Review: Teen Titans Academy: X Marks the Spot hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Teen Titans Academy is one of these “all the characters in one bucket” concepts, not unlike Scott Snyder’s recently completed Justice League, that really feels like it should work, and I’m stymied this title was cancelled not long after its first year. In Teen Titans Academy Vol. 1: X Marks the Spot, I do not think we get the fullest realization of the premise, but certainly there was the opportunity to get there.

What struggles Tim Sheridan’s book faces are not surprising for a book of this type, I don’t think — a cast too large to really dig in on every character (just yet), the push-and-pull of including characters that also appear in their own or other titles, that “Titans” is best known at the moment simultaneously as both a hard-talking, live action streaming series and a gleeful, irreverent cartoon. That anything cogent can be made from this at all might be a minor miracle.

Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Give Peace a Chance trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, June 26, 2022

I felt there was nothing special, but nothing objectionable, in Robbie Thompson’s inaugural Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Give Peace a Chance. Thompson’s Future State: Suicide Squad story (included here) was particularly good, but to an extent it appears to have already delivered the most interesting thing this title has going for it; the build-up to that Future State story is not nearly as interesting. I have read worse Suicide Squad — grotesque, irreverent, none of which Thompson’s is — but neither did I feel much emotional attachment to the story.

[Review contains spoilers]

Thompson’s Infinite Frontier-era Suicide Squad is what we might call the first post-James Gunn Suicide Squad book. Harley Quinn, though prominent in the Gunn movie, is absent here (maybe the Squad iteration of Harley has finally been subsumed by the “dates Poison Ivy and does Bat-stuff” iteration), as is Squad stalwart Deadshot. In their place is Peacemaker — who, given that I’ve neither seen Gunn’s movie nor watched the HBO Max TV show, holds no great appeal to me — and Bloodsport. And, of course, seemingly the Conner Kent Superboy.

Review: Green Lantern Vol. 1: Invictus trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

When I read the first main chapter of Geoffrey Thorne’s Green Lantern Vol. 1: Invictus, I found it a cogent, readable, but not particularly ground-breaking Green Lantern story of politics and alien sparring.

The second chapter blew my mind, defied all my expectations, and set the tone for a bold new Green Lantern era. The extent to which Thorne plucks mystery from the realm of the commonplace and opens a new avenue for the Green Lantern mythos echoes the work of another “Geoff” — Geoff Johns — which is certainly a fine place to start.

Ring-slinging fans have plenty to enjoy — more probably in the next volume than this — but those who, in the style of Thorne’s Future State: Green Lantern tale, want a more stripped-down, character-based story, particularly focused on John Stewart, should be very, very happy.

Don’t read the back of the book before you start this one, folks.

DC Trade Solicitations for September 2022 - Batman: Shadow War, Catwoman: Lonely City, Batgirls Vol. 1, Wonder Woman: Evolution, Tales of the Amazons, Refrigerator Full of Heads, Teen Titans Academy Vol. 2: Exit Wounds

Sunday, June 19, 2022

As opposed to last month’s DC Comics trade paperback and hardcover solicitations, the September 2022 solicitations offer about half as many books. I’d be more worried if DC hadn’t had a couple good solicitations months lately; I think concerns that something was going to drastically change with the new editorial management after Infinite Frontier have all but dissipated at this point. So yes, half as many books in September as in August, but I think it’s OK.

(Now, the fact that there’s only one collection solicited for this coming week, I don’t know what to tell you, except printing delays are still a thing that’s plaguing us.)

Among books I’m looking forward to is Batgirls Vol. 1. If you read Batman: No Man’s Land in 1999, the Cassandra Cain Batgirl series from 2000 to 2006, the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series from 2009–2011, and then saw it all wiped away for Barbara Gordon to retake the cowl in the New 52 Batgirl series and have Stephanie and Cassandra ever-so-slowly reintroduced over the last 10 years, then you know how long we’ve waited for a book that finally says “yes” to “Can’t we just have all three as Batgirl?” Twenty years in the making and I’m here for it.

I’ve recently been reading Teen Titans Academy and its ancillary titles, so I’m also eager for the final volume, Teen Titans Academy Vol. 2: Exit Wounds. Clearly there’s some big doings going on in Batman: Shadow War, and though it’s not clear to me how much of Tales of the Amazons will be reprinted elsewhere, some of it sure seems important in the wake of Trial of the Amazons.

And, of course, nothing has been impressing me more about DC’s new regime than their daring, sometimes madcap, sometimes filthy Black Label series. Catwoman: Lonely City, Refrigerator Full of Heads, just pour it right in my head. I’ll take Wonder Woman: Evolution, too, even though it’s not, I don’t think, DC Black Label.

Let’s take a look at the full list.

American Vampire 1976

Paperback collection of the 10-issue miniseries by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, following the hardcover.

Aquaman/Green Arrow – Deep Target

Collects the seven-issue miniseries. I wasn’t much moved by this unlikely pairing on the occasion of both characters' anniversaries, but the fact that Brandon Thomas is involved — Aquamen writer, and whose Future State: Aquaman I really enjoyed — makes me slightly more curious.

Batgirls Vol. 1

In paperback, collecting Batgirls #1-6 and the short stories from Batman #115-117 by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad. Wow, this series has been a long time coming.

Batman: Shadow War

In hardcover in November, collecting Batman #122–123, Robin #13–14, Deathstroke Inc. #8–9, Shadow War: Alpha #1, Shadow War: Omega #1, and Shadow War Zone #1 by Joshua Williamson and friends.

The Books of Magic Omnibus Vol. 3 (The Sandman Universe Classics)

Collects The Trenchcoat Brigrade #1–4, The Names of Magic #1–5, Hunter: The Age of Magic #1–25, and The Books of Magick: Life During Wartime #1–15, with Dylan Horrocks and Si Spurrier (mentioned in previous solicitations, but not now, was Vertigo Secret Files: Hellblazer #1). When Sandman Universe was still up and running, if DC had released cut-down versions of these omnibuses, I'd have bought them right away.

Catwoman: Lonely City

The four-issue DC Black Label miniseries written, drawn, colored, and lettered by Cliff Chiang, in hardcover. Apparently there is also an addition direct market edition with a variant cover.

DC Horror Presents: Soul Plumber

Connecting the six-issue miniseries in October in hardcover. Can't tell if this is really actually horror or more of a satire, and so I'm on the fence about picking it up.

DC Poster Portfolio: George Pérez

Celebrating the late writer and artist with covers from New Teen Titans, Wonder Woman, and Crisis on Infinite Earths, plus more, I’m sure (the given cover shows a cover from Infinite Crisis).

Grayson The Superspy Omnibus (2022 Edition)

Collects Grayson #1–20, Grayson: Futures End #1, Secret Origins #8, Grayson Annual #1–3, Robin War #1–2 and Nightwing: Rebirth #1 by Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janin. I really feel it wouldn't be a difficult thing for DC to put together an anthology of new Grayson short stories.

The Joker Vol. 1

In paperback in October, following the hardcover, by James Tynion and Guillem March.

Refrigerator Full of Heads

The Hill House Comics follow-up to Basketful of Heads (which I reviewed), in hardcover in October by Rio Youers and Tom Fowler. I loved the original and while this isn't the same creative team, I'm very excited about the sequel.

Shazam! Thundercrack

YA graphic novel set between the previous and upcoming Shazam! movies, written and drawn by Yehudi Mercado.

Tales of the Amazons

Not unlike Batman vs. Robin: Road to War, this is a hardcover collection of various stories leading up to "Trial of the Amazons." Among the issues said to be collected here are Wonder Woman #781-784, Wonder Woman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 (both also found in the Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Through a Glass Darkly collection), Nubia: Coronation Special #1 (also in Nubia: Queen of the Amazons), and then Artemis: Wanted #1 and Olympus: Rebirth #1.

Teen Titans Academy Vol. 2: Exit Wounds

In hardcover, this is said to be issues #7-15, but given the end of the previous trade, this should be starting with issue #6 (the plot of which is described in the solicitation). Issue #15 marks the end of the series.

Wonder Woman: Evolution

Collects the eight-issue miniseries by Stephanie Nicole Phillips in hardcover in October.

Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Afterworlds trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

I’ve commented before, there’s a thing writers sometimes do when they’ve just started writing a character and need to get acclimated, which is to take the character out of familiar elements and spin a story that may only have just tertiary ties to the character, for the purpose of getting “warmed up.” We’ve seen it with Superman before, to be sure, and we saw it most recently with Kelly Sue DeConnick’s inaugural “amnesia” story in Aquaman before that run settled in.

Indeed, Becky Cloonan and Michael W. Conrad’s Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Afterworlds has a lot in common with Aquaman: Unspoken Water — the hero, thought dead, but instead transported amnesic among a brand new supporting cast. All of whom, similar to the Aquaman story, seem to leave Wonder Woman Diana behind at the end of this book. So I’m left to wonder, what was the point of all of this? Are these all-important first 10 issues really what these writers see as their ultimate portrayal of a Wonder Woman adventure? Or is it that — for the purposes of Nubia, Wonder Girl, and Justice League — DC needed Diana out of the way for roughly 10 issues, and this is what the authors could come up with to do it?

Review: Future State: Gotham Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Future State Gotham Vol. 1 seems the kind of risk DC Comics wouldn’t usually take; I’m not sure what’s driving it, but I’m glad it’s here. Can another future-set Bat-series survive when so many Batman Beyond titles have come and go? And in black-and-white, no less? I don’t know, but what a wild ride for now.

[Review contains spoilers]

I was impressed with DC’s commitment to black-and-white such to even reprint the original Red Hood Future State stories from Future State: Batman: Dark Detective in black-and-white. I’ve found DC’s insistence on reprinting the already-collected Future State stories tedious, but here there’s a value-add in making the stories feel of a piece, rather than if you had to go back and read those stories in color before these. The black-and-white, of course, goes hand-in-hand with Giannis Milonogiannis' manga-infused style; this is essentially — at least to my memory — DC’s first open-ended manga series.

Review: Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. trade paperback (DC Comics/Young Animal)

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Given DC making a big investment these days in a second, future-set continuity, Jody Houser’s Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. could be read as a nascent first draft (and not without a bit of irony thereof). This marked the end (at that moment) for Mother Panic, but I’d have assuredly read more if it came. In a similar vein to Ram V’s recent Bat-villain-focused Catwoman volume, Gotham A.D. sees a future where most Bat-heroes have been vanquished and all that remains to help Panic Violet Paige fight the tyrannical Collective is a cadre of aged Bat-villains doing good by necessity. Middle-age Bat-rogues helping Violet navigate a dystopian future? Sounds like a hoot — sign me up.

[Review contains spoilers]

The mild failing of Gotham A.D. — no fault of Houser’s or artist Ibrahim Moustafa — is that it doesn’t contain the Mother Panic/Batman special from the “Milk Wars” crossover. Sure that’s a bookshelf away, but it factors enough into the plot of Gotham A.D. that it’s inclusion seems obvious. Namely, that as a result of “Milk Wars” Violet has been transported not just to the future but to an alternate future where events in the past happened differently; further that her psychic mother seemed to foretell these events and gifted Violet with Batman’s secret identity before she was whisked away. Clearly I gleaned the high points, but experiencing them would have been better.

Review: Justice League Vol. 1: Prisms hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Oh, I wanted more from Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez' Justice League Vol. 1: Prisms. And I do rather feel like I should have seen this coming, another Wonder Comics/Young Justice scenario. Bendis is not at the center of events in the DCU, so whatever it is that’s happening in Justice League, if this first collection is any indication, Bendis' Justice League is only going to be related in a tertiary way at best. Maybe things will pick up when the ties to another of Bendis' series come along, but the plot of Prisms is so thin, and so much reminds me of Bendis' Young Justice, that I don’t hold out a lot of hope.

[Review contains spoilers]

In the five issues of Bendis' Prisms, the Justice League is attacked by an alien force, then travel themselves to the alien’s dimension, tussle for a bit, and go home. It is anticlimactic in the extreme, even despite Marquez' energetic two-page spreads; compared to other notable Justice League launches — Grant Morrison’s JLA: New World Order or Scott Snyder’s Justice League Vol. 1: The Totality, Prisms offers no great revelations about the DC Universe nor even much in the way of a notable villain.

Review: Mother Panic Vol. 2: Under Her Skin trade paperback (DC Comics/Young Animal)

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

For reasons that should soon become apparent, I’m venturing back to finish reading Jody Houser’s Young Animal series Mother Panic. I found Mother Panic Vol. 2: Under Her Skin just as enjoyable as the first volume, though not really altogether different, for better or worse. There’s the sense of Houser just on the cusp of something as the first year of this book ends — and then Mother Panic would go on to get six issues of a relaunched, re-set series before its final cancellation. So what promise Mother Panic had to rise above its original premise is never realized, though again, that premise was enough to happily drive me through the second book.

[Review contains spoilers]

As with Mother Panic Vol. 1: A Work in Progress, Skin consists of two three-issue Mother Panic adventures, written by Houser and drawn by John Paul Leon (replacing Tommy Lee Edwards from the first volume) and Shawn Crystal respectively. That again Mother Panic juxtaposes a gritty noir-realist artist (Leon, like Edwards) with Crystal’s exaggerated (but horror-tinged) style is a microcosm for this wonderfully weird series as a whole. Mother Panic Violet Paige is an ultra-violent loner vigilante who stalks the Gotham nights, but while wearing a giant, ostentatious, stark white robot suit; Violet is as antisocial as they come, but inadvertently creates for herself a motley crimefighting team that includes her mother, afflicted with dementia, a nursing intern that Violet previously kidnapped, and the Ratcatcher Otis Flannegan.