Saturday, April 28, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: April 18th and 25th

Action Comics #1,000 (DC Comics) I'm beginning to think that maybe--just maybe--the publisher-to-Diamond-to-direct market retailer-to-me system of comics distribution isn't the ideal form of comics distribution.

Take, for example, Action Comics #1,000. DC published what I believe is somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand different variant covers for the special issue, and they were freely order-able. Meaning that a few months ago you just could just look at all the pictures of all the covers, realize Mike Allred's cover was by far the best, and then you could tell your local comics shopkeep to order you one copy of the Mike Allred cover, please. Which I did!
The best.
But then April 18th arrived, and my clerk handed me the rather generic Jim Lee cover--the worst of the lot! Apparently Diamond shorted my shop of several covers, including both the Allred cover and the blank cover. I suppose I could have just waited to see if the shop and/or Diamond were able to secure the cover I had originally requested (and the other missing ones), but one never knows how long that will take. So I traded the Lee cover in for the Dave Gibbons one--which is, admittedly, pretty great--and went on my way, my expectations once more dashed by Diamond.


So, what's in this $7.99, 80-page, spine-bearing, ad-free special issue? So much! Let's take the short stories, one at a time.

"From The City That Has Everything" by Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund and Hi-Fi

This is the sort of obvious, slightly sappy sort of celebratory story one might expect from writer/artist Dan Jurgens, who has been involved with the character at least as long as I have been reading comics, maybe even further back. The city of Metropolis is hosting a Superman Day celebration to honor their hero, and the Man of Steel wants nothing to do with it. In fact, he's reluctant to even show up as Clark Kent and hang out with his wife and son.

While various citizens offer testimonials about how Superman saved and/or changed their lives, Superman keeps an eye peeled for signs of danger--and an excuse to take off to address it--while Lois keeps getting calls from "Perry." Near the end, there's a nice moment that echoes the scene from Superman and Lois' wedding, when Batman organized pretty much all of the heroes to protect Metropolis and the world from danger in order to give Superman a night off to focus on his nuptials. Given the recent-ish reboot, it's interesting to see who Jurgens considers all the heroes of the DC universe at the moment, and how he goes about drawing them.

"Never-Ending Battle" by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason and Alejando Sanchez

The recent Superman creative team of Tomasi and Gleason reunite for a piece offering a sort of prism through which to look at the various takes on Superman that have existed over the last 80 years. It's told in a series of splash pages, with lines of narration appearing on boxes overlaid against each big piece of Gleason art, the last page revealing that it was Superman explaining to Lois and Jon why he was running late to what looks to be a birthday party for him (There's a pretty massive cake there for just the three of them...and Krypto, I guess).

The first splash features a nice image in the foreground of Vandal Savage posing as if in the middle of a particular dramatic, even Shakespearean monologue, although we can't hear what he's saying; we just see Superman's words in the narration boxes. Anyway, apparently Savage captured him and had devised a plan to "weaponize Hypertime," sending Superman through a maze of alternate pasts that will effectively remove him from Savage's timeline forever, so Savage can do his thing, free of all interference from Superman.

It's basically an excuse of Gleason to draw stuff, like Superman in the earliest version of his costume, with the badge-like S-shied and boots reminiscent of gladiator gear, punching up gagsters in the 1930. Or lifting a tank over his head while wearing a Flescher-like costume. The Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, "Reign of the Superman"'s a gallery as story, culminating in Superman escaping Savage's trap. It is perhaps over-written, as Tomasi seems to write much more than necessary in order to justify his lack of presence, I guess, but it has the weird effect of making Superman's story to his wife and kid sound way too flowery for even a long-winded explanation (and were the candles on the cake burning the whole time?).

"An Enemy Within" by Marv Wolfman, Curt Swan and Butch Guice

This doesn't really work for me, and it feels really off and awkward upon reading, but it's a nice idea. Apparently Wolfman hound found four pages of never-published pencil art by Curt Swan, and in order to include a new contribution from one of the definitive Superman artists in this special issue, Wolfman wrote a story to go with the pencils...and, since Superman himself doesn't appear within the story at all, they repurpose an image of Superman from Superman: The Secret Years #2 to use as the fifth and final page.

I wonder if it might have worked better to just publish the unfinished, previously unpublished Swan pages, with a prose contribution from Wolfman about Swan and Superman...?

The Swan pages include a three-page scene in which a woman with a bullhorn--identified as Maggie Sawyer--with the Metropolis Police trying to diffuse a hostage situation at a high school, where a man has a rifle pointed at the head of a student. Then there is a page of the woman sitting in the park, watching as a fellow officer rouses a sleeping hobo from a bench, and he then goes to plug grass from the ground near a bird bath or drinking fountain. And that's it.

In narration and dialogue, Wolfman tells a story narrated by Superman himself. He's in Japan fighting Brainiac robots, but keeping abreast of the drama in Metropolis via the super-senses that make him nigh-omniscient (how he picks and chooses which threats to address given that is one of the themes of the story). Apparently the guy with the gun is being told to kill by voices in his head...voices put there by Brainiac, who is attempting large-scale mind-control on Earth's population, only to find that they are too strong-willed, and fight back against him.

It's an okay Superman story, but it doesn't really match up with the imagery, which isn't too terribly surprising, given that Wolfman was apparently trying to fit a story to the art, which was itself Superman-free.

"The Car" by Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and Olivier Coipel

The title refers to the green sedan that Superman lifts over his head and smashes against a boulder on the cover of Action Comics #1, the image that announced Superman, and the coming of the superhero, to the world way back in 1939. Sometimes writing partners Geoff Johns and Richard Donner re-team for a five-page story about what happened next, as he guy who owned the car has it towed to the shop ("Hey, buddy... ...What'd you hit? An elephant?" "A man. Wearing red underwear.") As the crook walks away from the shop, he finds Superman waiting for him, and the Man of Steel tells him off, asks about his rough childhood, and the compares the man's life to that of the wrecked car ("It's your life, Butch. YOu can fix it... ...or you can junk it").

It's a clever idea for a story, particularly a story for Action Comics #1,000, and it's rather elegantly told.

"The Fifth Season" by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Dave McCaig

Superman catches up with Lex Luthor at the Smallville Planetarium, where the villain tells his archenemy a little, ironic story about his childhood. But, of course, Superman already knows it, as he too was there, and he even saved Lex's life at that point, using his vision powers from the shadows. It's a nice meditation on their relationship with one another, what they have in common, and how they have different ways of looking at the knowledge that they are more-or-less eternally locked in opposition to one another.

"Of Tomorrow" by Tom King, Clay Mann and Jordie Bellaire

It's billions of years in the future, and lifeless Earth is about to be swallowed up by our sun, which is now a red giant. Superman has returned one last time to visit the grave of his parent, Jonathan and Martha Kent, to them about stuff. He mentions how Lois is still alive thanks to an "eternity formula," and so too is his son Jonathan. For his part, Superman hasn't even gone gray at the temples like his one-time Earth-2 counterpart yet.

It's an okay story, but, on second reading, I was struck by the fact that Superman probably shouldn't have the full complement of super-powers he demonstrates here, if the sun has gone red, should he...?

"Five Minutes" by Louise Simonson, Jerry Ordway and Dave McCaig

Unless you want to count Cindy Goff, who wrote the original script for the pages that Curt Swan drew and were then repurposed, than Louise Simonson is the only woman involved with the production of this comic book, which seems kind of shocking for a comic book produced in 2018. I suppose one could argue that if the idea was to get as many people who have worked on Superman comics in the past as involved as possible, then that would inevitably mean getting a whole bunch of dudes plus Louise Simonson together, but then, it's not like Olivier Coipel, Rafael ALbuquerque, Tom King, Clay Mann or Brad Meltzer have done much work on Superman comics over the years. DC really couldn't have asked Tom King collaborator and Supergirl: Being Super artist Joelle Jones to draw King's five-page story instead of Mann...?

Anyway, this was a pretty great little story, and it was a pleasure both to see Simonson working on Superman again and seeing Ordway's version of Superman, Clark and company once more. There's not a whole lot to the story, but it's a nice day in the life--well, few minutes in the life--type of story showing the challenges of a high-stress, deadline-focused job like journalism when it's coupled with the even higher-stress, every-second counts job like being Superman. Perry White might be breathing down Clark's neck to finish a story, but when his super-senses detect a train full of people about to crash, what's he doing to do? Ignore it to type the last few paragraphs of a story...?

"Actionland!" by Paul Dini, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan

This one is predictable--particularly given the writer--but still a lot of fun. A gorgeous, shapely red-haired and apparently super-powered woman acts as a tour-guide, ushering tourists into a replica of the rocket Superman arrived to Earth in so she can give them a tour of Superman's life. It all falls apart at the end though, when the villain pulling the strings has trouble thinking of a death grand enough for Superman's final battle against him.

It's at this point that Mr. Mxyzptlk appears, and we learn that the tour guide is Gsptlsnz, as seen in the Dini-written introduction of Mxy into Superman: The Animated Series. Dini pretty clearly uses the Fifth Dimensional imp, with the god-like ability to do whatever he wanted to and with Superman, as a parallel to that of the comic book writer, and while that idea could get tiresome if used too long, it's kind of endearing in such a short story. It certainly helps that Garcia-Lopez is drawing; this is maybe the best-looking story in a book filled-to-bursting with great artwork.

"Faster Than a Speeding Bullet" by Brad Meltzer, John Cassaday and Laura Martin

Oh. Brad Meltzer. First it was femtosecond, now it's attosecond. Can't you just say "split-second"...? Or "less than a second"...? Or "in less time than it takes me to think these words"...? I' physicist, but given how fast Superman is, and how relatively close he is, "attosecond" can't possibly be the right word anyway.

In the Metropolis subway, a guy has a gun to a woman's head, and Superman is on his way to save her when the gun is fired. Will he be able to reach her in time? No, he tells us, as he watches the bullet start to move through the gun and toward her temple, but he flies there at top-speed anyway. He actually does make it, because she does something with her head that adds a variable to the equation--I actually didn't understand this part of the story at all.

It's interesting to note that if you completely removed all of the words from the story, it still reads pretty clearly--maybe even more clearly--and is even more intense and suspenseful. In therms of plotting and lay-out, the drama and conflict are all readily apparent; the words just get in the way.

On the other hand, as superfluous as Superman's narration is--Cassaday makes it abundantly clear that he's racing to reach the woman before the bullet can--if you did remove all the words, you would miss out on a nice busting-of-Superman's-chops exchange, when Superman tells her what she did was brave and she replies, "I just did what Batman would do."

Speaking of superfluous, the last panel has a stack of dialogue exchanges between Superman and Lois Lane, each in their color-coded and initialed narration box style, in which the two talk about his day. Nice sentiments are expressed, but it reads awkwardly, given that Lois isn't even in the story until this point, and that's a lot of dialogue to tack on to the last panel.

"The Truth" by Brian Michael Bendis, Jim Lee and Scott Williams

And, finally, the main event: The first ten pages of longtime Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis' Superman run, drawn by DC co-publisher Jim Lee. It's an action-packed 12-page fight scene which, again, seems appropriate given the title of this particular comic book. Superman is skipping like a stone through the city, having been struck by a monstrous foe who is huge in stature, has an apparently deformed face, wields a weapon that is both awesome and stupid at the same time (it's a battle ax with a sword for a handle) and rants about having destroyed Krypton and having come here to finish the job. He throws Superman around, and is briefly interrupted by Supergirl, who he flings away just as easily.

There's not much to go on here. As a conflict, big, strong-looking cosmic bad guy with a connection to Krypton isn't exactly new and exciting, and since this is all action scene, there's not really enough here to judge, in terms of whether or not Bendis' run on the Super-books is going to be worth pursuing or not (I mean, I'm going to pursue it out of curiosity, but I can't speak for you).

I did like the part where Superman "stopped" himself from hitting a store he was being thrown at. I'm not sure exactly how Superman's flight works, but that seems to fit with what he can do, even though I've never seen him essentially put on the brakes like that before.

There are a few pages where two women who work at a restaurant that Superman gets thrown into banter quite Bendisly that gave me something of a sinking feeling.

So those two elements cancel each other out. I'm still excited.

Rounding out the book are a handful of pin-ups, most of which seem like they might have been in a drawer, rather than created specifically for this occasion. These are by John Romita Jr., Walter Simonson and Jorge Jimenez, and are of Superman being struck by lightning, Superman flying in space and Superman man-spreading while sitting atop a cloud like on the cover of All-Star Superman #1, respectively.

Archie #30 (Archie Comics) Audrey's Mok's art is so good that every time I pick up an issue of Archie I'm surprised again by how good it is. You would think I would have gotten used to it by now. That's her cover above--there were three, but that's the best one--and she handles the interior art as well.

This issue, like the last, is the rare reminder that I should probably be reading Archie in trade rather than in single issues. The current story arc revolves around an event, a big dance, where a bunch of little sub-plots are going to come to some sort of fruition. That this is an event both in-story and out in evidenced by all the characters involved: Pretty much everyone, with even Josie and The Pussycats making a surprise, last-minute appearance (Hey Archie Comics, what's up with their comic? That was really good. Almost as good as Jughead, which, like Afterlife With Archie, has gone MIA). But this issue ends with pretty much the same cliffhanger as the last issue, and one very similar to the one before that. Writer Mark Waid seems to have chosen one of those poorly, or this would read better in a big chunk--as this sort of story in general would, given as how it's centered on a school dance (Like, I can't imagine the spring formal episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 spanning two or more episodes, you know?)

Anyway, Archie not only remains really good, but, thanks to Mok's addition to the creative team, it's pretty much better than ever. Oh, and in this issue Moose and Midge have their meet-cute, which raises a question in my mind: Have Moose and Midge not been an item for the past 30 issues?! Did Reggie miss his chance?

Batman #45 (DC) There are just two elements of this otherwise quite strong issue that I disliked, and both are relatively minor taken on their own. On-again, off-again Batman artist Tony S. Daniel returns to Batman to pencil this issue by regular writer Tom King, starring Booster Gold, of all people.

Booster and Skeets--when Blue Beetle Ted Kord isn't available, Skeets makes the best straight man for Booster--are in Gotham City, looking for Batman. But the Gotham City they are in isn't the same one that was in the last 44-issues of Batman. Rather, they are in a nightmarish, alternate Gotham City, where Batman is a gun-toting maniac. What exactly is going on? Well, Booster Gold wanted to get Batman a special gift for his wedding--er, apparently Booster Gold and Batman know each other again--and he decided to alter Batman's timeline in such a way to dramatically improve it...and also turn his life into the sort of nightmare that would make him appreciate his everyday life more. It is, of course, a terrible idea an even worse plan, but that sort of works with this particular character. Or, at least, it would to a point. Which brings us to one of those problems.

The idea of Booster trying to do Batman a dramatic, life-altering favor for a wedding gift only to find out the butterfly effect of it doesn't work out the way he wanted is, in and of itself, a fine idea for a story. But King takes it so far, altering Bruce Wayne's life in such radical ways and re-writing all of reality for the much, much worse--the opening panels feature Hal Jordan blowing his own brains out after holding his ring up to his own temple--and adding the second-step to Booster's boneheaded plan that implies that he wanted to make Bruce Wayne's life horrible on purpose. It's basically a matter of degree; rather than not thinking things through enough, King makes Booster not only a little careless, but truly callous. And by making this Gotham so bad and making clear that Booster pretty much wanted it to go this bad, makes him seem like a psychopath.

The other problem is Booster's inspiration: "That story you and Supes tell. About the orchid thing. Where Supes was trapped in his own mind." He is, of course, referring to "For The Man Who Has Everything," the classic story from 1985's Superman Annual #11, drawn by Dave Gibbons and written by--who else?--Alan Moore (He even says, "You got a wedding, you need a present...but what do I get for the man who has everything?"). So yes, here's Example #357,983 of DC not just ignoring Alan Moore, but constantly recycling his work (granted, this is much, much, much more innocent than Before Watchmen, Doomsday Clock or importing America's Best Comics characters into the pages of The Terrifics and the since-canceled Justice League of America). This isn't offensive so much as another tired riff on a too-often-riffed-upon story (Oddly, King hardly needed Booster to bring up "For The Man Who Has Everything"...although maybe after his recent, apparently-accidental re-telling of "Immortal Beloved," he wanted to make sure he name-checked his sources). I remember finding it kind of cheap when Geoff Johns took Mongul and The Black Mercy from that story to retell it in the pages of Green Lantern in 2006. And I had trouble reading the 2008 arc in Green Lantern Corps by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason that was set on a planet full of Black Mercy flowers, seeing as my eyes kept rolling. I may have screamed at the TV when I was watching the Supergirl episode, "For The Girl Who Has Everything."

Granted, this goes into the Caleb's Personal Pet Peeve file, but with DC more-or-less making trolling Alan Moore a publishing strategy, each and every reference to his relatively limited, decades-old work at the publisher seems like one more paper cut on the dead horse, you know?

As I said, King handles everything as well as he could given a few questionable decisions, but this really struck me as a really good, almost great issue, where one could see exactly where King was falling short.

The bigger surprise, for me at least, was how good the visuals are. I am not a fan of Daniel's work, but it's actually pretty great here. Sure, the cover is a little messier than it should be--between the bat symbol-shaped skyline and the Bat-signal itself, it looks like Batman has two bat symbols on his chest, and his Jokerized Hal Jordan doesn't look too terrible Jokerized--his grin doesn't approach Jokerized levels until the fourth image--but otherwise this is some of the best Daniel art I've seen (John Livesay gets a credit for "inking assists" and Tomeu Morey colors the issue).

I think it helped quite a bit that the script was apparently pretty rigid when it came to the lay-out. There are a lot of close-up panels of Booster in conversation, rather evocative of the old JLI issues, where we'll see the same basic head-and-shoulders image, with subtle changes in the expression and gestures. For example, the explanation of his gift to Bruce Wayne takes place over a nine-panel grid, the "camera" focused on Booster from the shoulders up as he explains. Right after Hal commits suicide, there's a half-page image of his corpse falling from the sky, and then a tier of four panels of Booster cleaning Hal's blood of his goggles.

So this issue is par for the course, really; another very good, almost great issue that could (and should) have been even better.

Bombshells United #16 (DC) This seems to be the conclusion of the latest story arc, the one involving Black Canary, some Batgirls and the Suicide Squad in Hawaii, trying to defeat some sort of evil, singing/music related menace. The revelation of who the ultimate villain is here to me, although it's not hard to see how Marguerite Bennett was trying to link a sort of DC Universe ultimate evil with pleasant, pleasing, feminine qualities, like happiness, gentleness, tendereness and song. That said, this particular character was always somewhat one-note, the contrast being simply between her name, which did embody all of those things, and, um, everything else about her. One could say that the name was merely ironic, like calling a huge guy "Tiny," although her appearance in this does allow artist Sandy Jarrell to draw someone outside of the young, hot and female categories that the majority of the cast falls into (some of the most fun designs have been those that do not fit that criteria, like Superman, Swamp Thing and Trigon, for example).

Similarly, the heroine called in to save the day--see the cover--is an odd choice for the conclusion of this arc, if only because she hasn't really appeared in it at any point prior (and hasn't been in the book all that much in a while). Some effort is made to link her story to that of the villain, but both of them seem weirdly out of place, almost as if this particular issue is from an entirely different draft of the story than all of the previous chapters of the arc.

Can I make a confession? I stopped reading the lyrics to all of the many songs that appear in this book a long time ago. Like, after the first annual. I treat the songs in DC Comics Bombshells/Bombshells United like I do the songs in J.R.R. Tolkein's Middle Earth stuff: Something it's clear that the writer is super-into, but which I just skip over because it doesn't seem to do anything to affect the plot one way or the other.

Justice League #43 (DC) This is the final issue of Christopher Priest's run on the book, and the final issue of this particular volume of the Justice League title, the second since 2011. A third volume is set to launch in June, I believe. It looks like there will be a rather lot of changes by the time Scott Snyder and company's Justice League #1 lands--Cyborg will be dropping the surprisingly strong redesign he got in this story arc and resuming his previous look, for example--but I was both surprised and impressed that Priest didn't just treat this arc as the filler it was apparently intended to be, but some work is done on "ending" the book and the current status quo, while promising something that will be both new and familiar in the near-future (It's really a pretty great ending; the last six panels of this issue are pretty much perfect).

In the area of epilogues, we also get resolutions to the Green Lanterns' relatively long-running individual emotional freak-outs involving the World's Finest--Superman asked Simon to lunch to get to know him better, Jessica spontaneously kissed Batman--that are both quite satisfying and funny (Although Simon is missing from the covers of both Justice League and the two other League-branded books, which, depending on how or if his absence is addressed, may make it look like Superman really did fire him or that he quite the League because he was so convinced that Superman was about to fire him).

As for the resolution of the fight-y stuff, the explanation of what the heck happened to Wonder Woman specifically is explained a bit here, and she fights for her life but--shocking, I know--does not, in fact, die. I remain completely unconvinced that shrapnel could pierce her skin and threaten her life, but whatever. And, in Africa, the League make a bargain with Deathstroke that results in dispersing the mob safely (The cover is quite evocative of the Meltzer-launched volume of Justice League of America, with the Leaguers all laying around, isn't ? Don't worry, though; they're faking).

I remain a bit disappointed that there are going to be three Justice League books by summer and Priest isn't writing any of them but, on the other hand, I expect the non-Snyder ones to get canceled pretty quickly, so maybe Priest will get to write a second League book within the next couple years. He's certainly good at it.

Runaways By Rainbow Rowell Vol. 1: Find Your Way Home (Marvel Entertainment) The fundamental problem with doing a new Runaways comic now is that the only reason Marvel decided to do a new Runaways comic right now is that there is a television show based on the comic, which was created way back in 2003 by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona.

It might not be too difficult to launch a new book starring the once high-concept team of teenagers had everyone at Marvel left their gloves off the characters after the last of the three volumes of their ongoing series ended in 2009. Were that the case, a new creative team could essentially pick the characters up where they were left by writer Kathryn Immonen and company. But Nico was plucked away from her team to appear in Avengers Arena, Avengers Undercover and then in A-Force. Victor similarly appeared in the extremely short-lived Avengers AI book and, apparently, The Vision (I only found out about the latter thanks to a footnote in this collection, which stated that's where he died). Molly appeared in a few X-Men comics, but only as an adult from a possible future, so that doesn't count. At any rate, the team had been split up, a few of the seemingly have moved on, which means for a new book to start, they would have to be reunited (In that respect, relaunching Runaways in response to a new TV show was a lot different than relaunching Alias as Jessica Jones in response to that TV show.

The new creative team is a good one, consisting of YA fiction writer Rainbow Rowell and artist Kris Anka. Runaways has always been lucky to have good and/or popular writers attached, and Rowell is actually only the fifth (After Vaughan came Joss Whedon, whose influence on Vaughan's dialogue was always readily apparent, then Terry Moore and finally Immonen). I was actually quite happily surprised that Rowell not only correctly diagnosed the problems with relaunching Runaways at this particular point in time--nine years after the kids were last seen, and 15 years after they first ran away from their super-villain parents--and came up with a rather elegant solution.

The surviving members of the original cast--Nico, Chase, Karolina and Molly--have all moved on and grown up, their original reason for banding together and their reasons for staying together now long past. It's just not possible to pretend like all those other series (and those other stories) didn't happen. To drive that point home, Rowell begins the story by introducing a point-of-view character who, like Marvel and most of the readers, desperately wants to just pick up where things were left off, preferably somewhere around the time when Vaughan was still writing the book. Well, I suppose I should say reintroducing, as that character is of course Gert Yorke (Dead no longer means dead, of course, as it did when Vaughan killed her off; that was one of former EIC Joe Quesada's rules that didn't even last as long as Quesada did). Via time-travel, Chase kinda sorta brings the dying Gert back to the present, and Nico uses her magic to heal her. So there's your premise: Gert closes her eyes to die, then wakes up years of Marvel time later to find that her friends are all older and, though it's only been a few years, are almost completely different than they were when she had last seen them. This felt extremely true to me; I remember how disconcerting to find how much me and my friends and our worlds had changed between the summer before my first year of college and the summer after. It really doesn't take long for a group of friends to find what connected them dissipating.

The remainder of the first volume, which collects the first six issues of the series, finds Chase and Nico rather reluctantly joining Gert on a journey to round-up the rest of the team, starting with Karolina and then moving on to Molly, with Victor being picked up along the way (Klara and Xavin's absences are explained, but in passing; given Xavin and Karolina's relationship, her absence is a big deal, which I imagine will be dealt with in a future story). Both visits only reinforce the whole you can't-go-home-again feeling, as Karolina is a seemingly happy,normal college student now and Molly is a seemingly happy, normal high school student living with her grandmother now (The former still has some issues stemming from her traumatic past, the and the latter knows her grandma isn't exactly lawful good, but puts up with her unethical science eccentricities because she's her grandmother).

But because of the narrative demands of the book, the pieces have to go back together, whether they like it or not, and so Molly's grandmother turns out to be pretty villainous--which is maybe convenient, but not unrealistically so. After all, she did raise Molly's parents, who turned out to be evil villains themselves. The rest of the team therefore find that circumstances contrive to get Gert her wish: They have to reunite and save Molly after all.

It feels convenient and a little forced, but, to Rowell's credit, the character's themselves see this, and while they all have mixed feelings of getting the team back together, they are together at the end of the volume. It works here--I do wonder if it might have worked slightly better if Karolina at least decided to stay off the team, though--but I think it won't be until the next volume that we see if a Runaways reunion is actually sustainable or not. Unlike most other superhero groups, these kids didn't form a team to save the world or fight crime or anything. They were very much thrown together, and were united to survive, and mostly just reacted to things thrown at them. They don't have the same sort of tangible reason to stay together, particularly once more than a few of them are 18, that, say, any X-Men team or Avengers or Justice Leaguers might have. Giving them a reason, and making it convincing, will ultimately be the challenger here.

Anka's artwork has always been incredible, and I think it's safe to say this is his best work to date. Depicting the passage of time and how the kids have grown-up--or, in Gert's case, haven't--is an interesting challenge for a Marvel artist, since the way time generally works in the Marvel Universe is that no one is allowed to age, ever, except kids (think Franklin and Valeria), and even then it tends to be at a variable rate. But Anka makes Nico, Chase, Karolina and even Molly look like the years have passed for them all, while still looking like themselves. It's subtle, but strong work, and, I'd argue, something too few mainstream, Big Two artists could even pull off.

Anka manages that while meeting all the other challenges the book offers. Action, drama, emotional "acting" on the part of the characters--Anka does an amazing job on the book. So much so that it's kind of hard to imagine it without him.

Saga #51 (Image Comics) Man, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are ruthless with their characters. Which is one of the things that makes the book so compelling, of course, as it's always had a palpable sense that anyone could die at any moment, but man. Although I suppose I should note that this is a comic book, even if it's not a superhero one per se, so just because someone gets shot in the heart in one issue, that doesn't mean they are necessarily totally dead forever. But Saga's track record on totally killing off characters unexpectedly and keeping them pretty much dead is pretty solid.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #37 (DC) Regular Scooby-Doo Team-Up artist Dario Brizuela does fine work on this book, generally managing to juggle the highly-contrasting design styles of the regular cast and their guest-stars. There's a scene in this issue in which Linda Lee Danvers' college frenemy Nasthalthia "Nasty" Luthor suspects that Daphne Blake is Supegirl's secret identity, and one suspects she does so because Daphne has the same build of the Supergirl Nasty would have gone to college with. When Linda Lee arrives, though, she has the same standard, mom-like build that Brizuela gives many of his female characters. It was one of the few times when reading this book that I noticed some pains being taken not to make a character look hot (Supergirl just looks like a blonde Linda in different clothes, after all). Ironically, Daphne gets away with her hourglass figure because her design, like that of the rest of the Scooby gang, adheres to their original cartoon appearances.

Anyway, Supergirl calls Mystery, Inc to her home in Midvale, where she has been haunted by the ghosts of Argo City (specifically those of her dead birth parents). The gang pretty quickly solves that particular mystery, as well as the mystery of how ordinary Earth cat Streaky managed to receive powers so similar to those of Kryptonians-on-Earth. I was actually disappointed with this particular issue, as I was really looking forward to Scooby-Doo's interactions with a super-powered cat. The pair bicker a bit, but they are otherwise rather congenial with one another. Given that the cat/dog dynamic seemed to be the only real hook that this Silver Age-ish Supergirl had in which to interact with the Scooby-Doo cast, it turns into a team-up that feels much more forced than many of the other team-ups with DC super-heroes.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Marvel's July previews reviewed

July is another month of the all-new, all-different, fresh start-having Marvel, and it doesn't seem like the plan is to do much of anything at all different. There will be three ongoing series newly re-launched with new creative teams--Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America and X-23--and all three are by writers who have been working with the publisher for some time, simply getting new assignments or taking on additional ones. There are three new limited series launching--The Life of Captain Marvel, Cosmic Ghost Rider and Death of The Inhumans--and pretty much the same deal.

The most outside-the-box creators working on Marvel comics that will be released in July--Ta-Nehesi Coates, Ed Piskor, Mariko Tamaki, Margaret Stohl--have all been working on Marvel long enough that it's not surprising to see any of their names here, on any of the projects they're involved with, really. Thus far, the C.B. Cebulski era at Marvel seems to be an extremely cautious, careful one, with no bold moves--the boldest being the undoing of past bold moves, like the cancellation of titles and the resumption of legacy roles by their originating characters--and a considered retreat towards the good graces of the oldest of the old school Marvel zombies.

The big event stories seem to be whatever's been going on with Thanos and the Infinity Gems for what seems like forever now, and the continuing build-up to Wolverine coming back from the "dead" by way of too many mini-series.

One genuinely exciting thing is that there is an incredible focus on the Fantastic Four--which, again, seems more backward-looking than forward-looking--with the months $1, "True Believers" line being completely devoted to FF-related reprints, and plenty of Fantastic Four collections showing up in the solicits.

Anyway, let's take a closer look, shall we...?

An alien invasion hits New York City and the only one who can stop it is…Spider-Man?! But that’s far from all you’ll find here – a revelation from the past puts Peter Parker’s job, relationships, and whole life in jeopardy! And if even that’s not enough, you’ll see a new roommate, new love interests – and a new villain! Spider-Man goes back to basics courtesy of Nick Spencer (SECRET EMPIRE, SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN) and the Marvel debut of RYAN OTTLEY (Invincible)!
ISSUE #1 – 356 PGS. /Rated T …$5.99
ISSUE #2 –
32 PGS. /Rated T …$3.99

Nick Spencer is a great comic book writer, and a very good choice for this book...albeit not one that I would have made, simply because it seems like too normal or safe a title for Spencer's sense of humor. Leaving nothing to chance, however, Marvel is shipping the first issue with eight variant covers. Eight! Jesus. (That's another thing that hasn't changed; a lot of the new #1s, even those that are just miniseries, have a half-dozen or more variants attached.)

Oh, and I am assuming that's a typo, and that issue #1 isn't actually 356 pages. If it isn't a typo, and that first issue really is 356 pages, well, suddenly $5.99 for a comic book seems like a real steal.

The Reavers are back, and they have a new weapon that only Havok knows about. It’s going to take a ragtag group of X-Men to save a world that hates and fears them! But after his villainous turn, can any of the X-Men really trust him? Can he blame them? Havok! Beast! Dazzler! Warpath! Colossus! It’s an all-new, all-different kind of X-Men story from the minds of Matthew Rosenberg (PUNISHER) and Greg Land (INCREDIBLE HULK)!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

A new era! Of a comic book that has only published twelve issues so far! Is it too new for a new era? Relax. How new can a new era of X-Men be when it's a handful of the same old characters, drawn by the same old artist and combating one of their same old threats...?

For over 70 years, he has stood in stalwart defense of our country and its people. But in the aftermath of Hydra’s takeover of the nation, Captain America is a figure of controversy, carrying a tarnished shield…and a new enemy is rising!
Who are the Power Elite? And how do they intend to co-opt and corrupt the symbol that is Captain America?
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Oh thank God. It's been months without the relaunch of a new Captain America title!

Actually, given the writer, this one has the potential to draw an awful lot of eyeballs (Remember Coates' Black Panther #1?), and be pretty interesting. I honestly haven't much cared for Coates' run on Black Panther so far--I've only read the first two collections worth of it--which seems to be full of good ideas, but executed in a less than compelling fashion that can make the reading a bit of a slog. That said, Captain America is a very different book than Black Panther, and while both are somewhat defined by a nation, Cap's nation is a real one rather than a fictional one, and he doesn't have to play the sort of role within it that T'Challa does in Wakanda. So we'll see.

Cover by Geoff Shaw
Variant Cover by MIKE DEODATO JR.
Variant Cover by STEPHANIE HANS
Variant Cover BY MARK BROOKS
Frank Castle was the Punisher. A deal with the devil made him Ghost Rider. A deal with Galactus made him cosmic. A deal with Thanos made him…DEAD?!? Not to worry, he’s coming back, and he’s got a plan to make the universe a better place that’s going to lead him into an even CRAZIER adventure than he’s ever been in! Join hot new comic (and cosmic?) writer Donny Cates (THANOS, DOCTOR STRANGE) as he pushes his wildest creation past the breaking point!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

There's actually something somewhat appealing about the sheer craziness of this What If...The Punisher Was Ghost Rider, But Also The Silver Surfer, At The Same Time? Huh? What If THAT?!

That's Clayton Crain's cover for one of the infinite number of comics with the word "Infinity" in the title that Marvel will be publishing this year. Which one is it...Ah, Infinity Countdown: Champions #2. Seeing such a big image of Thanos looking smug here makes me wonder: Will we all be sick of Thanos by July, if we aren't already, that is...?

Variant Cover by FIONA STAPLES
Carol Danvers was just a girl from the Boston suburbs who loved science and the Red Sox until a chance encounter with a Kree hero gave her incredible super-powers. Now, she’s a leader in the Avengers and the commander of Alpha Flight. But what if there were more to the story? When crippling anxiety attacks put her on the sidelines in the middle of a fight, Carol finds herself reliving memories of a life she thought was far behind her. You can’t outrun where you’re from — and sometimes, you HAVE to go home again. But there are skeletons in Captain Marvel’s closet — and what she disCOVERS will change her entire world.
Written by best-selling author Margaret Stohl and drawn by fan-favorite comics veteran Carlos Pacheco, this is the true origin of Captain Marvel.
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Huh. Carol Danvers is back in a new Captain Marvel book, but this one is just a miniseries, rather than an ongoing. The covers all look pretty nice, even if there are a lot more than necessary. That one is the Fiona Staples one.


...Man, Carol has to be sitting in so much bird excrement, huh?

Devin Grayson, Ryan North and G. Willow Wilson (W)
Irene Strychalski and Ramon Bachs (A)
Cover by Gurihiru
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL author Ryan North and MS. MARVEL writer G. Willow Wilson join MARVEL RISING mastermind Devin Grayson in an all-star escapade! Gamer girl Ember Quade has a secret — a power that lets her bring video games to life! But when her creations attract the attention of super heroes SQUIRREL GIRL and MS. MARVEL, the stakes hit a whole new level. Just what is Ember after? And can Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel prevent her pixelated projects from wreaking epic destruction? The next generation of heroes take the universe by storm in the third installment of MARVEL RISING!
56 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$5.99

Squirrel Girl, Devin Grayson, Ryan North, G. Willow Wilson, Gurihiru...hey, I like all of those names! And the work with which they are associated!

A new life in a new town on a strange world. Everything has changed for the broken people once known as BEN GRIMM and JOHNNY STORM. But can they repair things before one of their oldest villains puts the nail in the coffin of THE FANTASTIC FOUR?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

That's a pretty good cover. With Fantastic Four coming back, I wonder what that will mean for this title...? Like, if there will still be a point in publishing it or not.

Lunella Lafayette is the smartest person in the Marvel Universe! So why can’t she unravel the genetic mystery that keeps swapping her brain with a 40-foot-tall terrible lizard?
She’s going to need to pull off her biggest science experiment yet to undo the curse! All without getting caught by her parents and teachers, of course!
Plus: The tragic past of Princess Fisk!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

I like this cover a lot too.

Dang, Becky Cloonan is killing it on these Moon Knight covers.

Having purple hair used to be an act of rebellion, but now Gert is just one of many. Which doesn’t sit well with Ms. Yorkes.
And she’s not the only one wrestling with who they are and what they want as Nico, Chase, Karolina and Victor all wrestle with their own identity crises…
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Weird. I just started recent Cloak and Dagger collection, Cloak and Dagger: Runaways and Reversals, and the original Runaways team of Bryan K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona have a brief, few-panel sequence in which a somewhat similar point is made. The Las Angeles-born and raised teens are in New York City, helping track down the person who assaulted Dagger and put her in a coma, and there's a moment where Gert sees a few other girls that look almost exactly like her behind her, and someone comments on how maybe the reason she doesn't like NYC is that she feels less special there then she does on the West Coast.

Squirrel Girl and Kraven have had a nice day out as civilians, instead of their usual costumed identities! It was really straightforward and uneventful…
…is what we’d be saying if this was a way more boring comic, WHICH IT ISN’T! Instead we can say that Squirrel Girl and Kraven battled Mojo’s evil clone and saved the city from his deadly machinations. Then they all got arrested!
When Doreen Green and Sergei Kravenoff end up BEHIND BARS, can they be saved? Will they even make it to trial? And who will be their lawyer?
We can answer that last one: It’s obviously going to be none other than JENNIFER WALTERS, the incredible SHE-HULK!
Doreen behind bars! Kraven on the stand! And a conclusion to the trial that nobody will see coming! It’s all this and more in this particular Marvel comic!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

This is Marvel's best comic book ever, so I'm kind wrecked that it's changing in any way at all. That said, I understand that drawing a comic book takes way longer than writing a comic book, and it's certainly understandable that Erica Henderson might want to do some things that aren't Squirrel Girl at this point in her career, too.

And, honestly, if there was one artist they could choose to put on the book to make me not miss Henderson, it would be her fellow Jughead artist, Derek Charm. Having only read his Archie work and some Star Wars Adventures stuff he's drawn, I'm quite curious how he will take to the Marvel Universe in general, and Squirrel Girl in particular. Henderson redesigned the character's build in such a way to make her...different than she she had been drawn before (i.e. a buck-toothed Barbie doll), so in a post-Henderson Marvel Universe, I can't help but wonder if we'll see the character gradually gravitate back toward Barbie Doreen Green or not.

32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Wow, this sounds great.

X-23 #1 & #2
Cloned from a warrior, raised as a killer, Laura Kinney has gone through hell and come out the other side a hero. After a stint as the All-New Wolverine, she returns to her roots as X-23 to make sure no one ever has to go through the horrors she did. With her sister Gabby and their pet Jonathan in tow, X-23 forges her own destiny in this new series by Mariko Tamaki (HULK, HUNT FOR WOLVERINE: CLAWS OF A KILLER) and Juann Cabal (ALL-NEW WOLVERINE, ELEKTRA).
Issue 1- 40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99;
Issue 2 –
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Ugh. Nothing says "forges her own destiny" like adopting the letter and number designation you were assigned by the people who cloned you and mentally programmed you as your superhero name...!

So this just strikes me as baffling. Losing Tom Taylor is itself pretty terrible; he was a great writer who really transformed Laura Kinney/X-23 into an interesting and enjoyable character, something I don't think anyone has been able to do before, and, at the same time, introduced Gabby, which gave All-New Wolverine a supporting character and a cast without having to rely too heavily on X-people, as could be a problem with past books starring the other Wolverine. Also, Gabby is fun and funny.

Having to do a relaunch of All-New Wolverine also seems unfortunate, but then, it looks like they are screwing around with the character enough--new writer, new costume, new application of old codename, new title--that it seems more justified than a lot of Marvel relaunches of the recent past.

But man, I just don't know how on earth you justify her taking on the name X-23. Sure, OG Wolverine is coming back to life, but, um, so what? Laura can't keep calling herself Wolverine, and wearing a Wolverine-derived costume? Can't she be Wolverine and Wolverine go by "Logan," in the way that "Old Man Logan" went by "Logan" and his book was called Old Man Logan...? Can't there be two Wolverines, the way there are two Hawkeyes and were two Captain Americas, two Hulks, two Thors, etc...?

From the perspective of the publisher, one can kind of see how they might want to have a book called Wolverine starring the character the general, non-comics reading public thinks of when they hear the word "Wolverine"--although Laura was in the last Wolverine movie--but for the life of me, I can't imagine the in-story justification that would be used. That is, I can't imagine Laura wanting to go by X-23, nor can I imagine Logan wanting her to stop calling herself "Wolverine" so he can call himself that again.

There seem to be a lot of ways to address the issue of two Wolverines--including leaving Logan "dead" a bit longer; between Laura, Old Man Logan and Jimmy Hudson, I haven't had a chance to miss him yet--and that Marvel is choosing the absolute worst one. I don't have a lot of hope that Mariko Tamaki is the writer who is going to make this transition work, but I suppose we'll see.

The book does have Juann Cabal attached, and that is a definite bonus for any book.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

DC's July previews reviewed

Nice shorts, man! And wearing a belt to hold them up, that's really a good look for you. I can only really think of maybe one other guy that could pull that off. Now, about those cuffs...

So the biggest "event" of DC's July seems to be the launch of the Bendis era of Superman comics, following the Man of Steel weekly series he's writing with a bunch of great artists drawing an issue apiece. Additionally, the Justice League franchise seems to be growing (and growing way too fast, if you ask me, which you more or less did just by visiting my blog), and there is such an unexpected crossover that it makes Batman meeting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Archie seem obvious in comparison. Anyway, here's what jumped out at me, for good or ill...

art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON
Acclaimed writer Brian Michael Bendis’ new chapter for the Man of Steel and the world of tomorrow begins here! The devastating repercussions from the Man of Steel miniseries still reverberate as Metropolis enters a new age! The Daily Planet teeters on the brink of disaster! A new criminal element has made its way onto the streets of Superman’s hometown! The longest-running superhero comic of all time explodes off the page with art by fan favorite Patrick Gleason.
ON SALE 07.25.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
Includes a code for a free digital download of this issue.

So after his Man of Steel limited series ends, Brian Michael Bendis will be writing both Action Comics and Superman (the cover of which is at the top of the post). The solicitations for both Action Comics #1,0001 and Superman #1 are on the vague side, so it's not entirely clear to me at this point if the two books will have some form of "triangle"-style numbering, implied or otherwise, with a single narrative jumping back and forth between both books, or if Bendis will be telling two separate and parallel storylines in the two books (Or, God forbid, it turns into something like what he was doing with Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men, where he seemed to just write whatever he wanted with little apparent rhyme or reason). I can see the benefit of both strategies, honestly, but I'd certainly want to know the answer before I add either to my pull-list (I'm personally more inclined towards Action, as I prefer Gleason's art to that of Ivan Reis). I guess...we'll see...? (UPDATE: Actually DC editor Mike Cotton tweeted that they will be two separate stories, rather than chapters of the same story published in alternating issues of the two series. Twitter is such a convenient way to get information!)

Note that both books are going monthly, instead of publishing twice a month, and both will run $3.99 instead of their "Rebirth"-era price of $2.99. So instead of offering 80-pages of Superman comics for $12 every month, starting in July DC will be offering 40-pages of Superman comics for $8. Though the two main Super-books are now being increased in price by 33.3%, they will also now include a "free digital download," so I guess DC Comics pricing in mid-2018 will be similar to that of Marvel's a couple of years ago...?

I suppose that means I will end up trade-waiting these series after all. As excited as I am that a former Clevelander will be writing Superman and I kinda can't wait to see what Bendis' Superman comics will be like, I was already leaning toward trade-waiting since this is Bendis we're talking about, but $3.99/20-pages is my move-to-trade point for super-comics.

written by TOM KING
cover by MIKEL JANIN
It’s the wedding you never thought you’d see! The Batrimony is real as Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are set to tie the knot in a can’t-miss, extra-length milestone issue that will reshape Gotham City. All their friends (and a few enemies?) will be party to a comic book coupling for the ages.
Superstar scribe Tom King officiates the sure-to-be-offbeat nuptials, joined by an all-star lineup of guest classic Bat-artists doffing their hats to the lucky couple in a series of pre-wedding flashback scenes sure to set the romantic mood.
ON SALE 07.04.18
$4.99 US | 48 PAGES

I do hope "and more" means Tim Sale and Kelley Jones, because it seems wrong to have David Finch, Mitch Gerads and even Rafael Albuquerque in there instead of those guys...

Anyway, I'm obviously really looking forward to this, as I have dozens of questions, many of which may or may not even be addressed in this issue. I'm a little disappointed that it's only 48 pages and not an 80-page giant, though.

This is the first of two issues of Batman shipping in July, leading me to believe it will keep it's double-shipping schedule. That said, Batman #51 is going to cost $3.99, as DC seems to be gradually gravitating to the Marvel-set price-point for super-comics. That's a shame, as I've enjoyed King and company's run in single, serially-published issues, and I'm not really looking forward to making the switch to trades for this title as well.

written by DOUG MOENCH
In these moody tales from the 1990s, Batman emerges from the shadows to battle corruption in Gotham City and face foes including Man-Bat, The Joker, the Penguin and more. These tales by the classic Batman creative team of writer Doug Moench and artist Kelley Jones include guest appearances by the Demon, the Spectre and Ragman. Collects BATMAN #536-552.
ON SALE 08.01.18
$49.99 US | 416 PAGES
FC | ISBN: 978-1-4012-8129-8

Look at that cape! Look at it! It's like a parachute, but a few times bigger!

These comics are great. Both Moench's writing and Jones' art are acquired tastes, but I've long since acquired them (Moench's writing took me a bit longer to get used to than Jones' over-the-top art, which I loved immediately). As I've said a million times, this is my second-favorite Batman creative team (following Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle), and this is an all-around incredible run on the title. There literally aren't any bad issues in the run, although there were some that weren't as incredible as I had hoped base on the characters and the creators (That Joker/Demon story, for example; Etrigan seemed right up Jones' particular aesthetic alley, but I found his Etrigan wanting, particularly compared to the versions drawn by, say, John McCrea or Tom Mandrake).

If memory serves, The Penguin story is unusual in that it really fleshes out his early origin in a way that makes him seem a bit more of a tragic character, and both The Spectre and Ragman stories are pretty fantastic Batman-meets-the-supernatural tales. Those are both extremely compelling characters on a purely visual level, too, and Jones seemed to be having endless fun drawing them both.

Here, let's use this excuse to appreciate Jones' Spectre and Ragman:

I love how the rags are affecting one of Batman's giant, rabbit-length ears on that cover, too... One of the many virtues of Jones' Batman is how his ears moved.

That Spectre story ran at the same time that Batman (and the Joker) appeared in an issue of John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake's The Spectre. Both were pretty great. The former had Batman asking The Spectre about the fate of his dead parents, while the latter had the spirit of vengeance finally turning his attention on The Joker and it going rather sideways.

In this new collection from the 1980s and companion volume to BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT DETECTIVE VOL. 1, Batman and Gotham City are beset by “Ten Nights of the Beast” and the deadly post-Soviet villain known as the KGBeast. Then, Batman and Robin must project the city’s citizens from themselves and organized crime. Collects BATMAN #417-425, 430-431 and BATMAN ANNUAL #12.
ON SALE 08.15.18
$29.99 US | 320 PAGES
FC | ISBN: 978-1-4012-8136-6

I've always liked that Todd McFarlane image of Batman. It's very weird, but I think it works. I like how McFarlane draws Batman as essentially a sentient cape: There's no body, no feet, no face. You have to look twice, and rather closely, but the only part of the figure that is not cape or cowl is Batman's right hand, grasping the woman. That means his arm is not folding his cape protectively around her; instead its seemingly moving in a wing-like fashion of its own volition.

McFarlane, like Breyfogle, also drew really good flocks of bats.

written by JOELLE JONES
art and cover by JOELLE JONES
The wedding night’s barely over, but Catwoman’s back on the streets, this time to expose a copycat who’s pulling heists around Gotham City. As Selina cracks the whip on her former criminal cohorts, she’s attracting unwanted attention from one of Gotham’s most dangerous groups. The mob? Nope. Try the GCPD. And as if the Bat-Bride didn’t have enough problems, don’t miss the debut of an all-new villain determined to make trouble for all nine of Selina’s lives. Don’t miss the start of an all-new monthly series written and illustrated by Eisner Award-nominee JoĆ«lle Jones!
ON SALE 07.04.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

Hmm. I was a little taken aback by the announcement of this title. I'm pretty sure it's going to be a pretty good book. I've not read anything of Jones' that she's written--at least, not that I can think of off the top of my head--but her art has been consistently great in Batman. I'm a little bummed in that it means she will be leaving Batman, as she's only the second woman to ever draw Batman, and the first to have something approaching a run on the title. Although, because of the double-shipping, no one is really the "regular" artist on Batman anymore.

Speaking of which, even with Catwoman shipping monthly instead of twice-a-month, it's got to be a challenge for a single artist to keep up with that schedule, right?

Also, note the price. If the last try at a Catwoman ongoing failed at $2.99-a-pop, will making the book significantly more expensive really help improve sales? I have to assume that whatever benefits this attempt might have--Jones, increased attention due to the status quo change of the character--the fact that it costs 33.3% more than it did before will erase them. Or, at the very least, severely diminish them.

Captain Cold, leader of the Rogues, has been one of the Flash’s greatest foes since the start of the Scarlet Speedster’s crime-fighting career! Now DC has collected this unforgettable villain’s greatest battles in this new title that includes SHOWCASE #8; THE FLASH #150 and 297, THE FLASH #28 and 182 (1987 series), FLASHPOINT: CITIZEN COLD #1, THE FLASH #6 (2011 series) and THE FLASH #17.
ON SALE 08.22.18
$16.99 US | 160 PAGES
FC | ISBN: 978-1-4012-7521-1

In my previous post, I mentioned a few of the DC title that Brian Bolland did covers for, and in so doing I had completely forgotten his run on the covers of The Flash, right at the beginning of Geoff Johns' time on the book. That's where the above image is from.

This seems to be an answer to those villain-specific Batman: Arkham collections of stories, and it is a very good idea, given what a great rogues gallery The Flash has. I'm also a little surprised it's taken them this long, given the prominence of some of these characters on the various CW TV shows. I'll cross my fingers for a Rainbow Raider and a Turtle collection, although I won't hold my breath for either.

Free college tuition for all Riverdale residents?! That’s the plan—after the town drains the wetlands that lie between it and Gotham City and then builds a new campus. The only snag? A certain botany-obsessed super-villain. When Poison Ivy enlists her bestie, Harley Quinn, to kidnap both Veronica Lodge, daughter of Riverdale’s most important citizen, and her friend Betty Cooper, she’s counting on some assistance—and the mayhem that ensues will probably work as well! This title collects the six-issue miniseries co-published with Archie Comics!
ON SALE 08.29.18
$24.99 US | 160 PAGES
FC | ISBN: 978-1-4012-8033-8

I trade-waited this, as I was pretty certain I was going to like it, based on the fact that I like the work of all the creators attached. Did any of you read it? Was it good? 

That's Guillem March's cover for Harley Quinn. I wouldn't have expected March to do such a good Kirby pastiche, but, man, he drew the hell out of that Kirby-ized clown hammer and the Apokolyptian city-scape...

written by TIM SEELEY
art and cover by FREDDIE E. WILLIAMS II
Believing He-man and the Masters of the Universe defeated, a robotic impostor has seized control of Eternia—but not for long! After freeing his kingdom from this strongman’s rule, Prince Adam learns not everyone is pleased to see the pretender deposed—but Adam knows the value of freedom. So when heroes from another dimension ask his aid in deposing a super-hero turned dictator, he agrees. Teaming up with Batman against the Superman of the Injustice Universe, He-man and his new allies face dangerous and familiar enemies in a battle where no world is safe!
ON SALE 07.18.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | 1 of 6 | RATED T

Well this is...unexpected. A comic book mini-series in which the comic book adaptation of a video game based on DC Comics characters crosses-over with the comic book adaptation of a 35-year-old cartoon series based on a toy line.

Well, Seeley is a good writer, Williams is a good artist and it's not like this could possibly be any worse than 2013's DC Universe Vs. Masters of The Universe, which brought us...this:
That comic was inexcusably bad.

written by JAMES TYNION IV
From the pages of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE! Earth’s magic once belonged to them. Now they want the magic back. But who exactly are they? It’s up to the new Justice League Dark to find out and stop this nightmarish new threat at all costs! After the events of NO JUSTICE, team leader Wonder Woman guides the misfit magic mix of Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Man-Bat and Detective Chimp against enemies too fantastic even for the Justice League. Plus, what awful things are coming through the Tree of Wonder? Dark days ahead…
ON SALE 07.25.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

So come July, there will be three different Justice League titles, one of which publishes twice-a-month. That's four issues a month, total, and they will all cost $3.99 instead of $2.99. That doesn't sound remotely sustainable, and despite the push the two secondary League books will likely receive from spinning out of the No Justice event, itself something of a spin-off of the very successful Dark Nights: Metal event series, and the potential boost that might come from riding the coattails of the Scott Snyder-written flagship Justice League, there's no guarantee the interest is actually going to translate to these books, which seem to be more Justice League books in name only. And also not be by Snyder. And also lack the Batman-focus of Metal.  Given how long it's been since the market could comfortably sustain three successful Justice League books--the first few years of '90s, I think?--this sounds a little insane to me, and I can't help but wonder if Snyder's Justice League might sell better if the magic and space-focused secondary books were just named something different, like Shadowpact and Legion or Omega Men or something...

As for the line-up, it's unusual, to say the least. As the first real magic-based Leaguer, Zatanna makes perfect sense, and Swamp Thing has had a long on-again, off-again association with DC's magic types, going back to Alan Moore's Crisis On Infinite Earths tie-in (which killed off Zatanna's dad, come to think of it). I've enjoyed the more straightforward superhero take on the character that has been a part of the recent-ish Justice Leage Action cartoon. I dig his beard and dreads, which give him a new look, although it has been pointed out that giving Swamp Thing a big, long beard makes him look a lot more like the writer he's most associated with.

Detective Chimp's inclusion among a magic-centric Justice League is a bit of a stretch, but given the prominent role he played in Shadowpact, he makes a certain degree of sense here.

I imagine that Wonder Woman is there to make it more Justice League-y, and certainly her mythological connection can be exploited to make her seem like the most magical of the Big Seven (I'm actually a little surprised they didn't use Captain Marvel Shazam, given how the character has been re-positioned as the magical superhero to further differentiate him from Superman pretty much since 2006 or so, but then I guess his time on the post-Flashpoint League was limited).

Man-Bat is a bit of a puzzle, though, as he's a scientist who turned himself into a were-bat through science. I imagine Tynion's use of the character here is akin to his use of Clayface in Detective--that is, the one character who doesn't seem to belong among the others.

art and cover by STJEPAN SEJIC
Spinning out of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE! When a cosmic menace threatens worlds beyond our own in the Ghost Sector, it falls to a new Justice League team to answer the call to battle! Cyborg, Starfire, Green Lantern Jessica Cruz and an out-of-his-element Azrael head to deep space inside a commandeered Brainiac Skull Ship. But as these wildcard teammates try to stop Despero from slave-trading Coluan refugees, they discover something that nothing in the universe could have prepared them for: Darkseid…who says he’s there to help?!
ON SALE 07.11.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

This one is even weirder. The name seems to be taken from 1988 Jim Starlin/Mike Mignola comic Cosmic Odyssey, a kinda sorta New Gods/Justice League comic that is well worth reading if you somehow haven't done so already (and not just because it's Mignola drawing a huge swath of the DC Universe!). If you look at the cover of the first issue  (or the original collection, or the "Absolute" edition), you'll see the characters posed on it (or them) would make for a pretty interesting League line-up.
This has only two of those characters. Three, if you want to consider the Earth-born Green Lanterns all interchangeable.

That Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz, gives this League a bridge to the "real" one, as does the presence of Cyborg, who would appear to be the leader of the group.

Starfire certainly makes sense there, and between her and Cyborg, that makes this team as much a Titans team as a League team; maybe even more of a Titans team. She sure has bounced around a lot since Flashpoint, as DC has struggled to figure out what to do with the characters in  her "generation" (or is age group a better term for it). First she was with Jason Todd and Roy Harper in Red Hood and The Outlaws, then she went solo for the length of her own short-lived title, then she was the grown-up in the Teen Titans, and now she's a adjunct Justice Leaguer, I guess.

Darkseid is obviously a wild card, as in the new continuity he has essentially been not only a villain the biggest of the Justice League's Big Bads, and the threat they originally formed an alliance to face. I really like artist Stjepan Sejic's version of Darkseid there, too. Rather than making him stocky, he seems to have stretched him out, which, if maybe not the ideal way to draw the character, it certainly makes this depiction stand out from past one.

Azrael is presumably the post-Flashpoint version of the Jean-Paul Valley character who showed up in Batman and Robin Eternal and then Detective, where he briefly wore a version of the above costume. I have no idea what he's doing in the book, since he's never even met any of those characters, but I guess we'll find out. My guess? Batman wanted to get rid of him, so when Cyborg asked if he could borrow one of Batman's 57 partners to take deep into outer space with him, Batman suggested Azrael.

Holy crap is that creepy. That's the cover for New Teen Titans Vol. 9.

Come July, it will be Swamp Thing's turn to appear in what is honestly DC's best comic in which to enjoy the publisher's characters in their most classic iterations.

written by DAN ABNETT
cover by RYAN SOOK
Can anything stop the Metagene pandemic unleashed through the events of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE? The all-new Titans are on the case. Roll call: Nightwing, Donna Troy, Raven, Steel, Beast Boy and Miss Martian! But can even their combined might stand against new super-powered weapons of mass destruction birthed by the Metagenes? And (SPOILERS) how will the events of TEEN TITANS #20 come back to haunt the Titans? New enemies are out for blood in part one of “The Spark.”
ON SALE 07.18.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

At this point, DC's Titans franchise seems so broken, that I don't really feel much of anything regarding any of its many, many relaunches.

I thought the latest Teen Titans relaunch, in which Robin Damian Wayne basically press-ganged a handful of other characters into forming a team with him, had a lot of potential, and I liked the first arc of it. This looks like two of Abnett's current Titans team (Dick and Donna) have taken two of the Teen Titans (Raven and Beast Boy) and pulled two characters out of the late aughts at random (Miss Martian and Steel Natasha Irons). I'm not sure how any of them work post-Flashpoint and whatever ended up happening to Dick's peers as a result of whatever was going on in DC Universe: Rebirth (But I assume since Doomsday Clock is still going on, it's still a retcon in progress...?)

written by DENNIS O’NEIL, MIKE SEKOWSKY and others
In these stories from the late 1960s, Wonder Woman leaves her superpowers behind to become an ultra-mod, globe-trotting secret agent. With a new costume and a new attitude, Wonder Woman fights crime like never before! As secret agent Diana Prince, she takes on international crime with the help of her new mentor, the mysterious I Ching. Collects WONDER WOMAN #178-204, THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #87 and 105, SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #93 and WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #204.
ON SALE 12.05.18
$99.99 US | 736 PAGES
FC | ISBN: 978-1-4012-8529-6

I like this short-lived Catwoman costume, which was briefly featured in the last issue of Batman.