Review: The Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Conduit trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

It’s not really a surprise, but Ram V’s The Swamp Thing Vol. 2: Conduit — given a few more issues to spread its wings than the first volume — is profoundly great. I have enjoyed other Swamp Thing portrayals over the years — mainly the highly underappreciated New 52 run — but as I’ve mentioned before, Ram V’s Swamp Thing feels as close to Alan Moore’s definitive Saga of the Swamp Thing run as we’ve come. Artist Mike Perkins is also a joy on every page.

I was continually impressed with the depth of knowledge that Ram V shows here, deftly rafting an array of histories and alt-histories. Too the skillful blending of flashback and forward action, how the villains here are so logically chosen in-story but yet offer so much possibility for the narrative. The brilliantly layered final conflict is also a joy.

Review: Teen Titans Academy Vol. 2: Exit Wounds hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Teen Titans Academy seemed poised to solve a problem that’s plagued the “adult Titans” books for a while now, that these grown and independent heroes don’t have much reason to come together as a team any more, particularly when “because we’re family” often swiftly gives way to the needs of their respective titles or franchises.

Nor have writers been able to establish a compelling area of expertise for the Titans outside fighting the old enemies that inevitably come gunning for them or being a second-string Justice League — a variety of problem which, with Teen Titans Academy Vol. 2: Exit Wounds marking the end of the series and a new one aborning, DC actually seems to be trying to solve for.

Academy had fixes for the above, giving the Titans the training of the next generation of heroes both as their reason for being together and their day-to-day purpose. Here, finally, Titans and Teen Titans in one series together, surely enough to fill the book even when Nightwing and Flash were inevitably pulled into other events.

Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Ambushed! trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Robbie Thompson was part of a creative team that took an unlikely group of Teen Titans and made that title as compelling as its been in decades. Thompson’s Suicide Squad, which ends with Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Ambushed!, is not quite at the level of his Teen Titans, but evidence of the same kind of strong character work is also present.

For all the villains that Thompson spotlights in Squad, there’s a handful more with promising cameos who then disappear in the background. Whether that’s just unfortunate, or whether it’s a function of how quickly Squad’s cancellation might have come about is hard to say. Muddying it is that Suicide Squad factors heavily in the War for Earth-3 crossover — it’s basically extra issues of Suicide Squad on either side of the series' issue #13 — and it seems unusual for a cancelled title to have that kind of resources going for it.

DC Trade Solicitations for June 2023 - Lazarus Planet with Monkey Prince and Wonder Woman tie-ins, Batman Vol. 2 by Zdarsky, Detective Comics Vol. 1 by Ram V, new WildCATs Vol. 1, Detective Comics Omnibus by Tomasi, Blue Beetle: Graduation Day

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Strangely, though maybe not for us, the biggest headline in the DC Comics June 2023 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations might be the paperback collection, following the hardcover, of “regular series” Batman issues. But in this case, the collection is Batman Vol. 3: Ghost Stories, the hardcover came out almost two years ago, and many paperback aficionados will be breathing a sigh of relief at this news.

After the hardcover and paperback collections of James Tynion’s Batman Vol. 1: His Dark Designs and Batman Vol. 2: The Joker War, the following three books arrived in hardcover only, leaving those who waited for the paperback with the option of an unfinished story or uneven-looking shelves. That Tynion’s departure from Batman was slightly abrupt, and that DC seemed to be proceeding right along with Batman collections by Joshua Williamson and Chip Zdarsky, made it a real possibility Tynion’s stories would never be published in paperback (those of us who’ve been here long enough remember when collections format switches like that were disappointingly common). But — better late than never; now we have Ghost Stories, and I can see Cowardly Lot and Fear State arriving by the end of the year.

Otherwise, I’m most excited for the Lazarus Planet collection; I don’t know enough about this DC crossover to really justify my excitement, except that it seems a story with mildly connected pieces in a variety of places — the Superman titles, the Batman titles, the Wonder Woman titles, etc. — and I think that scope might be fun. Monkey Prince Vol. 2 and Wonder Woman Vol. 4 tie in to that, and then we’ve also got Zdarsky’s second Batman collection and Ram V’s first, the expansively named Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: Gotham Nocturne: Overture.

Notable too, Matt Rosenberg’s WildC.A.T.s Vol. 1, just because hey, WildC.A.T.s is still a thing; also the Batman: Detective Comics by Peter Tomasi Omnibus, which is not what I thought it was but still a giant swath of comics.

Let’s look at the full list …

Batman Vol. 2: The Bat-Man of Gotham

In hardcover in August, the second volume of Chip Zdarsky’s Batman. Some (but not all) sources say this will be issues #131-#135 (the latter being an oversized issue).

Batman Vol. 3: Ghost Stories

There had been some well-placed concern that DC might not be collecting James Tynion’s hardcover Batman books as paperback, perhaps due to rapidly shifting teams on the title. Well, it’s been two years, but whether it was all just delays or reader demand, the first of the missing ones, Batman Vol. 3: Ghost Stories, is now listed for August. That’s the Rebirth era Batman #101–105 plus material from Detective Comics #1027 and the Annual #5. I reviewed Batman Vol. 3: Ghost Stories in 2021.

Batman: Detective Comics by Peter J. Tomasi Omnibus

Silly me, but when I saw the title, I really thought this would be a collection of Peter Tomasi's DC You "Superheavy" tie-in stories featuring Jim Gordon as Batman, Blood of Heroes and Gordon at War, though as it turns out I was mis-remembering just how long Tomasi's run that time wasn't, as the case may be. No, this is Detective Comics #994-999, #1001-1016, and #1018-1033, Detective Comics Annual #2-3, Batman: Pennyworth R.I.P., and Tomasi's work from Detective Comics #1000 and Detective Comics (New 52) #27.

What we have here, as these things do, ranges from the sublime to the mundane — or the mundane, the sublime, and the mundane again. The first arc, Mythology, disappointed me at least personally in not being what I thought it would, but the second, "Medieval" (retitled for trade as Arkham Knight) was a stark improvement. But it all starts to fall apart in Greetings From Gotham, a collection of self-contained stories that didn't necessarily impress, the somewhat tepid Cold Vengeance, and then Joker War and Road to Ruin, two volumes that see Tomasi going back to the Batman & Robin well (for better, for some readers, but for worse in my humble opinion).

So, this sure is a lot of Batman — almost 40 issues' worth — certainly notable for its place in time (spanning from Tom King's run to James Tynion's), and I have certainly been a fan of Tomasi's over the years. This is not peak Batman, but one could also do worse.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 1: Gotham Nocturne: Overture

The first volume of Ram V’s Detective Comics run, in hardcover in August, collecting issues #1062-1065.

Blue Beetle: Graduation Day

Timed for a movie that is so far still coming out, this is Josh Trujillo and Adrian Gutierrez' six-issue miniseries, in paperback in August, and to be released in both English and Spanish editions.

The DC Icons Series: Graphic Novel Boxed Set

Collects the Batman: Nightwalker, Wonder Woman: Warbringer, and Catwoman: Soulstealer graphic novel adaptations of the YA novels.

Icon & Rocket: Season One

In paperback, following the hardcover, and collecting the Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0 and issues #1–6 by Reginald Hudlin, Leon Chills, and Doug Braithwaite.

The Joker Vol. 2

In paperback in July, following the hardcover, this is issues #6–9 and the 2021 annual.

Lazarus Planet

La, la, la *fingers in ears* … trying to be totally surprised what this is about. I know it’s by Mark Waid, I know one or two other details I wish I didn’t know, but otherwise trying to go in blind. In hardcover in August, collecting Lazarus Planet: Alpha, Lazarus Planet: Assault on Krypton, Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods, Lazarus Planet: Legends Reborn, Lazarus Planet: Next Evolution, Lazarus Planet: Dark Fate, and Lazarus Planet: Omega. It would seem the Lazarus Planet: Revenge of the Gods four-issue miniseries will be collected on its own.

Monkey Prince Vol. 2: The Monkey King and I

Being the final collection of the limited series by Gene Lien Yang and Bernard Chang, this is said to be issues #0 and #7–12, with material from Lazarus Planet: Alpha and Lazarus Planet: Omega.

The Sandman Book Six

Cleverly, for the final of these paperback collections tied to the start of the TV series, this contains Sandman: The Dream Hunters (the P. Craig Russell edition), Sandman: Overture, and then Sandman Universe #1, the first time a Sandman collection has bridged from Neil Gaiman’s original work to the new(est) expanded universe. Puts a shine not only on all the completed original Sandman Universe miniseries, but also James Tynion and company’s current work.

WildC.A.T.s Vol. 1: Better Living Through Violence

Description: Matthew Rosenberg continues the saga he began way back at the beginning of Batman: Urban Legends with this, another WildC.A.T.s revival. This was previously said to include the uncollected Zealot story from Batman: Urban Legends #6, though that's not mentioned here. Confirmed is issues #1–6 and material from the Wildstorm 30th Anniversary Special.

Wonder Girl: Homecoming

The six-issue miniseries by Joelle Jones, now in paperback in August. Among the various Trial of the Amazons titles, I had many concerns about Wonder Girl: Homecoming.

Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang Omnibus (2023 Edition)

New edition of the bold, controversial New 52 run, being issues #0–35, 23.1 and material from Secret Origins (2014) #6.

Wonder Woman Vol. 4: Revenge of the Gods

In paperback, issues #795–800, the end of Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad’s run. This ties in to, and the title matches, the Lazarus Planet: Revenge of the Gods miniseries, though that hasn’t been solicited just yet.

Review: The Batman Adventures Vol. 3 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

[A series on Batman: The Animated Series comics collections by guest reviewer Zach King. Zach writes about movies at The Cinema King and about comics on Instagram at Dr. King’s Comics.]

After two trades and twenty issues, we’re just past the halfway point of the 36-issue run on The Batman Adventures, and like any title that sells well, we’re about to see a proliferation of special issues, annuals, and even a new #1. (Stay tuned for The Batman & Robin Adventures.) The Batman Adventures Vol. 3 also gives us an expanding cast of guest stars, both on panel and off, building the sense that the creative team really got to spread its wings and ride the Bat-wave.

From the very first page, you feel an official stamp of approval with Paul Dini and Bruce Timm contributing a story for The Batman Adventures Annual #1; Dini brings along with him no less than Matt Wagner, Dan DeCarlo, Klaus Janson, and John Byrne. It feels like the coolest kids in school have come to your party and brought their popular friends with them, the sort of subconscious validation that comics fans are always craving.

Review: Nubia: Queen of the Amazons hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Stephanie Williams and Vita Ayala’s chronicles of new Amazonian queen Nubia have been among the most interesting that the Wonder Woman franchise has been in a number of years. Even if Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s “break everything” approach in the New 52 Wonder Woman shines a little brighter for me, Williams and Ayala are still invoking some seismic changes to the Wonder Woman mythos, if absent the same amount of controversy.

Having read the prelude Nubia: Coronation Special, I had a little hesitation as to the direction Williams was going (Ayala bows out for the miniseries proper), but I needn’t have worried. Nubia: Queen of the Amazons is great, offering both wrinkles in Amazonian adventures that we really haven’t seen before, and also beginning to set up a supporting cast and rogues gallery for Nubia quite outside the Amazons proper. As well, post-Trial of the Amazons, as the expansive Wonder Woman universe of titles seems to be contracting into just Wonder Woman proper, Nubia functions as one last hurrah for the new Amazonian cast.

Review: War for Earth-3 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

It may very well tell you all you need to know about the War for Earth-3 crossover that two of the three series involved would be cancelled within two issues. Without having finished those books yet, I can’t say for certain that War for Earth-3 is totally irrelevant, however you might define that among serial comics, but my guess is this event will affect Flash not at all, nor the soon-to-be-cancelled Teen Titans Academy. The also soon-to-be-cancelled Suicide Squad is the series most attached to War, but I’m skeptical there’s great importance in the last two issues of Squad following War before that book ends.

As mentioned, War for Earth-3 is really a Suicide Squad book, following direct from Robbie Thompson’s Infinite Frontier-era Suicide Squad #12 and culminating a variety of story threads Thompson’s been building. Jeremy Adams' Flash and Tim Sheridan’s Teen Titans Academy are just along for the ride, coinciding with the story in the flimsiest of ways and exiting just as blithely.

Review: Female Furies trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, March 05, 2023

It’s a co-review! Zach King of The Cinema King and Dr. King’s Comics and I review Cecil Castellucci’s Female Furies. Enjoy!

Zach King: There came a time when the New Gods died — and were reborn, and died again. Here we are, two reboots hence from Walt Simonson’s Orion, and so we return and begin again. We were in the DC Rebirth era and on our way to Dark Nights: Death Metal’s “everything happened” when Cecil Castellucci’s Female Furies debuted in early 2019 — past the halfway point on Heroes in Crisis, the so-called “New Age of DC Heroes” was winding down, and Darkseid was palling around with Justice League Odyssey. Meanwhile, Tom King’s Mister Miracle had only just wrapped, and Castellucci had come off Young Animal’s Shade the Changing Woman the previous year.

I’ve gone on and on about my devotion to the New Gods, among the weirdest and most robust in Kirby’s catalog, but CE, what’s your take on these deities?

Collected Editions: I have great affection for the “technicalities” of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. That is, I did a full reading of Kirby’s original Fourth World stories — I wanted to say it was not all that long ago, but it was actually over a decade ago, which is probably why what still sticks out to me are the “technical” aspects, how “The Pact” revelation in New Gods #7 shoots a lightning bolt through the Mister Miracle series, even as the two don’t yet meet. I’m a sucker for a continuity bump, and that one’s brilliantly subtle-but-shocking, setting the bar for writers to come.

Review: Tales of the Amazons hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

I will admit to being such a cog in the comics solicitations machine — every month, a big list of comics appears on the internet, and that’s how I know what’s coming — that I hardly know how DC markets their comics to “regular people” any more, if at all. How the casual buyer who happens to find Trial of the Amazons on the Barnes & Noble shelves (because I still suspect this is how the majority of trades get bought) would ever know there’s a companion Tales of the Amazons volume out there, I have no idea. An advantage of trades is the lack of advertisements every other page, but I think the Trial of the Amazons collection would have benefitted from a house ad directing readers to all the related books — Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, Nubia, and Tales.

Because Tales of the Amazons is not only quite good, but also hugely influential on one’s reading of Trial of the Amazons. I rather hope there was some hesitation about shunting these “tales” to their own volume. Otherwise to take the set-up for the Trial mystery and also the explanation of that mystery and separate them from Trial itself without it being absolutely necessary to do so seems in bad faith.