Review: DC Pride 2021 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

May 18, 2022

DC Pride 2021 is a welcome and important collection, and the only thing better than the original prestige format anthology is the release of a collection with additional material. What had originally seemed might be the entire contents of some of the DC’s recent holiday-themed anthologies ultimately turns out to be just a relevant story each from New Year’s Evil, Mysteries of Love in Space, and Young Monsters in Love. At least in my copy of the collection, these appear just before what was originally the final story in DC Pride and without any indication that they were once separate, such that the whole book feels like a cohesive piece.

[Review contains spoilers]

While books like the New Talent Showcase and the aforementioned holiday specials can sometimes sacrifice story and characterization for spotlighting new-to-DC writers, DC Pride 2021 impressively follows from the DCU mainstream, with stories in the wake of Infinite Frontier and Future State. That, among others, specifically the Batman and Detective Comics writers are here — James Tynion and Mariko Tamaki respectively — indicates the profile DC has assigned to this book.

I will say that among my favorite stories in this collection is one originally from Young Monsters in Love, and that’s Steve Orlando’s weird, unexpected teaming of Maggie Sawyer and Monsieur Mallah and the Brain. I say “unexpected,” but in reality I suspect the pairing is specific (and brilliant). Writer Marc Andreyko name-checks Maggie too in his foreword to the book as one of DC’s early LGBTQ+ characters, created by John Byrne; she was active in the Super-titles about the same time Grant Morrison came on Doom Patrol and confirmed the affection between Mallah and the Brain. Orlando’s feels like a story that could have happened between the pages, back before DC might have ever considered a bisexual Superman or Robin, and Orlando’s love of DC’s past serves him well here.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

If I had to guess, Vita Ayala and Elena Casagrande’s “Little Christmas Tree” from New Year’s Evil, teaming Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya, might’ve had something to do with the Birds of Prey movie coming out about that time. But Ayala’s take on Renee increasingly annoyed by Harley is hilarious, and Casagrande’s chibi effects add to the fun. If there’s a flaw in pairing the DC Pride 2021 special with these earlier stories, it’s that we get unrelated Harley stories in two places in the book, as well as Renee both in and out of Question costume, in a way that might seem confusing or awkward to uninitiated readers; still, it’s a nice reminder particularly of Renee’s versatility as a character.

Again, I was happy to see a story in the wake of Green Lantern Alan Scott coming out to his children in Infinite Frontier, as well as a story with a Future State tie. Sam Johns' Lantern tale grafts to a certain extent James Robinson’s Earth-2 origin on the main DCU Alan Scott, with the arrival of the lantern coinciding with the death of Alan’s boyfriend. I appreciated this in the sense that it feels like the groundbreaking Earth-2 Alan Scott lives on, but at the same time Robinson and company did a lot of work after the fact such that Alan’s powers weren’t solely a reminder of lost love and tragedy. Given Alan’s coming out as one of the tentpoles of the Infinite Frontier era, I rather hope this isn’t the entirety of DC’s story plans; a proper arc would see Alan meet someone, introduce them to and be accepted by his Justice Society colleagues, and so on.

Andrew Wheeler and Luciano Vecchio’s Justice League Queer debuts here, retaining the final story spot, which too raises the team’s profile and makes it seem inevitable DC will give them at least their own special (if not, at least, Extrano, who appears in two stories here). Representation aside, the scope of a JLQ story would be something to see, given the team has members from the Super- and Bat-families, the Teen Titans, and the Suicide Squad. Vecchio’s long-limbed, bushy-maned Eclipso here is wonderfully terrifying.

2.25

Rating

Given DC Pride 2021 as DC’s first foray, many of the stories feel understandably tentative — the stories specifically about feelings of difference, the villains intentionally one-note (see the vampire trying to magically rewrite the Illiad). With DC’s introduction especially of high-profile LGBTQ+ Super and Bat characters over the past year, I’d like to see stories that are less generic, more specific — how is an out superhero treated by the people of Metropolis or Gotham? It speaks volumes that some of those stories are already being told in the main books, but I hope DC Pride can bring added nuance as it grows.

Oh, and given the pinups here, surely we’re due for a Secret Six story next time.

[Includes original cover, Pride Month variant covers, DCTV Pride Profiles]

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