Review: Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen is ostensibly the culmination of James Tynion’s Justice League series-within-a-series, “Legion of Doom,” though that doesn’t really come through till the book’s halfway point. When it does, what’s here gets sharper, but overall the book struggles to overcome its biggest disadvantage — that, like the Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War that leads in to it, Hell Arisen is a book where not much of import happens and that’s basically just an advertisement for another book that follows it (which leads into something else after that).

As well, though I’ve enjoyed artists Steve Epting and Javier Fernandez on a variety of other books, all the art here is too soft, too inexact, lessening the dose of urgency and seriousness this book desperately needs. We know James Tynion, we know his books, and we know the competence of his writing (which again, I think comes out more in the book’s second half). For a book with a variety of challenges, perhaps an artist with more straightforward drama — a Detective Comics collaborator like Miguel Mendonca or Eddy Barrows — could have benefitted this overall.

Review: Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Justice League Volume 5 Justice/Doom War

Though the final issue collected in Scott Snyder’s Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War was released in at the beginning of this year (and the collection in June), it couldn’t feel more relevant than right here, right now. The war that Snyder’s League fights in these pages is ultimately one of ideologies — “… The rise of evil in this universe. The lack of connection between the good.” When the League makes their final case to the people of the world to turn away from the cosmic evil Perpetua, it comes down to a consensus choice. Then the world goes dark. “What happened?” Wonder Woman asks. Batman pauses a moment and replies, “We lost the vote.”

Whatever side of that metaphor you fall on, it is Justice/Doom War’s saving grace that it has a metaphor at all. Snyder’s last Justice League volume is big on summer blockbuster theatrics and cool moments, but small on plot, real character development, or anything to conclusively tie up this Justice League era proper. That you can find some connection to the here and now gives Justice/Doom War that little nugget of interest that it desperately needs; otherwise this volume is like so much momentary cotton candy, a letdown after a good run overall.

Review: Deathstroke: RIP trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Deathstroke RIP

With its 50th issue, Christopher Priest’s Deathstroke comes to a close, a book often the best of DC’s Rebirth line. In Deathstroke: RIP, the seventh volume of the series, Priest reiterates what he’s been saying all along: if you think Deathstroke’s a villain, you should see the other guy. There have been “other guys” throughout the series, but in this last book, Deathstroke fights himself, and he’s left to consider seeking redemption when faced with a glimpse of how bad things can get.

Priest is a writer who’d been out of the comics scene for a while, and his stellar work on Deathstroke immediately showed we’d been lesser for his absence. I don’t see Priest’s name on anything else coming up from DC with Deathstroke’s conclusion, not even a “Future State” special, which is all the more a shame. As complicated and as mature as Priest’s Deathstroke was, I can only hope for a DC Black Label reprise — surely someone should be writing a Black Label Deathstroke mini, if not Priest (it can’t all be Joker specials).

DC Trade Solicitations for January 2021 - Joker War Saga, Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey, Green Arrow: 80 Years, Batman: Gotham Knights Vol. 2, Wonder Comics Amethyst, Swamp Thing: New 52 Omnibus

Sunday, October 18, 2020

It's the DC Comics January 2021 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations, though no doubt all eyes are on the two-month "Future State" event, following the one-month "Endless Winter" event. This is a not insignificant breather DC is taking here and I'm curious what things will look like on the other side.

Much as I thought there were a lot of positives to Dan DiDio's time at DC and I regret his ouster, it's astounding to me to think that he was about to revamp DC's line. I would say "especially since DC has hardly had a cogent timeline in years," which I would have liked to have seen before they cleared the decks again, but apparently the so-called "5G" would have delivered a timeline at the same time as its revamping (equally a novel and long overdue idea). Still I don't think a new timeline is the solution to what ails DC; rather I'd prefer to see them iron out the one they have, the unwritten playbook that most everyone seems to be going off of except the readers.

Publishing what they've got as "Future State" is a good solution, better than letting it all go to waste and leaving us to wonder for years what it was all about. But it's a two-fold shame, one that Doomsday Clock had to be bent to dovetail into 5G ('cause we sure know it wasn't headed there originally) only for 5G never to happen, and two that Dark Nights: Death Metal now leads in to Future State since simultaneously we're also given to understand Future State is a temporary measure and surely that wasn't the plan for Death Metal either. So not to be cynical but it all seems like more of the same old thing — every book's an advertisement for the next one and everything's important, even the one-off, two-month filler events.

That said, we're for some thick Future State collections, and I'm looking forward to them.

This month in collections, not a blockbuster, but some stable releases. Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley is probably the one I'm most looking forward to, seeing Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti writing Harley again. I'm sorry to see Adam Glass' Teen Titans ending, but that's a book I've enjoyed and I'm sure I'll enjoy the finale; rising star Ram V arrives on Catwoman, too.

That book is a "Joker War" tie-in, and probably the biggest "news" of this solicitations release is that it looks like the two-volume Batman: Joker War Companion volumes have been cancelled, replaced with one single Joker War Saga book — which also contains all the Batman issues collected in its own title. I actually think this is shaping up to be a good thing — it looks like every related Bat-title will have their own collection, and then Joker War Saga will be the book for people who want the expanded main story — more than just the Batman issues, less than buying every other collection. I know what I'm doing, but shout out to this for others.

Also the second and final trade of Devin Grayson's Gotham Knights, helping fill in the rapidly completing collecting of everything Batman since the mid-1980s. Yay!

I've gone on enough. Let's take a look at the books.


The six-issue Wonder Comics miniseries by Amy Reeder, in trade paperback. Eager as I once was for this, now it’s mostly a reminder of Wonder Comics’ impending end. There’s no way they're going to re-relaunch Young Justice so quickly, right? Maybe Young Justice League?

Batman: Gotham Knights: Contested

The second collection of Devin Grayson's Gotham Knights, in paperback. Collects issues #14-24 and #29, which almost finishes out Grayson’s run short of some “Batman: Murderer/Fugitive” tie-in issues and includes a "Joker's Last Laugh" issue. I had previously mentioned that I thought issue #32 needed to be in there too, but I see it’s in the new Batman: Fugitive collection. Therefore, nice of DC to get all these issues collected so quickly.

Books of Magic Vol. 3: Dwelling in Possibility

This had been solicited as issues #14-18 and the Sandman Universe Presents Hellblazer special, but with the series newly cancelled, the contents are now just issues #14-23 (that Hellblazer special is in its own series' book).

Catwoman Vol. 4: Come Home, Alley Cat

Previously solicited as issues #20-24, this is now issues #14-15 and #22-28. That's the two issues by Ram V between Catwoman Vol. 2 and Catwoman Vol. 3 that weren't previously collected, and then picking up from Vol. 3, a one-off by Paula Sevenbergen (#22), two issues by Sean Murphy and Blake Northcott (#23-24), and then tie-ins to "Joker War" also by new series writer Ram V. So, as mentioned elsewhere, if you're already buying this and the other Bat-titles, no need to also get Joker War Saga.

DC Poster Portfolio: Joëlle Jones

Covers from Catwoman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl: Being Super, and more.

Ex Machina Compendium Two

Issues #26-50 and the Ex Machina Special #3-4 in paperback from Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris.

Green Arrow: 80 Years of the Emerald Archer: The Deluxe Edition

Collects More Fun Comics #73, Adventure Comics #246 and #259, Green Lantern #85 and #86, Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1, Green Arrow #100-101 (1994), JLA #8-9 (1996), Green Arrow #1, #17, and #75 (2001), Green Arrow and Black Canary #4 (2007), Secret Origins #4 (2014), Arrow: Season 2.5 #1, and Green Arrow: Rebirth #1. I think it’s a really nice thing that they got a TV Arrow tie-in story in there, as well as both Oliver Queen and Connor Hawke stories.

Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley

Collects the four-issue miniseries in hardcover. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti picking up where they left off can’t come fast enough for me.

I’m most eager to see after this who the next Harley Quinn creative team is. One wonders if the Future State: Harley Quinn's solicitation statement that "the next era of Harley Quinn begins here" suggests that Stephanie Phillips and Simone Di Meo might be the new creative team.

Hellblazer Vol. 24: Sanctioned

Hellblazer #267-275 and the five-issue City of Demons miniseries, by Peter Milligan, with guest-star Shade, the Changing Man.

Joker War Saga

This had previously been listed as Nightwing #70-73, Batgirl #47-48, and Detective Comics #1022-1024; now it's Batman #95-100, Batgirl #47 (not #48), Detective Comics #1025 (not #1022-1024), Red Hood: Outlaw #48, Nightwing #74 (not #70-73), Joker War Zone #1, and stories from Harley Quinn #75 and Catwoman #25. This comes out February 23; the Batman Vol. 2: Joker War is out earlier that month.

This seems to be a change from two Joker War Companion volumes to one, collecting fewer ancillary issues overall but adding in all the Batman issues also collected elsewhere. The Detective Comics Vol. 5: Joker War hardcover itself has all the Detective Comics issues listed above, so my guess is this volume isn't meant to replace or overlap the individual volumes, but for those who don't intend to buy the individual volumes.

Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 3

Ahead of Alan Moore's run, this is The Saga of the Swamp Thing #1-19 and Saga of the Swamp Thing Annual #1, which was the adaptation of the 1980s movie.

Swamp Thing: The New 52 Omnibus

An omnibus collecting both Scott Snyder's and Charles Soule's New 52 runs on Swamp Thing, both of which were quite good (I think it’s super-cool that DC didn’t just collect Snyder’s run, but also Soule here). Collects Swamp Thing #0-40, the Swamp Thing Annual #1-3, Swamp Thing: Futures End #1, Swamp Thing Featuring Arcane #23.1, Animal Man #12 and #17, and Aquaman #31.

Tales From the DC Dark Multiverse

Paperback, following the hardcover, and collecting Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall , Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Death of Superman, Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Blackest Night, Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Infinite Crisis , Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Teen Titans The Judas Contract, Superman #75, Batman #497, Infinite Crisis #1, Blackest Night #1, and Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3. I’m eager to see the collection of the new round of specials sooner than later.

Teen Titans Vol. 4: Robin No More

What was previously Teen Titans Vol. 4: Djinn Wars, collecting issues #39-44 and the Annual #2 by Adam Glass, Robbie Thompson, and Eduardo Pansica, is now #39-47 and Annual #2, finishing out the series. More's the pity; quite unexpectedly, this series was the best Teen Titans has been in a long while.

Review: Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1: Millennium trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 Millennium

I like Brian Michael Bendis' writing, and I like the Legion of Super-Heroes, and having such a high-profile writer on an oft-ignored DC property seems to me a very good thing. But the first two-thirds of Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1: Millennium is a lot, a real sugar-rush of a start to this book that feels like it gets away from Bendis a little. It evens out eventually — aligned to when perspective character Superboy Jon Kent also stops to take a breath, so maybe some of this freneticism is intentional. To be sure, however, one is very ready for the 30-plus Legionnares to just stop talking for a second about the time that they do.

For all of that, there is not much happening in this first volume — there’s a villain, whom the Legion fights, and what would seem to be a major development regarding the planet Earth, though we’re not told much about what it all really means in specific (or emotional) terms. There’s some fine political wheeling and dealing as well, and the implication of trouble on the rise, but nothing in the way of a real cliffhanger, nothing to make you wonder on the edge of your seat what will happen next.

Review: DCeased: Unkillables hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Tom Taylor’s DCeased was enjoyable, but his DCeased: Unkillables is freakin' incredible.

With a notably smaller canvas (three issues, remarkably conservative for mainstream comics), Unkillables offers a focused, ground-view DCeased tale that is all the more frightening for its emphasis on the (mostly) non-powered set. Its billing as “what the villains were doing during DCeased” doesn’t really do it justice, however; rather, what one should know is that this presents a team of Red Hood Jason Todd, alt-continuity Batgirl Cassandra Cain, Jim Gordon, Deathstroke, and Ravager Rose Wilson fighting zombies — if that doesn’t get your blood pumping, I don’t know what will. Taylor is on fire here, up to and including his careful architecture of the book’s twist ending.

Review: Justice League Odyssey Vol. 3: Final Frontier trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Justice League Odyssey Volume 3 Final Frontier

Surprisingly, for what has long been the third wheel of the “New Justice” Justice League set, Dan Abnett’s Justice League Odyssey Vol. 3: Final Frontier is a fast-paced, frenetic space opera. Abnett accomplishes this by essentially jettisoning almost everything that came before, but he makes something particularly strong out of what remains. Though Abnett’s recent work has been the more terrestrial Aquaman, Odyssey hearkens back to his Legion of Super-Heroes days; moreover, artist Will Conrad’s presence evokes his work on the New 52 Stormwatch, which — despite its rough conclusion — itself started out as a cogent tale of aliens and spacecraft.

Like so many other DC titles, Odyssey is due to be cancelled after the next volume. More’s the pity (but isn’t it always the way) that this title finally found a voice for itself just before the end.

Review: Terrifics Vol. 3: The God Game trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Terrifics Vol. 3: The God Game is Gene Luen Yang's first outing on the title, and unfortunately it reads just like a writer's first volume on a new book. It's not as though Yang struggles at all finding the voices of these characters — in that, transitioning from Jeff Lemire, it's pretty seamless — but in perhaps getting used to them, the story is very plain, very straightforward. We seem to have lost all sense of the Terrifics as explorers of the Dark Multiverse; sure, we've got an adequate sci-fi plot here, but nothing that necessarily defines the purpose of the Terrifics title nor offers more than a typical adventure of their fantastic Marvel counterparts. Nor is there much in the way of intrigue or character development besides for Mr. Terrific himself, to the exclusion of the other core members of the team.