Review: Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

It's hard to say anything about Tom King's Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding without spoilers. At the outset, I would congratulate DC Comics on having a pretty stellar 2018; in about half a year, they've already gotten me to pick up single issues on two titles, Action Comics (ahead of issue #1000) and Batman, to avoid spoilers for big events, and that's after the same last year around Action Comics' "The Oz Effect." Perhaps I've simply learned my lesson after DC Universe: Rebirth that if I don't get ahead of spoilers, then spoilers will come, but also I think DC's got a renewed handle on what "must see comics" looks like, and that's beneficial overall.

And now on to The Wedding ...

DC Trade Solicitations for January 2019 - Batman: Year Three in Caped Crusader Vol. 2, Black Lightning '95, Superman by Bendis Vol. 1, New Justice Titans Vol. 5, Aquaman/Suicide Squad, Batman by Morrison Omnibus Vol. 2

Sunday, October 28, 2018

DC Comics kicks of January 2019 with a smaller month, at least in terms of my buy pile. The trade paperback and hardcover solicitations list has some enticing books in it, but fewer, it feels like, than the very full months of October through December.

Probably the book I'm most excited about, but might be the most controversial on the list, is the Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 2, the second volume of the Batman side of these collections of the hero's immediate post-Crisis on Infinite Earths adventures (together with Detective Comics's Dark Knight Detective volumes). Caped Crusader Vol. 2 collects Batman #433-444 and the Annual #13, including "Year Three," collected for the first time since it was published 30 years ago. At the same time, so far the solicitations don't list New Titans #60-61, the quite-essential parts two and four of the "Lonely Place of Dying" storyline that followed it; it will be a disappointment if those issues aren't in there.

I've also been digging the "New Age of Heroes" books of late, so even knowing almost nothing about it, I'm interested to get Steve Orlando's Unexpected: Call of the Unknown; Orlando's clearly excited, having been cameoing these characters in his other books, and even though the series is cancelled and this is one-and-done, I think this'll be a fun, low-commitment read.

This month also has what's now called Black Lightning: Brick City Blues (with Gangbuster!), the Aquaman/Suicide Squad crossover (pretty close, unfortunately, to the end of Dan Abnett's run), Batman: Shadow of the Bat Vol. 4, the first Superman series collection by Brian Michael Bendis, and the start of Abnett's "New Justice" run on Titans. Again, nothing earth-shattering, but a few books worth checking out.

Let's take a look at the full list:

A Very DC Valentine's Day TP

In an earlier solicitation this seemed like it would collect both some modern Valentine's Day specials and also some classic 1940s Young Romance by Jack Kirby. Now the Kirby material seems to have been jettisoned — sorry if you were looking forward to it but it did seem a strangely focused collection — and now this has just the more recent Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine's Day Special, Young Monsters in Love, and Harley Quinn Valentine's Day Special. The Young Romance special's individual stories have been collected here and there, but never all together, I don't think.

Aquaman by Geoff Johns Omnibus HC

It's things like these that make me excited what we'll get closer to the Shazam! movie (Jerry Ordway's Power of Shazam! omnibus, yes please). Collects Johns' Aquaman #0-25, #23.1, #23.2, and Justice League #15-17. A new collection of "Throne of Atlantis" is coming in late November, too, retitled Aquaman: War for the Throne and with a new Jason Momoa-tastic cover.

Aquaman/Suicide Squad: Sink Atlantis TP

Collects Aquaman #39-40 and Suicide Squad #45-46 by Dan Abnett and Rob Williams respectively. An advance solicitation for the upcoming Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth crossover collection said that book also collects Aquaman #40, with Aquaman #41, but judging by the issue contents, I think that's supposed to be #41-42. Issue #42 is the end of Dan Abnett's run; if Aquaman Vol. 6: Kingslayer indeed collects #34-40 (overlapping Sink Atlantis) and the Annual #2, I tend to think we won't see any more Abnett-specific Aquaman trades, and rather Drowned Earth will have those final two issues and that'll be it.

The Authority Omnibus HC

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems to be the first time all 29 issues of the first Authority series have been collected together. Also Planetary/The Authority: Rule The World, Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority #1-5 (the solicitation says #1-15 but it was just a five-issue miniseries), Authority Annual 2000, stories from Wildstorm Summer Special, a story from Wildstorm: A Celebration of 25 Years and more.

Batgirl: Year One Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe of the Chuck Dixon/Scott Beatty miniseries.

Batman by Grant Morrison Omnibus Vol. 2 HC

Collects Batman #700-702, the end of Grant Morrison's run there, Batman and Robin #1-16, and Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6. Next up, Batman: The Return and a whole lot of Batman Incorporated.

Batman: Death of the Family Saga (DC Essential Edition) HC

This was previously listed as three hundred pages in paperback, and the blurb suggested this might have both the Batman issues and the tie-in issues from the other Bat-family series. The most recent solicitation has 176 pages and is down to just Batman #13-17. Possibly this represents a shrinking of expectations in terms of what these DC Essential Editions can do.

Batman: Shadow of the Bat Vol. 4 TP

Previous solicitation said #32-43, but now it's down to #32-42, which makes sense because #43 is part one of a three-part story that crosses into the Jim Balent Catwoman series in the midst of Chuck Dixon's run. (It will be interesting to see if the next Shadow of the Bat volume includes that Catwoman issue, written by Shadow's Alan Grant.) Some people won't like that this volume is parts two, six, and ten of "Prodigal" and part two of "Troika," but there's also stories with Black Canary, the Joker, Solomon Grundy, and Anarky, plus Joe Potato.

Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 2 TP

Continuing the collections of Batman's immediate post-Crisis on Infinite Earths adventures, this is Batman #433-444 and Batman Annual #13. As mentioned above, while I'm glad to see "Many Deaths of Batman" by John Byrne and Jim Aparo and "Year Three" by Marv Wolfman here, the latter collected for the very first time, it's worrisome that these solicitations still don't list New Titans #60-61 as part of the "Lonely Place of Dying" storyline.

I wasn't thrilled that the previous Caped Crusader volume skipped "Death in the Family," but at least it did skip it and the audience can go somewhere else to read it. Collecting "Lonely Place of Dying" incompletely would mean the audience has to go somewhere else to read that story in full while still paying for a couple of the issues, and that's taking advantage of the buyer. (Maybe the Titans parts will be by themselves in a New Teen Titans paperback one of these days, but it'll be a couple volumes, some years down the road, before those books catch up.)

Hopefully this book just does the simple thing and includes those two Titans issues.

Black Lightning: Brick City Blues TP

The collection of Tony Isabella's 1995 Black Lightning series (with Dave deVries) is now called Black Lightning: Brick City Blues. Both Lynn Stewart and Tobias Whale appear here, making this a CW television-friendly volume (this is before Jefferson's kids were introduced, so you could read it kind of like the unseen first run of Black Lightning from the show, before Jefferson's first retirement). Of course I'm still high on this for appearances by Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway's Gangbuster Jose Delgado.

Blackest Night Omnibus 10th Anniversary Edition HC

This is the big one, an omnibus at 1,648 pages, collecting the entire Blackest Night miniseries, almost ten issues each of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, and all the tie-in miniseries and extra issues.

The contents are said to include Blackest Night #0-8, Adventure Comics #4, 5 and 7, Blackest Night: Batman #1-3, Blackest Night: The Flash #1-3, Blackest Night: JSA #1-3, Blackest Night: Superman #1-3, Blackest Night: Titans #1-3, Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1-3, Catwoman #83, Green Arrow #40 (pretty sure this is supposed to be issue #30 of Green Arrow/Black Canary), Green Lantern #43-52, Green Lantern Corps #39-47, Phantom Stranger #42, Atom and Hawkman #46, Power of Shazam! #48, Question #37, and Weird Western Tales #71, but I think this is incomplete -- I'd venture a couple issues of Superman/Batman too, at least.

Blackest Night Saga (DC Essential Edition) TP

Formerly listed at 450 pages, this is down to 320 now, a stripped-down collection of Blackest Night at just issues #0-8 without the Green Lantern series or any of the tertiary books.

Bombshells: United Vol. 3: Taps TP

Issues #13-19.

The DC Universe by Len Wein HC

Collects a variety of material by the late Len Wein, including the DC Retroactive: Green Lantern: The '80s and also the recent Swamp Thing Winter Special.

DC Universe: The Bronze Age Omnibus by Jack Kirby HC

A bevy of Jack Kirby tales including some based on his own experiences in World War II, this is In the Days of the Mob #1, Spirit World #1, Demon #1-16, Sandman #1-6, OMAC #1-8, Our Fighting Forces #151-162, Super Powers #1-5 (1984), Super Powers #1-6 (1985), 1st Issue Special #1, 5, and 6, DC Comics Presents #84, Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #3, Weird Mystery Tales #1-3, and Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion #6.

DC: The New Frontier New Edition TP

Though this solicitation doesn't identify it as such, this is supposed to be the DC Black Label-labeled release -- unless plans have changed ...

Elseworlds: Justice League Vol. 3 TP

The next Elseworlds: Justice League collection includes Conjurors #1-3 (alt-reality team-up of DC's magic characters by Chuck Dixon and the late Eduardo Barreto, Flashpoint #1-3 (an older Flash miniseries, not the one before the New 52), Superman and Batman: World’s Funnest #1, JLA: Created Equal #1-2 and Green Lantern: 1001 Emerald Nights.

Fire New Edition TP

Reprint of the graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis, said to include a "newly revised script," so I wonder if that means actual story changes or just that script is included.

Green Lantern by Geoff Johns Book One TP

A new "recut" paperback series of collections of the Geoff Johns era. Collects Green Lantern: Rebirth #1-6, Green Lantern #1-3, Green Lantern Corps: Recharge #1-5, and Green Lantern Secret Files and Origins 2005.

Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess' Stardust New Edition TP

Paperback by Gaiman and Vess.

New Super-Man and the Justice League of China TP

Collects issues #20-24, the final issues Gene Luen Yang's newly retitled New Super-Man series.

Powers Book Three New Edition TP

Issues #25-37 and the Oni Press Color Special 2001 by Brian Michael Bendis.

The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You 30th Anniversary Edition TP

Issues #32-37 with an introduction by Paul Dini.

Shazam! New Edition TP

New edition of the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank story, ahead of the movie's release.

Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil New Edition TP

Paperback of the four-issue miniseries by Jeff Smith. Obviously this is an easier sell and more palatable in the wider market than the now-canceled reprint of the classic story by the same name.

Sleeper Book Two TP

Coup D’etat: Sleeper and Sleeper Season Two #1-12 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay TP

The 12-chapter digital series based on the recent animated film.

Superman Vol. 1: The Unity Saga HC

In hardcover, the first six issues by Brian Michael Bendis and Ivan Reis. It's a long time to wait between the release of Man of Steel and this; DC sure did spoil us with those twice-monthly comics for a while.

Superman: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 6 HC

Collects Action Comics #106-125, Superman #44-54, and World's Finest Comics #26-36, including Prankster and Mr. Mxyztplk.

Superman/Batman Vol. 7 TP

The final Superman/Batman issues, #76-87 and Annual #5, some of which that haven't been collected before. With Judd Winick, Joshua Williamson (writing Supergirl and Damian), Joe Kelly, Cullen Bunn, and Joshua Hale Falkov.

Titans Vol. 5: The Spark TP

Collects Dan Abnett's "New Justice"-era Titans stories. Contents are #23-27 and the Titans special, which is more correct than the previous listing of issues #19-22 and the Annual #2 (the contents of the fourth volume). Glad to see DC is keeping the trade numbering going.

Torso New Edition TP

Graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko. I was not aware of the writers' previous connection, but it makes it all the better that they're partnering now with Andreyko on Supergirl.

Transmetropolitan Book One TP

Issues #1-12 of Transmet in paperback.

The Unexpected: Call of the Unknown TP

Previously listed as issues #1-6, this is now issues #1-8, the entirety of the series by Steve Orlando with Ryan Sook and others. I like how Orlando was populating the ends of his Justice League of America and Supergirl with these characters and I'm interested to read this now done-in-one.

Wonder Woman: Spirit of Truth HC

A hardcover of the Paul Dini/Alex Rose illustrated prose book. Originally this series of books was released as paperbacks, and then all of the Dini/Ross collaborations have been released in hardcover and Absolute, etc.; I think this (and the Shazam one announced elsewhere) may be the first time these are individually in hardcover.

Wonder Woman: The Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book Three HC

Collects issues #26-30 by Shea Fontana, plus Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor and the Annual #1 (likely just the Fontanta stories) -- being the contents of the Wonder Woman Vol. 5: Heart of the Amazon paperback -- and the Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary comic. If DC was going to stop making these deluxe hardcover editions of one or two paperbacks of the regular series, this is the place they might stop with Wonder Woman.

What looks good to you this month?

Review: Sideways Vol. 1: Steppin' Out trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

In talking about Marvel equivalents to DC Comics's recent "New Age of Heroes" line, I mentioned Damage to Hulk and Terrifics to the Fantastic Four (and Silencer to Punisher if you squint and tilt your head a little), but I'd forgotten about DC's new pseudo-webslinger, Sideways. As with most of the "New Age" books so far, I enjoyed Sideways Vol. 1: Steppin' Out more than I expected, with the shock of the new (or the pseudo-new) carrying it over the finish line. Titles penned by DC publisher Dan DiDio have often been short-lived, but Sideways feels like it might have some staying power.

[Review contains spoilers]

If "New Age of Heroes" is meant to fill certain gaps in DC's publishing line, then Sideways is a proto-typical teen hero title, of the kind Rebirth didn't offer many of (or at least ones not anchored to the Super- or Bat-lines). Typical, I think, of other DiDio-penned titles (here with Green Lantern: New Guardians' Justin Jordan), Sideways has one foot stuck in the 1990s, with antagonists with names like Killspeed, Tempus Fuginaut, and the Showman; the main villain is ominously (and obviously) Ms. Dominus of Dark Star Sciences. At the same time, DiDio and Jordan succeed in creating a protagonist who's youthful and flip without being annoying (triumphing where New Super-Man failed) and also making his world feel real. DC's Teen Titans titles have struggled for decades now to present real teen heroes with real problems; Sideways has a Snapchat quip late in the book that lands and reads like dialogue from the 2010s and not the 1980s.

Review: Justice League: No Justice trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Big events beget big events in Scott Snyder's Justice League: No Justice, immediate sequel to his Dark Nights: Metal mega-crossover. It's odd, perhaps even a little exhausting, to be going back to the "event" well so swiftly. At the same time, whereas Metal was the larger of the two stories, its focus was smaller, mainly just on Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman; No Justice does well in letting some lesser heroes shine and representing more of the scope of the DC Universe. What is really actually different after No Justice remains to be seen, and in the wake of Metal I'm not wholly convinced this wouldn't have been better as just the first storyline of the new Justice League series, but No Justice is small, cogent fun as this new era slowly gets underway.

Review: Terrifics Vol. 1: Meet the Terrifics trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

As with Damage and Silencer, I enjoyed Terrifics Vol. 1: Meet the Terrifics more than I expected, to the point I'm wondering where "New Age of Heroes"'s first misstep will be (Curse of Brimstone is my guess, but admittedly I've only read a scant preview). Again, I think this idea of super-DCU-connected new series (so far) is really the way to go and explains why "New Age" seems to have succeeded while Young Animal did not (with Young Animal having the better claim, since objectively we need Vertigo-flavored independent-type material more than we need a glut of new superhero comics); grounding the "New Age" books in the here and now gives them the must-read immediacy that has me cracking Terrifics now while Cave Carson is still on the pile. I'd venture Brian Michael Bendis' upcoming Wonder Comics line will benefit from the same.

Review: Justice League of America Vol. 5: Deadly Fable trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Justice League of America Vol. 5: Deadly Fable is a dull book, on its own but especially in the glare of DC Comics's shiny Justice League: No Justice. Despite an auspicious array of toys to play with, Fable brings us three slowly paced stories, favoring action over plot, over-narrated and not particularly well drawn. One wants to see a concluding book go out on top, especially one whose writer I honestly believe had good intentions, but with this final volume Justice League of America seals the case for its own cancellation.

All along I've praised Steve Orlando's "for the people" approach to the Justice League even as I've noted the difficulties inherent in bringing that to a superhero comic month after month. This volume fares no better than the previous, speaking its aesthetic more than it shows it; I think Orlando arrives at something smart by the end, but then of course it's too late.

Review: Batman: White Knight trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

We used to call them Elseworlds, these "what if" stories that imagined DC Comics's familiar heroes in unfamiliar settings. But we've come a long way from Batman as medieval knight or Victorian detective, toward writer/artist Sean Murphy's Batman: White Knight, which presents a gritty, socially complex Gotham really only a hair's removed from our own.

Scott Snyder's Batman opus Dark Nights: Metal is just the most recent to address the sci-fi idea that every decision, good and bad, creates alternate realities of the road not taken; through a few acts of grace and brutality, White Knight reveals an entirely new Bat-world, so similar yet different, floating just above our own. But, though possessing lofty ideas, Murphy's White Knight is never as metaphysical as all that. Perhaps coincidentally, DC's Black Label imprint has kicked off with two starkly different interpretations of the modern Batman, Brian Azzarello's supernatural Batman: Damned and the fast cars and dirty politics of Murphy's White Knight, and it demonstrates the range Black Label can offer.

Review: Silencer Vol. 1: Code of Honor trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Silencer Vol. 1: Code of Honor is a nice surprise. I had registered John Romita Jr. as initial artist but not for some reason Dan Abnett as writer, which might've given me a sense that the book was more than the 1990s-inspired big guns and kneepads cover seemed to suggest. Instead, Silencer is good fun, outrageous and madcap in the best ways. In its violent-protagonist-as-mother, it reminds of Marc Andreyko's Manhunter, never a bad thing, though Silencer is sillier and less dark than Manhunter, like one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's comedy-action flicks. I wonder just how long Abnett can preserve the best parts of this book's premise, but I'm definitely in for a second volume.

[Review contains spoilers]

It's in short order that seemingly normal suburban mother Honor Guest reveals herself to the reader to be former Leviathan assassin the Silencer, stabbing and shooting cybernetic rival assassin Killbox and, after pasta fagioli, then taking out Breacher and Bloodvessel. Indeed, Silencer is part ode, part send-up of that comics time when "Killbox" was a viable name for a comics character; Honor left the 1990s behind her, and now it wants to pull her back in. Artists Romita and Viktor Bogdanovic are both perfect for the series; the action gets bloodier and more outrageous the longer this goes, but both artists have such an animated distance to their work that the book is never gross, just increasingly electrifying and absurd.

Review: Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette's first Wonder Woman: Earth One volume, touted as a sexual gauntlet thrown, arrived as less than that. Though Morrison's sex-positive Diana was good to see, it came after the New 52 iteration of the character finally had an adult relationship (with the Superman of the time), making Morrison's story not so much a vanguard of change as a secondary thumbs up. Morrison's Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2, emerging now post both the wildly successful first Wonder Woman movie and the start of the #MeToo era, needed to reflect these important times and does so with a villain rooted in the pickup artist and incel subcultures. But again the story feels not quite up to its potential; a couple of times it feels Morrison goes right up to the edge and then blinks. How Morrison's Wonder Woman: Earth One books will ultimately be regarded is now going to depend a lot upon how he finally concludes the series.