Review: Batman: Three Jokers hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, November 22, 2020

A few refrains went through my head while I was reading Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s Batman: Three Jokers: “Time heals all wounds … if they don’t kill you first,” the veritable frontispiece of this very book; “That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day,” the recurring theme of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke, upon which this book is largely based; and “You can’t heal under a mask. Wounds need air” (yup, still mulling HBO’s excellent Watchmen). Each of these relate in some way to the “three jokers” of the book, and by that I mean Batman, Batgirl, and Red Hood Jason Todd; this is their story, largely, far more so than the three clown-faced killers who populate these pages.

Three Jokers is about trauma, and impotence — the frustrating inability one can sometimes have to reach out to others, to help another through their trauma especially when one is traumatized themselves — and it also offers a moment of startling grace. Johns, whose long comics track record has only fleetingly included the Dark Knight, does well portraying Batman at his best and worst here, and in demonstrating why the relationship between this triptych of characters is so fraught. Often Three Jokers is best when it is its own thing; when it ventures to Moore’s territory, the strain more clearly shows.

DC Future State collections coming Summer 2021

Friday, November 20, 2020

DC Comics' Summer 2021 collections solicitations should be out before the end of the year, but while we wait, we’ve got early news of the collections for DC’s upcoming Future State two-month event.

That Future State is going to be collected is not necessarily a surprise, though we now that the books will arrive from mid-June to early July 2021 and be in paperback. (Though, I wouldn’t discount the possibility of deluxe-size hardcovers or an omnibus later down the road.) All of the various Future State series are accounted for here short of Brandon Thomas and Daniel Sampere’s Future State: Aquaman, but I’m sure it’ll end up somewhere, presumably in the Justice League-themed collection.

But first, the collections of two other notable titles:

DC Comics: Generations

In hardcover, coming in June 2021, at 192 pages. That’s more than the Fractured and Shattered specials, but no word on the contents just yet.

Tales From the Dark Multiverse II

In hardcover in June 2021, this sequel collection includes Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Hush #1, Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Flashpoint #1, Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Wonder Woman: War of the Gods #1, Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Crisis on Infinite Earths #1, and Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Dark Nights Metal #1, and Wonder Woman #8 (in the right George Perez era as “War of the Gods,” but I wonder if they meant another comic), Batman #608, Flashpoint #1, Dark Nights: Metal #1, and Dollar Comics: Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 (surely there’s no reason this isn’t actually Crisis itself).

And now the listings:

Future State: Dark Detective

The solicitation compares Mariko Tamaki’s “Dark Detective” stories to 1984, showing the DC hype machine running full tilt. This book has Future State: Dark Detective #1–4 (including Grifters and Red Hood) Future State: Catwoman #1–2, Future State: Harley Quinn #1–2, Future State: Robin Eternal #1–2, and Future State: Batman/Superman #1–2.

Future State: Justice League

Collects Future State: Justice League #1–2 (with Justice League Dark), Future State: The Flash (called Future State: The Flash: Death Race here), and Future State: Green Lantern #1–2 (including Last Lanterns and Tales of the Green Lantern Corps). Again, seems like the collection where Aquaman might show up.

Future State: The Next Batman

Collects Future State: The Next Batman #1–4(including Outsiders, Arkham Knights, Batgirls, and Gotham City Sirens) and Future State: Nightwing #1–2, and the solicitation also says it collects Future State: Dark Detective #1–3, which isn’t a thing unless some of the backup stories from Dark Detective are showing up here.

Future State: Suicide Squad

Collects Future State: Suicide Squad #1–2 (including Black Adam), Future State: Teen Titans #1–2 (called Future State: Teen Titans: Dead of the Class), Future State: Shazam! #1–2 (called Future State: Shazam: The Death of William Batson), and Future State: Swamp Thing #1–2 (called Future State: Swamp Thing: Obsidian Sun).

Future State: Superman

Collects Future State: Superman of Metropolis #1–2 (including Guardian and Mister Miracle), Future State: Superman: Worlds of War #1–2 (including Midnighter, and Black Racer), Future State: Superman vs. Imperious Lex #1–2, Future State: Kara Zor-El, Superwoman #1–2, Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes #1–2 (the solicitation calls it “Legion 5000”), and Future State: House of El #1.

Future State: Wonder Woman

Including early appearances by Yara Flor (called “Maria Flor” here), in the running to headline a new “Wonder Girl” TV series. This is Future State: Wonder Woman #1–2, Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman #1–2, and Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1–2 (including Nubia). DC Future State collections coming Summer 2021

Review: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen: Who Killed Jimmy Olsen? trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Superman Pal Jimmy Olsen Who Killed Jimmy Olsen

Flipping through Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen: Who Killed Jimmy Olsen? — with its short, comic strip-like vignettes (up to and including a Calvin & Hobbes parody) and images of gorillas, dinosaurs in top hats, and a human-porcupine supervillain — one wouldn’t be blamed for thinking what we have here is a dedicated humor comic (and the space-cat vomiting blood. Don’t forget the space-cat vomiting blood).

The biggest surprise for me, then, was the actual murder mystery plot buried in the center of all of this. If the culprit isn’t exactly a mystery, then at least the motives take a little while to piece out, and in the meantime, writer Matt Fraction doles out the vignettes that make up the story in interesting fashion. The narrative skips forward and backward in time, revisits and doubles up on itself (including when Lois Lane seemingly gets caught in a time shift); in the end, Who Killed Jimmy Olsen? is absurd and wacky, but it’s also much more narratively clever than I expected. This is no mere humor book, or at least it’s also one that doesn’t underestimate the reader’s intelligence.

DC Trade Solicitations for February 2021 – Batgirl, Nightwing, Red Hood Joker War tie-ins, Dark Nights: Death Metal Deluxe, Who’s Who Omnibus, Constantine: Rise and Fall by Taylor, Morrison’s Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 3

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Dark Nights Death Metal Issue 1

It's the DC Comics February 2021 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations. My reading of these was tinged with concern given all the goings on at DC right now. I will say it's an auspicious thing to have a female, experienced comic book editor, Marie Javins, at the head of DC, and by all accounts Javins loves DC and isn't looking to, say, slash the output down to a couple reprint anthologies every month. At the same time, a lot of good people are getting let go and that's naturally worrisome, especially when we're on our third month of fill-in miniseries with no idea what DC's superhero line is going to look like when it all starts up again.

Also I just finished HBO's Watchmen (behind the times, I know), which was superb and frankly breathed new life into Watchmen: The Original for me, and when I see such good superheroic adventures on the screen, I can't help but be frustrated with the conclusion of something like "Year of the Villain"/Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War, which was barely an ending, really shirked most of the character development it had set up, and served in the end mainly as an advertisement for another comic (Dark Nights: Death Metal) whose collection won't be available until April of next year. It feels like excellence shouldn't be as hard to achieve as it seems to be, and now more than ever mainstream superhero comics seems to be more about making a buck than telling a good story. The layoffs at DC don't do much to assuage those concerns.

That said, if all else were equal this would be a pretty good month for DC Comics collections. Following the Batman: Joker War collection out in February, this coming March sees the Batgirl, Detective Comics, Nightwing, and Red Hood: Outlaw tie-in collections to "Joker War," all of which I'm a sucker for ('cause who knows when we might have a Bat-family event again?!) — if I'm seeing it all right, the only thing missing at this point is where Joker War Zone is going to be collected other than in the Joker War Saga book.

Also, hardly second fiddle, this month sees the solicitation for the aforementioned Dark Nights: Death Metal collection, with its tie-in books soon to follow. I talk a good game but I am excited to read this one. I know the Who's Who Omnibus is a big deal to some, and also I expect I'll enjoy Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 3 when I get around to reading it. Batman & the Outsiders and Justice League Odyssey, two series that improved over time, see their final collections, too.

Well, let's jump into it ...

Absolute Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals HC

This seems cool, George Perez's Wonder Woman #1-14 collected in Absolute edition; it's not often we see "regular series" get the Absolute treatment. Surely this is due to the movie, though it makes me thing Superman: Man of Steel maybe deserves the same (Batman: Year One's already been there).

Batgirl Vol. 8: The Joker War HC

Coming in March, the final issues of Cecil Castellucci's run on Batgirl, issues #45-50, with ties to "Joker War" and also the first comics appearance of new CW Batwoman Ryan Wilder. In hardcover, a switch for this series.

Batman & the Outsiders Vol. 3: The Demon's Fire TP

Final collection by Bryan Hill, with issues #13-17. I wasn't too enthusiastic about the first volume, Lesser Gods, but found the second one, League of Their Own, to be an improvement. The conclusion will be high on my reading pile.

Batman Beyond Vol. 8: The Eradication Agenda TP

The final collection of the Dan Jurgens series, collecting issues #43-50. Booster Gold makes an appearance, and this didn't connect for me before but that means Jurgens writing Booster again.

Batman's Grave: The Complete Collection HC

Hardcover of the 12-issue series by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch.

Batman/Superman Vol. 2: World's Deadliest HC

Issues #7-15 and the Annual #1, including Zod and Ra’s al Ghul, the Atomic Skull, and a Batwoman/Steel team-up (I assumed John Henry Irons, but now I wonder if it’s Natasha. Ooh, don’t spoil it for me!).

Batman: A Death in the Family: The Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe-size hardcover collection of "Death in the Family," the death of Robin Jason Todd, and "A Lonely Place of Dying," the arrival of Robin Tim Drake. Being Batman #426-429 and #440-442 and New Teen Titans #60-61. The solicitation claims this inclues "several never-before-published pages that show what would have happened if Jason Todd had lived" — traditionally that's a page by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo that appeared in the Batman Annual #25 and other Death in the Family collections, so I'm not sure if "never-before-published" is really accurate.

Batman: Arkham: Talia al Ghul TP

Among other things, it’s nice that this collection acknowledges Talia’s graduation to a Batman villain separate from her father Ra’s. Collects Batman #232, Batman #656, Detective Comics #411, Batman: Son of the Demon #1, Batman: Death and the Maidens #9, President Luthor Secret Files #1, Batman Villains Secret Files 2005 #1, Red Hood: The Lost Days #1, Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #23, Batman and Robin #12, Batman Incorporated #2, Batman Incorporated #13 (the solicitation says #2-13 but that's got to be a typo), and Batman #34-35. I love that President Luthor is in there; I really enjoyed Joe Kelly writing Talia as a foe for Superman in his Action Comics run, and I’m glad that gets an acknowledgment.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 5: The Joker War HC

In harcover in late March, tying in to "Joker War" and collecting Detective Comics #1020-1026, a story from Detective Comics #1027, Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P., and Detective Comics Annual #3, by Peter Tomasi and company.

Black Canary: Bird of Prey TP

Collection of Black Canary’s Golden Age adventures, including Adventure Comics #399, Adventure Comics #418-419, Brave and the Bold #61-62, Flash Comics #86-88 and #90-104, DC Special #3, and Comic Cavalcade #25.

Dark Nights: Death Metal: Deluxe Edition HC

Coming at the beginning of April, it's the direct-to-deluxe edition of Dark Nights: Death Metal. Can't help but notice this only contains issues #1-7, which causes a ruckus back with Metal proper; hopefully the series is structured this time such that issues #1-7 make a whole story without any of the tie-ins.

DCeased TP

Paperback collection of DCeased #1-6 and DCeased: A Good Day to Die #1.

Final Night TP

New collection of the 1996 DC crossover event that included a major step in Green Lantern/Parallax Hal Jordan's return to the mainstream. Includes Final Night #1-4, Parallax: Emerald Night #1, Green Lantern #81, and Final Night Preview #1.

Flashpoint: The 10th Anniversary Omnibus HC

Ten years since Flashpoint. It hardly seems that much, and if you want me up on my soapbox, I think in part that’s because we’ve been through two continuities since then and DC’s history remains very, very muddled — that is, it’s been 10 years, but mostly that reminds me we haven’t come all that far in 10 years.

That said, this is assuredly the completest complete collection of Flashpoint you’re going to find; I’m curious whether the editors will try to slot in the various miniseries in their relative right places between the Flashpoint miniseries or just shunt all the ancillary material to the end.

I should also say, ignoring what came before and after, I thought Geoff Johns had some fine writing here, and I can clear a room discussing how this book relates to years and years of Johns writing Batman and Flash prior. As a matter of fact, here's my Flashpoint review.

This is (deep breath) Booster Gold #44-47, Flash #9-12, Flashpoint #1-5, Flashpoint: Reverse-Flash #1, Flashpoint: Abin Sur the Green Lantern #1-3, Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #1-3, Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance #1-3, Flashpoint: Citizen Cold #1-3, Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint #1-3, Flashpoint: Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1-3, Flashpoint: Deathstroke & the Curse of the Ravager #1-3, Flashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance #1-3, Flashpoint: The Outsider #1-3, Flashpoint: Secret Seven #1-3, Flashpoint: The Canterbury Cricket #1, Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies #1-3, Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost #1-3, Flashpoint: Project Superman #1-3, Flashpoint: Frankenstein & the Creatures of the Unknown #1-3, Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries #1, Flashpoint: Grodd of War #1, Flashpoint: Hal Jordan #1-3, Flashpoint: The Legion of Doom #1-3, and material from Absolute Flashpoint.

JLA: The Tower of Babel The Deluxe Edition HC

Collects a number of Mark Waid's JLA stories, including issues #18-21, #32-33, and "Tower of Babel," issues #43-46. At some point a solicitation had said that Len Kaminski and Jason Orfalas' "JLApe" JLA Annual #3 would be in here, but that has become, more sensibly, two of Mark Waid's stories from JLA Secret Files #3.

John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 2: The Best Version of You TP

The second and final collection by Si Spurrier, issues #7-12, of what’s been said to be a return to form for the title. That does it for Sandman Universe short of the Dreaming miniseries, I believe.

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Rise and Fall HC

In hardcover, collecting the three-issue Black Label miniseries by Tom Taylor. I tell you what, one side-effect of following Taylor on Twitter these days to find out about the next Injustice project is seeing a lot of praise for his Suicide Squad, which I'm eager to read. Taylor's star is on the rise and I'm optimistic for his Hellblazer as well.

Justice League Odyssey Vol. 4: Last Stand TP

Final collection of the Dan Abnett series, issues #19-25. Justice League Odyssey Vol. 3: Final Frontier was really great and I’m eager to see Abnett stick the landing.

Nightwing: The Joker War HC

Also in hardcover, also a change for this title. Ties in to "Joker War" and collects Nightwing #70-77 and Nightwing Annual #3, which brings us right up to the "Future State" break. Coming in early March.

Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 4: Unspoken Truths TP

Collects issues #43-50 by Scott Lobdell. These are Lobdell’s final issues of the series, but I haven’t seen an official announcement that the book is cancelled necessarily.

Revolver TP

Paperback reprinting of the 2010 graphic novel by Matt Kindt, in which a man seems to travel between two realities each time he goes to sleep.

Sheriff of Babylon TP

Paperback collecting issues #1-12 of the Sheriff of Babylon miniseries by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, with the extras from the recent Deluxe edition. The Deluxe was the first time the two original trades had been collected together.

Superman Adventures: Lex Luthor, Man of Metropolis TP

Collects issues #27, #54-55, and #65-66 of the animated tie-in series.

Superman Vol. 3: The Truth Revealed TP

Paperback, following the hardcover, of Brian Michael Bendis' Superman #16-19, and the Heroes and Villains specials.

Superman vs. Shazam TP

Collects a variety of Superman and Captain Marvel team-ups (or face-offs), including Superman #216, The Power of Shazam! #46, Kingdom Come #4, DC Comics Presents #33, #34, and #49, All-New Collectors' Edition #C-58, and DC Comics Presents Annual #3.

Who's Who Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

This is assuredly something that should exist, what seems like it’s going to be a collection of all of DC’s Who’s Who series, though this particular volume is the original post-Crisis Who’s Who, updates, and material from the annuals, ending before the loose-leaf Who’s Who that we’ll probably see in the second volume.

Like ... this is cool, and it definitely should be preserved in collections. I can’t necessarily imagine reading this whole thing now, given how far the characters are from what’s portrayed here (and once upon a time, I did read this kind of thing forward and backward and forward again). Mostly it makes me feel disenchanted, as with the Flashpoint Omnibus, that we’re so far from cohesion these days that a new Who’s Who hardly seems possible.

Collects Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #1-26 (1985), Who's Who Update 1987 #1-5, Who's Who Update 1988 #1-4, and the Who’s Who pages from Action Comics Annual #2, Batman Annual #13, Blackhawk Annual #1, Detective Comics Annual #2, Dr. Fate Annual #1, Flash Annual #3, Green Arrow Annual #2, Justice League Annual #3, New Titans Annual #5, Question Annual #2, Secret Origins Annual #3, Swamp Thing Annual #5, and Wonder Woman Annual #2.

Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 3 HC

The next and final volume in Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette's Wonder Woman: Earth One series. Seeing as how this has Max Lord in it, hopefully by March of next year the Wonder Woman 1984 movie will finally be out. Volume 1 of this came out in 2016, volume 2 in 2018; I'm going to have to reread so I remember what's going on. DC has published an Earth One box set but it's surprising they haven't taken some of these trilogies (Superman: Earth One, basically) and reprinted as one single volume — that'd make a good, large, cohesive book.

Review: Supergirl Vol. 3: Infectious trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

DC Comics' latest Supergirl title struggled in its end. If that wasn’t apparent from its ignominious conclusion that saw the final two issues go digital-only, it certainly becomes apparent reading Supergirl Vol. 3: Infectious itself. And I would even actually say this book fares better than expected; though simplistic and repetitive, it doesn’t actually besmirch Kara Zor-El as much as other troubled stories have before. As well, if you like this sort of thing, Infectious runs the gamut of DC Comics events over the past year, from Event Leviathan all the way through the various incarnations of “Year of the Villain.”

None of that is enough to save what most seasoned readers will find an unimpressive comic — lack of suspense, sparse art, a string of action sequences over a number of issues as stand-in for any kind of plot development. The answer to why DC can’t get Supergirl right can’t be found here — this rushed book is a consequence of that trouble, not the cause of the trouble itself.

Review: Batman: 80 Years of the Bat Family trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, November 08, 2020

There’s been a lot packed in to the recent Action Comics and Detective Comics issue #1000 specials, with perhaps enough pressure to deliver stories worthy of the monumental issues that at times they seemed too highfalutin, too grandiose. For Batman: 80 Years of the Bat Family, maybe it’s the occasion of the collected format, or maybe that the Robin, Catwoman, and Joker issues are “80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectaculars” rather than the #1000s, but I found the stories uniformly approachable and enjoyable.

There’s a fine mix here of creators historically or currently involved with these characters, one-off stories and stories revisiting specific instances of these characters' eras, and even stories set during current events in the characters' titles. All of that makes these specials feel wholly worthwhile, true anniversary parties and not just more skippable anthologies on the stands. I’m hopeful these serve as models for other such specials going forward.

Review: Batman Vol. 1: Their Dark Designs hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Among James Tynion’s mandates for his new Batman run starting with Batman Vol. 1: Their Dark Designs, I imagine chief among them was not to be Tom King. Hey, I liked King’s run very much (if fair is fair, in the final tally it’ll be recognized as something more than just superhero comics, approaching real art), but I recognize it was not the most accessible to the reader off the street, and that’s where DC’s got to cater. That’s by no means to denigrate Their Dark Designs, which is in its own way smart and multi-layered and has things to say about where Batman goes now in this strange new decade. But as was the case when King was on Batman and Tynion was on Detective, Tynion’s title is the more normative comics experience, a straightforward Batman romp without an instance of a character repeating only the same words of dialogue throughout an entire issue.

That’s ultimately good for Batman, which after a couple years of upheaval is due now for a calmer assessment of the new status quo. To Tynion’s credit (not that we expected anything less), Their Dark Designs is a respectful bridge, utilizing naturally what came before as it charts what comes next.

Review: Flash Forward trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, November 01, 2020

Flash Forward

Writer Scott Lobdell has no easy job in Flash Forward taking recently-turned-toxic character Flash Wally West and trying to make a miniseries out of him. Lobdell doesn’t even get the benefit of the years that DC let Hal Jordan lie fallow after his fall from grace, nor even the excuse of cosmic manipulation. No, in what is instead a rather vulgar exercise in storytelling, DC goes straight from crime to redemption tour, and the losers here are the poor characters already in limbo who’ve served as so much fodder for the whole endeavor.

None of that is Lobdell’s fault, and Lobdell and artist Brett Booth do exceptionally well here taking Wally from one of DC’s darkest moments and spinning out something that’s exciting, emotional, and most of all fun. It feels altogether too soon for “fun” with Wally and it’s hard not to see some of this as a tad grotesque; at the same time, Lobdell seems to get to the core of the character — reaffirms it, perhaps — and the book’s most redemptive moment is sweet enough to make a lot of this worthwhile.

Review: Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen is ostensibly the culmination of James Tynion’s Justice League series-within-a-series, “Legion of Doom,” though that doesn’t really come through till the book’s halfway point. When it does, what’s here gets sharper, but overall the book struggles to overcome its biggest disadvantage — that, like the Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War that leads in to it, Hell Arisen is a book where not much of import happens and that’s basically just an advertisement for another book that follows it (which leads into something else after that).

As well, though I’ve enjoyed artists Steve Epting and Javier Fernandez on a variety of other books, all the art here is too soft, too inexact, lessening the dose of urgency and seriousness this book desperately needs. We know James Tynion, we know his books, and we know the competence of his writing (which again, I think comes out more in the book’s second half). For a book with a variety of challenges, perhaps an artist with more straightforward drama — a Detective Comics collaborator like Miguel Mendonca or Eddy Barrows — could have benefitted this overall.

Review: Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Justice League Volume 5 Justice/Doom War

Though the final issue collected in Scott Snyder’s Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War was released in at the beginning of this year (and the collection in June), it couldn’t feel more relevant than right here, right now. The war that Snyder’s League fights in these pages is ultimately one of ideologies — “… The rise of evil in this universe. The lack of connection between the good.” When the League makes their final case to the people of the world to turn away from the cosmic evil Perpetua, it comes down to a consensus choice. Then the world goes dark. “What happened?” Wonder Woman asks. Batman pauses a moment and replies, “We lost the vote.”

Whatever side of that metaphor you fall on, it is Justice/Doom War’s saving grace that it has a metaphor at all. Snyder’s last Justice League volume is big on summer blockbuster theatrics and cool moments, but small on plot, real character development, or anything to conclusively tie up this Justice League era proper. That you can find some connection to the here and now gives Justice/Doom War that little nugget of interest that it desperately needs; otherwise this volume is like so much momentary cotton candy, a letdown after a good run overall.