Review: Batman/Superman Vol. 2: World's Deadliest hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

This latest iteration of Batman/Superman outlived its event-based purpose even faster than this title normally does. However, Joshua Williamson’s Batman/Superman Vol. 2: World’s Deadliest is plenty enjoyable, positioned well at the crossroads of the goings-on in various other titles as befits a team-up book. Williamson, with the benefit of a cadre of good artists, finishes off his run strongly before this title is interrupted by the triumvirate of Death Metal, Future State, and Infinite Frontier; what difficulties arise are unfortunate but relatively minor overall.

World’s Deadliest is far from “necessary”; it’s unlikely, with the creative team changing and all of continuity moving on, that anything that takes place here will have great effect in the future. This Batman/Superman title was born from the need for a “Year of the Villain” tie-in story, and that could’ve been a six-issue Batman/Superman miniseries without tacking on nine more issues and an annual. Still this title has fared far worse in the past as it’s rooted for purpose.

Review: Wonder Woman #750: The Deluxe Edition hardcover (DC Comics)

Sunday, May 09, 2021

The hardcover Wonder Woman #750: The Deluxe Edition came out a couple months ago, but as with similar deluxe reprint volumes like Detective Comics #1027 and Flash #750, I held off reading it until the regular Wonder Woman series caught up with the #750 mark. Wonder Woman #750 actually serves as a full issue of the main series along with a number of celebratory short stories, whereas Detective Comics #1027 was more anniversary-focused with one small “main series” “Joker War” backup. The Wonder Woman “main story,” part three of Steve Orlando’s “Wild Hunt” storyline, was included in Wonder Woman Vol. 4: The Four Horsewomen, so this review will focus mainly on the ancillary tales.

[Review contains spoilers]

A notable difference between Wonder Woman #750 and 2016’s Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special1 is that this one has relatively fewer (by a small margin) alt-history or World War II-set Wonder Woman stories than the previous did. My guess is this has to do with the earlier book’s proximity to the first Wonder Woman movie versus now; perhaps reflecting Wonder Woman 1984’s more modern-ish sensibilities, #750’s are largely in line with current continuity. Cheetah appears twice, which shouldn’t be a surprise; more surprising is that Max Lord doesn’t appear at all, though the Wonder Woman title’s next story to be collected (written by Mariko Tamaki, who also contributes a sharp story here) features him prominently.

Review: Suicide Squad: Bad Blood hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo are clearly a force to be reckoned with. The best news of all is that they’re sticking together into a new Nightwing run, letting alone that we might see more of the characters from Suicide Squad: Bad Blood from them again.

That Bad Blood works so well right from the start is a testament to the creative team, given what becomes apparent not long into it — that this is not a Suicide Squad book at all, that really Taylor has used the “Suicide Squad” name and mainly just Deadshot and Harley Quinn in order to introduce his team of all-new characters under the radar. It works magnificently, and what loose threads this story has are wholly overshadowed by the prowess of writing and art. Separate from the Squad, whether Taylor can defeat the market aversion to new characters remains to be seen, but I’d be happy to watch him try.

Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 4: The Four Horsewomen trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Steve Orlando's Wonder Woman Vol. 4: The Four Horsewomen has some important bits in common with Grant Morrison's recent Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 3. We have, to an extent, the fantasy (the "Elseworlds" Earth One) and the reality, the rather major changes that Orlando makes, or at least tries to make; how much of this will stand certainly remains to be seen.

Four Horsewomen is not great, and surely not as good as I wanted it to be given that I enjoyed Orlando's previous short go-round on Wonder Woman (not to mention Orlando's spectacular Martian Manhunter: Identity in the interim). There is, at least, a lot of it, 13 issues collected here including two extra-sized annuals. Where the book is good, it is good, often in Orlando's conception of Diana, her powers, and her place in the world.

Review: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2: The Trial of the Legion trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

With Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2: The Trial of the Legion, it feels Brian Michael Bendis finds his groove on the title, just as “Future State” hits and the series faces an uncertain continuance. My overall sense of the title is still cacophony, the chatteringness that is both Bendis' greatest strength and weakness. But here, as the team splits off into smaller sub-teams, that a million things are happening at once seems more Legion-esque, in line with this title past. Not to mention Bendis presents some engaging ties to his books in present continuity.

I’ll be curious to hear what some more ardent Legion fans think of the changes Bendis makes in this iteration. On one hand he is hinting at doing “that Legion thing” that all writers on new Legion iterations hint that they’re going to do, which for various reasons I think is a bad idea. On the other hand, in a couple of places I’m pretty sure Bendis is coupling up Legionnaires who are not historically coupled, which while not the be-all and end-all is at least some deviation from doing very exactly what we’ve seen before.

DC Trade Solicitations for July 2021 – Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point HC, Absolute Fourth World Vol. 2, Starman Compendium, Aquaman 80th, Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity HC, Batman: Court of Owls Deluxe

Sunday, April 25, 2021

I had been feeling satisfied with the DC Comics July 2021 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations — looks like there’s some nice Fourth World collections in there, couple good Scott Snyder Batman collections, the hardcover of the super-popular Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point HC (which can only be followed by DC Universe/Fortnite), big collections of Christopher Priest’s Deathstroke by Christopher Priest Omnibus, the New 52 Justice League Dark, and DC’s even giving James Robinson’s Starman another collections shot. And then I noticed …

There is one — count ‘em, one — mainstream continuity collection in this entire month, just one book that takes place in the here-and-now of the DC Universe. And even then, it’s not even a regular-series collection, it’s Steve Orlando’s Gotham City Monsters — which did get a mention during Batman: The Joker War, but is hardly I think the kind of linchpin series like Brian Michael Bendis’ Justice League or Grant Morrison’s Superman and the Authority are.

I am not very, very worried quite yet (maybe only one “very”). It’s summer and collections do seem traditionally to be lighter over the summer (see August 2020, which had the same traits — not actually sure where July 2020 went), so every reason to believe this is just a temporary blip. At the moment I’m mostly excited to think about, if I get all my regular series reading caught up, what series I might go back and binge — Gail Simone’s second Secret Six that I never read, or DC You series I never finished like Martian Manhunter, Catwoman, Gotham by Midnight, Gotham Academy, We Are Robin, or Earth 2: Society, etc., etc. So right now I’m looking at this as an opportunity.

Besides, it’s really hard to quibble with a DC that in one month is giving us both the Blue & Gold miniseries by Dan Jurgens (it’s really astounding there’s never been a specific Beetle/Booster mini before) and a “Batgirls” backup in Batman: Urban Legends with Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown together again (though I’m not sure the Mimi Yoon cover is doing the characters any favors). Any concerns I had about DC leaving behind lesser-known fan-favorite characters in the wake of Dan DiDio’s departure and all the turnover are being swiftly assuaged each month.

A weird month, to be sure, but with some things going for it. Let’s take a look …

Absolute Fourth World by Jack Kirby Vol. 2

Second and final volume, collecting Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #146–148, Forever People #7–11, New Gods #7–11, Mister Miracle #7–18, Jack Kirby’s New Gods (Reprint Series) #6, DC Graphic Novel #4: The Hunger Dogs, and “On the Road to Armagetto,” the original draft that became Hunter Dogs, as well as what’s said to be never-before-collected essays by Kirby.

Aquaman: 80 Years of the King of the Seven Seas: The Deluxe Edition

Another of DC's anniversary hardcovers. More Fun Comics #73; Adventure Comics #120, #137, #232, #266, #269, #437, and #475; Aquaman (1962) #11, #35, #46, #62; Aquaman (1986) #1 (part one of a four-part miniseries by Neal Pozner); Legend of Aquaman Special #1 (by Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, and Curt Swan); Aquaman (1994) #0, #37 (by Peter David, from the hook-handed era, a Zero Month origin issue and a Genesis tie-in with Parademons); Aquaman (2002) #17 (pretty sure this is Aquaman teamed with Martian Manhunter, but Will Pfeifer and Patrick Gleason, in the “Sub Diego” era); Aquaman (2011) #1 (Geoff Johns' New 52 debut); Aquaman (2016) #25 (the start of the “Underword” storyline by Dan Abnett and Stjepan Sejic); JLA: Our Worlds at War #1 (not, I wouldn’t say, the strongest Aquaman story, but with a notable moment); and Outsiders: Five of a Kind – Metamorpho/Aquaman #1 (by G. Willow Wilson, Tony Bedard, and Josh Middleton; this is weird one, featuring the Sword of Atlantis-era AJ Curry, though notably drawn by Middleton who does so many iconic Aquaman variant covers).

Batman Adventures: Cat Got Your Tongue?

Collection of Catwoman stories set in the DC animated universe — Adventures in the DC Universe #2 and #19; Batman: Gotham Adventures #4, #24, and 50; and Batman Adventures #10.

Batman: The Brave And The Bold The Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 3

Brave and the Bold #157-200 from the 1980s, with Batman teaming up with Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Black Lightning, Superboy, Swamp Thing and more. Foreword by Scott Beatty.

Batman: The Court of Owls Deluxe Edition

Deluxe-size hardcover collection of issues #1-11 of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman.

Batman: Zero Year

In paperback, collecting both of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Zero Year” collections in one volume, being Batman #21-27 and #29-33.

Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point HC

In hardcover, collecting the miniseries by Christos Gage and Reilly Brown. Also includes a bonus code unlocking seven DC-themed Fortnite digital items.

DC Poster Portfolio Jim Lee Vol. 2

Coming in December.

DC Poster Portfolio: Dark Nights: Metal

Covers just from the miniseries, which is really wild and unprecedented when you think about it. With work by Greg Capullo, Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, and Francesco Mattina, among others.

Deathstroke by Christopher Priest Omnibus

What I would call one of the best comics series of the past decade, a really wild and uncompromising take on Deathstroke where every friend is a foe and every foe is a friend (and both are family!) depending on the day. If you didn’t read this the first time around, no excuses for skipping it now. Collects Deathstroke: Rebirth #1, Titans #11, Teen Titans #28-29,Deathstroke #1-50, Titans: The Lazarus Contract Special #1, DC Holiday Special 2017 #1, Deathstroke Annual #1 (being among other things the “Lazarus Contract” and “Terminus Agenda” crossovers with two different iterations of Titans).

Fables Compendium Three

In paperback, collecting Fables #83-113, Jack of Fables #33-35, The Literals #1-3, and Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland. Said to be the third of four compendiums.

Fourth World by Jack Kirby Omnibus

New printing of the omnibus containing the entirety of Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World” saga, being also the contents of the four original omnibus volumes (so if you don’t want it Absolute size, here’s another, albeit heavy, option). I’d darn well hope this won’t be cancelled just because of the unfortunate news about the New Gods movie.

Gotham City Monsters

In paperback, Steve Orlando's six-issue miniseries including Frankenstein, Killer Croc, Lady Clayface, Orca, and I, Vampire's Andrew Bennett. Some great characters in there; I'm looking forward to this.

John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 25: Another Season

The penultimate collection of the classic Hellblazer series, collecting issues #276–291 by Peter Milligan and Giuseppe Camuncoli, and the previously uncollected story “Exposed” from DC’s 9/11 anthology.

Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity HC

I’ve heard good things about this DC Black Label series. Collecting in hardcover Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1–8 and the Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity Secret Files by Kami Garcia and Mico Suayan.

Justice League Dark: The New 52 Omnibus

What I'd say is pretty notable here is that this collects not just Peter Milligan's slow start to the New 52 series and Jeff Lemire's fantastic shot in the arm (with Mikel Janin), but also all of the "Trinity of Sin" crossover with the other Justice League books of the time and also the "Forever Evil: Blight" crossover between a bunch of DC's magic books.

You should read my review of Blight, by the way, which makes the Herculean effort of trying to encapsulate this giant 18-issue crossover (about which I wrote, "As befits the menagerie of magical characters who populate the story, Blight is in part a wonder to behold and in part total chaos"). The oddly structured "Blight" is actually two stories, one 10 issues and one eight, the latter of which having nothing to do with the "Blight" of the first even though it shares the title. The quality waxes and wanes, but is for the most part good, and the old adage holds that even if it's not great, there's certainly a lot of it here. Oh my god you will have your fill of Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Deadman, and the rest by the time you finish this.

Anyway, this is I, Vampire #7-8, Justice League Dark #0-40, Justice League #22-23, Justice League Dark Annual #1-2, Justice League of America #6-7, Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #14-17, Constantine #9-12, Trinity of Sin: Pandora #6-9, and Justice League Dark: Futures End #1.

Starman Compendium One

New collection of James Robinson's Starman, collecting about half the series and then some: Starman #0-42, Starman 80-Page Giant #1, Starman Annual #1-2, Starman Secret Files #1, Showcase ’95 #12 (Shade), Showcase ’96 #4-5 (Dr. Fate and the Shade), Power of Shazam! #35-36, and The Shade #1-4.

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (Tabloid Edition)

A reprint of what was originally published as All-New Collectors' Edition #C-55, a new Legion story by Paul Levitz and Mike Grell printed in tabloid 10" x 14" size, featuring the wedding of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad.

Superman & Lois Lane: The 25th Wedding Anniversary Deluxe Edition

I don't think what I'm about to say is particularly controversial, but apologies in advance if I offend anyone: the entire 1990s Superman: The Wedding Album storyline was not very good.

We all know the story that the Triangle Titles Super-team wanted to marry Clark and Lois much earlier but were asked to hold off to mesh with the Lois & Clark TV show, which — to the benefit of all of us — ended up netting us "Death of Superman." But when the TV wedding did come, apparently it was without much notice for the comics teams. They had to scramble under inopportune circumstances — not only had Clark and Lois inartfully broken up at this time, but Superman currently had no powers (in the most high-profile storyline he'd probably see outside "Death") on account of the fallout from the Final Night crossover.

While artist Stuart Immonen gets a romantic reunion sequence in, this was not a strong tiem for the Triangle Titles artists overall — neither the Wedding Album nor the issues that followed are good-looking books overall. The larger story sees Clark and Lois going off on their honeymoon and running afoul of an international terrorist. Again, we're talking about a pretty high-profile Superman story here that by and large doesn't involve the superhero Superman nor any of his best-recognized enemies.

Strange as it sounds, I rather always hoped DC might re-do this story one day; it's a pretty big dropped football and squanders a lot of the good work that the earlier Triangle Titles teams did going in to the Lois/Clark engagement.

Happy 25th anniversary! Collects Superman #118, Adventures of Superman #541, Action Comics #728, Superman: The Man of Steel #63, and Superman: The Wedding Album #1.

Swamp Thing: New Roots

In paperback, collecting the Walmart exclusive and digital-first Swamp Thing series — Swamp Thing Giant Direct Market Edition #1–4, Swamp Thing Giant #5, Swamp Thing: New Roots #6, and Swamp Thing: New Roots #9 by Mark Russell and others.

Sweet Tooth: The Return

Issues #1-6 of the new miniseries by Jeff Lemire.

Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven

Middle-grade graphic novel by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo.

Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story

Cool to see relatively new character Jessica Cruz getting the spotlight in this immigration-focused YA graphic novel by Lilliam Rivera and Steph C. I appreciate that DC’s mining new classic characters for these as well as old favorites.

Wonderful Women of the World

Young adult graphic novel featuring illustrated biographies of prominent women, edited by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Review: Harley Quinn Vol. 5: Hollywood or Die trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

We’ve been doubly blessed that in a decade, we’re two for two for good Harley Quinn runs. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s original, from the New 52 down through Rebirth, remains the gold standard, but Sam Humphries has also done well, a run decidedly different from what came before but still enjoyable and moving enough to hold its own. With a new run by Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo on the rise, let’s hope this embarrassment of riches keeps on.

Humphries' finale, Harley Quinn Vol. 5: Hollywood or Die, is a bit of a left turn; though events of the previous books weigh heavily here, Humphries pulls Harley out of familiar locales and leaves behind the new supporting cast he’s set up. Coming as it does after the new Harley team has been announced, Hollywood has a slightly tacked-on feel, a continuation but also an odd afterthought.

Review: Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 3: The Demon's Fire trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Bryan Hill’s Batman and the Outsiders ends with what feels like a whimper. Over three volumes (and a Detective Comics intro), I came to like this series better than I did when it started, but still there’s not much to recommend it in the end. Whatever ideas DC had about an Outsiders series in the post-Dark Nights: Metal/“New Justice” era never quite manifested, and hopefully (since it seems they’re giving it another go after Dark Nights: Death Metal) the next time around will be better.

I appreciate that Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 3: The Demon’s Fire teases some Bat-drama that never quite manifests. Batman’s apprentices skirt the line of good sense a little bit, and rather than come down hard on them, Batman seems willing to grant his judgment is not always absolute. At the same time, a lot of this is implicit, not that Batman admits the error of his ways so much as what seemed might be something that would anger him ultimately doesn’t. Whether that reflects writer Bryan Hill well in control of his narrative or not I’m not sure, though I think that uncertainty answers its own question.

Review: Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

We’re rapidly approaching a place where maybe we can’t call DC Black Label so “new” any more, though we’re still exploring the extent to which, thankfully, DC is willing to push the limits with these books. After (at least as far as I’ve read) a couple Batman and Wonder Woman stories that were maybe a little darker, a little bloodier than your normal DC fare, in saunters Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley to push the limits wonderfully near to the breaking.

If ever there was a concern you can’t go home again, creative team Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti put that to lie. The tone feels spot on, even from moments of characteristic mundanity to the humor and surprising drama that the team manages to evoke in the space of just four issues. This is just about everything one could want from Conner and Palmiotti’s return to Harley, and they get a bunch of their greatest hits in (short really only of not being able get a Vartox cameo).

Review: Justice League Odyssey Vol. 4: Last Stand trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Thinking about summing up Justice League Odyssey, I came around to the idea that this was a book better than it ever really got credit for, especially after writer Dan Abnett came on. Its out of the way setting was both a boon and a detriment; the remoteness seems essential for the story Abnett was telling (not unlike his original Legion Lost), but the lack of tie to the larger DC Universe is probably what cost it in the end.

Reading Justice League Odyssey Vol. 4: Last Stand, I’m hard-pressed to find much of a sour note — good sci-fi, good characterization. The difficulty is simply that the stakes don’t feel so high (even as all of reality is threatened); after four volumes one knows by now this is the third wheel of the “New Justice” Justice League set, in service to the rest of the DCU and never setting the pace of it.