Friday, March 20, 2020

DC's June previews reviewed

June suddenly seems much, much father than three months away, and the way so much has been changing so quickly, I guess it's impossible to know if all of the things publishers have solicited for the month will actually come out, and, scarily enough, if the local comic book shop you frequent will still be there.

Things are bad out there, and I know running a comic shop is the sort of business that is...Well, it's not the easiest, most profitable business in the world in the very best of times, and these are not the very best of times. In fact, I'm fearful we might skip right over the Roaring Twenties 2.0 and get right to a gritty new reboot of The Great Depression.

So say a prayer for your local comic shopkeep, and support them as much as you can, if you can. I'm afraid they're going to need all the prayers and all the support they can get.

Now, in the interest of not dwelling on pandemic and economic collapse, let's distract our worried brains with news of men and women in tights and capes, doing super-deeds! It is, after all, past time we take a look at DC Comics' solicitations for stuff they plan to publish in June of this year (Marvel to follow, of course).

As they have with some past films, the publisher will be celebrating the release of the upcoming (Still? I hope?) film Wonder Woman 1984 with variants by the likes of J. Scott Campbell, Frank Cho, Gabriele Dell'Otto, Adam Hughes, Stanley Lau, Jim Lee and even some women! (Jenny Frison, Nicola Scott and...that's it? That's it?! Look, I like all of the work of all of those dudes okay, and while I think their skill levels vary widely, I can respect that they are all pretty dang good at what it is they do. That said, some of them are among the artists that female readers react to the most negatively, in large part because of how they consistently portray female characters, and well, I think you might need more than a pair of covers from two talented ladies to make up for that particular line-up of male artists doing their takes on Wonder Woman. Of course, none of these variants were revealed in the solicits I saw, so maybe it's too early to roll one's eyes. Maybe J. Scott Campbell has drawn Chris Pine's Steve Trevor standing on his tip toes with high heels on, flexing his legs and raising his butt flirtatiously at the viewer, while looking mischievously over his bare shoulder. It's possible. I do not know. I can not, and should not, judge book covers by themselves until I've seen them, you know?).

The month also sees the release of an official sequel to DCeased (which I did not care for at all) by the original creative team, more Death Metal and the long-teased Three Jokers series (which I'll discuss below), as well by the as other stuff. What other stuff? Let's look! Together!

These are Guillem March's covers for June's issues of Batman, both of which will feature chapters in writer James Tynion IV and artist Jorge Jiminez's "Joker War" storyline. I know I say this all the time, but I really like March's art. His Batman is just so completely over-the-top all the time; he has the extreme emotions of Norm Breyfogle's Batman, but with a heavier, more muscular presence that evokes Neal Adams' more recent work to me, in which his once definitive-looking Batman has become defined by exaggerated expressions and angsty-looking contortions.

As much as I wish March was doing all of the inside pages too, I am interested in seeing what Jiminez's Batman comics will look like, having previously only seen him drawing the character as part of the ensemble cast in Justice League, which obviously takes place in a very different milieu than Batman's solo comics do.

It’s Superman versus Batman as the deadly machinations of the Ultra-Humanite crash to their end! The Dark Knight has been transformed into a human atomic bomb, all in the name of wiping Superman from the face of the Earth! As Batman struggles against the urge to kill his friend, Superman must undo the damage done and help the other victims of the Ultra-Humanite’s experiments. It’s the thrilling conclusion to “Atomic” that will reverberate across the DC Universe for months to come!
ON SALE 06.24.20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

Speaking of Batman and Neal Adams, I'm surprised at how little hair David Marquez has drawn on Batman's chest here.

written by GEOFF JOHNS
cover by JASON FABOK
variant cover by JASON FABOK
Thirty years after Batman: The Killing Joke changed comics forever, Three Jokers reexamines the myth of who, or what, The Joker is and what is at the heart of his eternal battle with Batman. New York Times bestselling writer Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok, the writer/artist team that waged the “Darkseid War” in the pages of Justice League, reunite to tell the ultimate story of Batman and The Joker!
After years of anticipation starting in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the epic miniseries you’ve been waiting for is here: find out why there are three Jokers, and what that means for the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s a mystery unlike any Batman has ever faced!
$6.99 US | 1 OF 3 | 48 PAGES

Wow, by the time this finally arrives in shops, it will be just over four years since writer Geoff Johns had Batman stumble across the idea that there are three Jokers in the pages of his DC Universe: Rebirth comic. That is a pretty long time. Particularly since that was a fairly big Batman bombshell that got dropped...and then was more-or-less completely dropped from all Batman comics as Johns worked on his weird-ass Alan Moore fan-fiction project and the rest of DC Comics moved on. Hell, how many Joker stories have there been in the last four years? A dozen...? This one will start while a big Joker event is ongoing in the Bat-books.

I'm obviously curious about the project, despite the fact that thus far Johns hasn't really told a great Batman story yet, and, in fact, I think of all the DC Comics characters Johns has written in the last, oh, 20 years or so, Batman is probably the one he's struggled with the most (Although he's not a character Johns has devoted too much time to, either; it's only the occasional exception like Batman: Earth One wherein Johns has written Batman as anything more than a single player in a large ensemble cast).

What I find particularly curious about this particular solicitation, however, is that first bit of the first sentence: "Thirty years after Batman: The Killing Joke changed comics forever..."

Did it...? I mean, don't get me wrong, Brian Bolland drew the fuck out of that script, and it was certainly a big milestone in the second half of the 1980s' march through the plains of "Biff! Bam! Pow! Comics Aren't Just For Kids!" toward respectability, but it wasn't Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns or Maus. Hell, The Killing Joke didn't even change Barbara Gordon forever, as she went back to being Batgirl in late 2011.

But what's weird is that, after spending the last four years or so of his career doing an extended riff on a 33-year-old Alan Moore-scripted comic, Johns' next major work is a comic being sold by referencing another Moore-scripted comic from the 1980s...? That's weird, and given the adversarial relationship between Moore and DC Comics, it seems sort of tasteless as well.

I don't think I'm ever going to understand why DC can't just let Alan Moore go, but the publisher instead spends so much creative energy constantly referencing his work, often seemingly going way out of their way to do so (Like shoehorning Promethea into a Justice League comic and Tom Strong into The Terrifics, for one particularly grating example).

Like, there's absolutely no reason to think this has anything at all to do with Moore and Bolland's Killing Joke...other than the fact that DC brought it up in their solicitation copy.

“Legion of Zoom” part one! As the Flash’s greatest enemies—Gorilla Grodd, the Turtle, Trickster, and Captain Cold—attack Central City at the same time, the Fastest Man Alive finds he’s not fast enough to stop them all or save everyone in danger!
ON SALE 06.10.20

I've never read a really great comic featuring The Turtlealthough I have read at least one pretty good onebut I've nevertheless always been somewhat fascinated with the character, given how weird the idea of a super-slow character is, regardless of whether he's meant to be a foil for a super-fast one or not. Also, I just kinda like turtle characters in comics, I guess.

 I'm not too terribly crazy about that design there, but it's interesting-looking, I guess, and it certainly has a very different energy to it than some of the other looks the character has sported over the years.

He's been appearing frequently in Justice League for most of the Snyder/Tynion run on the title, but he's been a de-aged baby the whole time, carried about on Gorilla Grodd's chest, so I have no idea what his story is supposed to be now. But I'm interested in finding out! (Maybe DC will do a Flash: Rogues collection full of Turtle stories, similar to those Batman: Arkham collections they do.)

Also, I like the phrase "Legion of Zoom." That made me smile.

art and cover by AMANDA CONNER
The price on Harley’s head is getting higher and higher, and more and more of Gotham City’s most dangerous villains are crawling out of the woodwork to claim it. So where the hell is Batman? And after what she’s put the Birds of Prey through in just a few hours, is Harley going to have any allies left to protect her?
ON SALE 06.24.20
$5.99 US | 3 OF 4 | 32 PAGES
APPROX. 8.5” X 10.875”

This is noteworthy mostly for the cover. Or, at least, that's what I'm going to talk about for the next few paragraphs.

As you can see, the group of characters in this book are the same ones that are in the Birds of Prey movie, although God only knows which continuity this book is based on. It looks to be mostly post-Flashpoint DCU continuity, but all the superheroes have different costumes on than the ones they usually wear, and Huntress looks whiter than she has in a while, so I'm not sure which of the...let's see...three post-Flashpoint Huntresses that's supposed to be. (I did flip through the first issue of this when I saw it in shop, and it looked to be 90% Harley Quinn, with the other character not appearing until towards the end of that issue; I was in the minority of DC Comics fans, I think, but I did not really care for Palmiotti and Conner's Deadpool-but-a-sexy-lady take on Harley when they launched the character's second solo series back in 2014).

Most intriguing of the new costumes, of course, is Cassandra Cain's, which is a definite improvement over the one she's been wearing ever since she was reintroduced into the post-Flashpoint/New 52 DC Universe as "Orphan" in the pages of  Batman and Robin Eternal. It's almost as different from her Orphan get-up as it is from her Batgirl costume or what she wears in the Birds of Prey movie, in which she isn't Batgirl at all. (Or even a superhero or crime fighter of any kind. She's just a Gotham City pickpocket who happens to be named "Cassandra Cain" for some reason.)

I think this design has a bit too much yellow in it for my taste, but I kind of like how it's mostly black with yellow highlights and has a bat-theme to it. It makes me curious as to how she would look wearing that next to Duke Thomas, who of course wears a mostly-yellow with black highlight bat-themed costume, in the pages of Batman and The Outsiders, where the two currently appear.

I like the Black Canary redesign okay too, but one of the neat things about that character is that pretty much as long as she has fishnet somewhere in the design, it feels right. I'm not crazy about that Huntress costume design, but then, I don't think I've ever really liked any Huntress costume all that much. Maybe the mostly-black one that was debuted circa "Contagion"...?

I do hope to read this once it's all collected. I don't have too terribly high hopes, but I really want to see what Palmiotti and Conner do with Cassandra.

As writer Simon Spurrier jumps on board for the start of the three-part tale “The Rule of War,” it’s close encounters…of a Justice League kind! After answering a distress signal from distant space, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Green Lantern discover an abandoned cargo ship full of young aliens! When the League attempts to return the children to their home planet, they are met with awe, terror, and war! Thus begins a three-part storyline that will take the League to a previously unknown planet, with an all-new species, a dangerous mystery, and a new, otherworldly villain.
ON SALE 06.03.20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

So writer Robert Venditti's run on Justice League has concluded, which seems to have consisted of a pair of three-parters, and he's being followed by Simon Spurrier, who is also presenting a three-part story. Notably, as with the previous solicitations for the post-Snyder Justice League, the characters appearing tend to be the safest ones--that is, ones unlikely to be killed off or go through any massive, semi-permanent-ish changes in Death Metal--which I think contributes to the feeling that these are place-holder stories, filling up the pages of Justice League until DC's ready for their next big move.

I've no idea what that might be, of course, whether Snyder will return for another post-Death Metal 40 issues for a more traditional run, or if Brian Michael Bendis will take over or...what, but, right now, the state of the book very much reminds of JLA circa 2004-2005, when the Joe Kelly/Doug Mahnke run gave way to arcs ranging from three to eight issues by rotating creative teams, ranging from Denny O'Neil and Tan Eng Huat to John Byrne, Chris Claremont and Jerry Ordway to Kurt Busiek, Ron Garney and Dan Green.

That was a strange year or so in the life of what was long DC's best superhero comic, and it seemed to come about in reaction to the lives of those characters and that team being pre-empted by the events in event series, like Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis (the last arcs of JLA were tie-ins to those series), after which the title relaunched with a new title and a high-profile creative team (Although I don't think anyone could seriously argue that Justice League of America under Brad Meltzer, Ed Benes and company was as good as JLA under Grant Morrison, Mark Waid or Joe Kelley and their artistic colleagues).

So that makes me curious about these last few Justice League storylines. They definitely all seem inessential, and like the stories that would have filled the pages of JLA: Classified, were that book still around. That said, that doesn't mean they aren't good, just that they seem to indicate things going on behind the scenes that are taking precedent over Justice League.

“The Rule of War” part two! After the devastating events of last issue, the League is separated and labeled as alien visitors on a war-torn planet. With events spiraling out of control, and no leader to guide planet Trotha’s citizens, how can the League save this world without interfering? As the team battles rogue factions, Batman makes a startling discovery that will threaten any hope the team has of returning home!
ON SALE 06.17.20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

Note the border around the bat emblem on Batman's chest, like the one he wore on the costume before his current one. It makes me curious if this story, or this image, have been in the drawer for a while, or if that's just a tiny art mistake on the part of Barrows, or simply the way he prefers to draw the character's chest emblem...

written by GRACE ELLIS
art and cover by BRITTNEY WILLIAMS
From New York Times bestselling author Grace Ellis (Lumberjanes) and artist Brittney Williams (Goldie Vance) comes a new story about 13-year-old Lois Lane as she navigates the confusing worlds of social media and friendship.
It’s the first day of summer break in the sleepy town of Liberty View, and young Lois Lane bursts onto the scene with what she knows is a sure-to-go-viral video channel. Okay, maybe her platform only receives two views a week (thanks, Mom), and maybe her best friend, Kristen, isn’t quite as enthusiastic about social media, but when Lois sets her mind on something, there’s no turning back.
At the end of the week, the big neighborhood barbecue and bike race will be the perfect backdrop to Lois and Kristen’s #friendshipchallenge video. But when the girls find out the annual fireworks are missing, Lois doubles down on her efforts for fame, testing her friendship in ways she couldn’t imagine.
With Kristen leaving for sleepaway camp after the barbecue and a new girl on the block taking all of Kristen’s attention, will Lois be able to find the missing fireworks, celebrate the summer, and post the best #friendshipchallenge the internet has ever seen? Or will she have to face her challenges IRL?
ON SALE 08.05.20
$9.99 US | FC | 5.5” x 8”
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9633-7

No jokes, no criticisms, no this-reminds-me-of-something-else-I'll-talk-about-for-a-few-paragraphs. I just wanted to pull this out and raw attention to it because it looks amazing. Lois Lane is one of DC's greatest characters, and there seems to be an endless appetite for comics and narratives starring her, particularly among readers who don't necessarily drop $4 each Wednesday on the latestnSuperman comic.

Additionally Brittney Williams is amazing. Her work with Kate Leth on Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat was a big part of why that book was one of the best and one of my favorite Marvel comics that wasn's Unbeatable Squirrel Girl while it was being published. I think she's a perfect fit for the little girl version of Lois Lane, even more so now that she has Goldie Vance under her belt.

This is honestly the book I'm most looking forward to from DC in June.

written by DAN JURGENS
The Joker knows Dick Grayson is Nightwing—and the plans The Joker has set in motion in this summer’s event “Joker War” will haunt Batman forever. Under the control of The Joker’s new henchperson, Punchline, Nightwing must battle the people he once loved most: Batgirl, the Robins, and…himself.
ON SALE 06.17.20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

What is Dick wearing...? And why is he wearing it...?

Art and cover by MARCO SANTUCCI
Murder has come to the bayou, in the form of a cult that aims to destroy civilization and rebuild with Swamp Thing as their king. Even more horrifying, the Sunderland Corporation has used Swamp Thing’s DNA to create self-harvesting clones!
Written by PHIL HESTER
Swamp Thing has been following the eerie light of the Fifolet as the spirit leads him to those in need. But what if the mysterious light has a deeper purpose? What if it knows more about Swamp Thing’s past than it lets on…and what if it’s trying to lead Alec Holland home? Plus these reprint tales:
• “Emerald Apocalypse,” Swamp Thing #5 (2016)
• “The Poison Truth Part Five,” from The Hellblazer #5 (2017)
• “Double or Nothing,” from Zatanna #5 (2010)
ON SALE 06.24.20 | $4.99 US | FC | 96 PAGES | DC

I haven't read any of these reprints, so this would probably be a wise investment for me. What caught my eye, though, was that Tom Mandrake was drawing a Swamp Thing story. That is a great marriage of artist to character, and I'm eager to see what that looks like.

written by MARIKO TAMAKI
It’s a brand-new day for Wonder Woman! As Diana starts to pick up the pieces of her life following her battle with the Four Horsewomen and her run-in with the Phantom Stranger, Man’s World has become more complicated to navigate than ever before. It seems everyone has a take on who Wonder Woman should be—some who look on her heroics with admiration, and some who lie in wait to seek revenge. A familiar threat is watching Diana’s every move, and now is the perfect time to strike…
ON SALE 06.10.20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

Hey, Mariko Tamaki is writing Wonder Woman now! And on-again, off-again Batman artist Mikel Janin is drawing it. That is a rather unlikely combination, so it will be curious to see how it plays out on the page.

A familiar threat, huh? I wonder who that could be. Hopefully not just Ares or Cheetah, given how big, deep and weird Wonder Woman's rogue's gallery really is.

written by MARIKO TAMAKI
Wonder Woman’s quest to bring justice to Man’s World has seen her take on many devastating opponents—but none so vicious as Maxwell Lord! Max represents the worst that humanity has to when he shows up at Diana’s doorstep seeking help, what’s a warrior for the truth to do?
ON SALE 06.24.20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES

Oh. It's Maxwell Lord.

I...guess I can understand why they might want to use Max as a villain in a Wonder Woman comic at this point, given that he plays a role in Wonder Woman 1984, but the character's association with Wonder Woman is tenuous at best (he appeared in one story, that was as much as Superman story as a Wonder Woman one), and his heel turn never really worked for me, despite later efforts to clean it up. If DC were going to go to the trouble of rebooting their whole universe in 2011, than the Max Lord business should have all been erased, I think.

In this tie-in to the WW84 film…When a failed burglary attempt causes a hostage situation at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Diana Prince is forced to leave her teenage tour group behind so Wonder Woman can save the day! But will Wonder Woman be able to bring ten gunman to justice and get back to her tour group in time?
Written by STEVE PUGH
“Honey, I Shrunk My Friends”
It’s the 1980s, and greed is good for those that already have it all. Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor hunt down the reckless mastermind who makes the ultimate power move…the theft of Diana’s golden lasso!
Plus these reprint tales:
• “Deadly Arrival” from Wonder Woman #3 (1987)
• “Blood of the Cheetah,” Wonder Woman #301 (1987)
• “Dark Challenger,” from Wonder Woman #301 (1983)
ON SALE 05.27.20 | $4.99 US | FC | 96 PAGES | DC

This also makes sense. I'm eager to see Bret Blevins draw Wonder Woman, even if it's movie Wonder Woman rather than comics Wonder Woman, and Marguerite Sauvage's art is always a treat. A too-rare treat, sure, but a treat nonetheless.

As for the reprints, interestingly they are all from the 1980s. There's obviously a mistake in there, though, as Wonder Woman #301 couldn't have been published in both 1987 and 1983. Looking up the story titles on, it seems "Blood of The Cheetah" is from 1987's Wonder Woman #9, while "Dark Challenger" is the one that is actually from 1983's Wonder Woman #301. So in addition to Blevins and Sauvage, readers can look forward to a good 44-pages of George Perez art, inked and/or finished by Bruce Patterson, and 22 pages from Gene Colan and Frank McLaughlin.

Oh, and by the way, I like how much detail DC provided in the solicitations for the Giants this month. It makes deciding whether or not to order them much easier.

No comments: