Review: DC Comics: Generations hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

December 1, 2021

 ·  5 comments

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.

That all said, Generations is a good book overall (in the genre of largely self-contained plane reads), especially given artists from Ivan Reis to Yanick Paquette, Kevin Nowlan, John Romita, and Colleen Doran, all under the words of what seems mostly Dan Jurgens with Robert Venditti and Andy Schmidt. And if you’re a Dan Jurgens fan from back in the day, this is fun trip down memory lane, if nothing else because Jurgens resurrects some concepts I never ever thought we’d see again. But letting Jurgens write the eras he’s best associated with is a double-edged sword, because it makes the really obvious gaffes all that much more appalling.

[Review contains spoilers for Generations and Dark Nights: Death Metal]

There is unquestionably something very cool about seeing DC heroes from different eras team up, and it’s even better that Generations even allows heroes from different continuities to appear here together (mostly the Golden Age Batman, but it’s the thought that counts). One could easily lay this at the feet of the end of Death Metal, in that this is what it means that now every hero remembers their entire histories, except that Death Metal doesn’t even get a nod in the art, letting alone the story. Also, the modern era is about the only time period that doesn’t factor in here — there’s no, for instance, modern Nightwing who can say “I remember you” to the Golden Age Batman. Generations is “just” a random era-spanning story (at least now it is), which would be fine except for the time in which it arrived and the series that it was purportedly to connect to but doesn’t.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

But it has as at least one of its strengths that Generations is a long read, especially when it only collects one short story and two issues (albeit 80-pagers). It is ponderous and very talky, which can be a detriment but when viewed through the lens of a throwback Jurgens piece, seems appropriate. So too is the classic Silver Age team-up structure where the heroes break up into groups to fight individual threats before coming back together. The whole thing reminds me, I suddenly realized, of John Ostrander’s very 1990s Armageddon: Inferno, and if you both know what I’m talking about and remember it with any fondness, Generations will be a book for you.

Speaking of Armageddon 2001, and Dan Jurgens, the book also includes Jurgens' Waverider, and the Linear Men, and Vanishing Point, and Booster Gold, and again your results will vary depending on whether those characters alone make the book a must-buy for you. Among other cool touches, Jurgens includes the Eradicator as a villain, but not — as one might expect — the goggled “Death of Superman” iteration nor any of his other more recent forms, but the classic “Krypton Man” iteration from the 1991 Triangle Titles heyday.

I’d have quite confidently bet Jurgens' villain for the piece would have been another of his creations, Extant; I’d have gone through a long list of others before I landed on Dominus. If the original humanoid Eradicator represents some of the best of Jurgens' long run on the Superman titles, Dominus is among the worst, a villain from after Jurgens had stopped drawing and when plot and characters were stagnating (Dominus is the beginning of the end before the Triangle Titles teams were replaced by Jeph Loeb and company). That Dominus should show up here, and that Jurgens should make him almost halfway compelling, is audacity at its best, and again, a fun shoutout to a bygone era.

Unfortunately, Generations falls down sometimes when it doesn’t really need to. Steel John Henry Irons gets plucked out of time fighting the Cyborg Superman in Metropolis after the destruction of Coast City — if anyone should know that the Cyborg Superman never made it back to Metropolis after Coast City in “Death of Superman,” it should be Jurgens (and easily the same scene could have been legitimately set in the Cyborg’s Engine City). Ditto that Jurgens seems to depict Robin Dick Grayson and Starfire’s relationship as far less developed than it was by the time of New Teen Titans: Judas Contract; it doesn’t break the story, but at the same time for a history-focused tale, it seems the kind of thing one would want to get right.

And on and on; the Apokoliptian Knockout is written fairly out of character (and apparently they listen to Howlin' Wolf on Apokolips); the Artemis who appears here seems a confused amalgam of the Justice Society-related and Wonder Woman characters; Steel’s armor inexplicably melts at one point; Dr. Light (Kimiyo Hoshi) is relieved to find that her Nobel Prize in the rubble of Vanishing Point for some reason; the story turns on Skeets running out of power, but he’s suddenly working again and I couldn’t spot how.

2.5

Rating

Still, in all again DC Comics: Generations is enjoyable; the gaffes are mostly able to be overlooked especially against Dan Jurgens' trademark rainbow timescapes. The “Linearverse” introduced here might be more of a headline if it didn’t seem obviously destined to be overshadowed by whatever’s coming out of Dark Nights: Death Metal; I’m reminded of Hypertime after The Kingdom, equally a good idea that became more a well-bandied phrase than an actual thing. Anyway, Dominus — who’d have ever believed that.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Comments ( 5 )

  1. Great review. This was a nostalgia fest for sure. For me, I really enjoy Jurgen's take on his creation, Booster Gold and so the buy factor for me was Booster was in it. I do remember Armageddon Inferno...and boy you are right.....about the similarity in story structure.

    Not Dan's best work, and maybe his last high profile work for DC as I don't remember if he is still writing anything over there.

    For the nostalgia, I'll excuse the choppy writing. My 10 year old son grabbed the book and read it.....he enjoyed it, calling it a fun story.....

    A fun story that I probably won't cherish, but worth one or two reads.....

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    Replies
    1. Correct nothing scheduled from Jurgens right now from DC; it'll be interesting to see where he pops up next.

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    2. Jurgens is currently writing the Blue and Gold mini series, which is set to run for 8 issues. No idea if he's got anything lined up at DC after that, and he even started taking on some short-term gigs at Marvel this year.

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    3. I forgot about that mini-series. Thanks for reminding me. I hope he gets more work......he's been a DC mainstay for such a long time, and his rendition of Superman (with Art Thibert inking - is one of my favorites).

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    4. Ah, yes, forgot about Blue & Gold also. It'd be cool if that story referenced this one.

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