Review: Sweet Tooth: In Captivity trade paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

I grant it’s a little early to be calling Sweet Tooth Vol. 2: In Captivity an unusual volume of Sweet Tooth, given that it’s only the second volume — for all I know, this is a perfectly normal volume of Sweet Tooth as far as that goes. But the “captivity” of the volume’s title very quickly reveals itself as not referring to protagonist Gus only, and moreover by the end Captivity is very nearly not Gus' story at all. Not that this can’t be an ensemble piece, but it seems early for this kind of narrative play, just as it seems early too that Captivity ends how it does. I consider none of this a detriment; rather, inasmuch as Sweet Tooth runs along certain too-familiar lines, it’s pleasing to see the narrative twist and turn in unfamiliar ways.

[Review contains spoilers]

At the end of my review of the first volume, Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods, I wasn’t sure whether writer Jeff Lemire would bring back the character of Jepperd or if I wanted him to. What had seemed a common “gruff warrior cares for little kid” scenario was turned on its head by Jepperd’s very intentional betrayal of young Gus, and I hoped against type that Jepperd wouldn’t have an immediate change of heart and be back to rescue Gus right away. Well, half right; Jepperd’s change of heart wasn’t immediate and he didn’t rescue Gus right away, but that’s where we’re headed. Certainly the most heartwarming outcome, and not that there’s anything wrong with that, but perhaps I was in the mood for a turn a little less saccharine (or that differed, anachronistic as this is, from the first two seasons of Mandalorian).

Review: Superman Vol. 4: Mythological trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Writer Brian Michael Bendis does a nice job salvaging the ending of the Superman half of his Super-title run in Superman Vol. 4: Mythological. It is almost enough to convince one that this was Bendis' intended conclusion all along, though really I sense the story was only just getting started — that Superman’s very specific revelation last time around was the beginning of the story and not the beginning of the end.

Moreover, in Mythological Bendis begins to explore the psychological implications of a lot of things — of Superman’s revelation, yes, but more of that as a symptom instead of a cause, reaching farther back to Bendis' Man of Steel, Jon Kent’s disappearance and return, the fate of “Mr. Oz,” so on and so forth. It’s probably been a good 20 years since we’ve see Superman seek therapy — circa “Our World at War” — and it’s probably nigh time for a reminder that even superheroes need help too (and in a forum less polarizing than Heroes in Crisis).

Review: Flash #750: The Deluxe Edition hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, June 09, 2021

I can't quantify this necessarily but it feels rare for the Flash to get a hardcover, all-star special like the Flash #750: The Deluxe Edition volume. I guess these kinds of books are all the rage these days, but given Detective Comics #1000 plus Detective Comics #1027, and the Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special followed by the Wonder Woman #750 book, it feels like these kinds of things are the realm of DC's Big Three, and for the Flash to get an anthology is rare and special.

But it does seem rather clear the shine is not here. This is a nice Flash party, to be sure, but it contains only six stories plus Barry Allen's debut from Showcase #4, whereas the Wonder Woman #750: The Deluxe Edition contained nine stories plus Diana's debut issue. Of these, three are stories related to other DC events or series and two of those are also collected elsewhere. The net effect is that this seems like the sparsest of celebrations; no expense wasn't spared, essentially, whereas the Wonder Woman book (and Detective #1027 before that) better utilized the hero and their supporting cast and was more far-reaching.

Review: Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods trade paperback (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Obviously I’m taking the opportunity of a lull in my comics pull list to check out Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth because of the TV show premiering on Netflix. Also because, with Mandalorian, Bosch, Titans, and Doom Patrol all on hiatus and not scheduled to reappear for at least a month at earliest, I’m looking for a streaming show to watch. The pastel-tinged fantastical of the Sweet Tooth trailer wasn’t quite up my alley, but the comics series seems to have been popular and I’m always happy to support Jeff Lemire’s work.

Now, I haven’t actually started watching Netflix’s Sweet Tooth yet, but I did finish reading Sweet Tooth Vol. 1: Out of the Deep Woods and — you in the know probably saw this coming — it seems to me there’s quite the divide between Sweet Tooth the comic and the tone of the trailer, at least, for the Sweet Tooth TV show. That is, I was expecting more Fables than The Walking Dead, and for me the first volume of Lemire’s Sweet Tooth leaned more toward The Walking Dead. This is just a review from the comic side, but I’ll be curious to see online any controversy from audiences going from the TV side to the comics; if you were expecting wide-eyed wonder and instead got bloodied heads, you might feel misled.

Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 4: Metropolis Burning trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 4: Metropolis Burning is kind of nuts, but I found it kind of nuts in the most refreshing way.

Writer Brian Michael Bendis is back with his unique dialogue patois, bringing it not just to Superman, the Justice League, and Young Justice, but also Lex Luthor, the Legion of Doom, and Bendis' prized creation Leviathan. Long-time comics artist John Romita delivers his signature style, all shading lines and blocky, immobile figures. Both writing and art are maniacally unpolished, and that’s even before a story that’s the equivalent of throwing a box of action figures at each other while simultaneously trying to shoehorn into the smallest continuity gap possible.

Of late I’ve been dissatisfied with a couple of DC books I’ve read, stories that often seem just marking time alongside sometimes a half-dozen or more mid-level artists on a single book, all offering dubious takes on DC’s staid, traditional house style. In Action Comics, Bendis is clearly Bendis and Romita is clearly Romita, and their work is both authentic and unapologetic. The creators' idiosyncrasies might fairly be called flaws, but I found this break from the everyday a treat. I would much prefer two creators bringing their own inimitable styles to the fore than others trying the same old tried-and-true with various degrees of success.

DC Trade Solicitations for August 2021 — Justice League: Death Metal, Next Batman: Second Son, Batman: The World, Batman Vol. 4: Cowardly Lot, Detective Comics Vol. 6: Road to Ruin, Suicide Squad: Greatest Shots

Saturday, May 29, 2021

There are 13 Batman collections in the DC Comics August 2021 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations, plus at least three other “Batman-adjacent collections,” roughly a full third of DC’s output for that month.

That’s it, that’s all I wanted to say about that.

Y’know, this is better than the July 2021 solicitations in that at least we’ve got some regular-series material here, most notably Justice League: Death Metal, though arriving disturbingly later than the rest of the Death Metal trades. And then, as mentioned, Batman, both Batman Vol. 4: The Cowardly Lot (no longer, interestingly, listed as “Part 1” of that storyline) and Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 6: Road to Ruin (Peter Tomasi’s finale). And then of course also The Next Batman: Second Son, as we see Future State loom ever larger.

That is about it — I didn’t say it was an overwhelming month, just that it was more “whelming” than July. I’m curious about Batman: The World — having enjoyed a couple of Bat-special-anthologies lately, I’m curious to see what some international interpretations of Batman are like. And maybe I’m just eager to see Sandman on TV, but I’ve been thinking about picking up the Hill House books (solicited in paperback this month) for a dose of comics horror — anyone enjoy these? Any of them that were particularly any good?

So, a little more to discuss (are these really Batman’s “greatest mysteries”?), but I’ll go ahead and get to it now, and we can pick up in the comments. Enjoy!

Basketful of Heads

Paperback collection of the seven-issue miniseries by Joe Hill and Leomacs, following the hardcover.

Batman Arkham: Catwoman

Said to collect Batman #1 and #355 (original series, first appearance and a well-regarded issue from the 1980s), Catwoman #1–4 (four-issue late-1980s mini by Mindy Newell, following Batman: Year One and often collected as Catwoman: Her Sister’s Keeper), Catwoman (1993) #54 (by Devin Grayson and Jim Balent, published in 1998, which has been reprinted before), Catwoman #25 (New 52 “Zero Year” issue), Catwoman Secret Files #1 (from the Ed Brubaker run; if I had to guess, it’s either “The Many Lives of Selina Kyle” or “Why Holly Isn’t Dead”), Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane #70–71 (hypnotized Lois becomes Catwoman’s partner and Superman is transformed into a cat[?!], from the 1960s). No longer listed in the solicitation, but mentioned before, was the Catwoman entry from Who’s Who Update '87#2.

Batman Black & White

Hardcover collection of the new series, collecting issues #1-6. With James Tynion, Andy Kubert, John Ridley, Mariko Tamaki, Jorge Jimenez, Joshua Williamson, and more.

Batman in the Fifties

Collects Batman #59, #62, #63, #81, #92, #105, #113, #114, #121, #122, and #128; Detective Comics #156, #168, #185, #187, #215, #216, #233, #235, #236, #241, #244, #252, #267, and #269; and World’s Finest Comics #81 and #89. No small amount of Black Casebook material here, including the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, plus Deadshot, Batwoman Kathy Kane, Mr. Zero (the future Mr. Freeze), and Bat-Mite.

Batman Vol. 4: The Cowardly Lot

Hardcover by James Tynion and Jorge Jimenez. This solicitation doesn’t have issue numbers, but earlier it was Batman #106-111, plus apparently some/all of Infinite Frontier #1 (and not Infinite Frontier #0, unless that was a misprint).

Batman: Arkham Asylum: The Deluxe Edition

Another deluxe-size collection of the story by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean; notably we also saw a recent 25th anniversary deluxe edition.

Batman: Curse of the White Knight

Paperback collection of the eight-issue miniseries by Sean Murphy, plus the Batman: White Knight Presents Von Freeze special.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 6: Road to Ruin

Peter Tomasi's final Detective Comics collection (and the final collection before Future State and Mariko Tamaki's run); this is issues #1028-1033, seeing Damian Wayne return to the title. In hardcover (previously listed as paperback) in October.

Batman: His Greatest Mysteries

I’m not super-impressed with the contents of this trade, if this is what they turn out to be:

Batman #404 ("Year One," part 1) and #610 ("Hush," part 3), Detective Comics #822 and #824 (two from Paul Dini's run), Batman Annual #2 ("Zero Year"? "Date Night"?, Batman Universe #1, and the story "Alone" from Batman: Secret Files #2 (Riddler story by Mairghread Scott). Maybe fine for the uninitiated, but I don’t need disparate parts of multi-issue storylines.

Batman: Li'l Gotham: Calendar Daze

Collects the recent Li'l Gotham #1-6 by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs. (Update: There's some question whether this is the 2013 series or a more recent series ... or was there a more recent series?)

Batman: No Man's Land Omnibus Vol. 1

Collects the equivalent of the first two (of four) No Man's Land "complete" editions, being Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #116-121, Azrael: Agent of the Bat #51-57, Batman #563-568, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #83-88, Detective Comics #730-735, Catwoman #72-74, Robin #67, Batman Chronicles #16-17, Nightwing #35-37, Batman: No Man's Land #1, and Young Justice in No Man's Land #1. (Previously listed as included, but not in this solicitation, is the Batman: No Man's Land Gallery #1.)

Batman: Noel

New hardcover printing of the graphic novel by Lee Bermejo.

Batman: The Long Halloween Deluxe Edition

Deluxe edition of the 13-issue miniseries by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, along with behind-the-scenes material.

Batman: The World

Hardcover, so I guess we call this a trade, coming in September. 160-page book featuring stories from creators across the world; the U.S.-associated team is Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo.

Batwoman Omnibus

Collects Detective Comics #854-863 (not through #864 as previously solicited), Batwoman #0 (New 52), Batwoman #0-24, and Batwoman Annual #1, being Greg Rucka, JH Williams, and W. Haden Blackman's work on the character, stopping before Marc Andreyko's less-well-regarded run (short of the annual where Andreyko finished up Williams' unfinished run).

One does wonder what effect (the very endearing) Ryan Wilder on TV will eventually have on the DC Universe’s own Kate Kane.

Birds of Prey: Fighters by Trade

Collects Gail Simone's Birds of Prey #81-91, so spanning the Battle Within and Perfect Pitch trades. That issue #91 is by Jim Alexander, Brad Walker, and Jimmy Palmiotti and I don't believe it’s been collected before.

The Books of Magic Omnibus Vol. 2 (The Sandman Universe Classics)

Second omnibus by Peter Gross, including Books of Magic #33-75, Books of Magic Annuals #1-3, Books of Faerie #1-3, Vertigo: Winter’s Edge #1-3, Hellblazer/Books of Magic #1-2, and Books of Faerie: Molly’s Story #1-4. Mentioned in a previous solicitation, but not here, was Vertigo Secret Files: Hellblazer #1. Should have a new foreword by John Ney Rieber and a new introduction by Gross, too. I wouldn't mind seeing these as a set of more affordably priced paperbacks.

Daphne Byrne

Paperback of the six-issue Hill House miniseries by Larua Marks and Kelley Jones, following the hardcover.

DC Comics: Girls Unite! Box Set

Includes four recent animated-series comics trades: Batman Adventures: Cat Got Your Tongue?, Supergirl Adventures: Girl of Steel, Batman Adventures: Batgirl: A League of Her Own, and Justice League Unlimited: Girl Power.

The Dollhouse Family

Issues #1-6 by Mike Carey and Peter Gross in paperback, following the hardcover.

Hill House Box Set

Box set including Basketful of Heads, Low, Low Woods, Dollhouse Family, Daphne Byrne, Plunge, and Sea Dogs, in paperback. Now if DC could find a way to release all of these in one volume sans box, I might pick it up.

Justice League: Death Metal

Justice League #53–57 by Joshua Williamson and Xermanico and others, tying of course into Death Metal and being the final storyline before “Endless Winter,” Future State, and the Brian Michael Bendis run of the title. Coming in September in paperback, well after the rest of the other Death Metal material.

The Low, Low Woods

Paperback collecting issues #1-6 of the Hill House miniseries by Carmen Maria Machado, following the hardcover.

The Next Batman: Second Son

In hardcover, collecting the digital series by John Ridley and Tony Akins, spinning out of (into?) Future State.

Plunge

Six-issue miniseries by Joe Hill and Stuart Immonen, in paperback following the hardcover.

Saga of the Swamp Thing Box Set

Box set of six Alan Moore Swamp Thing collections. Not sure if these are hardcover or paperback but I’m pretty sure they won’t use the infamous sticky glossy covers.

Sensational Wonder Woman

Collects issues #1-6 of the digital first series with contributions from Stephanie Phillips, Alyssa Wong, Meghan Hetrick, Bruno Rodondo, and Eleonora Carlini.

Suicide Squad Case Files 1

Stories featuring first or major appearances by Bloodsport, Mongal, Polka-Dot Man, King Shark, Weasel, and the Thinker — can these all possibly be in the James Gunn movie? It’s Superman #4 and #170, Detective Comics #300, Superboy #9, Fury of Firestorm #38, Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #25, Vigilante #36, and Suicide Squad: Amanda Waller #1.

Suicide Squad Case Files 2

Stories focusing on Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Rick Flag, Ratcatcher, Savant, Javelin, and Blackguard. Collects Suicide Squad #44, Secret Origins #14, Detective Comics #585, Birds of Prey #58, Batman: Harley Quinn #1, Green Lantern #174, and Booster Gold #1.

Suicide Squad: Their Greatest Shots

All of these Suicide Squad books are, of course, timed for the new James Gunn movie. Good that DC already has all of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad series collected, though indeed that seems to leave us with just anthologies left when DC needs new Suicide Squad books. This collects Suicide Squad #10 (1987) (emphasis on Waller vs. Batman), Suicide Squad #15 (2012) (”Death of the Family” tie-in), Suicide Squad #22 (2013) (including Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and King Shark), Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1 (2016), Suicide Squad #16 (2017) (vs. Lex Luthor), Suicide Squad #20 (2017) (Harley leads the Squad), Suicide Squad #47 (2018) (Captain Boomerang spotlight), and Suicide Squad Special: War Crimes #1 (2016) (John Ostrander special timed to the first Suicide Squad movie).

Superman: The Man of Steel Vol. 4

DC’s solicitation describes the Superman: The Wedding Album deluxe edition that’s already been solicited. There was earlier a listing for a fourth Superman: The Man of Steel volume, so I’m assuming this is that. That book was said to collect Superman #16-22, Adventures of Superman #439-444, Action Comics #598-600, and the Superman Annual #2. I imagine it should also have the crossover issue Doom Patrol #10, which was included in the original Man of Steel paperbacks.

Notably Superman #22 is where John Byrne's run ended, as well as the original Man of Steel paperbacks — whether these books continue on from here or not would really be telling.

Wonder Woman: Agent of Peace Vol. 1: Global Guardian

Collects 11 chapters of the digital series by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, pitting Wonder Woman, Etta Candy, and Steve Trevor against Cheetah, Deadshot, Penguin, and more (plus a Harley Quinn team-up!).

Wonder Woman: Blood and Guts: The Deluxe Edition

The first 12 issues of the New 52 series by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. We have also already seen this reprinted as an Absolute.

Wonder Woman: Who Is Wonder Woman? The Deluxe Edition

This was a kind-of notable post-Infinite Crisis Wonder Woman story which, as its main claim to fame, brought some of the super spy Diana Prince trappings back to Wonder Woman, but all of that was short-lived. To be sure, DC's draw for reprinting this now is that writer Allan Heinberg also wrote the screenplay for the first recent Wonder Woman movie. Collects Wonder Woman #1-4 and the Wonder Woman Annual #1 of that era.

Review: Justice League Vol. 7: Galaxy of Terrors trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

We’re in this place now where we occasionally get to, at the end of one DC storyline era and just before the beginning of another, where sometimes titles go on even as they naturally should have stopped. We saw this, for instance, with Christopher Priest’s short stint on Justice League after Bryan Hitch’s run, as the book waited out Dark Nights: Metal and Justice League: No Justice. And we see it again now, both with the previous volume and Justice League Vol. 7: Galaxy of Terrors, a collection of interstitial tales published so that the Justice League title doesn’t miss a month even if it has nothing to do.

It’s unfortunate that the fact that Justice League is just marking time isn’t better hidden. “The Rule” writer Simon Spurrier offers a legitimately complex metaphor for imperialism and nation-building and what happens when one is a better warrior than governor. But he does so at cost of the League coming off buffoonish at best, far out of character (or, charitably, Spurrier is writing the cartoon Justice League Unlimited under the guise of Justice League). Jeff Loveness' Black Mercy story is better than expected given the glut of Black Mercy and similar stories over the years, though it still can’t totally escape that we’ve seen this all before.

Review: Batman: The Movies trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, May 23, 2021

[Guest reviewer Zach King blogs about movies as The Cinema King. Don’t miss his month-long Bat-May review of the Batman movies at the site.]

When I reviewed Universal Monsters: Cavalcade of Horror back in March, I opened with a fairly lengthy preamble about the nature of comic book adaptations and their impact on my hobby (some say addiction) of collecting comics. Perhaps I should have saved some of that preface for this review, because the adaptations collected in Batman: The Movies were downright seminal in my childhood.

These were the days, I remind you, before home video. While I have very vivid memories of seeing Batman Forever in theaters in 1995, I can equally recall poring over the prestige format comic book adaptation, reliving the action again and again, committing the dialogue to memory like so much gothic scripture. I bought the Joel Schumacher adaptations from the stands of my local comic shop, scooping up the two Tim Burton comics much later, but all the same I was elated (as most readers may be) to discover that these four one-shots were collected in a trade paperback. It makes for easier reading than fishing through my longboxes, to be sure, but the collection of these comic book curios help to preserve what was for many Bat-fans a major venue connecting their fandom to the big screen.

Review: Flash Vol. 14: The Flash Age trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

I admire very much that before all is said and done, Joshua Williamson will surely have written at least 100 Flash issues, and clearly there is effort going in to new villains and additions to the Flash mythos. The amount of material Williamson has come up with that’s almost immediately made its way over to the CW television show (from Bloodwork to Godspeed to the new forces) itself tells the tale.

Yet, even the auspicious promise of a villain called Paradox who can wage multiversal war on the Flash ends up unfortunately humdrum in Flash Vol. 14: The Flash Age. What any reasonable person would take the premise to mean is that since Paradox knows all about Barry Allen’s forgotten history, then some of that, 14 volumes down and one until the end, would finally come into play this time around. But it largely does not, nor does defeating Paradox prompt any startling revelations for the Flash, nor is Paradox even all that distinguished or original as an antagonist.

Review: Swamp Thing: The Dead Don't Sleep trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, May 16, 2021

I was looking around the other day for something a little quicker to read, and came upon Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein and Kelley Jones' miniseries from 2016, Swamp Thing: The Dead Don’t Sleep. Only after I finished reading and sought out a little context did I realize this DC You-era book was essentially an offshoot of Wein and Jones' Convergence: Swamp Thing (collected in Convergence: Crisis Book Two) and meant to lead in to a new Swamp Thing series by the pair before Wein’s death. The book Swamp Thing: Roots of Terror is more specifically billed as containing Wein’s final Swamp Thing story, but Dead Don’t Sleep is pretty close.

I can see in retrospect how Dead follows from Convergence: Swamp Thing, but it’s been a good five years since I read that story and I didn’t find myself lost here. The six-issue miniseries — a two-part story and a four-part story — is just right for a casual Swamp Thing fan, maybe someone who got into Swamp Thing via the streaming TV series. A lot of familiar elements are here, but at its heart this is 140+ pages of a big green muck monster battling his way through a variety of other hulking grotesqueries, all done in Jones' inimitable style. If that sounds like a fun way to spend an afternoon — and it should — this is a book for you.