Review: Justice League Vol. 2: United Order hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The great promise of Brian Michael Bendis' Justice League Vol. 2: United Order is that it might have filled in some of the gaps from Bendis' Checkmate. Where Checkmate was full of more questions than answers, it was reasonable to think some explanations might be found in the issues of Justice League collected here, published at the same time and involving some of the same seemingly significant characters.

But as the song goes, Justice League Vol. 2 can’t save Checkmate; it can’t even save itself. United Order is padded to extremes and hardly even quite makes sense at times. Clearly something went wrong, given how far the contents stray from the back-of-the-book description; it is astounding the extent to which Batman: Shadow War makes these events seem cogent after the fact.

Review: Robin Vol. 3: Secrets and Shadows trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, May 28, 2023

The collection of Joshua Williamson’s Batman: Shadow War crossover includes two issues of Batman, two of Deathstroke Inc., and two of Robin. Of these three series, the relevant Batman trade skips the two Shadow War issues, and Deathstroke ends its first volume before and begins its second volume after. It is only the Robin series, specifically Robin Vol. 3: Secrets and Shadows, that re-collects the two Shadow War issues along with the final three issues of the series.

That is, those reading the Robin series are among the most likely to want to read Batman: Shadow War in full, which — to get the Batman and Deathstroke issues — they can only do by buying the Shadow War collection. But that also means Robin fans will be hard-pressed not to double-dip, particularly in buying the entire five-issue-priced Robin Vol. 3 trade for just three issues.

Review: Batman Adventures: Nightwing Rising trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 24, 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.]

The year was 1997. After a two year interim, The New Batman Adventures debuted on Kids' WB (remember them?) in September 1997. Quite why the show returned with a Christmas episode, “Holiday Knights,” in September is anyone’s guess, nor should we speculate why they waited until October 1998 to explain why Dick Grayson was no longer serving as Robin.

The show gave us a new Robin from the get-go, introducing him as Tim Drake (by way of Jason Todd) in “Sins of the Father,” but it wasn’t until “Old Wounds” that some of us finally learned how Dick Grayson became Nightwing. I say “some,” though, because the comics readers had the drop on us — and not just because they’d read the Wolfman/Pérez Titans run from 1984. No, beginning in November 1997 (cover date January 1998), the animated Batman comics iteration cycled over from The Batman & Robin Adventures (which ended with #25, cover date December 1997) into a five-issue miniseries subtitled The Lost Years.

DC Trade Solicitations for August 2023 - Final Batgirls, Tim Drake: Robin, Batman & Robin Eternal Omnibus, Power Girl Returns, Ghost-Maker/Clownhunter, Dead Boy Detectives Omnibus, DCeased Deluxe, DC Horror: Sgt. Rock vs. Army of the Dead

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Chalk it up maybe to the summer heat, but the DC Comics August 2023 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations aren’t much for regular-series collections, short of Batgirls and Tim Drake: Robin, both on their way out. Of course, at this point we will have had both the Dark Crisis and Lazarus Planet collections, standing at the cusp of “Dawn of DC,” so it’s not necessarily surprising that things take a pause for a month. And there are a couple other things I’ve got my eye on.

Notable for me is Power Girl Returns, simply because it is indeed a “regular series continuity” book (with ties to Lazarus Planet, etc.), though the collection of backups here warrants reminding DC about the “Tales of Metropolis,” “Martian Manhunter,” and on and on backups that have not been collected. Speaking of, Ghost-Maker/Clownhunter by James Tynion also collects some uncollected backups, but even then, there’s still more uncollected material starring those selfsame characters!

I’ll be checking out DC Horror Presents: Sgt. Rock Vs. the Army Of The Dead HC because I’m eager to see DC keep branching out with horror. Seems too to be a month for omnibuses — Batman & Robin Eternal, Batman: Knightfall, iZombie, and Dead Boy Detectives, though the latter I wouldn’t mind seeing in some kind of shorter trades.

Let’s look at the full list, shall we?

Batgirl: Year One (2023 Edition) TP

New printing of Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon’s nine-issue miniseries, sequel to Robin: Year One, with art by Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez, in paperback. I wonder if DC had intended this to be coming out alongside the Batgirl movie. In September with a new introduction by Beatty.

Batgirls Vol. 3: Girls to the Front TP

Issues #13–19 and the Batgirls 2022 Annual by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, in October, finishing out the series.

Batman & Robin Eternal Omnibus HC

Originally published in two volumes in 2016 (see my reviews of Batman and Robin Eternal Vol. 1 and Batman and Robin Eternal Vol. 2), this is an omnibus collection of all 26 issues and the lead-in story from the free Batman: Endgame Special Edition comic from Batman Day 2015.

The Batman & Scooby-Doo Mysteries Vol. 3 TP

By Shelly Fisch, Ivan Cohen, and company, with Bath and the Scooby gang up against Ra’s al Ghul, Poison Ivy, the Court of Owls, and more. Collects issues #1–6 of the second series, continuing the collections numbering from the first.

Batman Vol. 4: The Cowardly Lot TP

The lead-in to Batman: Fear State, now (finally) collected in paperback. I reviewed Batman Vol. 4: The Cowardly Lot just about a year ago. It's Batman issues #106-111 and material from Infinite Frontier #0 (not Infinite Frontier #1 as listed).

Batman: Knightfall Omnibus Vol. 1 (2023 Edition) HC

New printing; previously collected Batman #484–500, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #16–18, Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1, Detective Comics #654–666, and Showcase '93 #7–8, being the “Knightfall” proper part of the story.

Batman: One Dark Knight TP

Paperback of the three-issue DC Black Label miniseries by Jock. I reviewed Batman: One Dark Knight this past October; it was not everything I hoped it would be.

Batman: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 10 HC

Said to collect Batman #86–100 and Detective Comics #211–232, with a new introduction by cinematic Batman’s Michael Uslan.

DC Horror Presents: Sgt. Rock Vs. the Army Of The Dead HC

The six-issue miniseries by Bruce Campbell and Eduardo Risso, in hardcover in October. I’ve heard nothing about this but I’m inclined to give DC Horror a chance.

DC Horror Presents: Soul Plumber TP

Paperback of the six-issue miniseries, coming in October.

DCeased: The Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe edition of just the initial miniseries and the DCeased: A Good Day to Die special (I reviewed DCeased in January 2020).

The Dead Boy Detectives Omnibus (The Sandman Universe Classics) HC

Collects Sandman #25, Children’s Crusade #1–2, Sandman Presents: The Dead Boy Detectives #1–4, Dead Boy Detectives #1–12, Jill Thompson’s The Dead Boy Detectives OGN, the revised middle chapter to “Children’s Crusade” from Free Country: A Tale of the Children’s Crusade, and stories from Vertigo: Winter’s Edge #3, Ghosts #1, Time Warp #1, and The Witching Hour #1, and pages from Death: At Death’s Door, Swamp Thing Annual #7, and Doom Patrol Annual #2. With a new introduction by Mark Buckingham and various extras. Fervently I wish DC would release shorter trades of all of this, and for the Books of Magic omnibuses, while they’re at it.

The Fellspyre Chronicles: Book 1 TP

Paperback by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, following the hardcover, and collecting The Last God #1–12, The Last God: Tales From the Book of Ages #1, and The Last God: Songs of Lost Children #1.

Ghost-Maker/Clownhunter by James Tynion Iv TP

I was just bemoaning that we never did get a collection particularly of James Tynion’s Ghost-Maker backup stories from his Batman run, and now it looks like here they are – this is said to collect, among other things, Batman #107–111 and Batman 2022 Annual, where the Ghost-Maker backups ran. On the Clownhunter side, we have Batman Secret Files: Clownhunter and Batman Annual #5, and the Clownhunter story from Batman: The Joker War Zone. Omitted is the Clownhunter backup stories from Batman #112–114, which would seem appropriate for this book except that they were written by Brandon Thomas and not Tynion. Hopefully DC sees fit to put those somewhere.

Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Keepsake TP

The second volume by Stephanie Nicole Phillips and Riley Rossmo, in paperback following the hardcover. Issues #7–12 and the 2021 annual, tying in to “Fear State.”

iZombie: The Complete Series Omnibus (2023 Edition) HC

In hardcover in October, collecting iZombie #1–28 by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred. At some point a solicitation said this also contained House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1, and House of Mystery Halloween Annual #2, but I’m not sure if it does or not.

The Nice House on the Lake: The Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe hardcover collection, coming in October, of the 12-issue horror miniseries by James Tynion and Alvaro Martino Bueno. I absolutely adored Nice House on the Lake Vol. 1 and highly recommend the whole thing.

Power Girl Returns TP

Collects Power Girl backups and sundry by Leah Williams and company. Said to collect (likely a story from) Lazarus Planet: Assault on Krypton, the backups in Action Comics #1051–1053, and the Power Girl Special.

Static: Up All Night TP

YA graphic novel by Lamar Giles and Paris Alleyne, with apparently appearances within by other Milestone and Static Shock characters. The Virgil Hawkins character is so popular and so well known, it does seem DC is wasting opportunities not having Milestone be an imprint set within the DCU instead of separate. I think the Young Justice cartoon had it right with Icon right up there next to Superman.

Tim Drake: Robin Vol. 1: Mystery at the Marina TP

Collects the first six issues by Meghan Fitzmartin and Riley Rossmo, along with the DC Pride: Tim Drake Special, in paperback in September. We know the book is canceled with issue #10; I’d of course like to see DC pack the other four issues in rather than have to figure out a four-issue trade later on.

Wonder Woman: Blood and Guts: The Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe edition of the first two New 52 volumes by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, issues #1–12. I reviewed Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood in 2012 and Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Guts in 2013.

Wonder Woman: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 5 HC

Collects Wonder Woman #35–47 and Sensation Comics #90–104 (Action Comics #142, previously listed, is not in this solicitation).

Wonder Woman: The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 2 HC

Due in October, collecting Wonder Woman #124–149 from the 1960s, with a foreword by Trina Robbins, the first female artist to draw Wonder Woman.

Zatanna & the Ripper Volume One TP

The first 11 “episodes” of the Webtoons series by Sarah Dealy, Rachel Coo, and Syro, with an appearance by John Constantine, formatted for print reading.

Review: Batman: Shadow War hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Joshua Williamson’s Batman: Shadow War crossover is not quite as good as all of his books leading up to it, though the scope of this title is very impressive. Some of the continuity ties I knew about and some I didn’t, to the point where Shadow War essentially deals with the fallout from events in an entirely different DC Comics writer’s two connected books that I hadn’t read yet because I didn’t realize they continued here.

Confusing and as hard for the neophyte to penetrate as that is, I rather love the twisting strands here, Williamson both perpetuating another writer’s storylines and also facilitating his own characters through to other events of their own. I acknowledge the criticism, which I’ve leveled at times myself, that no DC event comes to an end so much as it just leads into the next thing; that is true for Shadow War too, but with Dark Crisis looming, we rather knew that was the case, so I’m more sanguine than I’d otherwise be.

Review: Batman Vol. 6: Abyss hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, May 14, 2023

I would say that in comparison to its companions, Deathstroke, Inc. and the Robin Damian Wayne series, Joshua Williamson’s Batman Vol. 6: Abyss is a tad sedate, not nearly so boisterous or zany as those books. Nor is it as much a mission statement as James Tynion’s Batman Vol. 1: Their Dark Designs was as to what a Williamson Batman run might look like. What Abyss does have going for it, though, is playing to applause lines, and also (re-)centering Batman within the larger DC Universe.

Whether that itself has any relevance or if it’s just Williamson’s penchant, it’s too soon to tell. Overall Abyss is a satisfactory enough Batman story; if I wasn’t wowed, I certainly wasn’t displeased, and I remain impressed with Williamson’s string of strong comics ahead of “Shadow War” and Dark Crisis.

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

Wednesday, May 10, 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.]

In the tradition of Hercule Poirot, I am of two minds about the conclusion of Batman & Robin Adventures. On the one hand, the series never really ended; after a pitstop miniseries starring Nightwing, the title returned as Gotham Adventures and ran for another 60 issues. On the other hand, though, many of the stories in Batman and Robin Adventures Vol. 3 feel like swan songs, even if the creators didn’t intend them as such. (On the third hand, can an anthology title like this one ever be said to end? Or does it simply stop?)

Volume 3 is not a finale, though it performs many of the same functions that a comic book conclusion usually does - brings in new characters, swings big with a crossover, and ultimately wraps with an oversized final issue. All told, Batman and Robin Adventures Vol. 3 is not exactly the best this title has ever been, but it is consistently strong enough to appeal to readers who might rather reside in this particular four-color universe.

Review: The Nice House on the Lake Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Friends, those who know us best, can be a comforting link to our pasts, but at worst, a tether to identities that no longer represent us. In James Tynion’s The Nice House on the Lake Vol. 2, with the stakes of this puzzlebox now fully revealed (for the most part), the horror becomes more psychological than physical; it is the terror of madness, of obsession, of a force trying to capture a moment in time by any means necessary, no matter who it hurts.

Again, equal parts Lost and Friends, Nice House on the Lake is a cogent mystery where not everyone is telling the truth (and some don’t remember they’re lying), bolstered by Alvaro Martinez Bueno’s moody art. For all its imperfections — the greatest of which might be Tynion’s ambition, both greater and less than his page count — with both volumes I’ve had long talks with myself whether to stay up all night and finish it in one sitting (the first time I did, the second time I tried to savor the few remaining chapters). That’s high praise, and for your next guilty pleasure, the Eisner-winning Nice House on the Lake comes highly recommended.

Review: Checkmate trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

To be sure, Brian Michael Bendis' Checkmate is more of Event Leviathan. If pages upon pages of a motley collection of DC heroes standing around in darkened rooms talking in circles is your idea of fun (and indeed, that often is my idea of fun!), then Checkmate is a whole other helping of that. But this also means Checkmate is subject to the same criticisms as leveled against Event Leviathan — that it spends too long meandering, that it’s more concerned with only-occasionally witty banter than actual plot, that the story does not culminate so much as it just ends.

Added to that is that a giant chunk of one of Checkmate’s B-plots, which ends up factoring heavily in its conclusion, takes place not in the Checkmate collection at all, but in Bendis' Justice League Vol. 2: United Order. This is not a significant sin — most of the time I’d be all too pleased by these kinds of of-the-moment continuity ties, and I’m sure it all read great in monthly issues — but there’s no effort made within this collection specifically to direct the reader over there for more information.