Review: Rorschach hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Chances are you arrived to Tom King through Heroes in Crisis or his 81-issue (nee 100) Batman run. And chances are between one or both of those, you have strong opinions about King’s work, for or against. But each of these are exceptions — Heroes with its clear editorial troubles, and Batman by the fact that it’s longer than 12 issues. Because 12 issues seems to be the sweet spot — Sheriff of Babylon, Omega Men, Mister Miracle, and so on (with no shade thrown on Superman: Up in the Sky, either). As I set aside what doesn’t fit the pattern and focus on what does, no question why the prospect of limited series endeavors from Tom King — Strange Adventures, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, Human Target — get my heart racing.

If you were sad that Damon Lindelof didn’t make a second season of TV’s Watchmen but couldn’t imagine what it might’ve been about, Tom King’s Rorschach is your answer. Wholly unrelated to Lindelof’s story, but clearly (and courteously) of the same universe and cut from the same cloth — nuanced, political, another story about how the trauma of the past visits itself on the present. It’s been a long road to sequels to Alan Moore’s Watchmen that are additive rather than sensationalizing of the original (unauthorized or not); that we have two finally (across different mediums) is a miracle. There’s a clear path to a third, though I don’t dare to think we’ll ever see it.

Review: Metal Men (2008) hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 26, 2021

In terms of three Metal Men series I’ve read recently — by Dan DiDio, by Len Wein, and now by Duncan Rouleau — Metal Men by Rouleau is unquestionably the best. I’d still like to read a Metal Men story that preserves the inherent zaniness of the characters while not seeming so cartoony (the titular heroes are still mostly personality-less comic relief), but Rouleau’s is at least the most complex if not necessarily mature. Unquestionably Rouleau’s art in his book is the best of the bunch.

I only knew of Rouleau as an artist before (mostly on Joe Kelly’s Action Comics), so this out-there, time-hopping, multi-threaded eight-issue story comes as a surprise. Readers should particularly heed the statement “Story based on ideas by Grant Morrison” at the front, because whether that thrills or chills you will factor greatly into your enjoyment of this book. Rouleau has a particular art style, and now apparently we learn a particular writing style. Metal Men is confusing at times, of that there’s no doubt, but each reader will have to decide whether that’s a feature or a bug.

Review: Man-Bat trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Dave Wielgosz and Sumit Kumar’s Man-Bat series collection arrives out of time through no fault of its own. Meant to be published in 2019, it was instead shunted to 2021 due to pandemic-related issues. As such, a book that would have originally coincided with the start of Man-Bat Kirk Langstrom appearing in the new Justice League Dark series instead comes just as that book is winding down.

I hadn’t paid much mind to this title originally, given creators I wasn’t familiar with, the long delay, and a mistaken sense that this wasn’t in continuity (perhaps confused with various Elseworlds and other non-continuity Man-Bat books previously). You dear readers set me straight that the Man-Bat here was the same as the one found in James Tynion and Ram V’s Justice League Dark, which is about all the selling point I needed — the monstrous lab-coated and be-spectacled Man-Bat of Dark was among its best parts, their weird science guru not unlike another hulking fellow. I’m happy to support that character within his own book.

DC Trade Solicitations for March 2022 — Batman: Fear State Saga, DC Pride 2021, Future State: Gotham V1, Talon and Nice House on the Lake by Tynion, Black Label Suicide Squad: Get Joker, Mister Miracle: Source of Freedom, Who's Who Omnibus Vol. 2

Sunday, December 19, 2021

After what’s seemed to be a couple light months, it feels like there’s more to enjoy in the DC Comics March 2022 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations (though the Summer 2022 catalog is very much missing right now). Among regular series titles we have an embarrassment of riches with three (three? three.) collections, Future State: Gotham Vol. 1, Shazam: To Hell and Back, and Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom. Also, not new-new but significant, is the Batman: Fear State Saga, which collects Fear State: Alpha and Omega that were strangely omitted from the Batman Vol. 5: Fear State collection proper.

Other promising ones include a DC Black Label Suicide Squad collection, Suicide Squad: Get Joker!, the big Talon by James Tynion collection, Tynion’s Nice House on the Lake Vol. 1, and the classic Who’s Who Omnibus Vol. 2. Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Vol. 6 had been cancelled (supposed to be released last month), but is back on the schedule now, thankfully. The DC Pride collection contents have been cleared up satisfactorily; also in a wonderfully insane endeavor, DC will be reprinting the entirety of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in four volumes over eight weeks — trying to decide if I’m going to do something special for that.

So that’s your quick rundown — let’s take a look at the details.

Batman Black and White Box Set

Includes five Batman: Black and White trades.

Batman vs. Bigby! A Wolf in Gotham

The new six-issue miniseries by Bill Willingham, in paperback in April. Still not sure what to make of this. Is Fables back? Is it part of the DCU now?

Batman: Fear State Saga

The Batman Vol. 5: Fear State collection seems to collect just Batman #112-117, so this seems like a demonstrably better purchase given that this includes those issues plus Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1, Batman Secret Files: Peacekeeper #1, Batman Secret Files: Miracle Molly #1, Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1, and Batman: Fear State: Omega #1. Those latter two, especially, one would think would be pretty important, making this the big seller. So far this volume does not include the I Am Batman, Harley Quinn, or Catwoman issues of "Fear State," which one assumes will appear in their own collections.

Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Vol. 6

This was supposed to be out in November but was cancelled, but thankfully now it's back on the schedule. Collects Detective Comics #622-633 from 1990-1991. Nothing particularly noteworthy I could discern about these issues (but that doesn't mean I wanted it cancelled!), though they include stories by John Ostrander and by Marv Wolfman and Peter Milligan with art by Jim Aparo. Issue #627 is a multi-story "anniversary" issue of Batman's 600th appearance in Detective.

In comparison, this volume lines up with about Batman #455-466, or the contents of Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 4; this past January's Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 5 collected Batman #466-473 and Detective #639-640, to give you a sense of where the two books are in relation to one another.

What's collected as "Prelude to Knightfall" beings with Batman #484 and Detective #654, so given about 10 issues a book, Caped Crusader probably has about one more volume to go (if indeed these volumes stop at Knightfall) and Dark Knight Detective has about two.

Dark Nights: Death Metal

Paperback collection of Dark Knights: Death Metal #1-7, in April.

DC League of Super-Pets: The Great Mxy-Up

Movie tie-in paperback graphic novel by Heath Corson (Bizarro).

DC One Million Omnibus (2022 Edition)

A new release of the DC One Million Omnibus. No new contents listed; by now we know it collects all the DC One Million things.

DC Pride 2021 Hardcover

I wondered if DC Pride would receive a collection and I'm glad that it is. This current solicitation mentions "six additional short stories," which differs from an earlier collection that mentioned it would include Mysteries of Love in Space, New Year's Evil, and Young Monsters in Love. My guess then is that these will be only the relevant stories from those books (Crush, Harley, etc.), with maybe some continuity of creator as well. Works for me; that seems more appropriate than, for instance, a whole issue of Halloween stories alongside DC Pride, though I do wish DC would collect the entirety of those other holiday specials together sometime elsewhere.

DCeased: Dead Planet

Paperback of issues #1-7 by new DC exclusive Tom Taylor, following the hardcover..

Death and Return of Superman Omnibus (2022 Edition)

Marks the 30th anniversary of Death of Superman. Near as I can tell, nothing different here than in the previous edition.

Future State: Gotham Vol. 1

The Future State anthology series launches with a Red Hood story by Joshua Williamson; said to collect Future State: Gotham #1–7 and Future State: Dark Detective #2–4 (presumably the Red Hood stories).

Galaxy: The Prettiest Star

YA graphic novel by Jadzia Axelrod and Jess Taylor, about an alien princess living in hiding as a boy on Earth and the girl from Metropolis who changes everything. Really, really interested in these YA books that set themselves against the backdrop of the DCU but introduce new characters.

Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom

The six-issue miniseries by Brandon Easton and Fico Ossio, spinning out of Future State. In hardcover in April.

The Nice House on the Lake Vol. 1

Collects issues #1-6 by James Tynion and his Detective Comics artist Alvaro Martinez, ahead of the series return in March. Surprised this isn't in hardcover, but maybe that's for the combo edition.

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 May 2022. No contents listed, but previously this was said to have 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, and DC Comics Presents #25 and #72.

The Sandman Book One

What seems particularly notable about these is that, at least in terms of Sandman issues proper, these collect more than the usual number of issues, even more than the deluxe. That is, this is issues #1-20, more than the regular Preludes and Nocturnes (issues #1-8) and more than the first deluxe edition (being Preludes and The Doll's House, issues #9-16). This book has both of those plus Dream Country, issues #17-20.

The Sandman Book Two

Issues #21-37, Sandman Special, and stories from Vertigo: Winter's Edge.

The Sandman Book Three

Issues #38-56 and a story from Vertigo Preview #1.

The Sandman Book Four

Issues #57-75 and stories from Vertigo Jam and Dust Covers.

Shazam!: To Hell and Back

In paperback in April, collecting the four-issue miniseries by Tim Sheridan, tying in to Teen Titans Academy.

Suicide Squad: Bad Blood

Paperback by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo, following the hardcover. I enjoyed Suicide Squad: Bad Blood quite a bit.

Suicide Squad: Get Joker!

In hardcover in April, collecting the three-issue miniseries by Brian Azzarello and Alex Maleev.

Tails of the Super Pets

You'd think we would have seen this before — a collection of Silver Age super-pets stories. Includes Action Comics #261, #266, #277, #292, and #293; Batman #125; Adventure Comics #210, #256, #293, #322, and #364; Superman #176; Wonder Woman #23; and Superboy #76.

Talon by James Tynion

In paperback, coming in April, this is issues #1-17 of James Tynion’s first DC series, plus Birds of Prey #21 (crossover with Talon #8-9). Though not a seminal work, it had a lot of ties to the DCU at the time, and I’m pleased for a chance to read the whole thing all together.

Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Omnibus (2022 Edition)

New printing of the Geoff Johns run. Previously this was Teen Titans #1/2-26, 29-46 and 50, Legends of the DC Universe #2, Titans Secret Files #2, Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files 2003, Beast Boy #1-4, Teen Titans/Legion Of Super Heroes Special #1, Outsiders #24-25, Robin #147 (maybe also #146?), Infinite Crisis #5-6, and Teen Titans Annual #1.

Who's Who Omnibus Vol. 2

Continuing the long-awaited collection series, this is Who’s Who in the DC Universe #1-16 (what I believe is the 1990s "loose-leaf" version), Who’s Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #1-7, and Who’s Who Update 1993 #1-2.

Review: Metal Men: Full Metal Jacket trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

I hadn’t paid much mind to Len Wein and Yildiray Cinar’s Metal Men feature in the Legends of Tomorrow anthology circa the end of the New 52 and the beginning of Rebirth. I’m circling back to Metal Men: Full Metal Jacket now only because it was specifically referenced in Dan DiDio’s Metal Men: Elements of Change, among few series to get such an overt mention. That in and of itself is interesting, because Jacket does find itself specifically at the end of the New 52 — featuring a young Will Magnus in googles a la his Forever Evil-era Justice League Vol. 5: Forever Heroes appearance — even as the Rebirth-era Elements returns the classic pipe-smoking Magnus. So even before it was a thing, you could say DiDio’s Elements miniseries embraces DC’s new “everything happened in every era” aesthetic.

All apologies if either Jacket or Elements is your favorite Metal Men work, but personally I’m still struggling to find a good, definitive, moving Metal Men story (maybe in Wednesday Comics? Sorry to say I never read it). DiDio’s Elements was fine but not groundbreaking, a mild tour through the Metal Men-verse that shied away from any of its most controversial potential conclusions. Late comics great Wein’s Full Metal Jacket is even lighter, following a standard comics structure of the characters moving to a location, fighting a foe, moving to another location, fighting another foe, and repeat. There’s much to love in the conception of the Metal Men, but hardly anything for the reader to be invested in page by page here.

Review: Metal Men: Elements of Change trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Metal Men Elements of Change

Easy as it would be to see Dan DiDio’s final work for DC Comics — the story of a man outgrown and left behind by his own creations — as a metaphor for his sudden ousting from the company, the similarities are surely coincidental. That said, Metal Men: Elements of Change is a long last look at DiDio’s recent creative work at DC, cameoing a handful of his creations alongside the titular metal heroes. And Metal Men is not unlike DiDio’s other writing work — interesting, neither markedly poor nor markedly exceptional. I didn’t think the book particularly dragged over 12 issues, which might be as much a sign of success as anything, but then neither was I particularly compelled to read more than an issue at a time.

The background politics aside, DiDio recreates and re-origins the Metal Men here. Though DiDio and artist Shane Davis take great pains to acknowledge a variety of Metal Men eras, the takeaway message is that everything you knew before was wrong and everything old is new again. I will admit to not being the most faithful Metal Men fan, as my last big exposure to the group was Dan Jurgens' 1993 Metal Men series (which, hey, there’s a mini that deserves collection), but problematically that story almost 30 years ago was also a “secret origin/everything you knew was wrong” kind of story.

Review: Other History of the DC Universe hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

It is for once not hyperbole when a back cover blurb mentions that John Ridley’s The Other History of the DC Universe might be mentioned in the same breath as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. I wonder, though, if the bar for recognizing greatness in this day and age is too high. Or maybe we’ve lived in an era of greatness for so long that an insightful prose comic like Other History — surely a labor of love in its sheer amount of prose, if nothing else — doesn’t get its due because at the basest level we’ve seen prose comics before and this one doesn’t, say, come with its own virtual reality mechanism any more than the original History of the DC Universe did. 

Other History does not redefine the genre in use of the medium, but the content surely stands toe-to-toe with the most thoughtful comics of the modern era, and certainly those that used comics to examine the social and political fabrics of their times.

Review: Justice League: Endless Winter hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 05, 2021

I was prepared for Justice League: Endless Winter to be lackluster, given a disconnect from the other events of the DC Universe and by two writers who haven’t been involved with the DCU for a while — not to mention that the book, obviously filler, comes at the end of one big DC event before the start of another.

But after so many years of multiversal hand-wringing — especially with fits and starts, low points and tenuous tie-ins — Andy Lanning and Ron Marz' Endless Winter is great, certainly well better than it has any right to be, and it whets my appetite for what DC could do if they’d give up some of this meta-interpretive navel-gazing and just focused on telling good stories instead. There’s also a host of good artists here, anchored by Howard Porter, which imbues the climactic moments of the story with an air of Grant Morrison’s JLA. Lanning and Marz pinch-hitting on the main Justice League title? I’d be OK with it.

Review: DC Comics: Generations hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

There’s a long tradition of collected comics papering over the sins of the past, fixing an errant word balloon or continuity-defying piece of dialogue for perpetuity. Such is the case with the collection of DC Comics: Generations. Even before the original issues were published, Generations was in flux, the original plans scrapped with editorial turnover at DC. But the collection marks another change from the published issues — the scrubbing away of any marketing message connecting this book to Dark Nights: Death Metal.

Because indeed if you came to this book “from the pages of Dark Nights: Death Metal” (as the original issues touted) expecting some greater detail on what the developments in Death Metal actually meant, you’d be sorely disappointed. There’s a particularly vague reference to Future State, yes. Death Metal, no, and I’d venture Generations even goes so far as to (already!) muddy the waters as to DC’s latest continuity paradigm, unless Joshua Williamson’s Infinite Frontier can make it all align.

DC Trade Solicitations for February 2022 — Batman Vol. 5: Fear State, Robin Vol. 1: Lazarus Tournament, Milestones in History, Question by O'Neil and Cowan, Legion: 5YL Omnibus Vol. 2, Static: Season 1, 1990s New Gods Book Two, New Teen Titans Vol. 13

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Slowly, slowly, DC’s Infinite Frontier train rolls along. Last month saw the solicitation of the Infinite Frontier collection itself; the DC Comics February 2022 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations have Robin Vol. 1: The Lazarus Tournament by Infinite Frontier’s Joshua Williamson, said to connect back to the main story at some point, plus the much-hyped Batman Vol. 5: Fear State, which sounds a lot like “Future State” even if it’s not entirely clear if they’re actually connected or not.

And that is … it for main continuity material for this month. I’m plenty excited for both of those books, but again, the Infinite Frontier saga is rolling out at a snail’s pace.

Four good reprints on the list in other news for this month — the second Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Omnibus, the first Question by Dennis O’Neil and Denys Cowan omnibus-type volume, New Teen Titans Vol. 13 (with some contents that make sense, finally!), and the second collection of the 1990s New Gods series. I’d like easier to digest formats on the first two, and none of it makes up for how soon the first collection of Superman: Son of Kal-El or Deathstroke, Inc. won’t be getting here, but they’ll look good on my shelf nonetheless.

Finally, we see the Static: Season One collection and also Milestones in History. It’s good to have any Milestone releases at all, but I have complicated feelings about these — not including the books in the main DCU (or even a specific alternate Earth) feels like doing the same thing over again, not to mention how temporary the “season” qualifier sounds … I’m going to need some convincing on these that DC’s heart is in the right place.

Well, let’s take a look at the full list.

Absolute Multiversity

Collects all the issues from the Multiversity series (Multiversity #1, The Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes, The Multiversity: The Just, The Multiversity: Pax Americana, The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures, The Multiversity Guidebook, The Multiversity: Mastermen, The Multiversity: Ultra Comics, and The Multiversity #2), plus “director’s cut editions” and various extras.

Batman Vol. 5: Fear State

In hardcover in March 2022. No issues listed now, as opposed to earlier solicitations of this book. If the earlier solicitations stand, then it'll be Batman #112–117, the “Fear State” event and also the end of James Tynion's run.

The Batman's Grave Complete Collection

Paperback collection of the 12-issue miniseries, following the hardcover.

Batwing: Luke Fox

The oft-solicited (and cancelled) Batwing Omnibus finds new life as a Batwing: Luke Fox collection. Don’t get me wrong, I love Camrus Johnson on Batwoman and especially his turn in the season finale, but these stories by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (Batwing #19–34 and the Futures End issue) were not the best of the series. That distinction goes to the first dozen or so issues by Judd Winick, starring Congolese police office David Zavimbe as Batwing; I rather wish those were sharing in the spotlight, a hardcover omnibus instead of a one-off paperback.

Challenge of the Super Sons

In paperback in March, collecting Challenge of the Super Sons #1-7 by Peter Tomasi. Given that Jon Kent is in the news, and that he's the new Superman, I'd be interested to see DC let Peter Tomasi keep doing these as long as possible (even as Tomasi's about to write a tale of the grown-up Jon Kent and Damian. These are now, more so than ever, the adventures of Superman when he was a boy.

DC Horror Presents The Conjuring: The Lover

In hardcover in March, collecting the five-issue series and tying in to the Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It movie, written by Conjuring screenwriter David L. Johnson-McGoldrick and Rex Ogle with art by Garry Brown and covers from Bill Sienkiewicz. Having just read through all of DC's Hill House Comics horror titles, I rather wish this was not tied to The Conjuring, as it makes me much less likely to also pick it up, though it does sound interesting if someone were to tell me I could read it without needing any Conjuring knowledge.

Death: The Deluxe Edition

Latest solicitation mentions Death: The High Cost of Living #1-3 and Death: The Time of Your Life #1-3, as well as “all of her other key appearances throughout the Sandman Universe.” Ordinarily that's the “Death Talks about Life” AIDS pamphlet, stories from Vertigo: Winter’s Edge #2 and Sandman: Endless Nights, the short story “The Wheel” from the 9-11 tribute book, and Sandman #8 and #20; remains to be seen if anything else will be added.

Gotham Central Omnibus

A new Gotham Central omnibus, happy to see it remain in print, though the contents don't seem to be more than the original issues #1-40 ("Officer Down," anyone?)

Green Lantern: Alliance

New YA volume by Minh Le and Andie Tong with Green Lantern Tai Pham, teamed up with a new Kid Flash.

Hellblazer: Rise and Fall

Paperback collection of the three-issue miniseries by Tom Taylor, following the hardcover.

John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 26: The Curse of the Constantines

A new edition of what was largely the Death and Cigarettes collection, this is Hellblazer #292-300, Hellblazer Special: Bad Blood #1-4, and Hellblazer Annual #1 by Peter Milligan and company, the conclusion of the original Vertigo series.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later Omnibus Vol. 2

Continuing this collections series, including L.E.G.I.O.N. #69-70, Legion of Super-Heroes #40-61, Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #4-5 ("Bloodlines" and Elseworlds), Legionnaires #1-18, Legionnaires Annual #1 (Elseworlds), Valor #20-23, and Who's Who Update 1993 #1. For those playing along at home, this is the end of the series, including the Zero Hour tie-ins ahead of the full reboot for Zero Month. I'm reminded that this is still the “Five Years Later” era, though I don’t tend to associate it with that since the bubblegum Chris Sprouse and company art is less “five years later-y” than the early gritty Keith Giffen material.

• Milestones in History

I have some mild trepidation here only because this wasn't really something I'd heard was in the planning (maybe you did) and because it doesn't feel like so DC's given its second shot at Milestone the push it's deserved — a total reboot, no crossovers, no interaction with the larger DC Universe, none of the things that DC usually does to sell a book it's getting behind. And now a Black History Month special — I'll read it, definitely, and it's better than nothing, but one wants to see DC standing behind Milestone every other month, too, not just when Milestone can give DC a boost.

Mister Miracle: The Great Escape

A YA take on Mister Miracle by Varian Johnson and Daniel Isles. This looks promising and I’d be eager to see it have future volumes, especially if the author intends to trace some of the twists and turns of Scott Free’s New Genesis origins.

New Gods Book Two: Advent of Darkness

Finishing out the 1990s New Gods series with issues #15-28. Look for Lar Gand of L.E.G.I.O.N. and the Forever People to appear.

New Teen Titans Vol. 13

After quite a while of the contents of this not being listed correctly (the contents listed were the same as New Teen Titans Vol. 12), this is now said to be issues #32-40 (second series), the Annual #3, and Infinity, Inc. #45. In addition to that crossover, this collection includes the first appearances of Danny Chase. This is essentially the first half of January 2021's New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 5, which collects up to issue #49.

The Question by Dennis O'Neil and Denys Cowan Vol. 1

I'd as soon the paperbacks come around again, but this is better than nothing (and might signify new smaller collections to follow). Collects The Question #1-27, The Question Annual #1, Green Arrow Annual #1, and Detective Comics Annual #1. The series would go to issue #36 plus five "Quarterly" issues.


In hardcover, collecting DC’s digital-first anthology series, with stories by Chris Cooper, Regine Sawyer, Camrus Johnson, and more.

Robin Vol. 1: The Lazarus Tournament

In paperback, collecting issues #1-6 by Joshua Williamson and Gleb Melnikov. Previously omitted from the solicitations, I'm glad to see this now includes the prelude story from Batman #106 and Detective Comics #1034.

Static: Season One

Meanwhile, in hardcover, here's issues #1-6 of the new Static series by Vita Ayala, including the Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0 comic.

Wonder Woman: Agent of Peace Vol. 2

Second collection of the digital-first series, collecting issues #12-23.

Uncollected Editions: Justice League United Vol. 3: Reunited (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

A new entry in our “Uncollected Editions” series, where we look at single issues that might’ve made a collection, but never came to be.

In 2016, on the eve of DC Universe: Rebirth and DC’s jump to the Rebirth continuity, Justice League United Vol. 3: Reunited was one of those DC You-era collections solicited, cancelled, resolicited, and cancelled again, never to appear. This was not surprising — a series already cancelled, with the final issues written by a different creative team than the previous dozen; these things happen, and we saw the same at the advent of the New 52.

For its first 10 issues under writer Jeff Lemire, Justice League United was the character-driven answer to its widescreen Justice League-proper counterpart. Taking characters including Martian Manhunter and Stargirl from the militaristic, ARGUS-lead Justice League of America, Lemire’s United shaped up to be purposefully softer, a League whose express purpose was to demonstrate “heroism [and] selflessness” (and also for Lemire to continue to write characters Animal Man and Green Arrow, with whom he’d had success). Over two collections, United never quite achieved that lofty goal, waylaid by setup and a too-long team-up with the Legion of Super-Heroes, but the book was enjoyable nonetheless.

Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Deluxe Edition hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, November 21, 2021

Though arguably the DC Comics heroes have committed greater sins previously, there’s an undercurrent in Dark Nights: Death Metal that it’s predicated on a series of errors. That in a pitched battle with the god Perpetua, Wonder Woman hesitated, cowed by the implications of what victory might unleash. That despite numerous in-story multiversal reboots, villains still battle against heroes (even if such conflict is inherent in the storytelling itself). That given the choice, over a tumultuous “Year of the Villain,” humanity sided with Lex Luthor’s “Doom” over the heroes. That, with obvious meta implications, the DC Universe has even gone so far at times as to fight against its own growth and development.

Such are the charges leveled by the “Hands,” Death Metal’s uber-creators of the DC Universe (greater than both the Monitors and the Monitors' own progenitors). And though anhiliation is avoided due to Wonder Woman taking the high road and heroes, villains, and everyday people working together, Superman later notes that all they’ve earned is “a fragile chance … to show we can do better.” In that way, Death Metal feels timely, and prescient — that a “crisis” occurred (a word in which Death Metal puts a lot of stock), that humanity came together to defeat it (I know — more or less), and that we’ve earned a chance, maybe a last chance, to do better next time.

Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal: War of the Multiverses trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

With Dark Nights: Death Metal: War of the Multiverses, we’re coming down now to the end of the Death Metal saga, and as I’ve suggested in previous reviews, things seem to be coming apart a bit. There’s some lofty goals here — short stories about your favorite DC superheroes on the eve of war (and, perhaps, certain death) and then in the thick of the fight, and then also a spotlight on newer (or newer to DC) creators and/or creators from diverse backgrounds. In this, both the “War of the Multiverses” and “Last Stories of the DC Universe” books read a bit like the New Talent Showcase books from a couple years back.

But at the same time, New Talent Showcase was devoutly out of continuity, and this book is devoutly in, and at a pretty high stakes moment, too. There’s no wind in the sails of these being the “last stories” of the DCU given that the DCU comes roaring back right after, and if anything with more character relationships restored, not forgotten (this is hardly the kind of “eve of the New 52” moment that the book tries to pretend it is). To come close to selling that kind of thing, the writers must be pretty on point, and due to inexperience or unfamiliarity, they’re not. This is not to say there aren’t some winners, but a lot of these stories distract from the moment rather than adding to it.

Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Multiverse Who Laughs trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, November 14, 2021

As was perhaps inevitable, given the gigantic number of tie-in specials offered alongside Dark Nights: Death Metal, at some point something had to start to feel superfluous, and that time is Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Multiverse Who Laughs.

Granted, I'm not reading all of these separated by months in the way they were published, and in all — especially having gone from Death Metal #4 to three of the Multiverse Who Laughs specials, then to Justice League: Death Metal, then to Death Metal #5, and then back to Multiverse Who Laughs — I'm feeling a whole lot of whiplash. Also that Death Metal itself seems to be moving at a snail's pace given 10 specials and a five-part story and Death Metal is only just reaching its halfway point.

So part of the fault is mine, because I'm bingeing a story that was perhaps not meant to be binged, and part of the fault is also mine because it's all starting to feel like a lot and perhaps that frustration is coming out at Multiverse Who Laughs (whereas, back at the beginning, I liked the Darkest Knight series of tie-ins a whole lot more). But part of the fault is assuredly also that this event has over a dozen tie-ins that break up the story, and also that some of these miss their mark.

Review: Justice League: Death Metal trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

In comparison to the last time Justice League tied in to a Dark Nights series, Justice League: Death Metal is an improvement, benefitting among other things from a single writer and mostly stable art team, giving the story more coherence of plot. This volume does seem less essential, more skippable among the grand scheme of the Death Metal saga than the first ancillary Death Metal volume I reviewed, Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Darkest Knight. But, though writer Joshua Williamson’s work could still be tightened, this is a good read overall, especially in the ways it circles back to the Scott Snyder Justice League run that started all of this and other related series.

[Review contains spoilers]

Williamson’s five-part “Doom Metal” stars Nightwing, Starfire, Cyborg, Hawkgirl, Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz, and Lex Luthor, and all of them Williamson does well in placing within the context of their own current events. A lot of Nightwing’s action here stems from his recent recovery from his “Ric Grayson” amnesia, a controversial story that Williamson didn’t have to reference but does, and gracefully. Starfire and Cyborg come straight from the end of Justice League Odyssey and Williamson reflects well that they’ve been away a while. I do wish there’d been more of a suggestion of a lead-in to the three New Titans next appearing in Teen Titans Academy together, but I think there’s still more Titans-focused Death Metal tie-ins still to come.

Review: Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Darkest Knight trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, November 07, 2021

Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Darkest Knight is the first collection of Death Metal tie-in specials. I’ll be curious to see as this goes on just what Death Metal itself is about, when so much is packed into these tie-ins — is there really enough story for all? And how will Death Metal read on its own, when seemingly really important events are taking place in the specials?

But those questions aside, Darkest Knight is an auspicious start. It is often an entertaining anthology, and when it’s not that then it’s a fun spotlight on some of Death Metal’s secondary characters, and when it’s not that it’s a Justice League-character spotlight book, and when it’s not that it’s a beautiful who’s who of artist interpretations of the Metal-verse beyond Greg Capullo’s original, including Francis Manapul, Eduardo Risso, and Francesco Francavilla. Basically a lot to like, and it’d be great if it kept up like this throughout.

Review: Far Sector trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Of late I begin to wonder if the best Green Lantern stories aren’t Green Lantern stories — Tom King’s Omega Men comes to mind, and now N. K. Jemisin’s Far Sector. Each of those has been better than the last vestiges of Hal Jordan’s derring-do, when the deeper we went the more inscrutable Jordan’s character became. Jemisin accomplishes here what Lantern writers have been trying to do for a while, stripping away all the cruft (not to mention bravado) that’s built up on the property over the years while still keeping the core of the Lantern mythos that clearly has so much untapped potential. With new Lantern Sojourner “Jo” Mullein, Jemisin spins the kind of dedicated space yarn that should be the rule, not the exception, for Green Lantern stories.

[Review contains spoilers]

Blessedly, Far Sector doesn’t make us choose between style and substance. Among what the story has going for it is Jemisin’s extensive world-building, on a level that demonstrates Jemisin’s formidable skills as a fantasy writer. There’s an entire planetary platform system here and three different species, each with their own cultures, cuisines, and political strife, not to mention history that goes back generations. Jemisin offers just enough of the everyday to ground us — broadly speaking, the species are animal, vegetable, and technological, and there, in-story cultural coincidence sees the computer beings called “At-Ats,” for instance — even as alienness abounds. (Also that cat videos are commerce.) Fans of Ursula Le Guin and Robert Heinlein will be familiar with the hard work required of the reader in the beginning to grok these societies.

Review: Inferior Five trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Inferior Five is a pretty niche story — a semi-sequel to a lesser-known 1980s DC Comics crossover — to the point I’m surprised they even decided to publish it. Few new readers, I imagine, are going back to read Invasion! as opposed to something like Batman: Knightfall or The Death of Superman. Perhaps the draw is the presence of the big name on the book, writer/artist indie sensation Jeff Lemire, though really this book is writer/artist and 1980s DC stalwart Keith Giffen’s. It branches off of Invasion!, in which Giffen and his DC storylines of the time played a big role, it features Giffen’s distinct art style, it plays with characters who were obscure in Giffen’s 1980s heyday and are virtually unknown now. Like I said, it’s pretty niche.1

To that end, there’s probably not a lot of reason for most readers to pick Inferior Five up, including that it was unceremoniously cancelled six issues through a 12-issue miniseries, with issues #5 and #6 only published online and the latter not even drawn by Giffen. But though Giffen is only credited with plot on the final issue, it is the most Giffen-esque of this whole Giffen-esque book, as wise and ridiculous as one would expect from the final issue of a Giffen book cancelled halfway through. If Giffen was ever your go-to DC guy, if you’ve got issues of Invasion! fondly mildewing in your garage, you might go find the last issue of this series, at least.

Review: Plunge hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

And so we reach the end of the first wave of Hill House Comics. Joe Hill’s Plunge is the most intentionally referential (among plenty of references) of the Hill House books, given its frigid location and aliens diving down a person’s throat. At the same time, despite a familiarity that works against it, Plunge might be the most gory of the Hill House books (thanks to artist Stuart Immonen), if not also the most disturbing. Certain of Hill House’s books have toyed with this before — the horror of being out of control of your own body, the horror of the knowledge of the horror that could happen to you — but none in quite so many terrifying forms as Plunge does.

[Review contains spoilers]

What stands out most at the beginning of Plunge is just how much talking there is. I’m not one who minds my comics loquacious, especially when favoring dialogue over superhero fights, but there’s about nine pages in the first issue that are about as word-balloon heavy as I’ve ever seen (and may letterer Deron Bennett get a break after that). Surely all of this contributes such to make one particular death close to the end especially wrenching for the audience — to build in us the emotion that I’d otherwise imagine would be a challenge with only six issues — but no doubt Hill takes a risk here asking for that much audience attention before the worm-filled zombies arrive. (Not to mention how little of the intricate detail of who owns what in international waters is really all that necessary in the end.)

Review: Flash Vol. 15: Finish Line trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Saturday, October 23, 2021

I can’t deny Joshua Williamson’s Flash Vol. 15: Finish Line offers a lot of what readers want from the conclusion of a modern-day Flash epic. And I maintain that 101 issues is a whole lot, a lot more than most writers are willing or able to stay on a title, so cheers to Williamson for that (and for the almost speedster-like swiftness with which many of Williamson’s concepts have then appeared on the Flash television show). Clearly Williamson’s star continues to be on the rise, given his presence on DC’s family of Infinite Frontier titles and also DC’s undisputed flagship, Batman.

But while Williamson hits many of the right notes, often he’s playing the notes of other people’s songs. There’s some pleasing deep dives into Flash history here, but I’m not sure how much credit we give to the Flash writer simply cameoing other writers’ Flash creations. Especially since, in the fine details of the story itself, Williamson often struggles. Not to mention the piece de resistance of Williamson’s story, the revelation that is what we’ve all long since thought it was going to be, which is ironic in ways I don’t think Williamson intended.

DC Trade Solicitations for January 2022 — Infinite Frontier, Action Comics Vol. 1: Warworld Rising, Batman: Imposter and Detective, Nice House on the Lake Vol. 1, Black Adam Box Set, Catwoman of East End Omnibus, Beast Boy Loves Raven HC

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Another small month for collections in the DC Comics January 2022 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations. Two — two! — new regular series collections this month — Infinite Frontier and Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s first full Action Comics collection, a new Action Comics (collection) volume one.

Granted, those two are big ones — basically, once again the starting gun for (once again) the new DC Universe. But, y’know, two. And I wish Infinite Frontier was coming out a lot sooner. James Tynion’s Joker hardcover, which spins directly out of Infinite Frontier #0, is due out at the beginning of November, while the Infinite Frontier collection isn’t out for four more months, in February (and the new Superman collection, the new post-Dark Nights: Death Metal Wonder Woman collection, Crime Syndicate, etc., etc.).

Another book I’m interested in is Batman: The Detective, since Tom Taylor really has yet to disappoint. A couple weeks ago I was wishing James Tynion’s Nice House on the Lake had a collection, though now I might pass until there’s a collection of all 12 issues, not just six. Batman: The Imposter and Batman: The Penguin are obviously both movie tie-ins, maybe the first of more? Not for me, though I certainly see the need.

Uh, yeah? Have some poster portfolios? Let’s go ahead and dig in …

Batman: The Detective

In hardcover, collecting the six-issue miniseries by Tom Taylor and Andy Kubert. That’s a powerhouse team — Kubert draws a great Batman, and Taylor’s star is on the rise. I might not usually stop for the Batman miniseries of the week, but I’m eager to see what these two do together. Coming in February.

Batman: The Imposter

Elseworlds-type Batman story by writer of the upcoming movie Mattson Tomlin, with art by the inimitable Andrea Sorrentino. In hardcover in February.

Batman: The Penguin

Timed, of course, for Colin Farrell's turn as Penguin in the new Batman movie, this is said to be Batman #155, Batman #374, Batman #548, Batman #549, Detective Comics #58 (omitted from previous solicitations), Detective Comics #610, Detective Comics #611, Detective Comics #824, Joker's Asylum: Penguin #1, and Penguin Triumphant #1. Essentially this is Batman Arkham: Penguin reprinted under another name.

Batwing: Luke Fox

The oft-solicited (and cancelled) Batwing Omnibus finds new life as a Batwing: Luke Fox collection. Don’t get me wrong, I love Camrus Johnson on Batwoman and especially his turn in the season finale, but these stories by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (previous solicitations had it as Batwing #19–34 and the Futures End issue) were not the best of the series. That distinction goes to the first dozen or so issues by Judd Winick, starring Congolese police office David Zavimbe as Batwing; I rather wish those were sharing in the spotlight.

Black Adam Box Set

It feels a little bit like the late 1990s/early 2000s again (or 2011 — check out the New 52-style spines on these books), but among the many good things about the forthcoming Black Adam movie is a bevy of Black Adam collections materials. This box set — a Black Adam box set, can you even imagine? — collects what’s now called Black Adam/JSA: Black Reign (formerly JSA Vol. 8: Black Reign, being JSA #56–58 and Hawkman #23–25, with the JSA losing the top billing in their own book), Shazam! Vol. 1 (the Geoff Johns/Gary Frank backup from the New 52 Justice League), and Black Adam: Rise and Fall of an Empire, a cut down of relevant pages from the 52 weekly series. That's going to encompass a few different origins for Black Adam? From a few different continuities? I wonder how well these three will read together.

Catwoman of East End Omnibus

Rather surprised this has never been an omnibus before. Collects the Detective Comics #759-762 backup stories, issues #759–762, plus Ed Brubaker's 37-issue run, plus the Selina's Big Score graphic novel and Catwoman Secret Files.

DC Comics: Generations

In paperback, following the hardcover. Collects Generations Shattered, Generations Forged, and a story from Detective Comics #1027.

DC Poster Portfolio: J.H. Williams III

Williams' covers, including art from Sandman: Overture, Batwoman, Hellblazer: Rise and Fall, and Promethea.

DC Poster Portfolio: Jenny Frison

Gosh do I like Jenny Frison’s art. Surely the Wonder Woman covers will be in there, but I hope they get Low, Low Woods too.

DCeased: Hope at World's End

In paperback, following the hardcover. I am eager, one day, for DCeased vs. DC vs. Vampires (and the sequel, Vs. Injustice).

The Fourth World by Jack Kirby Box Set

Individual collections of New Gods, Mister Miracle, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, and Forever People. Not the ideal way to read the saga, but dig the day-glo spine colors.

Infinite Frontier

The next phase of the DC Universe, by Joshua Williamson, in hardcover. Sure with this was out sooner than February, given for instance we'll have the new Joker hardcover out in a couple weeks. Previously this was said to collect Infinite Frontier #0–6 and Infinite Frontier Secret Files #1, though no contents are listed now.

The Nice House on the Lake Vol. One

It also feels like a long wait for the first collection of James Tynion's Nice House to hit. I'm often disinclined to get a trade of issues #1-6 of a 12-issue miniseries; inevitably there will be a full collection of all the issues. With Detective Comics artist Alvaro Martinez.

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 1: Warworld Rising

Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s first full Action Comics collection, coming in February in paperback. Previously said to collect Action Comics #1030–1035.

Superman: The Man of Steel Vol. 4

Said to collect Superman #16-22, Adventures of Superman #439-444, Action Comics #598-600, the Superman Annual #2, and Doom Patrol #10. The solicitation calls this the “final volume,” so unfortunately it doesn’t look good for a continuing series of the post-Crisis Superman series.

Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven

In hardcover by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo.

Teen Titans: Raven, Beast Boy, and Beast Boy Loves Raven Box Set

Box set of hardcovers, apparently, of the three YA graphic novels by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo. Given lost memories and etc., I wonder how this will turn out — if indeed Beast Boy and Raven are the Titans we know-ish, just having lost their memories, or if there's a strange "experiments" aspect a la Jeff Lemire's Teen Titans: Earth One.

Y: The Last Man Compendium Two

Issues #32-60 by Brian Vaughan and Pia Guerra, being the original paperback vols. 6-10 (Girl on Girl, Paper Dolls, Kimono Dragons, Motherland and Whys and Wherefores). Admittedly I have not started watching the TV adaptation yet, so I'm part of the problem, but I was sad to hear it wouldn't be ongoing.

Review: Daphne Byrne hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The problem with playing with spirits is that sometimes spirits play back — at least, that seems to be one of the morals of the fourth release from DC’s Hill House Comics imprint, Laura Marks and Kelley Jones' Daphne Byrne. Indeed the wonderful irony of Byrne is the mission of its young protagonist is to try to expose the duplicitousness of a supposed psychic with nefarious intent even as Daphne herself is seeing ghosts. It makes for a story that’s charming, if not quite as complex as Hill House’s masterful Low, Low Woods. Six issues' worth of art by horror master Jones is still reason enough to check this out.

[Review contains spoilers]

Artist Piotr Jablonski’s covers for most of Daphne Byrne are the stuff of nightmare fuel, hands down the most unsettling Hill House covers so far, with realistic textures and demonic eyes that stare out at the reader. As opposed to Jenny Frisson’s variants on Low, Low Woods, Jablonski’s main Byrne covers are far better than its variants.