Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The rest of the Civil War II tie-ins that I managed to read.

Civil War II: Gods of War
By Dan Abnett, Emilio Laiso, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II: 1 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: No
Side: Not applicable

This particular trade paperback demonstrates an admirable degree of mercenary cynicism on the part of the publisher. Presented and sold as a special miniseries tying in to Civil War II--note that "Civil War II" is the title, not the sub-title--the four-issue series is in actuality nothing more than the next (and final) four issues of the immediately-canceled Hercules ongoing series by writer Dan Abnett.

In fact, it would take a very generous reading to consider this a tie-in to Civil War II, as to say the events of the series are shoe-horned in would be pushing it.

The first issue, the only one that ties-in to the series whose name the series bears, finds Hercules staring at and resisting a glass of whiskey in a New York City bar, when his old friend Amadeus Cho drops by to check in on Herc, which allows for a quick recap of the events of Hercules. The hero has quit drinking in an effort to try and dispel his reputation as an overly-boisterous, Cretan Bull-in-a-china shop of a superhero, and he is currently living in Queens with a group of mystical allies, contending with new gods called The Rising Storm, gods who wish to supplant the old gods once and for all. They are named Cryptomnesia, Catastrophobia and Horrorscope, and have modern spheres of influence, like, for example, being the god of information. They want to recruit Herc as their god of chaos.

Cho and Herc's hangout time is interrupted by the appearance of The Celestial Destructor in New York City, and...that's the point at which this series intersects with Civil War the very beginning, during the sort of generic scene where all of the heroes of the Marvel Universe unite against a big, random threat for a fight scene. The way in which this figures in is that the Rising Storm confront Hercules in the midst of the battle, but since only he can see them, it makes some of his peers--She-Hulk and Totally Awesome Hulk Amadeus Cho--wonder what's up with Herc. That, and the fact that Iron Man and Captain Marvel called in all of the heroes to confront the Destructor, but not Herc, so he feels left out by his peers again.

And that's about it, in terms of tie-in.

In the next issue, Hercules puts together his own team of mythological characters he calls the Gods of War: Beowulf, Thesus, Gilgamesh and some Asgardians. Their mission? To put an end to the Rising Storm.

In the issue after that, the Storm manage to take over Hercules' mind, and some of his fellow Marvel heroes attempt to take him down, until they realize he's under a spell and manage to break it. I guess this technically provides some hero vs. hero fighting, as Captain Marvel, Spider-Man Peter Parker, Captain America Steve Rogers and Medusa try to bring Herc down, but it's not really Civil War II related. There is a line of dialogue wherein Captain America tells Captain Marvel that The Hulk is their main priority at the moment--I guess Gods of War #3 somehow fits between the moment in which Ulysses' vision of The Hulk killing all the heroes, and the heroes' confrontation with Bruce Banner--and, after the end of their fight, Captain Marvel warns Hercules that they will be watching him.

And, in the fourth and final issue, Hecules and the Gods of War take on and take down The Rising Storm. The end.

Because that isn't enough pages to reasonably fill up a trade paperback, Marvel inflates the page count with a reprint of the Herc-centric pages of 1965's Journey Into Mystery Annual #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. That's a Thor vs. Herc story, if you're wondering.

Deadpool: World's Greatest Vol. 5--Civil War II
By Gerry Duggan, Mike Hawthorne, Scott Koblish, Terry Pallot and others
136 pages; $17.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II: 2 out of 6
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Eh, not really
Side: Indeterminate from this collection

The majority of this collection is dedicated to the five-part "Deadpool's Uncivil War" story arc, which ties fairly directly into the events of Civil War II at the outset, but then wanders off, its tie-in being more of a thematic one. That is, after Deadpool and World's Greatest's supporting cast deals with the Celestial giant and Deadpool calls bullshit on Ulysses, the rest of the arc deals with the Deadpool fighting...much of his peer group, up to and including his own wife.

Writer Gerry Duggan might lose interest in the events of Civil War II and the idea of predictive justice and free will vs. destiny pretty quickly, but he's able to maintain  hero vs. hero fighting for quite a while--or, at least, merc versus merc fighting.

Having not been reading Deadpool since for pretty much ever, and this collection contains issues #14-#19 of this particular iteration of the primary Deadpool comic, I can only guess as to what was going on before the start of this series. Apparently, Deadpool's "failed reboot of Heroes For Hire" The Mercs For Money--around whom another of Deadpool's endless spin-off series was built--functioned for a time as part of this book's cast.

These were a group of minor-ish Marvel characters that were attached to Deadpool to form a sort of super-team of mercenaries: Stingray, Slapstick, Solo, Foolkiller II, Terror (of Terror, Inc) and Masacre (The last of whom is a character who wears what looks like a home-made Deadpool mask, fights with machetes and only speaks in untranslated Spanish and...that's the one joke associated with the character, apparently).

When "Uncivil War" begins, Deadpool is enjoying and not-enjoying domestic life with his demon wife Shiklah in the underground monster city where Marvel's various 1970s horror characters all live and work together. They are called top-side by the rest of the Mercs to help deal with the Celestial Destructor from the Marvel Universe-wide team-up that kicked off Civil War II, but only Deadpool gets invited to the after-party at Stark Tower (There we see Deadpool chatting with The Vision about Ulysses' powers and then Ulysses himself; Deadpool doesn't buy into precognition).

That he gets invited to the cool superhero parties and they don't is one of the many things that rankles the ranks of his team, but when they discover that Deadpool has been cheating them out of the money he owes them, they decide to break-up with him en masse. To do this, they apparently need to break into a bank in New Jersey in order to destroy the contracts they signed with him. They make their move during the second chapter of the arc, in which Deadpool breaks into The Ultimates' Triskelion HQ to confront Ulysses (Which is kind of a weird, given the fact that they were just having a pleasant face-to-face the issue prior, but Duggan does have Deadpool half-explain why he chose that particular route).

This leads to a long, drag-out fight against The Black Panther which is...out-of-left field, even in the context of a Deadpool comic. From what we're given, BP seems mad that Deadpool broke into the Triskelion, and thus wants to beat him up, Deadpool's taunts and increasingly lewd behavior eventually driving T'Challa to bellow out how he's going to kill Deadpool, all of which seem...less than Black Panther-esque. (The fight choreography in their battle, which stretches out over the better part of eight pages, is pretty superior for a modern Marvel superhero comic book though; usually fight scenes just consist of two characters posing, with no sense that one action leads to that of the next panel.)

From there, Deadpool fights the rest of his team, which is interrupted by an extended flashback scene in which Solo explains how he saved America while dressed as Deadpool, inadvertently making the character more popular and respectable, and then, once the fight is resumed, it is ultimately broken up for bood by SHIELD.

Then Deadpool fights Shiklah for five pages, and hangs out with Rogue, his teammate on The Avengers Unity Squad (the team from the Uncanny Avengers book that launched post-AVX).

The final issue in the collection, set in Marvel's 2099 setting, is only related to what preceded it loosely, as throughout "Uncivil War" DP expressed concern for his daughter and what her future will bring her. Here, we see it. I have to assume this is a story in-progress, doled out in occasional chapters like this, as I could barely make heads-or-tails out of what was happening; that, or one simply needed a better understanding of Duggan's longer-form Deadpool series than what I got from these five issues.

Guardians of The Galaxy: New Guard Vol. 3--Civil War II
By Brian Michael Bendis, Valerio Schiti, Kevin Maguire and Richard Isanove
136 pages; $19.99
Number of issues tied to Civil War II: 3 out of 4
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: No
Side: Team Carol

So the Guardians of The Galaxy play a decidedly minor role in Civil War II. In the series' one big superhero battle, when Team Tony (i.e. the Good Guys) confront Team Carol (that is, the Bad Guys) atop the Triskelion, Carol and her handful of teammates seem hopelessly outnumbered. And then Carol dramatically says she has friends all over, and into the fray jump The Guardians. And that is pretty much the extent of their participation.

This trade, or at least 60 pages or so of it, are devoted to Bendis explaining what, exactly, the Guardians were doing just before they joined the battle  on the last page of the fourth issue. It's not exactly the Marvel Universe's most burning question, and it's pretty easy to suss out from the context given--Carol Danvers was a member of the Guardians for a while, and they naturally like her a lot better than they like Tony Stark, even though he too was a member of their team for a while--but, to his credit, Bendis uses the tie-in as a way to break up the the team and move them into a new and different setting. At least for a while.

The collection is of particularly poor value, though. At $20 for just four issues, it's actually more expensive to read Guardians of the Galaxy #11-#14 in trade paperback than it would have been in $3.99/20-page installments; the other 50 pages or so are made up of the 11-page Civil War II story from Free Comic Book Day 2016 (Civil War II) #1, thirty fucking pages of artist Valerio Schiti's pencil art and inked art at various sizes and sundry variant covers.

What's here isn't bad, of course, but it kinda boggles my mind that Marvel still has customers, let alone fans, when the publisher seems to go out of their ways to rip them off with collections like this.

The Civil War II tie-in story arc is three issues, neatly divided into an issue devoted to what the Guardians do before their appearance in Civil War II, an issue devoted to what they were doing immediately before and after the battle and then an issue dealing with the aftermath.

At the opening, the current Guardians line-up--the characters from the movie, plus Angela, Venom Flash Thompson, Benjamin "The Thing" Grimm and Kitty Pryde--are celebrating  a victory that probably occurred in issue #10, and then vote on whether or not they should answer the call for help they received from Carol (Or, as Peter Quill puts it, "Go back to Earth and stick our noses in it"). Rocket, who votes no, is outnumbered, and so they go to Earth.

While various characters have certain concerns about fighting Avengers--although, perhaps as a way of rationalizing their actions in Civil War II proper, none of them are much briefed on who is on what side and why; they just hear Carol's side of things and that Tony is intent on stopping her--the bigger conflict for the Guardians is that Carol tells Peter that Thanos attacked Earth (that part is in the Free Comic Book Day story that is republished here, and in several other collections) and is currently being held prisoner by Carol, and he decides to keep that from Gamora, Drax and the rest of the team, despite the fact that they are going to be murderously, vengefully pissed at him if and when they find out.

In the third, they find out. Just after the Guardians' ship is destroyed, stranding them on Earth, and the team breaks up...after a fight between Carol and Gamora. (I'm not sure what followed in the pages of Guardians of The Galaxy, but the Star-Lord miniseries by Chip Zdarsky was actually pretty great.)

Bendis does a decent impression of the dialogue ticks and character chemistry from the films, replicating it for the Marvel Comics Universe and adding other characters to the mix, and artist Valerio Schiti is great with the character "acting," so even though a great deal of the action in these three issues is the characters talking and bickering, it's fun to look at and read on a panel by panel or page by page basis.

The fourth issue included has but a single page set in the present, in which Rocket eats Earth fast food in a park and laments his lot in life, and then he flashes back to an earlier adventure kinda sorta involving Spider-Man Peter Parker--who is actually unconscious throughout the entire story, while a Super-Skrull impersonates him--that is mostly an excellent showcase for the formidable skills of artist Kevin Maguire. Like Schiti, he is an excellent "actor" of an artist, although his artwork is also much more detailed. It's just a standalone, 20-page story, but it's also a tour de force.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 6: Civil War II
By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa, Mirka Andolfo and others
136 pages; $17.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II: 4 out of 6
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Yes
Side: Team Carol...then Team Tony...then neutral

G. Willow Wilson's Civil War II tie-in arc is sandwiched between two done-in-ones that do a pretty great job of demonstrating the "before" and "after" of the effects of the war. In the before, drawn by original Ms. Marvel artist Adrian Alphona, we see Kamala Khan and her pals from high school competing in a Tri-State Science Fair competition...against a team lead by Miles Morales, aka (the shorter) Spider-Man. In the after, drawn by guest-artist Mirka Andolfo, Kamala leaves America for Karachi, only to learn that as far away as she gets from her problems in Jersey City, she can't get away from being Ms. Marvel...nor from feeling like an outsider.

And in the middle? Wilson eschews showing the events of Civil War II involving Kamala to instead focus on "the home front" of her particular book. Ulysses, who looks an awful lot like Bruno, appears alongside Medusa in the last panels of issue #7 (colorist Ian Herring gives him a blue shirt, which means Ulysses did indeed change t shirts at least once during the civil war), after which point Ms. Marvel is summoned to Captain Marvel's Alpha Flight base and given an assignment: Team with and supervise Becky St. Jude and three other "vetted volunteers" who are going to be acting on Ulysses' intelligence in Jersey City.

These Carol Cadets, as Kamala calls them, are all normal human beings, so she's the only super-powered person among them. They get to crime-fighting right away, and some of it is fairly funny, as when Ms. Marvel grows giant and picks up a guy and tells him not to rob the bodega he's thinking about robbing, before dropping him and rushing off to deal with a more pressing emergency. Pretty much everyone Kamala knows informs her that this whole predictive justice thing is bullshit, her sister-in-law comparing it to the way black people were policed and noting that incarcerating innocent people can essentially turn them into criminals, but Kamala doesn't entirely wake up until it gets personal. A classmate gets citizen-arrested and put in a homemade Guantanamo by the Cadets (who dress like Hitler Youth), Carol snaps at Kamala when she tries to voice her concerns and Bruno gets very badly injured trying to rescue a classmate, leading to the sudden end of his friendship with Ms. Marvel.

In an attempt to fix things, Ms. Marvel conspires with a Canadian ninja to commit a crime Ulysses will predict, and then to reveal to the Cadets, Captain Marvel and Iron Man that it was a fake crime. It doesn't...quite work, but it brings the storyline to an end somewhat satisfactorily, allowing Wilson to focus on the emotional fall-out, as the thing between Kamala and Bruno is much, much bigger than the Civil War II stuff. At least for Ms. Marvel.

Wilson vocalizes concerns about Carol's dumb initiative in ways other Marvel writers don't. For example, Kamala immediately asks Carol if this isn't a little like profiling, which is, you know, bad, and Carol retorts that it isn't profiling an entire group of people, which is bad, but profiling a single individual person. It's the difference between Pakistani-American Muslims with dual citizenship who live in Jersey City and Kamala Khan, I guess (Ironically, in the epilogue issue, Kamala gets pulled aside for extra frisking at the airport because her last name is "Khan"; Wilson seems to acknowledge that Kamala is familiar with the negative aspects of profiling, and is mainly involved with this nonsense at all because it's her hero Carol Danvers who is asking her to be).

Hijinx, the leader of the anti-capitalist Canadian Ninja Syndicate, pretty directly references Minority Report too, which is something I think everyone who talked about Civil War II on the Internet at all did, but I don't recall seeing anyone in the pages of one of these tie-ins do.
The presence of Hijinx doesn't quite sit well with the emotional content, particularly the scenes of Kamala's family history, which Wilson writes and Alphona draws throughout the Takeshi Miyazawa-drawn arc. The presence of these scenes is important, particularly as they show how Kamala is the culmination of a few generations worth of stories, and noting that her family's very presence in America is the indirect result of a real civil war, but the rapid tonal shifts of this story arc, and this trade collection, are a little off-putting.

That said, this is one of the more ambitious of the Civil War II tie-ins, and, with three great artists involved, one of the all-around better-looking.

Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears Vol. 2--Civil War II
By Dennis Hopeless, Javier Rodriguez, Veronica Fish, Tigh Walker and others
112 pages; $15.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II: 3 out of 5
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Yes
Side: Reluctantly Team Carol...then anti-Carol...then neutral

The comic book starring Spider-Woman Jessica Drew is in a particularly precarious place regarding the events of Civil War II, because Carol Danvers is Jessica's best friend and a semi-regular supporting character in the series, but, in order for Jessica to side with Carol, it would mean that she would have to take the side of an argument that is clearly wrong and, essentially, choose to side with the bad guys (or, here, the bad good guys) rather than the good guys (the good good guys).

So how does writer Dennis Hopeless address this? By having Jessica trying very, very hard to stay out of it as completely as possible and, when forced to confront the events in the miniseries, using it as a turning point in her relationship with Carol. Unlike so many of the other comics in which a colleague argues with or comes to blows with Carol, this one has real dramatic resonance, because their relationship has been consistently portrayed as so close...not just in past Marvel Comics from over the decades, but in previous issues of this very series by this very creative team.

As with the Ms. Marvel collection discussed above, Spider-Woman Vol. 2 has three issues that tie-in to Civil War II, and they are book-ended by two done-in-ones that do not. In the first, newly back-in-the-game Spider-Woman takes on and takes down Tiger Shark, a villain that rather vastly overpowers her, with the support of her team Ben Urich and The Porcupine. In the last issue, Jessica and her baby son Gerry meet The Porcupine and his daughter Kalie on the beach, where Porcupine battles The Sandman.

The Civil War II tie-in comes in three distinct phases. In the first issue of these, Jessica, Roger, Ben and Gerry are in Canada, investigating the most recent outbreak of Wendigos. Jessica is rather pointedly ignoring Carol's repeated phone calls trying to sell her on the idea of "predictive justice", and focusing on her detective work provides a pretty great excuse. Carol eventually just shows up in person to solve the case for Team Spider-Woman--well, to help them beat down all the Wendigos--in order to finally make the pitch face-to-face. Jessica still isn't convinced, but Carol doesn't want her on Team Carol at this point; she just wants her detective team to follow-up on a bunch of the smaller Ulysses predictions, in order to make sure they check out.

The next issue follows Spider-Woman and her boys as they travel the country--and beyond!--checking on Ulysses' predictions (none of the ones that appear in other comics), and Spider-Woman is forced to admit that the Inhuman future predictor is seemingly batting a thousand and there may be something to predictive justice after all. Unfortunately, she's in the process of making that phone call to Carol just as news breaks that Hawkeye Clint Barton has just shot Bruce Banner in the head with an arrow, killing him.

The final installment has a pretty enraged Jessica--one friend killed another friend because of events set in motion by her best friend, after all--trying to investigate what the fuck exactly happened and why, ultimately leading her into conflict with Carol, who basically just absorbs all of Jessica's blows and insults in her Alpha Flight base, until Jessica's rage is spent and she tells Carol off, saying that they are over.

The major problem with Civil War II was always that Carol is so clearly wrong all the time, but writer Dennis Hopeless does a fine job of first making a case for why Carol might believe in Ulysses' powers--that is, Spider-Woman confirming that they are all coming true so far--and then focusing on the drama of friends fighting, rather than just random superheroes fighting one another. It's extremely effective, in large part because Hopeless has already demonstrated how tight Carol and Jessica are, and also because the light, comedic tone of the book makes the emotional content of the Civil War II tie-in such a sharp departure. It's not exactly a 180-degree turn, but the book definitely shifts sharply, and it does so purposefully.

Every nice thing I've ever said about pencil artist Javier Rodriguez still applies here. His artwork is fantastic, his story-telling superlative and his layouts consistently clever and engaging. He pencils the first two of these five issues, with Alvaro Lopez handling the inks. Rodirguez does the layouts for the third issue, while Veronica Fish finishes it. Then Fish handles the next issue solo. The fifth and final of these is a collaboration between Tigh Walker, who is credited simply with "layouts," and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg.

Whether serendipity or planning, it all works out quite well, as the Rodriguez/Fish collaboration coming between the Rodirguez-penciled issues and the Fish-drawn one eases the reader into the transition nicely, to the point that I barely noticed it. The Walker/Rosenberg issue is a stylistic departure, but the art is still great and the story itself is a departure. While the others may have been connected, this one is literally about Jessica taking a day off--the only mention of the events of the previous issue is when she turns off the TV with a "Nobody. Cares." when Captain Marvel appears on it--and she stays in plain clothes while Roger suits up as The Porcupine to battle a Spider-Man villain far higher on the rogue's gallery ratings that he is.

In the Wendigo issue, Spider-Woman sports a cool white and powder-blue version of her costume, and when she tries to infiltrate Alpha Flight, she has a gray and black "stealth" version of her costume. I liked them both a lot.

The Totally Awesome Hulk Vol. 2: Civil War II
By Greg Pak, Alan Davis, Mahmud Asrar, Mike Del Mundo and others
136 pages; $17.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II: 4 out of 6
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Inconclusive
Side: Netural-ish

Bruce Banner, the original Incredible Hulk, is one of the three major collateral damage characters in Civil War II, along with War Machine James Rhodes and, to a lesser extent, Banner's own cousin, She-Hulk, the latter of whom is merely horribly wounded and then changed forever (temporarily), rather than outright killed off like the other two.

Naturally then, Marvel's Hulk book--The Totally Awesome Hulk, starring teen genius Amadeus Cho--is practically forced to comment in a major way on the events of Civil War II. The problem for writer Greg Pak is that the events of Civil War II completely contradict those of earlier issues of Totally Awesome Hulk, of which there were only six before those collected here. The events of Civil War II contradict those of Hulk so much, in fact, that it seems Bendis had not even read Banner's latest appearances before writing him into Civil War II, or at least been, you know, told about them in enough detail to fake like he had.

So, to review, there was a catastrophic nuclear meltdown occurring off the coast of Africa, threatening to lives of millions on the continent. Bruce Banner turned into The Hulk and leapt into action, planning to absorb all of the radiation himself. Unfortunately, the nuclear energy and his own gamma energy reacted in some comic book science-y way that turned the Hulk himself into the meltdown, and so the assembled super-scientists were preparing to teleport him to the Negative Zone so that he could explode there without killing quite so many...probably because Iron Man didn't have a rocket all prepped and ready to shoot him off into space instead.

Amadeus Cho shows up and, using his own super-science brain, concocts a way to not only save the day, but also permanently cure Banner from being The Hulk...and, shortly thereafter, Cho becomes the new Hulk himself. ("Trade secret," he tells Banner when asked how he accomplished this feat).

But in Civil War II, the future-predicting Inhuman Ulysses has a vision of The Hulk killing all the other Marvels, and when Captain Marvel, Iron Man and a who's who of the Marvel Universe confront Banner en masse, they discover that he has been recklessly experimenting on himself in an attempt to cure himself of ever being the Hulk again which, um, Cho had already done. Months ago. And then Hawkeye Clint Barton shot Banner to death with an arrow because to his keen eyes it looked like Banner was about to transform. That shouldn't be possible, of course--either the fact that Banner was about to transform or that he could be killed by an arrow in the head--but it was then revealed by Bendis that at some point in the past Banner had asked Hawkeye to kill him with a specially-prepared arrow if it seemed like he was going to become The Hulk again. I don't know. It was all very dumb.

So that's what Pak got to clean up. For the most part, in Civil War II and pretty much any other Marvel book, the two stories contradicting each other so directly could be dealt with by frantic hand-waving, and generous readers just forgiving it as the sort of thing that happens in big, dumb superhero comics events like this (Civil War II required an extremely generous readership, really). Pak doesn't have that luxury, though, as readers of Totally Awesome Hulk are the (unfortunately small) sub-set of Marvel readers who would realize and perhaps even care how big the gulf between the Banner-related events of Civil War II and where we last saw Banner really was.

Pak addresses the problem mainly by ignoring it altogether. In the six-issues of the title collected here, two feature Banner, Cho and what could be called "The Hulk Family," while the next four pick up after the Hulk-related events of Civil War II. It's a rather unconvincing solution, but read all on its own, it works, and the writing and the art on all six of these issues is pretty damn good.

The two-part storyline running through #7 and #8 is illustrated by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer, a superior art team whose presence here raises the question of why they are so infrequently seen on mainstream superhero comics these days. I assume, and hope, it is by choice. It's hard to imagine there are editors looking at these guys' work and thinking they are too old or out-of-style or something. The story-telling is impeccable. The first of these issues is basically a Banner solo story, as he wanders about the world, constantly surprised by the fact that he is finally Hulk-free. At one point, Cho rescues him from a fight--over a stolen shirt, which is actually kind of funny--and recaps recent history to him before bounding away. At another, Iron Man confronts him, and asks him about his issues, as it seems like he just might be trying to kill himself.

In the second half, Cho finds Banner burning up with fever, and takes him to an old Hulk hide-out in the desert, where he and his little sister Maddy try to nurse him back to health. Maddy calls She-Hulk and Rick Jones, and they all spend some quiet time together, ultimately focusing not just on Bruce's wellness and unusual (for him) happiness, but an emerging problem with Cho's more id-driven  version of a Hulk.

The eleventh issue skips ahead, and opens with a slightly inaccurate recap page, saying that Amadeus has just heard the news about Hawkeye having "executed" Banner. In reality, the story picks up after Barton was acquitted of the crime and walked away a free man--one of those many things you just have to ignore about Civil War II is that it includes the world's fastest, least-realistic murder trial, which seems all the speedier given that it would have to be, in the world of the Marvel Universe, the trial of century: A founding Avenger, killed by another long-time Avenger, as part of some weird suicide/murder pact, over vague reasons involving bleeding-edge science and...untestable, bio-organic super-powers exhibited by a mutant-esque minority group...? It takes our justice system years and years to decide issues regarding the sale of wedding cakes to same-sex couples, but Hawkeye is cleared of murder in weeks, if not days.

Anyway, Cho is in the fetal position in a Cleveland hotel with Maddy, while Carol Danvers, Captain America Steve Rogers and a whole bunch of armored, armed, flying SHIELD agents show up with weapons pointed at him to ask him not to get mad or anything (Apparently, Danvers didn't learn anything from the Banner Hulk episode). The bulk of this issue is devoted to their stand-off, although towards the end Cho does Hulk out and start leaping towards Barton, with Carol and her then-ally The Black Panther keeping close watch over him. Michael Del Mundo draws this issue, which means there are three in a row that are pretty spectacular-looking. Del Mundo's style looks little like Davis', of course, and is highly-painterly; it's a little unusual here for how much it focuses on normal people in conversation. Cho spends more time as himself than he does as The Hulk.

Del Mundo's final image of the issue, of the Panther in a suit of adorable kitty cat-themed battle armor, is amazing:
And, finally, in the last three issues we get to the heroes-fighting-one-another aspect of the event series. T'Challa decides to take point on keeping Cho away from Barton, violently if it comes to that. It comes to that, although whose fault their clash ultimately is could be up for debate. It becomes a moot point when Maddy gets in over her head fighting the monster she would prefer Cho focus on instead of confronting Barton, and T'Challa and Cho have to team-up to save her...although she ends up saving both of them from either having to sacrifice themselves or from doing something terrible to the other.

It is, perhaps, strange that Pak has T'Challa step up to take on Cho instead of using Carol in that role, as Carol was used as the heavy in most of the Civil War II tie-in books, and, as we know, T'Challa eventually turns on her when he decides she's taken things too far. On the other hand, the fact that he wasn't used quite as often in the role of the antagonist made his presence here seem a little more refreshing, and the fact that he was there at the beginning of Cho's Hulk career and is, like Cho, a super-scientist, makes him a more fitting opponent.

Also, it allowed first Del Mundo and then Mahmud Asrar to draw the cat-themed Hulkbuster armor.

The Ultimates: Omniversal Vol. 2--Civil War II
By Al Ewing, Kenneth Rocafort, Djibril Morissette and others
136 pages; $17.99
Number of issues tied-to Civil War II: 6 out of 6
Do the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong and Tony is right?: Kinda complicated here, but the events demonstrate that Carol is wrong more than that Tony is right.
Side: The Ultimates all start on Team Carol...and then they gradually splinter

As one of the books starring one of Captain Marvel's several superhero teams, The Ultimates was in a somewhat difficult position for the events of Civil War II. Because Brian Michael Bendis made Carol so unequivocally the bad guy of the main event series, Ultimates writer Al Ewing has to meet the challenge of making Carol and her position sympathetic, while simultaneously explaining why the rest of her team follows what is pretty clearly a bad idea for so long, as well as foreshadowing the eventual cleavage in the team which, in Civil War II proper, happens more or less all of a sudden.

Ewing pulls it off pretty well. From the very first issue, there are pretty dramatic differences between several members of the Ultimates line-up--Captain Marvel Carol Danvers, former Captain Marvel Monica "Spectrum" Rambeau, The Blue Marvel, The Black Panther and Ms. America. The first and most significant of these is between The Blue Marvel and The Panther, over how to deal with the captive Anti-Man. After the introduction of Ulysses, there are disagreements about how to use predictive justice and how far to go, with everyone eventually turning on Carol to some extent--only to be interrupted by a greater threat.

The events of Civil War II wind in and out of the narrative, although Ewing mostly concentrates on what happens between those events, and how the members of the team react to them, and view Carol's place in them. So in the first issue, we see Project PEGASUS working on a cosmic cube initiative, which draws the attention of Thanos. In the second, we see the team preparing for the deadly fight with him shown in the pages of Civil War II, and then the aftermath. In the other issues, Blue Marvel begins to question Carol's use of Ulysses' powers in the cases of Hawkeye's murder of Bruce Banner and her rendition of the banking lady with the empty briefcase.

The team does finally come to blows, with America grabbing a chair and hitting Carol with it while the adults all argue with words, but that fight is pre-empted by Thanos' escape from his cell in the basement of their headquarters. The final issue is sort of an epilogue, showing where the various Ultimate end up after the events of Civil War II. Essentially the team is dissolved and all five have gone their separate ways, with Carol having made up with everyone except T'Challa.

Their break-up obviously isn't meant to be permanent. While the final issue in this collection is the final issue of Ewing and company's 12-issue run on the series, it was immediately relaunched with Ultimates 2 #1, picking up on the cliffhanger ending of the last pages of this particular collection. I guess this is a pretty salient example of how screwed up Marvel is...and was at this point. Instead of being a single, 24-issue series, the book ran for 12 issues as The Ultimates and 12 as The Utimates 2...ending with #100, not #12, because...well, who knows why.

The premise for the series was that of a pro-active super-team, a done-to-death idea, yes, but Ewing's take was not to put them forward as the sort of extra-aggressive super-team that goes out looking for trouble, but which finds unsolveable cosmic problems, and then solves them. In that respect, they're a bit of a mix of The Fantastic Four and The Avengers (In fact, the first volume of the series seems to have been devoted to confronting Galactus, who appears occasionally in this volume).

The official artist of the series was Kenneth Rocafort, whose layouts are sometimes pretty strange, and he has a weird habit of drawing weird, brightly-colored geometric patterns that evoke old-school Trapper Keeper art to me and...don't really seem to serve the particular story in anyway. They must just be some personal style flourish, as he did the same with his DC Comics work. He can't keep up with the accelerated, more-than-monthly schedule, as few artists seem able to do, so Djibril Morrissette fills in quite a bit, drawing parts of three issues that Rocafort couldn't. Christina Ward draws the final issue as a fill-in artist.

While the ins and outs of the predictive justice business and the other Ultimates' allegiance to and/or rebellion against Carol meets the Civil War II plot requirements, perhaps the most satisfying aspect is that it fleshes out Thanos' role. The character is supposed to be such a threat to the Marvel Universe that his rather random popping in just to kill War Machine in an earlier chapter and then wandering out of the story felt kind of out-of-left field. Here he's given motivation, is presented as a serious threat and problem and something of an ongoing one, necessitating a rematch with a handful of the characters who were present at the early Civil War II fight.

I hate that the other Ultimates call America "Mac." It doesn't make sense to me.


Here's the first post I wrote on Marvel's many,  many Civil War II tie-in collections. Here's my post about Civil War II itself. And here's my review of Civil War II: Choosing Sides. Taken all together, these four posts and, I don't know, four million words may seem like a pretty damn thorough accounting of the Civil War II event, but I still didn't cover everything. From what I can figure out from the Internet, there's still Civil War II: Fallout, Civil War II: Kingpin and Squadron Supreme: Civil War II, plus a whole bunch of shorter stories that didn't end up collected in trades with the words "Civil War II" in their titles, but even I have my limits...

I had thought about trying to cover all the Secret Empire tie-ins, or at least as many as I could stand to read, but I think trying to read all the Civil War II tie-ins taught me to never, ever try something like this again.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The five best parts of Scott Peterson, Kelley Jones and Michelle Madsen's Batman: Kings of Fear #1

1.) The first panel. That image above is the very first panel of Scott Peterson and Kelley Jones' first issue of Batman: Kings of Fear. It's also a splash page. So you open the cover and you are immediately confronted with that.

What is it? Well, you won't know for sure until you turn the page, but that's The Joker's eye. He is peering into a hole in an empty crate in a warehouse--in other words, just peering into the dark--and calling out Batman, who he knows is lurking in the dark somewhere nearby, waiting to make his grand entrance.

That is one scary eye. Not just in the detail of the human eye itself, which is, of course, a weird and awful thing to look at too closely or in too much detail, but in the black furrows in The Joker's white skin around the eye. He is making a very intense, very emotional anger smile, as is apparent from the wrinkles in the area around his eyes.

2.) Batman's fight with The Joker's henchmen. Wow. That's all one page. The fifth page to be exact. So, as you'll already know if you've read the issue, the first page is a splash page featuring The Joker's huge staring eye looking directly at the reader through the jagged hole in the wooden crate. That's the page pictured above this one. The second and third pages are a double-page splash, showing the wide-mouthed Joker staring into the hole from the outside of the crate and worming his index finger into it, his henchmen gathered and posing all around him and he calls out to Batman. The fourth page has him summoning Batman through a sudden act of violence. And then you get this page. So after several pages devoted to scene-setting, the action starts, and we get a page crowded with all of these little panels, detailing Batman's battle against a roomful of opponents, each of which he dispatches with a single, discrete act of violence delivered in super-rapid succession. If the first four pages are timed to show a moment or so apiece, this page shows explosive action split-second by split-second.

3.) Batman's gas mask-holder-up mechanism. A little context might be required here. So after Batman knocks out a warehouse full of tough guys, he similarly dispatches The Joker in the space of just two panels. We then cut to the Batmobile, where The Joker is restrained in the backseat, talking Batman's gigantic pointy ear off until the Dark Knight has ultimately had enough, and so he decides to fill the interior of the Batmobile with some kind of knockout gas, after first putting on a gas mask. But rather than reaching down to his utility belt or his glove compartment to grab a gas mask, Batman has outfitted his car with a special button that, when pressed, extends a gas mask on a little arm (see the third panel above) that then holds the gas mask in front of his nose and mouth.

It's one of those almost Rube Goldberg-esque, overly-complicated things that Jones is always so good at emphasizing and detailing, but are inherent in the character. Seriously, just stop and think for a moment about how unnecessarily melodramatic and complex basically every single thing Batman does is. No artist makes that as readily apparent as effectively and as efficiently as Jones does.

4.) Batman's giant ear. The most immediate signifier of Kelley Jones' Batman versus Everybody Else's Batman is the ears. Jones gives Batman very long, sometimes ridiculously long ears, so that they more closely resemble demon horns or even rabbit ears than those of Batman's animal namesake. This is a fact not lost on Jones. Which makes this bit so cool. Just how long are Batman's ears? So long that they don't even fit in that panel, but break its borders and extend into the panel above it...and ultimately break that panel's borders too and comes out the top of it.

5.) Batman punches everyone. The one-page, 24-panel fight scene on page five is actually just the first of the 22-page issue's action scenes. At the climax of the issue, just as Batman has returned the captured Joker to Arkham Asylum and is arguing with one of its doctors about whether it's cool that he tracks down, beats up and then drops off any criminally insane escapees on a regular basis or not, there's a mass breakout of name villains. This leads to a five-page fight scene in which Batman simultaneously battles Killer Crock, Mister Freeze, Bane, The Riddler, The Joker, Poison Ivy, Two-Face and The Penguin. About halfway through, we get the above absolutely perfect panel, in which Batman rolls through them all like a big, black wave, seemingly striking them all with his fist in a single, wide, arcing punch.

It''s a really beautiful image, and the sound effects are unfortunate, as they only serve to block out some of the art, and distract from the fluid motion of the Batman figure, suggesting stops and starts to his attack in that panel, as opposed to him flying through his villains like a big, black comet, fist-first.

Anyway, they should take the sound effects out of that image, blow it up, frame it, take down the Mona Lisa and throw it in the garbage, and hang this in its place, as it is the best thing ever.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Marvel's previews reviewed

It’s a new beginning for the Amazing Spider-Man! Peter Parker’s life is turned upside down when a revelation from the past puts his job, relationships and whole life in jeopardy! And as if that’s not enough, Spidey must deal with an alien invasion (with a mysterious twist), a new roommate (who’s secretly the villainous Boomerang), new wrinkles in his love life — and a dangerous new enemy! But are you ready for…Peter Parker vs. Spider-Man? Someone out there is impersonating Peter…but why? Be here as Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley kick off a brand new era in Spider-Man’s life! Collecting AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2018) #1-5 and material from FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2018 (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN).
136 PGS./Rated T …$15.99
ISBN: 978-1-302-91231-4

Okay, I don't have any jokes or observations to make about this, I just have a question, for anyone who has been reading this: Is it any good? Would I like it? I'm fond enough of Spider-Man as a character--I've been reading and enjoying writer Chip Zdarsky's Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, for example, but I've mainly ignored Spidey comics for a long while now. I really, really like the work of writer Nick Spencer, though, and loved the last comic he wrote with "Spider-Man" in the title, so I'm thinking I might dig this. I'm just not sure if it's something I should order now, or wait to check out a library trade of first...

AVENGERS #10 (#700)
After 700 issues of saving the world, you’d think the Avengers would be due some celebration. But instead the whole world seems to be gunning for them, especially Namor’s fearsome new Defenders of the Deep and the reimagined Russian Super-Soldiers of the Winter Guard. And that’s not to mention the shocking surprise the U.S. government has in store for our heroes. Plus: The all-new Agents of Wakanda! The mystery of the Avengers of 1,000,000 BC deepens! A key revelation concerning the resurrection of Wolverine! And the next startling new Avenger is revealed!
64 PGS./Rated T+ …$5.99

I hope "Namor's fearsome new Defenders of the Deep" are just the classic, 1970s Defenders line-up, in bathing suits. I'll settle for the Netflix Defenders, in bathing suits, though.

BLACK ORDER #1 (of 5)
They are the five dreadlords, the Cull Obsidian, Thanos’ most feared warriors and disciples… Ruthless villains to a one, the Black Order has been dispatched by the Grandmaster to destabilize a burgeoning empire, and along the way they come to realize that as big and as bad as they are, there is always someone bigger and badder… The bombastic writing style of novelist Derek Landy (Skulduggery Pleasant) and the electrifying artwork of Philip Tan combine for an absolutely unhinged super-villain adventure!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Just in time to capitalize on all the hype from that big movie that came out, um, six months before this issue ships...? Huh.

The Royal Family has been broken. Now, something new and terrible rises from its ashes. Who is Vox? Where are the Inhumans he’s killed? And what lies ahead for a king without a kingdom?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


This is a pretty great cover for The Immortal Hulk by Alex Ross.

Wow, Hulk's trapezius muscles are so crazy I'm surprised that Ant-Man is able to support his leg on one without sliding right off.

When you gaze into the warp…you get more stories of mad Two-In-One heroes! Read about the Star Siblings of the Warped Universe – MISTER INVISIBLE and HOT ROCKS, the TERRIFIC TWO! Then, see how the covert programs of the Green Room created the gamma-powered GREEN WIDOW! And join MOON SQUIRREL AND TIPPYSAUR as they save the planet from the most dangerous threat it’s ever faced!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I applaud the restraint it must have taken to not picture a Tippy-Toes/Devil Dinosaur "warp" character on the cover of this issue.

Sleepwalker continues his mission through the dreamworld of the Warped Universe – this time teaming up with the Dark Starhawk and even “He whose touch causes burning” – MAN-THING THANG THOOM!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Holy shit, two of my favorite Marvel characters, "warped" into one another to form Man-Thing Thang Thoom! God bless you Chris Sims and Chad Bowers; you guys are doing God's work.

Variant Cover by HUMBERTO RAMOS
Variant Cover by STEPHANIE HANS
Variant Cover by LUCIANO VECCHIO
Variant Cover by JAMAL CAMPBELL
Variant Cover by SKOTTIE YOUNG
When a group of world leaders is taken hostage by one of Spider-Man’s old foes, Riri Williams will have to step up her game. And she’ll be stunned when someone from back in Sweet Home Chicago enters her life… CHAMPIONS artist Kevin Libranda joins award-winning poet Eve Ewing, as Ironheart steps boldly out of Tony Stark’s shadow to forge her own future!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Finally. I never finished Brian Michael Bendis' run on Iron Man, which actually spanned a handful of Iron-related books, but the replacement of the title character with Riri Williams, who went by the codename Ironheart always to me, just on a simple logic level. Like, she has a different name than "Iron Man," so it wasn't the same as, say, Kyle Rayner becoming the new Green Lantern or Jane Foster getting her hands on Mjolnir to replace Thor; I guess Tony Stark was still in the book in the form of a hologram/AI operating system, but it never felt quite right to have a legacy character whose kept the super-armor part of her forebears legacy, but no the code name, you know...? So having Ironheart star in a book actually entitled Ironheart...? I'm all for that.

I'm not quite sold on this costume, yet. I like the heart motif around the chest, but I'm not sure about the color scheme, which seems to be one color too many. That said, I've only just seen these two images, so maybe it will grown on me after I read the comic...and/or see another half-dozen or so different artists draw their own versions of it. Which shouldn't take long at all, based on how many dang variant covers there are.

UNCANNY X-Men #1-3
ISSUE #1 – MAHMUD ASRAR & more (A)
New ongoing series kicking off with a 10-part weekly epic, the flagship X-Men series that started it all is back and better than ever! Starting with a mysterious and tragic disappearance, the X-Men are drawn into what might be…their final adventure?! X-Fan favorite writers Ed Brisson (EXTERMINATION), Matthew Rosenberg (PHOENIX RESURRECTION) and Kelly Thompson (MR. & MRS. X) and all-star artists Mahmud Asrar (X-MEN RED), R.B. Silva (X-MEN BLUE), Yildiray Cinar (WEAPON X) and Pere PĂ©rez (ROGUE AND GAMBIT) join forces to bring you…X-MEN DISASSEMBLED?!
ISSUE #1 – 72 PGS./Rated T+ …$7.99
ISSUE #2-3 – 32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T …$3.99 (EACH)

Math is not my strong suit, but I am assuming Uncanny X-Men #1 should sell about a million copies. See, they have one million different variant covers, so even if only one customer buys one copy of each variant, they will still sell a million copies. Genius!

It's my understanding (mostly from reading what Brian Hibbs writes) that weekly comics aren't the most popular format in the world with retailers, but, as a reader, I've always liked the idea of them, particularly when they are super-good (like 52 or Wednesday Comics). Additionally, because of the sheer number of X-Men comics and the fact that they generally kinda sorta all tie together occasionally into a sort of ongoing epic regarding a super-races relationship to humanity and that they share a cast and continuity, it makes a lot more sense for their to be one shared X-Men book as opposed to a half-dozen of them.

Narratively, I can only assume it would be infinitely more satisfying if Marvel published a single, oversized weekly X-book instead of a few hundred pages of distinct X-Men material each month, and for my own recent experience, I can say that I suspect comics like Rogue & Gambit and Phoenix Resurrection (the writers of which are to be involved here) would have likely felt more important and had a greater impact had their events occurred within an (or "the") X-Men ongoing series, rather than in miniseries; the former felt kinda weird and random by existing at all, the latter spoiled its own premise and dampened its drama simply by its title.

Then again, I don't read X-Men comics as they're published serially, and I'm not about to start with a--Jesus!--$7.99 first issue, to be followed every seven days with a $3.99 issue. Also, although I think a weekly Uncanny X-Men makes more sense than a haf-dozen X-Men monthlies and another handful of solo series and miniseries, it should be noted that Uncanny is going to be weekly just for the first ten issues, and it's not like Marvel is folding all their other X-Men comics into this one or anything...

When the Vision decided to try to live a “normal” life, he built a wife, a son and a daughter – a family – only to watch it nearly all crumble. Now all that’s left is Viv, his learning-to-be-rebellious daughter, and Sparky, the family robo-dog. But what does it mean for an artificial intelligence to rebel? And can a synthezoid father handle single parenthood? The married writing team of Chelsea Cain (Mockingbird) and Marc Mohan joins rising star artist Aud Koch for a new take on the Vision family that will once again have everyone talking!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I really loved Chelsea Cain's Mockingbird, and was really excited to hear that she had another Marvel book coming up...until I learned which Marvel book she would be writing (well, co-writing). Turns out she will be writing perhaps my single lease favorite Marvel character, one of only a handful I find so incredibly uninteresting I have a hard time even engaging with, no matter who the creators involved are. I don't know if there's any other character I find as dull as The Vision. Wonder Man, The Inhumans, Carol Danvers...? Maybe Cable or Bishop? I don't know... Anyway, in terms of comics announcements, this one is like, the epitome of a good news, bad news situation.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

DC's November previews reviewed

written by PETER J. TOMASI
cover by DAN MORA
Jon Kent learns it’s better to be dead than red…Kryptonite, that is! Traveling the cosmos to get home and escape the intergalactic teen baddies known as the Gang, Superboy and Robin wind up on the so-called “Planet of Mystery.” There, Superboy deals with Red Kryptonite exposure, which throws his powers out of whack, while the planet haunts and taunts them both with nightmare creatures. They’ll need to wrap up this rest stop ASAP though, as the Gang is hot on their tails looking for a pound of flesh—which is a lethal amount when you’re a tween!
ON SALE 11.07.18
$3.99 US | 4 of 12 | 32 PAGES

I applaud the "Planet of Mystery." Nice job, Peter Tomasi.

Hey look, in the background, near the top of this cover of that Orca, The Whale Woman? Orca, The Whale Woman is in the midst of quite a revival these days, I tell you.

Wow, imagine how tight Batgirl's costume must be for it to conform so tightly to her rib bones that you can see them through it like that. That was never a problem for her with her previous costume.

written by JAMES TYNION IV
art and cover by HOWARD PORTER
“Drowned Earth” part one! The Ocean Lords—ancient sea gods with a grudge against Aquaman and Wonder Woman—invade the Earth with an alien army and flood the globe. As Batman, Superman and the Flash race to stop the waters from rising and turning everyone into aquatic monsters, Mera seeks the advice of an old enemy, and Arthur must face down Black Manta…or lose his connection to the ocean forever!
ON SALE 10.31.18
$4.99 US | 48 PAGES

written by SCOTT SNYDER
“DROWNED EARTH” finale! Aquaman faces the truth behind Atlantis’ past and must find a way to reclaim the power of his birthright or watch the floodwaters drown everything he has ever loved! With the world at stake and the Justice League on their last sea legs in their battle against the Ocean Lords, Arthur makes the ultimate sacrifice to return balance to land and sea!
ON SALE 11.28.18
$4.99 US | 48 PAGES


Okay, so Justice League, which along with Scooby-Doo Team-Up is the only DC comic I am still buying and reading serially, is doing a weird event story in November. It will involve two issues of the title, #11 and #12, plus Aquaman #42, which is officially a "tie-in" as opposed to part of the story proper. But the story will begin in a special, extra-length, higher-priced one-shot entitled Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth #1...and it will conclude in another special, extra-length, higher-priced one-shot entitled Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth #1, which is almost the exact same goddam title they just moved two words dammit. That's some real Marvel-level bullshit there, reminding me of that Marvel Rising book with Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel where it was a whole miniseries with similar sounding titles and #1s on every issue, except the first issue, which was #0. I honestly can't see any reason for DC to make keeping track of this story so goddam difficult, and I have to imagine that whatever benefit there is to concluding a four-part story in a book with a #1 on the cover is going to be eaten up by people not ordering it because they thought they already did.

Also, that is just a lot of pages of a Justice League adventure for a lot of money in a single month. It's $18 for the four parts, and $22 if you want the Aquaman tie-in. At that point, why wouldn't you just wait for the trade? You obviously won't have to wait very long, and if it's any more expensive, it won't be by very much.

I'm going to have to give this one some serious thought. I do enjoy reading Justice League serially, but with a month like this, I don't know that it even makes sense to do so...

art and cover by LEE BERMEJO
As Batman’s descent into the madness of Gotham City’s decadent underbelly continues, he must try to exorcise some of his demons…and who better to help than the Demon, Etrigan himself. And where there’s demons, there’s also a Deadman, a Spectre, an Enchantress and a host of other supernatural friends and foes—it’s a veritable Grand Guignol!
ON SALE 11.21.18
$6.99 US | 2 of 3 | 48 PAGES
APPROXIMATELY 8.5” x 10.875”

In general, I'm not a fan of artist Lee Bermejo's artwork, but I am kinda curious as to what his Etrigan might look like, given the variety in interpretations that Jack Kirby's demonic hero has had over the years, and that fact that Bermejo's style leans so hard towards realism. I suppose I'll flip through the eventual collection when it hits the library.

The holidays are tough enough as it is, but when you’re living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (or, you know, 2018) the world can seem bleaker than ever. So do yourself a favor this holiday season, break out your best eggnog and enjoy 10 all-new stories featuring the World’s Greatest Heroes, including looks at the futures of Batman, Superman and the Flash, as well as many more denizens of the DC Universe.
ON SALE 11.28.18
$9.99 US | 80 PAGES

This is another tough one, as it features creators whose work I generally seek out, like Paul Dini, Phil Hester and Cully Hamner, as well as one creator that I really want to avoid rewarding, Steve Orlando. I don't like that over-sized specials like this are now at the price point of, say, the first volume of an Image trade paperback collection, or where the average manga collection was a few years back, but I also genuinely love holiday specials like this (As I think I've mentioned before, at this point I've pretty much given up on my long-time life goal of becoming a professional comic book writer making mainstream publisher money someday, but this particular sort of book, the holiday anthology special, is the one format that I still feel strongly attracted to).

I also kinda dig that the idea here isn't just "Christmas...and maybe a Hanukkah or Kwanzaa story," but that there's a specific theme to it this time around.

art and cover by LIAM SHARP
Superstar writer Grant Morrison (Batman, All-Star Superman) returns to DC alongside red-hot artist Liam Sharp (The Brave AND the Bold, Wonder Woman) to launch a new, ongoing series: THE GREEN LANTERN!
In this debut issue, when Earth’s space cop, Hal Jordan, encounters an alien hiding in plain sight, it sets off a chain of events that rocks the Green Lantern Corps—and quite possibly the Multiverse at large—to its very core. There’s an inter-galactic conspiracy afoot, as well as a traitor in the GL Corps’ ranks, so strap in for more mind-bending adventures in this masterpiece in the making.
ON SALE 11.07.18
$4.99 US | 40 PAGES

Mainstream comics' most exciting writer takes on its most boring character! Morrison writing a book about a cosmic superhero with a magical ring that translates his thoughts into reality and whose milieu is full of alien worlds sure sounds like a match made in super-comic heaven, but then, on the other hand, Hal Jordan. So, a toss-up...? Liam Sharp is a hell of an artist though, and I'm curious to see him drawing as much as the DC Universe as he cares to draw, after his stints on Wonder Woman, and that oddly titled Wonder Woman/Batman team-up miniseries.

Kicking the series off with an over-sized, more-expensive-than-usual issue seems like a pretty Marvel-ous move, though, and screams, "Just wait for the trade, you fool!" to me.

written by GEOFF JOHNS
art and cover by DALE EAGLESHAM
backup story art by SEN
The superstar team of writer Geoff Johns and artist Dale Eaglesham reunite to launch the first all-new SHAZAM! monthly title set in the DC Universe in almost 20 years! (What took you guys so long?!)
Teenager turned super-hero Billy Batson struggles to balance school and superheroics! (Guess which one is more fun?) But when Shazam unlocks a shocking secret deep within the Rock of Eternity, it challenges everything he knows about the worlds of magic and his family’s future as its champions! Also, witness the bizarre team-up of Dr. Sivana and Mr. Mind as they set off to build a society all their own! Don’t miss the start of an epic run in the making as “Shazam and the Seven Realms” begins!
ON SALE 11.21.18
$4.99 US | 40 PAGES | FC

Ha, 10, 15 years ago I would have been pretty damn excited to hear that JSA creators Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham were going to launch a new monthly starring one of my favorite DC superheroes, but that was before Johns rebooted the character. I was not terribly fond of his somewhat more mature, realistic and gritty take on the character in those Justice League back-ups--eventually collected into a standalone trade paperback collection--which read an awful lot like his spec script for a Captain Marvel movie in the form of a comic book. Having seen the trailer for the upcoming Shazam movie, it seems that's pretty much exactly what Johns and artist Gary Frank's New 52 Captain Marvel reboot was.

I'm not fond of the poor costuming changes, like the glowing billboard on his chest or the hood, nor the refocusing of the character as some kinda magical superhero, all of which simply seem to be incredibly transparent efforts to differentiate the character from Superman...apparently just for the sake of differentiating him from Superman. On the other hand, I fucking love Captain Marvel, and am glad to see two of the greatest supervillains in comics history name-dropped right there in the solicitation for the first issue, along with an allusion to The Monster Society of Evil, a name that makes The Brotherhood of Evil and The Legion of Doom sound genteel by comparison. (Although now I find myself wondering after Johns' version of Sivana; I feel like he played a small role in that New 52 strip, but I can't recall the specifics of his conception...).

It's really a shame this isn't by Grant Morrison and Doc Shaner, who did such an amazing job with these characters in their Multiversity special, and they did so without trying to reinvent the wheel and coming up with something less round, but I'm still intensely curious about this (I've been wondering, for example, what they were going to be calling all those other "Shazams" like Freddie, Mary and the other characters ever since I read the trade collection; this has certainly been in the works a long-ass time, as all of those characters appeared alongside Captain Marvel Shazam in that DC Rebirth house ad...)

Oh, and this is another high-profile new series launching with a $5 #1 issue; one more and it's officially a trend!

written by MIKE W. BARR and JAI NITZ
Two members of Task Force X are back in these all-new adventures! First up: “REVENGE OF KOBRA” by writer Mike W. Barr and artist Philippe Briones. To oppose the terrorist Kobra is to earn his un-dying hatred, and that’s what the samurai Katana did when she killed his beloved Eve. Now Kobra stalks Katana beyond the bounds of the Earth itself, to a supernatural world where he will steal from her everything that she has—including her very soul! And in “SUICIDE SQUAD BLACK,” by writer Jai Nitz and artist Scot Eaton, Sebastian Faust, the U.S. government’s top arcane operative, has gone rogue! To track down America’s most dangerous magician, Amanda Waller assembles a special-ops team unlike any other: an expendable coven of dark-arts experts including El Diablo, Enchantress and Gentleman Ghost. They are Suicide Squad Black, and they will take you to places where even the dead can die!
ON SALE 11.07.18
$4.99 US | 1 of 6 | 48 PAGES

While this doesn't sound appealing to me, having read past, similar Squad adjacent comics featuring Barr on Katana and Nitz on El Diablo, I have to confess this cover made me realize how excited I would be at the prospect of a Gentleman Ghost series...

Good thing that piece of rubble was there, or else where would Superman have planted his right foot...?

written by G. WILLOW WILSON
art by CARY NORD
“THE JUST WAR” part one! A new era of Wonder Woman begins as best-selling writer G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel) makes her return to DC with art star Cary Nord (Conan, THE UNEXPECTED) joining the series!
Far below Themyscira, Ares, the God of War, has been imprisoned for generations, repenting his past sins. But his new cellmate Grail may have an unexpected effect on him…and the plan they’ve come up with will change Themyscira—and the world— forever! When Wonder Woman rushes to Eastern Europe to rescue Steve Trevor from a mission gone wrong, she’ll find herself face-to-face with a very new, very different God of War!
ON SALE 11.14.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

Well I guess that explains why ever since Greg Rucka left the book with 2017's issue #25, all of the writers scripting issues--Shea Fontana, James Robinson, Steve Orlando, James Tynion IV--have been on the book on a temporary, fill-in basis. DC must have been trying to get Wilson on this book for months and months now...?

I like that whoever wrote this solicit took the time to point out that Wilson is returning to DC--i.e. they found her first! Wilson first came to my attention with the 2007 original graphic novel Cairo with M.K. Perker (which I remember liking quite a bit, despite not remembering anything specific about it now), with whom she went on to create ongoing Vertigo series Air. She did a little work in the DCU, including the awkwardly titled Outsiders: Five of a Kind--Metamorpho/Aquaman #1, part of DC's mid-aughts efforts to make an Outsiders revival stick past the presence of writer Judd Winick, and a miniseries starring Vixen, plus some fill-in issues of that dumb Superman story J. Michael Straczynski started then abandoned aaaannnd that's it.

What a difference going on to co-create Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan for Marvel Comics made for the types of assignments DC was willing to give Wilson...! Honestly, this is a pretty big deal for the character and for the publisher (and, to a lesser extent, the writer), and Wilson is probably the biggest "get" of a creator that DC has gotten for their Wonder Woman title since...Jodi Picoult, probably...? And that went over like a ton of bricks, so let's hope this goes better! (Honestly, how could it not?)

Pairing Wilson with such an excellent artist is certainly a good start, although I have to confess complete disinterest in the plot part of the solicitation, which sounds like Generic Wonder Woman Story #3 on a menu of generic Wonder Woman stories. I'm certainly hoping to be proven wrong, though! Best of luck to Wilson and company on what I hope turns out to be an excellent run...