Review: The Sheriff of Babylon: The Deluxe Edition hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Looking back and ahead at the calendar, I'm finding myself with some weeks where I'm purchasing no new comics. Take a few weeks ago, when the trade releases were mainly books like the combination volume of Batman: City of Bane and the first DC Through the '80s — the latter I might read sometime, but no regular-series trades jumping off the shelf. Whether this is a natural occurance for this time of year or relates to some of the recent goings on at DC, I'm not sure; I'd venture the answer is a combination of both.

Many of the series I've been meaning to catch up on — Saga, Y: The Last Man, Mind MGMT — I have already. And one of these days I plan a grand post-Crisis re-read, going over those expanded Robin editions and reading Millennium and Invasion! for the first time, but not at least until the Batman: The Caped Crusader and Dark Knight Detective series finish, plus the time to read it all. So instead I'm looking down the reading pile to a couple of books I picked up lately that were of interest but not enough to be immediate reads, graphic novels like Green Lantern: Earth One Vol. 2 and some 12-issue maxiseries.

I liked Tom King's Batman run a whole lot, and his Omega Men, Heroes in Crisis, and Superman: Up in the Sky; essentially, though I know King's work hasn't been for everyone, I've really enjoyed it. His Mister Miracle is just the right kind of thing for me to read when I have "nothing" to read, so to speak, but if I'm doing that, I might as well start where it all began — that deluxe edition copy of King and Mitch Gerads' Sheriff of Babylon I picked up.

Review: Green Lantern: Earth One Vol. 2 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman’s first Green Lantern: Earth One volume was one interesting take on the Lantern mythos set against a world otherwise without superheroes, and their Green Lantern: Earth One Vol. 2 is a similar winner. Evoking the best sci-fi tropes, the first volume had as its undercurrent that Hal Jordan’s transformation to the Green Lantern was not just his own personal journey, but the entire Earth’s awakening to a larger universe. The second volume presents all those resultant consequences: a battle-hardened Earth taking the first steps toward interstellar diplomacy, toeing a fine line between peace and war.

More so, I’d venture, than most other of the Earth One books, Bechko and Hardman’s Green Lantern jettisons a lot of the built-up cruft of the characters' mythos to hone in on the sci-fi vein that’s been their specialty. Even in a book that manages to name-check as convulted a Green Lantern figure as Krona, there is nary a mention of willpower here, and the yellow rings have nothing to do with fear. What remains is nicely straightforward, though not simplistic — questions of one’s responsibility to their own planet (or nation, or family) versus their responsibility to the larger society; a debate over whether, as always, absolute power corrupts, or whether one can choose the lesser of two evils and still work for good; and surprising changes of heart from two of Green Lantern’s traditional villains. I liked this one a lot, and I do hope the authors plan to make it a trilogy.

Review: Justice League Vol. 6: Vengeance Is Thine trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

It sometimes happens in times like these, where DC’s on the cusp of a big event or a line-wide change but all the pieces haven’t quite lined up yet, that we’ll get a filler run on a book like Justice League to bide the time (the show must apparently always go on); such is the case with Robert Venditti’s Justice League Vol. 6: Vengeance Is Thine (last time Christopher Priest had the honors). Taken in the spirit of a “just because” Justice League story, knowing the writer can’t do anything with permanence, Venditti’s book is plenty entertaining.

The premise is worthy of an entire League run, with the League facing threats that are always multi-faceted — that is, the threats stem from the mythos of one of the heroes and are solved through the mythos of another. That’s a great take on the supposed interconnectedness of the League in the heroes' lives (where otherwise the League title and the characters' individual titles tend not to connect at all) and in all Venditti’s story is nicely continuity-heavy, name-dropping a number of current storylines even if he doesn’t do anything with them. These references are not always seamless, but close enough; as well, the morals of Venditti’s stories here sometimes lean toward the saccharine, but that’s not unprecedented in filler books of this type either.

DC Trade Solicitations for March 2021 – Dark Knights: Death Metal: The Darkest Knight, Orlando's Wonder Woman, Taylor's Suicide Squad and DCeased: Dead Planet, DiDio's Metal Men, New Gods: Bloodlines

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Well, that's something of a relief. Though by my count there's 20 or fewer regular series titles listed alongside the DC Comics March 2021 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations, there are at least titles listed, and all the big ones are there — Superman, Action Comics, Batman, Detective Comics, Wonder Woman, Flash, Justice League, a Teen Titans title, plus Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn, a Swamp Thing title(!), Nightwing, Batman/Superman, and so on.

I know, there's the minor outrages, Justice League Dark reduced to a backup in Justice League (but better than nothing at all). We're missing what, Red Hood? Hawkman? As I've said before, there's probably never been a time I've thought, "Gosh, DC is publishing too many comic books." A more thoughtful selection, I've got to think, leads to a better selection. The big concern was some radical dismantling of DC's publishing line, some solicits this month that were wholly unrecognizable from what came before, and that didn't arrive.

And I'm interested to see if there's more coming in the manner of Batman: Urban Legends, seemingly a true in-continuity anthology featuring the likes of Red Hood, Grifter, and the Outsiders. That's not the same, as has been discussed, as Superman: Red & Blue, more akin obviously to the out-of-continuity Batman: Black & White, but I would be happy to see a Superman-family anthology title of that sort or, y'know, like a Young Justice Quarterly or something. And a Joker title would be an easy hard pass for me (I'm skeptical whether a villain-focused series of that type can ever really last), except that James Tynion is essentially DC's headline writer right now, and a title that really seems to star a Jim Gordon on the hunt and Harper-Row-as-Bluebird is probably everything I want in a comic, so I'm eager for that one, too.

So all in all, resets happen, and having lived through a couple I can say that this one seems, story-wise, considerably less cynical than some (while not discounting all the long-time behind-the-scenes staff recently let go), and so I'm optimistic. And for what threatened to be a disastrous month, I can't quibble too much about the collections output, either — Tom Taylor's Suicide Squad: Bad Blood, Steve Orlando's Wonder Woman Vol. 4: The Four Horsewomen, Brian MIchael Bendis' Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2, Sam Humphries' final Harley Quinn, and of course Taylor's DCeased: Dead Planet.

Other highlights for me are, of course, the Dark Knights: Death Metal: The Darkest Knight collection (though how these are being solicited in drips and drabs is crazy-making) and Dan DiDio's Metal Men (which, for better or for worse, wouldn't be on my radar without everything else that happened). I'm also very hopeful for the New Gods collection by Mark Evanier and Jim Starlin to continue into a second volume, too.

Ending the year on a high note, then. Let's take a look at the full listings.

Batman Adventures: Riddle Me This! TP

Collects the animated tie-in Batman: Gotham Adventures #11, #28, #56-57, and Batman Adventures #11, featuring guess who.

Batman: Creature of the Night TP

The four-issue miniseries by Kurt Busiek and John Paul Leon, in paperback following the hardcover.

Batman: Kings of Fear TP

Paperback of the six-issue miniseries by Scott Peterson and Kelley Jones, following the hardcover.

Dark Knights: Death Metal: The Darkest Knight TP

Paperback collecting tie-ins to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s sequel event, Dark Nights: Death Metal. We know from DC’s Spring 2021 solicitations that there will be three of these total, plus the Dark Nights: Death Metal collection itself. So far both the main book and this one drop in April, though it's unusual they weren't all solicited at the same time. Collects Dark Nights: Death Metal: Legends of the Dark Knights #1, Dark Nights: Death Metal: Speed Metal #1, Dark Nights: Death Metal: Trinity Crisis #1, Dark Nights: Death Metal: Multiverse's End #1, and the Dark Nights Death Metal Guidebook #1. Hope someone gives us a good reading order for all of this.

DC Poster Portfolio: Jae Lee TP

Covers and artwork, including one would imagine from the New 52 Batman/Superman series. Solicitation mentions “from Catwoman to Ozymandias to Superman to the Dark Knight.”

DC Through the '80s: The Experiments HC

It's taken me a few to get my head around this, but I don't blame myself since DC has solicited and cancelled these similar-sounding books a couple of times. We now know that DC Through the '80s is to be a three-volume set, starting with "The End of Eras", just recently released, and continuing into "The Experiments."

Whereas the former book was largely late Bronze Age superhero stories (including "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?"), this is the edgier material we might sooner associate with where DC-in-the-1980s ended up, including Sandman, Watchmen, and Dark Knight Returns. Here's the full contents per the solicitations: Secret Origins #48, Swamp Thing #40, Sandman #8, Doom Patrol #25, Warlord #48 and #55, Legion of Super-Heroes #298, Nathaniel Dusk #1, Infinity, Inc. #14, New Teen Titans #16, Best of DC: Blue Ribbon Digest #58, Watchmen #1, Camelot 3000 #1, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2, Angel Love #1, and History of the DC Universe #1-2.

Interested to see what's in volume three.

DCeased: Dead Planet HC

Hardcover collection of the seven-issue sequel miniseries by Tom Taylor.

Event Leviathan TP

Paperback collection of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s six-issue Event Leviathan miniseries, plus parts of Superman: Leviathan Rising and the Year of the Villain Special, following the hardcover.

Harley Quinn Vol. 5: Hollywood or Die TP

Sam Humphries' final collection and the end of this run before it's relaunched after Future State (with incoming team Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo). Collects issues #70-75 and guest-stars Booster Gold, plus a "Joker War" tie-in with Punchline.

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 2: Trial of the Legion TP

Collects issues #7-12 by Brian Michael Bendis in paperback (no longer in hardcover). Includes issues #8-9 with over 40 guest artists.

Metal Men: Elements of Change TP

In paperback, all 12 issues of the (farewell) miniseries by Dan DiDio and Shane Davis with Michelle Delecki.

Aside, but I think a collection of modern Metal Men appearances would be cool — mainly I’m thinking of the never-collected Dan Jurgens series, but maybe the Len Wein or Duncan Roleau minis can get in there with it.

New Gods Book One: Bloodlines TP

Collection of the 1980s New Gods stories by Mark Evanier and Jim Starlin, following Cosmic Odyssey; collects issues #1-14. There were 28 issues of this series total, so hopefully they’ll knock this out soon in one more volume.

Suicide Squad: Bad Blood HC

Collects all 11 issues of the recent Tom Taylor series, in hardcover. Due in April (formerly October). That’s not a really angry Lagoon Boy on the cover but I wish it was.

Superman by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason Omnibus HC

The whole of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's well-received Superman run, which introduced Super Son Jon Kent. Collects Superman: Rebirth #1, Superman #1-25, #27-28, #33-39, and #42-45, Teen Titans #15, Action Comics #975-976, the Tomasi story from Action Comics #1000, Super Sons #11-12, Superman Annual #1, and the Superman Special #1. That’s all the parts of Tomasi and Gleason’s storylines, though omitting the interstitial issues (which still, to be fair, often included Jon Kent).

Superman's Greatest Team-Ups HC

Feels like we’ve seen a collection of DC Comics Presents stories come around before, but I’m sure it ever made it to print. In hardcover, this is DC Comics Presents #5, #9-12, #14, #19, #28, #30, #35, #38-39, #45, #50, #58, #63, #67, #71, and #97 by Martin Pasko, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Steve Englehart, Dan Mishkin, Steve Gerber, Gary Cohn, and more. Superman teams up with Wonder Woman, Bizarro, Aquaman, Sgt. Rock, Hawkman, Mister Miracle, Batgirl, Man-Bat, Black Canary, Plastic Man, Amethyst, Firestorm, the Flash, Elongated Man, Robin, and apparently even Santa Claus, vs. Mongul and the Atomic Skull, among others.

Superman: Up in the Sky TP

Paperback of the Walmart exclusive stories, following the hardcover, by Tom King and Andy Kubert. A real winner, in my opinion.

The Batman Who Laughs TP

Paperback, following the hardcover, collecting the six-issue miniseries by Scott Snyder and Jock, plus the Grim Knight special with Eduardo Risso.

Wonder Woman Vol. 4: The Four Horsewomen TP

Issues #82-83, #750-758, and Wonder Woman Annual #3, being the return of Steve Orlando to the title after the departure of G. Willow Wilson, coming in April. I’d have guessed the entire issue #750 wouldn’t be in here, since it’s got its own deluxe edition, and instead just Orlando’s relevant bit, but the solicitation talks about contributions from "others,” so maybe it’s got it all.

Mariko Tamaki takes over with #759 to #769, before Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, and Travis Moore after Future State. The whole of Tamaki’s run should be in Wonder Woman: Lords & Liars, due out in July.

I appreciate all of you who have visited and commented over the past year. The joy for me in continuing this site is getting to talk collected comics with such a great bunch; all best wishes and I look forward to seeing you in the new year.

Review: Shazam! and the Seven Magic Lands trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

As with too many other Geoff Johns projects lately, it feels as though the vagaries of events elsewhere torpedoed Johns' Shazam! series almost before it started. Certainly delays didn't help, nor even a fairly good movie. One gets the sense of Johns and Gary Frank's oft-reprinted Shazam! backup series from the New 52 Justice League as being something Johns gave a lot of effort, and too his Shazam! and the Seven Magic Lands is also enjoyable, if not wholly up to par with its predecessor. The two books deserve to be collected together, two epic bookend stories, in a Shazam! by Geoff Johns package; who knows what's going on with DC right now, whether books like Shazam! simply serve as fodder for the movies and then fade away, but I'd be happy to see Johns pop up now and then with more graphic novel-esque stories of this Shazam! family, 12-issue and done "seasons" without the promises unfulfilled of ongoing series.

Review: The Green Lantern Season Two Vol. 1 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 13, 2020

If you are not a fan of Grant Morrison psychedelica, fragmented narratives and deep, deep references to the most obscure stories of yore, here's where you might want to get off. Morrison and Liam Sharp's The Green Lantern Season Two Vol. 1 hurtles headfirst, gleefully, into bright green weirdness; one senses here not so much the philosophical treaties of books like Final Crisis or even Morrison's Batman run, but rather a bacchanalia of whatever the Silver and Bronze Ages ever threw at Hal Jordan. We've seen this kind of celebration of the eccentric before — in Morrison's Batman, in his All-Star Superman — but here Morrison's Hal Jordan barrels through it mostly unfazed, a dashing straight man in this weird, weird world.

One could spend hours looking up every reference Morrison makes in this book (or find a handy annotation) or one can simply resign themselves to the twisty strangeness and go along with it. But this is not a book looking to kowtow to the reader's demands, not a book looking to explain or make excuses for itself. Anyone insisting on sense within these pages (at least, sense coming easy), turn back now.

Review: Lois Lane: Enemy of the People trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Some of my favorite characters and titles over the past 10-20 years are referenced in Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins' collected Lois Lane: Enemy of the People miniseries, so it's with a great amount of affection that I note what a weird, weird flex this book is. There's little more that I want to see than Lois Lane teamed with the Question Renee Montoya, especially with Rucka writing, but the central conflict here is exceptionally meta. The fact that a whole miniseries (or even a cottage industry) can be made about the troubles with DC Comics continuity is problematic in and if itself.

Once upon a time, the impetus for Crisis on Infinite Earths was that DC's continuity was so complex and with so much built up history that it begged to be streamlined. Nowadays, we see something of the opposite problem, so little established, invented history that characters lack the strengths of their connections, and entire stories are spent simply on reestablishing what should never have been swept away in the first place. Glad to visit with old friends in Lois Lane, but all too often I'm wishing DC writers could concentrate on writing new stories and not wasting good events, miniseries, and runs rehashing and repairing broken old ones.

Review: Flash Vol. 13: Rogues Reign trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, December 06, 2020

Flash writers usually start ahead when writing Rogues stories; there have been so many good Rogues stories over the past two decades — and especially about Captain Cold — that there must be some magic in their telling. But unfortunately, to tell a Rogues story now is to try to measure up to a very high bar, and writer Joshua Williamson’s Flash Vol. 13: Rogues Reign just doesn’t get there. This is among Williamson’s better Flash books — the Flash more likable, the villains more engaging — but in the final tally it still feels very light, like a placeholder till Williamson can get on with his Flash #750 story and his finale. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Cold will play a major part in the end, but this felt like a lot of story without much meat on the bone.

[Review contains spoilers]

The premises of the Flash family trapped in a world where “King” Cold Leonard Snart is the insane ruler, and where they must team with the rest of the Rogues to free themselves, is a good one. And I appreciate that Williamson tries to find some commonality between Flash Barry Allen and Captain Cold, even if in opposition, in the book’s epilogue — that Snart was raised by present, bad parents whom he wants to escape, and Barry was raised by good but absent parents (due to his mother’s murder and his father being framed) whom he wants to emulate. I thought one of Geoff Johns' best conceits with his Flash Wally West run was to parallel Wally and Snart — both raised blue collar with similar upbringings but different paths — such that Wally and Snart could conceivably be friends or enemies; it has taken Williamson a while and he still hasn’t quite hit that same level of resonance, but this is closer. Artists Rafa Sandoval and Christian Duce comport themselves well throughout the book with bright, bold art appropriate for the story.

Review: Wonder Woman: Dead Earth hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Wonder Woman Dead Earth

Beautiful, complicated, Daniel Warren Johnson’s Wonder Woman: Dead Earth is a fine first entry for Diana into the world of DC Black Label, with just one giant-sized problem at its center. That problem — who caused this “dead Earth” and why — was probably inevitable for a story like this with this particular premise, but it’s an anomaly among other books of this genre. It speaks to the still-fraught relationship that DC and the audience have with one of their tentpole characters, Wonder Woman.

[Review contains spoilers (also for Batman: Last Knight on Earth)]

At the outset, let’s say again that Wonder Woman: Dead Earth is a gorgeous book. The Black Label moniker here isn’t language or sexual content, but rather gore — not to the level of horror, but rather the blood spatters, disembowelments, and renderings of sword fights and giant monster battles, all of which Johnson illustrates with aplomb. His scenes are drawn with gritty grace, his body-horror monsters fleshy and biological (if not also anatomically suggestive). Again, this is the kind of interesting, unusual art that I wish was the rule and not the exception among DC’s mainstream books. Johnson shares visual similarities with Riley Rossmo, who’s been ubiquitous in Rebirth, so maybe Johnson will also join the stable (I see he’s doing a Death Metal special, for one).