Thursday, December 23, 2021

Marvel's March previews reviewed

Well this seems like a good (if obvious) ideas for a comic book. Jamie McKelvie and Marika Cresta's Captain Carter #1 picks up the idea of the What If...Peggy Carter Became the World's First Super-Soldier Instead of Captain America?, and then puts her in the same position Captain America once found himself in, being unfrozen after decades in a block of ice in the modern world. 

World-renowned fan of Frank Miller's Dardevil run, Keven Eastman, has a story in Elektra: Black, White and Blood #4 (as does Peach Momoko, who provides one of the issues covers, the one above).

I wonder if this is as close as we'll ever get to Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman reuniting for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Daredevil crossover that I hope to see sometime in my lifetime...?

Well, it's not Street Angel Vs. The Marvel Universe, but I guess it's the next best thing. 

Jim Rugg follows pals Ed Piskor and Tom Scioli with a Marvel "Grand Design" book, The Hulk Grand Design: Monster #1, which, if I'm reading this right, condenses the whole history of the Jade Giant into just 48 pages...? Is that right, or is this just the first issue of a miniseries? Someone let me know soon so I know if I should pre-order this, or wait for the trade.

I'm all in favor of Grand Design books in general. I hope they do the whole dang Marvel Universe at some point. There are characters, series and franchises that I have a general interest in, but don't really want to wade through a dozen or so Epic Collections just to read about them. I would love, for example, a Defenders Grand Design book, but I imagine we'll have to get through way more popular ones, like Spider-Man and The Avengers before we get down to B-teams...

March will see the release of a brand-new X-Men title by writer Keiron Gillen and artist Lucas Werneck entitled Immortal X-Men #1. I guess Immortal Hulk did well enough that Marvel is going to attempt to make "Immortal" their new buzzword for new titles. 

The thing is, in Immortal Hulk it was a fairly literal title, as Al Ewing's then new take on the Banner/Hulk relationship was that if Banner was killed, he would come back to life as the Hulk the next night. Here I am assuming that "Immortal" is meant to be more figurative, but I don't know, I haven't been reading X-Men in a while...I guess there's some new weird technology on Krakoa that allows them to resurrect dead X-Men easily, right? (Well, more easily, I guess I should stay, as X-Men don't exactly have a tendency to stay dead for very long at all.) 

Anyway, I won't be too terribly surprised if we see an Immortal Spider-Man, Immortal Guardians of the Galaxy or Immortal Ghost Rider in the near-ish future...

Is the new Iron Fist, seen here on Jim Cheung's variant cover for Iron Fist #2, wearing his mask upside down...?

Word on the street is that The Punisher is getting a new logo/sigil in his new book, Punisher by Jason Aaron, Jesus Saiz and Paul Azaceta, but it wasn't on any of the three covers released with this solicitation, so I guess I'll hold off on making fun of it and/or pointing out better, more obvious alternatives...including, of course, no logo at all.

But, can I just say here for the record how insane it is that fucking Disney of all corporations gave up on control of a logo?  I mean, I'm sure cops, racists and militia types aren't any fun to fight in court, and certainly less fun than others who might abuse intellectual property rules, but it's still discouraging to see an entity as powerful as Disney say, "You know what? You guys keep the logo."

Wait, is that really what Jack of Hearts' hair looks like under his hood...? Why does he ever wear his hood? That's the cover of She-Hulk #3 by Jen Bartel, incidentally.

Jed Mackay and Marcelo Ferreira's Strange #1 kicks off a new series about Clea becoming the new Sorceress Supreme...and, apparently, a Super Saiyan.

It feels like forever since I've seen any new John Romita Jr art, let alone read any of it. Here's his variant cover for Wolverine: Patch #1, a five-issue miniseries by Larry Hama and Andrea Di Vito set before Hama's run on Wolverine

The two types of comic book-comics I am still buying and reading seem to be DC holiday anthology specials and Marvel "Voices" anthology specials. This one is Women of Marvel #1, and is presumably all female creators doing stories featuring female heroes. 

I'm sort of surprised that X-Men Unlimited: Latitude #1 is entitled "X-Men Unlimited: Latitude" instead of having the name "Wolverine" in the title, as Jonathan Hickman and Declan Shalvey's digital-first comic sounds like it's a Wolverine solo, or at least Wolverine-centric, title, and I would assume "Wolverine" had more market value than "X-Men" at this point...

Saturday, December 18, 2021

DC's March previews reviewed

Doesn't sound like the contents of Action Comics #1041 will have anything at all to do with Julian Totion Tedesco's nostalgia-riffic cover. That's still a nice cover, though. 

Speaking of nostalgia, this Fico Ossio variant cover for Aquaman/Green Arrow—Deep Target #6, featuring the versions of the characters as they appeared when I first read them, really shouldn't make me as excited as it does but, well, I'm excited. 

That's an awful lot of bats on the cover of The Batman & Scooby-Doo Mysteries #12, the last issue in the series...though hopefully that won't be the last we've seen of Batman/Scooby-Doo team-ups for the year, given the fact that, as I've written elsewhere, 2022 is the 50th anniversary of their first team-up, which hopefully calls for a big, splashy, all-star celebration comic of some kind. 

Batman/Faze Clan #1 can be added to the pile of comics that includes RWBY/Justice League and Batman/Fortnite and can be labeled Maybe Caleb Is Too Old and Out of Touch For Comics Now...

Well this is good news. Mark Waid returns to the DC Universe to write the latest Batman/Superman team-up book, World's Finest #1

DC One Million Omnibus?! Oh man...I read the entire series and almost all of the tie-ins and other stories set in the 853rd Century milieu. So I don't really need to drop $100 for a collection of the entire event just so I can read, like, Chase #1,000,000 and The Creeper #1,000,000, right? Right? Please, someone talk me out of pre-ordering this...!


Although if DC is publishing 1,000+-page complete collections of various event series, where's my Eclipso: The Darkness Unleashed Omnibus or Bloodlines Omnibus, huh...?

In fact, I'd buy an omnibus of just about any of the annual events, even the ones that were more "thematic" crossovers, like the Year One, Legends of The Dead Earth, Elseworlds, or those great pulp-influenced annuals...

The solicitation for DC Pride 2021 Hardcover says it's 144 pages, but I'm not sure what accounts for all the new pages. The copy mentions "additional short stories", but not which ones, where they're from or who they are by. I'll likely pick this up from the library just to see what extras it contains. If I had to guess, I would guess there are a lot of Batwoman and Midnighter/Apollo stories from various anthologies, maybe some queer content from various Valentines Day type specials, but I literally have no idea...

The solicitation copy for Justice League #74 says this is the end of the Brian Michael Bendis-written Justice League, which seems...abrupt. I'm not sure exactly how many issues he wrote, but the first arc isn't even available in trade yet and his run is already ending...? Seems like more of a fill-in arc than a run, then; I mean, I think there were at least as many issues between the end of Scott Snyder's run and the beginning of Bendis' as there were of Bendi's run proper, but I'd have to count and do math to be sure.

Ah well, now I'm excited to see who will be writing it next. Fingers crossed for a return engagement from either Kurt Busiek or Mark Waid, or someone completely out of left-field, like, I don't know, Ryan North...? Gene Luen Yang...?

Though it looks like a new iteration of the Justice League of Amazons, this is actually one of the several covers for Sensational Wonder Woman Special #1 (I think it's the International Women's Day variant by Maria Laura Sanapo, but that's just a guess). I am of course going to order this because, according to the solicitation copy, it will include the Blue Snowman, and I am a sucker for obscure Golden Age Wonder Woman villains. 

The Swamp Thing #11 will feature two great covers; one from Kyle Hotz, another from Francesco Francavilla, both of whom are ideal Swamp Thing artists. They're just covers, though; Mike Perkins is drawing the interiors of the issue. 

Tails of the Super Pets, a 180-ish page collection of Silver Age comics featuring the various super-pets is the single DC publication I am most looking forward to in March. Hopefully the upcoming movie leads to a flood of collections of super-pet material, including some new, original comics....

Oh snap, there's a Who's Who Omnibus Vol. 2?! I haven't even peeled the cellophane off of my copy of Vol. 1 yet. I'm so intimidated by its size I've been reluctant to even start trying to read it. I guess I better get on it though, as I've gotta read 1,000 pages or so before March...

Saturday, December 11, 2021

A little bit more on Guillem March's Joker Vol. 1...

1.) Guillem March draws several "cover" images of panels and scenes from The Killing Joke. Because writer James Tynion IV and artist Guillem March's The Joker is about the title character but uses former commissioner James Gordon as its protagonist, the book revolves quite a bit around the relationship between the two character, particularly the villains many and varied attacks on Gordon and his family over the years.

Naturally, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's 1988 Batman: The Killing Joke is therefore repeatedly referenced, being not only one of the most widely-read and influential Joker stories, but also because it was specifically about The Joker's attempt to drive Gordon "mad", in part by attacking and torturing his daughter, Barbara Gordon. 

The Joker Vol. 1 is very much a comic book in conversation with other comic books, particularly The Killing Joke, but there are other conversations happening as well (like, for example, Tynion seemingly criticizing the climax of Tom King's run on Batman by having The Joker offer his professional criticism on how best to hurt Batman to Bane, as previously mentioned in my review of the book). 

Because the events of The Killing Joke are so often referenced, we get the opportunity to see March draw scenes from that storyline in his own style, and, from a certain perspective, it is certainly interesting to see how March does so, having to be clear in what he's referencing while also making the imagery his own.

Above is a scene from the first issue of The Joker, offering a pretty direct "cover" version of a Bolland image of the Joker, right down to mimicking the pose.

It's fascinating to compare the two images, to see what March considered important to keep and what he felt free to change. 

March's Joker looks less...happy, his lips contorted in a smile, but his teeth forming more of a grimace and the rest of his face looking angry. There's also a highly textured cragginess about The Joker's face as March draws it, with seemingly every ince of it spider-webbed with contorting muscles. 

In general, I think March's Joker owes more to that of Jim Aparo than to Bolland's.

2.) I think March is the best artist who is currently drawing Batman on a regular basis. Don't get me wrong. I still think Norm Breyfogle drew the ultimate version of the character, and Kelley Jones' version is still my favorite version, and I still think Jones is the greatest living Batman artist (although there's much to be said for Tim Sale, too). But among all the artists who draw the character regularly, or even semi-regularly? March has my vote.

Batman doesn't appear as often as one might expect in The Joker, his appearances in the first collected volume mostly clustered around the beginning as the premise of the series is set up, but here's his first appearance in the book, crouching like a gargoyle on a bit of Gotham architecture, as is his wont. 

It's a pretty nice image of Batman doing something extremely Batman-ly, in which he looks quite causal doing it, as if it's just an everyday part of his job, which I suppose it is. March has the ability to find the right balance, I think, between Batman as a real flesh-and-blood human being and a bigger-than-life, almost cartoonish creature of the night. (Note the musculature of his legs and shoulders on the one hand, and the blank eyes, too-big cape and the bleeding-into-shadow on the other hand.) That is, in my mind at least, exactly how Batman should appear. 

3.) Look at this scary-ass Joker. Gordon's narration makes much of the fact that he basically sees The Joker every time he closes his eye, and that the character seems to haunt him. The artwork shows several examples of this, but March isn't content just to draw phantom Jokers leering at Gordon through windows or above his bed while he sleeps.

When Gordon visits the grave of his son, we're presented with this nightmare version of The Joker, with multiple limbs, faces and facial features, like the character is boiling. 

It certainly drives home the extent to which terrifying imagery has permeated Gordon's life, that such visions of The Joker are basically just background noise for him now.

4.) March draws a good Batgirl, too.
 So I've repeatedly talked about how I think Breyfogle's Batman was the ultimate version of the character, as he drew Batman as a thoroughly human, athletic figure—in peak physical condition, sure, but still recognizably human—that wore the Batman persona, as from the neck up his face was constantly transforming into angry white triangle eyes and bared teeth over a field of black, and his billowing cape forming the shape of bat-wings or an angry, jagged cloud, or trailing him like a comet. 

I haven't seen much of March's Batgirl, but he does something similar with her here, and I think his depiction of the Cassandra Cain version of the character is exactly right: A female silhouette, a too-big, billowing, expressive cape, a cartoon bat from the neck up. He even has her oversized utility-belt pouches flopping while she's in action, just as her co-creator Damion Scott used to draw her. 

5.) Here's another scary-ass Joker. Relatively late in the first volume, Gordon and other characters are caught in a blast of what The Joker calls a nerve gas, which obviously influences the way Gordon sees and experiences The Joker. 

Note the multiple visions of him in the same panel, which seems to echo the earlier vision Gordon had of him, and  how March is able to exaggerate some of the character's features in the lower panel of the page, despite how exaggerated his design for the character—and, indeed, pretty much everyone's design for the character—already is.

In this story, The Joker's right eye has been replaced with a glass eye, Harley Quinn having shot his eye out at the climax of "The Joker War" story arc, and March makes good use of it throughout as just one more weird and off-putting detail of the character's face. In theat final image, it positively bulges out like it's about to pop. 

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

A Month of Wednesdays: November 2021


Batman: The Long Halloween Special (DC Comics) It's been 21 years since the conclusion of Dark Victory, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's year-long sequel to The Long Halloween, itself a year-long series set in the same milieu as a trio of Legends of The Dark Knight Halloween specials the creative team produced between 1993 and 1995. 

As for this 48-page special, it is set after the events of The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, mentioning plot-points and continuing themes from both, but despite that, it more precisely echoes those three LDK specials, with a relatively minor villain making a big attack on Halloween night.

Here that villain is the Calendar Man, free of Arkham, where he spent the two Loeb/Sale series as a sort of Hannibal Lecter figure, and on a spectacular crime spree with two objectives, one as a sort of typical calendar theme, the other to get revenge against Two-Face for stealing his thunder with the Holiday murders (It's been a long time since I've revisited Long Halloween, but Dent was one of, what, three Holiday killers? Was that right?)

Unfortunately, Sale doesn't outfit Calendar Man in his costume, which he actually draws the hell out of (as seen in 1993 Shadow of The Bat arc, "The Misfits"), but in a simple robe, the months of the year tattooed around the crown of his head counting as his "costume," I guess; it's a little too bad, as the full red costume would have set this more squarely in the Silver Age than the "Year One" era with, like, eight Halloweens in it, but given that Calendar Man has inspired a sort of cult with acolytes and is based in a church here, I suppose this look is more fitting.

As for the plot, beyond the Calendar Man business, Gilda Dent goes looking for Harvey and finds him, something that will apparently be explored more in some future Loeb/Sale collaboration (the last panel includes a box reading "The End" and a scroll just below it reading "For Now..."), and Batman and Gordon continue to ruminate on their alliance with Harvey Dent and how it was broken. Meanwhile, Robin is just starting to get involved in Batman's crime-fighting.

It was obviously a blast to see the Loeb/Sale team again. Loeb takes a lot of heat for a lot his writing, much of which can, admittedly, be quite bad. He's always done his best work with Sale on Batman, though, something I thought might have had to do with his editor, the late Archie Goodwin, but this is still quite good, and Goodwin obviously isn't around (Ben Abernathy is the editor, and there's a nice "special thanks" given to Goodwin). 

If I can nit-pick one thing, I'd say that I wish the back cover design was the basis of the actual cover, as it would be more in keeping with the LDK Halloween specials, the first two of which had jack o' lanterns based on the particular villains of those comics, The Scarecrow and The Mad Hatter. 
Actually, if I could nitpick two things, I think having Barbara go trick-or-treating dressed as Batgirl is a little much—"No one will ever believe this..." Gordon says seemingly to the readers when her costume is revealed—as it wouldn't make her secret identity all that secret when she eventually becomes Batgirl in a few more years.

Overall though, this was a lot of fun, and I sure wouldn't mind if Loeb/Sale Halloween one-shots became an annual traditions again, or if we get a follow-up to Dark Victory involving the Dents, as this issue seems to suggest, if not promise*. 

Deadpool: Black, White and Blood #4 (Marvel Entertainment) I'm not exactly sure how this random issue of the limited palette Deadpool anthology series ended up in my pull-file at my local comic shop. The random issue of the limited palette Deadpool anthology series that I wanted was #3, the issue with the Stan Sakai contribution in it. So either I mistakenly told my local comic shop to order the wrong one, or they proceeded to order the wrong one. Buying comics is incredibly hard! That's why I do less and less of it.

While I'm bummed I'll have to wait on the Sakai Deadpool story, I wasn't too upset to receive this one, as it does contain a Mike Allred story (and cover!), and I've never regretted reading a Mike Allred-drawn comic.

The Allred story opens with Deadpool asleep in an empty theater playing an X-Statix movie, in full-color, when Doop slips a special pair of high-tech looking glasses over his eyes; from there he "wakes up" in what appears to be a different dimension, where everything is black and white and red. Lighter on jokes than the preceding two stories, it nevertheless has a solid premise and it's always great to see Allred drawing Marvel characters.

It's been something like 20 years since Doop first appeared, and I still haven't been able to decipher Doop speak... (Oh hey! I just checked and it's actually been 20 years exactly! Why was there no big Doop anniversary special, Marvel? Maybe start planning down for 2026's 25th anniversary of Doop now!). 

The Allred story is preceded by two others; Chistopher Yost and Martin Coccolo's "Cherry" and Sanshiro Kasama and Hikaru Uesugi's "Samurai Version."

The first is probably the most typical Deadpool comic, with the character talking a mile a minute, narrating his adventure in fourth-wall-breaking dialogue (and commenting on the color choices throughout) and then ultimately facing an utterly ridiculous threat that I won't spoil here. Pretty great use of the limited palette, though.

The second is, according to a one-page introduction, is " a special story from the Deadpool Samurai team," published in Japan. It was apparently free online and was, according to Deadpool, "the most-read comic all over the world in 2020," but, um, I obviously didn't read it. It doesn't seem necessary to follow the story, such as it is; a goofy-looking fighter challenges Deadpool to a fight and loses. The manga style is a fun departure from what we normally see in a Marvel comic, but there isn't otherwise much to it. 

Deadpool Black, White & Blood #3 (Marvel) Wait, the number three comes before the number four, so why am I reviewing the third issue of this limited-palette Deadpool anthology series after the fourth issue? Well, because in my write-up of the fourth issue I had already complained how I got it on accident, and I was really trying to get this one. Look, this feature's not a perfect system, okay? Anyway, thanks to Midtown Comics, I was able to secure a copy of the Stan Sakai-having issue of the series, even though my local shop was out of 'em. Sadly, though, I couldn't get a copy with a Sakai variant cover; those must be special.

Anyway, I got it. 

Seeing the great Sakai draw human beings rather than anthropomorphic animals is a rare enough thing that it always seems like an extreme treat to me. His story, the third in the issue (do they always save the best for last, I guess?), is entitled "The Perfect Ones," and features a series of battles in which Deadpool engages various enemies using various weapons; he wins each fight, but finds the weapons wanting. At least until the last sequence, in which he acquires his familiar swords.

It's preceded by two more typical Deadpool stories. 

The first, "The Worst Convent in the World," is written by Jay Baruchel and drawn by Paco Medina, and has Deadpool engaged in a particularly goofy quest while Baruchel runs with the voices-in-his-head gag that I find particularly annoying.

The second, "The Bet," is written by Frank Tieri and drawn by Takashi Okazaki, and features Deadpool and Bullseye talking shop as they fight their way through room after room of ridiculously over-the-top security in order to get to their target: Ninjas, zombies, well-armed monkeys, actual sharks with actual laser beams, etc. One's mileage may vary—I'm not much of a Deadpool fan, personally—but the set-up gives Okazaki a lot to draw in  extremely detailed, gorgeous black and white (the red is mostly limited to Deadpool's costume and all the blood), and Tieri manages to a cute gag ending. 

JLA: Destiny #1-4 (DC) Between my local comic shop and Midtown I was able to secure all four issues of this intriguing-sounding series in the same month. I already wrote at some length about it here though, so I won't repeat myself in this post. 


Four-Fisted Tales: Animals In Combat (Dead Reckoning) Ben Towle's fascinating non-fiction comic book on the history of animals in war addresses the subject matter in two different ways. There are a few chapters where the book becomes heavily-illustrated prose (the discussion of horses in combat and the history of mascots), and there are chapters where particular animals or particular species have their adventures dramatized in comics form. Both strategies result in highly-rewarding work. 

Komi Can't Communicate Vol. 1 (Viz Media) Much of the latest volume of my favorite comic is devoted to the introduction of a new character, Kiyoko Isagi, a cold and fastidious young woman who is running for school president on a platform of cleaning up the school. Can Komi, Tadano and company help her overcome her social anxieties? Of course they can, and Komi gets another name on her list of 100 friends. 

While the Isagi storyline is diverting enough, it leaves little room for the romantic triangle that has emerged between Tadano, Komi and Manbagi, with only a few  hints of Manbagi's feelings for Tadano and her trademark treatment of him with rage whenever he's nice to her coming near the end of the book.

The Joker Vol. 1 (DC Comics) Villain-starring comics are notoriously hard to pull off, no matter how popular said villain is, so how are James Tynion IV and Guillem March expected to keep a Joker ongoing series going, particularly when their subject is obviously irredeemable and thus unlikely to drift to the side of the heroes in the way that, say, Venom or Catwoman or Harley Quinn have in their titles?

Well, for starters, The Joker might be the title character and the subject of the book, but he's not the protagonist; retired police commissioner James Gordon is. The Joker disappeared after the events of "The Joker War" in Batman (the Joker eight-pager from Batman: The Joker War Zone by Tynion and March  runs in the back of this volume) as he usually does after a big storyline that doesn't end with him back in Arkham Asylum, but he seems.

Un-usually, he seems to have set-off another big terrorist attack on his way out the door, the A-Day gas-bombing of Arkham that claimed the lives of 500 people and (temporarily, one supposes) Bane, as seen in Infinite Frontier #0 and the pages of Batman. That is what inspired a group of mysterious, extremely wealthy people to hire Gordon to hunt down and execute The Joker, a job he reluctantly takes (while keeping the whole executing part away from Batman and Oracle, who will be helping him from afar as he goes out of country). 

He's not the only one after The Joker though. It looks like a cannibal family inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a new, female Bane are also looking for vengeance on The Joker because of the A-Day attack, and they all find him at once before this volume ends. 

As I said, Tynion's script seems to be about The Joker without always featuring him on the page directly as a character. He's so permeated Gordon's life that he haunts him (and March draws some damn scary images of The Joker t hat Gordon sees when he closes his eyes), and Tynion plays with some ideas about The Joker, like the fact that there are secret "resorts" for super-villains to retire to between story arcs, and Gordon's decision to search for The Joker when he's essentially hibernating between big story arcs. 

March does his usual incredible job on the artwork, from the few panels of superheroes we see, to the beautiful  young woman, to the rough-looking older men to the various Jokers, the "real" one we see on the page, the Brian Bolland-inspired one we see in flashbacks to The Killing Joke, and the hallucinatory ones that plague Gordon. 

There's only one issue that March doesn't pencil, and that's a flashback to the "Year One" era beautifully drawn by Francesco Francavilla, doing a bit of a David Mazzuchelli homage (the appearance of Jeremiah Arkham in this story seems to contradict re-established continuity, but otherwise this all seems to make sense in the new, de-rebooted continuity, which keeps only Barbara's spinal implant from The New 52). 

Perhaps my favorite part of the volume, however, comes in one of it's many wanderings away from the main plot to dwell on something related but not necessarily propulsive: The Joker visiting Arkham to tell-off Bane, who had been recaptured after the end of Tom King's long (too long!) run on Batman. It is essentially The Joker criticizing Bane for the way in which he killed Alfred, doing so in front of Robin rather than in front of Batman, but it also reads like Tynion criticizing King for the way he wrote the climax of his run. 

Superman: The One Who Fell (DC) This collection of four issues of Superman and one issue of Action Comics by writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson and pencil artists Phil Hester and Scott Godlewski is the first time I've read any Superman since the first volume or two of Brian Michael Bendis' run on the character, so I'm pretty out of the loop.

That said, Johnson's writing was clear enough that I never felt alienated from the plot; like, I might not know exactly why Jonathan Kent is so much older now, but it apparently has something to do with his spending time with the Legion of Super-Heroes in the far future, as a plot point running through the two storylines here is that Jon knows from future history books that his father's time is limited, and that he disappears from the historical record rather soon-ish.

It's a rather literal, particularly super-comics way of depicting a young person's gradual realization that their parents won't actually be around forever, and that they're actually mortal.

That's the main focus of  the first two issues in the collection, Superman #29 and Action Comics #1029, during with Superman and son deal with an extra-dimensional incursion of some kind of alien space monsters that seem capable of hurting Superman but not Jon. Those are the issues drawn by Hester and inker Eric Gapstur and, if I'm being honest, are the main reason I picked up the book (that, and curiosity about what's going on in the Super-books since Bendis' departure). 

That's followed by a three-issue arc drawn by Scott Godlewski which takes Superman and son to a distant alien planet where Superman apparently saved the day at some point in the past, and where he has been called back to help an old ally deal with the resumption of the original threat. Johnson compares the alien leader and his son's relationship to that Superman and Jonathan to decent effect, and the art is fine, but it is ultimately quite clear that this arc, and indeed all of the comics in this book, are something of place-holding comics, taking up page space before the next status quo comes to pass, that which sends Superman off-world and sees Jon taking over the role of Superman on Earth (it's somewhat hinted at in passing in the first story, where we see Mongul on the last page after a dramatic build-up).


Batman and Robin and Howard (DC Comics) The prolific Jeffrey Brown takes on the Dynamic Duo in this rather unique book, which focuses on Damian Wayne not so much as Robin, sidekick to Batman, but as junior high student and son of Bruce Wayne. It's honestly one of the best Damian comics I've ever read, and while I suppose it's technically out-of-continuity, there's relatively little in it that dictates it would have to be (Damian has a different dog than he does in the other comics, for example, but, um, that's about it, really). I wouldn't be too terribly surprised—and would, in fact, be rather delighted—if Howard turned up in some DCU comics eventually. Damian can use a best friend, after all, especially now that Jon Kent has been hyper-aged through time-travel nonsense to be much older than him.

Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge: World of the Dragonlords (Fantagraphics) The latest from Fantagraphics' Disney Masters series is a European import of an epic adventure set in a fantasy world, courtesy of Byron Erickson and Giorgio Cavazzano. One of the most purely entertaining comics I've read in a while, I can't recommend it highly enough

*Actually, given how thoroughly Loeb and Sale have documented their versions of Batman's Rogues' Gallery circa the Year One era of Legends of The Dark Knight, you know what might be more fun? If we jumped ahead a year or two to when Batman meets Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League heroes for the first time. Long Halloween and Dark Victory chronicled the transition of crime in Gotham City from traditional dirty cops and gangsters to colorful costume freaks. What might be the next step? How about Batman's career transitioning to urban vigilante to national superhero, with each issue seeing him meet a new fellow hero, just as each issue of the last two series focused on a different Gotham villain; if you stuck to just his fellow founding Justice Leaguers that would obviously only get you half-way through a year, but it wouldn't be hard to come up with six more heroes. Let's see, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Plastic Man, Captain Marvel/Shazam, Elongated Man and Hawkman...there, that's 12! Or heck, maybe you only need 11 and the final issue would be the formation of the Justice League...? I don't know, but I'd love to see Sale's versions of all those other heroes...