Friday, July 31, 2020

Marvel's October previews reviewed

Okay, remember in the last post about Marvel's solicitations, when I said that while "X of Swords" looked like a fairly large crossover, it wasn't as large as it could be, given that a handful of X-Men titles weren't participating that month, and maybe that would change the following month? Well, it changed.

The X-Men books that didn't feature chapters of "X of Swords", which looks like it will be in the most annoying format for comic book crossover events (in which each chapter occurs in a different title, necessitating reading them all, rather than what I find preferable, a backbone mini-series, with optional tie-ins in the other books), will be getting sucked in this October.

So that means that there will be nine chapters of "X of Swords" published in October, a one-shot entitled X of Swords: Statis #1 (a cover of which is above) and the October issues of Cable, Excalibur, Hellions, Marauders, New Mutants, Wolverine, X-Force and X-Men. Whew! That's a lot of swords. Most of those books will cost you $3.99, but two of them are priced at $4.99, so if you're reading "X of Swords" in its entirety, you can expect to pay $37.91 for the privilege. For the October chapters, that is.

Amusingly, the folks who write the solicitations for the X-Men books seem to either not really know much of what will be occurring in each individual issue, or to not really care all that much about hyping it, perhaps thinking the presence of the X-Men and swords alone should suffice when it comes to getting readers and retailers excited.

So the solicits for each participating book include just three words or phrases. For example:
Descent. Penance. A legendary power reclaimed.
Stealth. The power within. The burden of knowledge.
And so on. They sound vaguely haiku-like, and I found myself counting syllables to see if any of them actually were haiku.

So I guess if you are scrutinizing these solicits and trying to decide if each chapter of the story is really all that necessary, um, good luck...?

There will also be a Spider-Man event launching in October, and it will be a much smaller, but somehow dumber affair. "Last Remains" will take place in Amazing Spider-Man #50, something called Amazing Spider-Man #50.LR, Amazing Spider-Man #51 and Amazing Spider-Man #51.LR. If there's a rationale for publishing four issues of ASM numbered thusly, as opposed to simply publishing two double-length issues or simply numbering the books #50-#53, I'd love to hear it.

Of the month's various variant schemes, the two most prominent ones seem to be "Timeless" variants by Alex Ross, featuring close-up head-and-bust portraits of various Marvel characters in their original costumes/designs (or, at least, the ones Ross likes the best, I guess, given that Beast is blue and furry in his), and ones by various artists in which Marvel heroes are amalgamated with Marvel's old horror characters, resulting in things like "LEGION OF X-MONSTERS HORROR VARIANT COVER BY RUSSELL DAUTERMAN" or "SPIDER-MAN VAMPIRE HUNTER VARIANT COVER BY AARON KUDER."

Unfortunately, there aren't examples of all of these horror variant covers released into the wild yet, as I'd really like to see them. And, in most cases, read a comic featuring that particular set-up, as opposed to whatever's actually going to be underneath the variant.

For example, here's the Kuder horror variant, which will ship affixed to Amazing Spider-Man #50 (one of the half-dozen variants for that issue, because it's a fiftieth one, and that apparently means it needs a marketing scheme to help move copies for some reason).

I'm sure writer Nick Spencer's "Last Remains" arc will be pretty good. I've certainly enjoyed all of his ASM run that I've read so far, and he's been teasing this Kindred character since the very beginning of it.

That said, a standalone story about a Spider-Man who has devoted himself to killing vampires because, I don't know, a vampire he could have stopped during a blood bank robbery but chose not to because he couldn't be bothered then goes on to kill his Uncle Ben...? Or maybe Peter Parker was bitten by a vampire, that was itself bitten by a radioactive spider...? Or maybe Blade himself gets bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Man, the Daycrawler...? The simple phrase "Spider-Man Vampire Hunter" and Kuder's image fire my imagination in a way the solicit for the actual book does not.

I really like the colors on Patrick Gleason's cover for ASM #51.

I also like the way Gleason draws Spidey's head.

The ragtag Avengers take the fight to the power mad Khonshu, deep in the heart of New Thebes City. But which side will Moon Knight choose? And is Earth doomed either way?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

"Ragtag" is kind of a weird way to refer to this shared universe's premiere super-team, isn't it? Especially if the line-up in the book is the same one we see on the cover. Like, Blade and Ghost Rider III might not be long-time Avengers, but this team's not exactly made of Doctor Druids and Jacks of Hearts, you know?

Something is very wrong with Natasha Romanoff: she’s…happy?! Retirement definitely agrees with the world’s deadliest woman as she revels in the perfect life she never even dreamed she could have. But scratch the surface of that perfect life and you’ll find something very strange…and a woman like Nat just can’t help but scratch.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
Order using APR200992

Yeesh. The sexism at the Big Two runs so fucking deep.

So here's a new comic book starring Black Widow, probably Marvel's most prominent female superhero thanks to Scarlett Johansson's decade of playing her in somewhere in the neighborhood of eight films now, with an excellent creative team pairing a female writer with a female artist. And three of the book's eight covers are by dudes who look like they went through a checklist of sexist tropes for female heroes on superhero comics when planning what to submit.

There's J. Scott Campbell, perhaps the most notorious of this genre, doing his standard Barbie doll-figured woman standing on her tippy-toes pose, but making sure to include a "brokeback" pose as well. It's 2020. Has he never seen people complaining about brokeback posing online, and thought, "Hey, they have a point! Most human spines don't work that way normally and, for those women who can achieve that pose, it takes quite a bit of effort and is anything but natural!" Alternately, did no editor look at this and say, "Nice work J., but would you mind altering it so we can only see one of her breasts in profile? Thanks!"

Meanwhile, Adan Hughes, another artists who seems to have abandoned comics-drawing for cover work, is somewhat famous/infamous for his high-quality cheesecake art. His particular contribution is the strongest of the three, with a nice composition showing the character in different bits of action, but one of those bits includes Black Widow all tits out...for action!

Okazaki, whose work I'm not familiar with, also draws the character in her most generic, default sexy mode, with her catsuit zipped down beneath her breasts.

I don't mind exploitative comics art at all, but this doesn't seem like the right place for it, not unless Thompson and Casagrande are going in a very different direction for the character than expected.

At any rate, I find it incredibly depressing that Marvel needs eight different covers for this book, and they've doled six of them out to dudes (there are two versions of Campbell's cover listed), two of whom are notorious for their sexy lady cover drawings, and they hired no women  for any of those covers (Unless "TBA" ends up being a woman, I guess). At the very least, it would be nice if one of those covers were by Casagrande, so people could get an idea of what her work on the title might look like before they pre-order it.

Like, I know what her art style is from seeing her draw other stuff, but I still have no idea what her Black Widow looks like. I only know that Hughes still likes drawing boobs, and Campbell is still drawing female characters wearing invisible high-heels, posing like their bones were made of rubber, and not much bothering to do anything else with the cover (This is, after al,l basically just a single figure floating in space, a logo and altered photograph background dropped in).

I can't help but sympathize with the odd crocodilian creature that the artist drew on the cover of Conan The Barbarian #15. It's not just that he's a dumb animal, although that is often enough to make me feel badly about animals being fought by superheroes and adventurers, but how surprised it looks like he is to suddenly be fighting a couple of people with swords. It looks like Conan and his lady friend are mugging the poor crocodile...

Penciled by VARIOUS
In the proud tradition of THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, this comprehensive compendium of Conan characters – first published in 1986 – offers a detailed guide to the many heroes and villains featured in Marvel’s classic Conan comics! And with the 50th anniversary of Conan’s comic debut upon us, what better time to revisit this fact-filled handbook? Experience the A to Z of Conan’s savage world, filled with illustrations from some of the greatest talents of the era – including the legendary John Buscema! Don’t miss this indispensable reference tool for everyone’s favorite Cimmerian and his fearsome foes, allies including Valeria and Bêlit, and the many realms of the Hyborian Age! Reprinting HANDBOOK OF THE CONAN UNIVERSE #1.
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$5.99

Goddam, now that's a cover!

Without Galactus, there’s only one way the Fantastic Four can hope to stall the threat of Antithesis –
by absorbing the Power Cosmic to multiply their abilities a thousandfold!
40 PGS./Rated T …$4.99

Hey look, Neal Adams gave Johnny Storm one of those head-sock things that Gambit, Booster Gold and sometimes Cyclops wear. I hate those things! has one of those I hate...! There are of course, worse forms of headgear a superhero could be forced to wear, though. Like, for example, a tiara. Or...fake antennae...?

Tony Stark continues to roughly dismantle the fancy, shiny and sophisticated ways of his past…but the world doesn’t seem quite convinced that he’s changed his rich guy tune. As Iron Man, he takes the fight to the streets, looking to sacrifice himself on the altar of super heroism again and again—first with Arcade and Absorbing Man then with medical vigilante Cardiac—all in hope of redemption in the eyes of the public. Only trouble is he might get himself killed in the process, and there are still plenty of people in line with an ax to grind. Old friends like HELLCAT try to help him find peace of mind and speak truth to his stubborn god complex, but lurking on the horizon is a threat Tony—and indeed the entire cosmos—hasn’t seen in years…KORVAC…yet another guy who believes he’s smarter than the rest of the universe.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Here's a good example of a horror variant that looks more compelling than the comic its covering. While I think Arcade is funny and I generally like Hellcat, nothing in this solicitation really interests me enough to get excited about another new run on an Iron Man comic. But "Iron Man-Thing"...? That's a comic book I'd pre-order in a heartbeat!

Dang, can Arthur Adams ever draw monsters...! This is his variant cover for Rise of Ultraman #2 though, so don't get too excited. I'm not familiar with the work of interior artist Francesco Manna, but the inside pages definitely won't look like this cover. I do hope that, at the very least, they manage to work that many monsters into the miniseries, though...

SHANG-CHI #2 (Of 5)
Gene Luen Yang (W) • DIKE RUAN & PHILIP TAN (A) • Cover by PHILIP TAN
Variant Cover by MARCUS TO
Shang-Chi may have finally met his match in the form of this strange new assailant,
Sister Hammer – BUT WHO IS SHE REALLY? Find out in this shocking reunion!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Two graphic novels by Gene Luen Yang have come out so far this year. One, which he both wrote and drew, is Dragon Hoops, and it's easily one of the best comics I've read this year. The other, which he wrote while the art team of Gurihiru drew the art, is Superman Smashes the Klan, one of the better Superman stories I've read this year...or any other. And then there's...this.

While never a top-tier character, Shang-Chi is nevertheless probably Marvel's most popular character of Asian descent, and if America every elects a new government that actually cares to combat the coronavirus pandemic and we get back to the point where there are movies again, the character is poised for the sort of profile boost that Black Panther got when his movie came out (That's Marvel's plan, anyway).

So this project is a very good idea for Marvel to pursue, and it's easy to see why the character would interest Yang, given how it checks the boxes of some subject matter present in so much of his previous work. But man, it's weird to think of Yang as both the guy who made Dragon Hoops and Superman Smashes The Klan and the guy writing a comic book where a sketchily-drawn has a mouthful of viscous saliva, '90s-style on the cover, you know...? (I like Marcus To's variant cover much, much more.)

When the first issue of the series was solicited, I was a little disappointed that Yang would be writing and Jim Cheung would be handling the art. Cheung's a solid enough super-comics artist, but I don't like his art nearly as much as I like that of most of the other artists Yang has collaborated with in the past or, come to think of it, Yang himself. But I like Cheung's art a whole heck of a lot more than I like Tan, who seems to be drawing the cover as well as some of the interior art in this second issue. (I didn't recognize Dike Ruan by name, but Googling him, his style seems to be very much in keeping with the modern Marvel/DC super-comic genre style.)

I'm not sure why this book has two different art teams consisting of at least three different artists in just the first two issues; I suppose the plan could be to have a different artist/art team on each issue either for some sort of story-telling reason or to share Yang's spotlight with as many artists of Asian descent as possible, but it sure gives me a sinking a feeling...

Sunday, July 26, 2020

DC's October previews reviewed

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Death Metal sequel, Dark Nights: Death Metal will reach its halfway point in October, and it is a positively sprawling event. In addition to the fourth issue of the seven-issue main series, there are two more one-shots solicited for this monthDark Nights: Death Metal Rise of The New God #1 and Dark Knights: Death Metal Robin King #1and two more issues of Justice League's ongoing tie-in arc. I'm curious how the event will ultimately be collected. The Justice League arc will be its own discrete collection, I'm sure, and I suppose the main series will be its own collection as well, but then there's the matter of the many one-shots. Will they all be published together in something with a title like Dark Nights: Death Metal Companion, or will perhaps a couple of them be collected along with the main series, or...?

At any rate, I'm trade-waiting, so I'll be reading the event however DC decides to curate it in trade format.

Aside from Death Metal, the month brings a lot of Batman content, with lots of in-continuity stories and a few prominent out-of continuity comics, and more Wonder Woman than usual, thanks, no doubt, to the movie...whenever that will actually be released.

Anyway, here's what jumped out at me this month...

ON SALE 10/27/20
$5.99 US | 48 PAGES | FC | DC | FINAL ISSUE
Series finale! All good things must come to an end, as we wrap up this run of Batgirl with one final oversized celebratory issue! In the aftermath of “The Joker War,” Gotham is left in pieces that need to be picked up by Barbara and Alejo’s team—but is Gotham a city worth saving anymore, and how much longer does our girl have it in her to keeping fighting for it as Batgirl? Then, if Barbara is to ever give her relationship with Jason a chance, she knows she has to face him and finally make amends with the act that crippled him.

I can't remember the last time I read an issue of was well before her new costume...but seeing "Marguerite Sauvage" in the credits sure makes me interested in this one. I kinda like the cover too; in fact, I think I prefer Middleton's sketches in the background to his finished head shot of the title character.

written by JAMES TYNION IV
art and wraparound cover by JORGE JIMENEZ
wraparound cover by JORGE JIMENEZ
ON SALE 10/6/20
$6.99 US | 56 PAGES | FC | DC
“The Joker War” comes to a city-shattering conclusion as Batman battles The Joker in a brutal, no-holds-barred duel! This is a fight 80 years in the making, and its outcome won’t just change Batman’s life—it will change Gotham City for years to come! Plus, catch the first glimpse of the new villain known as Ghost-Maker! And after the senses-shattering conclusion of “The Joker War” come a pair of short stories that will chart what’s to come in Gotham City and Batman. Don’t miss the first showdown between Batman and Clownhunter!

I haven't read a page of Tynion's Batman run yet, but, based on his Detective Comics run, I am not expecting much. So much of that run just seemed to adapt '90s Batman comics by Chuck Dixon, Marv Wolfman, Alan Grant, Denny O'Neil and others into current continuity that it made me feel extremely uncomfortable, and I wasn't sure if his new stories were falling far enough away from the line between homage and appropriation (especially for readers who aren't middle-aged men like me, and therefore might not be aware of how often that run played with the characters, stories, scripts and even particular panels of past comics by other creators).

That said, I'm impressed that Tynion has apparently been creating new characters during his Batman run. One of my biggest criticisms about modern Batman comics—say, the last 20 years—is how the writers just cycle through the same dozen or so rogues ad nauseum. I like, even love, a lot of those characters, but unless you have something incredibly fresh, new and compelling to say about The Joker, Scarecrow, Two-Face, The Penguin, Ra's al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, Bane, Mister Freeze, Man-Bat, The Mad Hatter, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Clayface and company, then chances are I've already read your story. Ten or twenty times.

While Tynion's Tec was extremely guilty of this, even if he did reintroduce some lesser-known and more rarely used villains like Anarky and The General, I've been impressed that in Batman he seems to be adding characters: The Designer, Punchline, Clownhunter and now Ghost-Maker.

Punchline is the only one I've read any of so far, and that story presented her as the Harley Quinn-style Joker groupie character minus Harley's charm, but hell, at lest he's trying!

written by JAMES TYNION IV
art and cover by GUILLEM MARCH
card stock variant cover by FRANCESCO MATTINA
ON SALE 10/20/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | FC | DC
...A new day dawns in Gotham and the horrors of “The Joker War” are just being realized. A bold new direction for Batman begins as Bruce Wayne’s circumstances are forever changed. How did the Joker’s rampage affected the citizens of the city? And why does Cole Cash—a.k.a.—Grifter, now work for Lucius Fox?!

The fuck is Grifter doing in Batman...? I thought DC gave up on trying to integrate the WildStorm characters into the DCU back during Futures End...? I guess the latest reboot/s aren't actually going to put WildStorm character back in their own universe after all...?

written by BRYAN HILL
ON SALE 10/13/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | FC | DC
Series finale! The war with Ra’s al Ghul reaches its end, and none of the Outsiders will ever be the same. And none of them might ever be a team again! Did Batman choose the wrong allies to assemble to fight Ra’s? Or did those allies make a mistake in believing in Batman? The critically acclaimed series comes to its end!

They're still fighting Ra's al Ghul? Jesus. And this is the final issue, so I guess Batman's own super-team has been battling one of his archenemies for, what, about a year and a half now?

That's a large part of why I haven't read a single issue of this series yet, despite for my fondness for Batman, Black Lightning, Cassandra Cain (but not Orphan) and Duke Thomas (but not The Signal). I think there are a couple of good Ra's stories to be told now, given the character's one-time focus as an environmental terrorist with the goal of saving the world by killing off much of its human population and that, decades after he was introduced with that motivation, we're literally years away from rendering the world uninhabitable, but the last, I don't know, dozen or so stories have focused more on Ra's as the leader of a ring of assassins and just one more guy who doesn't like Batman. I don't know for sure that's the tack Hill took with him, but the character seems so exhausted to me at this point that his presence generally repels rather than attracts me to a Batman comic.

If this book is canceled, then I do hope they find a place to use Duke and Cass in the near future, though...and that they give them both better code names (and the latter a better costume).

written by WARREN ELLIS
art and cover by BRYAN HITCH
ON SALE 10/13/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | 11 OF 12 | FC | DC
Scorn’s plan is revealed, and it is nothing less than the reshaping of the structure of Gotham City. Where the Batman imagines a city without crime, Scorn wants a city built on it. The Batman can’t think like him, though—he’s half-dead already!

I was wondering if DC was going to cancel this book or not following all these revelations about writer Warren Ellis of late, particularly given that they apparently decided to remove a short story contribution of his to a Death Metal anthology special.

I guess they decided against cancelling his maxi-series with Bryan Hitch so close to the conclusion of it.

Ellis puts the publisher in a pretty shitty position, because, on the one hand, being associated with Ellis now seems like something a decent publisher would want to avoid, but, on the other hand, you don't want to punish Hitch for Ellis, right? And DC's back catalog is just full of comics by Ellis and artists who, as far as I know, don't deserve the sort of boycott that one would expect to see Ellis' books getting in the future.

Gah. I'm so glad I'm just a consumer and occasional writer-about comics, rather than, like, actively participating in the field. For me, it's simply a matter of deciding whether or not to buy or read (and/or write about) a book or not. It's easy enough for me to skip one of the 25 new Batman comics available in a given month because I don't want my money going to support shitty people.

ON SALE 10/6/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | 5 OF 7 | FC | DC
Batman is scrambling as he learns the true identity of the man who’s been stalking him and the rest of the Bat-Family. As Batman and Alfred reel from the revelation, Tim demands answers! Batman’s greatest shame is finally revealed!

Hmm, I'm not sure how exactly they can squeeze Jason Todd into the continuity of Batman: The Animated Series; if there was another Robin who had had died (or "died"), he would have had to either predate Dick Grayson, which seems unlikely, or to have had a very short career during the gap between Dick's quitting and Tim Drake taking up the mantle when the show jumped forward in time. I guess it will be interesting to see how Dini and Burnett can retroactively squeeze Jason Todd into that history, and how they will portray him, given the fact that Tim was assigned Jason's origin story on the show.

Curiosity aside, my enthusiasm for this series is waning in light of this solicitation, which sure seems to suggest that this is actually some sort of adaptation of Judd Winick's "Under The Red Hood" story arc in Batman, which I loathed...

Ian Bertram should draw Batman.

That is all.

cover by KYLE HOTZ
ON SALE 10/13/20
$9.99 US | 80 PAGES | FC | DC
It was a dark and stormy night when the creatures of the DC Universe began to emerge from their lairs into the cool evening air. Tales of the macabre, the murderous, and the morbid abound in this spine-chilling special about monsters and mayhem! What happens when Batman encounters a true urban legend after speaking its name three times in a mirror, or when Madame Xanadu enlists the help of Man-Bat to take down a shadowy specter? And who can stop an intergalactic demon from turning people into frog beasts? Only the unlikely team-up of Green Lantern and Etrigan! All this and seven more fang-tastic tales to trick your treats and bob your apples.

Okay, I could say something here about how awesome that Kyle Hotz cover is (I don't see him listed as an interior artists though, and that's sad), and what a great regular Batman artist he would be. Or I could say something about how much I enjoy reading DC's holiday and anniversary anthologies, and how, along with the YA and kids ogns, they seem to be the primary way I engage with DC Comics now. Or the more standard, "Hmm, I like some of these creators a whole lot (Riley Rossmo! Tom Mandrake!), but that I will need to know more about the "and more" before getting too excited.

But instead I would like to focus on "the unlikely team-up of Green Lantern and Etrigan!" Now, it doesn't say which Green Lantern, which usually means they are referring to the worst Green Lantern, Hal Jordan.

But that's okay. Because it allows me to hold out hope that this story will be set during the Silver Age, or at sometime before the impurity in the power rings was taken away, and they could not affect the color yellow. And that, like most good superhero team-ups, this one will start with Hal and Etrigan fighting one another before teaming up against their common foe. And that Hal will fire a barrage at Etrigan that evaporates the Demon's red and blue clothing, only for Hal to be faced by a grinning, nude Etrigan, whose yellow flesh is invincible to the greatest weapon in the universe. And thus Hal will have no choice but to either fight Etrigan hand-to-hand (and, one would hope, get struck on the head a lot, as is Hal's wont), or somehow trick Etrigan into getting dressed, so that Hal's powers can affect him.

I guess we'll find out in a couple of months. Fingers crossed!

backup story art by DANIEL SAMPERE
With a utility belt filled to the brim with weapons designed to kill every hero in the DCU, Robin King is the most sadistic soldier in the Darkest Knight evil army! Can anyone stop him from laying waste to Earth’s last line of defense? And how did he become one of the Batman Who Laugh’s groblins in the first place? And in the backup story, can the Robins liberate Gotham City from the Darkest Knight’s control?

I don't have anything much to say here (wait, have they always been called "groblins"...?), just that I love Riley Rossmo, and I'm glad to see he's getting to draw a wholeor at least mostof an issue tied into this Death Metal event business.

Rossmo's one of those artists with such a distinct style that I kind of want to see him draw the whole DC Universe, just to see what his version of each character looks like, so if this story includes some or all of the heroes piled up on this cover beneath the title character's feet, well, that's good news.

written by PETER J. TOMASI
Spinning out of the events of “The Joker War” and Detective Comics #1027 comes a tale of the beginning of the end for Gotham City’s status quo. With tensions flaring and a new mayoral candidate making his anti-hero agenda known to the city, Batman and his allies are stretched thin to keep the peace. But just as things couldn’t look any worse, a string of gruesome murders has left a trail of the most corrupt in Gotham City losing their heads...literally. If Batman doesn’t quickly find the killer—the Dark Knight will be next.

Nicola Scott! Say, there's a female artist who could draw a Batman monthly! Despite Becky Cloonan's issue of Batman a few years back, and Joelle Jones drawing a few issue of the title during Tom King's run, there still hasn't been an actual run on one of the main Batman titles by a female artist yet...and Detective Comics and Batman have been published for just about as long as comic books have existed. That really seems like the sort of oversight DC should correct. Pronto.

I've liked Scott's art since I first saw it, and while if I were, like, The Boss of DC Comics, I don't think she would be the first, third or seventh female artist I would assign Batman or 'Tec for a year's run or so, I do think she's an artist DC could hand either book to, like, tomorrow and their average fan and editor be perfectly, 100% totally okay with it.

Her style is within the safe aesthetic range of the majority of the DCU comics, sufficiently so that I doubt anyone would freak out if they saw it on one of the publisher's top five books, and she is, at this point, an extremely known quantity at the publisher. It's easy to imagine her having a healthy, popular run as the artist on either of the two main bat-books.

On the subject of ladies doing Batman comics, is Devin K. Grayson still the only female writer to have a run on one of the main Batman books...? I know Gotham Knights wasn't Batman or 'Tec, but, when it launched, it basically replaced Shadow of The Bat as the tertiary Batman title...

written by PETER J. TOMASI
art and cover by KENNETH ROCAFORT
ON SALE 10/27/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | FC | DC

After the City of Bane, the Riddler’s takeover, The Joker War, and more, the people of Gotham City have had enough. The world is changing for Bruce Wayne, and the question he must ask himself is: What role does the Batman have in a city that rejects him? As the year barrels forward into what will become a turning point for the Dark Knight, Batman must grapple with the very citizens he has sworn to protect...while a familiar face looms large as a new threat on the horizon: Damian Wayne!

Okay, assuming that the guy in the chair there is not Facade from 2006's Tec #821, then that must be a new villain of some sort, whose secret identity I am, at this point, guessing is the same guy who is running for mayor on an anti-superhero platform...?

I spent some time trying to match all of the masks to various characters, but the red one on the far left has me stumped. Whose mask is that...?

Say, who's the new Doctor Fate in that image...? Is it the Khalid Nassour version from Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew's rather short-lived 2015 Doctor Fate series, or is it another new Doctor Fate...?

written by SCOTT LOBDELL
cover by DEXTER SOY
ON SALE 10/27/20
$5.99 US | 48 PAGES | FC | DC
Jason Todd’s downward spiral began when he was murdered by The Joker. But deep in his heart he blamed himself for charging headfirst into deadly danger. His rage and self-loathing caused him to lash out at those around him—keeping friends and family alike at arm’s length. Until the Outlaws. First Arsenal and Starfire, and later, Artemis and Bizarro, saw through his defenses. Now it’s time to pay it forward to the one person who represents all the mistakes he’s made in his own life: Duela Dent. But can he save The Joker’s Daughter...when he couldn’t even save himself? Don’t miss the end of the Outlaw era!

Like Jason Latour, mentioned in the previous post, and Warren Ellis, Scott Lobdell was among the handful of men mentioned in the latest round of comic book Twitter's ongoing discussion of shitty men in comics. I guess DC is also still publishing Lobdell though, although I suppose it's worth noting that while there's no "FINAL ISSUE" attached to this solicitation, as there are with so many other titles being published this month, the solicitation copy sure make it sound like it's the final issue of the series.

I kind of hope so. I've only read a handful of issues of any of Lobdell's Jason Todd comics since late 2011, but it's been ongoing under various titles and directions, and with various artists, ever since the New 52 launch. It's been a frankly rather bizarrely stable presence in DC's line-up. It's obviously not been so successful or so popular that it hasn't been repeatedly canceled and relaunched, with various tinkering with the precise title of the book, the supporting cast, the main character's costume and the over all premise, but DC has continued to publish it regardless.

Maybe there's just some baseline popularity to post-Robin Jason Todd comics that any book at all starring him sells well enough to justify its own existence, just so long as it is relaunched or refreshed on a regular basis...? Even so, it's strange to think that this character/title, over all the other New 52 characters/titles, would be the one that would keep its original writer for almost the full decade...

written by TOM KING
art and cover by JORGE FORNéS
ON SALE 10/20/20
$4.99 US | 32 PAGES | 1 of 12 | FC

It’s been 35 years since Ozymandias dropped a giant interdimensional squid on New York City, killing thousands and destroying the public’s trust in heroes once and for all. And since that time, one figure in a fedora, mask, and trenchcoat has become a divisive culture icon.
So what does it mean when Rorschach reappears as an assassin trying to kill a candidate running against President Robert Redford? Who is the man behind the mask, and why is he acting this way? It’s up to one detective to uncover the true identity of this would-be killer—and it will take him into a web of conspiracies involving alien invasions, disgraced do-gooders, mystic visions, and yes, comic books.
Writer Tom King joins forces with artist Jorge Fornés for a new miniseries that explores the mythic qualities of one of the most compelling characters from the bestselling graphic novel of all time, Watchmen.

This is gross, and shame on everyone involved with it.

Rather than going off into an essay-length tangent here, I'm just going to repeat what I said on Twitter:
Goddammit. There's two more prominent creators for my do-not-buy-stuff-from-these-guys list.

This is actually kind of depressing because while I've probably read more than enough King comics in the past few years, Fornes is a great up-and-coming talent.

I mean, for God's sake, just do a Question comic. DC does own the rights to the Question, that character's creator might also not have liked people doing comics based on his creation, but that creator has passed away.

I honestly will never understand the mentality of a creator who has to decide between A) Doing something the creator of the IP you're profiting off of would prefer you not to do and B) Doing something else, and chooses the latter.
My feelings on the existence of yet another Watchmen sequel by people who should know better haven't changed any since I originally tweeted about it ten days ago, with the possible exception that I've even more greatly annoyed about King's participation today than I was then.

written by TOM TAYLOR
art and cover by BRUNO REDONDO
ON SALE 10/27/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | FC | DC
The world knows Ted Kord as Blue Beetle, superhero. But the members of Task Force X know him as something else entirely—the violent and vindictive puppet master who rigged them to blow. With Deadshot murdered and Kord finally at their mercy, will the Suicide Squad get their revenge once and for all?

Wait, does the world know Ted Kord as Blue Beetle? Since fucking when? I know I'm not all that up-to-date on DC's monthly comics, but the last few times I have seen Ted Kord as Blue Beetle was 1) the out-of-continuity Tales of The Dark Multiverse, 2) The out-of-continuity DCeased and 3) Heroes In Crisis, which had so many continuity errors and was all-around so poorly-made that I just assumed it would be retroactively knocked out of continuity.

In the post-Flashpoint/New 52 continuity, I thought Jaime Reyes was the first Blue Beetle, and that we were first being introduced to Ted Kord as Jaime's kinda sorta mentor in DC Universe: Rebirth #1...?

Did...something happen somewhere to change all that--Doomsday Clock? Young Justice? Taylor's own Suicide Squad run?-- and I just haven't caught up yet...?

I can't tell you how irritated DC makes me with the publisher's constant, continuity-obsessed reboots occurring simultaneously with their writers' continuity-based storytelling.

ON SALE 11/17/20
$29.99 US | 304 PAGES | FC | DC
ISBN: 978-1-77950-578-1
The devil gets his due as demonically powered super-villains wreak havoc in this 25th-anniversary edition of the classic DC event! Neron, the ruler of hell, makes DC’s villains—and heroes—an offer they can’t refuse, dangling serious power upgrades at the cost of their souls. Who will say yes? Who will say no? And will the DC Universe ever be the same? Collects Underworld Unleashed #1-3, Underworld Unleashed: Abyss—Hell’s Sentinel #1, Underworld Unleashed: Apokolips—Dark Uprising #1, Underworld Unleashed: Batman—Devil’s Asylum #1, and Underworld Unleashed: Patterns of Fear #1.

Oh, hey! This is a comic I have literally been asking for! I read the original, core miniseries, as well as Hell's Sentinel and Devil's Asylum, but not Dark Uprising and Patterns of Fear, so I'm really rather looking forward to this. If I recall correctly, this is not only the main Mark Waid and Howard Porter series, in which new villain/actual devil Neron visits various heroes and villains and offers to grant them powers or wishes in exchange for their souls, generally cursing them in the process by giving them exactly what they want, but in a way they will immediately wish they hadn't gotten it, in true devil's fashion.
Hell's Sentinel, written by Scott Peterson and drawn by J.H. Williams III, Phil Jimenez and Mick Gray (this was my first introduction to Jimenez's work, by the way), featured Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott, then going by Sentinel, and a super-group of DC's magical heroes: The Spectre, Deadman, Fate, Zatanna, Phantom Stranger and Etrigan. In that respect, it seemed somewhat inspired by Alan Moore's seance sequence from Swamp Thing's tie-in arc to Crisis On Infinite Earths, and was also an origin of sorts for the group of magical heroes referred to as "The Sentinels of Magic," who prefigured The Shadow Pact and the eventual Justice League Dark. (I've always sort of regretted no monthly ongoing spun out of this; I liked the use of Scott as a superhero POV character who would try to navigate the cosmic and mystical forces of the DC Universe in the company of various sorcerers and demonic figures. His being a long-time member of a superhero team working with a bunch of people and creatures unaccustomed to teamwork seemed an additional selling point to the never really realized Sentinels of Magic series).

As for Devil's Asylum, my strongest memory of it is seeing it as I would occasionally reorganize my longboxes, as opposed to anything within it, so I'm afraid it didn't make much of an impression, despite the fact that it was written by my favorite Batman writer at the time (Alan Grant), and featured the unusual art team of Brian Stelfreeze and Rick Burchett, the former doing layouts for the latter to finish.

It seems Dark Uprising is a Paul Kupperberg-written story set on Apokolips, in which Neron tempts the various villains of Darkseid's court, and Patterns of Fear is a hybrid story/profile comic, in which Neron tempts Oracle Barbara Gordon with the restoration of her spine and legs, by Roger Stern and Anthony Williams, interspersed with profiles of some 25 villains drawn by the likes of Porter, Burchett, Jimenez, Oscar Jimenez, Flint Henry, Kelley Jones (!) and one of my '90s favorites, Vince Giarrano.

I wouldn't mind if DC decided to collect the entire event in a series of trade collections, personally, but I just looked it up on Wikipedia, and I guess there was something like 70 tie-in issues, some of which were extremely loose, so I'm not sure that will ever happen. I suppose it's possible they could do something akin to what they did with Zero Hour tie-ins, though, and collect, like, the ones featuring Batman and Superman...

It would probably also be possible to just cherry-pick the most relevant tie-ins, as when I reviewed the list of tie-ins, I saw some that I remember reading but had forgotten were even meant to be tie-ins to Underworld Unleashed, as sometimes all they needed was to prominently feature a villain and to have the Underworld Unleashed logo on the cover to qualify as a tie-in.

written by MARIKO TAMAKI
ON SALE 10/13/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | FC | DC
Wonder Woman and Max Lord are on the hunt for some missing and extremely dangerous weaponry from Lord Industries, and the search has brought this unlikely duo to…Miami? Fun in the sun will have to wait—because if Diana and Max can’t uncover this illegal arms trade, the entire city could be blown sky high! But we’re sure Max Lord will be nothing but helpful…right?

Steve Pugh!

Oh, um, that's all I had to say about that. I've gradually lost interest in the DCU Wonder Woman after the interesting but weird New 52 reboot and some extremely, disappointingly lackluster runs by some quite talented writers, but hey, I wouldn't mind seeing what Pugh does with Wonder Woman. (Max Lord in Wonder Woman, though? Not so much. I...don't even know how he fits into DC continuity anymore; I remember seeing him in Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad but, like the previously complained-about Blue Beetle, the history that that story and perhaps this one are trading on is also history that was pretty explicitly un-written, so the strongest emotions I can attach to the character appearing in DCU comics these days are confusion and apathy

ONE-SHOT | ON SALE 9/29/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | FC | DC
In these tales that tie in to the upcoming Warner Bros. movie Wonder Woman 1984, 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 that Wonder Woman can save the day! But will Wonder Woman be able to bring 10 gunmen to justice and get back to her tour group in time? And in a second story, it’s the eighties, and greed is good—as long as you already have it all! Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor hunt down the reckless mastermind who makes the ultimate power move by stealing Diana’s golden lasso!

Such movie tie-ins are generally not very good, but dang, that's a lot of talent assembled for this particular one, and I would very much like to see Bret Belvins' Wonder Woman, and I'm always, always, always interested in seeing what Sauvage is up to (see above).

cover by TK TK
ON SALE 12/1/20
$16.99 US | 208 PAGES | 6" x 9" | FC
ISBN: 978-1-77950-378-7
Not all heroes wear capes! Wonder Woman has been an inspiration for decades, and while not everyone would choose her star-spangled outfit for themselves, her compassion and fairness are worthy of emulation. This book presents tales of the real-world heroes who take up Diana’s mantle and work in the fields of science, sports, activism, diplomacy, and more!
New York Times bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson brings together an all-star cast of authors and illustrators in this anthology of contemporary Wonder Women—and how they’ve changed our world.

This could be interesting, although we don't have a whole heck of a lot to go on here, aside from the names of the contributors, many of whom are familiar to me and, excitingly, many more who are not. It certainly sounds like it will be the sort of encyclopedia of accomplished women that is fairly common in prose (and a few comics; I thought this one by the great Pénélope Bagieu was particularly excellent, for example), so I'm certain it will find a receptive audience in libraries and bookstores (or online booksellers, I guess). The big question mark will be how strong its ties to Wonder Woman are. Like, will there be a story of Wonder Woman teaming up with Marie Curie to fight Doctor Poison? Will Susan B. Anthony ride a kanga on her way to vote for the first time? Will Wonder Woman pose for Betsy Ross as she sews the American flag, the famed flag-sewer taking inspiration from Diana's butt? It remains to be seen.

cover by JOHN TIMMS
ON SALE 10/6/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | FC | DC
Wonder Girl calls Young Justice together to help her with a family problem. Seems the pantheon of Greek gods is having a hard time with some of Cassie’s choices. She’s taking a stand to change rules as old as the heavens! And she is going to need her team by her side to do it.

I don't want to get my hopes up, because this is just a cover and might have been in a metaphorical drawer for a long time before they decided to publish it, but Tim Drake is definitely wearing his Robin costume rather than his Drake one, and I see no mention of the name "Drake" in the solicitation copy. So maybe, just maybe, someone in charge realized that "Drake" is the worst possible superhero code name for someone named Tim Drake, and the name and costume are the opposite of what anyone reading Young Justice might want, and thus they changed him back to Robin/Red Robin (although it seems like Damian has, or is in the process, of temporarily giving up the Robin identity for a bit, at least based on the clues I've seen in the solicits).

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Marvel's September previews reviewed

Recently I noticed that DC Comics released their October 2020 solicitations, which reminded me that I had yet to see Marvel's September solicitations, and then I had to go looking for them. Guys, I am getting really bad at staying on top of these things!

I'm not sure what it is. Perhaps it's a relative a lack of interest driven by the fact that I read fewer and fewer comic book format comics, perhaps it's that I no longer check the super-comics news sites with any regularity anymore (since most of them have transitioned into entertainment-in-general news sites; I now generally only visit when someone I follow on Twitter links to one of them), perhaps it's the scrambling of the publishing plans that accompanied this spring's nationwide shutdown. Probably a combination of all three.

Anyway, before we move on to DC's plans for October, I guess we should briefly review Marvel's plans for September, huh? Reading through them, I noticed several books that were apparently re-solicited, as I obviously remember the pretty big news of a Shang-Chi series written by Gene Luen Yang (Have you guys read Dragon Hoops yet...? It is so good. You definitely should read it if you haven't already), and that weird-ass cover for X-Men #12, that looks like an album cover.
I suppose the biggest event of the month will be the X-Men family crossover, "X of Swords," the name of which probably makes more sense if you, like, have been reading X-Men comics, but to me just sounds kind of funny, like they work-shopped a couple of cool-sounding words in various combinations and settled on that one.

It seemed like a lot of books will be participating in what is surely just the first month of the crossover as I was scrolling through the solicits, with five comics explicitly listed as tying into the story line (Excalibur, X-men, X of Swords: Creation, X-Factor and X of Swords Handbook (the cover of which is above at the top of this post). These range in price from $3.99 to $6.99, for a grand total of $25, give or take a nickle). And then there's the $7.99 Captain Britain: Marvel Tales, which isn't described as a solicit, but does have the "X of Swords" logo on its cover.

But it turns out that is actually a relatively small number of books participating, at least at this point. Cable, Hellions, New Mutants, Wolverine and X-Force will all be sitting the story line out in September. Maybe they will join in the following month, or maybe even Marvel is having trouble getting their entire eight-book X-Men line to tie into a single event story.

So, other than Shang-Chi, X-Men and swords, what else is Marvel putting out in September...?

The greatest generation of Marvel heroes is back — to stop one of their own! Namor the Sub-Mariner, monarch of Atlantis, has once again declared war on the surface world — and this time he means to win at any cost! But he won’t find allies in Captain America, the Human Torch and the Winter Soldier. All three fought by Namor’s side in World War II as the Invaders, but now they stand as enemies! Namor’s deadly plans are as far-reaching as the ocean, and it’s up to the Invaders to stop him — but what chance do they have against a former ally who knows all their wartime strategies and fighting tactics? Namor’s secret history is revealed, the Torch is transformed — and the world is forever changed. But can Namor possibly be redeemed? Collecting NAMOR: THE BEST DEFENSE and INVADERS (2019) #1-12.
296 PGS./Rated T+ …$34.99
ISBN: 978-1-302-92735-6
Trim size: 7-1/4 x 10-7/8

Quick, someone talk me out of dropping $35 on this!

I have a weakness for Marvel's Invaders (and Defenders), but I think I should be able to successfully resist ordering this. After all, I did already read the first chunk of it when it was collected in trade paperback (It was really good!).

NICK SPENCER (W) • Mark Bagley (A/C)
Variant Cover by MARK BAGLEY
• Spider-Man has been pushed harder than he has in a very long time and in ways he has never been before.
• How far can he be pushed before he breaks?
• Who he has to face this issue is going to answer that very clearly as we are one issue from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN LGY #850!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN reaches another landmark and we’re celebrating Spider-Style!
• As if things weren’t bad enough for Spider-Man with Sin-Eater’s reign of terror reaching riot level… THE GREEN GOBLIN IS BACK!
• Spidey has been through a lot, but even the worst things that have ever happened to Spider-Man have just been a prelude for what happens here, with an epic main story by a veritable Hall of Fame of Spider-Creators.
• As if that wasn’t enough, this issue also boasts a collection of prestige short stories by Tradd Moore, Kurt Busiek, Chris Bachalo
& Saladin Ahmed!
96 PGS./Rated T+ …$9.99

You know how back in the bad old days, many grown-ups used to say that comic books were actively bad for children, hurting their ability to learn by giving them an easier alternative to reading prose books, as well as subjecting them to prurient subject matter like crime, horror, violence and sex...?

Well, they might have been on to something. At least, the argument could be made that Marvel comics set a bad example for children when it comes to counting, and how number work in general. After all, where but Marvel comics would the number 48 be but one issue away from 850...?

Nick Spencer (w)
Federico VICENTINI (a)
Variant Cover by
• The Sin-Eater has leveled up thanks to Kindred, and his evil plan is WORKING — New York City is on fire at its own hand, Ravencroft is under siege and Spider-Man seems to be the only one who knows right from wrong anymore.
• He certainly can’t look for help from Ravencroft’s chief administrator, NORMAN OSBORN, whose past will haunt both himself and Spider-Man!
• So Spidey calls his Amazing friends Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Ghost-Spider, Spider-Girl and Madame Web in to help. The Order of the Web is born.
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T …$4.99

Sheesh, there are so many Spider-people now! There are so many that they couldn't fit all of the ones mentioned in the solicitation onto the cover image! (Speaking of Spider-people, who is the one in the black and white suit? Is that the new Spider-Girl, or a new Madame Web?)

Also, I am not pleased to report that I hit the name "Ghost-Spider" and immediately thought of a story on Twitter of Jason Latour asking a young woman if she knew who he was, acting like writing for Marvel made him the comics equivalent of a rock star, and any young women he met at comics conventions must therefore be the equivalent of groupies,  and i felt momentarily as grossed out as I did when I originally read that and other accounts of his behavior towards his female peers (and the accounts of many, many other shitty men in comics) a few weeks ago.

Maybe that association will fade, but at the moment I am not only unable to think of Latour without feeling grossed out, but I'm also associating characters he created and worked on strongly enough with him that they gross me out too.

Hiring bad people to make comics for you is bad business, as their behavior not only taints them, but also their work and the IP they're responsible for. I hope all publishers learn that lesson, and do their utmost to make sure everyone they work with is a highly-ethical, non-gross person...

Written by JACK KIRBY
Penciled by JACK KIRBY
Experience the Eternals like never before in this super-sized edition! The limitless imagination of Jack “King” Kirby unleashed countless creations into the world of comics. Captain America. The Fantastic Four. The Avengers. The X-Men. Each timeless creation was imbued with Kirby’s inescapable graphic power, his boundless capacity for capturing the human condition and his eternal search for meaning in the cosmos. And Kirby’s The Eternals revealed an entire new realm of heroes! Once worshipped as gods, this fantastic group left Earth to explore the stars after warring with the Greek, Roman and Norse pantheons for supremacy over humankind. But the Eternals are just one part of a cosmic mythology. Their opposites — the Deviants — also secretly populate Earth. And the towering cosmic entities that created both — the Celestials — are fated to return and judge us all! Collecting ETERNALS (1976) #1-19 and ANNUAL #1.
384 PGS./Rated T …$125.00
ISBN: 978-1-302-92701-1
Trim size: 13-41/64 x 21-1/4
Order using APR201067

Aha! I learned my lesson when I asked our YA librarian to order a copy of Monsters Unleashed: Monster-Size HC that "monster-size" refers not to the page count of the book, but the page size, and that the book is actually the size of a small raft. It's kind of fun to read, but no fun at all to lug around, or figure out how to display or shelve it in a library (or, I suppose, one's own home).

• The ultimate Omni-Wave Projector — built by Valeria Richards, powered Franklin Richards. In their hands, it could lay waste to the Empyre...
• ...but what if it fell into the hands of the Celestial Assassins? A tipping point in the Empyre saga! A fight that Spider-Man and Wolverine can’t afford to lose! And two lives that that will be forever changed!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

No lie, I honestly forgot this event story was still going on until I hit this solicitation. I suppose the temporary suspension of new comics pushed the end of the series back. September must  really and truly mark the end of Empyre, though, as in addition to this tie-in issue, the month will also see the release of the sixth issue of the six-part Empyre event series, the wrap-up of the Captain Marvel tie-in arc and two comics entitled Empyre Fallout: Fantastic Four #1 and Empyre Aftermath Avengers #1.

Forty-five years ago, a comic book came out that would change the face of Marvel Comics forever. Writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum revamped the X-Men completely, replacing the bulk of the teen heroes with a completely new international cast! The legendary one-shot took comic fans by storm and set the series off in a new direction, setting the stage for the legendary X-scribe Chris Claremont to make them the most popular heroes in the Marvel Universe! Now, 37 of Marvel’s top artists come together to re-create this epic story, each re-drawing one pulse-pounding page in tribute to this Marvel masterpiece!
48 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$5.99

This is, in all honesty, an incredibly awesome idea, and I imagine it will be a real blast to read...probably most especially for fans who have read and re-read the comic being "covered" jam fashion by almost 40 different artists repeatedly over the years.

like a lot of the artists named above, and will be curious to see what this looks like, even though I don't think I've ever actually read the issue they're drawing in jam fashion (I did try to read the X-Men back in 2000 via Essentials volumes, but never even got to this issue). I'm trying to imagine a comic that I have read over and over, and basically know every page of by memory, and thinking how cool it might be to read it redrawn by a bunch of different pros. The only one that really comes to mind is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1, and I would love to see that drawn in such a jam cover fashion, so yeah, this should be a treat for old-school X-Men fans. My metaphorical hat off to whoever came up with this idea (Now that I'm thinking of it, I guess the first appearances of many of the Golden Age DC heroes would be good candidates for such a treatment; I could definitely see Batman, Superman or Captain Marvel getting this treatment, maybe Wonder Woman...)

Ever notice how comic book superheroes' costumes are always made of the tightest imaginable skin-tight material...until it comes time for someone to have to grab one of them by the collar, and then suddenly it has plenty of give...?

This is a nice New Mutants cover by Mike Del Mundo.

That is all.

Cover by ALEX ROSS
SPIDER-MAN VARIANT by Olivier Coipel
In darkness there lurks Kaiju – terrifying and unfathomable monsters. Between Kaiju and the rest of us stands the United Science Patrol!
But who are these enigmatic defenders, and how do they perform their miracles? Shin Hayata and Kiki Fuji have spent half a lifetime trying to find out – and their quest is about to drive them toward a decades-old dark secret and put them on a collision course with a mysterious warrior from beyond the stars!
Kyle Higgins (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), Mat Groom (Self/Made) and Francesco Manna (AVENGERS) reimagine the classic origin of a pop culture icon as THE RISE OF ULTRAMAN begins!
48 PGS./Rated T+ …$5.99

Huh. I was genuinely surprised when Marvel re-secured the license to Conan and friends, and still more surprised when there were announcements that they were also getting the license for Aliens and Predator comics (at which point it all seemed like Marvel's loading up on licenses was an attempt to kneecap Dark Horse). But this one in particular comes out of left-field.

Despite my interest in and love of giant monsters, I've never been particularly drawn to or curious about Ultraman, and I'm not entirely sure why. It might be the character's TV origins, or simply the fact that I was never exposed to him as a child or in my formative years. I guess if I give this a try, it will be my first exposure to Ultraman (I wonder, will he be in the Marvel Universe, the way Conan is? Will he be duking it out with Giant-Man, frost giants, Fing Fang Foom and other old Kirby monsters...?).

Knowing nothing about the franchise other than that it involves kaiju, I'm not sure Marvel's actually the very best publishing home for itIDW's Godzilla comics from a few years back were often really incredible, and they had a great line up of artists involved in drawing all those giant monsters and heroesbut this should be an interesting property to watch in the coming months and years.

Now, how is it possible that an American comic book publisher is going to start making Ultraman comics and Sophie Campbell is not involved, not even in drawing variant covers...?

Reprinting: Magik (1983) #1
32 PGS./ Rated T ...$1.00
Order using APR200917

Just out of curiosity, who is that in black, crouching in the lower right corner? And is her leg and sides naked, or is that simply flesh-colored spandex? If the former, that costume seems like it might be a particularly difficult one to move around and fight in without anything popping out...even among the most barely-there of old superheroine costumes....

Saturday, July 11, 2020

On certain scenes from Young Justice Vol. 2

I was pretty pleased with the first volume of Young Justice, in which writer Brian Michael Bendis and Patrick Gleason resurrected the team with the core of the original line-up—Superboy, Impulse, Wonder Girl and Robin Tim Drake—and a few new characters. Granted, a lot of the hows and whys of the return were left up in the air, with only some tantalizing clues offered up, like references to seven crises that can alter worlds, Impulse Bart Allen seemingly being unchanged since the previous volume of Young Justice was cancelled in 2003 and Tim learning that his memories of pre-Flashpoint/New 52 continuity had been hidden from him, but were still present in his brain.

I've liked many of these characters for as long as I've been reading comics (most of them were created around the time I started reading comics) and I liked the previous 1998-2003 Young Justice comic, so I was eager both to continue reading their adventures in their new title and to see how Bendis would go about explaining how this reunion was even possible given the severe mangling so many of these characters have received over the last 18 years or so.

Well, the second volume, collecting issues #6-#12 of the series, is a disappointment in that regard. Yes, the characters are still together, but one of them goes through a very radical, very unwelcome change, none of the mysteries of the first volume are furthered (let alone resolved), Bendis proves he's no Grant Morrison when it comes to extrapolating stories from Gardner Fox concepts and, in the final issues, there's a weird jumble in which characters from the other three Wonder Comics comics are smooshed into the pages of Young Justice to ill effect (Naomi from Naomi, a title I read and did not like; Miguel and Summer from Dial H For Hero, a title I read and did like; and The Wonder Twins from The Wonder Twins, a title which I still haven't read but intend to eventually).

I know I reviewed the volume briefly elsewhere, but there were certain elements that I wanted to dwell on at greater, perhaps obnoxious length, hence this blog post.

1.) I was promised dinosaurs. The cover for this collection is taken from Young Justice #6, and, I was sorry to learn, it was a thematic cover rather than one that literally depicted a scene from that particular issue (or story arc).

Because the team is, as the sub-title says, lost in the multiverse, artist John Timms draws our heroes floating in a pale white void of nothingness, apparently emerging from the large portal ringed by Kirby dots in the center of the image. Various portals from various alternate dimensions/Earths disgorge various threats: a robot, sharp-toothed aliens, yellow bugs, tentacles, dinosaurs. Would the Young Justice team be meeting, fighting or otherwise interacting with dinosaurs in this story arc...? Because that is something I would very much like to see!

Unfortunately, the dinosaur count in these six issues is very, very low. The team visits exactly four different Earths in the Multiverse on their way back to their home dimension: What appears to be a new Earth populated by Dan Hipp-drawn chibis, Earth-C, the Kingdom Come-iverse and Earth-3. None of them has dinosaurs.

Late in the book, Superboy is transported to Skartaris, the barbarian world setting of Warlord, and there are a few panels worth of dinosaurs there. A couple appear in the background, and Superboy punches out gigantic, kaiju-sized fantasy theropod of some sort.
I imagine the dinosaur content will be far higher in Vol. 3, assuming the team journeys to Skartaris to rescue Superboy.

2.) "Cy"...? The team's first stop is to a world in which the current Justice League exists as cute little chibi versions of themselves (please note the little eyes on Batman's bat-symbol).

It's a very short stop, lasting just two pages, but a welcome one, as it provides an excuse for Dan Hipp to contribute some art to the book. I always enjoy seeing Hipp's art, but this was especially welcome, as it features several panels of him drawing the Young Justice team "straight"; that is, not in the design style most associated with the artist, but how he might draw them if he were drawing a serious issue of Young Justice. I really like what they look like.

The part of this sequence that felt really weird to me though was hearing (well, seeing) Batman call Cyborg "Cy" repeatedly. Batman using a nickname to refer to anyone sounds kind of off, and I think it sounds even more off hearing him use one when talking to Cyborg, a character who is quite a bit younger than him and who he hasn't actually worked with all that long (Unless we're operating on New 52 continuity, in which case I guess he's known Cyborg as long as he's known any superhero).

That said, I realize Batman has appeared in like a million stories written by thousands of different people (though mostly men!), so chances are he has used nicknames before (I'm pretty sure he's called Jason Todd "Jay" on occasion, for example), and sure, this is an alternate dimension where Batman is small and cute and has little eyes on his bat-symbol chest emblem, so maybe he is super-familiar with his colleagues, and he also calls Wonder Woman "Wondy" and Hawkgirl "Hawks."

It just struck me as really weird sounding.

3.) Goddamit, don't make me Google "Pig-Iron" and "powers". The next stop is a three-page visit to the David La Fuente-drawn Earth-C, home of Captain Carrot and The Zoo Crew, or whatever said Earth is currently called in the extant version of The Multiverse (Captain Carrot's design here is that seen in Grant Morrison and company's Multiversity comics).

I'm not familiar enough with the Zoo Crew's home world pre-Crisis, post-Crisis, post-Infinite Crisis or post-Multiversity to grade how off elements of their briefly-viewed world here might be, but I was surprised when Pig-Iron flies off to retrieve "The MULTIVERSE MALLET!", a large cartoon mallet with which he casts Young Justice out of this universe.

Like I said, I'm not terribly familiar with any real iteration of the Zoo Crew, but, um, I didn't think Pig-Iron could fly. He can't, can he? Why didn't Captain Carrot go get the mallet? I know he can fly and has super-strength.

Well, curiosity eventually got the best of me, and I did Google it. And no, Pig-Iron's power-set does not include flight. But hell, maybe this is an alternate universe where he can; maybe this isn't Earth-C after all, but, um, Earth-C.5 or something...

Anyway, that's the sort of thing that I hate to see in shared-universe super-comics: Very simple, unimportant things that are just off enough to knock you out of the story long enough to question it. There's a lot of that in this volume, and it's very frustrating, because a few seconds of Googling on the part of the writer or editors could have prevented such narrative friction.

4.) Would you believe the Multiverse Mallet knocked Young Justice to Kingdom Come?  And speaking of narrative friction...

The world of Mark Waid and Alex Ross' 1996 Elseworlds epic Kingdom Come is a pretty obvious one to include in any tour of DC's alternate dimensions, and, indeed, Young Justice spends 17 pages there, or the bulk of the book's sixth issue (while guest artists drew the first two stops on their tour, new regular artist John Timms draws the Kingdom Come sequence, and he does so in his regular style...there's no attempt to gesture in the direction of Alex Ross...or even Ariel Olivetti or Mike Zeck, who drew the two chapters of Kingdom Come's official but ignore-able 1999 sequel, The Kingdom).

It's a rather strange couple of scenes, and that particular setting seems to be have chosen by Bendis at random: Not only does the new comic not comment on the old in any way (and I mean in any way, up to and including just using it for fodder for a couple of jokes or something), but Bendis and Timms don't even exploit the setting as a source of cool eye candy or fond nostalgia or, seriously, anything at all.

And as with the brief stop on Earth-C, there's some narrative friction...only a lot more of it, and it felt much more turbulent to me as a reader, as I'm much, much more familiar with Kingdom Come than I am Captain Carrot comics.

So here's what happens. The team arrives outside a Hall of Justice in a Metropolis, and spend a few pages trying to figure out if they're home, or where they might be, exactly (Isn't their Hall, the one Robin visited in the previous volume, located in Washington D.C....?). The first hint that something is wrong is when three teenagers run up to them and say, "Yooooou all got shaballs" and then run away.

The team then alights atop a rooftop and start scanning news reports for clues as to their whereabouts, and just as Impulse is saying this Earth's Superman looks "distinguished," the above splash page of five heroes descending from the sky not unlike the Justice League of Kingdom Come did in a memorable panel (and in some of Kingdom Come's marketing).

They are, of course, Superman, Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Green Lantern Alan Scott and Red Robin Dick Grayson.

Oddly, Dick never gets a single line of dialogue, and Tim doesn't attempt to initiate a conversation with him, despite how well he knows a Dick Grayson, and the fact that his current superhero code name was taken from this very character (And, in a previous, pre-New 52 continuity that Tim just learned he had forgotten, he even wore that very same Red Robin costume...although I suppose he might have forgotten that particular part of his own forgotten continuity).

Power Girl gets one line ("What is what?").

The only other character from Kingdom Come to appear is Dr. Fate, who Bendis writes as rather flighty, and who Timms weirdly frames in such a way that the interesting visual nature of this particular version of Dr. Fate isn't clear (Kingdom Come's Dr. Fate, remember, was just a helmet, a cape and a pair of gloves, with no visible body wearing them).

Superman says, "That protest shirt is in poor taste," apparently referring to Superboy's costume, which has Superman's old S-shield on it, the one he wore before going into retirement and then coming out of retirement, now wearing a red and black one.

Alan, who talks more like Kyle Rayner than any other Green Lantern, imprisons the whole team in green energy bubbles, save for Wonder Girl, who Wonder Woman lassos, at her suggestion, and thus, bound to tell the truth, she explains to the Kingdom Comers what's what.

After they hear Young Justice out, Alan thinks they should find a way to send them home, while Superman says they need to figure out what to do with them. The older heroes confer, during which time Teen Lantern says she found "what made this Earth different from our Earth" and she shows the others an image of a cape-less, red-eyed, smoking Kingdom Come Superman standing over a prone Captain Marvel. Which...happened at the climax of Kingdom Come, although everything else we've seen up until now suggests that this is at some point before the apocalyptic superhero battle.

Then, very weirdly, a bunch of people come tumbling out of the sky from what looks like a SHIELD helicarrier in the sky, and one of them announces himself and the others as "The Sons and Daughters of The Bat!" "We will not rest until you surrender your authority!" another shouts. I...didn't get this at all. These characters aren't from Kingdom Come and, if anything, resemble Batman's followers from the end of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns and its sequels.

They're all dispatched between panels, as a "Three Minutes Later" slug lets us know that's how long it took the combined forces of Young Justice and the Kingdom Comers to deal with them. (If Batman and Superman are still in conflict, this also suggests that Young Justice is on this Earth before the events of the climactic battle, in which case Teen Lantern's picture of Superman defeating Captain Marvel doesn't make sense).

Finally, Superman and company take Young Justice to see Dr. Fate, presumably somewhere within his tower, although its never stated where they are, and he sends them home...or thinks he does, until he realizes that they're actually very close to their Earth, just a few Earths away...on Earth-3.

5.) And now it's time to talk about "Drake." DC's Earth-3 setting was originally created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky in a 1964 issue of Justice League of America; the basic idea was an evil opposite world where evil analogs of the Justice League of America known as the Crime Syndicate of America lived (other, evil opposite aspects of the world included weird reversals of American history, like actor Abraham Lincoln assassinating President John Wilkes Booth; it's a really rather fascinating concept, though no one ever really drills down past the superhero part of it).

Despite various reboots that have happened since then, DC still seems to be mostly operating on Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's reinvention of the concept and the Syndicate in their 2000 JLA: Earth 2 original graphic novel. At least, all of the Earth-3/Syndicate stories that have followed have stuck to Quitely's designs of the characters, and Morrison's characterizations of them. This includes Geoff Johns' "Trinity War" and Forever Evil stories, in which the characters played major roles. Young Justice follows those Johns-written stories, with the heroes arriving on a world that has been abandoned by its one-time rulers, the Crime Syndicate.

Young Justice doesn't get to explore the world, though, as they are immediately attacked by Earth-3's answer to Young Justice.

Now I don't think it's too controversial a statement to say that, despite his many positive qualities as a writer of comic books, Brian Michael Bendis is terrible at coming up with superhero names. I mean, this is the guy whose contributions to Marvel's massive character catalog includes both Geldoff and Gold Balls. (And Jessica Jones, sure, but "Jessica Jones"...? Not a great superhero name!).

So it shouldn't be too surprising that the names of his Evil Young Justice are all terrible, although given that so many of Young Justice's own code names are derived from heroes who have their own Earth-3 counterparts, it shouldn't be too hard, should it?

For example, the Superman of Earth-3 is Ultraman, so the Superboy of Earth-3 would be Utraboy, right? And if the Wonder Woman of Earth-3 is Superwoman, than the Wonder Girl of Earth-3 would be, um, Supergirl...?

But no!

The evil Wonder Girl is named "Amaxon Thunder." The evil Superboy? He's "the abandoned bastard son of Ultraman and Dana Luthor," and he goes by "Luthor-El" (Even though Luthors should be good on Earth-3, and I'm not sure where the "-El" would even come from in a world without Superman; Ultraman was an earthling). The evil Impulse? "Speed Zone." The evil Teen Lantern? Given the fact that this world's Green Lantern is named "Power Ring," you're probably thinking "Power Teen" or "Teen Ring", right? Maybe "Volteen"...? No, it's "Hack." The evil Jinny Hex is just, um, "Hex," and there is a bad guy version of Amethyst, but we never see her or learn her name; Impulse says he dealt with her off-panel.

Oh, and who is Red Robin Tim Drake's evil counterpart? Talon, or maybe "Red Talon", given that Talon is the name of Earth-3's Dick Grayson, the one-time partner of Owlman? Or even "Red Owl"...?

No it, is (siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggggggh) "Drake." Yes, just Drake. Tim's last name.

Drake sneaks up on Tim and the two have a pretty cool 12-panel, silent hand-to-hand battle, after which Drake, who is costumed just like Tim only with a chin-strap, ear-protectors and a half-moon symbol where Tim's "R" is, introduces himself. That occurs in the panels above.
No Tim, no it's not! It is bad. It is very, very bad.

I'm not sure why Drake tells Tim that the drake is "one of the most dangerous birds" because, and I just spent whole minutes of my life Googling this to make sure I knew what I was talking about, a drake is a sexually mature male duck. And I don't know that I've ever heard of anyone getting killed by a duck, sexually mature male or otherwise.

Also, I thought everyone knew that the cassowary was the world's most deadly bird? I mean, when The Penguin had a bird attack Batman in The Animated Series' "Almost Got 'Im" episode, he used a cassowary, not a duck.

Now, if Drake were just the dumb-sounding name of an evil, opposite version of one of our heroes like Amaxon Thunder or Luthor-El, that would be fine, but, and this is the really weird part, Tim Drake becomes quite enamored of the name, as does Impulse and, before the story ends, Tim Drake decides to exchange his costume for a new one that he apparently finds in Earth-3 Batwoman Stephanie Brown's Batcave (a heroic Stephanie Brown on Earth-3 seems to break the "rules" of the setting's concept; if she's a hero on Earth-0, then she should be a villain on Earth-3) and start calling himself "Drake."
I...honestly don't get this at all. It's not a cool name, it is his last name and why he chooses to adopt it isn't quite clear. Impulse repeatedly suggests he does so, and there seems to have been a relationship of some kind between Earth-3's Stephanie and Drake, but the name and costume change take place off-panel, and without any explanation beyond that Tim (and Impulse) like the sound of it.

What seems particularly perplexing about it in this context is that Drake is a bad guy, and it seems strange that Tim would abandon the Robin identity for that of a villain he just met.

Given how terrible a superhero code name "Drake" is—especially for a character whose secret identity is Tim Drake—I really needed this comic to sell me on the idea of Tim taking it on, and Bendis barely even tries to do so in this story line. (Oh hey, did you know "drake" is also a Latin word meaning dragon? I guess a dragon-themed, rather than bird-themed, hero using the name "Drake" would work, but not so much if that is literally the character's real name).

So I still maintain that Tim should just keep going by "Robin." Sure, that would mean there are two Robins, but how often are Tim and Damian even in the same place at the same time...? Almost never?

Or, if Tim must have a new code name, then I would suggest Redbird or Redwing. But his renaming should have an in-story justification, and one that makes at least a little bit of sense.

Before moving on, as long as we're on the subject of Earth-3, I suppose it's worth noting another way in which this story seems to break the "rules" of Earth-3, at least as established by Morrison in Earth 2. One of the more clever conceits in that book was that the rules that governed Earth-3 were the opposite of those that governed the DCU, so that the good guys couldn't win on Earth-3, because it was a place where evil always triumphed, whereas the Crime Syndicate couldn't win in the DCU, because that was a world in which justice always triumphed. Here, though, Young Justice and Batwoman team-up to defeat the evil Young Justice, and so good triumphs on Earth-3.

6.) A little more about the new Drake. Here is one of Timms' sketches of  the new Drake costume, which is pretty much final. All that's missing is the red-on-black moon symbol on the chest—which is perhaps meant to be a stylized "D"?—and the bat-symbol on the chest.

 I...don't really get it. Aside from the mask, staff and collar, it's a far cry from Tim's earlier costumes, and it's not a particularly cool-looking one. The color scheme of brown, gold and black don't seem to fit with previous themes of his Robin and Red Robin costumes (red, green, yellow and black in various combinations) or anything particularly Bat-related (black and grey, blue and gray, black and blue). It's not even practical, like an all or mostly black costume might be, although some thought has seemingly gone into making it look like practical body armor a "real" superhero might wear.

The trade collection includes two pages of preliminary sketches for a new Drake costume by Timms, and while I don't necessarily love any of these, I think I like them all better than the one they went with.

These (almost) all feature a cape and a color scheme that is consistent with what Tim has always worn. A simplified, stripped-down version of some of the above, like, say, H for example, could have worked just fine.

I suppose it's only a matter of time before someone changes Tim's code name and costume again, but I hope it's sooner rather than later. He was one of the characters that first enamored me with the DC Universe setting and DC Comics in general, and I still feel a degree of fan-ish ownership regarding him.

I'm glad he's back in the spotlight with this book, but hate, hate, hate the new code name and costume...especially since this book has returned Superboy and Impulse to their original costumes and code names. For now, it looks like Tim is in the same category as poor Cassandra Cain: A beloved character awaiting creators to do them justice.

7.) I just plain loved this page. Among this volume's smartly-deployed guest-artists is Nick Derington, who draws a portion of Jinny Hex's origin. Derington, of course, introduced the character in the story line he drew for Batman Giant, which would eventually be republished and collected as Batman Universe. Here, for the first time, we get a look at the inside of Jinny's trunk, her inheritance from her ancestor, Jonah Hex.

"Jonah Hex was like one of those superheroes...but of his time," Jinny's mother explains to her when giving her the chest:
One of the protectors.
So he always found himself surrounded by or dabblin' in things I think we still don't understand. 
This is stuff that was collected by your great-great-great grandfather over the years.
Some of it he confiscated... ...and some of it he was given to protect.
Among the most immediately recognizable items are Flashlight's flashlight (Recently seen in The Green Lantern), one of The Atom's size-changing belts, the/a H-Dial, the Demons Three's wheel, jar and bell, the "Fabergé egg" from Batman Universe and what I sincerely hope is one of Jimmy Olsen's bow ties, left with Jonah during a time-travelling Jimmy Olsen adventure we have yet to be told.