DC Trade Solicitations for April 2017 - Batman: Zero Hour, Suicide Squad: Phoenix Gambit, Green Arrow: Hunt for Red Dragon, Wonder Woman: Year One

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

DC Comics's hardcover and trade paperback solicitations for April 2017 have a bunch of charming post-Crisis offerings in them, including the next collection of John Ostrander and Kim Yale's Suicide Squad and Mike Grell's Green Arrow. There's also a collection of the Batman Zero Hour tie-ins, strange but welcome; Greg Rucka's Detective Comics "New Gotham" stories; Chuck Dixon's Batman/Catwoman/Wildcat miniseries; and another Arkham villain spotlight collection, for Mr. Freeze. Plus John Byrne's Wonder Woman and last but not least, we finally find out what's in the Last Days of the Justice Society collection.

Don't forget that pre-ordering is your friend, because at the same time we do seem to have lost the Justice League: Breakdowns collection among others -- more on this later.

All of that plus a bunch of new/Rebirth collections including the first collection from Young Animal, Gerard Way's Doom Patrol.

Let's take a look!

Batman: Zero Hour TP

I've been excited about this quirky little book for a while now; I'm not quite sure what prompted it, but it fills a nice gap in terms of collected Batman material. This is Batman #511, Shadow of the Bat #31, Detective Comics #678, Catwoman #14, and Robin #10, and then the "Zero Month" issues of each that followed the Zero Hour crossover, plus Legends of the Dark Knight #0.

These for the most part involve the Bat-family interacting with previous-continuity versions of themselves; it's an odd draw for modern readers given that the "present" characters are themselves now considered alt-continuity. But I recall these being rather cute, and in a time before Barbara Gordon was Batgirl again (or even much of a player in the Bat-family titles at that time as Oracle), the appearance of Batgirl here was a big deal, not to mention Tim Drake meeting Robin Dick Grayson. Probably this collection will be even more enjoyable to the casual multi-media Bat-fan than a dedicated one. The #0 issues equally spin a Batman origin that's also well out of continuity by now, but for a casual reader, I imagine this will all feel pretty familiar.

Collections of Zero Hour tie-in issues are rare (almost nonexistent) to begin with. These issues, previous uncollected, came out between Knightfall and Prodigal, both long-since collected themselves. To that end this collection fills a sizable hole, and that much should appeal to dedicated fans, so I see this book really having something for everyone.

I'd be happy for a Superman: Zero Hour collection too, but in the absence of that, my only gripe is that this book doesn't include Louise Simonson and John Bogdanove's Superman: The Man of Steel #37, which has Superman meeting a bunch of alternate Batmans including from the Golden Age, Neal Adams, the Kelley Jones vampire Batman, and Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns Batman.

• Batman: New Gotham Vol. 1 TP

Greg Rucka and Shawn Martinbrough came out of No Man's Land swinging with a dynamic Detective Comics that used a singular color palette and hard-boiled stories that would eventually set the template for Rucka and Ed Brubaker's Gotham Central. Issues #743-750 were collected in a book called Batman: New Gotham Vol. 1: Evolution, but this new book picks up with the beginning of Rucka's run, issue #742, and continues through a Poison Ivy story and a Two-Face one-shot (again, shades of Gotham Central), as well as the previously-collected Ra's al Ghul story.

That this book is called New Gotham Vol. 1 is notable, however, because previously, the second "New Gotham" book (of only two) collected the Officer Down crossover between all the Bat-books, including Detective #754. Possibly, or not, DC will issue a new printing of Officer Down as New Gotham Vol. 2. Or, if this "New Gotham" series is really meant to be a "Detective Comics by Greg Rucka" series, then Rucka and Martinbrough (also with Rick Burchett) continue to issue #765, before the Batman: Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive crossover (so, New Gotham Vol. 2 or Vol. 3 could be issues #754/755-765). This particular run of Rucka's would then end with Detective #775, but all of that is collected in the new recent Murderer/Fugitive collections, so I doubt DC will collect that again (Rucka would follow Bruce Wayne's bodyguard Sasha Bordeaux over to Checkmate).

So the future of this seems to be a two or three-book series tops, with the next book collecting Officer Down and/or the end of Rucka's Detective run. I'm doubtful this new series is collecting all the post-No Man's Land Batman stories, as Ed Brubaker's stories over in the the Batman title proper were recently collected in a Batman by Ed Brubaker series. Possibly Gotham Knights could be collected, but as Devin Grayson hasn't worked with DC in a while, I'm doubtful -- I think this is probably just a Rucka book.

Batman/Wildcat TP

Meant in the most positive way possible, Chuck Dixon's 1990s-2000s output for DC produced some wonderfully workaday comics. This is not to call them boring, but rather DIxon, like Dan Jurgens and others on the Super-books, produced stories day in and day out that were not all of them event comics or blockbusters, but had a consistency and longevity that we don't see nowadays (including one hundred issues of Robin and seventy of Nightwing). Similarly the Batman/Wildcat and Catwoman/Wildcat miniseries collected here (along with Guy Gardner: Warrior writer Beau Smith) are no barn-burners, but they are charming late 1990s fare that it's nice to see preserved as a testament to Dixon's legacy. I think it's a nice touch that DC includes Bob Haney's 1970s Batman/Wildcat Brave and the Bold team-ups (issues #88, 97, 110, 118, and 127) for precedent.

Batman: Arkham -- Mr. Freeze TP

Collects Batman #121, 308, 375, and 525; Detective #373 and 595; the Batman: Mr. Freeze special by Paul Dini published around the Batman & Robin movie; Gotham Knights #59; Legends of the Dark Knight #190-191; and the New 52 Batman Annual #1. There's plenty of classic stuff in here, including when Mr. Freeze was known as "Mr. Zero." To my interests, Batman #525 is an Underworld Unleashed tie-in (collected also in the Batman by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones book); the issue of Gotham Knights is uncollected but also generally unrelated to the War Games doings of the time.

Green Arrow Vol. 8: The Hunt For the Red Dragon TP

Hooray for continuing the Mike Grell Green Arrow collections! Ten issues here, #63-72, leaving just eight left for the last collection, issues #73-80. I am pretty sure Grell's Green Arrow: The Wonder Year origin miniseries (published around the same time as the end of this collection) has never itself been collected, and it'd be a nice touch to include that with the last volume.

JLA: Year One Deluxe Edition HC

One of my all-time favorite books is Mark Waid and Barry Kitson's JLA: Year One. The twist in the book totally floored me, and Waid writes a superlative Hal Jordan and Barry Allen (probably, for a real deluxe edition, Waid and Kitson's follow-up Flash/Green Lantern: Brave and the Bold miniseries should be in here, too). Irrespective, this book is surely deserving of oversized hardcover treatment.

Last Days of the Justice Society of America TP

A collection of the Last Days of the Justice Society of America special by Roy and Dann Thomas has been knocking around the early solicitations list since last March, so it's good to see it finally getting a listing. This also solves for us the long mystery as to what else would be in this book besides the one special, namely stories from Secret Origins #7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 24, 25, and 31.

Last Days of the Justice Society is, as mentioned before, Roy Thomas's special just after Crisis on Infinite Earths that saw the Justice Society exiled to Ragnarok (and separated from sticky continuity concerns) untl they'd return six years later in Armageddon: Inferno (not collected here, but it was a long shot). Subsequently, DC's Secret Origins series presented the post-Crisis origins of a variety of heroes, but with special emphasis on the lost Golden Age heroes, written by the Thomases. These origins are, respectively, Sandman, Flash (and.or Star-Spangled Kid), Hawkman (and/or Paul Kupperberg's Power Girl), Johnny Thunder (and/or the Whip), Spectre, Hourman, Green Lantern, Dr. Mid-Nite, Dr. Fate, the Atom, and the Justice Society itself.

All in all this looks like a fine collection and I'm satisfied with the Secret Origins stories being there. Now let's see collections of All-Star Squadron, Young All-Stars, and more Infinity Inc.!

Suicide Squad Vol. 6: The Phoenix Gambit TP

Hooray as well for another volume of John Ostrander and Kim Yale's Suicide Squad! Most notably, the last couple issues of those collected here, #40-49, spotlight Barbara Gordon as Oracle, as created by Ostrander and Yale. There's also the "Phoenix Gambit" storyline, where a year after the events of Suicide Squad Vol. 5: Apokolips Now, Amanda Waller and Batman reconvenes the team for a mission in Cold War "Vlatava," plus a run-in with Kobra.

For the next volume, ten issues would take us through the "Dragon's Hoard" storyline and also a War of the Gods tie-in issue at #58. That would leave issues #59-66 for the final eighth volume; what a joy if indeed this whole series could be collected.

Supergirl Vol. 3: Ghosts of Krypton TP

The material here is a combination collection of Supergirl: Beyond Good and Evil (#23-27 and Action Comics #850) and Supergirl: Way of the World (#28-33). The next issues begin Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle's run with ties to the "New Krypton" story, recently re-collected on their own, so I'm guessing this is it for these larger Supergirl re-collections. This volume offers stories by Kelley Puckett that are a more traditional take on Supergirl than the "good-girl-gone-bad" stories by Joe Kelly in the previous volume, but my reviews at the time found the stories a tad dull, even despite a guest-appearance by Mitchell "Resurrection Man" Shelley.

Wonder Woman by John Byrne Book One HC

John Byrne took over Wonder Woman after William Messner-Loebs's almost forty-issue run, the last of which, the "Contest" story, had Mike Deodato on art and was recently re-collected. Byrne's run, ultimately over thirty issues, would restore Wonder Woman of sorts to the Justice Society via her mother Hippolyta, would also try to smooth out (with no small degree of difficulty) Donna Troy's origin, and would introduce the first iteration of Cassie Sandsmark as Wonder Girl. Here, Wonder Woman also seemed to die for a time and there was tie-in with Byrne's Genesis event crossover.

All of these issues short of #113-114 were collected in Wonder Woman: Second Genesis and Lifelines, but the issues are uncollected after that. Second Genesis pits Wonder Woman against Darkseid; Lifelines, with some intention, sees Diana fighting some major "event villains" of the time: Doomsday, the Reverse Flash, and Sinestro.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2 -- The Victim Syndicate TP

Collects issues #943-949 of the Rebirth series, including the "Batwoman Begins" two-parter.

Blue Beetle Vol. 1: The More Things Change TP

Issues #1-6 and the Rebirth special.

Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love TP

Collecting the Deadman miniseries by Sarah Vaughn and Lan Medina.

Doctor Fate Vol. 3: Fateful Threads TP

Collects issues #13-18, the final issues of the Paul Levitz series.

Doom Patrol Vol. 1: Brick by Brick TP

The first collection of Gerard Way's Young Animal imprint is Way's own Doom Patrol, collecting issues #1-6.

Flash Vol. 2: Speed of Darkness TP

Collects issues #9-13 of the Joshua Williamson Rebirth series.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 2: Bottled Light TP

Collects issues #8-13

Raven TP

The Marv Wolfman miniseries. I glanced at this and it seems Raven believes something has happened to Tim Drake, so it must take place after Detective Comics #940, unless there's something in the end of Teen Titans I don't know about.

Supergirl Vol. 1: Reign of the Cyborg Supermen TP

Collects issues #1-6 and the Rebirth special.

Superwoman Vol. 1: Who Killed Superwoman? TP

Collects issue #1-7. I was surprised to see Phil Jimenez is off this title; I hope that's for good reasons and not unhappy ones.

Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Year One TP

The second collection of Greg Rucka's Rebirth Wonder Woman series, reprinting the issues set in the past, with art by Nicola Scott, issues #2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 (#8 is an "interlude" story wth art by Bilquis Evely).

It's our first solicitations list of 2017. What're you buying? What are your new year's comics-purchasing resolutions?

Review: Robin, Son of Batman Vol. 1: Year of Blood hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Given that since his inception Damian Wayne has been perpetually ten years old, it's sometimes hard to remember the character has been around at least ten years now. But by Tim Drake's tenth anniversary, the third Robin had already starred in more than fifty issues of his own solo comic; in comparison, Damian is still rather young in the process.

While I enjoyed Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Batman and Robin series, I have expressed that I did not think the arc of Damian's death and resurrection fully demonstrated Damian's growth as a character (an opinion, I know, not shared by all); however, I did find that the first volume of Gleason's Damian series (really, ultimately, a twelve-issue "maxiseries"), Robin, Son of Batman Vol. 1: Year of Blood, delivers on the concept of a "new" Damian Wayne. This, combined with some bold examination of what came before, makes Gleason's series feel authentically like the beginning of the second chapter in the Damian Wayne story.

Review: We Are Robin Vol. 1: The Vigilante Business trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

We Are Robin Vol. 1: The Vigilante Business by Lee Bermejo is the impressive start to the latest Bat-family teen drama. With the benefit of hindsight we know that the DC You We Are Robin only lasts twelve issues, so unfortunately we're saying good-bye almost as soon as we arrive. Bermejo's slow build is appropriate for the story, which deserved a longer run, but as it turned out means the book spends precious space on murkiness before things really coalesce in the third issue.

I was not at all familiar with Bermejo's writing before now, but he manages distinct and realistic teen voices with aplomb, and Bermejo's seems an obvious choice for a DC book like the troubled Teen Titans; further, Bermejo manages to examine the implications of an "occupy" movement set against a superhero background far more subtly than Gail Simone's The Movement. Artist Jorge Corona's absurdist, distorted figures are just right for the "looser" teen-starred book. A bevy of additional artists draw the chapters' epilogues and other aspects, and in some respects what distinguishes We Are Robin is its indie-style art, far from DC's house style; this is perhaps a rare book where the art by five artists is near perfect throughout.

Review: Red Hood/Arsenal Vol. 1: Open for Business trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 23, 2017

As might be becoming apparent, I'm a tad fascinated by the DC Comics publishing period known as "DC You." In its line-wide launch and multimedia advertising, we can see the precursors of the successful DC Rebirth; yet, despite the noble goals of broadening and diversifying the DC line, DC You was by many accounts a significant failure, ending after just one year of publication.

Its timespan is significant, however, because whereas titles like Omega Men and Superman: Lois & Clark were specifically billed as miniseries, as it turned out a good swath of the DC You ended up being "miniseries" of sorts, either new series running just twelve issues or ongoing series with discrete twelve-issue storylines. Launching at it did from a beginning "jumping-on" point and ending conclusively before another jumping-on point, DC You presents an uncommon self-contained microcosm that offered some unusual takes our heroes.

Review: Flash Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Though it collects nine issues in just one storyline, Joshua Williamson's Rebirth Flash Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice never feels over-long or too padded, which is a sign Williamson has a handle on what he's doing. And indeed Flash gets hopping by the end and makes some valid jabs at the good and bad that fictional superheroes do, and art by main series artist Carmine Di Giandomenico restores some of the maturity that's been missing from Flash comics of late.

At the same time, the trajectory of Williamson's story falls easily into a common comics trope, repetitious of both a variety of previous Flash stories, recent DC storylines, and innumerable other comics. Also I fundamentally disagree with Williamson's characterization of Flash Barry Allen, which affected my enjoyment of this story overall. I'll grant that as the Flash writer, Wiliamson has probably done significant study of Barry, but I haven't had this same disagreement with Barry's portrayal by previous writers.

Review: Teen Titans Vol. 2: Rogue Targets trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Will Pfeifer's mid-New 52 Teen Titans relaunch had trouble from the start, eschewing any sort of a premise for an in medias res beginning that came off wobbly and confusing. There was a moment early in Teen Titans Vol. 2: Rogue Targets where I actually thought this book was picking up, but most every chapter is so slapdash and strange that I wouldn't say it's worth reading at all, really. Pfeifer might be praised for ignoring the small details and just telling a good story if that story were good, but instead the little things that don't make sense combined with a story pulling in all sorts of different directions ultimately makes for a book that doesn't feel like it's had a lot of care put into it.

[Review contains spoilers]

In the aftermath of Convergence and the lead-in to DC Comics's "DC You" titles, DC released 11-page "Divergence" digital "sneak peek" stories, the Teen Titans's of which is collected here. Written by Pfeifer with art by Kenneth Rocafort, the story is mainly a conversation between Red Robin and Wonder Girl, now estranged over Robin's decision to harbor the fugitive Superboy.

Review: Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

As an early foray into the DC Comics "Rebirth" universe, Tom King's Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham delights and disappoints. The flair for smart action King showed on Grayson is in full force here, and this is a pulse-pounding Batman story well-drawn by David Finch. But the story unfolds along predictable lines, and for a story published twice-monthly and told in fairly decompressed manner, it stops short of delving into its material as deeply as it could. Further, the seams of this latest DC relaunch are already showing, with confusion abounding as to who's who and who knows who and how.

Review: Flash Vol. 9: Full Stop hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, January 09, 2017

Flash Barry Allen has a central role in DC Comics's Rebirth (if overshadowed by his own sidekick) and the CW's Flash television show continues to grow in prominence (most of the Invasion! crossover, even, revolved around Barry). It behooves DC, therefore, to get Flash right in the comics; arguably this should be the comic with the most muscle behind it short of Batman. The final "DC You" entry of Flash by Van Jensen and Robert Venditti, Flash Vol. 9: Full Stop, does not reach the level that this title needs to, and the Rebirth special included here by Joshua Williamson didn't wow me, either. Given the ties to Rebirth proper, obviously I'm following Flash into its next new first volume, but I've got some concerns about this one.

Review: Green Arrow Vol. 1: The Death and Life of Oliver Queen (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Benjamin Percy's first Rebirth volume, Green Arrow: The Death and Life of Oliver Queen, starts out with a lot of promise, and it's promise that carries through the book's early issues. It is not promise that carries through the whole time, however, and my concerns are equal parts that some of this I feel we've seen before and also that it all becomes more fanciful than I like my Green Arrow stories. That doesn't dampen my enthusiasm necessarily, however, because I like the dynamic Percy has set up among the cast and the end of this volume has an interesting hook, and that plus the promise of more of Otto Schmidt's art is likely to bring me back again.

Odds and Ends for 1-2-17 - DC Universe: Rebirth Omnibus contents and Legends of Tomorrow/Star Wars crossover

Monday, January 02, 2017

Happy new year! If you're just joining us after the holiday, don't miss a variety of new material on Collected Editions, including my recent review of the DC You Flash Vol. 8: Zoom, my series on the Justice League 3000/3001 books, the recent update to the DC Comics Trade Paperback Timeline, and you can also chime in on our Talkback thread to share what gifts you got this season or just talk about the year.

New reviews will resume later this week, but in the meantime, a couple of odds and ends to discuss:

• Contents of the DC Universe: Rebirth Omnibus Vol. 1

Over the holiday I had a chance to lay my hands on a DC Universe: Rebirth Omnibus Vol. 1, and I can confirm that it contains "only" the DC Universe: Rebirth special and all the individual series' Rebirth specials (plus covers and sketches) and not any of the first issues of the series.

I was under the impression that the first issues were in there, so I thought if I was still confused, maybe you were, too.

The book does notably say "Volume 1," so whether a second volume might contain the first issues or something like the Justice League of America Rebirth specials or, projecting, Justice Society of America or Legion of Super-Heroes Rebirth specials remains to be seen.

• Star Wars: Legends of Tomorrow

I've never been one to take sides in DC/Marvel rivalries; you can like what you like and I enjoy DC Comics, DC television, Marvel television and movies, Marvel's Star Wars comics, and so on. But when DC struggles in the movie department, in my opinion, and among I think their lesser successful shows is Legends of Tomorrow, it seems rather defeatist to devote an episode to Lucasfilm properties including Star Wars and Indiana Jones, given that they're owned by Disney (a rival media company of Warner Bros., even aside from Disney owning Marvel).

I have to hand it to Legends of Tomorrow for telling the story they want to tell despite the external politics, and for telling a story that's matters, as I understand it, to the makeup of their characters Nate "Steel" Heywood and Ray "Atom" Palmer. At the same time, we understand Legends has tried to improve their historicity this season but it's still suspect at best, and made up -- as we saw in the mid-season finale "The Chicago Way" -- mainly of most of the characters being markedly ignorant so other characters can info-dump to them.

Which is to say, it's kind of interesting that they're going to do a George Lucas episode, but they could just as soon not do a George Lucas episode and instead accomplish the episode's goals some other way. To the extent Legends struggles (I find it patently un-funny, except that I've tried to start viewing it through a Justice League International lens), to spend an entire episode basically paying fan service to another company's properties again seems like throwing in the towel and acknowledging the others' superiority.

Still going to watch it, though.

New reviews coming up. Happy 2017!