Review: Batman: The Long Halloween Special #1 (2021) comic book (DC Comics)

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Sunday, October 30, 2022

I was very happy when DC Comics announced a new Batman: The Long Halloween Special (happy enough to plan a whole “Long Halloween saga” re-read), though I did wonder if creators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale could recapture the magic in just one issue. There’s precedent, of course, in the single-issue Batman Halloween specials that preceded Batman: The Long Halloween (now collectively known as Haunted Knight) — we’ve come full circle, from the three individual Halloween specials that begot two 13-issue miniseries (and another half as long), which now inspired a special of its own. But could Loeb and Sale do in one issue what they’d previously done best in a baker’s dozen?

[Review contains spoilers]

That answer is no, though I thoroughly enjoyed the Long Halloween Special nonetheless, a return to form after the less impressive Catwoman: When in Rome. Neither Rome nor the special are necessarily mysteries, making them each lesser than Long Halloween and Dark Victory, but the special brings back the gritty Gotham air that Rome lacked, not to mention Long Halloween stalwarts Two-Face and Calendar Man. As a first issue, as the special was perhaps intended to be, the special certainly evokes slipping back in to Halloween’s noir world.

Review: Blue & Gold trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

I was thinking of late how quickly “I remember everything” came and went in the finale of Dark Nights: Death Metal and the start of the Infinite Frontier era. Granted I’m not reading Dark Crisis yet, but if there’s an “everything” that anyone’s remembered outside of Death Metal, I haven’t seen evidence of it yet.

At the same time, Infinite Frontier has brought first Batgirls and now Blue & Gold, so I don’t have all that much to find fault with. Both of these seem like books that, as far back as the New 52 days if not even in the mid-2000s, DC was too much in their own IP to publish these even if the fans wanted them — “Surely three Batgirls would be too confusing for the audience” and “We can’t have Booster and Beetle running around when this here Big 7 is the JLA” (is how I presume the conversations might go).

DC Trade Solicitations for January 2023 - Batman/Superman: World's Finest, Joker Vol. 3, Absolute Dark Nights: Death Metal, Nice House on the Lake Vol. 2, Superman: Warworld Revolution, Batgirls Vol. 2, Adam Strange Deluxe, DC by McDuffie

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Well, the DC Comics January 2023 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations are unremarkable overall, but I’m much happier seeing 23 books on the list instead of last month’s eight! (Even if a handful of them are paperbacks of hardcovers.)

Mostly regular series collections for me this month. I tell you what, the second Nice House on the Lake collection almost got this month’s cover spot, except I’m real excited for Mark Waid’s Batman/Superman: World’s Finest and whatever the next-next big thing it’s leading in to at DC. Action Comics, Wonder Woman, Batgirls, Swamp Thing, and Joker are all buys for me.

I’m pleased to see Batman: The Dark Knight Detective keep chugging along. I’ll be glad when that series is over not because I’m glad to see it over, but to be satisfied all of those issues are finally collected (do the Super-titles next!). DC Universe by Dwayne McDuffie is a deserved collection, and I adore how Adam Strange: Between Two Worlds brings together stories from across eras into a cohesive whole.

Let’s take a look at the full list.

Absolute Dark Nights: Death Metal

Collects issues #1–7 of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo event, in Absolute format. Includes "behind-the-scenes art ..., original pencil pages, and a brand-new introduction."

Adam Strange: Between Two Worlds: The Deluxe Edition

I rather wish DC would do more like this for their "minor" characters. This is the Richard Burning and Andy Kubert's three-issue Adam Strange: The Man of Two Worlds 1990 post-Crisis miniseries, Mark Waid's JLA #20-21 from 1998, and Andy Diggle and Pascal Ferry's eight-issue Adam Strange: Planet Heist from 2004 (which I reviewed 16 years ago). Three different creative teams separated by years, but picking up from one another to tell a related story. It's not by any stretch the full modern history of Adam Strange, but it's a good overview of his pre-Flashpoint years. Martian Manhunter could use a collection like this, Red Tornado, etc.

Aquaman & the Flash: Voidsong

Movie star meets movie star in paperback by Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing. I guess I had some idea this might tie in to Aquaman/Green Arrow: Deep Target, but the creative teams are totally different.

Batgirls Vol. 2

The second collection by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, in paperback in March. I'm not going to spoil the guest starts in this one (as the solicitations do), but I'm very excited and I'm probably going to have to go back and finish reading a series I didn't finish before.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: The Neighborhood

Paperback collection of Mariko Tamaki’s issues #1034–1039. Per my review, a great premise with a not-as-satisfying ending.

Batman: The Dark Knight Detective Vol. 7

Collects Batman #474, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #27, Detective Comics #634-638, #641, and #643, and Detective Comics Annual #4. Batman and Legends are in there as part of the "Destroyer" crossover, which introduced a new-look Gotham in line with the first Tim Burton movie; the annual is an "Armageddon 2001" tie-in. Stories written by Kelley Puckett, Louise Simonson, Peter Milligan, and Alan Grant.

Just for a little comparison, Detective issues #639-640 that aren’t included here are in the Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 5 collection; issue #642 is in the Caped Crusader Vol. 6 collection. Meanwhile, Batman #474, collected here, would have fallen between Caped Crusader Vols. 5 and 6. Caped Crusader Vol. 6 was, I’m pretty sure, the final volume of that series, ending just before the Prelude to Knightfall collection. I’m guessing Dark Knight Detectivehas one more volume to go to end before "Knightfall" and Detective #654.

Batman: The Detective

Paperback of Tom Taylor and Andy Kubert’s six-issue miniseries, following the hardcover. I liked this one, an unexpected Batman Elseworld.

Batman: The Imposter

Paperback, following the hardcover, of the Batman-movie adjacent miniseries by Mattson Tomlin and Andrea Sorrentino. I reviewed Batman: Imposter and thought it was pretty well done.

Batman/Superman: World’s Finest Vol. 1: The Devil Nezha

In hardcover by Mark Waid and Dan Mora, coming in March and collecting issue #1-6.

Birds of Prey: The End of the Beginning

Following the recent Birds of Prey: Whitewater, this is another larger-page-count collection of the original Birds of Prey series. Said to include issues #113-#127, so the original Birds of Prey: Metropolis or Dust and Platinum Flats, give or take a couple issues from elsewhere. Mostly written by Tony Bedard with a couple issues by Sean McKeever; this was after Gail Simone departed with issue #108 and before she returned for the second series.

Blue Beetle: Jaime Reyes Book Two

Second expanded collection of the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle series. This collects issues #13-25 of the original 2006 series, so right on track (previous solicitations for this book seemed to reference issues from the middle of the Rebirth run). Still remains to be seen if the Blue Beetle movie goes ahead and how that might affect this.

Bruce Wayne: Not Super

Just love the offbeat premises of these DC young reader books. In this, by Stuart Gibbs and Berat Pekmezci, Bruce Wayne is the only non-powered kid in a school full of superheroes.

The DC Universe by Dwayne McDuffie

Collects a variety of Dwayne McDuffie's non-Milestone DC work, including Action Comics #847, Demon #26-29, Impulse #60, JLA Showcase 80-Page Giant #1, Batman: Gotham Knights #27, Sins of Youth: Kid Flash/Impulse #1, and Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #33-35, as well as a tribute(s) from the Static Shock Special.

Doom Patrol by Gerard Way and Nick Derington: The Deluxe Edition

Wouldn't mind seeing one of these for each of the Young Animal series. This is the Young Animal Doom Patrol #1-12 and Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds #1-7 by Gerard Way and Nick Derington, like it says on the tin, though lacking what seems to be the pretty essential Milk Wars material.

Girl Taking Over: A Lois Lane Story

Along with Bruce Wayne: Not Super, another fun premise for a DC YA book — teenage Lois Lane seeing drama in a summer reporting internship, by Sarah Kuhn and Arielle Jovellanos.

The Joker Vol. 3

Final collection of the James Tynion series, issues #10-15, before the series relaunch, coming in February in hardcover.

The Nice House on the Lake Vol. 2

Wait, wait. Did this slip? Not coming in December, but rather in March? That is just too cruel. Being the final collection of the horror series by James Tynion and Álvaro Martínez Bueno, collecting issues #7-12.

The Sandman Book Five

Collects the Sandman Mystery Theatre crossover special, Sandman Midnight Theatre, Sandman: Endless Nights, and seemingly just the prose edition of Sandman: Dream Hunters, though I'm surprised not also the comics adaption.

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 3: Warworld Revolution

The next collection by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Daniel Sampere, in paperback in February, collecting Action Comics #1043-1046, the Action Comics 2022 Annual #1, and Superman: Warworld Apocalypse. Ends just before the big crossover with Superman: Son of Kal-El.

The Swamp Thing Volume 3: The Parliament of Gears

The final collection of the limited series by Ram V and Mike Perkins, collecting issues #11-16, in paperback in February.

Teen Titans: Robin

Next in the popular YA Teen Titans series by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo. Dick Grayson and Damian are actual brothers here?

Wonder Woman Vol. 3: The Villainy of Our Fears

In paperback in February by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, following Trial of the Amazons. This is issues #787-794.

Wonder Woman: Who Is Wonder Woman the Deluxe Edition

I reviewed Who Is Wonder Woman? in 2008. Coming back into print since Allan Heinberg wrote the 2017 Wonder Woman movie. With art by Terry and Rachel Dodson.

Review: Batman '89 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

About halfway through Batman '89, I found myself thinking this writer didn’t particularly get the Michael Keaton Bruce Wayne’s voice; shortly thereafter I remembered that the writer is Sam Hamm, verily the screenwriter of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. So maybe what we’re finding here is that, indeed, you just can’t go home again.

I’d read another Batman '89 entry; I’m in favor in principle of the adventures of these characters ongoing. But ultimately I don’t think the six-issue digital-first format served Batman '89 or Superman '78 well. Though something like Batman: Earth One was not significantly shorter than Batman '89 in terms of page count, it seemed like the done-in-one graphic novel format of the Earth One books lent themselves indeed to read like a movie — singular focus, well-defined acts, and so on. Batman '89, in contrast, really reads like a six-issue Batman miniseries, and the ponderousness takes away from the illusion of a movie sequel.1

Review: Superman '78 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 16, 2022

There was a point in time where another good Richard Donner Superman film was what every comics fan wanted, perhaps only rivaled by a another good Tim Burton Batman film, so DC’s recent return to both of these properties is auspicious indeed.

I will go on to say that Robert Venditti and Wilfredo Torres' Superman '78 is imperfect for a few reasons, though these may have more to do with what I was hoping for than what the creative team delivered. But in terms of the voice of Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane or the particular bow of Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent’s shoulders, Venditti and Torres succeed.

This is certainly close enough to be a satisfactory homage if not necessarily a sequel (which may have been all the team was going for). The best news is that Venditti is working on another, because I expect the only place to go from here is up (up, and away).

Review: Suicide Squad: King Shark trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Though meandering at times, far from perfect, Tim Seeley and Scott Kolins' Suicide Squad: King Shark is what most comics should aspire to be. Certainly just a project intended to capitalize on James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad movie, Seeley not only goes so far as to honor elements throughout King Shark’s almost 30 years (!) of DC Comics history, but also dovetails well enough with his own recent Nightwing run.

It is, again, not perfect, but Seeley commits thoroughly to a silly storyline and never skimps on the genuine emotion. Though the plot is full of anthropomorphized animals — Kamandi would feel right at home — Seeley never treats the characters with a hint of scorn. Where books (and particularly Suicide Squad books) have a tendency to present the characters as objects of ridicule for the audience, King Shark never blinks an eye at portraying a shark-man protagonist. It makes for the best kind of comics, one that immerses itself in the fantastical and tells a compelling story to boot.

Review: Batman: One Dark Knight hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, October 09, 2022

Among Batman Black Label books that swiftly come to mind — Batman: Last Knight on Earth, Batman: Three Jokers, even Batman: DamnedBatman: One Dark Knight feels the least of these. Undoubtedly a large part of this book is for the purpose of having another Batman book out there with Jock’s art in it, not an unworthy goal by any means, but the plot was perhaps secondary.

And it isn’t even that One Dark Knight is poorly written, because it’s not. There’s the semblance of a good mystery that reveals itself in the end. For a Batman traditionalist, this is a self-contained tale anchored by Batman, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon, the kind of thing that would be worthwhile for a Batman movie fan. There’s enough overlap between the styles of Jock and Andrea Sorrentino that it feels One Dark Knight could sit comfortably on the shelf with the equally movie-friendly Batman: The Imposter, even as they present considerably different Batmen.

But as opposed to the strong authorial voice of Scott Snyder’s Batman: Last Knight on Earth, the callbacks inherent in Geoff John’s Batman: Three Jokers, and the new Bat-world-building of Mattson Tomlin’s Imposter, I was less able to point to a specific vision or something being said about Batman in Jock’s One Dark Knight. The book’s “classic Batman” approach might as easily be its selling point as its downfall, a book that works in the traditional Batman formula but fails to rise above it.

Review: The Joker Presents: A Puzzlebox hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, October 05, 2022

I had high hopes for Matthew Rosenberg’s Joker Presents: A Puzzlebox, so I’m disappointed by the book’s failure to impress. All the pieces are certainly here — a whodunit mystery with the culpit unrevealed until the final pages; elements of a pseudo-one-scene play, somewhere between A Chorus Line, The Usual Suspects, and Rashomon; and a who’s who of Batman villains all thrown together in the same story (heck, you had me at Batman villains meets Usual Suspects).

But it doesn’t manifest, mostly because for all the technical machinations (which themselves aren’t all that impressive), Rosenberg never quite makes the mystery matter; there aren’t the stakes to make who did what to whom emotionally compelling. Rosenberg was also the author of the Grifter story in Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 1, another heist caper that too was better in its setup but fell apart in its denoument.

Which is to say, I’ll be tempering my expectations for the next books I’ll read by Rosenberg1, and that’s not a good thing.

Review: Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow trade paperback

Sunday, October 02, 2022

From its provocative beginnings to its twist of an end, Tom King’s Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow is another brilliant deconstruction of a beloved character. King shows from the jump that he understands the tensions inherent in the Kara Zor-El character and he investigates them with skill. The reader ought be seeing their own perceptions challenged just the same as alien forces vie against Supergirl.

Kara Zor-El has had an interesting couple decades in the modern era, with DC Comics clearly unsure at times what to do with her or how to portray her. One interesting facet of Supergirl in the modern era has been an updated view of her tragic origins, bringing real emotion to what might otherwise have been treated with melodrama in the Silver and Bronze Ages. The infant Clark Kent nee Kal-El suffered no loss in Krypton’s destruction except emotional yearning; young Bruce Wayne lost his parents; but teenage Kara is singular among them in having lost her entire civilization, everyone she ever knew, and the planet they lived on. The horror is so often elided because it’s nearly unimaginable.