Review: Robin & Batman hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen are each popular and prolific among the DC Comics set. Together, they’re the team behind the acclaimed Descender from Image (and its sequel, Ascender), which, notably, has recently been optioned for both film and television.

I expect somewhere in there is the reason for the team’s Robin & Batman.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Nguyen. It is, I say more grudgingly, nicely written by Lemire. Indeed, I can step outside myself and say there’s nothing problematic here; Lemire (an accomplished writer I enjoy) offers a nice perspective on Robin Dick Grayson trying to negotiate the really unbelievable world he’s been thrust in upon being taken in by Bruce Wayne. In the way of these “Elseworlds-ish” miniseries, Lemire also does some fun, unexpected juxtaposing of different DC eras and sensibilities.

Review: Superman vs. Lobo hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 25, 2022

DC Black Label titles so far have (entertainingly) used their mature allowances to make the bad worse — more disturbing horror stories, more dystopian situations for our heroes or versions thereof. What Black Label hasn’t done much, however, is use that maturity for comedy, and of course the choice for that is obvious: Lobo1.

And so, Tim Seeley, Sarah Beattie, and Mirka Andolfo’s Superman vs. Lobo. It is not, getting right down to it, laugh-out-loud funny, though it is entertaining, and I’d be happy to see Black Label go this route again. I wouldn’t mind another Lobo book sans Superman, or Harley Quinn (or Harley Quinn and Lobo), or Ambush Bug, and so on.

Review: Suicide Squad: Get Joker! hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The same as James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad was a dark, irreverent take on the DC property (perhaps darker and irreverent-er, since Suicide Squad is not usually bright and sunny as a rule), Brian Azzarello and Alex Maleev’s DC Black Label Suicide Squad: Get Joker! is equally a funny, dark take on a dark corner of the DC Universe. It’s a Quentin Tarantino movie by way of a Suicide Squad comic, with similarities — if not outright callouts — to Reservoir Dogs, Clockwork Orange, even a bit of Death in Venice.

More and more what I’ve enjoyed about the DC Black Label titles is that they fall into the category, in the old Elseworlds parlance, of “times and places … [that] shouldn’t exist.” No one particularly wants the Adam Strange of Strange Adventures to be the mainstream Adam Strange, but I’m glad that doesn’t prevent that story from being told. In the same way, bad stuff happens in Get Joker!, things it would be unwise for DC to allow to happen in their main universe, but it also allows for some fine interplay between characters and some ideas to surface that I don’t recall seeing before in Suicide Squad.

DC Trade Solicitations for December 2022 - Absolute Batman: Three Jokers, Black Adam — Justice Society Case Files, Aquaman: Andromeda and 80 Years, Monkey Prince, Milestone Compendium Two, Batman Beyond: Neo-Year, Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 4

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Perhaps the skimpiest monthly list in recent memory, the DC Comics December 2022 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations has only eight books on it! For what will be February 2023, that’s a little worrisome (the December 2021 solicitations list had about double this amount), but also the DC Comics November 2022 solicitations had 20 books, so maybe we just chalk this up to the vagaries of shipping schedules than anything else.

Among surprises here is the Absolute Batman: Three Jokers, just because I hadn’t heard it was getting an Absolute (and is this the first original Black Label Absolute?). I’m fine with the copy I have, but if you haven’t read this book before, this is a good way to do so. I’ve been eager to read Ram V’s Aquaman: Andromeda since it was announced, and it remains a thrill that the DC/Milestone “Worlds Collide” crossover will be collected in Milestone Compendium Two.

Tie-ins to the movie with the Black Adam — Justice Society Case Files book, DC’s Monkey Prince series gets its first collection … let’s take a look at the (very short) list:

Absolute Batman: Three Jokers

Considering the weird alt-history of this story (a book that requires both a healed Barbara Gordon and a resurrected Jason Todd, and so in the late 1980s would have been nigh unimaginable), in my review I called Batman: Three Jokers “perhaps the first to truly chart the [DC Black Label] imprint’s way forward.” Based only on memory, maybe this is the first original Black Label title to be reprinted Absolute? It was good, and well-drawn by Jason Fabok — no complaints here.

Aquaman: 80 Years of the King of the Seven Seas: The Deluxe Edition

Another of DC's anniversary hardcovers. The previously solicited contents for this seem way off base, describing a range of 50 to 100 comics, though some of the quirky one-offs named are interesting — JLA: Our Worlds at War #1 and Outsiders: Five of a Kind - Metamorpho/Aquaman #1, for two. But maybe some of this is just covers? The newest solicitation doesn't include contents, so I guess we'll see next Valentine's Day.

Previously said to include Aquaman #0-37; JLA: Our Worlds at War #1; Aquaman #17; Outsiders: Five of a Kind - Metamorpho/Aquaman #1; Adventure Comics #120-137, 232-266, and 269-475; More Fun Comics #73; Aquaman #11-35 and 46-62; two different Aquaman #1s; Aquaman Special #1; and Aquaman_ #25, coming in February 2023.

Aquaman: Andromeda

Ram V writing a DC Black Label horror story starring Aquaman and Black Manta feels like about all I could want write now. Glad to see Black Label branching out beyond just Superman, Batman (and Harley Quinn and the Joker), and Wonder Woman. In hardcover in February. Aquaman is a character I can see starring in a horror title but not a character I imagine is given to being horrified, so I'm curious how this will play out.

Batman Beyond: Neo-Year

In paperback, collecting the six-issue miniseries by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly.

Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 4

Said to be stories of Wight Witch, a new Birds of Prey, and Batman teaming with Aquaman, Plastic Man, the Flash, the Question, Black Adam. In paperback in January. Notably Urban Legends ends this month with issue #23 and a slick character-jam cover.

Black Adam — The Justice Society Case Files

Collects Black Adam - The Justice Society Files: Hawkman #1, Black Adam - The Justice Society Files: Cyclone #1, Black Adam - The Justice Society Files: Atom Smasher #1, and Black Adam - The Justice Society Files: Dr. Fate #1. Indeed this is all in the continuity of the Black Adam movie, though to be sure we could use some secret files to explain the status of the DCU Justice Society. Hopefully the new series will make that clearer, though it's not guaranteed (a movie JSA, however, perhaps puts some legs under the newest JSA series lasting a while).

Milestone Compendium Two

Great to see a second Milestone Compendium, and it finally collects the “Worlds Collide” crossover with the Superman titles (probably no Colorforms cover though). There’s still material for at least another volume or two. Said to collect Blood Syndicate #13–23, Hardware #13–21, Icon #11–21, Shadow Cabinet #1–4, Static #9–20, Steel #6–7, Superboy #6–7, Superman: The Man of Steel #35–36, and Worlds Collide #1, in paperback at the end of January.

Monkey Prince Vol. 1: Enter the Monkey

In hardcover in January. Previous solicitations listed the first six issues of the series and the debut story from DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration by Gene Luen Yang and Bernard Chang.

Review: Black Manta trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

I wouldn’t go so far as to say a consistent characterization for Black Manta has been established among DC Comics' writer set. But, between Aquaman writers including Geoff Johns and Dan Abnett, and particularly some good work Sean Ryan did on New Suicide Squad some years back, I’ve long since learned a Black Manta story is worth paying attention to. Not good but not quite evil, often playing to his own unique moral code, a story with Black Manta rarely disappoints.

And so too with Chuck Brown’s Black Manta miniseries, running concurrent with Brandon Thomas' Aquaman: The Becoming and leading in to the Aquamen miniseries. I might ordinarily quibble with an uncharacteristic amount of the supernatural in a Black Manta story (vs. the geopolitics and spy double-dealings of the aforementioned New Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Monsters). But for one, I think Manta David Hyde has come far enough that he can withstand such genre shifts, and for two, Brown does well in making it all work. Artists Valentine de Landro and Matthew Dow Smith are both gifts here, bringing to Manta a gritty minimalist style we might otherwise expect from something like Gotham Central.

Review: Flash Vol. 16: Wally West Returns trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, September 11, 2022

I found a number of aspects of Flash Vol. 16: The Return of Wally West problematic, at a time when it just doesn’t seem it should be all that difficult to write a workable Flash book. Fortunately, a good amount of that difficulty comes in an interstitial four-parter by Kevin Shinick before new ongoing writer Jeremy Adams takes over, so that much can be dismissed as the foibles of index stories.

Adams' story equally struggles, though it gets better as it goes. I’m tentatively inclined to chalk this up to an incoming writer getting his feet under him, as long as we see some improvement next time around. Some inspired moments toward the end of Return make me hopeful.

[Review contains spoilers]

It takes a bit for the premise of Return’s main story to become clear, but I relaxed into it once I realized Adams' is essentially doing Superman: Time and Time Again Flash (Wally West)-style — hero bounced through the timestream encountering different DC Comics eras. Dinosaurs are pretty well de rigueur these days, and Adams having Wally embody Impulse in the future was just plain confusing (since Bart never was Impulse in the future).

Review: Aquaman: The Becoming trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

I’m no less impressed with writer Brandon Thomas after Aquaman: The Becoming; what promising things we saw in Thomas' Future State: Aquaman (collected in Future State: Justice League and also here) continue. The six-part Becoming is less frenetic and bloody than the two-issue Future State story, but still with plenty of surprises, Easter eggs, and espionage machinations. I like my Aquaman stories best when the political stakes echo a world just slightly removed from our own, and Becoming has that — and a likable Jackson Hyde, to boot.

[Review contains spoilers]

For reasons not made wholly explicit, Aquaman Arthur Curry is training Aqualad Jackson Hyde here to be the new Aquaman. Whether that’s an anachronism in the run-up to Dark Crisis or a result of Arthur becoming a new father is never quite clear (or that Thomas' shows Arthur and Mera have an ongoing tendency to leave Jackson guarding the shore while they go off to canoodle).

Review: Justice League Dark: The Great Wickedness trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 04, 2022

I was uncharacteristically down on Ram V’s Justice League Dark: The Great Wickedness when I finished it. In general Ram V’s Dark has been superb, as good as if not exceeding great runs before him by James Tynion and Jeff Lemire.

Flipping back through the book, I see it’s not quite that bad after all. The beginning moves at a brisk pace, and I like especially seeing the Justice League Dark and Justice League proper working together, moving in more of the same circles than usual. I think it’s a slowdown in the middle and the rather sudden conclusion that left me bored and befuddled respectively, unfortunate in what is Ram V’s final Justice League Dark volume.

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

The book kicks off well, blending the internal (the recent re-death of Zatanna’s father Zatara) and the external (Wonder Woman perishing in Dark Nights: Death Metal) to find the Dark in a dark place. A routine case sees Zatanna and John Constantine encountering a newly resurrected Jason Blood, which leads to a really fun roundtable with the main League, Justice League Dark, and Etrigan the Demon cracking wise. Again, I love seeing these two teams as one — Detective Chimp at the table with Green Arrow and Black Canary — and Ram V also uses dialogue and references to Brian Michael Bendis' Justice League, making it all really feel of a piece.