Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Through a Glass Darkly trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

In its own way, Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Through a Glass Darkly bides its time until Trial of the Amazons just as much as the previous volume did (DC will die on the hill of “the show must go on,” but if Diana was meant to be “dead” for the last dozen issues, maybe the solution would indeed have been to suspend publication). But this is much, much more the kind of Wonder Woman story (or, even, comics in general) that I favor, basic “down to earth” superheroes vs. supervillains instead of the high fantasy of Asgardian mythology of Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad’s Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Afterworlds.

Mirror felt like the cozy mystery equivalent of a superhero comic to me; branching out, as it does, from Diana’s return to the living after a year away, the book is often more concerned with renewing relationships and chit-chat than it is with real plot. In other circumstances that might be a problem, but first of all, such a detailed exploration of a superhero’s return to life is interesting and novel; second of all, the writers populate this book with such good characterization and a strong supporting cast that the slow pace is hardly bothersome. Strong art from Marcio Takara helps immensely.

DC Trade Solicitations for April 2023 - Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths collections, Black Adam, DC Pride: New Generation, Power of Shazam Book 2 and New Champion, Wonder Woman Historia, Poison Ivy, Steel 30th Anniversary, Gotham Academy

Sunday, January 22, 2023

It’s the DC Comics April 2023 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations, and June brings the Dark Crisis on Infinite Earth collections. Unless I’m overlooking something, everything is there. A quick breakdown:

If I’m not mistaken (give or take a regular series issue or two collected in their own trades), that’s everything in four hardcovers, which is not nothing, but Dark Nights: Death Metal was five collections and Blackest Night was seven.

A few others to note — we see the first collection of Christopher Priest’s Black Adam series. Also a DC Pride collection with much emphasis on Robin Tim Drake; the New Champion of Shazam! collection has a “Lazarus Planet” story in it already(!), because clearly the years start coming and they don’t stop coming. (And, not to overlook, the next collection of Jerry Ordway’s Power of Shazam!) A Gotham Academy collection, a Steel anniversary book, and Wonder Woman Historia; it’s a good list all around.

Let’s dive in.

Absolute Preacher Vol. 1 (2023 Edition)

Collects issues #1–26 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, with an introduction by Preacher TV producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the script for issue #11, promotional art, and sections from the “Gone to Texas” letters column. Apparently the first of three planned volumes.

Absolute Sandman Overture (2023 Edition)

Reprint of the Absolute edition, including a foreword by Neil Gaiman, behind-the-scenes and sketchbook material, “artist’s edition” of JH Williams’s work, and a script for issue #1.

Absolute V for Vendetta (2023 Edition)

Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s 10-issue story, plus recolored “bridging” pages and extras. Guess I should read this one of these days, eh?

Batman – One Bad Day: Penguin

In hardcover in July 2023, by Other History of the DC Universe's John Ridley and Giuseppe Camuncoli.

Batman – One Bad Day: Two-Face

In hardcover in July 2023, by Mariko Tamaki and Javier Fernandez.

Batman: Beyond the White Knight

In hardcover in June 2023, collecting Batman: Beyond the White Knight #1–8 and Batman: White Knight Presents: Red Hood #1–2.

Batman: Fortress

In hardcover, collecting the eight-issue miniseries by Gary Whitta and Darick Robertson. The solicitation calls this an "Elseworlds-type" story, which is an interesting hedge.

Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 5

What had seemed to be mostly movie-themed Bat-team-ups now mentions, according to the solicitations, the Outsiders, an Alfred Pennyworth story, and the new Arkham Academy. I liked Brandon Thomas' previous Outsiders story from Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 2 and I'm eager for the next.

Black Adam Vol. 1: Theogony

In paperback, surprisingly, by Christopher Priest and Rafa Sandoval, coming in May and collecting issues #1-6.

Clark & Lex

Brendan Reichs and Jerry Gaylord’s young adult story of Smallville.

Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths

In hardcover in June 2023, collecting Justice League #75 and Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #0–7.

Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League

In hardcover in June, Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League – Superman #1, Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League – Green Lantern #1, Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League – Wonder Woman #1, Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League – Green Arrow #1, and Dark Crisis: Worlds Without a Justice League – Batman #1. This hopefully includes all the backup stories therein.

Dark Crisis: Young Justice

In hardcover, still scheduled for June 13, 2023, the week before the actual Dark Crisis hardcover, collecting the six-issue tie-in by Meghan Fitzmartin and Laura Braga.

DC Pride: The New Generation

It would seem this is at least the contents of DC Pride 2022, but then also the DC Pride: Tim Drake special, which itself collected the Tim Drake stories from Batman: Urban Legends #4–6 and #10 with a brand-new story. So that's a good amount already, plus the story by the late Kevin Conroy, and an introduction by Nicole Maines. In hardcover in May.

Gotham Academy

Apparently issues #1–18 of the original Gotham Academy and the annual, but not the 12-issue Gotham Academy: Second Semester or any extras. If they’d reprint everything, I’d probably do a reread. I first reviewed Gotham Academy back in 2015.

History of the DC Universe

The original and still the best attempt to present DC’s history as a cohesive whole, by Marv Wolfman and the late George Pérez. In hardcover in June.

The New Champion of Shazam!

In hardcover in May, collecting the four-issue miniseries by Josie Campbell and Doc Shaner, plus a story from Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods #1.

Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping Into the Light

By Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo, in paperback following the hardcover, collecting issues #78–83.

Nightwing Vol. 3: The Battle for Blüdhaven's Heart

The third series collection by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo, in hardcover in June, collecting issues #92-96 (so probably next one has issue #100).

Poison Ivy Vol. 1: The Virtuous Cycle

In hardcover (how far Poison Ivy has come!) by G. Willow Wilson and Marcio Takara, collecting the first six-issues of the expanded-to-12 miniseries.

The Power of Shazam! Book 2: The Worm Turns

In paperback in May, continuing the collection of the Jerry Ordway series, including The Power of Shazam! #13–23, Superman: The Man of Tomorrow #4, Showcase ’96 #7, The Power of Shazam! Annual #1, Superboy Plus #1, and Supergirl Plus #1. This went for 47 issues and change, so another volume or two to go.

Shazam! and the Seven Magic Lands

In time for the new movie, paperback of the story by Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham.

Static: Season One

Paperback, following the hardcover, collecting all six issues by Vita Ayala and the Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0.

Steel: A Celebration of 30 Years

This seems a highly worthy collection for a great character with a lot of staying power. Now, what’d really be great would be if we could get some new collections of the Steel run by Christopher Priest or even a new Christopher Priest series, but hey, it’s a start. Collects Action Comics #4 (Grant Morrison’s New 52 Steel), Adventures of Superman #500 (if not the whole book then John Henry Irons' pre-“Reign of the Supermen” debut), Convergence: Superman: Man of Steel #1–2, JLA #17, Justice League Unlimited #35, Steel #1 and #34, Suicide Squad #24, and Superman: The Man of Steel #22, #100, and #122, as well as (presumably the Steel story from) the Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special and "Steel (Vol. 2) #1," which I'll hazard a guess is the Reign of Doomsday special from 2011 (and not actually volume 2 of Steel, but volume 3; volume 1 is the Hank Haywood [Sr.] miniseries from 1978).

Superman '78/Batman '89 Box Set

Box set of the two movie sequel miniseries, in hardcover.

Superman: Son of Kal-El Vol. 3: Battle for Gamorra

Hardcover by Tom Taylor, coming in May, and collecting issues #11-15. The series ends with issue #18 (ahead of the miniseries) so who knows if the contents will expand.

Tales From Dark Crisis

In hardcover on June 20 (same day as the Dark Crisis collection itself), collecting Justice League: Road to Dark Crisis #1, Dark Crisis: The Deadly Green #1, Dark Crisis: The Dark Army #1, Dark Crisis: War Zone #1, and Dark Crisis: Big Bang #1.

Teen Titans Academy Vol. 2: Exit Wounds

Paperback, following the hardcover, due in June and collecting the final issues of the series, #6–15.

Teen Titans Go! Box Set 1: TV or Not TV

Apparently the first of two box sets planned. This one includes the graphic novels Teen Titans Go! Vol. 1: Party, Party!, Teen Titans Go! Vol. 2: Welcome to the Pizza Dome, and Teen Titans Go! Vol. 3: Mumbo Jumble.

Tom Strong Compendium

Tom Strong issues #1–36 by Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, and others. Put Terrifics issues in one of these, cowards.

Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons
Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons (Direct Market Edition)

The masterwork by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Phil Jimenez, Gene Ha, and Nicola Scott, in “regular”(?) and direct market editions, in hardcover in June.

Review: Justice League Incarnate hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Joshua Williamson delivers something pretty great all around in Justice League Incarnate. As far as cameos go, Williamson works the Multiverse setting to aplomb; I’ve long complained that DC Comics uses the Multiverse more as an applause line that an actual thing through which to tell stories, but Williamson’s Incarnate is an excellent exception. I will say that, for one, the book starts better than it ends, and for two, the extent to which the book gets caught up in its own cosmic nonsense by the end gives me concerns about the Dark Crisis to follow. But I’m also excited for the apex of Williamson’s Infinite Frontier trilogy — June, for the collected editions, seems very far away.

[Review contains spoilers]

There is a wonderfully chaotic moment in just Incarnate’s second chapter where the multiversal House of Heroes, already overrun with parademons, suddenly has the new Batwoman Who Laughs beamed in from one of the book’s other parallel storylines. It’s great, representative of a story with a lot going on, and with a writer in Williamson who recognizes a book like this needs big set pieces stacked atop big set pieces and the more, disparate aspects of the DC Universe he can throw together, the better.

Review: Robins: Being Robin trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, January 15, 2023

Like Becky Cloonan’s Batgirls, Tim Seeley’s Robins: Being Robin seems like the kind of book fans have been wanting but DC has been reluctant to offer until this more gracious Infinite Frontier era. Under the right team, Robin seems like the premise for a winner, especially if DC could recapture the “team book for people who hate team books” magic of Gotham Knights, or at least give each Robin their own subplot a la James Tynion’s Detective Comics.

But the six-issue Robins is a surprisingly poor showing from writer Tim Seeley, who was not only half of the legendary Grayson team but also wrote an exceptional volume of New Suicide Squad, among many other things. The plot hinges on virtual reality video game pseudo-science that’s banal even by comic book standards; the book’s most interesting aspect, its villain, barely makes the scene; and the titular Robins are often reduced to their most stereotypically identifiable qualities, with some poor dialogue to boot.

Review: Batgirls Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

I’ve said before and I’ll say again that for a few reasons, the Infinite Frontier era of DC Comics feels auspicious to me, a period of worrying less about confusion here and implications there and simply returning to what’s loved best about these characters. We see it in a Booster Gold/Blue Beetle team-up, we see it in Wally West as Flash and Tim Drake as Robin, and most of all, we see it in DC finally, finally recognizing the sky won’t fall if, instead of one, only one true Batgirl, they finally put all three Batgirls together in one raucous title, as they ought have a least a decade ago.

Batgirls Vol. 1 (aka Batgirls Vol. 1: One Way or Another) is a fun, fluorescent-colored buddy comedy, full of good vibes, cool cars, and kicky banter. Indeed it is devoutly light, eschewing heavier topics even when the opportunity obviously presents itself. And why not? There’s perhaps no other three characters in the DC Universe whom the zeitgeist has let down further, collectively shot, traumatized, killed off, turned evil, or relegated to limbo; that their first series all together should be unceasingly joyful seems the better thing to do.

Review: I Am Batman Vol. 1 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, January 08, 2023

With the body of work and accolades under his belt, to say that John Ridley’s I Am Batman Vol. 1 doesn’t quite come together perhaps says more about the reviewer than the reviewed.

But, though I like the general premise of the book and new Batman Jace Fox in particular, it still feels like I Am Batman is trying to find its footing. Ridley’s narration often sounds like what a new comics writer might imagine comics should sound like, instead of something more realistic. An overuse of splash pages, too, suggests less content available than pages to fill. And though I’m very much in favor of I Am Batman’s ambitions, they don’t totally feel earned on the page.

As well, among six issues, we’ve got almost as many artists. Though the book is set among the Batman “Fear State” event, the details are fuzzy, as if no one did the work of making sure I Am Batman and the event itself actually lined up. All of this speaks to a lack of commitment to I Am Batman on DC’s part, even though the right path if they’re going to publish this title is to put all their resources behind it.

Review: Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, January 04, 2023

There’s three Batman: Urban Legends volumes on the stands at the time of this writing. Of them, the first and third contain just two stories each, being collections of some of Urban Legends longer-form tales. Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 2, however, is a collection of a portion of Urban Legends shorter stories from the first 10 issues. Of the two volumes I’ve read, so far I like the more, shorter stories approach, which auspiciously already looks to be how DC will package Urban Legends Vols. 4 and 5.

Reminiscent, surely, of the Showcase '90s heyday, Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 2 is an anthology of stories good, bad, experimental, and weird, a perfect melange I enjoyed more than I expected. Most surprising is how steeped in the minutiae of the present Bat-moment this book is, surprisingly bolstering – at least for me — a book I otherwise took a dim view of recently.

Review: Fourth World by John Byrne Omnibus hardcover (DC Comics)

Sunday, January 01, 2023

[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.]

“Several less-than-stellar post-Kirby interpretations of the characters and concepts had severely tarnished the Fourth World mythos in the minds and hearts of fans … so I saw my primary job to be doing everything I could to polish it up again, and to get people paying attention. In that I think I was successful, for the most part. Too many writers and artists over the years have tried to put their own spins on Kirby characters and ideas. What Kirby created was usually so simple, so PRIMAL, that messing with it just, well, messes with it.” - John Byrne

It’s been a good time to be a John Byrne fan. For one reason or another, DC has seen fit to reprint much of his work lately, often in lavish hardcover and omnibus treatments. We’ve gotten deluxe hardcovers for his Superman and Wonder Woman runs, an omnibus for his Doom Patrol, and a comprehensive collection of one of my all-time personal favorites, Superman & Batman: Generations. Heck, he even got a “DC Universe By” collection!

Review: Batman: Secret Files trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

If ever there was an example of collected comics being a complicated world often without clear answers, it’s Batman: Secret Files.

This is not a book we needed, but a book we couldn’t do without. In the Infinite Frontier era, DC’s been publishing a lot of anthologies and padding their core titles with backup stories, which seems to be a comics trend. It’s lead to uncertainty how a variety of material will be collected, if at all. Of the six issues collected here, four are also collected elsewhere; buying a trade for just two issues isn’t ideal, but neither is having those two issues go uncollected.

An better situation for Secret Files might go something like this: the Peacekeeper-01 and Huntress issues, taking place between issues of Batman and Detective Comics respectively (and also collected, respectively, in Batman: Fear State Saga and Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Fear State), might just be issues of or backups for those titles. Collect those only with those books, and replace with something else here. The Miracle Molly and Gardner issues, collected somewhat arbitrarily in Batman: Fear State Saga, might just be collected here, with Fear State Saga instead populated with more relevant Bat-family issues.

Review: New Gods Book Two: Advent of Darkness trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 25, 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.]

“I had loved The New Gods since the series premiered. It was truly Kirby’s masterpiece. … I had always loved collaborating with Mark Evanier, so it was an easy decision.” - Rick Hoberg

While the first post-Crisis trade collection of New Gods spent its time wallowing where Jack Kirby had gone before, New Gods Book Two: Advent of Darkness, collecting issues #15–28, moves a bit further forward, albeit by going back into the past. You may find yourself scratching your head on that notion, but that means you’re in good territory; much of Kirby’s later output wrestled with the fundamentally ineffable (see also 2001, The Eternals, Silver Star, etc.) and it’s only appropriate that his inheritors would similarly tread upon unfathomable ground.