develops a sort of Batman/Catwoman sort of relationship with the Teen of Steel. In the first issue we also meet Sam Makoa, a federal agent working on the islands to combat villainous organization the Silicon Dragons.

Again, all of those new characters appear in just the first 80 or so pages. Then things get a little messy. This is a problem with all of these collections. On the one hand, if the goal is to make them complete collections, then naturally they should include all of the issues of the series. On the other hand, because comics of the time so frequently included crossovers to other books--and Superboy, like Robin, would find this happening a lot, as in addition to line-wide crossovers like Zero Hour, it would also participate in the family-specific crossovers--that means including random chapters of larger stories that sometimes don't make much sense when read alone.

So by the fourth issue, Superboy is showing signs of the "clone plague," and heads to Metropolis to participate in "The Fall of Metropolis" crossover in the Superman books (there is no participating issue of Superboy though; he just heads off to Metropolis in one issue, and then the story picks up with Superboy cured).

Then there are two issues from "World Collide," the 14-part, 1994 Superman family/Milestone crossover that ran through seven different titles, and a one-shot. The third and eighth parts appear here, and they don't really make much sense at all read like this; the first of these is mostly intelligible, involving Superboy and Superman fighting The Parasite in the ruins of Metropolis, but the latter finds the storyline in full-swing. Superman and The Blood Syndicate are dealing with the results of a towering, omnipotent giant's attack on one side of a dimensional rift between the DCU's Metropolis and Milestone's Dakota, while Superboy teams up with Static and Rocket to tackle the giant head-on. There's some nice interaction between The Kid and his fellow teen heroes from the Milestone-iverse, but plot-wise? It reads a lot like the eighth issue of a 14-issue storyline. (I'm not sure what the market for it would be, but if DC's going to go ahead and publish these little slices of it, they might as well release "Worlds Collide" as a trade paperback of its own.)

And then we get two issues of Zero Hour tie-ins. As I've noted before, as tie-ins to line-wide crossovers, the Zero Hour tie-ins are generally pretty easy to read on their own, as most of them deal not with the plot mechanics of the main miniseries per se, but with the fall-out of those mechanics, which mainly means a standalone story in which the title character must deal with time going crazy. Those issues were then immediately followed by loose, thematic tie-ins--#0 issues recapping the heroes' origin stories and setting up future storylines. They were, essentially, jumping-on point comics.

For the tie-in, Kesel and Hazelwood introduce Superboy to the original Superboy; pre-Crisis Clark Kent when he was a boy. That Superboy arrives in Smallville, Kansas just as a plane carrying Dubbilex and our Superboy crashlands outside of town, and his Smallville occasionally appears and overwrites modern Smallville. It's a pretty great comic, really, and includes my favorite page in this whole book. Clark is confronted with the modern Superboy, and then walks off panel saying "Excuse me. I'll be right back." Just as our Superboy turns to the adult Lana Lang to ask what's up with Clark, he comes streaking back on to the scene, now in his Superboy costume, and clocks his modern incarnation. It's a wonder that guy even had a secret identity so long...

For the zero issue, Superboy has a rematch with Sidearm, and then he and Tana Moon spend some time with vacationing Metropolis super-scientist Emil Hamilton, who runs tests on Superboy as his origin is retold...including his first encoutner with Sidearm, from Metropolis on his first night outside of Cadmus. This is the issue in which Superboy acquires his special sunglasses--the first bit of tinkering with what would prove to be a very flexible costume--which gives him X-Ray vision, as well as approximating other Superman powers (Remember, at this point, Superboy was a clone whose sole super-power was tactile telekenisis, which he used to approximate Superman's strength, speed, invulnerability and flight, but didn't grant him Superman's various visions; Geoff Johns would later retcon the character to be an actual clone of Superman, with all of Superman's powers).

It is there that the series resumes the momentum Kesel had planned for it, free of crossovers. The final two issues collected herein introduce King Shark, one of the characters most formidable and, perhaps, longest-lived villains (although Kurt Busiek, Gail Simone and others would rather radically change his personality and, ultimately, his design, in the next decade or so), and a shape-changing character named B.E.M., who can transform into monsters based on whatever the last thing he touched was. These two issues were penciled by Humberto Ramos, whose style was a sharp departure from that of Grummett's, and was, at this point in his career at least, still rather rough. Ramos would get a lot better rather quickly though, and would eventually become a favorite of mine.

These comics are now almost 25 years old, and it certainly shows. The art, particularly that of Grummett, aged quite nicely...if anything, it looks better today, compared to what you might see in too many other DC Comics on the shelves at the moment (seriously, compare this to the insides of the New 52 Superboy or Teen Titans, originally starring a new version of this character, for example). The costume design, well, that's another matter. Superboy's fashion choices look downright bizarre now, and if you scan the covers of the series on, you'll see him gradually adopting differing costume elements as artists try to find something less 1994 for him to wear. Other than the main character, though, most of the other new characters look more or less timeless; certainly compared to the Milestone heroes, almost all of whom look as early 1990s as super-characters can look (Even poor Icon, who should have a pretty iconic costume, has that weird thing going on around his eyes).

Kesel's use of slang--and Superboy was very much in the constantly chattering, Spider-Man mold of quipping superhero--is dated to the point where it can be kind of crige-worthy, although, perhaps ironically, we are now so far removed from 1994 that it's easy to assume that maybe that's just how people all talked back then...? Like, when I read Silver Age Stan Lee-written comics, I just assume every one in the 1960s talked like, say Benjamin Grimm and Johnny Storm, you know?

Somewhat intriguingly, this collection is more thoroughly designed than the others in this post. While the figure of Superboy on the cover is re-purposed from Grummett and Hazelwood's image from Superboy #1, the background of that image is removed, the figure is enlarged so that his extremities extend beyond the borders of the space, and even the logo has been redesigned. There's a sort of Trapper Keeper aesthetic to the collection, which is...well, which is appropriate.

I had previously only read two of these 11 issues--Superboy #1 and Superboy #0; my comics budget was a lot more limited in 1994 than it is now--and I enjoyed this book immensely. I do hope DC continues collecting Superboy. Looking ahead, it appears that the next 11 issues includes "Watery Grave," a Suicide Squad story, in which Superboy, Knockout, King Shark and Sidearm work alongside Captain Boomerang and Deadshot, and, depending on whether or not they include Superboy Annual #1, guest-appearances by New Blood Loose Cannon, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and maybe The Legion of Super-Heroes.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: March 21st

Aliens: Dead Orbit (Dark Horse Books) James Stokoe's four-issue miniseries, now in convenient trade paperback collection format. Rare among mainstream publications of this nature, Dead Orbit is written, drawn, colored and lettered by Stokoe himself. I'm not sure if he hand-bound each volume and also personally delivered them to each shop this Wednesday morning, but I wouldn't be too terribly surprised either.

The result is a surprisingly personal take on a sci-fi/horror franchise that is just about as well-trod in many media as any other. That is, it's an Aliens comic, but it feels like Alien/Aliens was an invention of Stokoe's own.

I should note that the feeling is more evident in how the artist suffuses every aspect of the book with his own style, and not in how original the story is--although, it's worth noting that it is so true to the spirit of the original Alien film, with its mix of visceral body horror and dreadful isolation, in which space itself is just as scary a threat as the monster, that Dead Orbit seems fairly far removed from most of the other Aliens-related films, comics, etc.

A space station full of grizzled employees find a mysterious derelict ghost ship, and board it in the hopes of rescuing any passengers. The only ones they find are in suspended animation, and they wake them up rather violently, taking them back to their own station to heal them. And then, before long, Aliens burst out of their chests: Two of the three were carrying the parasites.

The rest of the book, then, is the handful of survivors trying to continue being survivors, while a scary alien or two stalks them.

There are a couple of pretty notable scenes, beyond how Stokoe handles the expected stuff, like the chest-bursting. (That he slows time down for, rendering it in a second-by-second, six-panel sequence, complete with anime-esque speedlines and, well, "anime time" and technique. If you've seen the movies or read even a handful of the comics, you've seen this sequence repeat over and over and over, but you've never seen it quite like this (Ramping up the body horror, the victims were all burned beyond recognition, so they are missing most of their flesh and features when they give "birth")

There's also a neat scene where the Aliens' acid blood comes into play, revealed while a large portion of the creature is blown off while in the vacuum of space, and so the blood forms deadly acid droplets floating around it.

The best, truest scene may be the one where our protagonists mistakes a few pieces of junk arranged just so as an Alien, a pretty classic mind-playing-tricks-on-you sequence that pretty much anyone who has ever been a child has experienced for themselves.

I wasn't really a fan of Stokoe's decision to tell the story out-of-sequence, which doesn't always work in comics as well as it does in film, and there's nothing really new being said here, it all just feels new, which is good enough with such an exhausted franchise.

As much as I enjoyed Orc Stain and Wonton Soup before it, Dead Orbit and Godzilla: Half-Century War make a pretty good argument for publisher's handing Stokoe whatever franchise he's interested in to do whatever the hell he wants with for a miniseries or two.

The ending comes a little abruptly, as the last panel on the last page is followed immediately by an unencumbered cover, that looks for a few moments like it could be a splash panel. The back matter though includes covers by Stokoe and others (the Geoff Darrow one is pretty great) and, more interestingly, some eight-pages of pencils that were part of Stokoe's pitch. That would have been a pretty different story, an action-packed one that, in these eight pages at least, seemed to focus on the marines more than the Aliens, who only appear in--by the horde--in the distance as sickly black scythe-headed blots.

Archie #29 (Archie Comics) It's a romance-free issue, as Archie's main conflict is the fact that he's lost his guitar, and needs to find it before the big dance, which he will be playing at. Meanwhile, Reggie tries to be nice, and no one trusts him, and The Blossom twins bully him, and get to the bottom of their own secret origin. That feels a little Riverdale to me, and it fits a little awkwardly with the rest of the book, as we're only told that their real father is a bad and dangerous guy who has hurt people, but don't really get any sort of detail to let us know why that is so. In that respect, it feels like an adult plot element in a story meant for kids, and doesn't sit quite right.

Writer Mark Waid, now with co-writer Ian Flynn, is still working with artist Audrey Mok, and this volume of Archie continues to look as good as it ever has, if not, perhaps, better.

I miss Jughead and Josie and The Pussycats, though. I wish they would bring those books back, or perhaps adopt a series-of-miniseries approach. As long as they can make them as good as they were. I suppose there's some wisdom into just ending the titles if they aren't certain future issues can be as good as the ones they already published.

Batman #43 (DC Comics) The World's Greatest Detective has figured out that Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are more than just really good friends.

Bombshells United #14 (DC) The focus on this issue is on the Bombshells-iverse's Suicide Squad, who come to blows with Black Canary, Bumblebee and the two Batgirls present. They are all in Hawaii to figure out what's going on with this weird music thing that Canary seems to be tied to, and are forced to team-up when the music thing takes over two of the Squaddies.

David Hahn is the artist for this issue. I really like the new design for vampire Barbara Gordon--er, Gourdon--whose cape/wings extend from a backpack shaped like a little coffin.

Oh, and we get our first look at Bombshell Oliver Queen. It's just a single image, but he looks a bit Errol Flynn-like which, in my humble opinion, is what he should always look like.

Justice League #41 (DC) In this third-to-last issue of Priest's run on Justice League--and the third-to-last issue of Justice League before it is relaunched in June with a #1 and a new writer--the imperiled Justice League satellite has crash-landed in Africa...specifically, the fictional nation of warring tribes more-or-less ruled by bad guy Black Panther analogue, The Red Lion (First seen in Priest's Deathstroke run).

I actually kinda like that Priest didn't even bother bridging last issue's cliffhanger ending, in which the satellite was plummeting from the sky and Cyborg came up with a complicating plan involving the super-powers of like a half-dozen different heroes working in concert to keep them all alive, and the fact that the main League is alive and well, while the Batman's "of America" team has gone home. I mean, it's not like there was any real suspense over whether or not both Leagues were going to be killed off or not.

The Red Lion claims their satellite as his own by right of salvage, while his government's army, his nation's warring tribes and LexCorp all convene with weapons drawn and spoiling for a fight, testing the League's commitment to stay out of things like civil wars and international politics.

One of the cliffhangers here to me, involving as it does Wonder Woman being apparently shot repeatedly with automatic weapon fire, causing her to collapse into unconsciousness, and bleeding profusely. I know her powers have fluctuated and changed radically over the decades, but I thought currently she was invulnerable to bullets (Hell, Aquaman is almost completely bulletproof at present).

The Fan makes an appearance, wearing a horrible, horrible costume.

I'm really excited about the just-announced Snyder-written Justice League book, but this has been good enough that I'm kinda sorry Priest won't just keep writing it for awhile. Maybe if there is another secondary Justice League book, Priest will be able to write that or, if not, hopefully DC will offer him the book as soon as Snyder decides to move on to something else.

Nightwing #41 (DC) The text on this issue's cover--"At Last"--pretty perfectly encapsulates my feelings about this Nightwing vs. The Judge story arc, which has comprised the entirety of writer Sam Humphries' run on the title to date. I think it was about 500 issues long, or maybe it just felt like it.

In all honesty, it has been a perfectly adequate super-comic, but, given the number of perfectly adequate super-comics out there these days, that's just not enough.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Marvel's June previews reviewed

Based on this month's round of solicitations, Marvel's "Fresh Start" looks to be anything but fresh, with a few titles being relaunched with new #1s and/or new titles, and with the usual suspects handling the writing.

In a few cases, like that of Iron Man and The Hulk, the original version of the characters are reclaiming the starring roles of their books. Of course, in doing them more or less all-at-once like this, it looks like in the short period of just a few months, Marvel is jettisoning all the characters who aren't white, male characters created somewhere between 1941 and the 1960s.

So in last month's solicitations male Thor reclaimed his book from female Thor. The last issue of Spider-Man, starring Miles Morales, is scheduled, leaving Peter Parker as the only Spider-Man with his own book (Not counting clones, of course). Previously, Captain America Sam Wilson resumed his Falcon code name and costume, so that the one and only Captain America is white dude Steve Rogers. Now we see that Ironheart Riri Williams has surrendered the starring role in the Iron Man comic book to Tony Stark, who will be starring in the new Tony Stark: Iron Man, and Amadeus Cho's Totally Awesome Hulk/Incredible Hulk is off the schedule, but it looks like Bruce Banner and the original Incredible Hulk are back in The Immortal Hulk.

Aside from the retreat from recent years' diversification through legacy characters--something that was, perhaps, inevitable, but doing it all at once like this can't help but make it look and feel reactionary, rather than part of the inevitable ebb and flow of superhero comic tropes--and the same old bylines being assigned different books, there isn't really anything new in here. Perhaps most emblematic of the staleness of Marvel's "Fresh Start" is a new Sentry ongoing series.

That's right, The Sentry! Conceived as a Miracleman/Marvelman-esque Superman analogue and originally appearing in a 2000 miniseries, the character was originally sold by then-EIC Joe Quesada with a dumb-ass, goofy stunt, in which Marvel claimed he was actually a character created by Stan Lee in the 1960s, but lost and only just recently rediscovered (that marketing accompanied an aspect of the character's shtick, as, like DC's Triumph, he was forgotten by all the other characters in his superhero shared-setting universe).

Brian Michael Bendis sucked him up into his New Avengers, and Bendis was the main caretaker of the character until some baffling stories, like how The Sentry was Moses or something, and then he turned into a crab and died in the pages of Siege, perhaps the worst comic ever written by a talented comics writer.

The new series starring The Sentry, a superhero with dramatic mental problems, including multiple personalities, will be written by Jeff Lemire, who has been writing Moon Knight, a superhero with dramatic mental problems, including multiple personalities.

So, yeah: "Fresh."

It is, of course, possible that Marvel's "Fresh Start" is a very gradual thing, and that lots of new, exciting, actually-fresh comics are set to start in the future, like, maybe in July. But for now? The line looks an awful lot like it did this winter, only with fewer good comics being published, starring fewer diverse, new or interesting characters. That, and there are some awfully alarming trends, like a huge emphasis on comics starring Wolverine--not All-New Wolverine Laura Kinney, whose book is canceled, but on-his-way-back-to-life OG Wolverine, Logan, whose the focus of a whole suite of miniseries.

Anyway, let's take a look at Marvel's June offerings, shall we...?

ANT-MAN & THE WASP #1 & 2 (of 5)
Wasp was just trying to help Ant-Man get home to Earth to see his daughter…but a little problem got in the way. Very little. Subatomic, in fact, as Scott Lang was lost in the vast spaces between atoms! Now, Nadia is his only hope of rescue…if only he would listen long enough for her to save them! From master storyteller Mark Waid (CAPTAIN AMERICA, CHAMPIONS) and Marvel Young Gun artist Javier Garrón (SECRET WARRIORS, STAR-LORD) comes a story of a big journey getting smaller all the time!
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T+ …$3.99 (EACH)

This is Mark Waid, so it should be pretty well written. The impetus for the miniseries is almost certainly the fact that a movie with this exact same title will be released in theaters this July. It may be worth noting that this Wasp is a completely different Wasp than the one who will be in the film. Both Wasps are the daughters of Hank Pym, but Nadia is a lot different than the film's Hope.

I don't know what on Earth is going on in the pages of Captain America--is that Chris Evans from the Infinity War set?--but that is a pretty nice-looking cover by Michael Cho.

The Champions vs. Alpha Flight? Ms. Marvel vs. Captain Marvel?
’Nuff said!
Saving the north just got a whole lot more complicated…
Plus…Nova no more?!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I always kinda liked the idea of Alpha Flight, although I found them to be a more fun group before Carol Danvers took over their team, turned them all into Republicans and enlisted her in her weird space army.

The Nova/Puck match-up looks pretty great on that cover.

The Eye of Agamotto is closed! Doctor Stephen Strange has lost his connection to the Earth’s arcane power, and he can’t wait to recover while nightmares press against the seams of our reality. Tony Stark offers a 21st-century solution: When astral travel fails, try astronautical travel. Enter Doctor Strange: Space-Explorer Supreme! New spells, allies and enemies – new and old – await Strange beyond the stars, along with corners and secrets of the Marvel Universe seen here for the first time! Space is endless, but time is short. After years of threats, Stephen’s bill for magic use is coming due – who will come to collect?!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Here, for example, is a not very fresh fresh start, even though I imagine the book will pretty great. Mark Waid, who has written Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Avengers, The Champions, Black Widow and Captain America in the past few years, and had a promising-looking, short stint on the Doctor Strange character in 2010, will be the new writer the the newly relaunched Doctor Strange. Again, no knock on Waid, who is good at this stuff, but he's not exactly a bold choice.

The new direction seems to be pretty similar to the new direction of Black Panther: He's going to space.

God, I love Gurihiru art.

This is the cover of Marvel Rising: Alpha #1, written by Devin Grayson, and drawn by someone who is not Gurihiru.

A handful of people’s favorite X-Man – Jamie Madrox – was alive for a while. Then he was dead. Now he’s not. But he will be again if he doesn’t kill himself trying to make sure he doesn’t die. It makes sense when you read it. Trust us. In his fight to not die, Jamie has stumbled across a threat even greater than his own death, but fixing it might make it worse. Can he save the world from himself?
On top of all that, the X-Men are mad at him now, and a mysterious new group of foes is after him, too. We can’t tell you who they are, but they’re pretty great.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Peter David has done some pretty great stuff with the Multiple Man character in the past, a mutant with an interesting enough super-power and divorced enough from the core X-Men goings-on that he can make for a fairly reliable lead character. That is, unlike most X-person solo series, a Multiple Man monthly wouldn't necessarily seem dead on announcement. Of course, this series is being pre-canceled, as it is a minniseries.

I'm not overly familiar with the work of the creators, but I do like cover artist Marcos Martin a whole lot!

Pretty nice Alice's Adventures in Wonderland homage on Kris Anka's cover to Runaways. I haven't read any of the current series just yet; is it any good...? It seems like a challenging series to start up again after both lying fallow for a few years and the fact that the original premise exhausted itself pretty, you can't stay a teenager on the run from your supervillain parents forever, you know...?

…but is that really such a good thing?
The greatest hero that the Marvel Universe ever forgot has returned! The Sentry – shining sentinel with the power of a thousand exploding suns – is back from the dead, but his troubled mind is far from finding peace. By day, he trudges through a mundane life as Bob Reynolds; at night, the Sentry soars across a gleaming, perfect skyline. But how much of the Sentry’s dual existence is real? And what of his dark other self, the Void?
Jeff Lemire (MOON KNIGHT, Black Hammer) returns to Marvel and unites with Kim Jacinto (AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER) for this mind-bending series that will shake the Sentry, and the Marvel Universe, to its foundations.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Why...? Seriously, why?!

Thor Odinson has regained his mantle – and with it, a wild new world of trouble on his mighty hands! The artifacts of Asgard have been scattered across the earth, and to reclaim them, Thor will have to face some ugly truths. Like the production cost of hundreds of new hammers! And the Thunder God is going to need every last one of them if he’s going to stop the unstoppable Juggernaut. Jason Aaron takes the Prince of Asgard in a whole new direction with YOUNG GUN artist Mike Del Mundo joining him at the helm! And don’t miss the latest chapter of the King Thor saga with acclaimed BLACK BOLT artist Christian Ward, as the Thor of the far future encounters an old friend who’s undergone some startling changes.
56 PGS./Rated T+ …$5.99

I wonder just how many times Jason Aaron has written Thor comics with a "#1" attached to them at this point. I feel like it has to be at least a half-dozen times. Don't get me wrong, he seems to be rather good at it. I've liked all the Thor comics by Jason Aaron I've read. It just seems like he keeps relaunching the book over and over and, again, is perhaps the least fresh choice to give Thor a fresh start.

Oh, and in my criticism of Marvel's whole "fresh start" thing, I neglected to mention that they are re-employing the "Young Gun" artist strategy, which is something from, what, late 2004 or so...? Mike Del Mundo is a weird artist to assign that designation too. I have no idea how old he is, and I'm not about to look up his age, but he's been working for Marvel for years now, and has had several very high-profile gigs for the publisher. So, even in a metaphorical sense, his career with the publisher hardly seems "young"...

From the cusp of tomorrow’s dreams to the forefront of imagination, one man always soars on the cutting edge of adventure! You know his name. Tony Stark is Iron Man. And Iron Man…is an idea. Always changing. Always evolving. An idea without limit! Take wing with DAN SLOTT (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) and Valerio Schiti (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) as they propel the ultimate Self-Made Hero to new heights of inventiveness!
Tony Stark is Iron Man. The future is now. Strap in!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

In recent years, Dan Slott temporarily turned Spider-Man into Iron Man--right down to the superhero identity posing in public as the bodyguard of the wealthy industrialist identity--so why not write the genuine article? Slott is something of a special case for the publisher, I imagine, as he's been writing Spider-Man for pretty much ever now, and had to move on eventually, but they have to find something for him to do, right? So why not Iron Man? But, once again, here's a new series launched by a guy who has been writing for Marvel for pretty much ever. Fresh!

Oh, and I generally take out the part where the variant covers are listed, but I left them in above to show just how heavily they are relying on variants to goose sales. Now, the five listed above might seem like an excessive amount of variant covers, but you haven't seen anything yet! There are so many goddam variants for this issue that the variants get their own solicit!

Check it out:


As for those "Many Armors of Iron Man" variants, a few examples are given, and I guess they are just the same picture of Tony Stark thinking over and over again, with a different suit of armor appearing in his imagination:


Nnedi Okorafor (W)
Cover by Terry Dodson
The blockbuster Black Panther film has everyone talking about Wakanda’s best warriors, the fierce Dora Milaje! Now witness the Dora outside of Wakanda – and in Spider-Man’s world! When the Dora catch wind of a Wakandan threat causing trouble in New York, they’ll leap into action – with or without their king. Don’t miss Okoye, Ayo and Aneka on a globe-trotting mission to protect the realm at any cost. WAKANDA FOREVER starts here!
40 PGS./ one-shot /Rated T …$4.99

This is interesting. Marvel saw they had something of a hit on their hands with the first few issues of Ta-Nehesi Coates' Black Panther--which is also being relaunched with a new #1--and immediately overextended the franchise, launching two other Black Panther books that were canceled immediately. Now that the film has made several kajillion dollars, it seems safe to try extending the brand a bit again, and here they are using the Dora Milaje. I'm actually a little surprised that Shuri isn't getting her own title or miniseries, but then, Movie Shuri and Comic Book Shuri are pretty different.

I love that it is described as a "one-shot," but is also "PART ONE OF A THREE-PART STORY."

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

DC's June previews reviewed

Scott Snyder and Jim Cheung relaunch Justice League, and it looks like it might be good! Brian Michael Bendis' run on the Superman franchise begins!There's a new round of Hanna-Barbera/DCU crossovers, and they look much better than the first round! There's actually quite a bit exciting stuff in DC's solicitations for the comics they plan to publish in June...or May through July, I guess I should say, as some of these are "retro-solicited" and others "advanced solicited."

Anyway, here's some of what we can look forward to, three months hence...

Backup story written by JEFF PARKER • Backup story art by SCOTT KOLINS •
When the town of Amnesty Island is besieged by a series of shark attacks, authorities call Aquaman for help! What’s unusual about this case is that the shark isn’t trying to kill people—he just wants to talk to them. The very confused Jabberjaw needs to get back to Aqualand, the future undersea utopia where he came from. But that peaceful city where man and sentient sea life have been living in harmony has been turned into a dystopian nightmare created by a new Ocean Master. Now the King of Atlantis and his friendly shark ally have to team up to set things right. Also includes a Captain Caveman meets the wizard Shazam in a short story by Jeff Parker and Scott Kolins.
RETRO-SOLICITED • ONE-SHOT • On sale MAY 30 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Well hell, this one practically writes itself, doesn't it? I actually rather like Jabberjaw, which is one of the weirder of the many, many riffs on the basic Scooby-Doo formula that Hanna-Barbera experimented with. I'm also a big fan of Paul Pelletier's artwork, although since most of these seem to involve translating the simpler, more dynamic old school cartoon designs into busier, more realistic DCU house style designs, I'm not sure how well Jabberjaw and the will look in the book itself. The glimpse on the cover isn't too terribly promising; I do hope Jabber's human bandmates play a decent-sized role in the story.

I'm also pretty excited about the back-up. As you all know, I'm a fan of the original Captain Marvel. As you likely don't know, I'm also a fan of Captain Caveman and The Teen Angels. Futurequest, which weaved together many of Hanna-Barbera's superhero and adventure characters together into one, big, epic storyline was fine and all, but I'd much rather see a series weaving together the studio's many crime-solving teenagers-and-their-mascots into a single story.

Art and cover by DAN BRERETON
Back in print at last! It’s 1961: a world of jazz and smoky cafes, Italian suits and skinny ties, beatniks and bohemians. In Gotham City, two thrill-crazed youths calling themselves Batgirl and Robin are making headlines. But when Dick’s family is murdered, mere mischief becomes serious business as Batgirl and Robin arm themselves and set out to get justice. At it’s up to Detective Bruce Wayne to stop the young thrill-seekers and solve the mystery of the Grayson murders. Collects THRILLKILLER #1-3 and THRILLKILLER ’62 #1. Includes a new introduction by Howard Chaykin and never-before-published art by Dan Brereton.
On sale JULY 4 • 144 pg, FC, $19.99 US
ISBN: 978-1-4012-8074-1

I'm afraid I don't remember much about the story, although I do recall liking these comics, and, in particular, Dan Brereton's art. That guy is the best. It seems far too long since I've seen something he's drawn and/or painted on the racks of a comic shop...

Written by BRYAN HILL • Art and cover by DENYS COWAN and BILL SIENKIEWICZ
Backup story written by JEFF PARKER • Backup story art by SCOTT KOLINS •
Back from Viet Nam, kung fu master Hong Kong Phooey has set up his own detective agency in the inner city. Meanwhile, Jefferson Pierce (a.k.a. Black Lightning) has uncovered a plot by three assassins to collect the components of a sacred text revealing the darkest secrets of Martial Arts magic, and they’ll kill anyone who owns them—including the dog who holds the last chapter of the book, Hong Kong Phooey. Plus, a tale of the Funky Phantom as he goes toe-to-toe with the Spectre in a tale by Jeff Parker and Scott Kolins.
RETRO-SOLICITED • ONE-SHOT • On sale MAY 30 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

This isn't a pairing I would have imagined--it's certainly not as obvious a one as the Aquaman/Jabberjaw--but it actually makes a lot of sense, as a 1970s-era, blaxploitation/kung-fu movie kind of thing. I'm not sure that's what they're going for, exactly, but the cover seems to indicate that--particularly with Jefferson wearing his original, "first appearance" costume. God, I hope that afro is detachable...!

The Funky Phantom/Spectre pairing sounds pretty promising, too; hopefully Kolins draws an old-school Spectre, and not the weird-looking New 52 version.

Art by MIKE MIGNOLA and others
This new title collects Mike Mignola’s work on comics including SUPERMAN: THE WORLD OF KRYPTON #1-4, ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #2, SUPERMAN #18 and #23, BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #54, BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #36, SWAMP THING ANNUAL #5, PHANTOM STRANGER #1-4 and more! Also collects dozens of covers by Mignola!
On sale JULY 25 • 400 pg, FC, $19.99 US
ISBN: 978-1-4012-6888-6

So DC has a collection of shorter works by Alan Moore and another collecting shorter works by Neil Gaiman, both using the "The DC Universe By..." titling convention. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the first time they have had a "DC Universe By..." book devoted to shorter works of an artist (although considering there's a four-issue miniseries in there, I don't know if you can consider these all shorter works, but probably shorter than, say, Cosmic Odyssey). I'm not familiar with a lot of the particular stories here--except the LDK story and the Phantom Stranger mini--but this sounds like a pretty interesting book. I'm particularly happy about the "dozens of covers" bit, as I suspect there are an awful lot of those in Mignola's work for the publisher.

I wonder if this one, which I just re-encountered in the pages of Aquaman By Peter David Book One, will be included...?
I love that picture so much. In large part because it's Mike Mignola drawing nineties Aquaman, in larger part because I like the contrast in how natural Mignola-drawing-Kirby designs looks compared to Mignola-drawing-Whoever-Designed-That-Aquaman-Look and, in largest part, because I like that Aquaman looks like a rectangle, with limbs drawn in the corners, a head plopped on top, and then everything rendered expertly. Like, it looks like the basic design of a very little child, but with the drafting skills of a brilliant adult artist.

“On The Outside” part one! Duke Thomas. Cassandra Cain. They and other young heroes don’t intend to stand down, no matter what Batman thinks is best. Who can Batman trust to guide them? They need a teacher…and Black Lightning fits the bill!
On sale JUNE 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

“On The Outside” part two! Batman wanted Black Lightning involved in the lives of his protégés—but how involved was the Dark Knight thinking? What kind of missions will Jefferson Pierce take them on? And what, exactly, is he whispering in their ears about Batman himself?
On sale JUNE 27 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Hey, remember when I predicted that Brian Michael Bendis would take over 'Tec, if not the whole Batman line, upon arriving at DC? Boy was I wrong! Bendis instead took over DC's flagship--but secondary, in terms of sales--franchise, and 'Tec went to...some guy named Bryan Hill. Well, whatever; readers will show up for the Batman, not whoever the writer is.

This solicits sounds...odd. It seems like Hill may be continuing with outgoing writer James Tynion's concept, of the title being devoted to a team consisting of Batman's many, many sidekicks all being trained by trustworthy adults. At least in part. Like, one of those sidekicks is explicitly mentioned, Cassandra Cain, aka "Orphan." The other, Duke Thomas, aka "The Signal," hasn't been involved in 'Tec or with that squad, but, as per Scott Snyder, Tynion and company, was being taken under Batman's wing to be trained personally by him. That seems to have fallen by the wayside a bit--the last time I saw Duke was in Batman and The Signal--and here it looks like Batman is trying to pawn off his two newest, worst code-named sidekicks on another hero to train.

Black Lightning seems like a pretty logical choice, given his long, long history with Batman on The Outsider and then the Justice League, and the fact that his day job is a teacher, and the fact that he has two daughters who are also metahumans...Oh, but wait. That's PRE-Flashpoint Black Lightning I'm thinking of. This is post-Flashpoint Black Lighting, from the continuity in which there never was a Batman and The Outsiders and Black Lightning was never on the Justice League, but he helped them fight Atlanteans that one time. I suppose the pair may have met during that get-together, or on the Satellite once or twice, but I'm hard-pressed to remember them even having, like, a conversation (That said, the retcon-iriffic Metal does mention Black Lightning being part of a secret squad of heroes Batman works with, so whatever).

Well, whatever goes on in this next run of Detective Comics, I hope the first order of business if for B.L. to give Duke and Cassie new codenames, because The Signal and Orphan are the worst.

Written by SCOTT LOBDELL • Art and cover by BRETT BOOTH and NORM RAPMUND
When Wally West tries to take down Kilg%re, he’s stunned to find he has an unknown ally who can move just as fast as he can. Dr. Pernell, a brilliant S.T.A.R. Labs scientist, has found a way to power his buggy using the Speed Force. When The Flash agrees to help test the limits of the vehicle in a race, something sends them spiraling out of the Speed Force and into the unknown. They land in a post-apocalyptic future, but Dr. Pernell is gone, leaving only the buggy, which is now sentient. Together with his new anthropomorphic ally, The Flash must find a way to repair the time stream and stop the triple threat of Savitar, Speed Demon Buggy and…Reverse Speed Buggy!
RETRO-SOLICITED • ONE-SHOT • On sale MAY 30 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Good God, what is with Brett Booth and this "Pizza Fish" thing he works into, like, every image...?

I think this is a pretty swell pairing--although it's curious they're using the current iteration of Wally West as opposed to The Flash who looks like what one imagines The Flash looks like when they hear the words "The Flash." It's also curious that this Speed Buggy doesn't sound like the Speed Buggy, at least according to the few sentences of solicitation copy above, but I suppose we'll see. I dislike the work of the writer and the artists, though, so my hope for this one is to be able to read the whole thing from start to finish, not necessarily that it turns out to be a really good comic or anything.

Written by ROBERT VENDITTI • Art and cover by BRYAN HITCH •
Spinning out of the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, Carter Hall returns to the DC Universe! An explorer of the ancient and unknown, Hawkman finds himself embroiled in a long-standing mission to discover the true purpose of his many reincarnations. Carter races around the globe trying to piece together an ancient prophecy, but will he be able to face down his past lives lurking around every corner?
On sale JUNE 13 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

I suppose it was inevitable after Hawkman's rather prominent role in the set-up of Metal, although given how...troubled the character has been pretty much ever since the Geoff Johns and Rags Morales-launched ongoing ended, well, good luck, guys!

“THE END OF FOREVER” part three! The Immortal Men have risked everything to save the otherwise unremarkable teenager Caden Park. But neither Caden nor the immortal heroes who saved him know the crucial role he’s predicted to play in the upcoming war between the Immortal Men. So when the hero Reload falls into the horrifying hands of the Bloodless, Caden Park must learn the Secret History of the DC Universe, and the truth behind his family heritage—and fast—before the Batman Who Laughs has all his pawns in play!
On sale JUNE 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Well, unlike the most of the Dark Matter New Age of DC Heroes line, Tynion's book sure seems to be tying into Dark Nights: Metal as directly as possible, even using one of the most prominent of the new characters from that miniseries front and center on the cover. As this was originally announced as an artist-driven series, with the artists being responsible for the creation of the characters and co-writing, I was a bit surprised to see the name "Ryan Benjamin" up there, as it doesn't quite seem to demand the same market clout as some of the other involved artists. But I had to Google who the original artist tied to the series was, as it's been so long since it was first announced--and the first issue hasn't yet shipped. It turns out that this was the Jim Lee series.

I didn't expect Lee to be able to stick around all that long, but, originally at least, I thought he would make it about four to six issues. But then, it appears that most of the New Blood New Age of DC Heroes books are only being drawn by their creators for the first two or three issues.

“THE TOTALITY” part one! A brand-new era begins here! Comics legends Scott Snyder and Jim Cheung launch the Justice League into a cosmos-shaking mystery that will draw out their most terrible foes…in ways our heroes couldn’t possibly imagine! In this debut issue, Martian Manhunter struggles to protect the team from an incoming threat that will shatter the world as they know it, while a familiar face strikes out on a dark path…
On sale JUNE 6 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+

Written by SCOTT SNYDER • Art and cover by JORGE JIMENEZ •
“THE TOTALITY” part two! The League faced an impossible decision…and now they must face the consequences! While Martian Manhunter and Batman attempt to recruit an old ally back into the fold, The Flash and Hawkgirl are blindsided by new challenges that could rewrite their mythologies!
On sale JUNE 20 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+

So after the events of last month's No Justice--and by "last month" I actually mean May, which is of course still two months in the future--it looks like we see what the future of the post-Metal Justice League is.

Scott Snyder is writing, which is good news, and quite surprisingly, art will be provided by Jim Cheung, who wasn't even on my radar as a possibility. It looks like the book will stay biweekly, and Cheung will be alternating with artist Jorge Jimenez. Both are pretty good artists, although their styles aren't at all similar, and they seem like a pretty poor match. Hopefully once they get settled, they can alternate arcs rather than issues, as if the book goes back and forth between two artists and two radically different styles ever 20 pages, that's going to be...less than ideal.

We also get a sense of the line-up. Remember, other than a brief shake-up between the end of Forever Evil and Rebirth, wherein Captain Marvel Shazam, Lex Luthor and Captain Cold joined, and then then Green Lantern Hal Jordan being replaced by Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz at the start of the Rebirth era, the League line-up has been remarkably, even boringly steady: Six of the Big Seven, plus Cyborg.

Here we get the return of too-long missing Martian Manhunter (who was assigned to Stormwatch for some strange reason in the New 52 launch), the return of Hawkgirl (or maybe the debut of Hawkgirl? The Hawks' continuity didn't get any more streamlined by recent-ish reboots!) and Green Lantern John Stewart in for Baz and Cruz (and joining the Justice League for the very first time, in the current continuitiverse). That is, as you've probably noticed, the original Justice League TV show line-up. Plus Cyborg. Men, I'd prefer the Justice League Action line-up.

Anyway, the team make-up is actually rather refreshing; it's nice to have J'onn back where he belongs, and for Wonder Woman and Cyborg to not stick out so much as the only non-dude and the only non-white person, respectively. Aside from John's inclusion, this is basically the team being suggested by the events of Metal--minus Mister Terrific, Plastic Man and Deathstroke, of course, the first two of whom are half of the line-up of The Terrifics (at least until it gets canceled) and the last of whom was in the No Justice event.

J'onn's elbow spikes may take some getting used to (although he's a shape-changer, so maybe they'll just change as soon as the cover is turned), as will Kendra's feathers.

Oh and John, dude, maybe cool it with the guns, yeah? You've got kids looking up to you, you know?

A new era begins for Superman as a threat from his earliest origins reemerges to destroy the Last Son of Krypton. As Superman struggles to come to grips with what has happened to his wife and son, he must also face a new threat that’s determined to burn down Metropolis!
RETRO-SOLICITED • On sale MAY 30 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T

"What happened to his wife and son"...? I don't like the sound of that at all. I do hope that there isn't some sort of weird, franchise-specific reboot that radically alters the status quo of Superman and his family, given that it seems like DC just did that not too long ago, in the story that gave us his wife and son.

Super Sons is no longer being solicited--except for the Hanna-Barbera team-up special below--but I kinda sorta assumed that maybe DC was canceling all the Super-books until after this series, at which point we'd get a new status quo, including a new Supergirl. Now I'm worried Superboy is going to be written out of existence or something dumb like that...

With an arsonist loose in Metropolis, Superman’s powers are almost useless in finding the culprit. And back at the Daily Planet, everyone wants to know what’s going on with Lois Lane. How can Clark hold on to the secret of what happened to Lois and Jon much longer?
On sale JUNE 6 • 32 pg, FC, 2 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T

Oof. This solicit does nothing to allay my concerns.

Hard to imagine an artist better suited for a Superman comic than Evan "Doc" Shaner, though.

Written by WALTER SIMONSON and others
Legendary writer/artist Walter Simonson takes on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World! These tales star the heroes and villains of the Fourth World as Darkseid seeks the Anti-Life Equation and Orion battles to stop him! This volume includes material from ORION #1-11, SHOWCASE ’94 #1, DC UNIVERSE HOLIDAY BASH #1, NEW GODS SECRET FILES #1, SECRET ORIGINS OF SUPER-VILLAINS 80-PAGE GIANT #1, LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE 80-PAGE GIANT #2 and more!
On sale JULY 11 • 368 pg, FC, $29.99 US
ISBN: 978-1-4012-7487-0

I honestly don't know anyone who read Simonson's 25-issue, 2000-2002 Orion series and didn't rave about it, so I imagine this will be pretty damn good. I've only read a handful of issues, so I'm really looking forward to this. I'm pretty curious about all the stuff that's not from Orion is, exactly, as some of it pre-dates Simonson's series pretty dramatically. Like, Showcase '94 #1 is, obviously, from 1994 (The Simonson contribution to that issue is the script for a 10-page New Gods story drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, if you're wondering).

Meet Eel O’Brian: a petty thug, thief and con artist who runs a strip club. Hey, he’s also dead, at least according to the gang that tossed him out like last week’s garbage. Literally. Don’t worry, though—he bounced back from all that, and now he’s trying to make a new life for himself, but the effort is stretching him pretty thin. How can he get revenge on his old boss, keep a street kid out of trouble, make a dancer fall in love with him and stop a mysterious society from taking over the world? Eel has no idea!
On sale JUNE 13 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T+

Jesus. I love Plastic Man, but they lost me on the first sentence. That last bit, "RATED T+", doesn't help either. I'm not sure we need a more adult, more mature Plastic Man comic, any more than we need a dark, gritty Plastic Man comic.

On the plus side, this sounds like it's meant to be self-contained--Plas is currently appearing in The Terrifics, and dressed completely differently--and sounds pretty different than where we last saw the DCU version of Eel O'Brian (in a Forever Evil tie-in), so I imagine this can be safely ignored.


Actually, come to think of it, I remember Simone and artist Ethan Van Sciver having talked about wanting to collaborate on a Plastic Man comics for years, so I wonder if this miniseries is simply Simone dusting off an old pitch and DC publishing it now, either because The Terrifics hit better than expected, or because it was time to publish something under the title "Plastic Man" or risk losing exclusive legal rights to do so in the future.

Nice Scooby Apocalypse cover by Kaare Andrews. Well, actually, Scooby himself looks wrong here, as that looks a lot more like a German shepherd than a Great Dane. And Daphne looks a bit generic. So nice Velma on a Scooby Apocalypse cover, I guess I should say.

Art and cover by DARIO BRIZUELA
To stop a spectral menace in the 21st century, the gang will have to travel back through time to solve the mystery before it even begins. But that’s easier said than done, as visiting World War II means facing spies, saboteurs and Nazi monsters! Good thing the gang isn’t alone, fighting side by side with the Golden Age’s premiere superhero team: the Justice Society of America!
On sale JUNE 27 • 32 pg, FC • $2.99 US • RATED E

I've been eagerly awaiting the return of the Justice Society since the events of DC Universe: Rebirth, but this is maybe the last comic I expected them to show up in. That's cool though; Scooby-Doo Team-Up generally offers better versions DC's classic superheroes than the DCU line.

When the sun temporarily goes out, Superman temporarily loses his powers…but when they return, they are not what the Man of Steel expects! Clark Kent is suddenly transformed into a being of crackling blue energy, complete with new abilities and a totally new look! And before long, the villainous Cyborg Superman splits the Man of Steel into two beings: Superman Red and Superman Blue! Will Metropolis have two protectors? Includes stories from SUPERMAN #122-125, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #545-547, ACTION COMICS #732-734, SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #67-69 and SUPERMAN ANNUAL #9.
On sale JULY 11 • 376 pg, FC, $24.99 US
ISBN: 978-1-4012-8091-8

Okay, I deliberately passed the bulk of this Superman storyline up while it was occurring on a weekly basis. And I'm pretty confident that, if I really wanted to, I could find all of these comics for cheaper than $25 in back-issue bins. That said, I'm sorely tempted to get this.

It’s no fun for Jon Kent to be visiting Big City with his parents for the funeral of an old friend. So his best pal Damian Wayne decides to follow along and give him the inside scoop on the city. But when they go to meet Robin’s local friend, Dynomutt, they find him injured and in need of help. And Dynomutt’s human superhero companion, Blue Falcon, has seemingly turned evil. What’s the reason for this betrayal between once-loyal companions, and what role might the evil Red Vulture play in this scenario?
RETRO-SOLICITED • ONE-SHOT • On sale MAY 30 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

The Super Sons team isn't who I would have paired with Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, but then, I'm not writing a Blue Falcon and Dynomutt DCU team-up book (although I've got a swell idea for one!). Still, I fucking love Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, and their existence as a weird parody of Batman and Robin, particularly the most prominent pop culture expression of the Dynamic Duo at the time of their creation, makes them a pretty perfect fit for DC Comics.

As I said in the last edition of this column, wherein they were solicited as guest-stars in an upcoming issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, I've been curious about their absence from DC's Hanna-Barbereboot books to date, so it's cool to see them here.

In the aftermath of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, the DC Universe has been forever changed as new heroes are called out of the shadows. Amid this all is Janet Fals…Firebrand! Once a paramedic dedicated to saving lives, she must now start a fight once every 24 hours to feed the Conflict Engine that’s replaced her heart. But Janet’s heart isn’t just a curse—it’s a beacon, drawing out both the mysterious Neon the Unknown and the seductive, malevolent Bad Samaritan. One of them wants to cut out her heart, the other wants to save it—but neither of them knows the true danger hidden within that will kick off a superhero manhunt ranging from Thanagar to the deepest heart of the Dark Multiverse!
On sale JUNE 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Hey, this is unexpected...! Based on the cover image, this group looks pretty Fourth Worldly--the lady with the axe looks like a gender-reversed Kanto, the big blue guy appears to have a Megarod--but the characters mentioned in the solicit copy instead reference new versions of two obscure-ish Golden Age heroes (Firebrand, Neon THe Unknown) and a new version of a minor character from Mike Barr and Jim Aparo's The Outsiders (Bad Samaritan). If I'm counting right, this will be the fifth version of Firebrand, and the third version of Neon.

Man, nothing says "New Age of DC Heroes" like Firebrand V!