Saturday, June 23, 2018

This is the only Crisis comic that I want to read at this point

The DC Universe. Astro City. Dark Knight III: The Master Race. Batman: White Knight. Batman '66. DC Comics Super Hero Girls. DC Super-Pets. DC Comics Bombshells. Gotham City Garage. Inustice and Injustice 2. He-Man and The Masters of The Universe. The Thundercats. The Earth-One heroes. Scooby-Doo. Scooby Apocalypse. Looney Tunes. The various Hanna-Barbereboot characters. Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and the various Hanna-Barbera characters who have shown up in Scooby-Doo Team-Up. Tiny Titans. Teen Titans Go!. IDW's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Archie, Betty and Veronica and the kids from Riverdale.

Twenty-two Earths with nothing in common save a single comics publisher with the rights to chronicle their adventures (although in some cases only on a semi-regular-ish, agreed-upon basis working with other publishers). That, and a new, shared threat which puts them all in jeopardy!

Get ready for DC's biggest blockbuster crossover series in months: Crisis On, Like, So Many Worlds!

Worlds will live.

Worlds will die.

And nothing will ever be the same least until the end of the last issue, at which point everything will go back to normal, so don't worry.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Marvel's September previews reviewed

Cover by ACO
VARIANT Cover by Gabriele Dell’Otto
Marvel’s Spider-Man Video Game Variant Cover BY DENNIS CHAN
TIES THAT BIND! Years ago, Spider-Man came back from an alien world with a fantastic new costume — one he eventually learned was a living alien symbiote looking to bond with him permanently! But before he rejected the costume that went on to become VENOM, many a night the symbiote would creep onto Peter, and unbeknownst to its host, take them out into the night!
Now, for the first time, see just what the symbiote steered Peter into during these mysterious nighttime excursions! Saladin Ahmed (BLACK BOLT) weaves an ALL-NEW nightmare fairy tale, illustrated by the incomparable Garry Brown, in what is sure to be a dream book for any Spider-Man fan!
40 PGS./Rated T …$4.99 actually a pretty good idea for a Spider-Man comic. The superhero equivalent of sleepwalking, I guess...?

Seems a shame to put an ACO cover--well, an ACO cover or a Gabriele Dell'Otto cover, depending on which version you get--on the book though when Garry Brown is drawing the interiors. Especially if you're going to go ahead and hype Brown as "the incomparable Garry Brown." That really makes me want to see a picture of Garry Brown's Spider-Man fighting his own costume, not a picture of Gabriele Dell'Otto's Spider-Man fighting his own costume. Dell'Otto is easily comparable! I've seen his work loads of times!

Anyway, here's a place where one can go to look at Garry Brown art.

Spinning out of the events of INFINITY WARS comes an epic space opera from DEADPOOL veterans Cullen Bunn and Matteo Lolli!
Angela, the not-so-beloved half-sister of Thor. The hotheaded Valkyrie – and the human who shares her form, Annabelle Riggs. Skurge the Executioner, freshly returned from Hel. Throg, the mightiest frog of thunder. Kevin Masterson, the boy who took his father’s mace to become the hero Thunderstrike. And the Destroyer, the Asgardian armor built to take down Celestials – its wielder unknown. The events of INFINITY WARS set NEBULA off on a quest to rule the galaxy – wielding an Asgardian weapon even Thor would fear – and it’s up to this team of gods, assassins, frogs and heroes to stop her.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Bravo, Marvel. I kind of love the fact that this series obviously just started as a joke title that someone figured out how to build a comic book series around. Having not been following Thor comics since I got lost a few reboots ago--did they ever reveal what was whispered to Thor to make him unworthy?--or Guardians of The Galaxy or the latest Infinity stuff, I'm not sure I'll be able to read this and make any sense out of it, but I'm certainly impressed that it exists.

Don’t Blink — the Exiles are back! The fan-favorite teleporter from the Age of Apocalypse was once the lynchpin of an interdimensional team determined to save not just the world, but also the entire Multiverse. And now Blink’s talents are needed once again! When a mysterious threat begins devouring the very fabric of reality, the Unseen — the man once known as Nick Fury, who can now only watch Earth from a lofty post on the Moon — recruits her as his champion to save all that is. But Blink can’t do it alone. She’ll need a team drawn from across the Marvel Multiverse to face the Time-Eater! Which surprising heroes will join the newest squad of Exiles — and can they ever go home again? Collecting EXILES (2018) #1-6.
136 PGS./Rated T+ …$17.99
ISBN: 978-1-302-91165-2

I don't have a joke for this, or any sort of observation, just a question for any of you who might be reading it. Is it any good? Like, I-should-buy-it good, or just I-should-borrow-the-trade-from-the-library good...? I'm not really a fan of Blink or the X-people in general, but I like Tess Thompson's movie Valkyrie and the idea of Hayley Atwell as Captain America (Please tell me James D'Arcy's Jarvis wears a Bucky costume to adventure with her!).

What have Reed, Sue and the kids been up to all this time? What adventures have they been on? What strange new friends have they found along the way? What deadly new enemies have they made? And what are Franklin and Valeria’s new codenames? All these questions will be answered… just in time for ENTIRE UNIVERSES TO DIE!
The return of Marvel’s First Family keeps getting more and more intense! Don’t you dare miss a single moment of the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Huh. I've honestly never thought about the fact that it's kind of weird that Franklin and Valeria have never had codenames until I read the above copy, but yeah, that's kind of weird. I'm pretty curious what they might be. Hopefully something farm more inspired than, like, Kid Fantastic and The Brain...

Cover by W. Scott Forbes
VARIANT Cover by Nick Bradshaw
VARIANT Cover by Skottie Young
He’s back!
Iceman is back! Which is good, because someone is hunting the Morlocks for sport. Now it’s up to Bobby Drake to prevent another potential Mutant Massacre. But who’s behind this horrific hunt? You won’t believe it if we tell you! Guest-starring Bishop!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Well this is certainly unexpected...way even more unexpected than the fact that Marvel announced an Iceman ongoing series the first time around. Marvel canceled that book remarkably quickly; as I recall, the first trade paperback collection was just released when the cancellation was announced, and the book limped along after its imminent demise was scheduled until it hit issue #11 or so.

I'm glad to see that the title and its writer, Sina Grace, is getting a second chance, and I hope Marvel learned its lessons from the first attempt. The lessons that needed learned, by the way, weren't simply that some books need a little more rope than a handful of issues and the immediate sales of the first trade paperback to find their footing in the market.

Iceman was, as I recall, quite well-written, but suffered from its unfortunately unavoidable connection to the X-Men line--basically, the premise of the book hinged on the fact of the time-lost original X-Men and their Bobby Drake, which meant Iceman was a book for extant X-Men fans, not new readers.

It suffered even more from the fact that there was no artist attached. The first collection, which I reviewed here, had five artists assigned to the first five issues. Some were okay, some handled the material quite poorly, but the book was a visual mess, and that's really no way to assemble a comic book. If they couldn't find an artist to attach to the book, Marvel might as well have assigned Grace a prose novel to tell his story in.

Anyway, here's hoping Marvel read my review and decided to address all those problems, and that new artist Nathan Stockman has been given plenty of lead time to start drawing the new volume of the series...!

Devin Grayson (W) • MARCO FAILLA (A)
Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl and their friends are trapped in a world they did not create. And the one person who could free them…is trapped herself. Someone has been pulling Ember Quade’s strings, and even this burgeoning super villain knows when the game’s gone too far. But the last save point is long past — and there’s one final boss ahead. It’s now or never: The heroes must rise.
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$4.99

Ha ha ha! The "Final Installment!" falls in a book with a #1 on the cover, the same number that...every issue of this series has had on it...? Except maybe that one, which had a zero on it. Also, note that this is a "one-shot," according to the above. What the fuck Marvel? That's not how numbers work.

This particular comic book is a pretty great argument for ignoring serially published comics and instead trade-waiting Marvel's wares. For example, why try to make sense of this weird-ass series, where each issue has a slightly different title, and either a #0 or a #1 on it, when you can just buy this, instead?

Squirrel Girl meets Ms. Marvel — for the very first time! When Doreen Green volunteers as head counselor for an extracurricular computer-programming class, little does she know junior counselor Kamala Khan also moonlights as a crimefighting super hero! But this coding configuration is more than just ones and zeros when a mysterious new super villain shows her face! Ember Quade can bring video games to life — and that just raised the stakes to a whole new level! Can Doreen and Kamala save the day without blowing their secret identities? Join Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl — and a few special guests — as they learn what it truly takes to become the next generation of Marvel heroes! Collecting MARVEL RISING #0, MARVEL RISING: ALPHA, MARVEL RISING: SQUIRREL GIRL/MS. MARVEL, MARVEL RISING: MS. MARVEL/SQUIRREL GIRL and MARVEL RISING: OMEGA.
168 PGS./Rated T …$9.99
ISBN: 978-1-302-91261-1
Trim size: 6” x 9”

That's so much easier.

40 PGS./Parental Advisory …$4.99

So, if you are a retailer and your considering if you should order a comic book entitled "The Return of Wolverine," and, if so, just how many copies of it you should order, the two things that Marvel thinks you need to know about it are that it is, in fact, about Wolverine returning and that it will have a lot of variant covers. And...that's it! Get to ordering, retailers!

Oh, and if you make it all the way down to the second-to-last cover mentioned there, you'll see that series artist Steve McNiven is responsible for the "PREMIERER" cover. That's probably a typo, but I kind of hope it's not, that Marvel is instead offering a cover that is even more premier than the PREMIER cover.

Cover by KRIS ANKA
After the world-shaking arc-end in #12, a lot has changed for your favorite super-teens.
And a major villain from Runaways past is back in a way you won’t be able to predict!
Plus! This issue has a variant cover by Ryan Sands, the actor who plays Geoffrey Wilder on the Marvel’s Runaways television series, now streaming on Hulu!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

So I guess this means that actor Ryan Sands is a semi-professional artist, right...? I'm totally okay with this. In fact, I would love nothing more than if the actors who play particular characters on Marvel TV shows contributed variant covers, regardless of artistic ability. I would love to see Krysten Ritter drawing stick figures of the Netflix heroes for a Defenders variant, Jon Bernthal finger-painting a skull for a Punisher variant, whatever....

Monday, June 18, 2018

DC's September previews reviewed

written by PETER J. TOMASI
cover by DAN MORA
Kids today, amiright? What with their vaping, texting, emoji-ing and whatnot—never mind what happens when teen villains the Gang get their hands on Gold Kryptonite! That’s exactly what the young bad guys plan to do to impress the Earth’s biggest villains! Super Sons Robin and Superboy stand face to face with Rex Luthor, Joker Jr. and other psychos pulled right from your nightmares. The Gang has already robbed Superboy of his powers, and now they’re ready to reveal their grand plan!
ON SALE 09.05.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | 2 of 12 | RATED T

Rex Luthor? Joker Jr.? appears that The Gang appearing in Adventures of The Super Sons will not be the The Gang, but simply a The Gang. That's kinda too bad. Although there is mention in the solicit of "other psychos," so I suppose there's still a chance we'll see Brains, Bulldozer, Ms. Mesmer and Kong in the pages of of this comic...

Regardless, I'm pretty excited about Gold Kryptonite. It's not the best kryptonite to build a comic book story arc around, of course, but any kryptonite other than green is a fun one to see these days.

cover by SEAN MURPHY
You can’t go home again. But that’s just where Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl, is forced to go when the chip granting her mobility keeps shorting out in the aftermath of her clash with Grotesque. Will Commissioner Gordon drive Babs totally bonkers with his bedside manner? Or will the malfunctioning tech impact more than just her legs? Plus, what’s the deal with killer art critic Grotesque and his murderous new M.O.? It’s all in part two of “Art of the Crime.”
ON SALE 09.26.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

I can't quite figure out what's going on with that cover. I'm not sure if Batgirl is getting a new terrible costume, or if that's supposed to be a flashback to her post-Flashpoint/New 52 "Year One" costume, which it looks awfully close to, but also differs from enough to make me doubt that is what she's wearing.

written by TOM KING
art and cover by MATT WAGNER
Dick Grayson—the original Robin—gets to spend some quality time fighting crime with his mentor for the first time since Batman popped the question to Catwoman. It’s a walk down memory lane as Bruce Wayne helps Dick get over the loss of his high-flying acrobat parents, which in turn led to his crime-fighting career. Guest artist Matt Wagner (Mage, TRINITY) jumps on board for this special issue!
ON SALE 09.05.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

"Art and cover by Matt Wagner"...!!! That's something that will make a solicitation copy-reader stand up and take notice. It's been far, far too long since we saw Wagner drawing Batman comics.

art and cover by LEE BERMEJO
variant cover by JIM LEE
DC BLACK LABEL, the highly anticipated new imprint from DC Comics, starts here!
The Joker is dead.
There is no doubt about that. But whether Batman finally snapped his scrawny neck or some other sinister force in Gotham City did the deed is still a mystery.
Problem is, Batman can’t remember…and the more he digs into this labyrinthian case, the more his mind starts to doubt everything he’s uncovering.
So who better to set him straight than…John Constantine? Problem with that is as much as John loves a good mystery, he loves messing with people’s heads even more. So with John’s “help,” the pair will delve into the sordid underbelly of Gotham as they race toward the mind-blowing truth of who murdered The Joker.
BATMAN: DAMNED is a bimonthly super-natural horror story told by two of comics’ greatest modern creators—a visceral thrill-ride that proudly puts the “black” in BLACK LABEL.
ON SALE 09.19.18
$6.99 US | 48 PAGES
Approximately 8.5” x 10.875”

While DC seems to have plenty of exciting-sounding projects lined up for its previously announced new imprints, the problem with announcing a whole mess of new imprints around the same time--and so long before they actually start releasing comics on them--is I can't remember which label is devoted to which kind of comics.

Based on the fact that I'm pretty sure DC isn't killing off The Joker, I think "Black Label" is their new word for "Elseworlds"...but it might also simply mean "Prestige Format"...or a combination of the two. Although they also say that "two of comics' greatest modern creators" will "proudly put the 'black' in BLACK LABEL," so maybe it just means over-hyped...? Or the black refers to how dark it's going to be...? Or some combination. I guess we'll find out.

I was a little surprised to see that this isn't going straight-to-trade, given the Azzarello/Bermejo team's success with the original graphic novel The Joker a few year's back, and when serial issues cost $7 a piece, publishing them serially doesn't make a lot of economic sense to me (I sure as hell wouldn't buy an out-of-continuity miniseries at that price point when I know the trade is just months away), but maybe that allows them to sell Jim Lee variants...? I don't know; I don't understand the comics market. (Obviously.)

art and cover by KELLEY JONES
Scarecrow is loose in the streets of Gotham City, and Batman must drag him back to Arkham Asylum! To make matters worse, he’s doused Batman with the strongest batch of fear gas in his arsenal, turning the city the Dark Knight Detective protects into his worst nightmare and enemy!
ON SALE 09.26.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | 2 of 6 | RATED T+

Of course, I'm totally going to buy ever issue of this pricey out-of-continuity miniseries as they are serially published, despite the fact that a collection of it is all but inevitable. But this is different. This is Kelley Jones drawing Batman and The Scarecrow.

I love that cover so much.

art and cover by DAVID MACK
Years in the making, from the award-winning team of Brian Michael Bendis and multimedia sensation David Mack, comes a brand-new graphic novel experience. And it’s all kind of based on a true story. Sort of…
Deep in the American intelligence community, someone realizes that comic book creators, who travel all over the world to sell their wares, might make the perfect cover for operatives in the dangerous, topsy-turvy world of intelligence and counterintelligence…and that’s when all hell breaks loose. This is the story of the time the world of comics and the world of international spywork smashed together—with unexpected results!
Artist David Mack, follows his Emmy nominated work on Jessica Jones, and his critically acclaimed video work for Dashboard Confessionals and Amanda Palmer, brings another completely unique vision to this driving comedic spy story that is also a beautiful Valentine to all those creators who sit alone and make beautiful stories.
ON SALE 09.05.18
$3.99 US | 1 of 6 | 32 PAGES

If Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack are the protagonists, and the cast consists entirely of real-life comics creators, this might be interesting. Otherwise? Sounds a little movie pitch-y.

art and cover by STEPHEN SEGOVIA
variant cover by MARK BROOKS
Kicking off an arc guest-written by James Robinson (writer of the Batman classics “Blades” and “Face the Face”) with art by rising star Stephen Segovia! It looks like the kind of murder case too ordinary to draw the attention of Batman…but once the World’s Greatest Detective gets involved, the identity of the victim completely unravels—and leads to a conspiracy among some of the Dark Knight’s strangest foes!
ON SALE 09.12.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

DC followed the end of James Tynion's "Rebirth" run on the secondary Batman title with a fill-in story arc, and now that will be followed by...another fill-in arc...? Weird. One would assume Detective would be the second-most desirable book for a writer to write, so DC really shouldn't have a whole hell of a lot of trouble finding pretty much whoever they want to write it, right? So I assume they have a writer lined up, and are just waiting until his--or her? That would be unexpected!--schedule lines up.

With issue #1,000 on the horizon, it seems particularly odd that Detective is kinda languishing with fill-in writers. On the other hand, Wonder Woman has also had a series of fill-in writers ever since Greg Rucka left, and his run was so short one could really consider that akin to a fill-in as well...

written by MARK WAID
Wally West is pushed to his limit when Savitar attempts to take control of the Speed Force, an indefinable energy field that is the source of all speedsters’ powers. A trip to the 64th century also proves eye-opening for Wally, as he is shocked to find out that in the future he is worshipped as a god! Collects THE FLASH #106-118 and IMPULSE #10-11.
ON SALE 10.10.18
$34.99 US | 368 PAGES
FC | ISBN: 978-1-4012-8460-2

I've been meaning to start reading Mark Waid's Flash run via these The Flash By Mark Waid collections, and apparently I've been meaning to do so for a lot longer than I thought, as I was shocked to see a solicitation for a book five. I would have guessed the series was up to book two, possibly book three at this point.

written by TOM KING
art and cover by CLAY MANN
There’s a new kind of crisis threatening the heroes of the DC Universe, ripped from real-world headlines by C.I.A.-operative-turned-comics-writer Tom King: How does a superhero handle PTSD? Welcome to Sanctuary, an ultra-secret hospital for superheroes who’ve been traumatized by crime-fighting and cosmic combat. But something goes inexplicably wrong when many patients wind up dead, with two well-known operators as the prime suspects: Harley Quinn and Booster Gold! It’s up to the DC Trinity of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman to investigate—but can they get the job done in the face of overwhelming opposition?
ON SALE 09.26.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | 1 of 7 | RATED T+

Well this sounds...cheery. Based on the last seven-part miniseries in which the word "crisis" was used in the title more metaphorically than to refer to an multiversal crossover epic and the action revolved around a murder mystery, this fills me more with dread than excitement. That said, King's a far better comic writer than the guy who wrote the series this most reminds me of, and Clay Mann's a pretty strong comics artist.

I assume this will be addressed, but I find it amusing the way the solicit refers to the prime suspects as Harley Quinn and Booster Gold. If only because I would have to assume the criminally insane mass-murderer/terrorist with a body count that includes scores of children is a little more prime a suspect than the time-travelling superhero who has been on at least one, maybe more Justice Leagues, depending on the continuity.

written by SHOLLY FISCH
art and cover by DARIO BRIZUELA
Faced with the combined forces of simian menaces like Gorilla Grodd, the Ultra-Humanite and Monsieur Mallah, Scooby and the gang team up with DC’s greatest ape heroes: Congorilla, Sam Simeon and Detective Chimp! But when things take a turn for the monstrous, can even our heroes save the city from the king-sized carnage of…Titano the Super-Ape?
ON SALE 09.26.18
$2.99 US | 32 PAGES

I find this cover quite disappointing. But only because it features just two gorillas, while the solicitation copy refers to pretty much every gorilla and chimpanzee in the DC Universe I can think of, give or take a King Solovar.

written by OTTO BINDER
cover by MICHAEL CHO
At first he was simply a disembodied voice on the radio, taunting Captain Marvel with his ever-more-fiendish schemes to conquer the world. Then, readers gasped as Mr. Mind was revealed—all two inches of him! Was this lowly creature really the epitome of evil he claimed to be? Fortunately, Billy Batson understood the folly of underestimating someone based on their size! As small as he was, Mr. Mind was big trouble—especially once he turned the menacing members of his Monster Society of Evil loose to wreak havoc!
This new title collects the entire 24-chapter serial from the Golden Age of Comics with new essays by Fawcett Comics expert P.C. Hamerlinck and film producer and comics historian Michael Uslan. Collects stories from CAPTAIN MARVEL ADVENTURES #22-46!
ON SALE 02.06.19
$49.99 US | 272 PAGES
7.0625” x 10.875”
FC | ISBN: 978-1-4012-8769-6

Finally. DC announced plans to publish this a while back, only to change their minds for some reason, and it was a cruel, cruel joke to play. I'm glad they're finally going through with it. I've only read a few isolated chapters of this in the past, but it's Otto Binder and C.C. Beck's Golden Age Captain Marvel, which is one of the crown jewels of comics-that-DC-owns-now. I can't wait for this. Like, there's also a solicitation for a new original graphic novel written by Grant Morrison and based on William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter's Golden Age Wonder Woman comics, which, under normal circumstances, would be the most exciting thing one can imagine DC publishing. But then, DC doesn't normally publish books like this.

written by ADAM GLASS
The team’s dealing with an unexpected loss, but there’s little time to grieve. They must travel to Keystone City, where Golden Glider and Swerve plan to pull a heist at a children’s hospital. (That’s a new low, even for some Rogues!) There’s also plenty of drama to go around, as Kid Flash mulls quitting after his clash with Red Arrow, and Damian’s harboring a new, secret mentor, all while his secret prison’s about to blow up in his face.
ON SALE 09.19.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

I really like Nick Derington's cover art. He's been killing it on the Mister Miracle covers, too. DC really needs to get that guy on some interiors.

You know, I assumed that character was Godiva, but I guess it's actually Golden Glider...?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My God, Batman's bachelor party was insane.

On The Unexpected #1

*I didn't read this one. I've felt somewhere between leery and queasy with some of writer Steve Orlando's DC scripts since the short-lived Midnighter series, as his over-reliance on the characters, concepts and stories of other writers, some of which were very specific to that writer and of rather recent vintage, seemed to stand on--if not outright cross--the line between homage and appropriation.

Additionally, the most recent work of his I had read--about half of the second volume of his Justice League of America series--was just not very good. I think I made it up to the introduction of a character that was part-Tarzan, part-Iron Fist before I gave up on the trade collection. When I heard he was re-introducing the Mark Waid and Bryan Hitch-created Queen of Fables and the Grant Morrison and Mark Millar-created Aztek, I groaned. When I saw he was integrating Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III's Promethea into the DC Universe in the pages of JLoA, I swore his work off.

I know cases can and have been made as to why it's "okay" for one writer to integrate the work of another writer who has specifically expressed his desire that people not do that into his own work, about how DC's within its legal rights to use the character, and Moore and Williams' creation wasn't that unique anyway and blah blah blah. But the bottom line remains that it is just a shitty thing to do, and while mainstream comics can be a pretty shitty industry, no one is forced to be shitty. I can't imagine DC, like, held a gun to Orlando's head, or kidnapped his family and would only release them on the condition that he write Promethea into a Justice League story.

I didn't read The Terrifics for similar reasons; that integrated another Moore co-creation into the story. And I didn't read Sideways because it was a Dan DiDio-written comic, and those are generally addition to it just being kind of gross to go around hiring yourself for plum writing assignments at the publishing company you run.

So that's...let's see here...three of the eight "New Age of Heroes" line of comics I couldn't bring myself to read.

And with the release of The Unexpected, the entire "New Age" line of comics has had their first issues debut, and we can start placing bets on which will be the first to be canceled. I'm going to ahead and bet on Sideways, although I think Damage is a real contender.


On New Challengers #1

On The Immortal Men #1

On The Curse of Brimstone #1

On The Terrifics #1

On Sideways #1

On The Silencer #1

On Damage #1

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: May 23rd and May 30th

Aquaman/Jabberjaw Special #1 (DC Comics) Of the new round of DC/Hanna-Barbera crossover specials, this one seemed like the one I was going to like the most, since I have some affection for both halves of the team-up, I like the two primary creators involved and the characters fit together so perfectly that, in a sense, it's the sort of comic that writes itself...although writer Dan Abnett takes a few interesting and surprising turns in his narrative.

For the first few pages of the 30-page feature story, Abnett seems to be setting up a Jaws parody with Jabberjaw in the role of the marauding, beach-closing shark (Believe it or not, I never connected the cartoon shark's name to that of the famous movie shark who kicked off a pop culture shark craze right around the time the cartoon debuted until, like, last week or so). But being able to breathe air, walk on his fins and speak to Aquaman--out loud, and in English--makes Jabberjaw kind of easy to find, and after a little fish out of water comedy involve Jabber in modern day Amnesty Bay, Aquaman follows him through a portal to Jabber's home world, where a mad scientist has been sending giant killer sharks to attack the kinda-sorta past.

The plot is a bit more complicated than it sounds--and involves another, unbilled Hanna-Barbera property--but Abnett manages to find a linkage between the two aquatic characters to exploit--that is, Jabberjaw's constant complaining-via-catchphrase that he "don't get no respect" and Aquaman's lack of respect from the world at large--and Abnett even manages to connect the real-world reason Aquaman doesn't get the respect of his fellow Justice Leaguers to the something within the world of Jabberjaw.

Like I said, I expected to like this a lot, but I didn't expect it to be an honestly great Aquaman comic, and maybe one of the best Aquaman stories I've read since...well, I can't remember the last time I read an Aquaman comic this good, if I'm being honest. Abnett is partnered with pencil artist Paul Pelletier and inker Andrew Hennessy, and they do a pretty great job. Pelletier is an excellent superhero comics artist, and Jabberjaw is the rare Hanna-Barbera character who actually kinda works perfectly when translated into the more "realistic" house style of modern DC Comics. In fact, Jabberjaw's typical dialogue coming not out of the mouth of a cartoon character, but from the jagged, toogh-filled mouth and the blank, expression-less face of a real(-ish) great white shark may actually be funnier.

The Neptunes appear, but get short shrift, really, as they aren't really necessary to the story, since Aquaman takes their place as straightman to Jabberjaw. Pelletier's rendering of those characters isn't too terribly inspired; he basically just draws Pelletier-designed characters dressed like The Neptunes, for better or worse.

This is a real rarity among DC's weird-ass cartoon crossover stories: One I wouldn't mind seeing more of.

There are four DC/Hanna-Barbera specials in this year's suite of crossovers, and two of them have back-ups. Unlike the previous round's back-ups, which featured adult reboots of Hanna-Barbera characters that (mostly) previewed new series, these two are simply additional DC/Hanna-Barbera crossovers...just eight-pagers. Both are written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Scott Kolins.

This one features Captain Caveman. The DC characters who appear are somewhat perfunctory. The Wizard Shazam (still in his New 52 redesign) and The Spectre (drawn so that he could be in either his pre- or post-Flashpoint design), are debating whether heroism is "a relatively recent trait" developed over centuries of social evolution, or something that is inherent in humanit. The Wizard takes the latter view, and, to prove his point, he summons "an offshoot of Neanderthal" destined for death to the modern world. This caveman, of course, becomes Captain Caveman, proving Shazam right.

This version of Captain Caveman doesn't seem to have much in the way of super-powers. He's definitely super-strong, but he can't fly, and his big-ass club is devoid of Flintones-era technological gizmos. Kolins has designed him as your basic squat, muscular caveman, but with a huge head of hair and beard. In a different context, he wouldn't be recognizable as Captain Caveman. (Interestingly, the The Flash/Speed Buggy Special has a differently-designed Captain Caveman, who instead looks closer to his cartoon counterpart.) The Teen Angels kinda sorta appear, as well, although there's only two of them. There's a Dee Dee and a Taffy, but Brenda is MIA, and the other two don't really look like themselves like at all.

For added DCU-ishness, there's a one-panel came of Black Adam and Captain Marvel Shazam The Superhero Shazam Shazam and some Manhunter robots.

Batman: Prelude To The Wedding: Robin Vs. Ra's al Ghul #1 (DC) Not only was I not looking forward to this comic, I wasn't even planning on buying it. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I found the prospect of Damian running afoul of his grandfather for the eleventh or so time a rather uninteresting prospect for a comic, particularly when it is being tied to a particularly momentous event in Batman comics history, like the upcoming marriage of Batman and Catwoman. (And while I find writer Tim Seeley and pencil artist Brad Walker to be respectable talents, neither is one whose work I am so enraptured with that I automatically buy something just because of their presence.)

I ended up picking it up, however. as this comic featured pages and pages of the sorts of things we haven't seen a whole hell of a lot of in the pages of Batman, where the wedding storyline has been playing out. Ra's is only one about five pages of the comic, and while Damian is on just about every page, he's not always dressed as Robin. Rather, this issue has plenty of pages of Damian Wayne and Selina Kyle together, doing wedding-related stuff (She takes him to a tailor to get his wedding outfit prepared, he waits up for her at the Manor while she's out for her bachelorette party).

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this might be the first time we've seen the two of those characters together before...not just since the proposal and out-of-costume but, like, ever. Not only am I having trouble recalling a scene of Catwoman and this Robin together alone, I can't even think of one in which they are together in the presence of an Batman (although there must have been a crowd scene of all Batman's allies posing together near the climax of Batman and Robin Eternal or somewhere, right?). That seems...weird, really, considering that not only does Batman fight crime with both Robin and Catwoman, but that this Robin is his actual son.

Tom King, who has been writing the wedding storyline, has been writing Batman since August of 2016, and he began laying the groundwork for the 50th issue wedding as far back as #9 or so (The launch of the "I Am Suicide" story arc). So it strikes me as unusual that we don't really have a sense of how Catwoman and Damian might regard one another going into this issue.

Granted, the bulk of it is eaten up by superhero stuff. After the trip to the tailor's, Catwoman heads out for her bachelortte party (sadly, none of it is shown, and we don't even know who she went out with) while Damian suits up to...break into the arcade to play his favorite videogame. It is there that he's attack by a new foe, claiming to be the son of Catwoman and Batman, coming back to the past to...well, the symbolism is all about as broad as one might expect from a narrative form in which characters label themselves with symbols on their chests.

Things aren't, of course, what they seem, and we eventually find out that Ra's had orchestrated everything. He's still not happy that Damian defected to join Batman, and he's not all that psyched about Batman, who spurned his daughter, marrying Catwoman.

But, like I said, it's the pages of the characters in plainclothes that were the most interesting, and answered things about a Batman/Catwoman marriage I am actually interested in (or at least curious about). There's a two-page epilogue drawn by artsit Otto Schmidt in which Ra's returns to a base or lair of some kind to find out that about 15 of his ninja assassins are dead and one of them has had his eyes burned out, and reports that he was asked if they had gotten a wedding invitation before the attack. That the words "HA HA HA HA HA HA HA" are written on the wall offers a pretty good clue as to who did it, although God only knows how The Joker took out an entire room full of ninja assassins, all of whom are run through with swords. Apparently, this series of one-shots is leading into whatever The Joker's plans for the wedding are.

The artwork prior to the epilogue was all penciled by Walker, who is inked by Andrew Hennessy and Mick Gray. It's particularly good work. I didn't recognize it as Walker's at first, but after seeing his name in the credit box of the final page, it was easier to see him in the artwork. Whether it was Hennessy or Gray or both, they really transformed the work into something slicker, smoother and more polished.

Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey Special #1 (DC) This one was a disappointment. Writer Bryan Hill seems to rather smartly lean in to the two title characters' somewhat problematic roots, borne as they were as children's entertainment echoes of exploitation film trends of the 1970s, by setting the story in the 1970s...or, at least, Black Lightning is still wearing his original costume, with the detachable afro/mask and costume with the neckline that plunges all the way to his belt buckle.

One could scarcely ask for a better art team: Pencil artist Denys Cowan and inker Bill Sienkiewicz.

And yet, there's not much to the comic, beyond what one sees on the cover. That is, linking the Black Lightning of 1976 with a "serious" take on Hong Kong Phooey in what appears to be a weird East Meets Watts kinda deal, with great Cowan and Sienkiewicz art. Actually reading the 30-page comic under the cover doesnt' really add a whole heck of a lot.

Of the Hong Kong Phooey cartoon, Hill excises The Sarge, Spot, the number one super guy's secret identity as Penry, the mild-mannered janitor at the police station, the transforming Hong Kong Phooey Mobile, the transformation sequence, and HKP's basic incompetence, pretty much only keeping the fact that he's an anthropomorphic dog in a red gi that knows martial arts (Rosemary, the telephone operator, does appear, but she doesn't work as a dispatcher; instead she's a martial artist).

The plot? Black Lightning fights Professor Presto, a Hong Kong Phooey villain chosen seemingly at random, who is teamed up with Bronze Tiger and Cheshire, both of whom appear essentially as hired muscle (for the purposes of the story, they might as well just be Henchman #1 and Henchman #2...or maybe Henchperson #1 and Henchperson #2, I guess).

The bad guys are after an ancient Chinese scroll of kung fu magic, and so Black Lightning turns to his old friend Penry for help. Penry is a dog-man, which seems...weird, although never really remarked upon. (There is one panel in which we see a trio of animal-human hybrids in the background, during a class Rosemary is teaching, implying that there are some animal people around, but, um, that's it). Although, I guess it's worth noting that the character's dog-ishness was vague in the original cartoon, too, as he was an anthropomorphic dog in a world of human beings, and his sidekick was a house cat...who couldn't talk, but could nevertheless communicate with him via sign language and mumbling. And he was a lot smarter than Penry/Hong Kong Phooey too.

Anyway, they fight. And then it's over. And...that's it. Great art, though.

This is the other special with a Parker/Kolins back-up, this one featuring The Funky Phantom. The DCU guest-star here is Jason Blood, although "perfunctory" seems like too generous a word to describe his role in the story. He's in all of six panels, and he is there as a work-for-hire sorcerer, enlisted to conjure the spirit of Revolutionary War hero and Declaration of Independence signatory Jonathan Wellington "Muddy" Muddlemore to discuss The Second Ammendment with a Senator, the news media and a bunch of gun enthusiasts.

It's surprising in how strident it is. Not that Parker would give voice and/or hold opinions that differ so sharply from the NRA or the Republic party platform, of course, but that the DC Comics of the 21st century would be so cavalier, even relatively ballsy in publishing the story. I mean, I think it's pretty safe to assume no one picked up Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey Special #1 expecting to read a gun control argument.

The Funky Phantom inadvertently pokes holes in many of the arguments of the super-expansive reading of the Second Amendment, from the fact that the founding fathers were super-into it (he died before there was a constitution, let alone amendments to it), that it's less than 30 words out of a gigantic document ("That's it? WHy are you so concerend with that bit?"), that an AR-15 might be needed for hunting ("What's this contraption?"), that if the nation has an army it doesn't need a militia, the insane fantasy that leads many to believe they have a right to any kind of gun just in case they have to fight off the entire United States military for some reason and that maybe the Second Amendment just guarantees Americans' rights to the type of guns that Muddlemore used in his day.

I...don't disagree with anything in the comic, I was just surprised by it. It's a far, far cry from the cartoon, of course, but at least in this case the reason makes a degree of sense, as it's clear the variation was done with a clear purpose. The Funky Phantom is a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character that might actually make for an interesting reboot for adults, as a ghost of a founding father wanders the modern world, marveling at how it's changed. If we ever do get a Hanna-Barbereboot series featuring the character though, I would hope that the supporting cast--ghost cat in a tricorner hat and all--comes along, and mysteries are solved.

Also, it would be nice of future artists stuck a little closer to the original designs. This Funky Phantom doesn't even have whiskers!

Justice League: No Justice #3 (DC) The penultimate issue of the four-part weekly series contains an unscheduled disappearance by series artist Francis Manapul's artwork. Instead he only contributes breakdowns for the fill-in artists and he provies the main cover, this week featuring Team Breast Cancer Awareness. While perhaps unfortunate, the good news is that on hand to step in are Riley Rossmo and Marcus To. Both are pretty great artists, and, as I've stated many times before, I'm a big fan of the former (despite how tiny he draws Batman's ears). So it was a nice opportunity to see Rossmo's versions of a mess of DCU characters I hadn't previously seen him draw. I particularly liked his Luthor, his huge, scary-faced Wonder Woman and his Barbie-bodied, baby doll-headed, crazy-faced Harley. (His Etrigan is quite Kirby-esque too, although that's not generally a direction I like to see artists go with the character.)

The events of this issue are kind of surprising, particularly as regards the Leagues' efforts to save Colu, and there's a pretty great visual idea involving an Atom-powered Starro near the climax. After those perhaps unexpected twists, though, the plot goes where I suppose it must inevitably go: The quartet of giant Galactuses head for planet Earth, which the heroes seem incapable of saving.

Well, what else would one expect for the second-to-last issue of a big Justice League miniseries?

Justice League: No Justice #4 (DC) Francis Manapul returns in time for the conclusion. The Celestials The Millennium Giants The Omega Titans have arrived at Earth and are preparing to eat it, thanks to Brainiac's trap. The Leagues have failed to save Colu, can they manage to pull together and save Earth?

Yes, of course they can. The solution turns out to be very big and very crazy, and it works, although I did find myself wondering after how unquestionably into it all of the Leaguers, even Batman and Superman were, considering that it involved killing off a sentient life form, even if it was alien and incredibly remote from humanity even when compared to some of the League's most alien foes to date.

As expected, much of this miniseries was set-up for June's launch of Justice League by writer Scott Snyder, and then two more Justice League-related books by his No Justice co-writers, James Tynion and Joshua Williamson. Not only do we end with the foundation of a new iteration of the League with Martian Manhunter J'onn J'onnz as its leader (the line-up implied here consists of J'onn, Superman, Batman, Flash Barry Allen and Aquaman, who was barely in No Justice and Hawkgirl, who wasn't; we know that Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Green Lantern John Stewart will join the team too, but they're not around in the panel showing off the new Justice League).

There's also a scene of Cyborg and Starfire talking about space stuff, as part of this series involved restoring a bunch of planets that were shrunken and stored on Colu (those two will be on the League starring in Justice League Odyssey), and another of Wonder Woman consulting with Zatanna (they will be on the Justice League Dark line-up). Surprisingly, Lex Luthor's villainy is played up, as he seems to make a conscious decision to quite playing the hero and embrace the force of entropy, and, more surprisingly still, Batman calls on Black Lightning to form what sounds like a new iteration of The Outsiders ("We need a team who can keep us covered...from the Outside").

That's surprisingly in that while DC has previously announced all the League books, and that Luthor would be forming a new Legion of Doom in one of them, and the changes to the Titans books ("Nightwing has a mission," Batman tells Black Lightning, "And Robin...Robin has deiced on his own way of doing things"), there hasn't been an Outsiders book announced. I would guess that storyline will flow into Detective Comics, though, as Black Lightning is appearing in the next arc there.

So yeah, when all is said and done, No Justice seems to be setting the stage not only for the three Justice League books, but all of DC's team books. And beyond.

While I'm really only interested in Justice League and not its spin-offs or the Titans books, I confess that I am much more excited about Justice League at the end of No Justice than I was before it. June should be a pretty exciting month for DC comics...

The Man of Steel #1 (DC) After a few short, almost tease-like stories in Action Comics #1,000 and DC Nation #0, brand-new DC Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis makes his official debut with his very first, full comic book script for the publisher. The six-issue miniseries takes as its title that of John Byrne's 1986 miniseries, and while the remit here seems to be to set up the new status quo for Superman, it doesn't look like there's going to be a rebooted retelling of Superman's origins or anything, as there was with Byrne's post-Crisis series (Although something is up with Lois Lane and Jonathan Kent, and it's being played as a mystery, first teased in the DC Nation series and then again here; they are MIA and only Superman seems to know exactly why).

Each issue will have a different artist, and this first one is drawn by pencil artist Ivan Reis and inker Joe Prado, who also provide the linking covers of the series (which show the history of Superman and do not actually reflect the contents of the particular issue. So if you picked this one up hoping to see the Justice League, you're out of luck).

I confess that I both sighed and laughed when I turned the first page--a splash depicted the planet Krypton hanging in space with just three dialogue bubbles--and saw the extremely Bendisian two-page spread that filled the second and third pages of the book. A single figure is pacing before five giant floating cosmic heads, and delivering a long-winded speech of the sort that only appear in Bendis comics, with the dialgoue bubbles strung like pearls that stretch across the pages. Clearly Bendis isn't going to change his style a whit just because he's writing a DC comic for the first time (the giant floating heads are all blue and seem to be some sorts of holograms; each belongs to someone or something space-related--there's a Guardian, a character that looks a lot like Sardath from the Adam Strange comics--and it reminded me of the earlier Guardians of the Galaxy comics Bendis was writing, when all the bosses of Marvel space would convene to talk about their plans for the galaxy or whatever).

That's followed by another one-page splash. So the first four pages of the comic book consist of just three images and a few hundred words. And of course the 22-page comic book now costs $3.99; not only has Bendis changed anything much about his approach to writing comics just because he moved from one major publisher to the other, but he seems to have brought too much of Marvel with him.

That figure who is doing the talking is one we've seen before, in the Jim Lee-drawn Action #1,000 story: Rogol Zaar, who was trying so hard to kill Superman in that story, and is here petitioning hologram Mount Rushmore to let him destroy Krypton for the good of the galaxy. (They say no, which makes him sad.)

The rest of the issue is devoted to an introduction to Superman as he flies around Metropolis, being Superman. He catches Killer Moth (still not dressing like a moth) and Firefly, visiting from Gotham City, and then helps save some people from a deadly fire and put it out with his amazing super-powers. As he has previously demonstrated, despite some awkward dialogue, Bendis seems to have a good handle on Superman's attitude, writing himself as a genuinely good person who is a little in awe at humanity and feels privileged to have the abilities to help them out so much.

While saving people from a fire is a pretty standard Superman thing to do, this particular fire appears to be the beginning of an ongoing plot point, as Metropolis' new fire chief says it is part of a rash of arsons. She too appears to be a new addition to the cast, alongside the new reporter introduced in DC Nation #0.

Back at The Daily Planet, we're reminded that Lois is missing and only Clark Kent seems to know where or why, and then there's a brief, two-page flashback to what seems like a typical night at home involving Clark, Lois and Jon, when something weird happens, and the three of them look off-panel in fear at something that generates bright light and...the issue ends. (Jay Fabok draws those last two pages.)

So far then, Bendis' Superman run seems to be almost exactly what one might expect from a Bendis Superman run, both the good things and the bad things one might have expected. Overall, it's a very solidly constructed issue though, and it may just be the novelty of a creator so closely established with Marvel working on DC's one-time flagship character, but I remain excited about the future of this book and the franchise after finishing the issue. I do hope the "mystery" isn't drawn out too long, though; if it ends up being a six-issue mystery, than this seems like the sort of book that would read better in trade. On the other hand, it is being published weekly, so a drawn-out mystery is only going to last a month and a half, not half a year.

Hopefully there's no continuity rejiggering involved, as Superman has had more than enough of that in the past six or seven years now, and it hasn't much helped the quality or readability of the comics.

Saga #52 (Image Comics) This remains a great comic, and this particular issue demonstrates how well-plotted the book is, with characters bringing up rather minor points from long, long ago--things that occurred before the first issue, actually, and were only since recounted in flashback--that pay off in other ways further down the road, getting remarked upon and pondered over by characters here. Meanwhile, artist Fiona Staples continues to come up with brilliant designs for crazy creatures, like the one that almost eats a prominent member of the ensemble cast.

As for the accuracy of that cover, Petrichor and Ghus do indeed play in the water in this issue, and the former does indeed where that particular bathing suit while the latter goes nude.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #38 (DC) I'm slightly shocked that it's taken this long for Dynomutt and The Blue Falcon to appear in this series, given how closely the characters are associated with Scooby-Doo and company. Dynomutt, Dog Wonder originally aired as part of the Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour, after all, and the Mystery Inc. gang guest-starred in...let's see...three of the cartoon's sixteen episodes, and ever since Dynomutt has been pretty closely associated with Scooby-Doo (Think Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics, that one episode of Mystery Incorporated, and, most recently, the Scooby-Doo: Mask of the Blue Falcon direct-to-DVD film). In fact, it's taken so long for such an expected team-up that I had begun to wonder if maybe there wasn't some legal hang-up somewhere, as the Daring Duo were also noticeably absent from DC's recent Hanna-Barbereboot books, where they would have fit in fairly perfectly with the various Future Quest superhero characters (well, Blue Falcon would have fit in perfectly; Dynomutt not so much).

Series writer Sholly Fisch, who probably has the most fun gig at DC Comics, is here joined by artist Walter Carzon, who does a fine job (Although given how much the Scooby-Doo characters seem to have all of their poses recycled, I've begun to wonder if they are even drawn into the book at all anymore, and not just dropped-in like branded clip art). Dynomutt has called mystery solvers Scooby-Doo and the gang to Big City to help him solve a potentially supernatural mystery: Blue Falcon has begun acting so out of character, that the Dog Wonder suspects he might be possessed (Spoiler alert: He's not).

How out-of-character is he acting? Well, the character who was conceived as a parody of the TV Batman of the late 1960s has started acting like a parody of the Dark Knight Returns Batman of the late 1980s. Jumping in front of lightning bolts, narrating rather than talking (all of his dialogue appears in blue narration boxes, although the other characters can hear it, and wonder how he's talking without moving his mouth), and copiously quoting from DKR (Here's one: "THis isn't a sidewalk. It's a dog pound-- --and I'm the dogcatcher!").

I suppose it's worth noting that this line of gags isn't unique to this issue; I can remember Cartoon Network's website doing something similar in the 1990s, and echoing the changing styles of Batman in the Blue Falcon character has previously been done in the aforementioned episode of Mystery Incorporated and Mask of The Blue Falcon to various degrees. No one's gone quite so far though, or done it with the same level of specificity that Fisch does here though, perhaps because it needs to be done in Batman's home medium for it to work most effectively.

The other Batman-related gag is that the Mystery Inc kids, who are pretty familiar with Batman at this point in the series in addition to all their animated crossovers, keep pointing out how similar The Blue Falcon is to Batman, to which Dynomutt and B.F. continually respond with a perhaps over-protested ignorance: "Bat-who? Never heard of the guy."

As to what exactly is going on, it's revealed by the end of the twelfth page, and it has a rather clever result that is funny on its own, but could also be read as a bit of meta-textual commentary on the idea of making a children's character darker and more violent...and fandom's reaction to such moves. In the remaining ten pages, Fisch and Carzon wheel out just about every Blue Falcon villain that didn't appear previously in the issue, and consulting only my own fading memory rather than Wikipedia, I think they got 'em all in...or came pretty dang close to doing so). (When the Injustice League appears, Fred incredulously asks if there isn't already an Injustice League, "The one that fights the Justice League? To which the Mr. Mind-like villain The Worm replies, "We're villains! What do we care about trademark infringement!")

I happened to read this particular issue after reading the Super Sons/Dynomutt Special #1 (discussed below), and the fact that they were published pretty much on top of one another likely means I won't be the only one reading them within days of each other and being more or less forced to compare and contrast them. The juxtaposition is informative. In both cases, the writers play with Blue Falcon as a Batman analog, and it's kind of remarkable how much smarter and more self-aware the Fisch-written one geared for kids (that is, "Rated E for Everyone") than the Peter Tomasi-written one geared for grown-ups (that is, "Rated T for Teen") is. In fact, Tomasi's issue pretty much dunderheadedly commits the very sins Fisch was poking fun at. This issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, which was actually published first, reads like a response to the Super Sons crossover special. Taken together, though? While one is clearly far superior to the other, and manages to have its cake and eat it too, I think they make a pretty compelling argument that there should be a Dynomutt and The Blue Falcon comic set in the DC Universe. With Fisch writing.

Super Sons/Dynomutt Special #1 (DC) Structurally, writer Peter Tomasi's script for this 38-page special is a strong one, as he manages to tie the disparate elements of the book together along a particular theme. That's actually no mean feat, considering that the so-called "Super Sons" themselves are kind of an awkwardly grafted-together ongoing team-up. The thing is, as well-plotted as the story might be, it's not a very good Dynomutt and Blue Falcon story...and I question the specific theme as well (It is, in short, death, or, at least, how young Jonathan Kent first starts to come to grips with it as a part of life).

Jonathan has been dragged to Big City, which is apparently a city in the DC Universe, by his parents, who are there to attend the funeral of a guy who used to work with them at the Planet. When he goes outside for some air, he finds his friend/stalker Robin lurking in a tree, waiting for him. And then someone puts his hand, er, paw on Jon's shoulder and we get the first image of Dynomutt we see in the comic.
He's drawn to resemble a real dog dressed in a costume similar to Dynomutt's, and we see that he is badly damaged and near-death. He's lying in a pool of purple oil, his skin is torn away to reveal robot pieces all over, and his fleshy tongue and his robot eyeball are both hanging out of his head. He speaks like he was programmed by one of the animals from Grant Morrison's We3: "...friendsmell...darkpain..SKKZZZZT...need...home..."

It's a pretty damn violent image, in a pretty violent scene, in a pretty violent comic that not only earns, but is really pushing its "T for Teen" rating; this reminded me a bit of that one issue of Nightwing Tomaski wrote forever ago in which the former Boy Wonder brutally murdered much of Batman's rogue's gallery in a ultra-violent dream sequence. That this stars a cartoon character though makes it even worse. Later, near the end of the book, after Blue Falcon is killed by The Red Vulture (who here is a formerly real vulture that Blue Falcon experimented on and turned into a cyborg and is now a weird-looking cyborg zombie that wants to fucking eat our heroes like his namesake might), Dynomutt's body projects a bunch of armor and blades and spikes and he leaps at his foe: "GRRRARR! Murderer-- I'll kill--"
I was pretty surprised by the whole book. Blue Falcon and Dynomutt fit pretty easily into the DC Universe for obvious reasons, so it shouldn't take too much tinkering to integrate them. In fact, after Dynomutt appears to them, Robin explains to Superboy that "At one point, THe Blue Falcon joined Batman's international corporation of crime-fighters and fought against Leviathan and other global threats." That accompanies a panel showing Blue Falcon and Dynomutt posing alongside Batman, Guacho, Chief Man-of-Bats and other members of Batman, Inc (Two minor mistakes appear, too; Orphan Cassandra Cain appears, although she wasn't actually a part of Batman Inc, which was dissolved before she was reintroduced into the post-Flashpoint DCU, and Batman is shown wearing his current, "Rebirth" era costume, not the one he was wearing during the time Batman, Inc was extant). Given Blue Falcon's origin as a Batman parody, including him in Morrison's repurposing of an entire team of international Batman knock-offs was rather addition to making it all the simpler to introduce the characters into the narrative, as it means that Robin can just explain that he already knows them and can do a quick info-dump on them for the benefit of Jon and reader alike.

Why Tomasi and pencil artist Fernando Pasarin (here inked by Oclair Albert) felt the need to go so far in the direction of grim and gritty for this one-shot is pretty much beyond me, though. We learn the not terribly necessary (outside of Tomasi's story about Jon and death) secret origins of the characters, which involves a dog dying, and see them kinda sorta integrated into the DC Universe, only to have them kinda sorta written out. It's just a weird, weird comic, with nothing much to recommend it...beyond, of course, suggesting how easily Blue Falcon and Dynomutt could fit into the DCU if DC really wanted to put them in it. If they ever do return, though, hopefully the only aspect of this particular story DC would keep would be that Blue Falcon used to hang with Batman, Inc.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

On New Challengers #1

*This is the seventh of "The New Age of Heroes" books out of the gate and, like The Immortal Men, it's one that should probably have been the first or second one released, helping to get the troubled line off on the right foot. It, of course, has the benefit of being written by Scott Snyder, who conceived of and wrote the Dark Nights: Metal event series that the "New Age" books are supposedly spinning out of (although the degree to which this is the case varies from book to book). And while the the "New Age" books don't exactly follow up on the events of Metal--you'll want No Justice and the upcoming Justice League line for that--they are supposedly books inspired by Metal. Challengers Mountain, for example, played a role in the series, so Metal likely made some readers think, "Oh yeah, The Challengers! I wonder what's up with them these days...?" Well, Snyder prompted the question, so now he's providing the answer.

Additionally, the artist getting top-billing here is Andy Kubert. I'm not sure if any Big Two artist is a big enough deal at this particular moment in time that their presence on a book alone is enough to make it a hit--not even Jim Lee, who is probably the closest to still being so--but a new Andy Kubert book seems like a bigger, more exciting deal than, say, a new Tony Daniel or a new Philip Tan book.

*While the line's exact remit has been pretty fuzzy ever since it was announced, regarding not only if and how the books were related to Metal,  but also to what degree the artist creators were going to be involved and for how long, and even the line's very name. This particular release underscores another muddy aspect: Just how "new" the characters and concepts are supposed to be. Some books have featured brand-new characters, like The Silencer and Sideways. Some feature brand-new characters making use of old names, like Damage and The Curse of Brimestone. One, The Terrifics, has taken a quartet of pre-existing characters and put them together into a new team. Others, like The Immortal Men and the yet-to-be-released The Unexpected, seem to be mixing pre-existing characters, with new characters using old names and brand-new characters with new names.

New Challengers is...none of the above, exactly, although close to the new characters with old name/concept strategy. This is, after all, an update of DC's old Challengers of The Unknown concept. The Challs are the creation of Jack Kirby (as something like two-thirds of all Big Two IP seems to be some days), from way back in the pre-Silver Age Superhero Revival days. A group of four two-fisted adventuring types with manly-man nicknames, the original team miraculously survived a plane crash, and came to the logical conclusion that they are now living on borrowed time, and therefore they should form a team that takes on extremely dangerous missions investigating occult phenomenon, monsters, mad scientists and the like. Given that they were a group of four adventurers in matching uniforms who addressed fantastic challenges, they are a pretty obvious forerunner of Kirby's more famous co-creation, The Fantastic Four (a fact acknowledged in 1997's Amalgam one-shot, Challengers of The Fantastic by Karl Kesel, Tom Grummett and Al Vey, which amalgamated the two teams into one).

After the initial, successful run in Showcase and then their own book, DC has attempted to bring them back repeatedly, but they never really hit. In 1991, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale gave it a shot (you can probably find that in its collected form, The Challengers of The Unknown Must Die!). In 1997, there was a short-lived revival attempt by Steven Grant, Len Kaminsky, John Paul Leon, Shawn Martinbrough, Jill Thompson and--Hey, that sounds pretty good! Maybe that should be collected in trade--that lasted just 18 issues. And in 2004, Howard Chaykin did an equally forgotten miniseries. The last time we saw the Challengers was in a 2012 issue of the DC Universe Presents title, wherein Dan DiDio and Jerry Ordway introduced The New 52 iteration of the team in a three-issue arc that involved reality television.

In other words, the Challengers are probably due for another attempt at their own title, and making that title something that can survive, let alone succeed, is going to be, well, a challenge.

*So, the cover. As I've mentioned with, like, every one of these "New Age" books so far, the artists really struggle with the vertical gatefold space. Kubert's strategy for the cover was to make use of the hourglass motif, which has served as the icon for past incarnations of the team--that whole borrowed time motif--but in order to fit an hourglass into that space, he has to elongate it so that it is much, much, much taller than it is wide, to the point it doesn't really look all that much like an hourglass anymore.

The other weird thing about the cover? See the rather ugly guy who appears as a giant head behind the team? I'm not entirely sure what his deal is--I've barely read any past Challengers comics, so I'm not sure if he's a pre-existing character or not--but the cover gives us a pretty good look at his face. The opening scene of the comic, however, features that very character, his face almost completely wrapped in bandages, Unknown Soldier-style, so that pretty much the only thing we can see of him are his two mismatched eyes. Obviously the reveal of what he looks like under those bandages is going to be something of a moment in the story eventually, but Kubert spoils his own moment by putting the guy right there on the cover, un-bandaged. I suppose it would be a little like having a helmetless Darth Vader on the Return of The Jedi movie poster. (Only not really.)

*Snyder and/or Kubert have come up with a pretty decent set-up for the new series. Instead of trying to come up with a brand-new, completely original take that will definitely work where all the other, post-Silver Age revival attempts failed, theirs seeks to incorporate all previous takes. So instead of all surviving from the same plane crash, the New Challengers all survive different deaths, and are brought at the instant of their deaths to Challengers Mountain via teleporter by a mysterious Professor character. (Actually, he says they did all die, and are being given additional time to serve as the latest Challengers of The Unknown, tweaking the borrowed time aspect so that he's essentially the one loaning them their borrowed time, and they will have to repay him through their service).

At one point, he shows them a room full of holographic memorials to Challengers past, and while I couldn't pick out any faces save for the ones he points out as the longest serving ones (that is, the originals), the implication is that there has been a long, long line of various teams of Challengers before, some known and some unknown. Thus, all of the other teams that have been introduced in various revival and reboot attempts could be incorporated into the narrative of this new series.

It is a rather Grant Morrison-y, "everything counts" kind of take.

*The other tweaks to the borrowed time elements are that these Challengers can only remain alive while inside Challengers Mountain; once outside on a mission the little hourglass tattoos they have start counting down the allotted time they have been given to complete their assignment and, when it runs out, they die pretty horrible-looking deaths. So for each and every mission, they seemingly need to "borrow" enough time to fulfill their mission. It's somewhat Suicide Squad-y, in that they are forced into taking on these dangerous missions on pain of death, but it is yet to be revealed if The Professor is all that Amanda Waller-y or not.

*Our four new Challengers are Trina Alvarez, Moses Barber, Bethany Hopkins and "Krunch," whose name whose name is apparently spelled the way so he can't be sued by any candy bar manufacturers. Of them, we only spend much time with Trina, and by "much time" I mean five pages. She is--er, was--a Gotham City herbalist struggling to carry on her grandmother's legacy by helping those in her neighborhood. Her old life comes to an end during a Justice League vs. aliens fight (So Kubert draws the pre-Metal Justice League for one whole panel here). One assumes we'll see the deaths of the other three Challs in the coming issues.

*They get their matching costumes, and go on their first mission, which is just beginning when the issue ends with a cliffhanger.

*Beyond what I said up top about this being a better comic to start the line with, it's also one of the better ones in terms of quality and in terms of being a first issue. Like, there are still a lot of questions left unanswered by the end of the first issue, but there's a sufficient amount of information to get an idea of where the comic might be going and what future issues might be like, so a reader can probably make an informed-ish decision about whether or not they want to read #2.

*I would, but I think I'll just trade-wait this. My prior experience with Snyder's work has lead me to believe it reads better in trade than single issues...although Metal was a pretty great read on a serial basis...


On The Immortal Men #1

On The Curse of Brimstone #1

On The Terrifics #1

On Sideways #1

On The Silencer #1

On Damage #1