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

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Whereas the first deluxe Sandman volume (collecting Sandman’s first two arcs over 16 issues) was relatively straightforward, Sandman: The Deluxe Edition Book Two tends more toward the esoteric. As it has every right to — this book includes “Dream Country,” “Season of Mists,” and parts of “Fables and Reflections,” the first and last of these being short story collections. As such, there’s about 11 Sandman “tales” here, set beside the eight-part “Season of Mists” (esoteric in its own way). To finish is indeed to feel as though one has been dreaming, a melange of themes and images all overlapping and running in to one another.

Again, as with my “review” of Sandman: The Deluxe Edition: Book One, this is not a review — who am I to review Sandman and what can I say that assuredly has not already been said before. But reading it I am and quite happy to be doing so, because I’m well into areas I’ve never read before and only have a passing familiarity with — such that every once in a while I get that “I know what’s about to happen, it’s just on the tip of my tongue” kind of feeling that, too, evokes a little sense of dreaming. I’d still as soon a story set in a Florida hotel as the Dream King’s palace, but always are these pages living up to their renowned reputation.

DC Trade Solicitations for April 2022 — Bendis Justice League Vol. 1, Superman: Son of Kal-El Vol. 1, Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 2, Aquaman: The Becoming, Crush & Lobo, Doom Patrol by Pollack, Catwoman: Fear State, Midnighter, Batman: Reptilian

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Stating the obvious, perhaps, but you sure can see the influence of movies and TV on the DC Comics April 20220 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations. The four new Sandman paperback collections resolicited this month (after last month), plus two new Flashpoint collections plus a new Flashpoint miniseries — TV and movies all. (Plus a new Arrowverse Earth-Prime miniseries I’m looking forward to — kind of the thing you wish they’d done years ago in more of they heyday. I’d totally read a similar “through the years”-type miniseries, like issue #1 set in Arrow season one, issue two set in Flash season 3, etc., etc.).

No slouch in the regular series trades this month, one of the fuller months in recent memory. Aquaman: The Becoming, Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 2, Crush & Lobo, and Superman: Son of Kal-El Vol. 1 are all both integral books in the ongoing story of the DC Universe and important moments of representation for the LGBTQ+ community. Not to mention Brian Michael Bendis' Justice League Vol. 1 and the Catwoman Vol. 6 “Fear State” tie-in. So all in all, a big month.

Still missing! The DC Comics Summer 2022 catalog would normally have been out in November or December, and here it’s January and still no sign. Troubling …

Let’s take a look at the full April 2022 list.

100 Bullets Omnibus Vol. 2

In hardcover, collecting 100 Bullets #59-100 and 100 Bullets: Brother Lono #1-8, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso.

Aquaman: The Becoming

In paperback in May, the six-issue miniseries by Brandon Thomas plus Future State: Aquaman #1-2.

Batman: Reptilian

In hardcover in May, collecting the six-issue miniseries by Garth Ennis and Liam Sharp.

Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 2

In what's going to become an increasingly hard to follow collections schema, this second volume of Batman: Urban Legends is still collecting stories from issues #1-6, same as the first collection, even up through #8-9, and there's still more from some of those issues to go. Anyway, this is stories even involving Future State and "Fear State," with Batwoman, Azrael, and Oracle and the new Batgirls. More importantly, this is also Meghan Fitzmartin's notable Robin Tim Drake story.

Catwoman Vol. 6: Fear State

In paperback in May, this collects Ram V’s Catwoman #34-38, including the tie-in to the “Batman: Fear State” event.

Crush & Lobo

In paperback, in May, the eight-issue miniseries by Mariko Tamaki and Amancay Nahuelpan. I'd rather like to see them include Tamaki's Crush story from Let Them Live!: Unpublished Tales from the DC Vault #6 as well.

Doom Patrol by Rachel Pollack Omnibus

Filling a long-unfilled gap in the Grant Morrison-era Doom Patrol collections, this collects Doom Patrol #64-87, Doom Patrol Annual #2, and Vertigo Jam #1 by Rachel Pollack (Totems #1 was also previously listed), with art by Ted McKeever among others. This had been solicited previously and cancelled, so I'm glad to see it back again, though I'd prefer smaller volumes than an omnibus. I'd also like to see the lead-in to Morrison's Doom Patrol, the issues #1-18 et al. (what's called the Doom Patrol "Bronze Age"), collected in something other than an omnibus too.

Flashpoint

Lots of ways to enjoy Flashpoint this month, a revival that is clearly more about the forthcoming Ezra Miller Flash movie than anything to do with the controversial event miniseries proper. I am curious how Flashpoint Beyond will navigate the events of Tom King's Batman run, to be sure. Anyway, this is the bare bones collection, Flashpoint #1-5.

Flashpoint: The 10th Anniversary Omnibus

And if you're looking for something a little heftier, this is Geoff Johns' Flash #8-12 (so says the solicitation, though previously it's been #9-12; either would make sense), Flashpoint #1-5, and what the solicitation says is "all 56 tie-in issues," being 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, give or take Booster Gold #44-47.

Justice League Vol. 1: Prisms

It is so weird, an unfortunate byproduct of this comics thing we all love, that here we are in May getting the first volume of Brian Michael Bendis' Justice League collected, just as we already know it's coming to an end and the big event that's going to end it. It feels like something went terribly wrong with Bendis' tenure at DC. Anyway, issues #59-63 and I'm looking forward to it.

Justice League: The New 52 Omnibus Vol. 2

This is a large one, Collecting the entire second half of Geoff Johns' New 52 Justice League. Previous solicitations had this at issues #24-52, plus Forever Evil #1-7, DC Universe: Rebirth #1, DC Sneak Peek: Justice League #1, Justice League feat. Secret Society #23.4, Justice League of America feat. Black Adam #7.4, Justice League: Darkseid War Special #1, Justice League: Darkseid War: Batman #1, Justice League: Darkseid War: The Flash #1, Justice League: Darkseid War: Green Lantern #1, Justice League: Darkseid War: Lex Luthor #1, Justice League: Darkseid War: Shazam #1, and Justice League: Darkseid War: Superman #1 — so, as you can see, from Forever Evil all the way to Darkseid War and the end of the New 52. If still included, the two "Villain's Month" titles have only elsewhere been collected in the DC Comics: The New 52: Villains Omnibus, if I'm not mistaken.

Midnighter: The Complete Collection

“Complete collection” might be a bit of a misnomer, but this is a full collection of the quite enjoyable Midnighter tales by Steve Orlando and ACO, previously collected in three volumes. Said to be the DC You era Midnighter #1-12, Midnighter and Apollo #1-6, and stories from DC Cybernetic Summer and DC Pride 2021.

RWBY/Justice League

Collects issues #1-7 of the crossover between the animated series and the Justice League, by Marguerite Bennett and Aneke et al.

The Sandman Book One

What seems particularly notable about these is that, at least in terms of Sandman issues proper, these collect more than the usual number of issues, even more than the Sandman: Deluxe Edition Book One that I just read. That is, the solicitation still says this is #1-20, more than the regular first volume, Preludes and Nocturnes (issues #1-8) and more than the first deluxe edition (being Preludes and The Doll's House, issues #9-16). This book has both of those plus Dream Country, issues #17-20.

The Sandman Book Two

Issues #21-37, Sandman Special, and stories from Vertigo: Winter's Edge #1-3.

The Sandman Book Three

Issues #38-56 and a story from Vertigo Preview #1.

The Sandman Book Four

Issues #57-75 and stories from Vertigo Jam and Dust Covers.

Superman: Son of Kal-El Vol. 1: The Truth

Previously solicited in paperback, now in hardcover, the first six issues of the new series by Tom Taylor and John Timms. This is the one that made headlines, coming at the end of May.

Teen Titans Go!: Undead?!

160-page Teen Titans Go graphic novel, still going strong.

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

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Let’s be serious. This is hardly a review of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman any more than this was a series of reviews of Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing. I am hardly about to say “that Gaiman fellow sure missed an opportunity bumping off that Cornithian so early” [written about an hour before the news broke], as any criticisms I would have about the seminal series would definitely be reductive, not to mention near 30 years too late. But, reading Sandman: The Deluxe Edition Book One and subsequent editions I am, so discuss them I will, if not necessarily “review” them per se.

It is my great shame to admit I’ve never read Sandman all the way through. Blame the availability of trade paperbacks not being then what it is now, and also that the “Essential Vertigo” reprint series of Sandman issues never made it past #32. I have assuredly read “Preludes & Nocturnes” (generally issues #1–8) a number of times, and “The Doll’s House” (generally issues #9–16) slightly fewer — both collected together in this first deluxe edition — and from there it gets murky. Out of curiosity over “the Sandman meets the Sandman,” I also read the Sandman Midnight Theatre special at publication (a Gaiman/Matt Wagner crossover), included here, so overall this book was familiar to me, but indeed I assure you we’ll eventually get to where it’s not.

Review: Harleen hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, January 16, 2022

To the question of which is the better DC Black Label book, Kami Garcia’s Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity or Stjepan Šejić’s Harleen, the answer (contrary to my initial expectation) is Harleen. It is not, of course, a competition necessarily and no reason one can’t enjoy both, but given DC’s two different (and perhaps excessive) mature readers Harley Quinn books published at the same time, I was curious which was the stronger of the two.

They are, to be sure, two different books. Where Garcia’s imagines a rather different forensic psychologist Harley Quinn on the trail of mysterious serial killer the Joker, Šejić’s is a traditional Harley Quinn origin story with generous continuity liberties. That Šejić’s art is amazing here almost doesn’t bear mentioning, given what we already know Šejić is capable of. That his story itself is so nuanced and detailed, however, and the other Batman lore that Šejić plays well with, are great and happy surprises. Šejić does more than the other book does in about 100 fewer pages.

Review: Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Among what seems rather a glut of Harley Quinn books in DC’s Black Label line, it occurred to me to wonder how two near-concurrent Harley titles — Kami Garcia’s Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity and Stjepan Sejic’s Harleen might stack up against one another. At the outset, I’d have bet Criminal Sanity was the better one — forensic psychologist Dr. Harley Quinn hunting serial killer the Joker, and without the distraction of Sejic’s often cheesecake artwork.

I haven’t read Harleen yet, but I was disappointed to find Criminal Sanity not as strong as I’d hoped. The apparent primary mission — to tell a Harley Quinn story by way of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal — is definitely accomplished, and I wouldn’t mind a sequel in which Garcia returns to her newfound detective. At the same time, while I admire Garcia for not ending this story where one might suspect it would end, the anticlimax leaves a lot to be desired. Further, if I’m not mistaken, this is Garcia’s first mainstream comics work outside her YA DC Ink books, and it shows in some awkwardness as the story goes.

Review: Telos trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Given the dubious place Jeff King’s Telos was starting from anyway, that it should be even decent is an accomplishment. And it is decent, in the sense that no aspect of this ill-conceived spin-off of King’s Convergence is egregiously bad, though starting in medias res as it does, it also never finds its footing nor draws us to care about Telos and his conflict. King makes a wise choice in the early chapters to tie Telos to a similar cosmic DC Comics property – but the fact that this particular team of space rebels was already as forgotten as Telos was destined to be makes this seem a misguided choice. Notably some of the artists here went on to significant Rebirth work, but there aren’t many reasons to pick up Telos, and most readers probably won’t.

[Review contains spoilers]

Telos misspells the villain Mongul’s name as “Mongol” twice and then spells it right, which unfortunately gives a sense of the kind of care editorial was taking with this book. Those errors come in the last two issues of the book, where indeed Telos begins to go off the rails. Telos encounters the pre-Flashpoint 1990s Parallax Hal Jordan, which is notable but King achieves so well the obnoxious voice of that character that it’s hard to appreciate his return. There’s a strange moment where King’s Parallax blames Telos for imprisoning him in a cell when in fact, in the story in question by Tony Bedard, Jordan imprisoned himself, suggesting perhaps King’s unfamiliarity with Convergence’s tertiary material. Furthermore, in the hurried end to this book, Telos foils Parallax’s plans apparently just by thinking hard or through some power we’ve never seen Telos exercise before.

Review: Strange Adventures hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Tom King’s Strange Adventures is a strange Adam Strange story, and while I promise that’s the last time I’ll use that alliterative construction, it’s no less true.

I wonder at what point with these DC Black Label books we’ll end up with a Hawkworld situation, where what wasn’t intended to be or shouldn’t be continuity becomes such, possibly by accident. We saw, for instance, Scott Free’s son from King’s Mister Miracle show up in Tom Taylor’s DCeased: Dead Planet, though that’s explained away as one DC “Elseworld” reflecting another.

No one’s going to mistake Sean Murphy’s clear alt-world White Knight series for continuity, nor the many Black Label origins of Harley Quinn (Harleen, Criminal Sanity). But I think there is that danger with Strange Adventures, a wonderful and yet truly emotionally awful Adam Strange story that just gets more awful the longer it goes on. The DC Universe here is functionally the same as “our own” DC Universe, the characters functionally the same, and so I think it might be too easy for the careless writer of some next Hawkman or Green Lantern or even Justice Society story to make reference to Strange Adventures, thereby solidifying the terrible actions here as canon. That, I think, would take a long time for these characters to recover from.

Review: Teen Titans Vol. 4: When Titans Fall trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Teen Titans Vol. 4: When Titans Fall is not egregiously bad. This would otherwise be faint praise, except DC Comics's second Teen Titans series of the New 52 era (and into DC You) was marred by such problems -- including unfinished, if not outright nonsensical, storylines -- that if a collection is at least cogent (if rather boilerplate and dull), that's considered progress. It is astounding that what should be DC's flagship teen team has had such problems -- really for something like 10 years, since Geoff Johns's run ended -- and we could only hope that Ben Percy's Rebirth run would be a comeback.

In large part Titans Fall sees the team fight a handful of random villains without much rhyme, reason, or overarching plot direction. What may explain this, however, is what makes Titans Fall interesting – that in just the final issue, this book ties in a big way into events in a Rebirth title, which this title is not. This marks then perhaps one of the biggest forays of a non-Rebirth, but continuity-connected, title into the Rebirth era, and its interesting to see how this book shoehorns itself into those events. Rather than just cancel at the outset, then, it would seem the stories collected here basically serve as vehicles to buffer Teen Titans up to that tie-in point.

Review: Rorschach hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Chances are you arrived to Tom King through Heroes in Crisis or his 81-issue (nee 100) Batman run. And chances are between one or both of those, you have strong opinions about King’s work, for or against. But each of these are exceptions — Heroes with its clear editorial troubles, and Batman by the fact that it’s longer than 12 issues. Because 12 issues seems to be the sweet spot — Sheriff of Babylon, Omega Men, Mister Miracle, and so on (with no shade thrown on Superman: Up in the Sky, either). As I set aside what doesn’t fit the pattern and focus on what does, no question why the prospect of limited series endeavors from Tom King — Strange Adventures, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, Human Target — get my heart racing.

If you were sad that Damon Lindelof didn’t make a second season of TV’s Watchmen but couldn’t imagine what it might’ve been about, Tom King’s Rorschach is your answer. Wholly unrelated to Lindelof’s story, but clearly (and courteously) of the same universe and cut from the same cloth — nuanced, political, another story about how the trauma of the past visits itself on the present. It’s been a long road to sequels to Alan Moore’s Watchmen that are additive rather than sensationalizing of the original (unauthorized or not); that we have two finally (across different mediums) is a miracle. There’s a clear path to a third, though I don’t dare to think we’ll ever see it.

Review: Metal Men (2008) hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 26, 2021

In terms of three Metal Men series I’ve read recently — by Dan DiDio, by Len Wein, and now by Duncan Rouleau — Metal Men by Rouleau is unquestionably the best. I’d still like to read a Metal Men story that preserves the inherent zaniness of the characters while not seeming so cartoony (the titular heroes are still mostly personality-less comic relief), but Rouleau’s is at least the most complex if not necessarily mature. Unquestionably Rouleau’s art in his book is the best of the bunch.

I only knew of Rouleau as an artist before (mostly on Joe Kelly’s Action Comics), so this out-there, time-hopping, multi-threaded eight-issue story comes as a surprise. Readers should particularly heed the statement “Story based on ideas by Grant Morrison” at the front, because whether that thrills or chills you will factor greatly into your enjoyment of this book. Rouleau has a particular art style, and now apparently we learn a particular writing style. Metal Men is confusing at times, of that there’s no doubt, but each reader will have to decide whether that’s a feature or a bug.