DC Trade Solicitations for February 2022 — Batman Vol. 5: Fear State, Robin Vol. 1: Lazarus Tournament, Milestones in History, Question by O'Neil and Cowan, Legion: 5YL Omnibus Vol. 2, Static: Season 1, 1990s New Gods Book Two, New Teen Titans Vol. 13

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Slowly, slowly, DC’s Infinite Frontier train rolls along. Last month saw the solicitation of the Infinite Frontier collection itself; the DC Comics February 2022 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations have Robin Vol. 1: The Lazarus Tournament by Infinite Frontier’s Joshua Williamson, said to connect back to the main story at some point, plus the much-hyped Batman Vol. 5: Fear State, which sounds a lot like “Future State” even if it’s not entirely clear if they’re actually connected or not.

And that is … it for main continuity material for this month. I’m plenty excited for both of those books, but again, the Infinite Frontier saga is rolling out at a snail’s pace.

Four good reprints on the list in other news for this month — the second Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Omnibus, the first Question by Dennis O’Neil and Denys Cowan omnibus-type volume, New Teen Titans Vol. 13 (with some contents that make sense, finally!), and the second collection of the 1990s New Gods series. I’d like easier to digest formats on the first two, and none of it makes up for how soon the first collection of Superman: Son of Kal-El or Deathstroke, Inc. won’t be getting here, but they’ll look good on my shelf nonetheless.

Finally, we see the Static: Season One collection and also Milestones in History. It’s good to have any Milestone releases at all, but I have complicated feelings about these — not including the books in the main DCU (or even a specific alternate Earth) feels like doing the same thing over again, not to mention how temporary the “season” qualifier sounds … I’m going to need some convincing on these that DC’s heart is in the right place.

Well, let’s take a look at the full list.

Absolute Multiversity

Collects all the issues from the Multiversity series (Multiversity #1, The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes, The Multiversity: The Just, The Multiversity: Pax Americana, The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures, The Multiversity Guidebook, The Multiversity: Mastermen, The Multiversity: Ultra Comics, and The Multiversity #2), plus “director’s cut editions” and various extras.

Batman Vol. 5: Fear State

In hardcover in March 2022. No issues listed now, as opposed to earlier solicitations of this book. If the earlier solicitations stand, then it'll be Batman #112–117, the “Fear State” event and also the end of James Tynion's run.

The Batman's Grave Complete Collection

Paperback collection of the 12-issue miniseries, following the hardcover.

Batwing: Luke Fox

The oft-solicited (and cancelled) Batwing Omnibus finds new life as a Batwing: Luke Fox collection. Don’t get me wrong, I love Camrus Johnson on Batwoman and especially his turn in the season finale, but these stories by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (Batwing #19–34 and the Futures End issue) were not the best of the series. That distinction goes to the first dozen or so issues by Judd Winick, starring Congolese police office David Zavimbe as Batwing; I rather wish those were sharing in the spotlight, a hardcover omnibus instead of a one-off paperback.

Challenge of the Super Sons

In paperback in March, collecting Challenge of the Super Sons #1-7 by Peter Tomasi. Given that Jon Kent is in the news, and that he's the new Superman, I'd be interested to see DC let Peter Tomasi keep doing these as long as possible (even as Tomasi's about to write a tale of the grown-up Jon Kent and Damian. These are now, more so than ever, the adventures of Superman when he was a boy.

DC Horror Presents The Conjuring: The Lover

In hardcover in March, collecting the five-issue series and tying in to the Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It movie, written by Conjuring screenwriter David L. Johnson-McGoldrick and Rex Ogle with art by Garry Brown and covers from Bill Sienkiewicz. Having just read through all of DC's Hill House Comics horror titles, I rather wish this was not tied to The Conjuring, as it makes me much less likely to also pick it up, though it does sound interesting if someone were to tell me I could read it without needing any Conjuring knowledge.

Death: The Deluxe Edition

Latest solicitation mentions Death: The High Cost of Living #1-3 and Death: The Time of Your Life #1-3, as well as “all of her other key appearances throughout the Sandman Universe.” Ordinarily that's the “Death Talks about Life” AIDS pamphlet, stories from Vertigo: Winter’s Edge #2 and Sandman: Endless Nights, the short story “The Wheel” from the 9-11 tribute book, and Sandman #8 and #20; remains to be seen if anything else will be added.

Gotham Central Omnibus

A new Gotham Central omnibus, happy to see it remain in print, though the contents don't seem to be more than the original issues #1-40 ("Officer Down," anyone?)

Green Lantern: Alliance

New YA volume by Minh Le and Andie Tong with Green Lantern Tai Pham, teamed up with a new Kid Flash.

Hellblazer: Rise and Fall

Paperback collection of the three-issue miniseries by Tom Taylor, following the hardcover.

John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 26: The Curse of the Constantines

A new edition of what was largely the Death and Cigarettes collection, this is Hellblazer #292-300, Hellblazer Special: Bad Blood #1-4, and Hellblazer Annual #1 by Peter Milligan and company, the conclusion of the original Vertigo series.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Omnibus Vol. 2

Continuing this collections series, including L.E.G.I.O.N. #69-70, Legion of Super-Heroes #40-61, Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #4-5 ("Bloodlines" and Elseworlds), Legionnaires #1-18, Legionnaires Annual #1 (Elseworlds), Valor #20-23, and Who's Who Update 1993 #1. For those playing along at home, this is the end of the series, including the Zero Hour tie-ins ahead of the full reboot for Zero Month. I'm reminded that this is still the “Five Years Later” era, though I don’t tend to associate it with that since the bubblegum Chris Sprouse and company art is less “five years later-y” than the early gritty Keith Giffen material.

• Milestones in History

I have some mild trepidation here only because this wasn't really something I'd heard was in the planning (maybe you did) and because it doesn't feel like so DC's given its second shot at Milestone the push it's deserved — a total reboot, no crossovers, no interaction with the larger DC Universe, none of the things that DC usually does to sell a book it's getting behind. And now a Black History Month special — I'll read it, definitely, and it's better than nothing, but one wants to see DC standing behind Milestone every other month, too, not just when Milestone can give DC a boost.

Mister Miracle: The Great Escape

A YA take on Mister Miracle by Varian Johnson and Daniel Isles. This looks promising and I’d be eager to see it have future volumes, especially if the author intends to trace some of the twists and turns of Scott Free’s New Genesis origins.

New Gods Book Two: Advent of Darkness

Finishing out the 1990s New Gods series with issues #15-28. Look for Lar Gand of L.E.G.I.O.N. and the Forever People to appear.

New Teen Titans Vol. 13

After quite a while of the contents of this not being listed correctly (the contents listed were the same as New Teen Titans Vol. 12), this is now said to be issues #32-40 (second series), the Annual #3, and Infinity, Inc. #45. In addition to that crossover, this collection includes the first appearances of Danny Chase. This is essentially the first half of January 2031's New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 5, which collects up to issue #49.

The Question by Dennis O'Neil and Denys Cowan Vol. 1

I'd as soon the paperbacks come around again, but this is better than nothing (and might signify new smaller collections to follow). Collects The Question #1-27, The Question Annual #1, Green Arrow Annual #1, and Detective Comics Annual #1. The series would go to issue #36 plus five "Quarterly" issues.

Represent!

In hardcover, collecting DC’s digital-first anthology series, with stories by Chris Cooper, Regine Sawyer, Camrus Johnson, and more.

Robin Vol. 1: The Lazarus Tournament

In paperback, collecting issues #1-6 by Joshua Williamson and Gleb Melnikov. Previously omitted from the solicitations, I'm glad to see this now includes the prelude story from Batman #106 and Detective Comics #1034.

Static: Season One

Meanwhile, in hardcover, here's issues #1-6 of the new Static series by Vita Ayala, including the Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0 comic.

Wonder Woman: Agent of Peace Vol. 2

Second collection of the digital-first series, collecting issues #12-23.

Uncollected Editions: Justice League United Vol. 3: Reunited (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

A new entry in our “Uncollected Editions” series, where we look at single issues that might’ve made a collection, but never came to be.

In 2016, on the eve of DC Universe: Rebirth and DC’s jump to the Rebirth continuity, Justice League United Vol. 3: Reunited was one of those DC You-era collections solicited, cancelled, resolicited, and cancelled again, never to appear. This was not surprising — a series already cancelled, with the final issues written by a different creative team than the previous dozen; these things happen, and we saw the same at the advent of the New 52.

For its first 10 issues under writer Jeff Lemire, Justice League United was the character-driven answer to its widescreen Justice League-proper counterpart. Taking characters including Martian Manhunter and Stargirl from the militaristic, ARGUS-lead Justice League of America, Lemire’s United shaped up to be purposefully softer, a League whose express purpose was to demonstrate “heroism [and] selflessness” (and also for Lemire to continue to write characters Animal Man and Green Arrow, with whom he’d had success). Over two collections, United never quite achieved that lofty goal, waylaid by setup and a too-long team-up with the Legion of Super-Heroes, but the book was enjoyable nonetheless.

Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Deluxe Edition hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, November 21, 2021

Though arguably the DC Comics heroes have committed greater sins previously, there’s an undercurrent in Dark Nights: Death Metal that it’s predicated on a series of errors. That in a pitched battle with the god Perpetua, Wonder Woman hesitated, cowed by the implications of what victory might unleash. That despite numerous in-story multiversal reboots, villains still battle against heroes (even if such conflict is inherent in the storytelling itself). That given the choice, over a tumultuous “Year of the Villain,” humanity sided with Lex Luthor’s “Doom” over the heroes. That, with obvious meta implications, the DC Universe has even gone so far at times as to fight against its own growth and development.

Such are the charges leveled by the “Hands,” Death Metal’s uber-creators of the DC Universe (greater than both the Monitors and the Monitors' own progenitors). And though anhiliation is avoided due to Wonder Woman taking the high road and heroes, villains, and everyday people working together, Superman later notes that all they’ve earned is “a fragile chance … to show we can do better.” In that way, Death Metal feels timely, and prescient — that a “crisis” occurred (a word in which Death Metal puts a lot of stock), that humanity came together to defeat it (I know — more or less), and that we’ve earned a chance, maybe a last chance, to do better next time.

Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal: War of the Multiverses trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

With Dark Nights: Death Metal: War of the Multiverses, we’re coming down now to the end of the Death Metal saga, and as I’ve suggested in previous reviews, things seem to be coming apart a bit. There’s some lofty goals here — short stories about your favorite DC superheroes on the eve of war (and, perhaps, certain death) and then in the thick of the fight, and then also a spotlight on newer (or newer to DC) creators and/or creators from diverse backgrounds. In this, both the “War of the Multiverses” and “Last Stories of the DC Universe” books read a bit like the New Talent Showcase books from a couple years back.

But at the same time, New Talent Showcase was devoutly out of continuity, and this book is devoutly in, and at a pretty high stakes moment, too. There’s no wind in the sails of these being the “last stories” of the DCU given that the DCU comes roaring back right after, and if anything with more character relationships restored, not forgotten (this is hardly the kind of “eve of the New 52” moment that the book tries to pretend it is). To come close to selling that kind of thing, the writers must be pretty on point, and due to inexperience or unfamiliarity, they’re not. This is not to say there aren’t some winners, but a lot of these stories distract from the moment rather than adding to it.

Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Multiverse Who Laughs trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, November 14, 2021

As was perhaps inevitable, given the gigantic number of tie-in specials offered alongside Dark Nights: Death Metal, at some point something had to start to feel superfluous, and that time is Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Multiverse Who Laughs.

Granted, I'm not reading all of these separated by months in the way they were published, and in all — especially having gone from Death Metal #4 to three of the Multiverse Who Laughs specials, then to Justice League: Death Metal, then to Death Metal #5, and then back to Multiverse Who Laughs — I'm feeling a whole lot of whiplash. Also that Death Metal itself seems to be moving at a snail's pace given 10 specials and a five-part story and Death Metal is only just reaching its halfway point.

So part of the fault is mine, because I'm bingeing a story that was perhaps not meant to be binged, and part of the fault is also mine because it's all starting to feel like a lot and perhaps that frustration is coming out at Multiverse Who Laughs (whereas, back at the beginning, I liked the Darkest Knight series of tie-ins a whole lot more). But part of the fault is assuredly also that this event has over a dozen tie-ins that break up the story, and also that some of these miss their mark.

Review: Justice League: Death Metal trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

In comparison to the last time Justice League tied in to a Dark Nights series, Justice League: Death Metal is an improvement, benefitting among other things from a single writer and mostly stable art team, giving the story more coherence of plot. This volume does seem less essential, more skippable among the grand scheme of the Death Metal saga than the first ancillary Death Metal volume I reviewed, Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Darkest Knight. But, though writer Joshua Williamson’s work could still be tightened, this is a good read overall, especially in the ways it circles back to the Scott Snyder Justice League run that started all of this and other related series.

[Review contains spoilers]

Williamson’s five-part “Doom Metal” stars Nightwing, Starfire, Cyborg, Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz, and Lex Luthor, and all of them Williamson does well in placing within the context of their own current events. A lot of Nightwing’s action here stems from his recent recovery from his “Ric Grayson” amnesia, a controversial story that Williamson didn’t have to reference but does, and gracefully. Starfire and Cyborg come straight from the end of Justice League Odyssey and Williamson reflects well that they’ve been away a while. I do wish there’d been more of a suggestion of a lead-in to the three New Titans next appearing in Teen Titans Academy together, but I think there’s still more Titans-focused Death Metal tie-ins still to come.

Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Darkest Knight trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, November 07, 2021

Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Darkest Knight is the first collection of Death Metal tie-in specials. I’ll be curious to see as this goes on just what Death Metal itself is about, when so much is packed into these tie-ins — is there really enough story for all? And how will Death Metal read on its own, when seemingly really important events are taking place in the specials?

But those questions aside, Darkest Knight is an auspicious start. It is often an entertaining anthology, and when it’s not that then it’s a fun spotlight on some of Death Metal’s secondary characters, and when it’s not that it’s a Justice League-character spotlight book, and when it’s not that it’s a beautiful who’s who of artist interpretations of the Metal-verse beyond Greg Capullo’s original, including Francis Manapul, Eduardo Risso, and Francesco Francavilla. Basically a lot to like, and it’d be great if it kept up like this throughout.

Review: Far Sector trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Of late I begin to wonder if the best Green Lantern stories aren’t Green Lantern stories — Tom King’s Omega Men comes to mind, and now N. K. Jemisin’s Far Sector. Each of those has been better than the last vestiges of Hal Jordan’s derring-do, when the deeper we went the more inscrutable Jordan’s character became. Jemisin accomplishes here what Lantern writers have been trying to do for a while, stripping away all the cruft (not to mention bravado) that’s built up on the property over the years while still keeping the core of the Lantern mythos that clearly has so much untapped potential. With new Lantern Sojourner “Jo” Mullein, Jemisin spins the kind of dedicated space yarn that should be the rule, not the exception, for Green Lantern stories.

[Review contains spoilers]

Blessedly, Far Sector doesn’t make us choose between style and substance. Among what the story has going for it is Jemisin’s extensive world-building, on a level that demonstrates Jemisin’s formidable skills as a fantasy writer. There’s an entire planetary platform system here and three different species, each with their own cultures, cuisines, and political strife, not to mention history that goes back generations. Jemisin offers just enough of the everyday to ground us — broadly speaking, the species are animal, vegetable, and technological, and there, in-story cultural coincidence sees the computer beings called “At-Ats,” for instance — even as alienness abounds. (Also that cat videos are commerce.) Fans of Ursula Le Guin and Robert Heinlein will be familiar with the hard work required of the reader in the beginning to grok these societies.

Review: Inferior Five trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Inferior Five is a pretty niche story — a semi-sequel to a lesser-known 1980s DC Comics crossover — to the point I’m surprised they even decided to publish it. Few new readers, I imagine, are going back to read Invasion! as opposed to something like Batman: Knightfall or The Death of Superman. Perhaps the draw is the presence of the big name on the book, writer/artist indie sensation Jeff Lemire, though really this book is writer/artist and 1980s DC stalwart Keith Giffen’s. It branches off of Invasion!, in which Giffen and his DC storylines of the time played a big role, it features Giffen’s distinct art style, it plays with characters who were obscure in Giffen’s 1980s heyday and are virtually unknown now. Like I said, it’s pretty niche.1

To that end, there’s probably not a lot of reason for most readers to pick Inferior Five up, including that it was unceremoniously cancelled six issues through a 12-issue miniseries, with issues #5 and #6 only published online and the latter not even drawn by Giffen. But though Giffen is only credited with plot on the final issue, it is the most Giffen-esque of this whole Giffen-esque book, as wise and ridiculous as one would expect from the final issue of a Giffen book cancelled halfway through. If Giffen was ever your go-to DC guy, if you’ve got issues of Invasion! fondly mildewing in your garage, you might go find the last issue of this series, at least.

Review: Plunge hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

And so we reach the end of the first wave of Hill House Comics. Joe Hill’s Plunge is the most intentionally referential (among plenty of references) of the Hill House books, given its frigid location and aliens diving down a person’s throat. At the same time, despite a familiarity that works against it, Plunge might be the most gory of the Hill House books (thanks to artist Stuart Immonen), if not also the most disturbing. Certain of Hill House’s books have toyed with this before — the horror of being out of control of your own body, the horror of the knowledge of the horror that could happen to you — but none in quite so many terrifying forms as Plunge does.

[Review contains spoilers]

What stands out most at the beginning of Plunge is just how much talking there is. I’m not one who minds my comics loquacious, especially when favoring dialogue over superhero fights, but there’s about nine pages in the first issue that are about as word-balloon heavy as I’ve ever seen (and may letterer Deron Bennett get a break after that). Surely all of this contributes such to make one particular death close to the end especially wrenching for the audience — to build in us the emotion that I’d otherwise imagine would be a challenge with only six issues — but no doubt Hill takes a risk here asking for that much audience attention before the worm-filled zombies arrive. (Not to mention how little of the intricate detail of who owns what in international waters is really all that necessary in the end.)