Review: Batman: Secret Files trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, December 28, 2022

If ever there was an example of collected comics being a complicated world often without clear answers, it’s Batman: Secret Files.

This is not a book we needed, but a book we couldn’t do without. In the Infinite Frontier era, DC’s been publishing a lot of anthologies and padding their core titles with backup stories, which seems to be a comics trend. It’s lead to uncertainty how a variety of material will be collected, if at all. Of the six issues collected here, four are also collected elsewhere; buying a trade for just two issues isn’t ideal, but neither is having those two issues go uncollected.

An better situation for Secret Files might go something like this: the Peacekeeper-01 and Huntress issues, taking place between issues of Batman and Detective Comics respectively (and also collected, respectively, in Batman: Fear State Saga and Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Fear State), might just be issues of or backups for those titles. Collect those only with those books, and replace with something else here. The Miracle Molly and Gardner issues, collected somewhat arbitrarily in Batman: Fear State Saga, might just be collected here, with Fear State Saga instead populated with more relevant Bat-family issues.

Review: New Gods Book Two: Advent of Darkness trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 25, 2022

[A series on post-Jack Kirby New Gods titles by guest reviewer Zach King. Zach writes about movies at The Cinema King and about comics on Instagram at Dr. King’s Comics.]

“I had loved The New Gods since the series premiered. It was truly Kirby’s masterpiece. … I had always loved collaborating with Mark Evanier, so it was an easy decision.” - Rick Hoberg

While the first post-Crisis trade collection of New Gods spent its time wallowing where Jack Kirby had gone before, New Gods Book Two: Advent of Darkness, collecting issues #15–28, moves a bit further forward, albeit by going back into the past. You may find yourself scratching your head on that notion, but that means you’re in good territory; much of Kirby’s later output wrestled with the fundamentally ineffable (see also 2001, The Eternals, Silver Star, etc.) and it’s only appropriate that his inheritors would similarly tread upon unfathomable ground.

Review: New Gods Book One: Bloodlines trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

[A series on post-Jack Kirby New Gods titles by guest reviewer Zach King. Zach writes about movies at The Cinema King and about comics on Instagram at Dr. King’s Comics.]

“DC started this series with another writer … So right there you have six issues where no one was at the wheel … I was so mired in the wrong direction I didn’t know how to get out of it. It was not a very good comic, and I deserve a pretty good share of the blame.” - Mark Evanier

In hindsight, we can look back at the conditions that drove Jack Kirby away from DC Comics in the 1970s and back into the arms of his erstwhile employer Marvel and think, “Were they crazy?” If you have the King working for you, wouldn’t you do anything to keep him? And if you’re going to resurrect his most earnest creative property - the New Gods of the Fourth World - wouldn’t you want him to do it?

DC Trade Solicitations for March 2023 - Absolute Superman for All Seasons, Batman: One Bad Day: Riddler and Box Set, Jurassic League, Superman 85th Anniversary and Space Age, Justice League Vol. 3 by Bendis, Shazam!: Power of Hope, Blood Syndicate

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Y’know, a little of this, a little of that in the DC Comics March 2023 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations. Couple of regular series collections I’ll be getting — Tina Howard’s next Catwoman and the final volumes and/or final volumes of the current creative teams in Detective Comics Vol. 4, Future State: Gotham Vol. 3, and Brian Michael Bendis' Justice League Vol. 3. But nothing I’d call earth-shattering.

Honestly, just based on the scuttlebutt, the one I’m most excited about here is Batman — One Bad Day: The Riddler. Yes a whole 'other series of one-shots about Batman’s rogues seems a bit of creative bankruptcy (Lex Luthor is over crying in a corner how nobody loves him), letting alone then re-releasing said one-shots apparently completely unaltered as a series of hardcovers, but I like a lot of the teams on these and there’s been some good words coming out about them, so consider me intrigued. Also Mark Russell and Mile Allred on Superman: Space Age sounds like a ton of fun.

So let’s get into it and check out the full list. Also I have just done this.

Absolute Superman for All Seasons

A story well-deserved of an Absolute edition, all the more meaningful with the untimely death of Tim Sale. This includes not only the four issue miniseries, but also Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s work from Superman #226, Superman/Batman #26, Solo #1, and Superman/Batman Secret Files 2003 #1 as well as forewords by Loeb and Richard Starkings.

Batman — One Bad Day Box Set

If I’m reading this right, what you get for $45 is just the hardcover reprinting of Batman: One Bad Day: Riddler (by Tom King and Mitch Gerads; I’ve heard it’s good) and a new printing of Batman: The Killing Joke and that’s it, and then the box is big enough to hold the rest of the hardcovers when they’re released later on. Which is … unusual, and also I’m exceptionally curious how they will package this so the semi-empty box doesn’t get crushed in transit.

Batman — One Bad Day: The Riddler

So it seems like DC intends to take each of the "Batman: One Bad Day" 64-page one-shots and re-release them as individual hardcovers. The page count says 88 pages, but the solicitation doesn't suggest, like, some classic story included, so maybe that's just the title page and variant covers. By Tom King and Mitch Gerads; reviews have been positive.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 4: Riddle Me This

Issues #1059–1061 by Mariko Tamaki and marking the end of Tamaki’s run on the series, ahead of Ram V. Said to also include the “Gotham Girl, Interrupted,” backup stories by Sina Grace and David Lapham.

Batman: Fear State Saga

Paperback of the comprehensive collection, including Batman #112-117, Batman Secret Files: The Gardener #1, Batman Secret Files: Peacekeeper #1, Batman Secret Files: Miracle Molly #1, Batman: Fear State: Alpha #1, and Batman: Fear State: Omega #1. In review I found this a better way to read "Fear State", though still somewhat lacking.

Blood Syndicate: Season One

In hardcover, the first collection of the relaunched series by Geoffrey Thorne and ChrisCross.

Catwoman Vol. 2: Cat International

Second volume by Tini Howard, in paperback in May.


Hardcover collection of the six-issue Duo Milestone miniseries by Greg Pak and Khoi Pham, reimagining the classic Xombi series as part of the new Milestone's "Earth-M" line.

Fann Club: Batman Squad

Comedy young readers graphic novel by Jim Benton.

Future State: Gotham Vol. 3: Batmen at War

In paperback in April, the final Future State: Gotham collection by Dennis Culver, collecting issues #13-18.

The Jurassic League

Daniel Warren Johnson and Juan Gedeon’s inspired Justice-League-as-dinosaurs miniseries, in hardcover in April.

Justice League Vol. 1: Prisms

In paperback in April, following the hardcover, and collecting Brian Michael Bendis' issues #59–63.

Justice League Vol. 3: Leagues of Chaos

Brian Michael Bendis' final Justice League issues. Said to be issues #72-74 and the Justice League 2022 Annual.

Legends of the Dark Knight: José Luis García-López

In hardcover in April and said to collect Batman #272, #311, #313, #314, #318, #321, #336-337, and #353, Batman '66: The Lost Episode #1, Batman Confidental #26-28, Batman: Family #3, Batman: Dark Knight of the Round Table #1-2, Batman: Gotham Knights #10, Batman: Reign of Terror #1, DC Comics Presents #31 and #41, DC Special Series #21, Detective Comics #454, #458-459, #483, and #487, Best of the Brave and the Bold #1-6, Brave and the Bold #164 and #171, Joker #4, Untold Legend of the Batman #1-3, and World's Finest Comics #244, #255, and #258.

The Phantom Stranger Omnibus

This was previously announced in DC Comics Fall 2020 solicitations in March 2020, so not entirely surprising it never made it to print. Next scheduled for November 2022, now it's pushed to August 2023. Sorry, but I'll believe it when I see it. Contents said to be The Phantom Stranger #1-6 (1952), The Phantom Stranger #1-41 (1969), stories from Saga of the Swamp Thing #1-13, Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #18, Brave and the Bold #89, #98, and #145, Showcase #80, Justice League of America #103, House of Secrets #150, DC Super-Stars #18, Secret Origins #10, and DC Comics Presents #25 and #72.

Shazam!: Power of Hope

In time for the movie, new hardcover printing of the illustrated prose story by Paul Dini and Alex Ross.

Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil

Also in time for the movie, in hardcover, collecting the four-issue miniseries by Jeff Smith.

Superman: Son of Kal-El Vol. 1: The Truth

Paperback collection of the first six issues by Tom Taylor and John Timms, following the hardcover. I enjoyed this one, realizing all the potential of the Infinite Frontier era.

Superman: Space Age

I don't know what this is, except it's Mark Russell and Mike Allred, it takes place during Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it seems to follow Superman through U.S. history. I'm in. In hardcover collecting the three-issue miniseries.

Superman: The 85th Anniversary Collection

Said to collect Action Comics (vol. 1) #1–2, #23, #60, #182, #305, #395, #473, #643, #732; Action Comics (vol. 2) #7; Superman (vol. 1) #1, #30, #65, #133, #167, #287, #400; Superman (vol. 2) #1, #81; Superman (vol. 5) #18; Superman: The Man of Steel #1; Superman Confidential #1; World’s Finest Comics #176; DC Comics Presents #26; and Superman: Rebirth #1. Also, a 10-issue Superman miniseries by Christopher Priest and Carlo Pagulayan? I’m there from the first white-text-on-black-box scene title.

Top 10 Compendium

Collects America's Best Comics Special, Smax #1-5, Top Ten #1-12, Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, Top Ten: Beyond the Farthest Precinct #1-5, and Top Ten: Season 2 #1-4 and Top Ten: Season 2 Special by Alan Moore, Zander Cannon, and Gene Ha.

Review: Catwoman Vol. 6: Fear State trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

I’ll note at the top of my review of Catwoman Vol. 6: Fear State that between Catwoman Vol. 5: Valley of the Shadow of Death and this one, DC appears to have dropped an issue, Catwoman #33. Catwoman Vol. 5 ends with issue #32 and the Catwoman annual, and Catwoman Vol. 6 opens with issue #34. It’s no small issue, either, as it reveals the identity of the man who’s been assisting Catwoman from the shadows throughout Ram V’s run, as well as introducting an altruistic gang of rogues who factor in later. I don’t think it affected my enjoyment of Catwoman Vol. 6 that much — I chalked what confusion I had originally to my faulty memory before I realized the missing issue — but it’s an unfortunate gaffe on DC’s part.

So, Ram V ultimately wrote about 14 issues of Catwoman plus the annual. Of those, four were tie-ins to exterior Batman series events, making Ram V’s independent take even smaller. As is often the way of these things, it’s hard to puzzle out what Ram V might’ve been trying to do in his run, where he suceeded and where the needs of the whole brought him up short, except for the reader’s sense that something didn’t go quite as planned.

Review: Nightwing: Fear State hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 11, 2022

I’d thought it was a little silly that DC didn’t number the Nightwing: Fear State collection as “Vol. 2,” leaving perhaps the less-informed to go straight from issue #83 to issue #87 without direction.

But having read it, while enjoyable, the Nightwing “Fear State” volume really does feel like a tangent from Tom Taylor’s Nightwing proper, and especially without series artist Bruno Redondo in tow. It’s in some ways more of a backdoor pilot for the new Batgirls series than it is a Nightwing story proper, and there was probably an argument to be made for cutting the Nightwing Annual and Batman: Urban Legends stories from this book and including the “Batgirls” backups from the Batman book instead.

(While Batman and Nightwing don’t quite intersect in “Fear State”, Nightwing and the “Batgirls” backups in the “Fear State” issues of Batman do. See my review of Batman: Fear State Saga; a “full” collection of “Fear State” — perhaps-too-long, but reasonable to read — might’ve included Batman #112–117, including the “Batgirls” backups, plus Nightwing #84–86, probably give-or-take some Catwoman and Harley Quinn issues, instead of the lightly related Secret Files DC populated the book why instead.)

Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Fear State hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Mariko Tamaki’s Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 2: Fear State is fantastic, offering just about everything I could want from a Batman comic, buoying even the rough holdovers from the last volume. And Dan Mora’s art is breathtaking — can’t wait for his World’s Finest.

Granted, this book has nothing to do with “Fear State” whatsoever, and it challenges the belief of even the most ardent continuity wonk that these events could be happening beside the Batman title, but no matter. This is Batman at his high politics finest.

[Review contains spoilers]

I’m not sure the word “Scarecrow” is even spoken in Detective Comics Vol. 2: Fear State. At best, the book keeps telling us that the main “Fear State”-branded events happen alongside Batman #113 in Batman Vol. 5: Fear State (purportedly at the same time Batman is involved in a virtual reality jaunt inside his own head with Ghost-Maker) and there’s one reference to Peacemaker-01 having gone rogue.

Review: Batman: Fear State Saga hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, December 04, 2022

Batman: Fear State Saga has learned some lessons from James Tynion’s Bat-crossover previous, but I wonder if they were quite the right lessons.

That is, inasmuch as I enjoyed Batman Vol. 2: The Joker War and some of its sundry event items, my own two chief complaints would be this: During a rebuilding time for the Bat-family titles, the tie-ins from books like Nightwing and Batgirl were pretty rough, and the Batman: The Joker War Zone special was only collected in the The Joker War Saga collection and nowhere else. As someone who read all the tie-in series in their own individual trades, I didn’t need Saga, but then had to swing back around to find Joker War Zone as a single issue (perish the thought!) to read its stories.

[Review contains spoilers]

In terms of crossover structure, there’s a lot happening in James Tynion’s “Fear State.” There is, on one level, Batman’s main action. Below that is the subplot action that dips in and out of Tynion’s Batman book — Tynion’s been featuring Harley Quinn, so Harley’s side-quest to resurrect Poison Ivy starts here, peels off into Harley Quinn for a while (invisible to the Batman reader), then ends in Batman again. Similarly Batgirls' “anti-Oracle” plot starts here but then disappears altogether (perhaps into the Batgirls backup stories running alongside Tynion’s Batman, though they’re neither reprinted in Batman Vol. 5: Fear State nor Fear State Saga).