Review: Robin Vol. 1: The Lazarus Tournament trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Joshua Williamson’s Robin Vol. 1: The Lazarus Tournament is silly, irreverent, and doesn’t quite seem to know what comic it wants to be, and I rather enjoyed it.

To me the benchmark of a Robin comic still remains Chuck Dixon’s Tim Drake series, Robin fighting crime while negotiating high school and staying on the right side of his “suburban Jim Gordon,” Steven “Shotgun” Smith. It was the equivalent of a modern CW show, never too dark and with plenty of levity, and that never forgot its protagonist was a teen and populated the world around him primarily with teens, too.

Williamson’s Robin Damian Wayne book feels like it wants to be that kind of teen title, especially toward the end as Damian gathers his own team of teen-something heroes. But we’re a ways from Gotham Heights, as Damian negotiates both a supernatural island and a fighting tournament where hearts are ripped out of bodies with alacrity. It’s a weird mix, maybe a more appropriate mix for Damian than a high school setting, but weird nonetheless — though that weirdness in no small part helped keep my interest. Lazarus is further buoyed by Williamson’s use of fighter cameos from a variety of eras and lineages, which had me scouring the crowd scenes.

DC Trade Solicitations for August 2022 - Trial of the Amazons, War for Earth-3, Justice League Incarnate, Batman: Detective Comics: Arkham Rising, Being Robin, Punchline, Dark Knights of Steel, DC vs. Vampires, Phantom Stranger Omnibus

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Over 25 collections listed in the DC Comics August 2022 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations — after a drought, got to say it feels like things are cooking in the Infinite Frontier era. From Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3 to Robin Vol. 2, Task Force Z Vol. 1 to King Shark to Robins: Being Robin, no small amount of regular series, mainstream books on the horizon (even if some of the ship dates have bumped from September to October or November). And that’s not to mention Justice League Incarnate and both the Trial of the Amazons and War for Earth-3 crossover collections.

I’m also glad to see the Punchline: Trial of Alexis Kaye collection, not because I particularly favor the hubbub over Punchline, but I do find interesting the in-universe hubbub over Punchline that mirrors reality, and I’m happy to see DC seems committed to collecting the various backup stories and specials of the Infinite Frontier era. At the same time, some wrong lessons perhaps being learned from all the success of DC’s recent 12-issue, continuity-adjacent miniseries — volume one collections of Human Target, Dark Knights Of Steel, and DC vs. Vampires, where once upon a time I think DC would’ve waited and released each of these books as full stories.

All that, and will the Phantom Stranger Omnibus make it this time? Let’s take a look …

American Vampire Omnibus Vol. 1 (2022 Edition)

New printing of the omnibus by Scott Snyder and company (with a short story by Stephen King), collecting American Vampire #1–27, American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #1–5, and American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #1–5.

American Vampire Omnibus Vol. 2

By Scott Snyder and company, collecting American Vampire #28–34, American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell #1, American Vampire: Anthology #1–2, American Vampire: Second Cycle #1–11, and American Vampire 1976 #1–10.

Batman Black & White

Collects the new series in paperback.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3: Arkham Rising

In hardcover in September, the third collection by Mariko Tamaki includes "selections from" Detective Comics #1044–1046 and the 2021 Annual #1, ahead of the "Shadows of the Bat" event.

Batman: Hush 20th Anniversary Edition

Twenty years. Wow. Collects Batman #608-619 and the story from Wizard #0, as well as "tons of behind-the-scenes material" and a new cover.

Batman: The Long Halloween: Haunted Knight Deluxe Edition

Once Batman: The Long Halloween made it big, DC released as "Haunted Knight" the three stories Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale did before it that weren't so well known. History repeats itself, as now following the deluxe editions of Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and Catwoman: When in Rome is a deluxe of Haunted Knight, collecting again Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special #1, Batman: Madness - A Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special #1, and Batman: Ghosts, A Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special #1.

Batman: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1

Collects Batman #101–116 and Detective Comics #233–257. Said to include "restored versions of iconic tales such as 'The Batwoman,' 'The Bat-Ape,' and 'The Rainbow Batman'"

Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 3

In paperback, said to collect issues #11–16. Spotlights include Batman and Zatanna and Ace the Bat-Hound. A previously solicitation also mentioned the Wight Witch/Ghost-Maker story.

Blue & Gold

In paperback, collecting the eight-issue miniseries by Dan Jurgens and Ryan Sook in paperback in September. Could you ever have imagined a future where Blue Beetle and Booster Gold were around to navigate "internet influencers"?

Blue Beetle: Jaime Reyes Book One

Issues #1-12 of the original Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle series by Keith Giffen and Cully Hamner. It'll be interesting to see if DC will continue this through Jaime's various continuities — this, the post-Crisis series, then the New 52 series, then the Rebirth series. Timed, of course, for the new movie, which I'm eager to see.

DC Dark Knights Of Steel Vol. 1

Collects just issues #1-6 in hardcover. I'm a shoo-in to read this eventually, but depending on timing I might wait until all 12 issues are collected at once.

DC vs. Vampires Vol. 1

Issues #1-6 by James Tynion. I might also wait for a full collection of this one but I don't feel as strongly as DC collecting only half of Tom King's Human Target (travesty!). Hardcover in September.

The Flash by Mark Waid Omnibus Vol. 1

Collects Flash #62–91, Flash Annual #4–6, Green Lantern #30–31 and #40, Flash Special #1, and Justice League Quarterly #10, being about the first three Flash by Mark Waid paperbacks and collecting among others the “Return of Barry Allen” storyline and the Zero Hour tie-in that debuted Impulse.

Future State: Gotham Vol. 2: The Next Joker

Previously said to be issues #8–12 by Dennis Culver and Giannis Milonogiannis.

Hardware: Season One

In hardcover, by Brandon Thomas, Reginald Hudlin, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and more, collecting the first six issues of the new series and Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0. Coming in October.

The Human Target Book One

Boo, I say boo, to the hardcover collection of Tom King and Greg Smallwood's The Human Target that only collects issues #1-6. I mean, all best to the creators that maybe the first collection drums up more interest for the end of the series, but I'm holding out for the deluxe collection with all the issues. If it was good enough for Rorschach, it should be good enough for Human Target.

Justice League Incarnate

In hardcover in October (previously announced for September), collecting Joshua Williamson’s multiversal follow-up miniseries to Infinite Frontier.

Nubia & the Amazons

In hardcover in September by Vita Ayala and Stephanie Williams. Said to collect the story from Infinite Frontier #0 and the six-issue miniseries, seemingly including the “Trial of the Amazons” tie-in issues.

The Phantom Stranger Omnibus

This was previously announced in DC Comics Fall 2020 solicitations in March 2020, so not entirely surprising it never made it to print. Here it is again, due out in November 2022. Contents said to be The Phantom Stranger #1-6 (1952), The Phantom Stranger #1-41 (1969), stories from Saga of the Swamp Thing #1-13, Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #18, Brave and the Bold #89, #98, and #145, Showcase #80, Justice League of America #103, House of Secrets #150, DC Super-Stars #18, Secret Origins #10, and DC Comics Presents #25 and #72.

Punchline: The Trial of Alexis Kaye

Various Punchline spotlight and backup stories, including from Joker 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1, The Joker #1–15. Mentioned also in a previous solicitation were Punchline #1 and a story/stories from Batman: Urban Legends. In hardcover in September.

Robin Vol. 2: I Am Robin

In paperback in September, collects Robin #7-12 and Robin 2021 Annual #1 by Joshua Williamson. As with Batman Vol. 6: Abyss and Deathstroke, Inc. Vol. 1, this ends just before the "Shadow War" crossover.

Robins: Being Robin

In paperback in September, collecting the six-issue miniseries by Tim Seeley and Baldemar Rivas.

Suicide Squad: King Shark

I’m not sure I would have run to this one, despite a writer and an artist I both like, Tim Seeley and Scott Kolins, but Seeley also brings back one of his Nightwing characters, too, and I’m curious how that all works together. The six-issue miniseries, in paperback in September.

Task Force Z Vol. 1: Death's Door

I’m in to reading the Infinite Frontier era of books now and I’ve been very impressed to see the seemingly random seeds sprinkled early on that have come to fruition later — namely, that DC killing off one of its most well-known villains ultimately results in the Suicide-Squad-with-zombies series Task Force Z. What an insane concept. I’m excited; issues #1–6 by Matthew Rosenberg with Eddy Barrows arrive in hardcover in November; a previous solicitation, for September, also mentioned the backup stories from Detective Comics #1041–1043. One more volume to follow to finish up this miniseries.

Titans United

On one hand I’m wary of an obvious TV-aligned Titans miniseries that might try to shoehorn TV continuity into the comics Titans; on the other hand, if this brings some sort of classic Hawk and Dove back to continuity, I’m all for it. And the HBO Max show is a guilty pleasure after all. Collects the seven-issue miniseries by Cavan Scott and Jose Luis, in paperback in September.

Trial of the Amazons

In hardcover in October, collecting Trial of the Amazons #1-2, Nubia and the Amazons #6, Wonder Woman #785- 786, and Trial of the Amazons: Wonder Girl #1-2 by Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, Stephanie Williams, and Vita Ayala.

War for Earth-3

In paperback in September, collecting the crossover issues Flash #780, Suicide Squad #13, and Teen Titans Academy #13 with War for Earth-3 #1–2.

Wonder Woman by George Pérez Omnibus (2022 Edition)

A new printing of the omnibus collection of Wonder Woman #1-24 and Wonder Woman Annual #1 by the late, great George Pérez.

Wonder Woman: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 5

Collects Action Comics #142, Wonder Woman #35-47, and Sensation Comics #90-104.

Review: DC Pride 2021 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

DC Pride 2021 is a welcome and important collection, and the only thing better than the original prestige format anthology is the release of a collection with additional material. What had originally seemed might be the entire contents of some of the DC’s recent holiday-themed anthologies ultimately turns out to be just a relevant story each from New Year’s Evil, Mysteries of Love in Space, and Young Monsters in Love. At least in my copy of the collection, these appear just before what was originally the final story in DC Pride and without any indication that they were once separate, such that the whole book feels like a cohesive piece.

[Review contains spoilers]

While books like the New Talent Showcase and the aforementioned holiday specials can sometimes sacrifice story and characterization for spotlighting new-to-DC writers, DC Pride 2021 impressively follows from the DCU mainstream, with stories in the wake of Infinite Frontier and Future State. That, among others, specifically the Batman and Detective Comics writers are here — James Tynion and Mariko Tamaki respectively — indicates the profile DC has assigned to this book.

Review: Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 1 trade paperback

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

We’ve had precious little collected so far from the Batman: Urban Legends anthology series, and even then, it’s early to know if this will be primarily one-off index stories, if DC will make a concerted effort to tie it all back to the ongoing Bat-books, how much of that will pan out, and so on. I’m reminded of the Showcase '90s books, and I guess the answer is “a little of all of that,” though I remember being more pleased with Showcase when a book followed up on “X character will return” than when it didn’t.

This is relevant when reading Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 1 as, for each of the stories here — Red Hood and Grifter respectively — a promise is made, and I’m more eager to see those promises followed-up upon than forgotten. The good news is that this book’s writers are Chip Zdarsky, incoming Batman writer, and Matthew Rosenberg, who seems to have plenty of work at DC these days, so the chances of follow-up here is relatively high. Also that Zdarsky writes a good Batman ahead of his turn in the big leagues.

Review: The Next Batman: Second Son hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

For me, if DC is going to call a character “the next Batman,” as in John Ridley’s The Next Batman: Second Son, they’re going to have to make it convincing bordering on inevitable. Replace a Robin or a Blue Beetle, I’m bound to give some leeway in terms of the character who can take up that mantle. But “the next Batman” — especially a wholly new character, that’s going to need to be a character with some chops.

[Review contains spoilers]

Further, this is going to be a character who either reminds very strongly of Bruce Wayne — let’s say, another avenging orphan, but maybe one born into less privileged circumstances than Bruce — or whose origin is equally compelling but deviates from the standard in some significant way. Bruce fights crime because his parents were murdered, so perhaps as an opposite but similar number, someone who fights crime to atone for they themselves being a murderer. What if Joe Chill became Batman, and such.

Review: Harley Quinn Vol. 1: No Good Deed hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Stephanie Phillips' Harley Quinn Vol. 1: No Good Deed is the Harley Quinn book that DC Comics has always wanted, and with art by Riley Rossmo, a darn good-looking book, too. But I feel maybe DC’s gain is our loss; the continuity wonk in me is pleased but the seasoned Harley reader is not.

[Review contains spoilers]

James Tynion and company have talked about a concerted effort to create carryover between the Bat-family books in the wake of Infinite Frontier, and that sure is apparently in No Good Deed. Where once upon a time it was hard to even get acknowledgment that the Harley Quinn who appeared in Suicide Squad was even the same character as the one who appeared in her eponymous series, this Harley is specifically, effervescently straight from the pages of Tynion’s Batman Vol. 2: Joker War. It all happened, and then some — Harley’s tangle with Clown-Hunter, her fight with Punchline, the revenge she took on the Joker.

Review: Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping Into the Light hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

After a long drought of good Nightwing material, Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping Into the Light is exactly what the character needed.

It treads very lightly; Taylor’s Nightwing Dick Grayson is always in the right place at the right time, makes the right decisions, says the right things. I’m left to wonder — rarely do we see things go this right for our heroes without precipitating some major fall, but that seems too cruel even for DCeased’s Taylor in this context.

So, I’m curious what Taylor has up his sleeve, what the legacy will be of this Nightwing run, whether the sunniness of Light is a mission statement or a feint. Either way, given what this title has just been through, I can surely appreciate some levity as we get back to basics.

Review: Catwoman Vol. 5: Valley of the Shadow of Death trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, May 01, 2022

With Infinite Frontier, Ram V’s Catwoman is off to a slow start, but I’d venture that has more to do with lining up with “Fear State” over in the Batman titles than any failing on Ram V’s part. Catwoman Vol. 5: Valley of the Shadow of Death is only four issues and an annual as is, really just a three-parter and some side tales. The next collection, due in June, is the very “Fear State” tie-in, five issues long, and Ram V’s finale on the title — so my sense of Valley as a milder calm before the storm is not without reason.

Still, Ram V certainly makes something readable out of it, and art by Fernando Blanco is always welcome. Clearly since Rebirth DC has been trying to find a satisfactory positioning for Selina Kyle — with Batman, not with Batman, outside Gotham, back in Gotham — made all the more important now with her latest cinematic appearance. The next writer may have different plans, but I think what Ram V’s tries here has a lot of potential.

Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: The Neighborhood hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

I really like the approach inherent in Mariko Tamaki’s Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: The Neighborhood, and all in all I consider this debut volume a success. Insofar as the book adheres to the “A Bat of the People” moniker splashed at the top of the back of the book, Neighborhood and I are good; when Neighborhood deviates from that is where it starts to lose me.

But I appreciate Tamaki’s afterword where she outlines her thinking for the book, and indeed this just comes down to simple difference in what one wants from a Batman story, with Tamaki surely representing a greater swath of the audience. I see now, surprisingly, that Tamaki’s Detective run is already scheduled to close, but I’m eager to read more like this before it does.

[Review contains spoilers]

As Tamaki describes, the events of Batman Vol. 2: Joker War see Bruce Wayne, if not necessarily in the poorhouse, in reduced enough financial straits that he forgoes stately Wayne Manor for a chic Gotham brownstone. Such leads to Bruce going where he’s never gone before … a casual get-together with his moneyed neighbors. This being a Batman story, of course, one of the neighbors is murdered, the rest are seemingly suspects, and things spiral out from there — Huntress is involved, and a Clayface, and the Penguin, and the bizarre super-strong criminal father of the murder victim. Plus buildings important to Gotham’s infrastructure keep getting blown up.

Review: Infinite Frontier hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, April 24, 2022

There’s a prescient moment at the end of Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis where the apparent last Monitor, Nix Uotan, wakes as human in Metropolis to the sound of radio commentators discussing the newly revealed “parallel worlds” — the newly resurrected DC Multiverse (not for the first time — or the last time, either). Aside for a few references in Final Crisis follow-ups, however, the apparent public knowledge of the multiverse was mostly ignored and disregarded, if not right away then surely once DC reset their continuity with the New 52.

More’s the pity because, among other things, this might have offered some useful differentiation at a moment when the DC Universe needed it (see the decline of the next few years that ended up with the New 52). After 80-odd years, I think “the DCU is just like our world, only with superheroes” wouldn’t be harmed by an update. Consider as an example the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which upon reaching the end of its first “phase trilogy” and contemplating its future, overlaid its entire continuity with a five-year “blip” that affected some, left behind others, and defined the culture of that fictional world as something all its own. The DCU had a similar opportunity with “people just like us but who live with the knowledge of parallel worlds.”