Review: Batman Vol. 5: Fear State hardcover/paperback (DC Comic)

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

James Tynion’s foreshortened Batman run — which was never supposed to be very long, then was, then wasn’t again — will ultimately be remembered for its bookend events — Joker War at the start, and Batman Vol. 5: Fear State at the end. Each is a large-scale piece spotlighting the peculiarities of one of Batman’s key villains, each has as a significant backdrop a Gotham City in chaos.

Where they differ is in where they fall in the alpha and omega of Tynion’s run — Batman Vol. 2: The Joker War, at the beginning, a mostly traditional story of Batman and his Bat-family facing off against the Joker, and Fear State, at the end, which absents the Bat-family almost entirely and for which almost every set player is either new or in a new role. As such, it’s hard to choose the better — Joker War offers the delicious, personal rivalry between Batman and the Joker, while if Fear State’s villains lack the heft of shared history, they’re fascinating in their newness.

DC Trade Solicitations for February 2023 - Batman/Spawn Deluxe, Flash movie tie-ins, Sandman Mystery Theatre Compendium and Nightmare Country, DCeased: War of Undead Gods, Batman by Zdarsky, Deathstroke Year One, Multiversity: Teen Justice

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Well — checks internet — apparently the new Flash movie is scheduled for June 23, 2023, and DC seems to be gearing up in the DC Comics February 2023 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations, at least a little bit, with trades of the new Flash: Fastest Man Alive tie-in miniseries arriving, along with new collections of the 1989 Batman movie adaptation and Flashpoint (and thus, verily, between these three, the whole plot of the movie). Based on Black Adam and this, seems DC’s on a “couple of trades and a box set of the same” kick for their new movies, which seems fine with me for as long as it works.

Plenty good “regular series” trades this month, including Naomi: Season Two, Joshua Williamson’s Robin Vol. 3, Deathstroke Inc. Vol. 2, and Tom Taylor’s latest (and last?) DCeased volume. Sandman Mystery Theatre might finally be getting the full collection we’ve all been waiting for, and I’m jazzed Sandman Universe is continuing such that I have a reason to read those original post-Dark Nights: Death Metal volumes after all.

Oh, and Batman/Spawn fans get a treat or a trick, depending on how you look at it, but it might be enough to get me to read these myself …

Let’s take a look at the full list.

Batman Vol. 1: Failsafe Hc

In hardcover in March, the first collection by Chip Zdarsky and Jorge Jimenez. Collects issues #125-130.

Batman Vol. 5: Fear State TP

The paperback collection of the final Batman event by James Tynion, collecting issues #112–117.

The Batman Who Laughs: The Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe-size hardcover collection of the miniseries and specials by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Eduardo Risso.

Batman: The 1989 Movie Adaptation TP

Timed for the new Flash movie, this is the immensely well-regarded adaptation of the Tim Burton movie, written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Jerry Ordway.

Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham (New Edition) TP

New paperback printing of the Lovecraft-ian 2000 Elseworlds miniseries written by Mike Mignola, who also drew covers, and Richard Pace, with art by Troy Nixey.

Batman/Spawn: The Deluxe Edition HC

Apparently this collects the brand-new 2022 Batman/Spawn one-shot by Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo, plus the 1994 Batman/Spawn: War Devil #1 by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant, and Klaus Janson and the original Spawn/Batman #1 by Frank Miller and McFarlane, with behind-the-scenes art. Which is a great collection, unless just a few weeks ago you bought Batman/Spawn: The Classic Collection, a hardcover that collects just the two original comics. Then this might sting a little bit. Coming in April.

DC vs. Vampires Vol. 2 HC

Second (and final?) hardcover collection by James Tynion, Matthew Rosenberg, and Otto Schmidt; collects issues #7–12.

DCeased: War of the Undead Gods HC

No issues listed, but it seems like this is the entire eight-issue miniseries, completing Tom Taylor’s fantastic trilogy. In hardcover and on sale in September.

Deathstroke Inc. Vol. 2: Year One HC

In paperback in February, the second series collection, written by Ed Brisson. Collects issues #10-15.

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive Box Set TP

Collects together the three Flash-movie related books also solicited here — The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, Flashpoint, and Batman: The 1989 Movie Adaptation.

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive TP

Collects the three-issue miniseries in paperback that bridges the Justice League movie and Flash. Wouldn’t you call this comics' first foray into the Snyderverse?

Flashpoint (2023 Edition) TP

A reprint, same as earlier ones, timed for the new Flash movie.

Harley Quinn Vol. 3: Verdict HC

Issues #13–17 by Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo, in hardcover in March. Previously this was said to include some/all of the Harley Quinn 30th Anniversary Special, but that's not in the latest solicitations.

I Am Batman Vol. 2 HC

In hardcover in March, the second collection, issues #6-10, by John Ridley, Christian Duce, and Ken Lashley.

Infinite Frontier TP

Paperback of Infinite Frontier #0–6 and Infinite Frontier: Secret Files by Joshua Williamson, following the hardcover.

JSA by Geoff Johns Book Five TP

The fifth large-page-count collection of Geoff Johns' JSA, collecting Hawkman #23–25 and JSA #46–58, being the Princes of Darkness and the Black Adam-focused Black Reign collections.

Legends of the DC Universe: Carmine Infantino HC

In hardcover in March and said to include selections from Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog #4, All-American Comics #95, All-Star Comics #40, Brave and the Bold #49, Comic Cavalcade #28, Danger Trail #1–4, DC Comics Presents #73, Detective Comics #327, Flash Comics #86 and #90, Flash #112 and #123, House of Mystery #296, Mystery in Space #3, Secret Hearts #8, Secret Origins #17, Sensation Comics #87, Showcase #4, Strange Adventures #205, and Western Comics #73.

Multiversity: Teen Justice TP

It's very fun to see DC using Grant Morrison's "Multiversity" moniker for other stories and letting the concept see light with other creators. Here's Danny Lore and Ivan Cohen's Flash and Teen Justice stories from Multiversity: Teen Justice #1-6, DC Pride 2022, and DC's Very Merry Multiverse #1. There's one other Flash Kid Quick story in DC Pride 2021 that they ought include here too. In paperback in March.

Naomi: Season Two HC

In hardcover, the six-issue Season Two miniseries by Brian Michael Bendis, David Walker, and Jamal Campbell. I’ve been streaming the CW series of late to see how it translates.

Power Girl: Power Trip TP

Not particularly sure what prompted this hereabouts, but due in March is a collection of the first 12 issues of the Power Girl series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, along with the four-issue arc from JSA Classified with Geoff Johns.

Robin Vol. 3: Secrets and Shadows TP

The final volume of the Joshua Williamson series, in paperback in March. Collects issues #13–17.

Sandman Mystery Theatre Compendium One TP

In paperback in March, collecting Sandman Mystery Theatre #1–36 and the Sandman Mystery Theatre Annual #1, with an introduction by Patton Oswalt. Collects the previous trades The Tarantula, The Face and the Brute, The Vamp, The Scorpion, Dr. Death and the Night Butcher, and The Hourman and the Python. Given 70 total issues, including some previously uncollected, DC should be able to wrap this up in one more volume.

The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country Vol. 1 HC

Not only am I looking forward to Sandman-related horror by James Tynion, but how wonderful to learn too that it heralds a sequel and other new Sandman Universe titles. Guess those are back higher on my reading list now — and at last a DC imprint with some staying power! In hardcover in April.

The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country Vol. 1 TP

Paperback version of the same, coming in April; collects issues #1–6.

Task Force Z Vol. 2: What's Eating You? HC

Second hardcover by Matthew Rosenberg and Eddy Barrows, collecting the final issues, #7–12.

Review: Mister Miracle by Steve Englehart and Steve Gerber hardcover (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

[A series on post-Jack Kirby New Gods titles by guest reviewer Zach King. Zach writes about movies at The Cinema King and about comics on Instagram at Dr. King’s Comics.]

"Marshall Rogers and I had some free time so they revived Mister Miracle for us […] I guess my only trepidation was, the Fourth World was very identified with [Kirby], and I would be showing him up. But as I say, I was assigned to it by DC.” — Steve Englehart

When the Fourth World went out with a whimper in 1972, it had something like a stay of execution in the Mister Miracle title, which Jack Kirby was allowed to continue for another seven bimonthly issues. Kirby tried to make the titular escape artist more casually superheroic (including the debut of kid sidekick Shilo Norman), but the King couldn’t resist his more cosmic impulses for long. In the final issue, readers were invited to the wedding of Scott Free and Big Barda, with all the forces of New Genesis and Apokolips in attendance. Even Darkseid crashed the wedding party, announcing dramatically, “I am the storm!”

Review: Future State: Gotham Vol. 2: The Next Joker trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Story-wise, Future State: Gotham Vol. 2: The Next Joker is hardly the most complicated book DC Comics is putting out; indeed Next Joker fails in delivering the very thing it promises. But no question that as a manga-influenced black-and-white comic, Future State: Gotham is perhaps the most ambitious title in DC’s line right now, the one most unlike anything else they’re offering. And while Dennis Culver’s story is not particularly complex, he gets the characters' voices pretty well, and there’s a mix of unexpected cameos and character updates and Future State world-building that I adore.

I estimate Future State: Gotham’s only got one more volume to go, but I’m very glad DC took a chance on this.

Review: New Gods by Gerry Conway hardcover (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

[Welcoming back guest reviewer Zach King for a series on post-Jack Kirby New Gods titles. Zach writes about movies at The Cinema King and about comics on Instagram at Dr. King’s Comics.]

“Honestly, I think there was really only one New Gods — the series that Jack did. Everything that followed was a pale imitation of that — including my own stuff.” — Gerry Conway

Any comics fan worth their salt knows that “there came a time when the old gods died,” the famous opening salvo in Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Saga. From 1970 to 1974, Kirby wove his New Gods epic across four titles before cancellations and editorial disinterest drove him back to Marvel Comics, from whence he had come. (Kirby had left Marvel after disputes with Stan Lee over creative control; see John A. Morrow’s Kirby & Lee: Stuf' Said! for the whole story.)

Review: Refrigerator Full of Heads hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Rio Youers and Tom Fowler’s Refrigerator Full of Heads takes Joe Hill’s original Basketful of Heads and, well, turns it on its head.

What had previously been the mostly realistic story (except for the animate severed heads) of a woman stalked by criminals across an island becomes now something (even) more supernatural, as the story of the magic axe deepends and its utility expands. Even more blood-soaked but also more zany, Refrigerator doesn’t quite capture Basktful’s perfection, but neither is it necessarily trying to.

If we end up with a trilogy, I’d as soon something that hearkens more to the first than the second. But, Refrigerator is fine as a sequel and an expression of a different author’s vision, a satisfyingly madcap entry in the (otherwise ended?) Hill House line.

Review: Titans United trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Given a Titans book that seemed mainly intended to profit off the (well-deserved, but perhaps small) fandom of the HBO Max Titans TV show, but that is not so brave as to be actually set in the TV Titans timeline (so, of uncertain continuity providence, which is often disastrous), and written by an author with few-to-no DC writing credits, I had justifiably low expectations for Titans United.

So I was pleased to find that it was fine, really. There will be no awards for plumbing heretofore undiscovered depths of the Marv Wolfman/George Perez characters, but at the same time, Titans United is refreshing in its simplicity. We neither need to know or care “who is Donna Troy,” nor does Nightwing have to check out in the second issue due to events over in the Bat-books.

Review: Wonder Woman: Evolution hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Ordinarily I’m relative sanguine about bad portrayals of the world’s greatest superheroes. Batman acts the fool under one writer’s pen, there’s surely another story on the way that’ll rectify it, and no doubt the character can withstand it in popular culture anyway.

But Stephanie Phillips' Wonder Woman: Evolution feels like a particularly egregious missed opportunity. Given DC’s glut of miniseries lately, and particularly Black Label miniseries, I continue to think Wonder Woman offers potential for lots of light- to no-continuity offerings — superheroic, mythological, horror, and so on. Evolution is an eight-issue swing-and-a-miss, and with Wonder Woman, one always has to be concerned that that’ll make DC less likely to try again.

Review: Green Arrow/Aquaman: Deep Target trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

I appreciate the creative thinking that went into Aquaman/Green Arrow: Deep Target as a project — these two heroes, neither particularly similar to the other (beside a penchant for facial hair), neither even sharing a cinematic universe, but having debuted in the same comic some 80 years ago, getting their first miniseries together.

The sensible nonsense of it all is wonderful, and writer Brandon Thomas keeps that spirit throughout the book, which sees Green Arrow and Aquaman dealing with time travel, secret moon bases, and rampaging dinosaurs. It is as zany as you might want a comic to be. Which is why it’s so unfortunate that despite the great layers of sci-fi complication that Thomas piles on here, he forgets the most important element — celebrating Aquaman and Green Arrow.

Review: Batman: The Long Halloween Special #1 (2021) comic book (DC Comics)

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Sunday, October 30, 2022

I was very happy when DC Comics announced a new Batman: The Long Halloween Special (happy enough to plan a whole “Long Halloween saga” re-read), though I did wonder if creators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale could recapture the magic in just one issue. There’s precedent, of course, in the single-issue Batman Halloween specials that preceded Batman: The Long Halloween (now collectively known as Haunted Knight) — we’ve come full circle, from the three individual Halloween specials that begot two 13-issue miniseries (and another half as long), which now inspired a special of its own. But could Loeb and Sale do in one issue what they’d previously done best in a baker’s dozen?

[Review contains spoilers]

That answer is no, though I thoroughly enjoyed the Long Halloween Special nonetheless, a return to form after the less impressive Catwoman: When in Rome. Neither Rome nor the special are necessarily mysteries, making them each lesser than Long Halloween and Dark Victory, but the special brings back the gritty Gotham air that Rome lacked, not to mention Long Halloween stalwarts Two-Face and Calendar Man. As a first issue, as the special was perhaps intended to be, the special certainly evokes slipping back in to Halloween’s noir world.