Howard Porter provides both the cover and the interiors for this issue, by the way. I've always really liked Porter's work, and it will be interesting to see it applied to the more "realistic" milieu of a Batman comic after so many years of seeing him draw Justice League, Flash and big crossover comics.
Friday, January 21, 2022
Thursday, January 20, 2022
I don't envy the writers having to come up with a plausible, in-story justification for this state of affairs, given that the obvious real reason for it is that Wilson is the Marvel Cinematic Universe's current Cap, even if the Marvel Comics Universe's Wilson relinquished that role some years ago, and taking it up again now is going to seem...counterintuitive, to say the least.
Saturday, January 01, 2022
I thought not, so I went ahead and bought the whole trade, rather than simply trying to track down the single issues I missed, #4 and #5. While there are some single issues here and there I've ordered and may or may not actually get, this was the last series on my pull-list, as I'm being forced to give up on single issues for trade collections in general because, I don't know, the supply chain? Joe Biden's America? Gremlins? (I'm kidding of course. I'd much rather live in Joe Biden's America than that other guy's; remember, when he was president comics actually stopped publishing for a while altogether).
So what have we got here?
The fourth issue has The Scooby Gang going up against Black Mask's False Face Society, a whole criminal enterprise in which every participant wears a mask and can, at least theoretically, be unmasked. That issue is by Sholly Fisch and Dario Brizuela and has the False Face Society selling "monster insurance" before Gotham City's answer to New York's mermaid parade; Batman is working undercover, which means it's up to Nightwing and Batgirl to help Fred, Daphne and Velma save the day from Black Mask and some more minor Batman villains, who also happen to wear masks.
Nightwing's appearance is somewhat...fraught. For one thing, he tells the teenage sleuths that he got older and grew out of the Robin role but, um, they didn't age at all during that same time, despite being around his age...? Also, Robin Dick Grayson is in #1 and, more troublingly, #6 (Robin Tim Drake is in #2).
As for #5, it's by Ivan Cohen and Randy Elliott and rather randomly involves The Huntress. Bane has apparently captured Ra's al Ghul, and so Talia goes looking for the World's Greatest Detective to help her track them down—Velma Dinkley (Batman, Talia says, has too much history with her father, which might cloud his detective abilities in a case involving him).
The point of the exercise seems to have been to give the Justice League something to do while the book was in a thumb-twiddling phase between the conclusion of Scott Snyder's run and before the beginning of Brian Michanel Bendis'. The story reads very much like the sort of fill-in stories that appeared in previous Justice League collection Galaxy of Terrors, but I suppose an editor somewhere noticed that it involved the whole world in peril, and decided it could be expanded a bit into an event of sorts.
It reads that way, too; one could read the two Justice League: Endless Winter specials back-to-back and get essentially the entire story, perhaps only missing some the nuances of the flashback storyline; the somewhat flabby middle of the book involves a lot of the various heroes chasing their tails and dealing with side-quests as they seemingly await the climax.
The story is pretty simple. An evil corporation (Stagg Industries, now run by Simon's son Sebastian...say that five times fast!) is doing exploratory drilling in the Arctic Circle at the site of Superman's old, destroyed Fortress of Solitude. During the process, they awaken the Frost King, a millennium-old super-powered threat who has been super-charged by his proximity to Kryptonian technology. He promptly unleashes a worldwide global blizzard that threatens the Earth, and makes it more dangerous still by filling it full of monsters made of ice (I wonder if there were Republican politicians in the DCU who used this event as an excuse to say there's no such thing as global warming...?).
The Justice League—Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern John Stewart and Arctic Action Batman—prove no match against the Frost King during their first encounter, and then they lose him. They'll spend most of the rest of the volume looking for him and dealing with the symptoms of the his threat, before finally locating him in the book-ending issue of Justice League: Endless Winter to defeat him.
Meanwhile, the Frost King's extensive origin is told in a flashback sequence that runs throughout the collection. He was a 10th century Norseman who developed ice and cold manipulation powers, and when his fellow villagers turned on him and tried to kill him, they succeeded only in accidentally killing one of his young sons. This so enraged him that his powers grew in magnitude and he essentially threatened the world with his powers. A sort of Medieval proto-Justice League is formed to stop him, consisting of Hippolyta, Black Adam, Swamp Thing and The Viking Prince (and yes, I did half wonder if this entire storyline wasn't premised on keeping the copyright on Viking Prince going, but I don't really know how copyright works with superhero comics; it just seems like they need to use their most obscure characters every once in a great while).
I'm not sure how it would have read in single issues, particularly if one felt free to skip anything that looked superfluous (the Superman special stands out as not very important) and didn't interest them (I haven't really read anything featuring the current Teen Titans), but, as it is in the collection, it's a nice, refreshingly simple Justice League story that doesn't quite manage to justify its huge page-count and the number of digressions it takes in its many tie-ins.
The art is, naturally, all over the place. An awful lot of it (the first Justice League special and much of the second one) is drawn by Howard Porter, who at this point is about as definitive a Justice League artist as there is. Marco Santucci draws the flashback sequences to Hippolyta and company's first battle with the Frost King. There are ten other credited artists, all of whom are good, but each of whom works in their own style, so the book can't help but look confused and visually incoherent; readable, sure, but without a single voice or aesthetic.
Oh, and Catman's in it. I always liked that guy.
As I mentioned in that review, the Batman/Scooby-Doo team-up tradition is now 49-years-old, stretching back to 1972's New Scooby-Doo Movies two episodes featuring the Dynamic Duo. That means next year is the 50th anniversary of the Batman/Scooby-Doo team. I wonder what DC is planning to do to celebrate? After all, they devoted a year-long series to the team-up this year, so it would have to be something bigger than that, right?
If I had a genie that granted only very specific, comic book-publishing wishes, here's what I would wish that DC would do next year: A big, huge original graphic novel in which the greatest and/or most popular Batman creative teams contributed original stories teaming Batman and Scooby-Doo, with the artists drawing the Scooby gang in their own particular styles.
So, for example, you'd have Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, James Tynion IV and Guillem March, Paul Dini and Ty Templeton, Scott Peterson, Kelly Puckett and Damion Scott, maybe Neal Adams, someone (Sholly Fisch? Devin Grayson?) and Kelley Jones, and so on, all under an Alex Ross-painted cover. Or maybe a Frank Miller cover; a Frank Miller Scooby-Doo would be something I'd certainly like to see. Wouldn't that be fantastic?
Anyway, it's always struck me as weird that DC Comics has the license to publish Scooby-Doo comics and they are always, always, always visually in the style of the cartoons and never anything more fun or adventurous, as one sees with, say, Simpsons comics or SpongeBob comics, you know? Given the popularity of the Scooby-Doo characters across generations of fans, I'm kinda surprised we don't have, like, Scooby-Doo: Black and White-style anthologies, you know? Surely there are dozens of artists who would love to get paid to do Scooby-Doo and company in their own style professionally, right?
**I've personally always imagined Persephone as more goth, pale and with dark hair and eyes, but Shaw's depiction of her as opposite of Hades in almost every imaginable makes sense to me, especially in a story about their unlikely attraction to one another.