Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 5: The Joker War hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

In his penultimate collection of Detective Comics, Peter Tomasi certainly doesn’t hold back. At the center of Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 5: The Joker War is a story that involves at least five of Batman’s villains and involves storylines almost a decade old. If the tie to the “Joker War” crossover feels like a little bit of a contrivance, interrupting what if anything Tomasi originally had planned for this story, then the madcap energy is still epic and worthy of the “event” Detective has been dragged in to. I’m pleased to see artist Brad Walker back on this title, and his large, in-your-face art is a perfect complement to the book’s Joker chaos.

[Review contains spoilers]

Detective Vol. 5 kicks off with the Batman: Pennyworth RIP special, written by Batman’s James Tynion and Tomasi. I recognize DC not wanting to break up the flow of the prominent Batman collections, but this is a story that, had it been stuck at the beginning or end of Batman Vol. 1: Their Dark Designs, if not Batman Vol. 2: The Joker War, would’ve made Joker War make a lot more sense. Indeed, things seemed more or less copacetic at the beginning of Dark Designs, with Bruce Wayne planning a(nother) aspirational rebuild of Gotham with only the barest hint of trouble around the edges; that Barbara Gordon seems so angry with him in Batgirl Vol. 8: The Joker War was puzzling, as was Batman’s big apology to his family in Batman: Joker War proper.

Review: Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 4: Unspoken Truths trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Such a strange comic Red Hood: Outlaw (nee Red Hood and the Outlaws, and temporarily Red Hood/Arsenal) has been. It suffers — oh, does it suffer — from sometimes-problematic writing, from art that leans toward prurience even when the story leans toward grace. And yet, it is just so hard to dismiss this book out of hand, when Red Hood: Outlaw Vol. 4: Unspoken Truths takes a scene with the ill-conceived, misused Joker’s Daughter and “Pup Pup,” the book’s bizarre sentient stuffed Superman toy, and manages to make it so, so poignant.

Over 10 years, Scott Lobdell has written Red Hood Jason Todd almost nonstop, and given Jason a backstory and depth of character that most writers overlook. Again, this book is devoutly not without problems, but I fear based on upcoming solicitations that Jason is bound to become a video game-esque superhero, all toughness and guns and antagonizing Batman at every turn. Not that Red Hood: Outlaw didn’t also have that, but we always knew Lobdell posited Jason as someone loyal to his friends, and also who skirted the criminal element not because of inherent “badness” but because he had a more nuanced view of why people do what they do (hence friendships, for instance, with Joker’s Daughter or the “villain” Bizarro). I’m concerned Jason will get less interesting without Lobdell as DC moves him toward a more one-dimensional, easily digestible portrayal.

Review: Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 3 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

If the first two volumes of Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette’s Wonder Woman: Earth One were their Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back, then Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 3 is distinctly their Return of the Jedi — dramatic, with some suspense, but also with enough levity and cuddliness built in that the sense everything will be all right pervades from the start. Though the third volume does not lack for action pieces, it is more philosophical (and at its mid-point, mythological) than the books that came before it.

In all of this, the authors beg the question, what if you knew — knew — that a higher force always had your best interests at heart (because who among us is more trustworthy than Wonder Woman)? If you did, would you slough off the weight of all that decision-making and submit peacefully to the loving authority of another? (We do this already, in ways — when we go into surgery, when we choose representation in government, when we pray to things unseen.)

Review: Universal Monsters: Cavalcade of Horror trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

[Guest reviewer Zach King blogs about movies as The Cinema King. Don't miss his month-long Monster March review of the Universal Classic Monsters movies at the site.]

When I was a very young boy, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm hit theaters. It was 1993, and I was already a religious watcher of Batman: The Animated Series. To my undying shame, I never saw it in the theaters. I mooned over the advertisements in my comic books, and I searched the racks at Walmart (ultimately in vain) for a Phantasm figure. I wouldn't see the movie for another 10 years — it ended up being the first DVD I rented from a little start-up called Netflix — but I never really lost sleep over missing the film.

You see, I had the comic book adaptation. (Still do.) I knew the ins and outs of the plot, the dialogue, the flashbacks, the twist ending. I'd seen The Animated Series so many times that I could hear the voices in my head. For my money, that Timm-inflected art by Mike Parobeck and Rick Burchett remains the definitive Bat-art. It was an early exposure to the world of Batman, and to comics more generally, but I had no idea about the rich tradition of comic book adaptations. This was all in the days before home video exploded, when your best bet to rewatch a movie might be the comic book.

Review: Batgirl Vol. 8: The Joker War hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, March 21, 2021

I’ve stated before that I don’t think Cecil Castellucci’s run is Batgirl at its finest, and Batgirl Vol. 8: The Joker War is no exception. This volume is better than the last in at least that we don’t see Barbara Gordon shunted off to a fantasy dimension, but still, quite aside from the story, there’s enough inconsistent details and poor characterization that the whole thing just feels sloppily done.

It’s a bit astounding that there’s no new Batgirl book announced on the horizon with this one ending, something that hasn’t been the case for roughly 10 years; at the same time, I do tend to think Barbara’s in better hands with Tom Taylor over in the post-Future State Nightwing than she’s been in her own title for a while.

DC Trade Solicitations for June 2021 – Future State: Dark Detective, Taylor's Suicide Squad: Bad Blood, Wonder Woman 80 Years, Green Lantern Season 2 Vol. 2, Sandman Deluxe Book 3

Thursday, March 18, 2021

It did look for a moment like this was going to be a particularly short list, but fear not; there's a full complement of collections in the DC Comics June 2021 hardcover and trade paperback solicitations. I don't know what's going on behind the scenes or why these solicitations were "late" (don't seem so late to me as compared to what it used to be like years ago, but people in the know seemed nervous), but obviously on the fan-side things don't quite feel settled since the recent upheaval. But, books are solicited, so that's something.

I'm still pretty excited for Tom Taylor's Suicide Squad: Bad Blood, even though the recent Teen Titans Vol. 4: Robin No More spoiled a big piece of it for me. We've got the final three Future State collections we were waiting for — Future State: Batman: Dark Detective, Future State: Suicide Squad, and Future State: Wonder Woman — so that'll finish out in July (but still no Endless Winter collection!). Grant Morrison's Green Lantern Season Two comes to a close, too, and the Wonder Woman title reaches the Future State break. Another Sandman deluxe combo edition, too.

How 'bout we take a look at the full (full-full) list?

Batman: The Dark Prince Charming TP

Paperback, following the hardcover, collecting Batman: The Dark Prince Charming #1-2 by European comics creator Enrico Marini.

Batwoman: Elegy TP

Seems like a new printing/reprinting of the already-existing CW-branded edition of the Batwoman: Elegy collection. This particular version of the collection, released in 2019, had Ruby Rose's Batwoman on the cover; though this is a Kate Kane vs. Alice collection (Detective Comics #854-860, this Batwoman's debut in Detective Comics proper by Greg Rucka and JH Williams), it'd be pretty cool if they were reprinting to put Javicia Leslie's Ryan Wilder Batwoman on the cover.

DC Super Hero Girls: Ghosting TP

By Amanda Deibert and Yancey Labat, focused on Diana “Wonder Woman” Prince.

DCeased: Unkillables TP

Paperback collection of the three-issue miniseries, following the hardcover. I loved this book even more than the original DCeased.

Future State: Batman: Dark Detective TP

In paperback in July, this book has Future State: Dark Detective #1–4 (including Grifters and Red Hood) 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 TP

This should be Future State: Suicide Squad #1–2 (including Black Adam), Future State: Teen Titans #1–2, Future State: Shazam! #1–2, and Future State: Swamp Thing #1–2.

Future State: Wonder Woman TP

This should be Future State: Wonder Woman #1–2, Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman #1–2, and Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1–2 (including Nubia).

The Green Lantern Season Two Vol. 2 HC

In hardcover, coming in July, the finale of Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp’s The Green Lantern, collecting issues #7–12.

• Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass TP

The YA graphic novel by Detective Comics' Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh.

Injustice: Year Zero: The Complete Collection HC

Collects Injustice: Year Zero #1–14, the prequel digital-first series by Tom Taylor, featuring the Justice Society.

Justice League Unlimited: Girl Power TP

Collects Adventures in the DC Universe #3–6 and #9, Justice League Adventures #4, and Justice League Unlimited #20–22 and #35–42, with stories featuring Supergirl, Mary Marvel, and Wonder Woman.

The Last God HC

The DC Black Label fantasy series by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Riccardo Federici, which moves into the “considering” pile now that Johnson is writing the Super-titles. Collects The Last God #1–12, The Last God: Tales From the Book of Ages #1, and The Last God: Songs of Lost Children #1.

The New 52: 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition HC

At some point this was solicited as a strange collection of rather random New 52 issue #1s (Voodoo, for instance). This solicitation mentions Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman, Grant Morrison and Rags Morales' Action Comics, and Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman's Animal Man. At 400 pages, obviously that's not all of it, but at least they're plugging the good stuff now.

OMAC: One Man Army Corps by Jack Kirby TP

Collects Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps #1–8 in paperback; this was previously collected in hardcover.

Preacher: The 25th Anniversary Omnibus Vol. 2 HC

In hardcover, collecting Preacher #34–66, Preacher Special: The Story of You-Know-Who, Preacher Special: The Good Old Boys, Preacher Special: One Man’s War, Preacher: Tall in the Saddle, an introduction by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, and other extras.

The Sandman: The Deluxe Edition Book Three HC

Collecting Sandman #32-50, which is the "A Game of You," "Fables and Reflections," and "Brief Lives" collections, but originally the issues were out of order between these. It's too bad there's no significant extras this time, but having the issues recomposed in order is interesting in and of itself.

The Suicide Squad Case Files 1 HC

Stories featuring first or major appearances by Bloodsport, Mongal, Polka-Dot Man, King Shark, Weasel, and the Thinker — can these all possibly be in the James Gunn movie? It’s Superman #4 and #170, Detective Comics #300, Superboy #9, Fury of Firestorm #38, Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #25, Vigilante #36, and Suicide Squad: Amanda Waller #1.

The Suicide Squad Case Files 2 TP

Stories focusing on Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Rick Flag, Ratcatcher, Savant, Javelin, and Blackguard. Collects Suicide Squad #44, Secret Origins #14, Detective Comics #585, Birds of Prey #58, Batman: Harley Quinn #1, Green Lantern #174, and Booster Gold #1.

Suicide Squad: Bad Blood HC

All 11 issues of the "critically lauded maxiseries" by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo (and friends), coming in hardcover in April.

Suicide Squad: Their Greatest Shots TP

All of these Suicide Squad books are, of course, timed for the new James Gunn movie. Good that DC already has all of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad series collected, though indeed that seems to leave us with just anthologies left when DC needs new Suicide Squad books. This collects Suicide Squad #10 (1987) (emphasis on Waller vs. Batman), Suicide Squad #15 (2012) (”Death of the Family” tie-in), Suicide Squad #22 (2013) (including Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and King Shark), Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1 (2016), Suicide Squad #16 (2017) (vs. Lex Luthor), Suicide Squad #20 (2017) (Harley leads the Squad), Suicide Squad #47 (2018) (Captain Boomerang spotlight), and Suicide Squad Special: War Crimes #1 (2016) (John Ostrander special timed to the first Suicide Squad movie).

Supergirl Adventures: Girl of Steel TP

Supergirl’s animated adventures, including Superman Adventures #21, Superman Adventures #39, Superman Adventures #52, and Justice League Unlimited #7.

Superman: Man of Tomorrow Vol. 1: Hero of Metropolis TP

Collecting the digital-first Robert Venditti series, issues #1-6 and #11-15.

Sweet Tooth Compendium

Paperback, collecting Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth #1–40. Interestingly, the description says that the compendium is “a new story-only collection that places the reader directly into the action and doesn’t let up until the very last page!” Is that to say it doesn’t have covers between the issues (which I entirely support, because then the book reads more like a graphic novel!)? Otherwise I’m not sure how to interpret that.

Wonder Woman: 80 Years of the Amazon Warrior: The Deluxe Edition HC

Hardcover tribute volume with reprints and essays, following the similar Action Comics and Detective Comics volumes. Said to include All-Star Comics #8 (first appearance); Sensation Comics #1 (second appearance); Comic Cavalcade #11 (Cheetah); Wonder Woman (vol. 1) #5, #78, #98, #124, #162, #203, and #206; Wonder Woman (vol. 2) #6, #57, #73, and #170; Wonder Woman (vol. 3) #1, #13, #600; Wonder Woman (New 52) #13; Wonder Woman #750; and DC Comics Presents #41.

Wonder Woman: Lords & Liars TP

By Mariko Tamaki and Mikel Janin, collecting Wonder Woman #759-769. This takes us right up to the Future State break.

• You Brought Me the Ocean TP

Alex Sanchez (Rainbow Boys) and Julie Maroh's (Blue Is the Warmest Color) YA tale of Aqualad Jake Hyde.

Review: Teen Titans Vol. 4: Robin No More trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Robbie Thompson and Adam Glass' Teen Titans Vol. 4: Robin No More is another good one in this series. I’m sorry it’s coming to an end but I’m optimistic for Thompson’s post-Future State Suicide Squad and also that some of these Titans will appear in Tim Sheridan’s (also post-Future State) Teen Titans Academy.

Robin No More collects 10 issues, nine and an annual; it is long, so it’s not a fault necessarily that it feels long. I detect some repetition, however, which we might attribute to needing to wrap things up but having an excess of issues to fill for it (a better problem than the alternative). Still, Glass and Thompson’s “Titans gone bad” has been fascinating to watch all along and the final volume is no exception, especially given some great ambiguity as to what exactly does happen here.

On at least the first three covers of the new Teen Titans Academy series, I don’t see any of these Titans, which is a bummer, though I am optimistic that Crush and some of the other characters already seem to have a life after Future State.

Review: Nightwing: The Joker War hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, March 14, 2021

I think I’ve been more charitable than most about Dan Jurgens' run on Nightwing and the “Ric Grayson” saga in general. Whoever’s idea this was, I feel as though Jurgens made the best of it, positing both what Dick-Grayson-as-superhero might have been like without Batman’s influence and also offering a supporting cast of substitute Nightwings who were police and firefighters, likably “regular people” and without melodramatic angst.

But Nightwing: The Joker War is the nadir, a really poor showing, strongly suggesting the “Ric Grayson” saga is past its shelf life, and thank goodness this is the end. The McGuffin that Jurgens introduces to explain away Dick Grayson’s amnesia is itself alone a big letdown. And this book only further troubles the already beleaguered “Joker War,” making the Joker more faux-funny, groan-worthy clown than serious villain. I’ve suspected for a while that all the trappings of “Ric” would just be swept under the rug by the story’s conclusion and that seems to be the case; too bad, in the sense that I’m sorry this didn’t turn out better, but it surely seems in the end it would be preferable just to forget.

Review: Catwoman Vol. 4: Come Home, Alley Cat trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Ram V is a writer whose work I’ve been enjoying lately on Justice League Dark, though Justice League Dark and Catwoman are two different animals, so to speak. Still, I had felt the previous Catwoman run had stalled a bit by the end, so I was optimistic there was nowhere for V to go but up. Indeed Catwoman Vol. 4: Come Home, Alley Cat is fine, bringing the title right up to the Future State break; V more or less seems to have it under control and I’ve no hesitation about picking it up again when the title resumes.

Notably, however, Come Home is largely an anthology book, with V’s fill-in issues #14–15 from Joelle Jones' run, a one-off by Paula Sevenbergen, two by Blake Northcott and Sean Murphy, and then we get down to the regular story with four by Ram V, though even that includes some 25th-issue short stories. So on the whole I’d call Come Home entertaining, and most importantly the main story is a success, but it is a book that swings wildly in terms of story, setting, costumes, and so on as one might expect an anthology would. (All that and a Joker War tie-in issue!)

Review: Batman Vol. 2: The Joker War hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, March 07, 2021

We know James Tynion can write a good Batman; we’ve seen him do it in his dynamic Detective Comics and also in the entertaining start to his Batman run, “Their Dark Designs.” But Tynion’s supposed event comic Batman Vol. 2: The Joker War over-promises and under-delivers, failing to live up to more than a few “Joker War”-type stories that preceded it.

I wouldn’t fault Joker War for being more psychological and less action-packed than I expected — it’s got a fairly good mix of both — but there’s not a lot here that feels new, different, or special, whether repeating beats we’ve already seen from other writers or from Tynion himself. Joker War is not the gauntlet thrown that even the story itself seems to think it is, but I’m hopeful that now that Tynion has the pieces where he wants them, there’s good stuff on the way more in the mold of Dark Designs.

Review: Amethyst trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Amy Reeder’s Wonder Comics Amethyst is a peppy, bubble-gum take on the DC property that hops along from beginning to end. Reeder imbues the title character with no small amount of bullish, youthful get-up-and-go, creating a hero who barrels good-naturedly into every situation and never takes no for an answer, especially not from some stuck-up grownup. The result is charming, an entertaining book that never pauses long enough for its audience to get bored, even when taking a breath might be a boon.

Taken on its own, Reeder’s Amethyst is a winner. It’s only when we step back to look at where Amethyst was meant to fit in the grand DC Universe tapestry versus where it does that we start to run into trouble, as is often the case. I also left the book feeling that Reeder needed another issue — that the most interesting and emotional beats of the Amethyst book were the ones Reeder was just about to arrive at but didn’t have time or space, and that’s a shame. I’d be happy to read another Amethyst miniseries from Reeder, if it was offered; at the same time the shortcomings in this book seem to echo the problems with Brian Michael Bendis' Wonder Comics imprint overall and I can also see the wisdom in just giving it all a rest.