Review: Young Justice Vol. 3: Warriors and Warlords trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Hail and farewell, Young Justice. Though this series comes to an end with Young Justice Vol. 3: Warriors and Warlords, at least Young Justice exists again, at least the characters can be seen standing around together in the background of crossovers or etc., that some of them are already announced to be appearing post-Future State and that they’re all available for bar mitzvahs or parties.

It’s awful hard to know what’s going on at DC these days, whether writer Brian Michael Bendis is still rolling along happily or on his way out. One would like to assume that the market decides, that (much as a faithful reincorporation of Young Justice has been on my personal must-have list for decades if not anyone else’s) Young Justice was cancelled because it was simply not selling and not because of some contrary vision of the DCU. If DC’s new regime favors wholesome and all-age-friendly comics as much as it seems, Young Justice would seem like a fine fit, and maybe we can hope it’ll be back again some day (though were that imminent, I’d think the rumor mill would have already clued us in).

Review: Doctor Fate Vol. 2: Prisoners of the Past trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew’s Doctor Fate Vol. 2: Prisoners of the Past is a somewhat comical self-contained story that moves the overarching plot of this nascent DC You series only by inches. That might be fine for an established book, but given that we’re already at the end of the first year and the status quo has barely changed from issue #1, it’s problematic. Not to mention, with the benefit of hindsight, we also know this book doesn’t have that many issues left to be able to waste these.

At the same time, Prisoners is loopy and weird and fun, and given some of those same factors — particularly that Doctor Fate doesn’t have that much time left — this kind of disconnected one-off adventure for young Fate Khalid Nassour is perhaps a boon. As I’m not sure how much legacy Khalid will leave necessarily, it’s nice to be able to point back and say, “this was a definitive adventure of the Doctor Fate of this era,” neither the origin nor the finale but rather something accessible in the middle that shows the hip Doctor Fate doing his Fate thing.

Review: Batman: Curse of the White Knight hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Sean Murphy’s initial Batman: White Knight in some respects sidestepped Batman to place laser focus on the Jack Napier behind the Joker and on the gritty streets and social politics of Gotham City itself. Though no less gritty, and not omitting the requisite cadre of muscle cars, the sequel Batman: Curse of the White Knight feels loftier, shifting its full attention now to an aging Batman and also to the long history of this world that Murphy’s built, stretching back to World War II and earlier, to the 17th century and British America. If White Knight, the original, was a sociopolitical text, then Curse is a historical one, loaded with all the delicious detail of the first.

Curse is also both homage to and deconstruction of the Batman mythos. Much like White Knight, Murphy mashes up a bunch of Batman concepts here to create his alternate Murphy-verse, with heavy influences from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie and Batman: The Animated Series. But by the end of Curse, Murphy has also stripped away nearly everything that makes Bruce Wayne Batman, more than I think I’ve ever seen stripped away even in plenty of like-minded deconstructions. There are not so many mysteries left in this story — the need for another sequel is far less urgent at the end here than it was after White Knight — though I’m curious where and how Murphy could go from here; what if anything, that is, Murphy might create anew after he’s taken so much apart.

Review: Doctor Fate Vol. 1: The Blood Price trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Paul Levitz is a writer and comics legend whose winding, long-winded Legion of Super-Heroes (past and more present) I’ve often enjoyed. Those same attributes, however, haven’t benefitted titles like the Huntress/Power Girl team-up Worlds' Finest, which often seemed to struggle for plot between its fight scenes. And his guest stint on Geoff Johns' JSA read as “stodgy,” with an older-generation DC writer writing DC’s older generation characters not, unfortunately, yielding something new.

With those expectations going in, I was pleased to find that Levitz' DC You-era Doctor Fate Vol. 1: The Blood Price has a sprightly coolness to it. Not to take away from Levitz, but surely a large part of that must be credited to artist Sonny Liew, whose cartoony, often psychadelic style sees new young Fate Khalid Nassour in no more costume than a helmet and a hoodie and makes it work. As was the case with most of DC You, Doctor Fate doesn’t look like traditional superheroics, and that goes great lengths to help it feel like more than traditional superheroics as well, plus Levitz’s plot steeped in ancient gods and Egyptian mythology.

DC Trade Solicitations for April 2021 – Dark Knights: Death Metal: War of the Multiverses, Flash: Death of Iris West, Flash Age, Batman by Ridley, Bendis final Superman, Justice League: Galaxy of Terrors

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Well, the newest all-new DC Universe keeps rolling along with the DC Comics April 2021 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations. No big surprises, but as we've discussed, what continues to seem to be an intentionally slow rollout of new titles. On the regular series side, we're looking at a new Green Lantern title said to star John Stewart, Young Justice's Teen Lantern Keli Quintela, and the popular Far Sector's Jo Mullein — done right, that sounds very promising. Also the Superman titles have Midnighter on one hand, tying in to Future State, and Ambush Bug on the other, and that's about as much as one could ever ask for in a month. Again, if it weren't for the sudden and blithe dismissal of a swath of DC's long-standing braintrust, the Infinite Frontier era would seem off to an auspicious start.

It is not, from my perspective, an exceptionally heavy trade-buying month, but what's there I'm looking forward to. Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Vol. 5 is a must-get for me, as are all the Dark Knight Detective and Caped Crusader books in that series. Equally, talking about "old(er) stuff," that Flash: Death of Iris West collection is a cool slice of history I'll be interested to read (hopefully a full color "Trial of the Flash" will follow; also I maintain that in the CW Flash season 3, when it seemed Iris was fated to die, they really should have gone ahead with it and then brought her back in the manner of the aforementioned comics).

In terms of ongoing series, it's always a good month when we get collections of Brian Michael Bendis' Superman and Action Comics, though unfortunately this marks his final Superman, and Action doesn't have much longer left. Speaking of Flash, Joshua Williamson's series nears its end with Flash Vol. 14: The Flash Age, which should have some fun time-travely stuff in it. Justice League bides its time on the way to Death Metal and the reluanch, and the slow rollout of Death Metal continues with Dark Nights: Death Metal: War of the Multiverses. So again, far from a full-full month, but certainly some books I'll be picking up.

Let's take a look at the whole thing.

Authority Book Two TP

By Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, Dustin Nguyen, Art Adams, and others. Originally this was said to have the "uncensored, original" pages from Authority #13-29 (as seen, I believe, in the Wildstorm 25th anniverary book), but that’s not mentioned here. So some version of #13-29, plus the Authority Annual 2000, and stories from the Wildstorm Summer Special. Introduction by Tim Miller, director of Deadpool.

Batman by John Ridley: The Deluxe Edition HC

Recent Batman stories by John Ridley from the new Batman: Black & White #1, Batman: The Joker War Zone #1, and Future State: The Next Batman #1-4, plus a previously unpublished story by Ridley and Dustin Nguyen. If that latter story involves the Next Batman or etc., this volume might become a hot commodity.

Batman: The Adventures Continue TP

Collecting issues #1-8 of the new digital-first series by Paul Dini, Alan Burnett, and Ty Templeton.

Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Vol. 5 TP

Collects Detective Comics Annual #3, and Detective Comics #612-614 and #616-621 (issue #615, part of a crossover, is over in Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 3, which demonstrates these books are a little out of step with one another). Stories are largely by the super-team of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, and include appearances by Anarky and a big development in Robin Tim Drake's early life. We're still about forty issues away from "Knightfall."

Batman: Universe TP

Paperback of the Brian Michael Bendis/Nick Derington story, following the hardcover.

Bizarro Comics: The Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe reprinting of the early 2000s anthologies Bizarro Comics and Bizarro World featuring indie comics creators, including the once-pulped “Letitia Lerner, Superman’s Babysitter” story by Kyle Baker and Liz Glass from the Elseworlds 80-Page Giant.

Dark Nights: Death Metal: War of the Multiverses TP

Solicitation says this just collects Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Last 52: War of the Multiverse #1 and Dark Nights: Death Metal: The Last Stories of the DCU #1. Both of these are 80 pages, though still that seems a little slim — at the same time, it’s paperback, $19.99 and 176 pages, so maybe that tracks. Coming in May.

Fables Compendium Two TP

Originally said to collect Fables #42-81 and Peter & Max: A Fables Novel, now just Fables #42-82 (which makes sense, going to the end of the Dark Ages trade).

Flash Vol. 14: The Flash Age TP

Collects Flash #88, the lead story from Flash #750, Flash #751-755, and Flash Annual #3. Long-time writer Joshua Williamson's run ends with issue #762, presumably the next trade. In paperback.

Flash/Impulse: Runs in the Family TP

Another one that's been solicited before but keeps getting cancelled; let's try it again now that Impulse is back in the DCU. Collects Mark Waid's Impulse #1-12 and Flash #108-111, the "Dead Heat" crossover.

Flash: The Death of Iris West HC

Cary Bates long saga of the murder of Iris West and its aftermath. This begins the story that ends, of course, with “The Trial of the Flash,” which has not (to my recollection) been collected so far in color (only in Showcase Presents in black-and-white). Hopefully this collection is an indication we’ll get a companion one of that. This is Flash #270-284 from the early 1980s.

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy TP

Paperback of the six-issue miniseries, following the hardcover, by Jody Houser and Adriana Melo.

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red TP

Collects issues #1-17 of the digital-first series, along with new stories by David Mandel (Veep) and Adam Hughes, and Paul Dini and Batman: The Animated Series’ Kevin Altieri.

Justice League: Galaxy of Terrors TP

Collects "Rule of War", Justice League #48-50, by Si Spurrier and Aaron Lopresti, and "Garden of Mercy" by Jeff Loveness in #51-52, ahead of the Death Metal tie-in story by Joshua Williamson and the book’s post Future State relaunch.

Justice League: The New 52 Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

Said to collect Justice League #0–23; Aquaman #14–16; Justice League Dark #22–23; DC Comics - The New 52 FCBD Special Edition #1; Justice League of America #1–7 (formerly just #6-7!); Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #11; Constantine #5; Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1–3. That’s the first four volumes of the series, from the start through “Throne of Atlantis” and in to “Trinity War.” The next volume — and I’d think this could be done in two — should include Forever Evil tie-ins on the way to “Darkseid War” and that’s that. Impressive that they’ve got a big chunk of Johns’ Justice League of America in there too.

Krypto the Superdog TP

Collects issues #1-6 of the comic based on the mid-2000s animated series.

Shazam!: The World's Mightiest Mortal Vol. 3 HC

Collecting 1970s adventures of Captain Marvel in hardcover; this is World’s Finest Comics #253-270 and #272-282, and Adventure Comics #491 and #492.

Superman Vol. 4: Mythological TP

In paperback, collecting issues #20-28, the end of Brian Michael Bendis’ run.

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 4: Metropolis Burning TP

In paperback, guest-starring Young Justice, and tying in to "Year of the Villain," this is issues #1017-1021. Whereas the collections of Brian Michael Bendis’ Superman finish this month, he will still have one last Action Comics volume to go after this.

Superman: The Man of Steel Vol. 3 HC

The third hardcover “omnibus” collection of John Byrne’s Superman-titles run. A lot of this is concerned with tie-ins to the Millennium crossover event, plus a crossover with Dan Jurgens’ Booster Gold series.

But the biggest deal in my opinion is this includes for the first time the Superman: The Earth Stealers graphic novel, written by Byrne with art by the legendary Curt Swan. That’s a big add to this collection series — I know I’ve said I’d rather see DC collecting further Superman stories than re-collecting the John Byrne material, but this is an interesting surprise.

Full contents are Superman #12–15, Adventures of Superman #436–438, Action Comics #594–597, Superman: The Earth Stealers #1, Action Comics Annual #1, Superman Annual #1, Adventures of Superman Annual #1, and Booster Gold #23. Previously mentioned was material from Who’s Who Update 1987 #5 and Who’s Who Update 1988 #2.

Young Justice Book 2: Growing Up TP

In paperback, issues #14-25 of the animated tie-in comic by Greg Weisman.

Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 4: Cold Vengeance trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Batman Detective Comics Vol 4 Cold Vengeance

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 4: Cold Vengeance is ostensibly one of the better of the volumes among Peter Tomasi’s run on this title so far. At the same time, it very much appears that Detective is back to its old role as the “also ran” Batman title, a book on the stands to capitalize on the hunger for Batman but nothing you’d call “can’t miss.” That’s a shame, because Batman writer James Tynion finally figured out a way to shirk that when he was on Detective, and now we’re back to the same old thing.

With this volume, too, we now know Tomasi’s Detective run is finite, just two or so more volumes before a new team takes over, such that we might call this a failed experiment. Tomasi has been at times among my favorite writers at DC, but I increasingly wonder just how well working in the Bat-verse is serving him.

Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Loveless trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Much like books with the Flash versus Captain Cold or Aquaman versus Black Manta, I’m always inclined to give a Wonder Woman versus Cheetah story a little extra consideration (maybe it’s the Challenge of the Superfriends influence). That little bonus doesn’t help G. Willow Wilson’s Wonder Woman Vol. 3: Loveless much, however, and I’m eager for the runs by Steve Orlando, Mariko Tamaki, and Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad to come. To Wilson’s credit, the best moments in this volume are pretty good, addressing story threads some 75 issues in the making (hard to believe we’ve been in Rebirth that long), but where Loveless goes wrong, it goes pretty wrong, and here’s hoping one of those other writers can write this title out of that particular trouble.

Review: Terrifics Vol. 4: The Tomorrow War trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Terrifics Vol 4 The Tomorrow War

[In times of difficulty, remember you can always do your part by donating to the Red Cross]

Terrifics Vol. 4: The Tomorrow War is, like the series has been from the beginning, mostly mundane with occasional flashes of brilliance. Writer Gene Luen Yang has received deserved recognition for a number of his young adult works, but for me neither his New Super-Man nor his Terrifics rose above the level of very average superhero comics, except in fits and starts. That his upcoming stint on Batman/Superman seems to involve Golden Age or alt-continuity versions of the characters might be more up his alley, hopefully, but also Yang is teamed with Ivan Reis there, a stronger artist than some he gets here and which might yield a stronger result. Terrifics tried mightily and I hope the characters are remembered with charity, but I don’t think that this is the last volume surprises anyone.

Review: Mister Miracle: The Deluxe Edition hardcover (DC Comics)

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Mister Miracle is dead, Mister Miracle is alive, Mister Miracle is in heaven, Mister Miracle is in hell, Mister Miracle has the opportunity to escape from both but doesn’t take it. All of this is real. None of this is happening. Darkseid is. Batman kills babies. The sins of the father are visited on the son. The Fourth World is always arriving, never arrived. What color were Big Barda’s eyes again? Tom King and Mitch Gerads' collected Mister Miracle isn’t telling.

[Review contains spoilers]

Among all the wonders and horrors in Mister Miracle, perhaps the greatest is engrained in approaching the text itself. Who can appreciate what haunts Scott Free, who can appreciate the emotion when Scott strikes Highfather after Highfather chides him for not sacrificing his only begotten son, who has not pored over (and over) near-60 issues of loftily written 1970s comics, who has not thrilled to dark god Darkseid hitting the big time in Super Friends animation, who has not seen Superman and Big Barda teamed in an ill-conceived compromising situation, who did not follow Oberon through the bwa-ha-ha days, who did not puzzle over Cosmic Odyssey and see Orion join the JLA, who did not struggle through Genesis and Death of the New Gods and bask in Final Crisis, through the Fourth World’s reemergence in the New 52 and on and on — without not just having read Fourth World books but having lived with the New Gods in the background of your life for 30, 40, 50 years, is it possible to appreciate the depth of emotion here?