Review: Hawkman Vol. 4: Hawks Eternal trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, February 28, 2021

I wasn’t thrilled with Robert Venditti’s penultimate volume of Hawkman, finding it too artificially angst-ridden in its tie to the lackluster “Infected” arm of “Year of the Villain,” [and without particularly strong art, either]. Given that book, I wasn’t too sad to see Venditti’s Hawkman ending in the run-up to Dark Nights: Death Metal and Future State, though I’d once had high hopes for this series.

For better or worse, however, Hawkman Vol. 4: Hawks Eternal is great, creative and well written by Venditti and with about the best work I’ve ever seen from Fernando Pasarin, an artist I liked a lot to begin with. All of this shows Hawkman on the upswing, just when it’s too late for it to matter. To boot, Venditti tries hard to fix Hawkman’s continuity problems here, coming up with about the best half-measure I’ve seen so far, though more difficulty creeps in by the end. Maybe again Dark Nights: Death Metal (or Infinite Frontier) will fix all of this, but perhaps the best argument for this Hawkman series ending is the inevitability of Venditti writing himself into a corner due to issues well beyond his control.

Review: Blue Beetle Vol. 3: Road to Nowhere (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

With Blue Beetle Vol. 3: Road to Nowhere, Christopher Sebela arrives as one of less than half a dozen writers, I think, to write the adventures of Jaime Reyes, which is notable given the character is on his third series. The writer does a fine job, with an emphasis on Jaime and his young friends (which has been present before but heretofore missing in this iteration of the series), returning some of the “teen book” aesthetic to the title.

I would venture that the “Road” story starts and ends better than its middle, and upon reaching the end in no way did I think this book’s cancellation was unjustified. Again, however, I’m pleased to think Jaime is still bopping around out there somewhere, and even if recent appearances include getting dragged awkwardly into the Year of the Villain: Infected crossover, at least we know the character hasn’t slipped DC Comics' mind entirely (Blue Beetles new and old, for that matter).

Review: Aquaman Vol. 4: Echoes of a Life Lived Well trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Given Aquaman Vol. 4: Echoes of a Life Lived Well, it’s astounding to think this all started with Spindrift Station, an Atlantean consulate-on-land; Mera as ambassador; and Aquaman suspected of domestic terrorism, and — one left-turn and a movie later — it now ends on civil war in Atlantis, Queen Mera deciding the fate of the Atlantean throne, and a burly, tattooed Aquaman leading a vanguard of gods and heroes to save his home. It is to writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s credit, following from Dan Abnett before her, that all these disparate elements still manage to feel of a piece.

Perhaps unavoidably, since Aquaman only has so many enemies and those enemies only have so many complaints, the conflict here feels repetitive, something the text itself even acknowledges. But as I’ve said before, DeConnick’s conception of Aquaman is just a lot of fun, as is his supporting cast, and that has made this run enjoyable even when they’re doing not much at all. I was not familiar with DeConnick’s work before, but now I’m intrigued, and I’d be happy to see her do something else for DC without as much push-and-pull as it might have seemed Aquaman was facing.

Review: Justice League Dark Vol. 4: A Costly Trick of Magic trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Justice League Dark Vol. 4: A Costly Trick is a fine conclusion for outgoing writer James Tynion and beginning for former co-writer and new incoming writer Ram V. Shame on me for not realizing going in that this was also the last volume of the series proper — I went to go get a glimpse of what happens next only to find there was no “next” — though it’ll continue as a backup by V for Brian Michael Bendis' upcoming Justice League.

Though V and Tynion have worked together for a while and have overall good synchronicity, Trick reflects a bit of the back-and-forth of the book having two authors. The story begins and ends, and then begins again perhaps not exactly where it ended, and then ends again in such a way as you might think the series is going to go on, but it isn’t (exactly). None of that takes away too much from the book itself, which is well done (better than the slight dip in quality last time around) and features particularly fine art from a couple of sources. V and Tynion’s final story together also picks up threads from the particularly fine New 52 Animal Man and Swamp Thing series by Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder respectively, a particularly welcome callback.

DC Trade Solicitations for May 2021 – Future State: Next Batman, Justice League, Superman; DC Generations, Batman: Earth One Vol. 3, DCeased: Hope at World's End, Green Lantern John Stewart 50 Years

Sunday, February 14, 2021

An auspicious month on the way in the DC Comics May 2021 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations. Can't argue with what's a nicely slimmed-down monthly comics line from DC; a quick skim of the solicitations sees no less than the Milestone characters, Stargirl, Midnighter, Loose Cannon and Gangbuster, some classic Outsiders, Grifter, and Huntress, plus more of Future State intersecting with the present DCU. Yeah, things still feel tentative, but that's a lineup that suggests to me creative teams familiar with DC's rich history, not dismissive of it.

And that's altogether before a strong collections slate. Probably most anticipated are the trio of Future State books: Future State: Justice League, Future State: Superman, and Future State: The Next Batman, plus the interstitial DC Comics: Generations. Not much in terms of regular series (nearly nothing, reflecting the Future State interruption), but some "Elseworlds" I'm looking forward to: Batman: Earth One Vol. 3, DCeased: Hope at World’s End, and Batman: White Knight Presents Harley Quinn. The forthcoming Suicide Squad movie brings us Keith Giffen's Suicide Squad: Casualties of War; the collections of Mark Waid's Flash conclude with never-before-collected "Dark Flash Saga"; and the DC crossover Genesis sees a collection with the Fourth World by John Byrne Omnibus. Shouldn't hopefully be lacking too much for books to read this month.

For those keeping track at home, remaining to be released for Future State are:

  • Future State: Dark Detective, collecting Future State: Dark Detective #1-4, Future State: Catwoman #1-2, Future State: Harley Quinn #1-2, Future State: Robin Eternal #1-2, and Future State: Batman/Superman #1-2

  • Future State: Suicide Squad, collecting Future State: Suicide Squad #1-2, Future State: Teen Titans #1-2, Future State: Shazam! #1-2, and Future State: Swamp Thing #1-2

  • Future State: Wonder Woman, collecting Future State: Wonder Woman #1-2, Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman #1-2, and Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1-2

(Though, where's the Endless Winter collection?)

Let's take a look at the full listings:

Absolute Swamp Thing by Alan Moore Vol. 3 HC

Alan Moore's Swamp Thing issues #51-64, being the final issues of Moore's run, and DC Comics Presents #85, by Moore and Rick Veitch teaming Swamp Thing with Superman. (I have come to find this issue was collected in a couple Alan Moore-centric volumes but omitted from the original Saga of the Swamp Thing hardcover series, which seems a real shame.)

Aquaman: Deep Dives TP

Collects stories from the Walmart Aquaman Giants #1-4 and the digital Aquaman: Deep Dives #4, 6-7, and #9, written by the likes of Geoff Johns, Steve Orlando, Tom Taylor, Cecil Castellucci, and Marv Wolfman.

Batman Vol. 3: Ghost Stories HC

James Tynion collecting Batman #101-105, a story from Detective Comics #1027, and Batman Annual #5. In hardcover in June, because Batman still warrants it.

Batman: Damned TP

Paperback collection of the Black Label series by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. And in case you’re wondering, the solicitation says “collects the revised miniseries,” so that answers that, plus sketches and other bonus material.

Batman: Earth One Vol. 3 HC

Third volume of Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, coming in hardcover in June. Buoyed by a really good Green Lantern: Earth One Vol. 2, I'm excited for this one (and to read the first two books over again). Wonder if they'd ever do a Black Label Earth One book and how that would turn out.

Batman: White Knight Presents Harley Quinn HC

Spin-off of Sean Murphy's Batman books by Katana Collins, collecting Batman: White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn #1-6 and a story from the Harley Quinn Black + White + Red digital Chapter 6. Sean Murphy's Batman: Curse of the White Knight sequel was really good, and I have high hopes for this.

DC Comics: Generations HC

Thirty dollars US, 184 pages, hardcover, and apparently collecting only Generations Shattered #1, Generations Forged #1, and the "Generations Fractured" story from Detective Comics #1027. I guess that page count lines up, but still this seems like a big price for not a lot of contents. I'll be reading it, of course.

DCeased: Hope at World’s End HC

In hardcover, collecting the 15 digital chapters. Given just how good DCeased: Unkillables was, I'd read Tom Taylor writing DCeased: The Phone Book. Another one that'll be a fun June read.

The Flash by Mark Waid Book Eight TP

The end of Mark Waid’s original Flash run, the “Dark Flash Saga,” which has never been collected before. These collections of Mark Waid’s Flash have been great, but this one, collecting never-collected material, makes it really worth it. This is Flash #151–162, Flash Annual #12 (”JLApe”), and material from Flash Secret Files #2.

Fourth World by John Byrne Omnibus HC

Y'know, I'd venture not every part of this was great, but I've got to give it to DC for including Genesis in this, a crossover I didn't entirely understand likely because I had not been reading all of John Byrne's other Fourth World work. Even again if Genesis struggled, this is a mighty attractive collection. Said to include New Gods #12-15, Jack Kirby's Fourth World #1-20, and Genesis #1-4.

Future State: Justice League TP

Collects Future State: Justice League #1–2 (with Justice League Dark), Future State: The Flash #1–2, and Future State: Green Lantern #1–2 (including, we assume, Last Lanterns and Tales of the Green Lantern Corps), and Future State: Aquaman #1–2 (omitted from earlier solicitations but included here). In June in paperback.

Future State: Superman TP

Collects Future State: Superman of Metropolis #1–2 (including we assume Guardian and Mister Miracle), Future State: Superman: Worlds of War #1–2 (including we assume Midnighter and Black Racer), Future State: Superman vs. Imperious Lex #1–2, Future State: Kara Zor-El, Superwoman #1–2, _Future State: Legion of Super-Heroes _#1–2, and Future State: House of El #1. In June in paperback.

Future State: The Next Batman TP

Collects Future State: The Next Batman #1–4 (including we assume Outsiders, Arkham Knights, Batgirls, and Gotham City Sirens) and Future State: Nightwing #1–2. The solicitation also mentions "select stories" from Future State: Dark Detective #1–4. In June in paperback.

Green Lantern: John Stewart — A Celebration of 50 Years HC

Assuredly a deserved recognition of this character, and also a book that will skew more modern (and to my tastes) than the celebrations with early Superman or Batman stories. Includes Green Lantern Vol. 2 #87 (first appearance), #182, and #185 (serving as Earth’s primary Green Lantern); Green Lantern Vol. 3 #74 (John as a Darkstar) and #156 (spotlight issue in Judd Winick’s Kyle Rayner run); Green Lantern Vol. 4 #49 (Blackest Night issue); Green Lantern: Mosaic #18; and Justice League of America #110 (from 1974, with John subbing for Hal Jordan) — among others, possibly.

I Am Not Starfire TP

I'm not necessarily the audience for these DC young adult books, but the premise of Detective Comics' Mariko Tamaki's I Am Not Starfire is precious, about Starfire's high school-age goth daughter. To see their family dynamics alone, I might have to flip through this one.

Justice League of America: The Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 3 HC

Collects Justice League of America #147–182 (previously listed as #147-181), Super-Team Family #11-14, DC Special #27, DC Special Series #6, Secret Society of Super-Villains #15, DC Comics Presents #17, and pages from Amazing World of DC Comics #14. Includes appearances by the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Justice Society, Jonah Hex, Enemy Ace, the Viking Prince, Phantom Stranger, Black Lighting, and more.

Suicide Squad: Casualties of War TP

Collects all 12 issues of the early 2000s Keith Giffen series that followed the “Superman: Our Worlds at War” event. I thought this had been collected before but it seems it hasn’t, and now I’m not sure if I read it or not; I might be thinking of the John Ostrander miniseries from 2008, following Infinite Crisis.

Tales From the DC Dark Multiverse II HC

In hardcover in June 2021, this sequel collection includes Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Hush #1, Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Flashpoint #1, Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Wonder Woman: War of the Gods #1, Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Crisis on Infinite Earths #1, and Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Dark Nights: Metal #1.

Also said to be included is Batman #619 (the end of "Hush"; this was previously solicited with Batman #608, the beginning of "Hush"), Flashpoint #1, Wonder Woman: War of the Gods #4 (instead of, previously solicited, Wonder Woman #8, which didn't necessarily make sense), Crisis on Infinite Earths #12, and Dark Nights: Metal #6. Interesting that the previous Tales from the Dark Multiverse volume collected mostly first issues alongside the specials (Blackest Night #1, Infinite Crisis #1), but this one has mostly last issues.

Transmetropolitan Book Five TP

Issues #49-60.

Review: Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Hard Choices (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

In its seven issues, the Rebirth Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Hard Choices is more focused, bringing the book’s initial arc to a close, and at its start, leans heavily into this book’s family and personal drama, to its benefit. There’s also a fantastic moment of confluence between Blue Beetles old and new halfway through that’s really the culmination of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' work with these characters. All of that more than makes up for a book that does get a little long by the end and also too silly for my tastes; but with Giffen and DeMatteis departing after the start of the next trade, it seems very much they’ve accomplished what they set out to do.

[Review contains spoilers]

Hard Choices kicks off in the aftermath of a villain going after Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes' mother in order to get to his scarab, with Jaime and his close-knit family and friends all dealing with the shock of the incident. In short order, Jaime has indeed been stripped of the scarab, leading to still more concern and recriminations — about Jaime’s health, about who will stop the crazed Atlantean wizard Arion, and about the citizens of El Paso slowly being turned to demon insects (who, not coincidentally, bearing a passing resemblance to Ambush Bug). As I’ve mentioned before, family is where Giffen and company’s Blue Beetle shines, more about these people and how they care for and worry about one another more than fighting supervillains (which shows pointedly in Jaime’s long-time enemy being the aunt and guardian of his best friend), and that’s well-enacted in the first three chapters.

Review: Doctor Fate Vol. 3: Fateful Threads trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, February 07, 2021

I don’t at all think it’s writer Paul Levitz’s fault that Doctor Fate Vol. 3: Fateful Threads ends unsatisfactorily, as there’s too much set up that’s left undone for cancellation not to have been sudden. That said, this series has struggled since its auspicious beginnings and this final volume is a nadir, with not much difference in the storylines to distinguish from similar plots almost a dozen issues ago. That series artist Sonny Liew couldn’t make the final two issues is also a disappointment. Levitz created a great character here, but I’m not sure he ever figured out what to do with him.

[Review contains spoilers]

What would seem to be the driving change in this new chapter of young Fate Khalid Nassour’s life is the arrival of his uncle, one Kent Nelson, former owner of the Fate helmet. Levitz either doesn’t have the time or the go-ahead to get into the details, but apparently Kent was the classic Fate as we remember it (at least within the confines of this book), even mentioning at one point the Justice Society. It’s possible there’s some connection to the contemporaneous Earth 2 series of the time that I’m just misremembering, but I think the answer is simpler. Not unlike the DC You Bizarro series, continuity wasn’t meant to be so devout among DC You titles, and I’d venture it was altogether more contingent on what Levitz envisioned and what he wanted to write than whether the Justice Society was said to exist at that moment or not.

Review: Blue Beetle Vol. 1: The More Things Change (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Blue Beetle Vol 1 The More Things Change

Artist Patrick Zircher was just wondering on Twitter the other day about how buddy comedies have slipped the zeitgeist. Though not necessarily billed as such, the inaugural Rebirth Blue Beetle Vol. 1: The More Things Change fits the mold, perhaps not such a surprise from Keith Giffen, who’s delivered over time some of the most lasting of DC Comics’ comedy moments.

This book struggles under the weight of its history — this is Beetle Jaime Reyes' third series and his second to lead out from a reboot, meaning we’ve seen writers reinvent Jaime’s status quo twice now. Giffen was part of that original Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle team, the best incarnation, post-Infinite Crisis; while Tony Bedard did well with the New 52 title, he never quite caught the snappy dialogue of the original, and neither does Giffen here. We’ve seen Jaime’s relationship with the beetle scarab evolve, we’ve seen certain friends revealed as enemies, and so taking that journey again for the third time seems tired.