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.

Review: Blue & Gold trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

I was thinking of late how quickly “I remember everything” came and went in the finale of Dark Nights: Death Metal and the start of the Infinite Frontier era. Granted I’m not reading Dark Crisis yet, but if there’s an “everything” that anyone’s remembered outside of Death Metal, I haven’t seen evidence of it yet.

At the same time, Infinite Frontier has brought first Batgirls and now Blue & Gold, so I don’t have all that much to find fault with. Both of these seem like books that, as far back as the New 52 days if not even in the mid-2000s, DC was too much in their own IP to publish these even if the fans wanted them — “Surely three Batgirls would be too confusing for the audience” and “We can’t have Booster and Beetle running around when this here Big 7 is the JLA” (is how I presume the conversations might go).

DC Trade Solicitations for January 2023 - Batman/Superman: World's Finest, Joker Vol. 3, Absolute Dark Nights: Death Metal, Nice House on the Lake Vol. 2, Superman: Warworld Revolution, Batgirls Vol. 2, Adam Strange Deluxe, DC by McDuffie

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Well, the DC Comics January 2023 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations are unremarkable overall, but I’m much happier seeing 23 books on the list instead of last month’s eight! (Even if a handful of them are paperbacks of hardcovers.)

Mostly regular series collections for me this month. I tell you what, the second Nice House on the Lake collection almost got this month’s cover spot, except I’m real excited for Mark Waid’s Batman/Superman: World’s Finest and whatever the next-next big thing it’s leading in to at DC. Action Comics, Wonder Woman, Batgirls, Swamp Thing, and Joker are all buys for me.

I’m pleased to see Batman: The Dark Knight Detective keep chugging along. I’ll be glad when that series is over not because I’m glad to see it over, but to be satisfied all of those issues are finally collected (do the Super-titles next!). DC Universe by Dwayne McDuffie is a deserved collection, and I adore how Adam Strange: Between Two Worlds brings together stories from across eras into a cohesive whole.

Let’s take a look at the full list.

Absolute Dark Nights: Death Metal

Collects issues #1–7 of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo event, in Absolute format. Includes "behind-the-scenes art ..., original pencil pages, and a brand-new introduction."

Adam Strange: Between Two Worlds: The Deluxe Edition

I rather wish DC would do more like this for their "minor" characters. This is the Richard Burning and Andy Kubert's three-issue Adam Strange: The Man of Two Worlds 1990 post-Crisis miniseries, Mark Waid's JLA #20-21 from 1998, and Andy Diggle and Pascal Ferry's eight-issue Adam Strange: Planet Heist from 2004 (which I reviewed 16 years ago). Three different creative teams separated by years, but picking up from one another to tell a related story. It's not by any stretch the full modern history of Adam Strange, but it's a good overview of his pre-Flashpoint years. Martian Manhunter could use a collection like this, Red Tornado, etc.

Aquaman & the Flash: Voidsong

Movie star meets movie star in paperback by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing. I guess I had some idea this might tie in to Aquaman/Green Arrow: Deep Target, but the creative teams are totally different.

Batgirls Vol. 2

The second collection by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, in paperback in March. I'm not going to spoil the guest starts in this one (as the solicitations do), but I'm very excited and I'm probably going to have to go back and finish reading a series I didn't finish before.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: The Neighborhood

Paperback collection of Mariko Tamaki’s issues #1034–1039. Per my review, a great premise with a not-as-satisfying ending.

Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Vol. 7

Collects Batman #474, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #27, Detective Comics #634-638, #641, and #643, and Detective Comics Annual #4. Batman and Legends are in there as part of the "Destroyer" crossover, which introduced a new-look Gotham in line with the first Tim Burton movie; the annual is an "Armageddon 2001" tie-in. Stories written by Kelley Puckett, Louise Simonson, Peter Milligan, and Alan Grant.

Just for a little comparison, Detective issues #639-640 that aren’t included here are in the Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 5 collection; issue #642 is in the Caped Crusader Vol. 6 collection. Meanwhile, Batman #474, collected here, would have fallen between Caped Crusader Vols. 5 and 6. Caped Crusader Vol. 6 was, I’m pretty sure, the final volume of that series, ending just before the Prelude to Knightfall collection. I’m guessing Dark Knight Detectivehas one more volume to go to end before "Knightfall" and Detective #654.

Batman: The Detective

Paperback of Tom Taylor and Andy Kubert’s six-issue miniseries, following the hardcover. I liked this one, an unexpected Batman Elseworld.

Batman: The Imposter

Paperback, following the hardcover, of the Batman-movie adjacent miniseries by Mattson Tomlin and Andrea Sorrentino. I reviewed Batman: Imposter and thought it was pretty well done.

Batman/Superman: World’s Finest Vol. 1: The Devil Nezha

In hardcover by Mark Waid and Dan Mora, coming in March and collecting issue #1-6.

Birds of Prey: The End of the Beginning

Following the recent Birds of Prey: Whitewater, this is another larger-page-count collection of the original Birds of Prey series. Said to include issues #113-#127, so the original Birds of Prey: Metropolis or Dust and Platinum Flats, give or take a couple issues from elsewhere. Mostly written by Tony Bedard with a couple issues by Sean McKeever; this was after Gail Simone departed with issue #108 and before she returned for the second series.

Blue Beetle: Jaime Reyes Book Two

Second expanded collection of the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle series. This collects issues #13-25 of the original 2006 series, so right on track (previous solicitations for this book seemed to reference issues from the middle of the Rebirth run). Still remains to be seen if the Blue Beetle movie goes ahead and how that might affect this.

Bruce Wayne: Not Super

Just love the offbeat premises of these DC young reader books. In this, by Stuart Gibbs and Berat Pekmezci, Bruce Wayne is the only non-powered kid in a school full of superheroes.

The DC Universe by Dwayne McDuffie

Collects a variety of Dwayne McDuffie's non-Milestone DC work, including Action Comics #847, Demon #26-29, Impulse #60, JLA Showcase 80-Page Giant #1, Batman: Gotham Knights #27, Sins of Youth: Kid Flash/Impulse #1, and Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #33-35, as well as a tribute(s) from the Static Shock Special.

Doom Patrol by Gerard Way and Nick Derington: The Deluxe Edition

Wouldn't mind seeing one of these for each of the Young Animal series. This is the Young Animal Doom Patrol #1-12 and Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds #1-7 by Gerard Way and Nick Derington, like it says on the tin, though lacking what seems to be the pretty essential Milk Wars material.

Girl Taking Over: A Lois Lane Story

Along with Bruce Wayne: Not Super, another fun premise for a DC YA book — teenage Lois Lane seeing drama in a summer reporting internship, by Sarah Kuhn and Arielle Jovellanos.

The Joker Vol. 3

Final collection of the James Tynion series, issues #10-15, before the series relaunch, coming in February in hardcover.

The Nice House on the Lake Vol. 2

Wait, wait. Did this slip? Not coming in December, but rather in March? That is just too cruel. Being the final collection of the horror series by James Tynion and Álvaro Martínez Bueno, collecting issues #7-12.

The Sandman Book Five

Collects the Sandman Mystery Theatre crossover special, Sandman Midnight Theatre, Sandman: Endless Nights, and seemingly just the prose edition of Sandman: Dream Hunters, though I'm surprised not also the comics adaption.

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 3: Warworld Revolution

The next collection by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Daniel Sampere, in paperback in February, collecting Action Comics #1043-1046, the Action Comics 2022 Annual #1, and Superman: Warworld Apocalypse. Ends just before the big crossover with Superman: Son of Kal-El.

The Swamp Thing Volume 3: The Parliament of Gears

The final collection of the limited series by Ram V and Mike Perkins, collecting issues #11-16, in paperback in February.

Teen Titans: Robin

Next in the popular YA Teen Titans series by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo. Dick Grayson and Damian are actual brothers here?

Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Villainy of Our Fears

In paperback in February by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, following Trial of the Amazons. This is issues #787-794.

Wonder Woman: Who Is Wonder Woman the Deluxe Edition

I reviewed Who Is Wonder Woman? in 2008. Coming back into print since Allan Heinberg wrote the 2017 Wonder Woman movie. With art by Terry and Rachel Dodson.