Review: Basketful of Heads hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Gripping and irreverent, at times both exploitative and progressive, a tribute to and send-up of classic slasher flick mores, Basketful of Heads is a bold statement about what’s to come from writer Joe Hill’s Hill House Comics imprint from DC Black Label. Whether the other four series in the initial run uphold the same, whether there even is a “what’s to come” for Hill House (only one series has been announced past the initial five) — really, all the existential questions about DC Comics' pop-up imprints — still remains to be seen. But Basketful of Heads (I can’t be the first one to say this) is a basketful of fun, and certainly compels me to check out Hill House’s next offerings.

[Review contains spoilers]

Basketful sees comely coed June Branch chased around an isolated island by increasingly desperate criminals, drawn successively, suggestively soaking wet by artist Leomacs, in the tradition of thrillers since time immemorable. But June also wields — expertly, absurdly — a magical Viking axe that separates heads from bodies but leaves the heads conscious, such that June moves dizzyingly at times between the roles of victim and killer, not to mention such questions as whether June is insane, if all the disembodied heads are just in her head (so to speak), and whether the real “monster” is the crazy axe-murdering girl.

Review: Batman: The World hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, September 26, 2021

I think the modern era of DC Comics anthologies kicked off with 2018’s Action Comics #10001, a jam session of Superman one-offs by notable creators, followed in quick succession by Detective Comics #1000, Detective Comics #1027, and a variety of anniversary publications. Now we’re into anthologies de rigueur, from the Future State regular-issues-as-anthologies and Batman: Urban Legends to most big titles having a backup or two now. And I would venture these improved as they went on; Detective #1027 sticks out to me as a particularly good one, better than what proceeded it, and Wonder Woman #750 as another.

So whereas an anthology of disconnected one-off stories might not have always been my thing, I was excited for Batman: The World, an original graphic novel collection of Batman stories from various countries, as another of these kinds of jam sessions. And indeed there’s much to like here and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The World (it falls neatly in a category I’ve mentioned before of good reads — content-heavy, continuity-light — for a long plane ride).

Review: Justice League United Vol. 2: The Infinitus Saga trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Way back when, Jeff Lemire’s Justice League United was an interesting concept among the League B-team set. In a long tradition of sub-Leagues, made up of second-stringers and usually more character-focused than the main title, Lemire’s United had the benefit at the outset of starring Green Arrow and Animal Man, two characters with which Lemire had wildly successful runs, plus fan-favorite characters (and/or otherwise following from the recently cancelled Justice League of America series) like Martian Manhunter, Stargirl, Hawkman, and also Supergirl.

Lemire’s first volume of the series sped along nicely, a cosmic-but-heartfelt space romp with most art by Mike McKone. And Lemire of course is a writer of some renown, with those great runs on Green Arrow and Animal Man plus the new-to-TV Sweet Tooth and so on. So one would be forgiven for expecting a lot from Justice League United Vol. 2: The Infinitus Saga, teaming Lemire’s League with no small contingent of DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes. On its own, Lemire writing Legion sounds sublime.

DC Trade Solicitations for December 2021 — Detective Comics Vol. 1: The Neighborhood, Milestone Compendium One, Crime Syndicate, Legion: Before the Darkness Vol. 2, Static Season One, Absolute Dark Nights: Metal and Doomsday Clock

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Well, it’s not like the DC Comics December 2021 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations are disappointing all told.

This month introduces a Barbara Gordon/Stephanie Brown/Cassandra Cain Batgirls series (written by Becky Cloonan), and something called One-Star Squadron with Red Tornado, Power Girl, and Gangbuster (!) in it (hopefully despite the book’s humorous take, writer Mark Russell gives Jose Delgado’s long history a fair shake), and Jeff Lemire and Doug Mahnke on Swamp Thing, and (I had forgotten) Tom Taylor’s Dark Knights of Steel is still going on, plus the Blue & Gold miniseries. As I’ve said recently, the big question was whether post-Dark Nights: Death Metal and the firing of Dan DiDio, we were headed for DC as licensed-properties only, very appeal-to-the-widest-consumer-base stuff, and instead we do seem to be getting a lot of deep cut, fan-love products; it’s hard to be too upset.

That comes with the acknowledgement, however, that there’s only two collections of first-run, main DC Universe material in these solicitations, and that continues to make for some scant months. I think it’ll pick up — or maybe it’s not so bad if it doesn’t — but indeed collections-wise we’re still on the slight side.

Those two main DCU collections, by the by, are Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: The Neighborhood, kicking off Mariko Tamaki’s run, and Crime Syndicate, the post-Dark Nights: Death Metal miniseries. Not that those’re the only notable books of the month; we’ve also got Legion of Super-Heroes: Before the Darkness Vol. 2, and I’ll probably finally take my opportunity to read Catwoman When in Rome, too. Also notable are two Milestone titles, Milestone Compendium One (hopefully, finally), and Vita Ayala’s Static: Season One.

Let’s dive in …

Absolute Dark Nights: Metal

Collects Dark Nights: Metal #1-6, Batman: Lost #1, Dark Nights: Metal Director’s Cut #1, and Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt #1. Good for Greg Capullo, especially, getting an Absolute edition of this artwork. I will say I recently re-read Dark Nights: Metal and liked it a lot more than I did the first time.

Absolute Doomsday Clock

I mean, so many mixed feelings about Doomsday Clock in general, but if you didn't read it another way, this is a way to read it. I wonder if the "dozens" of included behind-the-scenes features would help illuminate what this series was supposed to be versus what it actually turned out to be.

Batman Vol. 2: The Joker War

Paperback collecting of Batman #95-100, following the hardcover.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: The Neighborhood

Everything old is new again, as it often is, with a new Detective Comics Vol. 1, though individual issue numberings remain on track, of course. This is Detective #1034–1039 by Mariko Tamaki and Dan Mora, coming in hardcover in February.

Batman: The Long Halloween: Catwoman When in Rome: The Deluxe Edition

Another volume now newly branded with "Long Halloween." Collects Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's six-issue miniseries, which I never read; maybe I should take this opportunity with all the Long Halloween hoopla.

Batman: White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn

Paperback, following the hardcover, of the six-issue miniseries by Katana Collins plus the Harley Quinn Black + White + Red tie-in story.

Crime Syndicate

The six-issue miniseries by Andy Schmidt and Kieran McKeown, spinning out of Dark Nights: Death Metal and Infinite Frontier. I’m guessing the backup origin stories drawn by Bryan Hitch appeared in the original issues and aren’t exclusive to this collection.

DC Poster Portfolio: DC Pride

Covers from DC’s Pride Month, due out in May.

Green Arrow: Stranded

YA take on a 13-year-old Oliver Queen by Brendan Deneen and Bell Hosalla.

Harley Quinn & the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley

Paperback, of course, following the hardcover. I enjoyed this well enough, reminding of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s original Harley run.

The Joker War Saga

Paperback, following the hardcover, of Batman #95-100, the tie-ins from Batgirl, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Nightwing, Detective Comics, and the Joker War Zone special.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Before the Darkness Vol. 2

Collects Legion of Super-Heroes #272-283, DC Special Series #21, and Best of DC: Blue Ribbon Digest #24 in hardcover, coming in January.

Milestone Compendium One

I have been very excited for this much delayed collection, which was supposed to include the first dozen or so issues each of Blood Syndicate, Hardware, Icon, Static, and Xombi, plus Shadow Cabinet #0 (the end of the "Shadow War" crossover between the titles). That this latest solicitation lists no contents is worrisome, but I'm still hopeful that the collection fulfills its original intent.


In hardcover, collecting DC’s digital-first anthology series, with stories by Christian Cooper and others.

Static: Season One

In hardcover, collecting issues #1-6 of the new Static series by Vita Ayala. Collects Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0 and Static: Season One #1-6.

Review: Secret Six Vol. 2: The Gauntlet trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Gail Simone’s Secret Six, in all its iterations, has been the story of mercenaries for hire, loyal — almost always to a fault — only to each other. Whether helping grieving relatives get justice for a murdered child or protecting a slave trader’s dark fortune, the morality of a Six job hardly matters — until it does.

Should a job get too personal, a Six-er or their family threatened, or even one member’s own interests too far piqued, Six jobs can (and usually do) go wrong. But no matter how many times the Six betray or otherwise try to murder one another, they always come back together in the end, these personalities — often nontraditional in gender or sexuality — knowing where they fit in most is with one another.

By these definitions, Simone’s second Secret Six, which comes to its conclusion in the DC You-era Secret Six Vol. 2: The Gauntlet, is no less valid than the first. Certainly insofar as Simone’s first Secret Six gained members like Black Alice and King Shark, to the point that it was hardly a “Six” by the time it finished anyway, new members like Porcelain and Strix are no less worthy of membership in the Six team than the original-originals.

Review: Secret Six Vol. 1: Friends in Low Places trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Secret Six Vol. 1: Friends in Low Places begins Gail Simone’s second Secret Six series (in the 2014 late-New 52/DC You-era), following her post-Crisis/pre-Flashpoint Secret Six series from 2005-ish to 2011. Simone’s earlier Secret Six is without question one of DC Comics' best series of the 21st century, a book that deserves far more acclaim than it’s ever received, worthy of a top spot on every “best series you’ve never read” list, and so the bar was high for the relaunch.

What we get in Friends is in the end simply confusing. The spirit of Simone’s Six is there, but not perhaps the full-fledged drama and lunacy; if the latter chapters of Simone’s first Six were perpetually turned up to 11, Friends hums along at a 7 or an 8. Like a song that only sounds familiar, the reader starts to sing along only to find the words are actually different; a big 180 in terms of what the book seems to be about versus what it is eventually actually about only muddles things more.

Review: Raven: Daughter of Darkness Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

I’m pleased that Marv Wolfman’s Raven: Daughter of Darkness Vol. 2, the last of his string of Rebirth-era Raven miniseries, ends on a high note. The initial Raven miniseries was something of a mess, and this successful conclusion seems to point the way forward, though seemingly too little, too late — pulling Raven away from high school theatrics, away especially from Wolfman trying too hard to write “teen-speak,” and toward instead a supporting cast made up entirely of other superheroes. That works much better, reflecting I think where the writer is most comfortable.

It’s a small pity that at least a couple of plot points from across Wolfman’s Raven miniseries never quite get resolved. For at least one of these, it seems Wolfman has opportunity but runs out of real estate or a subsequent miniseries with which to conclude. That’s better though than the plot point from the previous book hurriedly shoehorned into the end of this. In all, however, none of this disturbs that much given that this story stands well enough on its own; short of a detail here and there (especially as relates to one powerful scene), interested readers might be advised to skip all of Wolfman’s lead-up and just start here.

Review: Raven: Daughter of Darkness Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Marv Wolfman’s Raven: Daughter of Darkness Vol. 1 is an improvement at least on his previous Rebirth era Raven miniseries. For me, I still see Wolfman getting too much in his own way; it’s not necessarily that I don’t like the new, young Raven so much as Wolfman’s “lingo” for Raven and others is not nearly as hip as he thinks it is, making this whole book seem kind of stodgy.

There’s a fine mystery, some reversals, even a villain somewhat trite but unexpected nonetheless — all of that, again, is better than what came before. But Raven is also hampered by the book’s low effort to fill us in on the main character’s recent history or even current origins; when notable events take place or people appear, it’s hard to know necessarily what gravity to give them when we don’t know how common or unusual they are. It makes the reading experience uneven; DC achieves their goal of having a Raven title on the stands at a time it’s worthwhile, but assuredly nothing ground-breaking is accomplished.

Review: Sweet Tooth: The Return trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

“This is a story …” Indeed it is. Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth: The Return is a fantastic coda to his Sweet Tooth saga, apart from but additive to the original books.

To delve much more into the who and how would spoil it, but suffice it to say that I have seen writers return to their masterworks with mixed results, sequels that don’t live up or that make one question whether the good old days were all that good at all. The Return is not that — it is wholly unnecessary for enjoying Sweet Tooth proper, but also emotional and sweet and centered around certain ideas implicit but perhaps not explicit in the original. That’s useful; insomuch as one does not have to have The Return, one would have clearer eyes afterward were they to delve back into the original Sweet Tooth again.