Review: Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 1 trade paperback

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

We’ve had precious little collected so far from the Batman: Urban Legends anthology series, and even then, it’s early to know if this will be primarily one-off index stories, if DC will make a concerted effort to tie it all back to the ongoing Bat-books, how much of that will pan out, and so on. I’m reminded of the Showcase '90s books, and I guess the answer is “a little of all of that,” though I remember being more pleased with Showcase when a book followed up on “X character will return” than when it didn’t.

This is relevant when reading Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 1 as, for each of the stories here — Red Hood and Grifter respectively — a promise is made, and I’m more eager to see those promises followed-up upon than forgotten. The good news is that this book’s writers are Chip Zdarsky, incoming Batman writer, and Matthew Rosenberg, who seems to have plenty of work at DC these days, so the chances of follow-up here is relatively high. Also that Zdarsky writes a good Batman ahead of his turn in the big leagues.

Review: The Next Batman: Second Son hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

For me, if DC is going to call a character “the next Batman,” as in John Ridley’s The Next Batman: Second Son, they’re going to have to make it convincing bordering on inevitable. Replace a Robin or a Blue Beetle, I’m bound to give some leeway in terms of the character who can take up that mantle. But “the next Batman” — especially a wholly new character, that’s going to need to be a character with some chops.

[Review contains spoilers]

Further, this is going to be a character who either reminds very strongly of Bruce Wayne — let’s say, another avenging orphan, but maybe one born into less privileged circumstances than Bruce — or whose origin is equally compelling but deviates from the standard in some significant way. Bruce fights crime because his parents were murdered, so perhaps as an opposite but similar number, someone who fights crime to atone for they themselves being a murderer. What if Joe Chill became Batman, and such.

Review: Harley Quinn Vol. 1: No Good Deed hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Stephanie Phillips' Harley Quinn Vol. 1: No Good Deed is the Harley Quinn book that DC Comics has always wanted, and with art by Riley Rossmo, a darn good-looking book, too. But I feel maybe DC’s gain is our loss; the continuity wonk in me is pleased but the seasoned Harley reader is not.

[Review contains spoilers]

James Tynion and company have talked about a concerted effort to create carryover between the Bat-family books in the wake of Infinite Frontier, and that sure is apparently in No Good Deed. Where once upon a time it was hard to even get acknowledgment that the Harley Quinn who appeared in Suicide Squad was even the same character as the one who appeared in her eponymous series, this Harley is specifically, effervescently straight from the pages of Tynion’s Batman Vol. 2: Joker War. It all happened, and then some — Harley’s tangle with Clown-Hunter, her fight with Punchline, the revenge she took on the Joker.

Review: Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping Into the Light hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

After a long drought of good Nightwing material, Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping Into the Light is exactly what the character needed.

It treads very lightly; Taylor’s Nightwing Dick Grayson is always in the right place at the right time, makes the right decisions, says the right things. I’m left to wonder — rarely do we see things go this right for our heroes without precipitating some major fall, but that seems too cruel even for DCeased’s Taylor in this context.

So, I’m curious what Taylor has up his sleeve, what the legacy will be of this Nightwing run, whether the sunniness of Light is a mission statement or a feint. Either way, given what this title has just been through, I can surely appreciate some levity as we get back to basics.

Review: Catwoman Vol. 5: Valley of the Shadow of Death trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, May 01, 2022

With Infinite Frontier, Ram V’s Catwoman is off to a slow start, but I’d venture that has more to do with lining up with “Fear State” over in the Batman titles than any failing on Ram V’s part. Catwoman Vol. 5: Valley of the Shadow of Death is only four issues and an annual as is, really just a three-parter and some side tales. The next collection, due in June, is the very “Fear State” tie-in, five issues long, and Ram V’s finale on the title — so my sense of Valley as a milder calm before the storm is not without reason.

Still, Ram V certainly makes something readable out of it, and art by Fernando Blanco is always welcome. Clearly since Rebirth DC has been trying to find a satisfactory positioning for Selina Kyle — with Batman, not with Batman, outside Gotham, back in Gotham — made all the more important now with her latest cinematic appearance. The next writer may have different plans, but I think what Ram V’s tries here has a lot of potential.

Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: The Neighborhood hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

I really like the approach inherent in Mariko Tamaki’s Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: The Neighborhood, and all in all I consider this debut volume a success. Insofar as the book adheres to the “A Bat of the People” moniker splashed at the top of the back of the book, Neighborhood and I are good; when Neighborhood deviates from that is where it starts to lose me.

But I appreciate Tamaki’s afterword where she outlines her thinking for the book, and indeed this just comes down to simple difference in what one wants from a Batman story, with Tamaki surely representing a greater swath of the audience. I see now, surprisingly, that Tamaki’s Detective run is already scheduled to close, but I’m eager to read more like this before it does.

[Review contains spoilers]

As Tamaki describes, the events of Batman Vol. 2: Joker War see Bruce Wayne, if not necessarily in the poorhouse, in reduced enough financial straits that he forgoes stately Wayne Manor for a chic Gotham brownstone. Such leads to Bruce going where he’s never gone before … a casual get-together with his moneyed neighbors. This being a Batman story, of course, one of the neighbors is murdered, the rest are seemingly suspects, and things spiral out from there — Huntress is involved, and a Clayface, and the Penguin, and the bizarre super-strong criminal father of the murder victim. Plus buildings important to Gotham’s infrastructure keep getting blown up.

Review: Infinite Frontier hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, April 24, 2022

There’s a prescient moment at the end of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis where the apparent last Monitor, Nix Uotan, wakes as human in Metropolis to the sound of radio commentators discussing the newly revealed “parallel worlds” — the newly resurrected DC Multiverse (not for the first time — or the last time, either). Aside for a few references in Final Crisis follow-ups, however, the apparent public knowledge of the multiverse was mostly ignored and disregarded, if not right away then surely once DC reset their continuity with the New 52.

More’s the pity because, among other things, this might have offered some useful differentiation at a moment when the DC Universe needed it (see the decline of the next few years that ended up with the New 52). After 80-odd years, I think “the DCU is just like our world, only with superheroes” wouldn’t be harmed by an update. Consider as an example the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which upon reaching the end of its first “phase trilogy” and contemplating its future, overlaid its entire continuity with a five-year “blip” that affected some, left behind others, and defined the culture of that fictional world as something all its own. The DCU had a similar opportunity with “people just like us but who live with the knowledge of parallel worlds.”

Review: Batman Vol. 4: The Cowardly Lot hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

James Tynion performs some curious alchemy in Batman Vol. 4: The Cowardly Lot, taking what might otherwise be considered a plotting difficulty and making it a central piece of the story.

Tynion’s Batman run has been an enjoyable mess of fits and starts, about to come to a sudden halt after the next volume, the “Fear State” crossover; as such I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Cowardly Lot. I’m not wholly sure this volume isn’t just an exercise in biding time until the crossover, and yet, there’s some brilliant ideas and intriguing possibilities here. Whether any of this will come to fruition in the next volume — or ever be mentioned again after — remains to be seen.

[Review contains spoilers]

At this point Tynion has pretty well jettisoned most members of the Bat-family from this title, replacing them with his own creations; Ghost-Maker, most prominently, occupies the space in which we might expect to see Nightwing. I’m not necessarily complaining, mind you; there is such a voluminous library of Batman material already that bringing in some new faces is about the only original route left.

DC Trade Solicitations for July 2022 — Batman: One Dark Knight, I Am Batman and Harley Quinn Fear State, Joker Puzzlebox, Robin & Batman by Lemire, Wonder Girl: Homecoming, Deathstroke Inc., Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: Arena

Sunday, April 17, 2022

I’ve alluded to this before, but truly of late I feel my comics habits changing. Whereas before something like Batman: One Dark Knight might not have been for me — what I might have considered a generic one-off Batman story — now I’m pretty interested to see what Jock offers in a DC Black Label Batman story. There’s a bunch of that in the DC Comics July 2022 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations — the whodunit Joker Presents: A Puzzlebox, Jeff Lemire’s Robin & Batman among them. Give me a good continuity-rich whopper any day, but a good writer’s personal take on a set of characters, no catching up on past events required? I’ll take that too, more readily than before.

Of course, said regular series titles are no slouch this month, either. I just enjoyed James Tynion’s first Joker collection, and here comes Joker Vol. 2. We’ve got “Fear State” tie-ins with Harley Quinn Vol. 2 and I Am Batman Vol. 1. Wonder Woman’s on the road to “Trial of the Amazons” with Wonder Woman Vol. 2 and Wonder Girl: Homecoming; a seemingly major corner of the new DCU arrives with Deathstroke Inc. Vol. 1. Plus more — all in all, a lot I’m looking forward to this month.

Let’s dig in and see.

Batman vs. Robin: Road to War

In paperback in August, these are the stories by Robbie Thompson, Peter Tomasi, and Joshua Williamson across Teen Titans, Detective Comics, and Batman and Detective respectively that lead in to Williamson’s new Robin series and, by association, the “Shadow War” crossover. On one hand, I love these kinds of “follow a storyline, not a title” collections; on the other hand, on the assumption that the Batman/Detective backup stories get included in Williamson’s first Robin collection, there’s nothing here in this collection for me that I haven’t read elsewhere.

On the third hand(?!), I feel like DC seems to be putting a lot of stock in this storyline running up to “Shadow War” — do people need a collection specifically focused a split between Batman and Robin that’s now presumably resolved? Only thing I can think is that maybe the rumors about “Shadow War” tying in some unforeseen way to DC’s next big event are true and that might spark some interest in where it all began.

Anyway, collecting Teen Titans #43–44 and the Teen Titans Annual #2 (the inciting incidents of the rift between Batman and Robin Damian Wayne), Detective Comics #1032–1033 (follow-up by Tomasi with Damian quitting as Robin), Batman #106 (part one of a Robin backup story), and Detective Comics #1034 (part two of the backup story). A previous solicitation had a story from Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 (by Thompson, prelude to the rest), but that's now omitted from the listing.

Batman: Curse of the White Knight Deluxe Edition

Deluxe-size edition of the second book in Sean Murphy’s “White Knight” series, eight issues plus the Batman: White Knight Presents Von Freeze one-shot.

Batman: One Dark Knight

In hardcover in July, collecting the three-issue miniseries written and drawn by Jock. If it says DC Black Label on it, it's worth a look for me.

Constantine: Distorted Illusions

I was thinking this was a sequel YA Constantine graphic novel, but it’s not — this one, with a teen-ish John Constantine, is by Kami Garcia, whereas the original one I was thinking of was The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel, starring a kid-ish Constantine, by Ryan North. Not one but two kids' books starring the Hellblazer himself — who’d ever would have thunk it.

The solicitation calls Garcia’s book a “magical team-up,” though it doesn’t say who Constantine is teaming up with; if I had to guess from the cover, however, I’d venture that’s Black Canary in rock singer mode and maybe Zatanna.

DC Poster Portfolio: Brian Bolland

Solicitation offers this'll range from Animal Man to the Joker.

Deadman Tells the Spooky Tales

Just so much creative kids' stuff coming out from DC these days. By Franco and friends.

Deathstroke Inc. Vol. 1: King of the Super-Villains

In hardcover in August, issues #1-7 by Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter and others, plus a story from Batman: Urban Legends #6. This ends just before the "Shadow War" crossover, contemporaneous with Batman Vol. 6: Abyss.

Harley Quinn & the Gotham City Sirens Omnibus (2022 Edition)

Paul Dini and friends’ Gotham City Sirens #1–26 and the Catwoman #83 special.

Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Keepsake

The second volume by Stephanie Nicole Phillips and Riley Rossmo. Issues #7-12, including three “Fear State” issues, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and more.

Harley Quinn: 30 Years of the Maid of Mischief: The Deluxe Edition

If I’m understanding correctly, there’s going to be a Harley Quinn 30th Anniversary Special, and this is a deluxe hardcover of a story or stories from that plus the following: Batman Adventures #12, Detective Comics #831, Batman and Robin Adventures #18, Batman: Gotham Adventures #10, Batman: Gotham Knights #14, Harley Quinn #3, Gotham City Sirens #20–21, Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1, Harley Quinn: Be Careful What You Wish For Special Edition #1, Harley Quinn 25th Anniversary Special #1, Harley Quinn: Make 'Em Laugh #3, and Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #14.

Harley Quinn: The Animated Series Vol. 1: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour

Interesting that the collection of the Tee Franklin miniseries is listed as Vol. 1, since it collects the whole thing, issues #1–6. Does this suggest more to come?

House of Mystery: The Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 3

Issues #227–254 of the 1970s series.

I Am Batman Vol. 1

In hardcover, collecting issues #0–5 of the new series by John Ridley.

The Joker Presents: A Puzzlebox

In hardcover in August by Matthew Rosenberg, Jesus Merino, and others, collecting the seven-issue whodunit miniseries. I’m excited to read this one and not figure out who did it before the end (I never do!).

The Joker Vol. 2

The second collection from James Tynion and Guillem March, in hardcover in August, collecting issues #6–9 and the 2021 Annual #1. Seems like kind of a short trade, but what do I know. I would imagine the next collection will go to #15, the end of this “season”.

Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity

Paperback of Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity (which I reviewed), following the hardcover, by Kami Garcia. Said to include an “all-new story from the Harley Quinn 30th Anniversary Special.”

Kamandi by Jack Kirby Vol. 1

Kamandi #1–20 by Jack Kirby.

New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 1 (2022 Edition)

Just as this series of New Teen Titans reprints is ending, looks like DC’s going back to print them all over again. Good that they’ll be available, though I wanted to see the series continue on to the New Titans era. Collects the New Teen Titans first appearance in DC Comics Presents #26, plus New Teen Titans #1-20, New Teen Titans Annual #1, Best of DC (Blue Ribbon Digest) #18, and Tales of the New Teen Titans #1-4.

Robin & Batman

In hardcover in August, collecting the three-issue miniseries by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen. DC's struggle with their canonical version of Dick Grayson's costume continues.

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 2: The Arena

The second collection by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, collected in paperback, and connecting (after a fashion) with Superman and the Authority. Collects issues #1036-1041.

The Swamp Thing Volume 2: Conduit

Issues #5–10 by Ram V and Mike Perkins. This finishes the first “season” of the comic, which has recently been extended with a second season of issues #11–16.

Who’s Who Omnibus Vol. 2

Continuing the long-awaited collection series, this is Who’s Who in the DC Universe #1-16 (what I believe is the 1990s "loose-leaf" version), Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #1-7, and Who’s Who Update 1993 #1-2.

Wonder Girl: Homecoming

Said to collect Joelle Jones' Wonder Girl #1-7, Future State: Wonder Woman #1-2, the vignette from Infinite Frontier #0, and (new to this solicitation) Trial of the Amazons: Wonder Girl #1-2. I'd find it hard to believe if those last two issues aren't also in the Trial of the Amazons collection proper. In hardcover in August.

Wonder Woman Black & Gold

Collects issues #1–6 of the series.

Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Through a Glass Darkly

The second collection of Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad's run, collecting Wonder Woman #780-784, the Wonder Woman 2021 Annual #1, and what's said to be just one story from the Wonder Woman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1. “Trial of the Amazons” ties in to this series beginning with issue #785.

Review: The Joker Vol. 1 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

In the heyday of Gotham Central, I remember an interview (even perhaps an introduction to one of the trades) where the creators expressed enthusiasm for a Jim Gordon, private investigator-type series — that it would have been a bigger prize even than Gotham Central, if I recall correctly, had it been allowed. It’s some 15 years or so later, the creators are totally different, but with James Tynion’s The Joker Vol. 1, that idea of a Jim Gordon, PI series somewhat comes to fruition.

[Review contains spoilers for Joker and Infinite Frontier]

This approach seems the right one, perhaps the only one — there’s no question at this moment in time (or a couple years previous) having a Joker series on the stands was an utmost necessity, DC’s version of printing money. At the same time, an ongoing Joker series seems difficult, if not misguided1 — the very things that make the Joker interesting could easily be extinguished by overexposure (if not already) and by giving him a supporting cast and a bunch of friends and etc. (distinctly, it’s hard to imagine a Joker series working in the style of Harley Quinn).