Friday, December 30, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: December 28th

All-Star Batman #5 (DC Comics) Writer Scott Snyder, pencil artist John Romita Jr and inker Danny Miki (with assists from three other inkers) bring their epic, five-part Two-Face storyline to its conclusion in this over-sized, 31-page climax (No Declan Shalvey-drawn, Duke Thomas back-up this issue). This one is probably destined to be a classic Two-Face story, and with rather good reason.

Sure, Snyder has played around with the character's background, his modus operandi and the nature of his personalities quite a bit here, but it amounts to little more than tinkering. But he doesn't break or even damage the character, really; the retooling is no more significant than what we've previously seen in, say, The Long Halloween or "The Big Burn." In the process, he's also established Two-Face as one of Batman's preeminent foes, right up there with The Joker, and Snyder did so rather quickly, as this is just about the only time he's written Two-Face at all, whereas his Joker got several big story arcs already (and, indeed, plays a small but important role in this storyline).

I'd like to see if Snyder can rehab The Penguin, and make him Batman's second worst villain at some point, or see Snyder's take on The Scarecrow, Ra's al Ghul and Bane, all of whom we have seen plenty of (too much of, probably) in the last six years, but not so much from Snyder himself. They will have to get in line, of course, though, as I understand Mister Freeze and The Mad Hatter are among the next villains to be featured in this title.

But back to this issue. The thing I most enjoyed about the arc, Romita's redesigns of many minor villains, is almost non-existent here--save for a brief appearance by The Tweedles, who are now quite large indeed--but all of our questions are answered. Like, for example, the nature of the "cure" for Two-Face that Batman was seeking out, why exactly it was where it was, what Two-Face had on Alfred in order to make him betray Batman back in the first issue or so and what Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD would find when they rip that clock out of the wall in Wayne Manor and descend the secret passage.

It's a very satisfying conclusion to one of the most fun Batman stories I've read in years...and it all but promised a rematch with The KGBeast...Er, I mean, "The Beast."

I'm a little curious as to how this will be collected (The four-part back-up is too short for a trade of their own, but it doesn't really fit with the 100+ "My Own Worst Enemy" either), but if you sat this one out, do check it out in trade. I'm just bummed its over, and that JRJR is leaving for now. Hopefully he'll return at some point...

Deathstroke #9 (DC) Wow, is Deathstroke becoming a prestige project under its latest writer, Christopher Priest? Sure looks like, what with Cary Nord providing the (obviously excellent) art this issue. Entitled "Four Rooms," this is broken up into, um, four different narratives, focusing on the currently incarcerated Slade Wilson, his daughter Rose, his son Jericho and a flashback sequence to the the title character's origins, wherein we learn where he possibly got his name. Also, making a very surprising appearance is Priest's old Steel character, Dr. Villain ("It's pronounced 'Will-hain'").

Detective Comics #947 (DC) Guys, we need to talk about Stephanie Brown. I know DC rebooted their continuity in 2011, completely erasing everything we thought we knew about former Spoiler-turned Robin IV-turned Batgirl III Stephanie Brown, and that when she reappeared in the new, post-Flashpoint New 52-iverse, she was an entirely new character whose history was extremely different than that of the previous iteration of the character.

I can, reluctantly, accept that. What I am having trouble accepting is the idea that New 52 Stephanie Brown is, like, a computer genius and master tactician, not only able to do all kinds of Oracle-level computer business on the fly (as we've seen in previous issues) but, here, take out Batwoman, Batwing, Clayface and "Orphan" Cassandra Cain using a bunch of prepared tech-based attacks catered to each one of them, and then bluff her way into a stand-off with Batman, basically claiming to have orchestrated a big computer-related attack she will activate if he doesn't accede to her wishes. not the Stephanie Brown I know. Now, maybe it's just me, but one of the things I grew to like about Stephanie (a character I didn't much care for when I first encountered her, when she and I were the same age) is that Batman and Robin Tim Drake were basically right about her not being cut out for superheroing...but they were also simultaneously dead wrong about her, depending on the criteria being used.

That is, she's not that great a detective, she's not a terribly good fighter and she is woefully under-trained and un-prepared for a life of full-time crime-fighting. And yet what she lacks in smarts and skills she makes up for in heart and pure determination. She was never going to grow up to be Batman, but she could be a sidekick and maybe even partner to Batman, or at least to Robin; and hell, with the right teammates in her corner, she could be a Robin, or even a Batgirl.

When first introduced in Batman Eternal, she still had an element of the amateur about her, and Bluebird Harper Row kind of took her under her wing. Since then, we've seen her training with a Catwoman and hanging out with Harper, Batgirl Barbara Gordon and Cassandra, and for the most part all of through that she's been her cheerful, willfull, can-do self, but since the relaunch (and renumbering) of Detective she's been presented by writer James Tynion IV as uber-competent. That always felt wrong to me, but here the entire issue hinges on just how hyper-competent she is supposed to be: Enough that she can take down Batman's little Justice League of Gotham City all by herself.

In other Spoiler-related developments, she dons a mask like that she wore pre-Flashpoint, a sort of Spider-Man-like full-face mask with big, opaque, white eyes. I like that mask infinitely better than the current, bandit-like half-maks covering her mouth that she's been wearing in The New 52. That she (and Red Robin Tim Drake) seem to be gradually evolving back toward their cooler, original costumes gives me hope that someday soon Cass will abandon the Orphan name and costume and resume her Black Bat codename and costume.

And I already mentioned this on Twitter, but the worst part of this comic? When Steph gets sad about Tim having "died," and when the not dead Tim gets sad about being trapped in a mysterious prison and away from Steph, they both stare longingly at the same picture they had taken together before: One of the pair of them with the dumb dog filter from Snapchat.

And now I have lost all respect for either of these characters.

Harley's Little Black Book #5 (DC) The most elaborate issue of DC's Harley Quinn team-up book (or, as I like to call it, "the good Harley Quinn" book) so far, this is an extended homage/tribute to Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams' 1978 Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali...drawn by Adams himself. Had writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner not been able to get Adams himself to draw this, it probably wouldn't have been worth doing, as so much of the pleasure of the book is seeing Adams' art (he's drawn a few miniseries for DC lately, but they have ranged between not very good and bat-shit insane), and seeing him riff on his own, almost 40-year-old comic book work.

He packs in a lot of "chicken fat;" in fact, an early double-page spread of a beach scene has so many characters, so many little story-like moments and so much stuff in it that it puts most modern splash pages to shame. There are a couple of reasons to employ splash pages, but the good ones are to either highlight the importance of a scene through the space allotted to it, or simply to show a lot of stuff. This is the latter.

As for the story, it's basically quite similar to Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali, as the same race of aliens visits Earth to recruit a champion to fight their champion. This leads to a fight between Harley and Superman over who should fight for Earth--Harley, who is an actual Earthling, or Superman, who is the more qualified and experienced Earth-saver--and that conflict must be settled via boxing match before one of them can advance to fight the champ.

It's all pretty silly, harmless fun, and though it seems to go on a bit longer than the premise can really sustain, the best jokes being exhausted quite early, it's a nice vehicle for Adams. Ali makes a two-panel appearance, in the background over the shoulder of another character, and it's maybe a little nonsensical, but there it is.

As a vehicle for spreading Harley's wide spotlight around the DC character catalog, I think this book has a great deal of value. So far, it's concentrated almost exclusively on big name characters, but it's not hard to imagine it alternating characters like Green Lantern or Superman with characters that could use a little boost, at least in terms of drawing a Harley Quinn-sized audience to them by way of this series exposing them to more readers.

More valuable still, it provides an excuse for other artists to draw the character, giving someone like, say Neal Adams, what I imagine is a decent paycheck, and something to do besides for variant covers and his own little vanity projects like Batman: Odyssey and The Coming of The Supermen.

Say, I wonder if this might not be a bad place for Paul Dini to get to write his own Harley ongoing series...? That guy surely has as many or even more artists who would like to work with him than Palmiotti and Conner do, right...?

Lumberjanes #33 (Boom Studios) As the cover rather accurately indicates (a rarity for this series), this issue is all about Barney, the former Scouting Lad who was just recently made the very first male member to ever become a Lumberjane. While the main cast from Roanoke Cabin make an appearance near the end, this issue almost exclusively focuses on the members of Zodiac Cabin, home to Diane and Barney.

Two things of note from this issue. The first, I thought it was cute that Barney wore the official "Stripling" uniform of The Lumberjanes and, when asked why, since all the other 'janes just dress in casual clothes at all times (and always the exact same outfit), Barney says he just likes it. It's also almost identical to his Scouting Lad uniform, so I imagine that, like all the other Lumbrejanes characters, being drawn in a particular outfit is so integral to the character's design that messing with it that drastically just seemed either daunting, unrealistic, or out of place in this particular milieu.

The second thing, which bugged me enough that it niggled in my head the rest of the read, and still does a little, is when a cabin-mate is about to refer to him with a male pronoun, as he's been referred to throughout the series, and then she pauses and asks what pronouns he prefers now, and he answers that "they" and "them" are fine.

This threw me. I've just recently talked with a friend at length about the "they/them" pronouns that someone who may choose not to identify with the traditional gender binary, and while I get it (even if the use of a plural pronoun to refer to a singular unsettles the English major in me), it was the girl's usage of the word "now" in asking Barney that really confused me, as it implied some change of the way Barney thought about gender that I don't recall seeing reflected in previous issues (it may have been though, and I missed it, so please feel free to point it out to me if that's the case).

In the arc in which Barney decided he wanted to join the 'janes, I just assumed it was because they were so cool and he felt more comfortable and like it would be a lot more fun camping with his new friends, rather than with the Scouting Lads on the other side of the woods. This seems to imply something else, but I don't know. It's just two panels, and they read rather out-of-left-field to me.

Saga #41 (Image Comics) This issue includes a great acting scene for everyone's favorite Saga character, Lying Cat, which artist Fiona Staples executes quite nicely. It's only a few panels, but it's a great performance. Can very large lie-detecting space cats who are really just drawings in comic books be nominated for Oscars? If so, I hope the Academy nominates L.C. for Best Supporting Actress this year.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #21 (DC) Here's another measure of how popular Harley Quinn is at the moment: She's the first non-Batman character to reappear in a starring role in the pages of Scooby-Doo Team-Up. I hesitate to say too much about the issue, as DC and creators Sholly Fisch and Dario Brizuela apparently hesitated to advertise too much about it on the cover, but there are multiple guest-stars that follow Harley's appearance, and it is as always fun to parse the specific iterations of them that Brizuela is drawing on for his depictions of them. His Harley, for example, is a highly Brizuela-ified version of the Batman: The Animated Series Harley.

It may also be worth noting that this is a Christmas story, as the ghosts haunting a department store that Mystery Inc is investigating when Harley appears asking to join their team are The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present and The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Past. Of course, these ghosts are quickly sidelined by the chaos that Harley brings with her.

Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard Travelin' Heroz #5 (DC) The penultimate issue of Garth Ennis and Russ Braun's sequel to last year's Section Eight doesn't have a new guest-star, unless you count the one-panel appearance of the "Justice League" of The Flash, Hawkman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan dissembling in front of a TV camera regarding why they weren't going on a suicide mission to stop a galaxy-threatening cosmic event involving the star Sirius (that's the dog star, in case you're wondering what it might have to do with this particular group of characters, like the second one named in the title).

The late, great Steve Dillon's cover, which shows Section Eight doing an Armageddon homage, should clue you in as to what super-team is taking on this crazy suicide mission in the Justice League or Suicide Squad's place.

Suicide Squad #7 (DC) I missed this one a few weeks, as my shop had sold out by the time I got there after work. I guess people are really loving those 10-page, half-issues from Jim Lee...? In this installment, the force driving everyone in Belle Reve insane has made the previously criminally insane Harley Quinn sane (note: I don't think mental illness really works that way*), and the newly rational Harley must navigate a full-scale prion riot. Lucky for her, the only rioting supervillains Lee draws are El Diablo and Deadshot, so it's not as hard as it might otherwise be.

There's also (finally) and explanation of what the deal with Captain Boomerang is, and how he'll be coming back from the "dead."

This issue's back-up is an Enchantress solo story, which breaks with the majority of the other, previous ones a bit in terms of its format as well as its focus (It's not an origin, really, which is fine; I think her original origin is a perfectly fun and weird little comics story. It did make me think that if June ever wants to get "better," she should seek some counseling from Jason Blood. That, or Etrigan and Enchantress would make a cute couple.)

Super Powers #2 (DC) Art Baltazar and Franco sure are delivering a lot of superheroes per page in this book. You've got Wonder Woman rescuing Superman from Lex Luthor and then you've got The Composite Superman (one of the craziest, coolest of Superman's villains**) menacing Central City, drawing a response from The Flash, Batman, The Unknown Superman, Superman, Supergirl and Krypto the Superdog. Whew! Meanwhile, something unusual is happening on New Krypton, where Superman's not-dead mom Lara has just given birth to her second child, and her son looks nothing like her husband Jor-El, but identical to an infant version of Brainiac? What's going on?

Well, I suppose we'll have to keep reading in order to find out. In the meantime, it's a blast seeing Baltazar apply his style to the adult icons of the DC Universe after spending so long drawing kid versions of the Titans, and any comic in which The Composite Superman and The Unknown Superman trade blows, accompanied by the sound effects of "Fight! Fight!" is A-OK with me.

Teen Titans #3 (DC) Given how young Damian Wayne is--currently 13, but he left the Al Ghuls to join his father and become Robin at 10, writers keep packing more stuff into his very short back-story. First there was the "Year of Blood" that formed the premise of the recent Robin: Son of Batman series, and now we learn that Damian was also supposed to be the leader of a special squad of kid assassins there were under Ra's al Ghul's League of Assassins umbrella, these one's called "The Fist of The Demon."

These are, of course, the now super-powered super-ninjas that were attacking Damian's press-ganged iteration of Teen Titans in the previous issue. In this issue, writer Benjamin Percy spends some time on a flashback detailing Damian's history with the Fist and his grandfather, and then in the present has him fleeing with his new allies. They take a breather around a campfire bonding, and we learn that with the exception of Beast Boy, they all have horribly evil family members not unlike Ra's or Talia al Ghul (Raven would seem to win the evil family tree competition hands-down, though).

The art in this third issue--which is technically the fourth, as the series started with a Teen Titans: Rebirth #1 special, comes courtesy of Khoi Pham and inker Wade Von Grawbadger. That means every issue of the series so far has had a different set of art credits. So far, they seem to have been able to manage finding enough artists with similar enough styles that the issue-to-issue transitions haven't been jarring (although the trade reading experience will likely make the changing art teams more noticeable), but it's a problem, and one DC's going to want to eventually solve for the sake of the book's quality and, I imagine, its long-term viability (I read four issues in a row though! That's the most issues of Teen Titans I've managed to read in a row since...Geoff Johns was writing it, I think...?)

Wonder Woman #13 (DC) Back to the present in this issue, which would normally mean an issue drawn by Liam Sharp, but he's MIA, with the very able Renato Guedes filling in (That's an artist editors Chris Conroy and Mark Doyle may wanna keep in mind any time Sharp falls behind; if you do wanna see Sharp drawing Wonder Woman this week though, and the cover just isn't enough, he's got a one-page, three-panel story in this week's Love Is Love anthology, featuring George Perez-inspired artwork and Wonder Woman being defiantly, aggressively equivocal about her sexual orientation).

This issue is mostly a Steve Trevor issue, as Wonder Woman seems to have lost her mind a little bit due to how confusing her continuity has gotten (seriously; that's been bugging her this whole series). So Trevor must try to find a way to fight off an elite group of female mercenaries referred to as "Poison" (I suspect they are meant to be a new iteration of Golden Age Wonder Woman villain Dr. Poison; they are lead by a woman with the same surname of the original Dr. Poison, who, fun fact, was a Japanese woman who disguised herself as a man because that's Golden Age Wonder Woman for you).

Trevor and his boys take them all out and rescue Wondy, who is put in some sorta sanitarium under the name of "Diana Prince" while Trevor gets to the bottom of whatever is going on.

*Er, also: Killer Croc and Harley Quinn have both spent a great deal of time in Arkham Asylum, meaning they both meet whatever state Gotham City is in's criteria for "criminally insane" is, so shouldn't the insane-making force suddenly make them both rational...? Instead, it drives Killer Croc something else.

**This 1964 creation by Edmond Hamilton and Curt Swan looks like the right half of Superman fused with the left half of Batman, only with green skin. It's a striking image, but what makes his super-weird is that not only does he have all of Superman's powers, he also has all the powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes not what one might expect from a character with that name and that look, to say the least. Baltazar's clever little addition to the character's costume is that rather than simply fusing the right half of Superman's S-shield with the left half of Batman's Bat-symbol, he's given them a "composite" chest icon that looks just like a brighter version of the logo from the recent Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

On DC Rebirth Holiday Special #1

One of the results of the $2.99-$3.99 cost of regular 20-22-page comics is that it makes over-sized comics like annuals and specials increasingly difficult to pull off, pushing their prices up into a range closer to that of a trade paperback. For example, the DC Rebirth Holiday Special is $9.99; that's what I recently paid for She-Wolf Vol. 1, a little more than what I would pay for a Smurfs collection and a little less than I would pay for a volume of manga.

To DC's credit, they've embraced the unusually high price point with this anthology, giving it a spine and making it something of a hybrid of an over-sized special and a trade paperback; it looks like a regular, if thin, trade paperback, the only thing it has in common with comic book format comics is the presence of ads (all of them are house ads, save those on the inside front and back covers, curiously enough).

This being an anthology, the quality of the stories varies, and the likability of each will likely vary from reader to reader, depending on one's own tastes. I figured I would break it out of a "Comic Shop Comics" post in order to highlight those stories better.

So, what do you get for your $9.99? An 84-page special featuring 11 stories ranging from one to 13-pages in length, all introduced by Harley Quinn in writer Paul Dini and artist Elsa Charettier's "A Very Harley Holiday," in which the Dini co-creation dons red and green and hangs out with many "Rebirth"-era DC characters at a behind-the-scenes Christmas party (Two other Dini favorites,  Zatanna and Black Canary, spend the length of the book performing "The Twelve Days of Christmas").

As I apparently never tire of telling anyone, I'm not a big fan of the Harley Quinn character, but this was probably the all-around best story of the book (I'm sure DC would be resistant to messing with success, as co-writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's Harley Quinn books have undoubtedly been a financial success for them, but I wonder if a Paul Dini-written Harley Quinn might not make for a better comic book?). Of course, Dini has a pretty low bar for success here, as all he has to do is craft a series of gag strips, which Charettier beautifully draws in a charming style that at least leans in the direction of the Bruce Timm-designed origins of the character, even if she's dressed more like her current incarnation. The art is all on-model, and it manages to be sexy and fun, too. I say "all" like coming up with a bunch of gags is easy (and, in truth, not all of these are winners), but it seems a bit easier than trying to craft a more "serious" story, as the other writers involved are tasked with doing.

Perhaps my favorite gag? Wonder Woman explaining the Amazon winter holiday of Diana Day in almost exact detail, as that's so weird one really doesn't need to add jokes (Dini does add one, unfortunately over-gilding that particular lily). Diana Day is the festival in which certain Amazons dress up like deer and are hunted by others; it was as suggestive as it was ridiculous in the Golden Age, while Grant Morrison and Yannick Paquette just made the subtext text in their Earth One graphic novel, and made it a straight up bacchanal complete with nudity and making out.
Let's start with the cover.

 Regarding the the title, why is this a "Holiday" instead of a "Christmas" special? Is it because DC and the liberal media hates Christians and wants to eradicate their second-most important holiday, which has evolved into a secular holiday with mostly secular traditions and celebrations anyway? No, it's because it covers a lot of holidays: Christmas (and only secular aspects of it like gift-giving; unlike some DC holiday specials past, there's no real religious content at all here), Christmas Eve (Nochebuena), Hanukkah, winter solstice, New Year's Eve, Three King's Day and the Chinese holiday of Dongzhi.

The cover image, by Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sanchez, feels a little messy to me, in terms of the story it's telling. It looks like Superman and Wonder Woman and Batgirl are carrying a giant sack of gifts, and Harley is attempting to steal them, and other characters are foiling her attempt and also maybe stealing them, and Batman is...I don't know, exactly. Maybe he was chasing her, and jumped at her and missed...?

The renderings are all nice, though, and they manage to get in all of their most recognizable characters of the moment--Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Robin--plus some of the "new" characters specific to the current "Rebirth" era, like Superboy Jonathan White, Kid Flash Wally West and Green Lantern Jessica Cruz (and her Green Lanterns co-star Simon Baz).

I really like the way the familiar black and blue "Rebirth" logo that's been atop all of DC's books for months now is here black and green, with red lettering. It's a nice familiar but different look.

We start with three pages of the Harley story, in which she explains the premise--"It's one o' those big, overblown entertainment extravaganzas... ...where celebrities sharing only th' most tangential relationships... ...try to act all chummy during th' segues"--and then plunge into the stories. A page of Harley and friends will regularly appear between them, usually having something to do with the story that follows. For example, a Krypto story is lead in to by a page in which Harley watches a Rankin-Bass-looking Christmas special in which she and Krypto save Santa from Mister Freeze, Killer Frost and Captain Cold.

So first up is Superman and Batman, who will prove the most popular characters used here, in "The Last Minute" by writer Tim Seeley and artist Ian Churchill. The action begins in Ecuador on Nochebuena, where the World's Finest are just polishing off The Rainbow Creature (Seeley sure does love his obscure Bat-villains, God bless him), which Churchill draws a little too scary for my tastes. The Super-Dads are discussing this year's hot new toy, which their sons both want, and Superman has yet to procure for Jonathan. Luckily he can fly and has super-speed, right? So yeah, this Jingle All The Way with Superman.

He's distracted by his Superman duties--The Penny Plunderer vs. a Salvation Army Santa, apparently new monster The Winter Wasp--and just when he tracks down a Disney Infinity/Skylanders-like  Monk-E-Monsters toy/video game system for his son, that little jerk Damian Wayne swoops in and grabs it right out from under his nose.
Cut to the Wayne/Kent Christmas Eve dinner at the Kents' Hamilton County farmhouse. The Kents are all wearing terrible matching Christmas sweaters, which kind of made me hate them all. I like seeing the characters just kinda hanging out like this, though. And while Superman and Batman are the characters who are named as the stars of this story, it's really a story of their sons and their budding friendship.

Kite-Man gets name-dropped, too; that guy is having a hell of a late 2016, I'll tell you what!

Oh, and for some reason Seeley refers to the Kents as The Smiths throughout; I thought they took the name "White," not Smith...? What gives...?

The next story, "For The Dog Who Has Everything" by writer Eric Esquivel and artists Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund, also refers to the White farm as "The 'Smith' Family Farm, Upstate" in the opening tagline. Did I miss the name change somewhere? I've been reading Superman since the relaunch, but dropped Action after "Back At The Planet."

This brief two-pager sees Jonathan projecting his own feelings on to Krypto, and then Superman taking his Superboy to the Fortress of Solitude to pick out a present for their Superdog. The title is, of course, a reference to a classic Alan Moore story from a million years ago, perhaps the Alan Moore story that DC just can't help referencing constantly, to the point where I think DC needs, like, an intervention regarding their obsession with Alan Moore (In just the past few months, the Supergirl TV series and the first story arc of the new Trinity comic were based on "The Man Who Has Everything").

I was a little confused about at least one of the super-suits on display in the Fortress, given that this Superman shouldn't have any souvenirs from his universe (that is, the pre-Flashpoint universe), but this is just a two-page story about Krypto's new collar, so probably best not to dwell on it over much.

Next? Perhaps the collection's strongest story: Batman and Detective Chimp in "The Night We Saved Christmas," by the creative team of Heath Corson and Gustavo Duarte (who were responsible for the recent and criminally underrated Bizarro miniseries that launched during the "DCYou" initiative).
Detective Chimp, a PI working on the West Coast, is hired by a big guy with a white beard to help recover his missing dog, and travels to Gotham City to do so, where he teams up with his old pal Batman. Granted, a great deal of the fun of this story is Duarte's idiosyncratic art, and the contrast between his big, burly, almost Frank Miller-looking Batman with the tiny, whisper thin ape with the super-expressive face makes them an almost ideal comics comedy duo (Duarte does an excellent Alfred, too, as you can see above).

Corson's writing is pretty great, too, and it's fun to hear the two claimants to the title "World's Greatest Detective" detecting aloud to one another constantly.

I do hope DC can keep finding things for Corson and Duarte to do, as they do great work, and bring a much-needed sense of fun and humor to the DCU.

An even more random team-up follows in the next story, by writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Matias Bergara (the former a pretty good "get" for the publisher, whose first major work for them is scheduled for this week--the prestige format miniseries Supergirl: Being Super). Though entitled "Dreaming of a White Christmas," it's set on December 21 at a Winter Solstice gathering of witches in England, where both John Constantine and Wonder Woman are looking for individuals, and end up working together to catch them.

There's not a whole lot to it, but the art is nice, and it's really just a story-length excuse to get to the splash page gag ending, which is worth the wait.

From here on in,things start to get a little rough. Writer James Tynion IV and artist Robbi Rodriguez contribute "A Flash Christmas Carol," in which The Flash fights the Rogues on Christmas Eve, and Captain Cold offers The Flash a holiday truce so that the Scarlet Speedster can save Christmas for some foster kids. I'm not a fan of the New 52 Flash at all, but I love Rodriguez's artwork, and he does a fine job on the all-around rather lame New 52 redesigns. That last page is pretty sweet, too.

Artist Andrea Mutti joins New Super-Man writer Gene Luen Yang for a one-page/five-panel story featuring Kenan Kong and his teammates Wonder-Woman and Bat-Man, which basically just introduces American readers to the China's winter solstice celebration of Dongzhi, and another Chinese version of an American super-character: The Red Orchid, a villain who is basically just Chinese Poison Ivy. Given how short this is--again, just five panels--I kind of wish Yang himself would have drawn it, as he's contributed a lot of writing but no art to DC so far (Unless I missed a variant somewhere or something?).

DC's most high-profile Jewish character, Batwoman, once again gets the Hanukkah story (Sorry, Ragman!). This one's from writer K. Perkins and artist Paolo Pantalena, and the latter's drawing of cherry pie which looks nothing at all like cherry pie, through me out of the story in panel...let's see, panel two. Batwoman bets some people up while a girl I've never heard of wearing cat ears oracles for her, and she ruminates on the way she and her father used to spend Hanukkah.

Next? Writer James Asmus and artists Reilly Brown and Scott Hanna collaborate on the Titans story "What A Year For A New Year." And by "Titans" I mean Nightwing, Arsenal, Omen, Donna Troy and Garth (I'm not even sure if he goes by Tempest or not, actually), not the Teen Titans. I like, or at least liked, a few of those characters quite a bit, but haven't really been able to make sense of them in the post-Flashpoint, post-Rebirth DCU, where they seem to have some half-formed memories of their previous, pre-reboot continuity or something? It's been very confusing. Until the publisher resolves the current continuity shenanigans, these heroes aren't characters so much as codenames, and this short story is just one more empty fight comic that could just as easily have been the first and only issue of some superhero team comic Rob Liefeld released in the early 1990s and then abandoned. Only with Nightwing.

It does lead directly into another one-page story though, by writer Bill Freiberger and artist Thomas Pitilli. An eight-panel strip, it shows Nightwing and Batgirl trying to get to their New Year's Eve date on time and, being crimefighters, they are both late. It's cute enough.

And, finally, there's "Epiphany," writers Steve Orlando and Vita Ayala and artists V. Ken Marion and Mick Gray's story of Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, the Green Lanterns co-starring in the ongoing Green Lanterns title. This is a Three Kings Day story, which celebrates the feast of epiphany. Simon is celebrating the holiday with Jessica and her sister, but before he can try the Cruz girls' Rosca de Reyes, the Lanterns get called off into space to do standard issue Lanterns stuff. I liked the last page, the preceding business read a lot like your basic Green Lantern busy work.

And that's that, with just one more page from Dini and Charretier's Harley story, in which she and her fellow party-goers all sign off (the first panel in this post is from that page).

All in all, it is a predictably uneven anthology, but I think Dini and company's Harley story held it together quite nicely, and helped ease readers through any of the weaker stories (and/or the stories featuring the characters they might dislike, or just find themselves baffled by, or featuring artwork they don't care for).

As far as Christmas presents go, this wasn't a bad one at all, and, had I been given it, I'd have no desire to return it the next day.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: December 21st

Archie #15 (Archie Comics) It is Friday afternoon as I am typing these words, and I bought and read this comic book on Wednesday afternoon. In the two days since, it has been sitting atop a small stack of comic book next to my laptop in my apartment, and I must have walked past it a dozen or two times. And yet it is just now that I realize that Joe Eisma's cover image featuring Cheryl Blossom is a rather direct reference to that rather famous poster of Farrah Fawcett. I guess it took me so long because while the pose is identical, Cheryl is dressed much more age-appropriate, and this cover has all kinds of text crowding in on the image (Archie Comics even did that dumb thing DC Comics does whenever they have a mass-media adaptation going on, and put a dang ad right on the cover).

In this issue, writer Mark Waid and Eisma bring the Veronica vs. Cheryl war to its conclusion, while back in Riverdale Jughead and Archie's other friends help him through his rough patch, which has been so rough that last issue Archie had begun slowly transforming into Jughead.

As a result of Veronica and Cheryl's battle of the queen bees at their European boarding school, both of them are returning to the U.S....specifically, Riverdale. I was personally a little surprised that Waid had introduced Cheryl this early in the Archie reboot's life, given how late in Archie history she debuted as a new point in the traditional Archie/Veronica/Betty love triangle. In fact, Waid hasn't really explored that triangle all that much thus far, so jumping right into a third potential love interest for Archie now may seem counterintuitive...or it could be just the threat to Archie that Betty and Veronica need to become allies (or at least frenemies) rather than the rivals they have thus far been in the pages of Archie.

Once again, in lieu of a classic reprint, this issue simply prints a sizable chunk of an issue of another comic book I've already bought and read--here, the cover and first six pages of Tom DeFalco and Sandy Jarrell's Reggie And Me #1 (which was okay, but the weakest of the "new" Archie books published thus far). I do hope Archie Comics cuts this out pretty quickly and returns to running reprints of classic issues, as otherwise Archie is, in terms of format, just another 20-page, $3.99 comic book, little different from Marvel's over-priced, better-to-wait-for-the-trade comics (although sans all the obnoxious house ads breaking up the story pages, I guess; Archie Comics tastefully leaves all the ads for the back of the book).

Batman #13 (DC Comics) This is the apparent climax and conclusion of writer Tom King's "I Am Suicide" arc of Batman, drawn by Mikel Janin. This is the one where Batman essentially forms his own Suicide Squad consisting of Catwoman, The Ventriloquist Arnold Wesker, Bronze Tiger* and Punch and Jewlee** in order to storm Bane's island of Santa Prisca to recover The Psycho-Pirate.

Much of Batman's plan to do so has been pretty dumb; it involved letting Bane break his back so that the villain thinks he has won (or maybe just dislocating his spine...? Batman did some weird, painful move involving shackles earlier to somehow fix his back injury). I've been pretty fascinated by the presence of Wesker though, as he's here sans Scarface, and, without him, he is basically just a dumpy, overweight guy with some sort of multiple personality disorder. Of Batman's Squad, he's the one who wouldn't last long in any kind of fight, and King has played up his presence as a "secret weapon" of some kind for four issues now.

Here, all of the players play their part, as a nude and straight-edge Bane tries wrestling Batman to death, all along talking to him about mental health and how simply having a meta-human with a magic artifact capable of manipulating human emotions is all driven men like the two of them really need in order to be happy.

Some of the parts are a little on the lame side--Bronze Tiger doesn't do a whole lot, for example, although one assumes Taylor has plans for him in the future, as every issue of his Batman has so far been part of an ongoing storyline--but The Ventriloquist reveal did not disappoint. For the past few months, I've been puzzling out exactly what Wesker was going to do, assuming it had something to do with ventriloquism (for example, I thought perhaps he could work the Medusa Mask via ventriloquism, throwing his voice to make it sound like it was coming out of Psycho-Pirate?). Instead (and spoiler alert, obviously), it basically comes down to the fact that The Ventriloquist and Scarface are immune to the mask because a) the way the former's brain is wired and b) the latter isn't actually real.

All in all, this was a pretty satisfying, heist-style story arc, albeit one that likely reads much better in trade (last issue, while good, really slowed the pace of the story with a long detour into the psychology of the characters), and one that reintroduces and/or rehabilitates some DC characters we haven't seen all that much of lately. There are still some questions to be resolved regarding Catwoman, and I'm assuming they will be addressed in the next issue.

Oh, there is an interesting two page sequence in the middle meant to tie-in to this week's Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad #1 (it's explicitly referenced via asterisk and editorial box in the other comic), and it basically consists of Amanda Waller waltzing into the Batcave and confronting Alfred Pennyworth.

They just talk to one another, and don't come to blows, which seems awfully...uncharacteristic of Alfred. I suppose what happens between them aside from words might be addressed elsewhere later, but I would really have liked to see an Alfred vs. The Wall battle. If the implication is that Alfred just stood aside while she took what she said she came to get, then I do wish King and Janin would have at least added some metahuman muscle in the background behind Waller, perhaps in the form of a villain able to paralyze or otherwise restrain Alfred during the scene. Otherwise, one has to assume he would have spoken some code to activate the robot dinosaur or whipped out a rifle or tried to jump into a Bat-vehicle and turn its weapons on her or something.

Anyway, this has been a pretty interesting arc so far. I am not looking forward to the upcoming one, "I Am Bane," when artist David Finch returns to pencil.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #3 (DC) Artist Michael Avon Oeming and the writing team of Gerard Way and Jon Rivera move from a good old-fashioned, cars-chasing-cars car chase scene, which began last issue, to a pretty splendid underground car chase of sorts, in which a giant plant monster chases Cave Carson’s Mole car through a tunnel it digs with the laser beam mounted in its grill.

Pages four and five are a pretty cool spread in which the tunnels fills the pages, and repeating images of the car and pursuing monster fill the tunnels, a handful of circular panels breaking out to include close-ups of the characters and their dialogue.

It’s a pretty great scene, clever in its execution of displaying the all-around weirdness of the original concept, which Way and Rivera are endeavoring to make weirder still (i.e. the “Has a Cybernetic Eye” part of the title), and Oeming’s idiosyncratic art can’t help but make look weird.

But forget all that; Cave, Wild Dog and Cave’s daughter’s wild, violent adventures and the corporate intrigue are really just a paper pedestal upon which to set the back-up, Tom Scioli’s amazing, three-page “Super Powers” feature.

In this outing, the first two pages are devoted to the Wonder Twins’ powers manifesting, in a surprisingly effective bit of body horror (following an unexpected appearance of Superman, which comes via a still more unexpected still allusion to Jack Kirby’s DC work). The third is a bravura “Green Arrow: Did You Ever Wonder How He Came To Be?” story which tells the story of Green Arrow’s original origin story in just 16 panels, while simultaneously subverting it (his account of events via narration make him look a little better than some of what is shown in the panels), connecting it to one of the earliest Justice League villains in a way that makes perfect sense, adding a few devastatingly effective jokes, showing DC’s resident liberal, hippie superhero smoking on some particular potent vegetation of some kind, introducing an alien into the story and explaining GA’s rather too-descriptive codename.

This single page, in other words, illustrates everything that Scioli does so well, from hyper-compression to connection-drawing, from humor to shared universe synthesizing.

It is maybe the best comic DC is publishing right now…even if it’s doing it at a rate of just three pages per month.

Nightwing #11 (DC) Tom Seeley and Marcus To’s “Bludhaven” story arc continues, as Nightwing meets still more “The Run-Offs,” minor villain characters who, in this story, have fled from Gotham City to the Bat-less Bludhaven.

What, exactly, they are all doing there is a little mysterious still, but here it starts to become clear that they are in some kind of group therapy together, working to shed their super-villain pasts, and they aren’t happy to see Nightwing, who their leader recognizes from his days as Robin.

As for these villains, they are mostly minor Chuck Dixon co-creations, like Stallion, Mouse, Giz and Thrill Devil. They’ve all been given more colorful redesigns here, and, in the case of Mouse, she’s been rebooted to a different race (That would be Mouse, who gets the worst of the new costumes).

Nightwing is in a weird position here, as the police aren’t happy about his presence, nor are the villains, and he’s not entirely sure what side he’s on or what side he’s supposed to be on.

There are a couple of cute scenes in this, the most exciting of them is the last page, which leads to a hell of a cliffhanger, the revelation of another minor “run-off” villain, this one the creation of Larry Hama and Scott McDaniel and one of the most laughed-at of villains: Orca.

I’m not sure the cliffhanger will have much impact at all for a reader completely unfamiliar with her, and this is probably a pretty good example of DC’s reboot paradox, but it worked for me.

Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat Vol. 2: Don't Stop Me-ow (Marvel Entertainment) So here’s the (a?) problem with Marvel’s Civil War II event series. It’s big enough that pretty much every extant Marvel comic ties into it, which means many of the currently ongoing Marvel series are now being released in collections in which the sub-title is “Civil War II” or the stories somehow relate to the events of Civil War II.

This presents something of a conundrum to us trade readers, as Civil War II itself hasn’t yet been published as a collection yet–Hell, thanks to publishing delays and after-solicitation decisions to expand the miniseries’ issue count, I don’t think Civil War II has been completed and published in comic book-comic format yet.

So, do we wait for that to happen before reading any of the trades containing tie-ins (that is, all of them), essentially taking a long break from reading Marvel comics…?

I have been assured by friends that one need not read Civil War II, or even know much about it’s dumb premise (Minority Report in the Marvel Universe, which sets the heroes all a-fightin’ again like it was 2006), as many of the tie-ins are, if not “red sky” style tie-ins, something awfully close.

That’s certainly the case with the Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat tie-in. After just one of the six issues collected in this volume, in which Patsy’s Netflix buddy Jessica Jones and She-Hulk resolve her legal conflict with Hedy Wolfe, the off-page events of Civil War II knock the book out of whack.

Apparently, She-Hulk was badly hurt in that series, and is in a coma, taking her out of the Patsy cast, of which she was a major part of up until that point. Writer Kate Leth devotes an entire issue to Patsy thinking about their friendship and being sad about Shulkie, and, while the issue itself is good, it is pretty damn out-of-left field, and Shulkie’s terrible injury colors all the issues that follow.

It necessitates a shake-up of the cast, with X-Man Jubilee rather randomly joining Patsy’s business and replacing She-Hulk as Patsy’s recognizable Marvel Universe super-powered hero gal pal. There’s also a sort of pall of sadness hanging around the cast, as they worry about Shulkie and even occasionally question if they should be having as much fun as they sometimes do because of this big, dumb, sad thing happening somewhere else (The book is remarkably free of details regarding Civil War II, though; She-Hulk got put in a coma, James Rhodes is dead and everyone’s busy fighting each other is pretty much the sum total of Patsy's summary of Civil War II).

So this trade is a bit of a jumble as a reading experience. There’s one issue resolving the story arc that dominated most of the previous volume, one issue kinda sorta tying into Civil War II, two issues involving Hedy’s revenge on Patsy (in which she sics Patsy’s ex-husbands The Son of Satan and Mad Dog on her) and then two issues that begin but don’t complete a Hellcat vs. Black Cat story arc.

Leth and artist Brittney Williams continue to do a pretty good job playing with Charles Soule’s set-up from his short-lived She-Hulk title, centering on a building shared by such businesses as She-Hulk’s law firm, Howard The Duck’s private investigator’s business and now Patsy’s employment agency for super-powered people who don’t want to fight crime with their great powers (the supporting characters from the cancelled She-Hulk and the just-canceled/completed Howard The Duck appear repeatedly throughout).

I like how they embrace all of the silly-ass stuff that’s happened to Jubilee over the last few years, so now she’s not only a teenage X-Man, but she’s also a vampire and also raising a baby she basically just found and kept when she was in Europe during that first dumb arc of that dumb X-Men book (X-Men).

I actually don’t even know if Jubes still has her mutant powers or not, because she never once uses them here. She basically does all of her fighting hand-to-hand, and the only “power” she ever uses is a vampire one, which is to turn into a cloud of smoke and travel in that form. Williams draws her as a cloud of smoke wearing a pair of sunglasses and possessing a mouth. It’s awesome.

Other than Civil War II derailing the title and altering the collection’s mood (this is not a book built to do somber, and doesn't do it all that well), this is an all-around fine comic book, even if the collection doesn’t read as satisfyingly as it might have (On the plus side, Leth clearly isn’t writing for the trade, so there's that; if it weren't for Marvel's pricing, this might be the rare Marvel book that reads better in singles than trades).

Wait, one more complaint: Why does Black Cat have cat eyes over her boobs on her costume now? Did that change in one of the Spider-Man books, or is Williams responsible for that little redesign? Because I really kinda hate it.

Superf*ckers Forever #1 (IDW Productions) It’s a Christmas miracle!

Now, I obviously don’t understand the various factors that influence the way comic books move between their publishers and their distributor Diamond and my local comic shop, but I ordered this particular comic on the day it was released, and it just now arrived this week, the week that the fifth issue was released.

This first issue is probably the best of the series, which is kind of a good news, bad news situation. The good news is that while this is the fourth issue of the series I’ve read, it was the best reading experience so far. The bad news is that it means the work generated by James Kochalka’s return to his Superfuckers characters in this new format has been getting progressively weaker.

So this issue, and the series as a whole I guess, begins with the destruction of the universe and Vortex’s reluctant putting-of-it-back together. Then Jack Krak goes looking for his lost vagina, which is where he keeps his wieners, and he finds it in a perfectly positioned place for sight gags (Please note that Jack Krak’s vagina is not an actual vagina, but something he refers to as a vagina. And his wieners are hotdogs. Get your mind out of the gutter!).

The back-up story, by Jake Lawrence, is also maybe the best of the back-ups (so far). Entitled “Swear Jar,” it’s about Wonder Kyle’s creation of a swear jar that works completely differently than any swear jar you have heard of before. I bet it would be pretty effective at curbing swearing in real life, too!

Superfuckers #5 (IDW) This extra-priced flip-issue ($4.99 instead of the usual over-priced $3.99) includes a lot of comics: two 16-page, all-Kochalka stories and two back-up stories. So it’s pricey, but worth it.

There’s the fifth chapter of the ongoing Superf*ckers Forever saga, and, upside down and on the other side, Superf*ckers Save Christmas, in which Wonder Kyle tries and fails to teach Jack, Ultra Richard and Orange Lightning the true meaning of Christmas. Or anything about Christmas at all, really. Or even just something as basic as snow, come to think of it.

I liked the bit about Jack’s procuring a Christmas tree.

Superman #13 (DC) This is the second half of the Superman/Frankenstein story that began last issue, which has allowed artist Doug Mahnke to revisit the characters he re-created with Grant Morrison; not only Frankestein, but also The Bride.

The pair are both hunting an intergalactic alien war criminal for different reasons, and because their prey has replaced the editor at the Hamilton County newspaper that Lois “White” writes for, Lois and Superman get involved.

As becomes clear in this second half of the story, writers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are using the Frankenstein family to define the White family through contrast, as Frankenstein and the Bride fight against one another, and were torn apart by the loss of their son, while Lois and Superman fight together and, of course, still have their son.

It’s a fun little story, and a nice showcase for all of the characters involved. Plus, it’s always fun to see Mahnke draw Frankenstein; I’ve always loved that cool, apparently steam-powered locomotive-themed gun he carries.

Teen Titans Go #19 (DC) So the best part of this issue by far is, as is so often the case, Dan Hipp’s cover image. Beast Boy stands atop a pile of detritus featuring pieces of various DC characters, many of them from the movies, next to a tag reading “Beast Boy: The Last Boy On Earth?!

There’s a little Kamandi in the background reacting to the appropriation of his claim to fame, there’s a stealth Watchmen crossover (“Rorshach Was Here” is scrawled on the dead Cyborg’s chest, and there’s an adorable little bloody smiley face button, which Hipp makes look like an emoji) and, in the background, there’s a billboard advertising “The Terrible Trio! Live From Gotham!” which depicts a version of the Terrible Trio gathered around a microphone.

I didn’t like either of the two stories under the cover nearly as much. In one, Beast Boy acquires the power to smell the future, and he smells disaster (hence the cover image), and in the other, the Titans must help Beast Boy return his pet/friend herring to his home waters, and in the process they become embroiled in a battle between some orcs and the Secret Order Of The Herring.

*Have we seen Bronze Tiger since the reboot? I don't recall seeing him anywhere yet, and his absence from both the live-action Suicide Squad movie and the new, third iteration of that title since the reboot has been somewhat conspicuous. He was basically replaced in the film by Katana, and I guess the latest volume of the comic followed suit, as it's been trying to ape the film version of the Squad as closely as possible.

**I'm actually a little surprised we haven't seen these two show up before now. As a psychotic, clown-themed Bonnie and Clyde-style couple, they pre-figured The Joker and Harley Quinn as they appear in Suicide Squad: The Movie, and how Harley sometimes views her relationship with The Joker in the comics and the cartoons. That is, the way Punch feels about and treats Jewlee is basically the way Harley wished The Joker felt about and treated her. When she was in love with him, of course. They are currently on the outs.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Marvel's March previews reviewed

Marvel just released their solicitations for the comics they intend to publish in March of next year. While DC seems to have gone cold on the idea in the current "Rebirth" era, Marvel continues to pump out theme variant covers on a regular basis. These are often on the stupid side, but I have to confess to kind of digging March's variants, which basically just different Marvel characters might look like were they possessed by the Venom symbiote.

I always liked that idea, as I like when the most familiar and iconic characters get their costumes radically redesigned on a temporary, event-specific basis: Like Batman gets a Green Lantern ring, for example, or, for a decades-old example, when various DC heroes were "eclipsed" by Eclipso. With Venom, they probably should just get black and white versions of their own costumes, maybe with the some spider-legs attached to their icons or logos (as The Punisher did in that one What If...? special, but whatever, these are just covers, so if a Hulk gets a green symbiote or Man-Thing doesn't get a long tongue, it's no big deal.

Here are some favorites, although there are others as well (Dig the "What If...Venom Had Possessed Tippy-Toes?" one).

That top one is Spider-Man Peter Parker; not sure why he gets four arms and scary-feet, other than to distinguish him from Venom-Venom. You can probably figure out all the others; the bottom two, in which groups are Venom-ized, are of The X-Men and The Champions.

You know, this looks like a pretty okay idea for a nice, basic, uncomplicated Marvel line-wide event/series: A bunch of Venoms possess, like, half the Marvel heroes, and the other half have to rescue them.

But enough about covers, Marvel is also publishing some comic books of interest this March. Comic books like these:

• STUART IMMONEN (STAR WARS, AVENGERS) takes the artist reins of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and joins Dan Slott for a 40-page main story!
• Then don’t miss a super-secret short story by Dan and Giuseppe Camuncoli!
• Hannah Blumenreich makes hers Marvel, making her Spider-Debut!
• Cale Atkinson brings another story of the A-May-ZING SPIDER-AUNT!
88 PGS./Rated T …$9.99

Huh. Keeping content, including characters and even titles "classified" or "top secret" isn't all that unusual, but keeping a creative team secret is. I can't imagine why they might be doing so here, especially since it is so often the case these days that the creative team sells the book to the sort of engaged readers who pay attention to solicits, but for whatever reason Marvel decided to do so here.

It would be weird to do this with a very good team, as a shocking team that is popular--Geoff Johns and Jim Lee?--would boost sales, which Marvel needs to make now, not when the dang thing hits the stands (and at $10 I have to imagine many retailers are likely to be extra-careful about not frivolously ordering extra copies of this just in case that teams is President Barack Obama and Bansky).

On the flip side, why bother keeping a terrible creative team secret?

Curious. I wonder if I'll still be curious in March of next year, or if I will have completely forgotten about this by then...

At last! Everyone’s favorite no-nonsense powerhouse, America Chavez, gets her own series!
Written by critically-acclaimed YA novelist Gabby Rivera (Juliet Takes A Breath) and drawn by all-star artist Joe Quinones (HOWARD THE DUCK), Marvel Comics’ brand new AMERICA series shines a solo spotlight on the high-octane and hard-hitting adventures of the one and only America Chavez!
America has always been uncontestably awesome, and as the newly appointed leader of the Ultimates, she’s now officially claimed her place as the preeminent butt-kicker of the Marvel Universe! But while leading a team of heroes and punching out big bads is great and all, it doesn’t really leave much time for self-discovery… So what’s a super-powered teenager do when she’s looking for a little fulfillment? She goes to college!
She just has to stop an interdimensional monster or two first, plus shut down a pesky alien cult that’s begun worshipping her exploits!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

This one is a little unexpected, given that Ms. America/America Chavez has always been a team member rather than a solo-star. I'm unfamiliar with the writer, but Quinones is a great artist (The above cover isn't his, those; that's the variant by Jamie McKelvie). I lost track of America, if that's what we're calling her now (Ugh, I prefer Ms. America, for the sake of legacy if nothing else), after the "controversial" Secret Wars miniseries A-Force, so I'm not sure what she's been like in the A-Force ongoing that followed or the pages of the post-Secret Wars version of The Ultimates. It's worth noting that the original version who appeared in 2011's Vengeance miniseries and the one who appeared in the last volume of Young Avengers were fairly different-ish in portrayal, so I guess it will be interesting to see which America shows up.

• The dust settles, and peace comes to Wakanda once again.
• That is, if her political leaders can come to terms….
• T’Challa finds himself in the last place he ever expected: A republic.
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Whaaaaat...? The kingdom of Wakanda has become a republic rather than a hereditary monarchy? That is a shocking development! Although 20 pages of pulse-pounding political intrigue doesn't sound all that promising, does it?

I have a confession to make. I bought the first collection of Coates and Stelfreeze's new Black Panther series, and I couldn't even finish reading it. I made it through three of the four issues, if I'm remember the content correctly, went to bed for the night, and it's been unopened on my nightstand ever since.

Coates does a fine job at writing comics, evidencing none of the often annoying ticks or tells of a writer new to the medium, and the art is fine, but I just found the book boring. To my own surprise really, as I can and do read terrible comics all the time. This just seemed to fall somewhere completely outside the normal scale between terrible and great, I guess, landing in some not-at-all-entertaining category for me personally.

I do hope to give it another try eventually and write a formal review of it here, but to my own great surprise I found Black Panther to be very Not For Me.

• All the secrets…
• All the lies…
• All the vengeance…
• It all ends here.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I've been reading Marvel trade collections a lot faster than I've been writing about them, and therefore haven't gotten to blogging about the first volume of Waid and Samnee's Black Widow comic yet. But it's very good. There's not a whole hell of a lot too it, but it's a very fast-paced action and intrigue comic that is pretty much flawlessly executed.

This is, unfortunately, just the image to the cover of March's issue of Captain America: Steve Rogers and not, sadly, of an all-new, ongoing Invaders series.

Penciled by CLASSIFIED
Find out what’s in store for the Marvel Universe in this definitive prelude to the next TOP SECRET event! You won’t want to miss a moment of this major story — and it all starts here!
Collecting CLASSIFIED.
248 PGS./Rated T+ …$34.99
ISBN: 978-1-302-90717-4

Wait a minute, is this real? This isn't a joke? Because it seems ridiculous when Marvel does this for a regular old $3.99 comic book, but for a 250-page $35.00 graphic novel? How on earth does a retailer even approach this?

Does one order it like it's Secret Wars or Civil War II or Monsters Unleashed or IVX or AVX...? "Event" has a pretty broad definition, after all.

I guess whatever it is, it's going to be built around some pre-existing story, or, more likely, series of stories that are somehow bound together, but weren't such a big deal that it or they would have already been published under its/their own title, and can thus be published under that of "__________ Prelude."

Are only clue seems to be the fact that it's "Rated T+", so given that and everything else that's going on this month (i.e. the "ResurreXion"-branded X-Men franchise re-focusing), I'm going to randomly guess that this is the resurrection of Wolverine storyline (the old Wolverine, not the All-New Wolverine...Oh, but not the one who is literally an old man either. Well, I mean, he is an old man, but not as old as...Jeez, comics are hard to talk about sometimes).

That would mean this would be full of individual issues of various X-Men and Wolverine comics leading up to whatever they end up doing to bring him back from the dead. Or "dead."

That said, I suppose it could also be the resurrection resurreXion of Professor X, as he's been dead longer.

• Gwen’s been thrown by Arcade into…a world of Fantasy Roleplaying?!?!
• It’s Swords & Sorcery, Gwenpool-style!
• Watch out, or this LARP is gonna become a DARP!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I spent an embarrassingly long time trying to recall what DARPA stood for before I realized that this was just a dumb joke, turning the L-for-Live in LARMP (Live Action Role-Playing) to a D-for-Dead (Dead Action Role Playing). (DARPA stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, if you're trying to remember now).

In the wake of the awesome events of IVX — what will become of the Inhumans? In this oversized special issue — the trial of Maximus! The coming of Marvel Boy! And what is the dark secret of Black Bolt? A special bridging issue between the past of the Inhumans and their future — on Earth and in the stars!
40 PGS./ One-Shot /Rated T+ …$4.99

Oh man, I thought IVX was gonna get rid of these guys forever.

Hey, did you know this is one of the books with a Venom-ized variant cover? Hopefully it just features Lockjaw possessed by Venom. Oh man, how awesome would that be? Wouldn't you rather read "What If...Venom Had Possessed Lockjaw?" instead of learn about the fate the Inhumans?

A one of a kind, kung fu action epic directed by the inimitable Kaare Andrews! Danny Rand, a.k.a. Iron Fist, is haunted by the consequences of choosing death over life. But when he receives a message from his mystical homeland of K’un Lun, he must return and relive his blood-soaked origin of betrayal and vengeance! The mystical city will be reduced to ruins, while Rand Tower will face a hostile takeover — very hostile! With the wolves at the door and the villain behind it all terribly close to Danny’s heart, will he be broken beyond repair? Or can he summon up the will to once again render his shattered hands like unto fists of iron? Hope is reborn with talons and fire, but revenge is a weapon that cuts both ways. Will Danny survive the bloodletting? Collecting IRON FIST: THE LIVING WEAPON #1-12.
272 PGS./Rated T+ …$34.99
ISBN: 978-1-302-90449-4

I'm a big fan of Kaare Andrews' work, and I was genuinely surprised that I didn't enjoy the first trade collection of this short-lived series more than I did. The art was predictably amazing, but the mood was a little too serious, I think. Perhaps the Matt Fraction/Ed Brubaker version of the character just ruined more serious takes for me...?

MAN-THING #1 (of 5)
R.L. STINE (W) • GERMAN PERALTA & Daniel Johnson (A)
Beloved writer R.L. STINE (Goosebumps, Fear Street) brings his special brand of horror to MAN-THING!
After working for years, MAN-THING has regained his ability to speak and has taken Hollywood by storm…But when an ancient and mysterious danger threatens the swamp, Man-Thing is going to have to choose between his new life and celebrity, and the world he used to call home…
PLUS! A bone-chilling new horror story, written by the master himself, R.L. STINE, and illustrated by the incomparable Daniel Warren Johnson!
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99

MAN-THING #2 (of 5)
• Back in his old swamp, MAN-THING is visited by an ally from his past, while struggling with his new status in life.
• But the swamp is less than welcoming, with every creature seemingly out to get him! Crocodiles, bats and mosquitoes – oh my!
• Will Man-Thing be able to restore the balance of the swamp and the cause of this calamity? Or will the forces that are affecting the swamp prove to be beyond his control?
• PLUS! Even more horror for your dollar! A terrible tale of ROAD RAGE, as told by R.L. STINE and CHRISTOPHER MITTEN.
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99

Man, R.L. Stine is a hell of a "get" for Marvel. I honestly wasn't entirely sure if he was a real person really writing the millions (or is it billions now?) books published under his name now or not. As a fan of of Man-Thing, I'm pretty excited about this series (or it's eventual trade collection, to be precise), although I'm not so sure how I feel about the thought of a talking Man-Thing, as that kinda kills the mystique of the character.

Also, I didn't know he had a mouth.

Written by CULLEN BUNN
It’s all hands on deck with the AVENGERS, CHAMPIONS, GUARDIANS, X-MEN and the
INHUMANS as they clash with monstrous hazards that threaten to destroy every corner of the Marvel Universe. Who are the LEVIATHONS? Who controls them? How can they be stopped before Earth becomes another tragic barren world in their wake? Collecting MONSTERS UNLEASHED #1-5.
168 PGS./RATED T+ …$50.00
ISBN: 978-1-302-90726-6
Trim size: 14-1/4 x 21-1/4

Fifty dollars?! There damn well better be a human-size collection of this thing too...

• The fight to stop the Red Skull spills out of Avengers Mansion and into the streets.
• Rogue’s gambit works. When the Red Skull gains the upper hand, Deadpool gets help from a few pals.
• And it’s lights out for one Avenger…
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Oh my God, these guys have been fighting The Red Skull forever now. Like, years and years.

I really love how bananas that big, bobble-headed Red Skull looks on Adam Kubert's cover, though.

• Do you HATE tie-ins with a fiery passion, True Believer? Well, this isn’t one! It’s a COMPLETE EPIC EVENT —
• In the wake of Monsters Unleashed — EVEN MORE MONSTERS!! Because you probably will have demanded it!
• RED HULK! AMERICAN KAIJU! VANDOOM, the man who made a creature! And wouldja believe — DEDD-PUUL,
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I will always demand more monsters.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

DC's March previews reviewed

DC Comics has released their solicitations for the comics they plan to release in March of next year. Wanna go over 'em? Together? Okay, let's!

Backup story by DAN DIDIO
Backup story art by PHIL WINSLADE
After the events of the DEATH OF HAWKMAN miniseries, Adam Strange is blasted through multiple dimensions only to land on Earth! There, instead of super-powered beings and legendary crime fighters, he encounters a boy adventurer and his scientist father—and they’re the only ones who can help him return home. Jonny Quest, Hadji, Dr. Quest and Race Bannon have a plan, but it’s going to involve a dangerous trek through Dino Boy’s Lost Valley of prehistoric threats!
And in the backup feature starring Top Cat, breaking out of prison is challenging enough for a cat, but sometimes it means stumbling through a cosmic portal to planet Earth…and right into the hands of Batman!
On sale MARCH 29 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Hobbyist comic book writer Dan Didio takes a gig from a freelancer in the back-up to one of the four DC/Hanna-Barbera crossovers being published in March, with his story being a...Top Cat/Batman crossover...?

Some of these are really weird sounding, particularly the back-ups, but I kind of have to see them in order to tell how weird. For example, this sounds fairly straight, as old-timey space hero Adam Strange (created in 1958) fits in perfectly well with the old-timey adventure heroes from the original Jonny Quest show (debuting in 1964), but some of the others sound like they may be more in line with DC's recent slate of weird Hanna-Barbereboot books like Scooby Apocalypse and The Flintstones.

I find this particular annual and pairing to be the most interesting of the four crossover annuals because it is one where the DC character seems like it might very well be the lesser of the two properties in terms of popularity at the moment. I mean, I'm not sure what the sales are on the Death of Hawkman miniseries co-starring Adam Strange are, and if they are in excess of the sales of Future Quest or not, but I have to imagine that it's the "Hawkman" and the "Death" that are generating a fair amount of whatever sales might be attached to it.

“Hats and Bats”! Underestimate the Mad Hatter at your own peril. Batman takes on one of his most dangerous and deranged foes in a mind-bending tale from the powerhouse creative team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli!
On sale MARCH 8 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

I'm looking forward to this one, if only to see what writer Scott Snyder does with The Mad Hatter. I'm hoping it's something good enough that it can make me forget I ever even read Gregg Hurwitz's reinvention of the character for The Dark Knight.

I can't believe the title "Hats and Bats" wasn't taken already. I'm picturing The Mad Hatter attaching tiny little mind-controlling top hats onto the tiny little heads of bats to send after Batman, but something tells me that is not what's going to be happening here.

Written by TOM KING
Art and cover by DAVID FINCH and DANNY MIKI
Variant cover by TIM SALE
“I AM BANE” part three! Bane broke the bat before, but it wasn’t enough—now he’s going to break everyone else! Bane is coming, and no one is safe!
On sale MARCH 1 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

The worst Bane artist returns to draw Bane again. Hooray...?

You know what would be really awesome? If instead of just drawing variant covers for this series, Tim Sale moved inside to draw the David Finch issues. I'd love to see Sale interiors on a book starring the modern Batman, instead of the "Year One" era version he's been so long associated with.

The reference to Bane and Batman's "Knightfall" battle here is a reminder that this story would probably sound a hell of a lot more exciting were it taking place in a DCU that never rebooted, as the story in w hich "Bane broke the bat before" isn't one we've ever been told. I mean, we read "Knightfall" decades ago, but we don't know how that story went down in The New 52-iverse, other than very, very, very differently.

Faced with a career-ending diagnosis, Deathstroke is coached by Power Girl to reinvent himself—and comes face to face with a rival assassin known as Deadline!
On sale MARCH 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

I am actually more interested in seeing The New 52 Deadline than I am Power Girl, who is apparently the one from Teen Titans (the young woman with Elasti-Girl-like size-changing powers, not Power Girl-like powers, who was technically Power Girl II, although since New 52 Power Girl I was really just Earth 2 Supergirl disguised as Power Girl I'm not entirely sure if she still counts as Power Girl, or if that would make Power Girl II just "Power Girl" and AAAAAUUUGH!)

Anyway, Deadline kinda fascinates me only in that he's got Mister Miracle-like flying discs he rides around on, and his name sounds like the exact sort of name a writer might have desperately settle on for his new assassin character because he had to settle on something before his deadline... "Aha! That's it!" I can imagine his creator exclaiming. (That creator, according to Wikipedia, was Roger Stern in 1989.)

Woah, check out Margeurite Sauvage's cover to Bombshells #23! It is definitely in the spirit of the book's conception, of retro pin-up style versions of DC superheroines.

The complete Silver Age adventures of the Doom Patrol, comics’ strangest super-team, is collected in a single hardcover! Led by their wheelchair-bound chief, Niles Calder, three outcasts of society—Negative Man, Elasti-Girl and Robotman—take the qualities that made them freaks to become heroes. Together, the trio takes on bizarre menaces including General Immortus, The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man and The Brotherhood of Evil! Collects MY GREATEST ADVENTURE #80-85 and DOOM PATROL #86-124.
On sale JUNE 21 • 1,056 pg, FC, $99.99 US

I don't care what Gerard Way or anyone else tries to tell you, this was the greatest version of the Doom Patrol ever, not Grant Morrison's. I mean, all versions of the Doom Patrol generally have something to recommend them (with the possible exception of John Byrne's ill-considered soft-reboot...although it did have a four-armed gorilla in it), but no matter how self-consciously weird Morrison and any other later writers might have tried to be, there's no topping the effortless weirdness of Arnold Drake and Bob Haney.

I mean, try to think of these things in context. Now you see a gorilla with a machine gun on the cover of a Doom Patrol comic, and you just find yourself asking where his beret is, and why he's not speaking in a French accent. But in 1964? You would simply have flipped your lid. I think that's something that kids in the early 1960s did. Flipped their lids.

Anyway, $100 is a lot of money, and 1,000 pages is a lot of pages. I'm glad I bought these old comics back when DC was still doing those Showcase Presents volumes, which, like Marvel's Essential volumes, are pretty much my favorite way to read old comics.

Don't get me wrong, the current Doom Patrol series is off to a good start, but nothing they've done can compare to one's first exposure to The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man.

Backup story written by and art by HOWARD CHAYKIN
Art and cover by ARIEL OLIVETTI
Trapped in a strange rift in time, Green Lantern and Space Ghost are forced to battle a variety of foes—and each other! And even if they manage to survive, they will be thrown into a world with no concept of interstellar travel—or even what an alien is! Stripped of their weapons by a xenophobic culture, the duo will have to battle to regain them—but what happens when Space Ghost dons the Emerald Ring and Hal Jordan put on the Power Bands?
And in the backup feature, Ruff and Reddy were once the toast of nightclubs, variety shows, late night chat fests and Broadway. Learn how they became the comedic duo of yesterday…before they hit rock-bottom today!
On sale MARCH 29 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

This one is so obvious that it doesn't even seem all that remarkable; in fact, there was a point while I was reading the 2005 Space Ghost miniseries, also drawn by Ariel Olivetti, that I wondered if DC would go ahead and introduce Space Ghost into the DCU proper, as that take really fit right into the DCU of the time (I think the case could probably be made that Space Ghost, as a space-based superhero, actually fits into the DCU better than some of the space-based characters that reside there, like, for example, Adam Strange).

Ruff and Reddy sure seems like a pretty deep cut. I have watched a lot of cartoons in my time, and I didn't recognize the name. I had to google them, and while they look familiar now that I've seen them, I'm still having trouble remembering if I had ever seen a cartoon featuring them or not.

In this 1980s adventure, Justice League America and Justice League Europe are at their lowest ebb. Maxwell Lord has been shot, and both teams have been ordered to disband by the United Nations. While the teams are in disarray, one of their oldest foes, Despero, returns with revenge in mind—and it’s up to Lobo to team up with Booster Gold to beat him. Collects JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #52-60 and JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE #29-36.
On sale APRIL 5 • 416 pg, FC, $39.99 US

For the longest time I considered Breakdowns to be the ultimate "final" story arc, as Giffen and DeMatteis spent literally hundreds of pages closing out their historic run on the franchise, not only tying up what at the time seemed like dozens of different little plotlines, but also filling the story with call-backs to moments throughout their, what, five year run?

Doing the math, it looks like this collection contains some seventeen issues, which, if published monthly, would be about a year and a half on a single monthly title. That means this final arc from the pair's years-long run on the Justice League franchise (which included two monthly ongoings and various annuals and specials) was about as long as some creators' runs on some super-books these days.

One of my first thoughts upon seeing the announcement of the DC/Hanna-Barbera crossovers was that DC publishes DC/Hanna-Barbera crossovers all the time in the pages of Scooby-Doo Team-Up. Sure, it's always the same Hanna-Barbera characters, but the DC ones change each issue (not that every team-up is with DC characters; some are with fellow Hanna-Barbera characters, but at this point the DC characters outweigh the likes of The Flintstones, Jetsons, Jonny Quest, Space Ghost and Secret Squirrel).

This is a really nice drawing of Martian Manhunter, and this issue will apparently focus on him and all of the other alien characters regular writer Sholly Fisch can squeeze into 20 pages. It was weird seeing this image, because my first thought upon seeing it was "Martian Manhunter! Man, I miss that guy." And he just had his own series again! I guess I just miss the "real" Martian Manhunter, who I haven't seen in a new DC Comic in...God knows how long. About five years now, I guess. The pages of Brightest Day, maybe...?

Art and cover by JOHN ROMITA JR. and DANNY MIKI
“BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE” part three! Shot. Stabbed. Beaten. Maimed. Brought back from the edge of death and sent out to do it all over again and again and again. This has been the life of Floyd Lawton, a.k.a. Deadshot. But not anymore. The moment Suicide Squad fans never thought would come finally arrives when Deadshot achieves that which no one else has: escape! All it will cost is one of his teammates’ lives…
On sale MARCH 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

Art and cover by JOHN ROMITA JR. and DANNY MIKI
“BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE” part four! Consumed by rage following the brutal murder of one of her Suicide Squad comrades, Harley Quinn goes AWOL on a one-(psychotic-)woman mission of vengeance against Rustam and his unstoppable new ally, the most dangerous foe Harley has ever faced: Deadshot.
On sale MARCH 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

The only two things I don't really like about the current Suicide Squad book is it's weird format, featuring a 12-ish page lead story and an eight-ish page back-up, and Jim Lee's artwork. So I'm really looking forward to seeing what JRJR does with the characters and the book. I like that he's keeping his spiky Killer Croc redesign from the pages of All-Star Batman, and that he's given Harley a redesign as well. Hell, he even makes New 52 Deadshot look better than usual...

Written by TONY BEDARD
Backup story written by MARK RUSSELL
Art and cover by BEN CALDWELL
Backup story art by DALE EAGLESHAM
Variant cover by BEN CALDWELL
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
“SUICIDE SPLITS”! Mistaken for metahumans, thrown in the bowels of Belle Reve, the animal rock band Banana Splits are recruited by Amanda Waller for a secret mission: to save the Suicide Squad! What follows is the weirdest team-up you never thought you’d see! How can Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky stand up to Harley, Deadshot, Katana and Croc?
And in the backup feature, Snagglepuss is a Southern gothic playwright working with an ensemble cast of cultural figures, exploring an intensely creative time in the New York City theater scene of the 1950s.
On sale MARCH 29 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Now this is the weirdest of the four Hanna-Barbera/DCU crossover annuals--the fourth one, which I didn't mention here, features the time-traveling Booster Gold visiting the Flintstones' town of Bedrock which, again, is a fairly natural fit. It's kind of too bad that artist Caldwell has designed the Banana Splits to look so...different than they appeared on television, because as is they just look like animal-headed tough guys, like something from the world of Kamandai, maybe. And not, you know, this.

“SUPERMAN REBORN” part one! In DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1, the enigmatic Mr. Oz told this Superman, “You and your family are not what you believe you are. And neither was the fallen Superman.” Now, in the first Rebirth crossover between SUPERMAN and ACTION COMICS, the shocking truth behind Oz’s words is revealed. It begins with one of Oz’s prisoners escaping, and ends in a tragic moment for Lois and Superman.
On sale MARCH 1 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Written by DAN JURGENS
Backup story written by PAUL DINI
Backup story art by IAN CHURCHILL
“SUPERMAN REBORN” part two! Celebrating our 975th issue with a supersize special as another layer of the Superman/Clark Kent mystery is exposed! And in a backup story written by Paul Dini with art by Ian Churchill, learn what it all means for the Son of Superman, who is the prize in a deadly game!
#975 on sale MARCH 8 • 48 pg, FC, $3.99 • RATED T

Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
“SUPERMAN REBORN” part three! In the penultimate chapter of this tale the life of Superman’s son hangs in the balance—and the Man of Steel faces the truth about his life!
On sale MARCH 15 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Written by DAN JURGENS
“SUPERMAN REBORN” finale! As this epic tale wraps up, Superman’s life is drastically changed…and that’s all we are saying for now—except that you won’t want to miss it!
On sale MARCH 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Well it's about goddam time. From the sound of it, this is the story arc that is going to resolve what the heck is up with Superman and, perhaps, the DC Universe as a whole post-Flashpoint. Originally, the creation of The New 52-iverse was the work of Pandora, an effort to make the DCU stronger in order to face an oncoming threat. In the pages of DC Universe: Rebirth, we learned instead that it was actually the nefarious actions of Doctor Manhattan, and done to make the DCU weaker.

The mysterious "Mr. Oz" (Ozymandias?) has been hinting all along that something was up with Superman and his family, and this promises to resolve that, so...hooray, I guess. I am hopefully it doesn't break the Superman franchise too hard. While I didn't much care for Superwoman (more for the bait and switch marketing and the particular character starring than the actual creative talent on display, which is pretty damn good) or Action, but Superman proper has been superb since "Rebirth" launched.

The "tragic moment" makes me worry a bit about Jonathan, as Superman and Lois having a son together doesn't seem like the sort of thing that can or will last indefinitely--these characters and their storylines have their own kind of gravity, in which the tendency is to always eventually retreat towards the direction of either their original or most popular iterations--but then, Jonathan is starring in Super Sons now, so he seems safe. Let's hope Krypto is, too!

The cover I posted above is Gleasons, from Action #976 (I think). That is the New 52 Superman and the Rebirth Superman; the latter of whom is actually the pre-Flashpoint aged by somewhere between 5-8 years or so. You'll notice each bears a crackling aura, however, and one is red and one is blue, suggestive of the time, well, times, that Superman has split into two distinct selves in the past. When New 52 Superman died, his body released a bunch of red lightning, some of which infused Lana Lang with her powers. Her current design? Just like that of the post-Crisis Superman Red.

I have no idea what all of that means...the auras could simply be a design note on that particular cover...but Rebirth Superman is a little bluer than usual (note the boots, for example), so perhaps we'll find that Mr. Oz and/or The Watchmen didn't simply fuck around with continuity, but also split the DCU's greatest champion in half...?

Cover by KHOI PHAM
“THE RISE OF Aqualad” part one! New story! New city! New member? As the team adjusts to their new lives at Titans Tower, Damian investigates a series of strange disappearances in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Jackson Hyde heads west to fulfill his destiny…and finds himself in the crosshairs of the Teen Titans!
On sale MARCH 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Around the time the Young Justice cartoon launched on Cartoon Network, Geoff Johns went about creating a new, black Aqualad in the pages of Brightest Day. That was Jackson Hyde, who was pretty obviously created to at least visually echo the Aqualad from the TV show, although the characters were so different one wonders why Johns didn't just introduce Kaldur into the DCU (Perhaps Johns and the YJ producers were working independently?).

Jackson was one of the many unfortunate casualties of Flashpoint, his loss being particularly vexing/galling because no sooner had Johns finished introducing him than DC rebooted, and erased him from existence. So hey, it's nice to have him back. This time, it appears that they're just going to make him look exactly like YJ's Kaldur.

Ha ha, nice coat Grifter! It looks really warm.

Written by Allan Heinberg
Art by Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Gary Frank and John Sibal
Cover by Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
Wonder Woman goes undercover in her former identity of Diana Prince, acting as a secret agent and member of the Department of Metahuman Affairs. Her first assignment…to save Donna Troy, the current Wonder Woman! Collects WONDER WOMAN #1-4 and WONDER WOMAN ANNUAL #1!
On sale APRIL 26 • 144 pg, FC, $16.99 US

Grr...just seeing this pop up in this month's solicitations reminded me that it existed, and irritated me all over again. Writer Greg Rucka's (first) run on Wonder Woman came to a confused and messy end as DC's Infinite Crisis event neared. As part of the cosmic shenanigans of that series, elements of DC's continuity were to be rebooted, and so Wonder Woman received a character-specific reboot: In particularly, the character reverted to her pre-Crisis (On Infinite Earths) status of having been a founder of the Justice League of America and a contemporary of Batman and Superman's, rather than having arrived in "Man's World" many years after they and pretty much all of the DC heroes active in the late 1980s had begun their careers.

To relaunch the character, DC hired TV writer-turned-comics dabbler Allan Heinberg (who had a comics hit at Marvel with his original Young Avengers series...which he would sporadically return to over the years). Heinberg and the Dodsons produced all of four issues before Heinberg went MIA, so it was basically just enough to set up a very, very different new status quo for the character, including giving her a secret identity again and making her a secret agent for an agency charged with tracking and occasionally combatting super-humans like Wonder Woman. Heinberg also introduced Nemesis as a love interest, and made him into something of a doof.

A short period of fill-in writers followed, and then Jodi motherfucing Picoult (!!!!) was somehow convinced to write Wonder Woman for DC Comics went very, very badly. In fact, I can't think of a worst missed opportunity in DC Comics history. Maybe comics history in general. And then, finally, DC had Gail Simone take over. Fans were pretty happy, and the series regained a sense of stability for a while, although I personally had a really hard time reading Simone's run: I found it hella boring.

Finally, J. Michael Straczynski came on to give the Amazing Amazon another bold new direction--involving a pair of pants and her leather jacket from the '90s--but he abandoned his planned run about halfway through, just as he did his similar work on Superman--because he is the worst. And then Flashpoint rebooted the title.

Long story short, this collection features the much trumpeted beginning of what was supposed to be a bold new era for Wonder Woman, but was really just the start of the most confused, disappointing and all-around mismanaged volume to ever feature the character, and that's saying something.

Hell, you look at Wonder Woman from 2006-2011, and you can almost see where DC was coming from with their New 52 reboot. Like, this title and this character was so screwed up at that point, and the publisher had blown it so many times with what was supposed to be a brand-new, high-profile book starring the character that it's not that difficult to sympathize with the perspective that maybe it would be better to just start over from scratch.

The original run of YOUNG JUSTICE is collected at last from YOUNG JUSTICE #1-7, JLA: WORLD WITHOUT GROWN-UPS #1-2, YOUNG JUSTICE: THE SECRET and YOUNG JUSTICE: SECRET FILES #1. Witness the formation of the original Young Justice team, including Superboy, Impulse, Wonder Girl, Secret and Arrowette as mentors like Red Tornado and Nightwing guide the group into adventure!
On sale APRIL 19 • 360 pg, FC, $29.99 US

Warning: This is almost nothing at all like the cartoon series of the same name, despite including some of the same characters and at least one of the same settings (Oh, and one of the episodes of the TV series was based pretty directly on World Without Grown-Ups). That said, it's really rather good. I enjoyed the hell out of this series, and read it from the The Secret one-shot until it was unfortunately cancelled with Graduation Day to make room for the Geoff Johns-written Teen Titans and the Judd Winick-written The Outsiders.

This volume will likely be a bit on the rocky side, given that it includes work from so many more writers and artists than the eventual long-time Young Justice creative team of Peter David and Todd Nauck.