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.