Review: Sandman: The Deluxe Edition Book Five hardcover (DC Comics)

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Sandman: The Deluxe Edition Book Five is an odd volume, consisting as it does of the short “The Wake” storyline and Sandman series proper epilogues, and then most of writer Neil Gaiman’s subsequent Sandman projects. These are “The Last Sandman Story” from Dust Covers: The Collected Sandman Covers, Sandman: Endless Nights, and both the prose and comics versions of Sandman: Dream Hunters, all published within a decade or so after Sandman ended.

It is not so noticeable that there is a gap in real-world time between Sandman #75 and the rest, but neither is it completely opaque. There’s an uncomfortable sense of moving without fanfare from what is devoutly Sandman to what is apocrypha1 that I think specifically underserves “Wake.” I’d as soon have seen “Wake” and the other final issues shoved into Sandman: The Deluxe Edition Book Four (longer and heavier as it would make that tome) and have left Book Five for what followed after. Notably the recent 30th anniversary Sandman collections included Gaiman’s Sandman: Overture, which these deluxe editions omit (maybe because Overture already has its own deluxe edition?). Had I my druthers, “Wake” would be there and Overture would be here.

Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 1: Warworld Rising trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

After an uncertain start with Superman: The One Who Fell, new Action Comics writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson comes out strong with Superman: Action Comics Vol. 1: Warworld Rising. Great showings for the Super-family; an entire, fascinating culture created for the eponymous Warworld; perhaps the most life given to Superman villain Mongul in a while; and a surprisingly direct and defined Superman himself all contribute to an exceptionally gripping read. Looks like Johnson is sticking around for a while, and I’d be happy to see more (almost) like this.

[Review contains spoilers]

There are a lot of ways a Superman depiction can go, especially by a new Superman writer — friendly, heroic, but at the outset usually mild. Johnson’s Superman threatening in Superman: The One Who Fell that he and Amanda Waller will “have a conversation you won’t like,” which, as a matter of fact, never manifests, is an example of this kind of “not so direct as to offend” Superman. It’s the understandable kid gloves with which a writer might treat the DC Universe’s most powerful hero as they get their feet under them.

Review: Batman: Damned hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, July 31, 2022

If I’m not mistaken, DC Comics' kick-off of their mature readers DC Black Label line in late 2018 was twofold — Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s new Batman: Damned miniseries in single issues, and Sean Murphy’s previously released Batman: White Knight series in trade. At the time of my review, I referred to White Knight as my “first” Black Label title — not the first necessarily, but the first for my particular trade-focused interest.

The hardcover collection of Damned didn’t arrive until about a year later, in 2019, and at that point it was somewhat off my radar. For one, despite that there’s been any number of Bat-focused Black Label titles I’ve read and enjoyed, a “Joker is dead and did Batman kill him” story sounded like something we’ve seen in a variety of Elseworlds previous.

Review: Justice League: Last Ride trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Ostensibly Chip Zdarsky is a “get” for DC Comics, as evidenced by his about to be taking over the Batman title. I expect, as is sometimes the case, that Justice League: Last Ride was either Zdarsky’s tryout project or something to pass the time until his Batman began in earnest.

Either of those explanations answer the question of what the point of Last Ride is, though I’m reminded that at one time we didn’t ask that question. Elseworlds books like JLA: Act of God or JLA: Created Equal were there because they were there, either as creator spotlights or because DC actively sought titles to release under the Elseworlds imprint. I mention Last Ride, Act of God, and Created Equal together because they’re examples of Elseworld-type books that take as their launching point general mainstream continuity, as opposed to Victorian Batman or cowboy Justice League. They’re what could happen tomorrow, but probably won’t.

DC Trade Solicitations for October 2022 - Death of Superman 30th and Birthright Deluxe, Aquaman, Arkham City, Flashpoint Beyond, Wonder Woman: Earth One Complete, Young Justice Book Six, World of Krypton, One-Star Squadron

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Rogues Book One cover

Notably there’s few if any Batman proper collections in the DC Comics October 2022 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations, for those keeping track of that kind of thing. Rather it seems very much a Superman month, with both the Death of Superman and Birthright getting deluxe editions, plus collections of World of Krypton and Son of Kal-El. Honestly, this past month has added eight books to my “to read” pile already and the month isn’t even over — I’m rolling in good stuff to read and probably happier with DC than I’ve been in a while.

I mean, I’m looking down this October list and see at least seven more must-read titles; that’s a great place to be. From the next volumes of Catwoman and Justice League to Flashpoint Beyond, One-Star Squadron, Rogues, Aquamen, and Arkham City, I really can’t complain. No big surprises, but definitely stuff I’m interested to read.

Let’s take a look at the full list …

Aquamen

In paperback, now collecting what's apparently all six issues of the Aquamen miniseries by Brandon Thomas and Chuck Brown. As I understand it, issue #6 is a Dark Crisis tie-in, so I'll be curious to see if this does indeed arrive before a Dark Crisis trade proper.

Arkham City – The Order of the World

In paperback in November, collecting the six-issue miniseries by Dan Watters and Dani (whose art I enjoyed on The Low, Low Woods). The solicitation says this includes "never-before-seen extra features," and apparently ties in to Batman: Fear State.

Catwoman Vol. 1: Dangerous Liaisons

The first collection of the new run by Toni Howard and Nico Leon. Restarting the numbering for the collections despite that it collects issues #39–44.

Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

At first glance I thought this was another “Death of Superman” omnibus, but it’s actually a deluxe size collection of just the “Doomsday” story. Which ought be pretty cool when you think about the Superman #75 splash pages. Collects Action Comics #683–684, Adventures of Superman #496–498, Superman #73–75, Superman: The Man of Steel #17–19, Newstime: The Life and Death of Superman and — new to this solicitation, Dan Jurgens and Bill Sienkiewicz's Superman: Day of Doom miniseries from the 10th anniversary of the original story. That's also a fun addition, though it may be some weird reading going from dead Superman on one page to live Superman ten years later on the next.

Flashpoint Beyond

In paperback in November, astoundingly just a month after the final issue is released. Collects issues #0-6; I'm surprised DC is doing this as paperback instead of hardcover, unless there's deluxe edition to be had later.

Justice League Vol. 2: United Order

Given "what comes next" has already consumed most of DC, it sure does seem to be taking a while to collect Brian Michael Bendis' full Justice League run. This is said to be just issues #64–68 (down from #64–71 previously), which means still one more volume to finish it off. In hardcover in November.

One-Star Squadron

In paperback in November, the six-issue miniseries by Mark Russell and Steve Lieber. Maybe DC could see fit to put Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber's new Perry White story in here too, just because.

The Other History of the DC Universe

In paperback in November, the five-issue miniseries by John Ridley, following the hardcover (my review of Other History of the DC Universe).

Rogues

Oh, so excited for this. It's been since Blackest Night, I think, since we've had a good crime noir Captain Cold story, and while this isn't by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins, some of Joshua Williamson's best Flash work involved Leonard Snart. In hardcover in October, collecting the four-issue DC Black Label miniseries with art by Leomacs (Basketful of Heads).

Sleeper Omnibus (2022 Edition)

Collects Point Blank #1-5, Sleeper: Season One #1-12, Sleeper: Season Two #1-12, Coup d’État: Sleeper #1, and Coup d’État: Afterword #1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips with others.

Superman and the Authority

In paperback in November, the four-issue miniseries by Grant Morrison and Mikel Janin, following the hardcover.

Superman: Birthright: The Deluxe Edition

With Mark Waid making a resurgence at DC, it makes sense DC should re-release Birthright, especially with deluxe-size Leinil Francis Yu art. We’re swimming in Superman origin stories now and this story never quite took DC by storm the way I think they hoped it would, but it remains quite decent as a standalone Superman tale. I might take the opportunity for a re-read.

Superman: Son of Kal-El Vol. 2

The second collection by Tom Taylor and John Timms, in hardcover, including appearances by Nightwing and Aqualad Jackson Hyde. Collects issues #7-10, Nightwing #89, and the 2021 Annual.

Wonder Woman: Earth One Complete Collection

All three of Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette’s Wonder Woman: Earth One graphic novels in one collection together, in paperback in November.

World of Krypton

Robert Venditti writes some good sci-fi and I could look at Michael Avon Oeming’s art all day, but I’m suspicious of a new World of Krypton miniseries, which at best will come and go without making a ripple, at worst will be half-heartedly taken as definitive by some writer irrespective of the Superman creative team and just end up causing confusion. Collects the six-issue miniseries in November in paperback.

Young Justice Book Six

The final collection of the original Peter David series includes Young Justice #44–55 plus the “World Without Young Justice” tie-in issues Robin #101, Superboy #99, and Impulse #85.

Review: Bone Orchard: The Passageway hardcover (Image Comics)

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Image Comics' new graphic novel Bone Orchard: The Passageway came to my attention for a couple of reasons. First, it’s by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, the dynamite team behind a legendary New 52 Green Arrow run. At the time, each was doing great DC work on their own — Lemire writing a quirky, smart Animal Man, Sorrentino bringing detailed, moody art to I, Vampire — together they were clearly magic. I’m remiss, and will have to rectify, that I have not read their re-teaming on Image’s Primordial or Gideon Falls, but I was pleased to re-join them for Passageway.

Second is that “Bone Orchard” is the umbrella title for what’s said to be a “shared horror universe” headed by Lemire and Sorrentino and including graphic novels and miniseries — so, trades, trades, graphic novels, and more trades. I’d so like to see DC jump on this approach, what the Earth One books once seemed like before they petered out and/or had years between volumes — mainstream, part-of-an-ongoing-story OGNs, and pairing them with miniseries seems just the right approach. Consider like a Seven Soldiers of Victory schema writ large — a lead-off graphic novel, a variety of related miniseries, and then a graphic novel closing. Surely there’s a DC pop-up imprint that can swing that.

Review: Superman: The One Who Fell trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, July 17, 2022

It is the positive reviews I’d heard of Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s Action Comics that keep me from being more concerned about Superman: The One Who Fell. Kennedy’s inaugural story on the main Super-titles felt to me melodramatic, if not a reductive presentation overall of Superman and his son Jon Kent. Fortunately, Clark-and-Jon stories will not necessarily be what Johnson is up to in the near future, and again, many of you have told me there’s good things on the way.

There is a nice bit of sci-fi mystery here, and also the creation whole-cloth of a years-ago Superman adventure that seems plausibly that it could have happened. Post-Crisis, when Superman was a relatively smaller figure on the DC landscape — and not, for instance, a leading JLA member — cosmic alien-planet-set adventures were more rare, such that they were often touted as special events — the “In Exile” storyline, for one, or a particular 1994 month of Superman in space [starting with Triangle Titles 1994:5, kids! — Ed.]. One Who Fell feels old-school in that vein, taking place mostly off-planet.

Review: The Swamp Thing Vol. 1: Becoming trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

I think it was a miscalculation on DC Comics' part including the Future State stories in the regular-series trades.

Sure if, case in point, you’re a Swamp Thing fan but didn’t want to pick up the Future State: Suicide Squad trade, it’s probably nice to get the Future State: Swamp Thing stories in Ram V and Mike Perkins' The Swamp Thing Vol. 1: Becoming. But Future State: Swamp Thing isn’t particularly or at least immediately relevant to Becoming proper (though it may be the best issues of the book), and including those two issues causes DC to only reprint a measly four issues of the 10-issue series (later extended to 16 issues).

[Review contains spoilers]

That’s a bare snippet of Ram V’s story — so little, as a matter of fact, that new Swamp Thing Levi Kamei spends a good chunk of it either holed up in his friend’s apartment or unconscious, and his transformations into the creature, while “real,” are mostly in the form of dreams or hallucinations. Ram V’s got a good thing going here, and I definitely don’t mind a slow burn as befits Perkins' sonorous artwork, but cutting this book off where DC does causes it to feel lacking in the substance I’m sure it would otherwise have.

Review: Crush and Lobo trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, July 10, 2022

At first I was hesitant about Adam Glass' Teen Titans; what looked (as depicted by Bernard Chiang) to be a rapidly aged-up Robin Damian Wayne seemed the start of an artificially angsty group that also included a Lobo knock-off, Crush. In the end, it turned out to be among the better Teen Titans runs I’ve read in a while (with help from Robbie Thompson), and apparently it has staying power.

As unlikely as it seemed at the time, Crush has been the run’s breakout star, appearing in a variety of one-shots and included among the new pantheon of DC’s LGBTQ+ heroes. At least one of those one-shots (not, unfortunately, included here) was by Detective Comics' Mariko Tamaki, and she continues that into the Crush & Lobo miniseries.

[Review contains spoilers]

What gives me pause about Crush & Lobo is definitely more my baggage than it is the story’s fault. Tamaki’s story is funny and jaunts along well, offers a mystery and a couple of twists, and even becomes for a moment in the middle a romance comic of the kind DC doesn’t normally publish. Variety is good, diversity is good, and risk-taking is good, and all of these make Tamaki’s Crush & Lobo worthwhile.

Review: Shazam!: To Hell and Back trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Shazam!: To Hell and Back

Tim Sheridan’s Shazam!: To Hell and Back is a strange one. On one hand, I appreciate a Captain Marvel story1 that is less concerned than most of late with the larger Marvel family; Sheridan’s Marvel iteration is less bratty vagabond Billy Batson and more superhero-with-a-long-history. Also, after a time as a Justice League property and a time as a Justice Society property, it’s interesting to see Captain Marvel stretch his legs as a Teen Titans property, spinning off of Sheridan’s Teen Titans Academy.

On the other hand, as mentioned, Hell and Back is a strange one, with each issue pitting Billy against a different threat as he moves closer to his goal without ever resolving the previous one. It does appear as though at least some of this continues into Teen Titans Academy later on, but that book’s gain is this miniseries' loss, failing to conclude in its own right, plus a key Future State story is absent. Possibly with that missing piece and the followup from Academy, this could be republished as a more solid book overall.