Thursday, May 24, 2018

DC's August previews reviewed

DC Comics has released their solicitations for the comics they plan to release in August, including Action Comics #1,002, the cover of which by Patrick Gleason is above, simply because I kinda like it. Nothing too exciting or noteworthy going on in the last month of summer: Another round of DC/Looney Tunes crossovers (that look more deeply weird than appealing), the return of the secondary Super-books after the deck-clearing that heralded the arrival of Brian Michael Bendis, a couple of new costumes and, most importantly, A BRAND-NEW KELLEY JONES BATMAN COMIC FOCUSING ON THE SCARECROW.

Anyway, this is what jumped out at me this month...


ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #1
written by PETER J. TOMASI
art by CARLO BARBERI and ART THIBERT
cover by DAN MORA
...
The Super Sons are back in an all-new 12-issue miniseries written by Peter J. Tomasi! Check out the lost and secret adventures of Damian Wayne (Robin) and Jon Kent (Superboy) in this flashback miniseries that takes a deep dive into the bombastic bromance between the sons of the DC Universe’s greatest heroes. It’s an epic dual storyline that transcends current events, as Superboy and Robin find themselves targets of an interstellar team of young badasses called the Gang.
ON SALE 08.01.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | 1 of 12 | RATED T


"The Gang," huh? For the sake of my friend Meredith, I hope this The Gang is the same The Gang that fought Supergirl in her Daring New Adventures phase: Brains, Bulldozer, Ms. Mesmer and Kong. There's just no better name for a gang than The Gang; they're not just a gang, they are The Gang.

These ones are an interstellar team of young badasses though, so I guess we'll have to see.

I'm relieved that Peter J. Tomasi's Super Sons book didn't completely go away after all. So far, I've found the book somewhat hit or miss, but I really like the Damian character, I really like the Jon character and I particularly like the way the pair play off of one another.

Given the shake-up to the Super-books that is accompanying Brian Michael Bendis' arrival, I assumed the book was going to just be temporarily canceled (as I assumed Supergirl and maybe even New Super-Man would be). Of course, although this is a pretty long "mini" series, it is also a "flashback" one, so I suppose it's still possible that something mysterious and bad is going to be happening to Jon as well as Lois in the near future. So Jon might not be long for this fictional shared universe, but there's still a good two trade paperback collections worth of Super Sons coming after August.


BATMAN AND THE JUSTICE LEAGUE MANGA VOL. 1 TP
written by SHIORI TESHIROGI
art and cover by SHIORI TESHIROGI
From mangaka Shiori Teshirogi (Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas) comes a new series starring Batman and the Justice League. Currently being serialized in the monthly Japanese anthology Red, the story focuses on a young boy who comes to Gotham City from Japan. He’s trying to solve the mystery of what happened to his scientist parents after their disappearance following a factory explosion a year earlier. As it turns out, the factory was owned by Lex Luthor, who has now teamed with The Joker. Together, they plan on using the research of the boy’s parents to tap into a mystical, all-powerful, worldwide energy source. But for what purpose? It’s a bigger challenge than Batman can handle on his own, so he’s going to need some help from the League.
This series will be published in the original manga right-to-left format.
ON SALE 10.17.18
$12.99 US | 208 PAGES
5.75” x 8.1875”
B&W | RATED T+


I don't actually have anything to say about this, beyond the fact that it looks kind of cool and I'm really looking forward to checking it out. In the mean time, let's all pause a few moments and appreciate manga Superman's face, shall we...?

(Man, those New 52 costumes that Wondy and Superman are wearing don't look any better in a Japanese comic than they do in American ones, do they...?)


That's a pretty scary Scarecrow on Viktor Kalvachev's cover for Batman Beyond #23. Wait, is that The Scarecrow, or Scarecrow Beyond...?

Man, 23 issues. I honestly can't believe this book is still being published...


BATMAN: KINGS OF FEAR #1
written by SCOTT PETERSON
art and cover by KELLEY JONES
variant cover by BILL SIENKIEWICZ
Legendary artist Kelley Jones makes his triumphant return to the Dark Knight in this explosive miniseries written by former BATMAN editor Scott Peterson! Batman’s been overseeing Gotham City for years now and isn’t sure how much of a difference he’s making. Doubt, fear and insecurity are starting to take over. And as all of those negative feelings set in the Scarecrow orchestrates a riot at Arkham Asylum to give the Dark Knight one of his greatest challenges yet! This six-issue miniseries will see the Scarecrow in a horrifying new way that you’ll have to read to believe.
ON SALE 08.22.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | 1 of 6
RATED T+


Wow, it doesn't seem to happen all that often--or at least not as often as I'd like--but sometimes it seems like they announce a comic book specifically designed to appeal to me personally. So my favorite Batman artist is getting another miniseries of his own, and it will feature my favorite Batman villain. Yes, this seems like it should be particularly awesome.

As excited as I am for any comic that involves Kelley Jones drawing Batman and The Scarecrow--and, apparently, a large swathe of Batman's rogues gallery--I'm actually even more intrigued about Scott Peterson returning to Gotham. He was an editor in "the good old days," and I'm pretty curious to see what his Batman writing will read like in 2018. The last few Batman limited series that Jones has drawn were written by either Doug Moench or Steve Niles, so it will be interesting to see Jones working with a new writer, let alone one who was up to his elbows in Batman stories at a particular period of time.

Also, take a look at that image again. It's a Kelley Jones-drawn image of Batman apparently attempting to stave off a riot at Arkham Asylum, right? Well guess what the very next image is...?


BATMAN: PRELUDE TO KNIGHTFALL TP
written by CHUCK DIXON and DOUG MOENCH
art by GRAHAM NOLAN, TOM GRINDBERG, JIM APARO, NORM BREYFOGLE and others
cover by KELLEY JONES
The event that changed Batman’s world forever kicks off with this new volume, including never-before-collected material, in stories from BATMAN: VENGEANCE OF BANE #1, BATMAN #484-491 and DETECTIVE COMICS #654-658. Bane, the man destined to one day destroy Batman, has his sights set on taking over Gotham City, just as the Dark Knight is starting to feel he has lost his edge as he is forced to deal with the return of Black Mask, a crazed killer called Metalhead and an assassin hired to take out Commissioner Gordon.
ON SALE 09.05.18
$19.99 US | 376 PAGES
FC | ISBN: 978-1-4012-8422-0


I'm actually a little surprised these comics haven't been collected and packaged like this before. Looking at the issues within, I have to confess I'm not entirely sure what some of them are doing in here, though. Batman #488-489 feature Tim Drake training Batman-to-be Jean-Paul Valley and Bane brutally beating down Killer Croc as one of his first acts in Gotham City, but the preceding issues featuring Black Mask, Metalhead and Headhunter...? I don't even recall Valley appearing in those; maybe there are a few panels of Bane lurking in the shadows here and there in them...?

Anyway, taken all together, these are the comics from the relatively short period of time after Valley joined the Batman family as a hero-in-training, a period that, in retrospect, existed only so that he could temporarily assume the role of Batman during the "Knightfall" to "KnightsEnd" cycle of stories. And there's some really great art in these comics, not only from Jim Aparo and Norm Breyfogle, two of the all-time greatest Batman artists, but also Graham Nolan, Tom Grindberg and Mike Netzer (who drew way too few comics, but whose work was really incredible) and there are some extremely striking Sam Kieth covers on those issues of Detective, including this rare gem, a collaboration between Jones and Kieth:
Huh. You know, I think I have every single one of the comics collected here as they were originally published, but I've just about talked myself into buying this collection anyway...


CATWOMAN #2
written by JOELLE JONES
art and cover by JOELLE JONES
variant cover by STANLEY “ARTGERM” LAU
Gotham’s a toxic litter box for Selina Kyle of late, so she hits the road looking to clear the air, change her look and clear her name, too—there’s a copycat burglar swiping her M.O. who needs sorting out. In her hometown, Catwoman runs afoul of a crime boss who’s also hunting this impostor. Can the two declare a truce to hunt a mutual enemy, or will Selina end up just more roadkill?
ON SALE 08.01.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | RATED T+


You can't really tell from the image above, but Catwoman is sporting a brand-new costume. The "real" Catwoman is the one in the middle, the one not wearing the costume she's been wearing for...wow, it's been over 15 years now since the late, great Darwyn Cooke redesigned Catwoman's costume for 2002's Catwoman relaunch.

This new version looks an awful lot like her all-gray one, the one that immediately pre-dated the Jim Balent purple one, only it's all black and features some cut-outs here and there. It's an interesting design in that the closer you look at it, it's obviously very different than what she's been wearing for a very long time, but it also looks extremely familiar (I guess in addition to evoking the gray, 1980s costume, it also looks quite a bit like her second Batman: The Animated Series costume and the get-up from Batman Returns, sans all the visible stitching).

Anyway, I'm cautiously optimistic about this comic, given that I know Jones is a great artist, but I've never read anything she's written, and I'm not sure what the post-wedding status quo for Catwoman is going to be.


CATWOMAN/TWEETY AND SYLVESTER SPECIAL #1
written by GAIL SIMONE
art by INAKI MIRANDA
cover by EMANUELA LUPACCHINO
backup story written by SHEA FONTANA
backup story art by WALTER CARZON
...
In his relentless pursuit of Tweety, Sylvester suddenly finds himself with a new, human ally—Catwoman. Tweety then realizes that he’s going to need some help too, and recruits a super-hero of his own. It isn’t long before the scale of the conflict begins to get out of control and suddenly theres’s a full scale war between cats and birds that threatens to take over all of Gotham.
ONE-SHOT
ON SALE 08.29.18
$4.99 US | 48 PAGES
FC | RATED T


Wow, does Sylvester ever make a horrifying "realistic" cat, at least as drawn by Emanuela Lupacchino on the cover. I suppose Inaki Miranda's interior Sylvester might look quite different; same goes for Tweety, who looks very, very odd drawn so realistically. Like the previous round of DCU/Looney Tunes crossovers, I'm assuming these will all be at least a curiosity-sating look, and, if the pattern from the previous ones holds, the back-ups featuring the DC characters in Looney Tunes style will all be much better than the cover stories.

The idea of a cats vs. birds war sounds fun, especially if it spirals outward to include various cat and bird-themed heroes and villains, of which there are many. If I were doing a Catwoman-related Looney Tunes crossover, I probably would have had her acquire a white stripe along her back and then coming to the attention of Pepe Le Pew, essentially just casting her in the role of that poor black cat he chases around in his cartoons. Although, now that I think about it, Pepe Le Pew is probably...problematic these days, huh? I mean, he was problematic in the 1980s, and like, two years ago, but post-#MeToo...? Even more so.


CYBORG #25
written by MARV WOLFMAN
art by TOM DERENICK
cover by WILL CONRAD
Cyborg’s looking at a fatal systems crash against high-tech troublemaker N-Jin, whose newfound ability to upload his consciousness into robot bodies around the world makes him nearly uncatchable. Can Vic find an upgrade to negate N-Jin’s escapability, or will he have to put in a trouble ticket with the I.T. department?


Ha ha ha! N-Jin! Like "engine"...! I get it!


HARLEY QUINN/GOSSAMER SPECIAL #1
written by JIMMY PALMIOTTI and AMANDA CONNER
art by PIER BRITO
backup story written by SHOLLY FISCH
backup story art by DAVE ALVAREZ
cover by AMANDA CONNER
...
A violent storm leaves a large crate washed up on the beach at Coney Island. When Harley breaks it open to see what’s inside, she suddenly has a new playmate to add to her cast of friends—a large, furry, orange beast called Gossamer. It’s all fun and games until a giant robot attacks them. But who sent it? Harley immediately suspects only one man, but is it really The Joker behind this destructive rampage?
ONE-SHOT
ON SALE 08.29.18
$4.99 US | 48 PAGES
FC | RATED T


Using Harley in a Looney Tunes crossover feels a little like cheating, given that she is generally written like a cartoon character herself. Amanda Conner's Gossamer doesn't look much different from cartoon Gossamer, either, but I suppose we'll have to see what Pier Brito's looks like on the inside; I imagine a DCU version of Gossamer would just look like an orange Shaggy Man with sneakers on...?


THE JOKER/ DAFFY DUCK SPECIAL #1
written by SCOTT LOBDELL
art and cover by BRETT BOOTH and NORM RAPMUND
backup story written by JOEY CAVALIERI
backup story art by LUCIANO VECCHIO
...
When Daffy Duck pays a call to the Acme corporate headquarters in Gotham City, he finds the company long gone and their abandoned building now occupied by The Joker. With a hit in progress, Daffy tries to sneak away, only to find himself in the clutches of the Clown Prince of Crime. But Joker decides that there’s some potential in this manic bird and forces Daffy to join his gang. Will he find a way to escape…or will he become The Joker’s new right-hand duck?
ONE-SHOT
ON SALE 08.29.18
$4.99 US | 48 PAGES
FC | RATED T


Aaaa! Well that's just...that's just horrifying. I think a realistic Daffy Duck should look more like a duck and less like a...man-duck...? Brrr...! That image is going to haunt me, I think. If you can get past the image and read the solicitation copy, it sounds like an okay set-up for a crossover. In general, it shouldn't be too hard to plug pretty much any DC villain into a Looney Tunes crossover, and have them chase around Bugs or Daffy or the Road Runner or Tweety or whoever.


JUSTICE LEAGUE #5
written by JAMES TYNION IV
art and cover by DOUG MAHNKE and JAIME MENDOZA
...
Lex Luthor’s back in the present just trying to live his best life after seeing what the future could have held for him. Luthor’s new mantra? “Embrace Your Doom!” So now he’s rounding up a new Legion of Doom to go on a cosmic wilding and establish himself as the biggest baddie in the DCU. In full recruiting mode, Luthor approaches both Sinestro and Gorilla Grodd to join his new team, and he doesn’t exactly have to twist any arms. (They’ve got a matching 401K plan and great bennies, after all!)
ON SALE 08.01.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | RATED T+


James Tynion? Hey, that's a completely different person than Scott Snyder! If I wanted to read James Tynion's Justice League comics, I could just pick up Justice League Dark, written by James Tynion.

Anyway, it doesn't look like Snyder and company are holding off all that long before going to the evil answer to the Justice League well, and based on the characters on Doug Mahnke's cover and name-dropped in the solicitation, it's a pretty standard group making up this version of The Legion of Doom (Well, I guess The Joker is in for The Riddler and/or Scarecrow, so that's something).

I certainly understand the appeal of those characters, but after Alex Ross and Jim Krueger's Justice series--which looks like it might be out of print, for some reason...?--I certainly wouldn't be eager to try and duplicate the Legion from Challenge of The Super Friends. Ross and Krueger did about as thorough a job as possible, making Justice the ultimate grown-up version of Super Friends imaginable.


LEX LUTHOR/ PORKY PIG SPECIAL #1
written by MARK RUSSELL
art by BRAD WALKER and ANDREW HENNESSY
backup story written by JIM FANNING
backup story art by JOHN LOTER
cover by BEN OLIVER
...
Facing financial and personal ruin, a desperate Porky Pig applies for and gets and entry-level position with LexCorp. Grateful to his new benefactor, Porky becomes Luthor’s most loyal employee and defender. But when a major scandal breaks in the news and Lex is called before a Congressional Committee, guess who is about to be offered up as the sacrificial pig?
ONE-SHOT
ON SALE 08.29.18
$4.99 US | 48 PAGES
FC | RATED T


I'll be honest, Porky Pig with pants looks a little off to me, so Porky Pig as a more-or-less humanoid, realistic man-pig? That's just straight-up nightmare fuel.

It took me a few seconds to "get" this cover, in which Lex Luthor has apparently just given Porky Pig a Luthor-style hair cut and the monstrous pig-man responds with a Donald Trump style double thumbs-up, but, um...isn't Porky Pig always bald...? Is that the joke? I don't get it. Maybe it would have been funnier if we saw Lex holding the one hair that grows out of the back of Porky's head and holding scissors up to it, about to cut it...?

I don't know. Weird cover. Weird pairing, really, even by the standards of DC/Looney Tunes crossovers, but then, I guess if they did something like, say, Professor Pyg tricking Porky into a prince and pauper deal, so that Batman and Robin chase Porky Pig around Gotham while he's forced to hang out with Daffy Duck, maybe it would be too T-rated a comic, given how psycho a villain Pyg is...


PEARL #1
written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
art and cover by MICHAEL GAYDOS
...
From the Peabody Award-winning creators of Jessica Jones comes a brand-new creation. PEARL is the story of an exceptional tattoo artist and accidental assassin for one of the modern-day San Francisco Yakuza.
She was born into one life, but another is calling to her. When Pearl accidentally meets one of her peers, her doppelgänger from another clan, she starts to dream of a better life. But Pearl has a very special ability that keeps pulling her back into the violent world she is desperate to escape.
PEARL is a major series launch from writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Gaydos that features their first brand-new original character since Jessica Jones. Fans of the Jessica Jones comic and TV show will be thrilled and delighted by this bold new direction the creative team has taken.
ON SALE 08.15.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | 1 of 6
MATURE READERS


Jessica Jones won a Peabody...?

So this is interesting. We knew Bendis was bringing his Jinxworld titles to DC, but I didn't expect to see any knew books or characters so soon, as I would have assumed Bendis wouldn't be able to start working on anything knew until after his contract with Marvel expired and his contract with DC went into effect but, hell, it's not like I know anything about contracts.

DC seems pretty excited about a new Bendis/Gaydos character, but it's hard to imagine this being an Alias-esque hit instead of, say, Scarlet 2.0, and doing Vertigo-esque sales. But maybe what DC really wants is an IP to adapt to film or television.

I know that I personally would have been pretty excited about the prospect of a new series from the Alias creative team in, say, 2002 or so, but now? I've grown to hate Gaydos' art style, and I'm pretty sure I've missed the last four to six Jinxworld books...


THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1
story by NEIL GAIMAN
written by SI SPURRIER, NALO HOPKINSON, KAT HOWARD and DAN WATTERS
art by BILQUIS EVELY, DOMINIKE “DOMO” STANTON, TOM FOWLER, MAX FIUMARA and SEBASTIAN FIUMARA
cover by JAE LEE
variant covers by JIM LEE, DAVID MACK, DAVE McKEAN, P. CRAIG RUSSELL, JILL THOMPSON
blank variant cover available
From the mind of New York Times #1 bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a new world filled with dreams, nightmares and wonderful characters living together in a shared universe for a new story unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
A rift between worlds has opened, revealing a space beyond the Dreaming. Meanwhile, a book from Lucien’s library is discovered by a group of children in the waking world where it should not exist. Lucien calls for Matthew the Raven to seek out their master, Daniel, Lord of Dreams.
As Matthew flies across the Waking World and others, he finds a young boy named Timothy Hunter who, in his dreams, has become the world’s most powerful magician—but in his nightmares he is the world’s greatest villain. A new House has appeared in the realm of the Dreaming: the House of Whispers, with its proprietor, a fortune-teller called Erzulie. And elsewhere, Lucifer has fallen again, only this time he might be trapped in a Hell of his own design.
Spiraling out of this special issue will be four all-new series set in the Sandman Universe. It all starts here!
ON SALE 8.08.18
$4.99 US | 48 PAGES
FC | MATURE READERS
This issue will ship with eight covers.
Please see the order form for details.


Speaking of things I would have been interested in a decade-and-a-half ago...

I'm sure this is a great opportunity for all of the creators involved, and I like the work of many of those artists quite a bit, but something about this feels slightly sad, like seeing a band you loved as a teenager touring as a nostalgia act. Obviously Gaiman has moved on to other stuff in the years since he completed his Sandman epic--which he's returned to for brief stints, what, two or three times before this?--and his presence here seems like something akin to obligation. Like, I can't shake the feeling that DC has this chunk of his body of work hostage, and there's some sort of nebulous implied threat that if Gaiman doesn't participate and/or give DC his blessing, they'll just go ahead and Before Watchmen or Doomsday Clock him.

But hey, that's just me. Fun fact: This picks up a plot point from Dark Nights: Metal, the last place we saw Daniel, Lucien and The Dreaming...!


SCARLET #1
written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
art and cover by ALEX MALEEV
...
From the creative team that brought you Daredevil and Infamous Iron Man comes the latest explosive chapter in their creator-owned epic, which IGN called one of the best comics on the stands. SCARLET tells the story of a woman whose life has been ripped ap
art by police corruption. When she pushes back, she starts a chain reaction of events that will bring about the next American Revolution.
In this brand-new, new reader-friendly chapter, fully painted by Eisner Award-winning artist Alex Maleev, SCARLET tells the story of what happens when one young woman is pushed too far—and what one country will do to stop her.
ON SALE 08.29.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | 1 of 5
MATURE READERS


Bad news for Marvel--it looks like Bendis didn't just jump ship, but he also brought some of his artistic collaborators with him! Good news? It's just for Jinxworld comics like Scarlet that no one reads anyway.


SUPERGIRL #21
written by MARC ANDREYKO
art by KEVIN MAGUIRE
cover by TERRY DODSON and RACHEL DODSON
...
Mourning the loss of the Kryptonians wiped out by Rogol Zaar, Supergirl decides to play detective and sets off into deep space to learn more about the would-be usurper. Using whatever tech she can scrounge, Supergirl builds a star cruiser, and after intel from Green Lantern, she blasts off into the cosmos with Rogol Zaar’s deadly axe to solve the mystery—along with a traveling companion you won’t believe!
ON SALE 08.08.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | RATED T


Marc Andreyko is a pretty great comics writer. Kevin Maguire is a quite great comics artist. This is, any way you look at it, a very solid creative team for a superhero book. That said, a twelve-issue detective story spent in outer space is pretty much the opposite of what I would want from a Supergirl comic and, in fact, sending one of the last survivors of an alien super-race away from Earth and back into space seems lie kind of antithetical to the character's core. Like, Superman adventuring in space is cool and all, but only for a few issues, not as the premise for a new direction to a series, you know...?

As for the costume, ugh, the costume. Here, take another look:
I...I don't even know. At first glance, she looks like Sue Storm wearing a Superman-branded sleeveless hoodie...and a red combination cape/toga/loin cloth...? I've read there's a "story" reason for why her costume is the most complicated costume anyone could come up with, but unless that story reason is that she has a terrible costume that everyone makes fun of her for constantly, I can't even imagine...

Anyway, given the character's relatively higher pop culture profile in recent years, it really does seem like their should be a Supergirl series from DC at the moment. I wouldn't say that it should be forced to follow the template of the TV show too rigidly, but I would think common sense would dictate the character dress in a way that might make her recognizable as Supergirl, and that her adventures be set somewhere on the planet Earth. But what do I know?


TITANS #24
written by DAN ABNETT
art and cover by BRANDON PETERSON
variant cover by STJEPAN SEJIC
As if the Source Wall incursions causing a metagene pandemic weren’t enough, team dysfunction threatens this latest iteration of the Titans before their new mission even gets off the ground! Nightwing and Miss Martian butt heads over the team’s M.O. as the fate of the latest metahuman hangs in the balance! They’d better get their act together, because one of the Titans won’t be coming home from this Source Wall mission—and it’s not a vacation day!
ON SALE 08.08.18
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | RATED T


Oh no! Nightwing and a bunch of new, rebooted versions of old characters are going off on a dangerous mission, and one of them won't be coming back! Given that Nightwing is the only one on the team that is recognizable himself, it's kind of hard to care if, say, Miss Martian dies two issues after being introduced...

I completely forgot how much I hated Nat's head tentacle...

That you, Mothman?

This is the right half of one of the illustrations in Tove Jansson's picture book The Dangerous Journey (recently released in North America by Drawn and Quarterly). In the story, a young girl puts on a mysterious pair of glasses that changes her ordinary world into an extraordinary one, and the text accompanying this illustration includes the words "The sky was full of red hot clouds. Birds flew without a sound."

I was struck by how...familiar those birds looked. In the distance, we see some cranes, but flying roward the reader are what look like red-eyed, white owls that look an awful lot like a particular Ohio Valley cryptid. Did the little girls (sandhill?) cranes morph into a flock of Mothmans...?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: May 16th

Batman #47 (DC Comics) Wow, was that dark. I don't often ask this sort of thing about Batman writers, given that darkness so long suffused the character and his adventures, but, um, is current Batman writer Tom King okay? Should someone maybe check on him...?

This is the third (and hopefully final) chapter of "The Gift," an too-long story arc in which Booster Gold attempts to get Batman a "For The Man Who Has Everything"-style wedding gift by rescuing his parents in the past and then de-rescuing them later, purposely creating one of the more depressing and nightmarish alternate futures of Batman's career full of depressing nightmarish alternate futures. Seriously, this makes The Dark Knight Returns look like Batman '66.

At a single issue, complete with the "Oh shit, now what?" ending, it might have been a kind of funny "Ha ha, Booster is dimwitted" done-in-one lark (albeit a dark lark). Instead, each of the following chapters has gotten darker and darker and bloodier and bloodier, to the point where this issue ends with just about everyone from the alternate future dead, mostly shot to death, a Bruce Wayne who shoots himself in the head, a Booster Gold dead and the presumably real Batman and Catwoman looking on in grim-faced silence while the presumably real Booster Gold is traumatized and in shock, even his sassy robot companion Skeets unable to utter a quip.

Seriously, this is some Max Lord-shooting-Ted Kord-in-the-head level darkness. Bwa. Ha. Ha.


Justice League: Not Justice #2 (DC) Team Testosterone, errrr, Team Entropy takes the cover for this second issue of the series, which seems to bring us up to the point in the narrative that the DC Nation #0 short story was set around, with the characters divided into their four teams, each going about a different task on Colu, while Green Arrow awaits the threat on Earth. There's a bit of a last-page surprise entrance of an unexpected character (who actually makes a lot of sense appearing where he does, in retrospect).

As in the first issue, some panel-space is afforded to demonstrate that J'onn J'onnz is the natural leader among all these characters, presumably setting up his return to the Justice League and its new iteration.

One element I found particularly funny, although not written as a joke, is the fact with Braniac having abducted all four super-teams with their own comic book series--the Justice League, the Teen Titans, the Other Titans and the Suicide Squad--Green Arrow and Amanda Waller talk about how Earth is defenseless, having lost all its superheroes (the members of those teams who aren't on the four No Justice color-coded mini-Leagues are in stasis tubes somewhere). I mean, I'm pretty sure there's at least 100 superheroes hanging around--there's at least three wearing a Superman-like S-shield on their chests, for example--and many of them would probably love to be given something useful to do. (I doubt it will come to pass, but this would be a good time have Waller collect and rally some of those "New Age of Heroes!" heroes; banding together to fight off world-eating space giants while the A-List heroes are in outer space would be like a superhero debutante debut, you know?)



Persephone (Archaia) Loic Locatelli-Kournwsky's retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone is a fairly fascinating remix, as it loses Orpheus completely, diminishes Hades' role, greatly emphasizes that of Demeter, and no longer has any sort of romantic component. Those changes are probably for the better, given that she is the protagonist of the story; why then make it the story of the guy who wants to marry and/or ravish her, and the other guy who wants to marry her...?

The story is so radically changed, however, that if those names and a few of the proper names were changed, one might not necessarily recognize this as a retelling of the Persephone myth. That's in large part because it is set in a peculiar land, far removed from its ancient Greek origins. In fact, its mixture of magic and a modern, early 20th-century Europe reminded me quite a bit of Full Metal Alchemist. Locatelli-Kourwsky's gorgeous artwork is almost as Japanese in its look and feel as it is European, and it is well worth picking the book up just to drink in all that gorgeous artwork. This was an impulse buy for me, and wasn't even on my radar, but I'd encourage you to make sure its on your radar.

I hope to write about this book more later in the coming weeks.


Star Wars: Lost Stars Vol. 1 (Yen Press) Is it just me, or does anyone else find it extremely weird that Disney went and bought themselves a whole comic book company in Marvel, but whenever it comes to adapting Disney-owned properties into comics, particularly those geared at anyone other than middle-aged Marvel Zombies, they turn to other publishers? For Star Wars, that has meant IDW publishing Star Wars Adventures and that hit-or-miss-but-mostly-hit Forces of Destiny series of one-shots and, now, Yen Press publishing the translated version of a Star Wars manga.

This is the first volume of a manga adaptation of novelist Claudia Gray's 2015 young adult novel of the same name. Yusaku Komiyama handled the adaptation and the art, and Gray gets top billing for the original story. Opening just before the battle on the ice planet of Hoth at the opening of Empire Strikes Back, it stars a Rebel Alliance pilot, who defected from the Empire, and his childhood friend, who didn't, before flashing back to their childhood to show how they came to be on opposite sides of the conflict.

The characters from the original trilogy appear, occasionally just in illustrative images, as in an opening image reminding readers of the conflict, with a panel devoted to the villains of the Empire (Vader, The Emperor, Grand Moff Tarkin) and the heroes of the Rebellion (you know who). Occasionally we see Han and Chewbacca bickering atop the Millennium Falcon as they prepare to abandon the Rebellion, Leia looking worried as they do, etc.

I didn't read the book--or listen to it, as audiobooks are the way I normally consume Star Wars novels, as those have John Williams music and laser sound effects--so I can't speak to how well the adaptation element goes, but I really rather enjoyed this as a standalone manga. Plus, I kind of love seeing manga Peter Cushing, or Chewie's angry face as a semi-super-deformed manga exaggeration, or an adorable Han who looks nothing like Harrison Ford, around the edges of the main drama.

Oh, and it's got AT-ATs. I fucking love AT-ATs. I wish the films (and books, and comics) spent less time on who designed the Death Star, who built the Death Star, getting plans for the Death Star, destroying the Death Star, etc, and more time on who designed AT-ATs and their use in combat and so on.

Anyway, I'll return to this book at greater length elsewhere...

Friday, May 11, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: May 9th

Justice League: No Justice #1 (DC Comics) It can be difficult to experience a new comic book in a vacuum, without going into it with thoughts, guesses and opinions based not only on what knows about the characters and creators, but also what one has been seeing for months in solicitations or online discussion. For me, it's impossible, even as I pay less and less attention to comics "news" sites. So I've been thinking about this weird-looking weekly miniseries for awhile now, which seemed premised as a sort of Most-Star Squadron, with members of the Justice Leagues teaming with members of the Teen Titans and some villains and other heroes to form color-coded squads with weird names like "Team Mystery" and "Team Wonder."

The short preview story that appeared in last week's DC Nation #0 was so in medias res that it didn't little to clear anything up, just showing those teams in action as they battled their way across Brainiac's homeworld of Colu that it didn't really reveal anything other than what was in the solicitations (except, perhaps, how artist Jorge Jimenez would be drawing some of the characters appearing in the upcoming Justice League relaunch).

Well now we get some clarity, as the event actually kicks-off. It is being co-written by Scott Snyder, James Tynion and Joshua Williamson. Snyder is to be expected, as he wrote Dark Nights: Metal, which was essentially a Batman-centric Justice League story, and was slated to be writing Justice League upon relaunch (Which excited me to no end, as Metal was one of the best League stories since at least the post-Flashpoint reboot). As for Tynion and Williamson, the former of whom co-writes with Snyder a lot and the latter of whom wrote Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad, their presence made a lot more sense upon the announcement of two new Justice League series, Justice League Dark by Tynion and Justice League Odyssey by Williamson. The artist for this issue, and the whole series, is Francis Manapul, who previously drew parts of Geoff Johns' climactic "Darkseid War," and classed the joint up considerably when he did so.

The book opens with the Green Lantern Corps gathering around the Source Wall, with Hal, John, Guy and Kyle in the center, and all but Kyle getting a few lines. Interestingly, Guy and John both seem to blame Hal and, as Guy puts it, "your friends on the Justice League" for breaking the wall at the end of Metal. Indeed, Metal's epilogue set up the upcoming Justice League by positing that with the Source Wall broken, things from the other side could no access and threaten the DC Universe, and it would be up to the League to stop those new threats (I found Kyle's silence, which isn't dwelt upon, interesting as well. I may be misremembering, as I haven't read Green Lantern or any Lantern books with any regularity since Johns left the franchise, but didn't one of the books contain a storyline in which Kyle was able to travel to the other side of the Source Wall and come back...? Something that was always thought to be impossible-ish...?)

Next is a neat two-page spread of 21 tight panels, jumping from three different battles to Amanda Waller in front of red computer screens flashing "Crisis Alert." It appears that Brainiac has launched simultaneous attacks on all four--are there really just the four now?--of DC's super-teams, The Suicide Squad, The Titans, The Teen Titans and, of course, The Justice League (but not Batman's "of America" team, which is apparently already out of business, even though two of its non-Batman members show up on two of the Teams). Brainiac "wins" within a matter of pages, and various characters awake in his spaceship, all of them now dressed in different versions of their regular costumes (I was, as I've said, disappointed; the costumes are essentially similar to their original ones, just with more lines in unusual places, a few light-up discs attached and the tint of their coloration skewed weirdly; personally, I think I might have preferred these temporary costumes be differently-colored versions of their regular costumes. For example, if Cyborg's redesign was consistent throughout the others. But whatever...I am assuming I'll get used to these in a few more pages, and then everyone will go back to their old costumes by the fourth issue).

The seemingly random nature of the assembled characters is at least explained in-story: Brainiac realizes the potential of Earth's superheroes, but he thinks they "waste it in comfortable formations" based on bonds their "fragile emotions" have engendered among them. So he defeated all the world's defenders to a) prove his point and b) abduct the heroes he needs. He has then formed them into the teams that make victory against the new threat most probable.

As an aside here, it's fun to think of who he plucked and from where. Most of the current Justice League's line-up was taken, while Aquaman was the only one left on Earth (The League's Lanterns, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, weren't present in the fight with Brainiac, nor at the Source Wall with the GLC). From the Teen Titans, he took Robin, Beast Boy, Raven and Starfire; again, most of the line-up. From the Suicide Squad he took only Harley Quinn. And from The Titans, the grown-up sidekicks plus Omen, he took...no one. Huh. I guess he beat them all up just for fun. Then there are all the random characters: Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, Doctor Fate (although I don't know which one, there have been three or four since Flashpoint), Lobo, The Demon Etrigan and The Atom (Choi, it looks like). And then the villains: Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, Sinestro and, most randomly, Starro, fresh from his star (fish) turn in Metal.

In the real world, it will be interesting to see the rationale for these characters as the stories develop. Certainly some are likely just there for fun (Starro) or their popularity (Harley, maybe Deathstroke), and others to the ground work for the upcoming League line-ups, but a lot of the above characters do not appear to be on the new League line-ups (For example, one might expect to see Fate or Etrigan on Justice League Dark after this series, but only Wonder Woman and Zatanna from this event are). Further, the solicitation for the fourth issue mentions that "some heroes will be lost forever," so I suppose it's quite possible that some of these folks are here to act as cannon fodder.

As for what Brainiac needs them for, and why he's re-dressed them all, it appears that the hole in the Source Wall allowed Marvel's Celestials The Millennium Giants The Omega Titans to enter the universe, where they will begin eating planets Galactus style, deciding which of them gets to eat which planet based by the dominant fundamental force in that planet: Entropy, Mystery, Wisdom and Wonder. Brainiac's plan to abduct a bunch of super-people, break them into ideal teams, outfit them with nodes that imbue them with the appropriate energy to match the four forces of the four planet-eaters and thwart them; to ensure the Justice League's cooperation, he set it up so that Earth will be the Galactuses next stop if they eat Colu.

It seems like a decent plan but it all goes to hell in time for the cliffhanger ending, as a scene from Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad comes into play and Brainiac is unexpectedly removed from the equation.

By banding all these diverse characters together (and by diverse I mean from various places; there are three times green-skinned people as there are brown-skinned people among the assembled characters, and as many orange-skinned, pink-skinned or giant, psychic starfish as there are Earthlings of color), this issue has the feel of an crisis-style event comic, with characters from different corners of the DCU all bumping into one another (sometimes literally), arguing and discussing their pasts and futures, together and apart.

So there's a lot of exciting stuff going on here, perhaps particularly for DC Comics fans--I've no idea what this reads like to someone not already soaking in the DCU--and the artwork is perfect. I could ask for more--better costume design, a more representative cast--but I'm satisfied with what I got, and am looking forward to the rest of the month.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

On The Immortal Men #1

*As I've noted previously, Immortal Men probably should have been the first of DC's "The New Age of Heroes" line of books to be released, in order to get the line's roll-out started off on the right foot as a proper spin-off of the Dark Nights: Metal event series.

In terms of personnel, Immortal Men is co-written by one of the co-writers of various Metal tie-ins, James Tynion, as well as being drawn by Metal variant cover artist Jim Lee. In terms of plot, it seems to involve various immortal characters, and a cabal of pre-existing DC Universe immortals were somewhat prominently featured in the early parts of the Metal event and, of course, one the event's more popular characters--The Batman Who Laughs, with his crowing pack of leashed, cannibal Robins--appears on about page of this issue, briefly consulting with what appears to be the new series' main villain.

In terms of business, this issue is pencilled entirely by Jim Lee (with Scott Williams and Richard Friend inking), and thus was always going to do pretty decent sales; I'm not sure what draw Tynion and his co-writer Ryan Benjamin are in the direct market, but certainly Tynion's Detective Comics has long been DC's second best-selling ongoing series (after Tom King and company's Batman; in both cases, I suppose one can argue whether it's the Batman or the people making the Batman that make those books the hits they are). In other words, Immortal Men was poised to move a lot more copies than, say, Sideways or The Silencer.

Wouldn't it therefore have been better for the health of the entire line to start with Immortal Men? Instead, it's the sixth of the "New Age" books to debut, and it's taken so long to arrive--Damage #1 was released in January, remember--that we were seeing estimates of how well the line was doing before Immortal Men even showed up in comics shops. And it didn't look good; The Terrifics seemed to be a decent mid-list seller for DC, with everything else far below that and seemingly steaming ahead towards cancellation (Remember too that these books were apparently designed to launch big and drop off precipitously, as the artist/creators responsible for coming up with the new characters were only scheduled to draw the first few issues and then bolt).

Might the whole line not be doing a bit better right now if Immortal Men had launched in January or February...?


*If not the first book, then Immortal Men should maybe have been the second. There's definitely an argument to be made for writer Scott Snyder's New Challengers having kicked off the line. Challengers Mountain may have only played a small-ish role in Metal, but then, Snyder wrote the damn thing, so if his was the first "New Age" spin-off, it would definitely sent a signal that maybe the folks who dug Metal should be trying out all these books with the words "Dark Knights: Metal" emblazoned in their corner boxes. Instead, it looks like No Justice is being viewed as the real follow-up to Metal...


*The title seems to be derived from that of a minor-ish Silver Age DC character, the imaginatively named immortal man, Immortal Man. He first appeared in a 1965 issue of Strange Adventures drawn by Jack Sparling, and then appeared in a few more issues of that series.
Good question, Immortal Man.
He later showing up as part of The Forgotten Heroes in the 1980s, and more randomly in the pages of Animal Man, The Flash and Resurrection Man in the 1990s.


*I haven't really liked any of these covers, which have all been vertical gate-folds. This one is no different. The main image, the middle third (seen above), features the title team. We will get to them in a bit, but for now I just wanted to note that the posing of the one character, who looks a bit like a bolt of green lightning dressed as a mystery man character, seems to indicate that he is their leader, or perhaps a villain, neither of which really seems to be the case.

The top third features another rather mystery man-like character in an action pose, a series of floating heads behind him. These seem to belong to Hawkman (or a Thanagarian with a helmet like Hawkman's), Ra's al Ghul, Barbatos (?), a guy who looks like Vandal Savage but is apparently Immortal Man and..someone I don't recognize who is much better groomed than Ra's or Immortal Man.

The bottom third features a group of characters with spears made of light, one of whom has the rather Saga-esque name of The Hunt and appears within these pages.. There's also a...thing that looks like Hawkman's mask if it came to life in a 1980s horror movie. The three images don't really go together; this scans more like a vertical triptych than a single image.


*This is the plot of the first issue: A teenager name Caden Park has a recurring dream in which he finds some sort of underground superhero school referred to as "The Campus" based around a pyramid structure. All around him, other teens with super-powers are being killed, but he is rescued by the guy with the green energy body and wide-brimmed hate on the cover, and sees a mysterious man  who we will soon learn is Immortal Man. The dream is dramatized for the reader, but Caden is telling the story to his therapist Dr. Calendar, as the last time he had it he woke up on the ground at Grand Central Station. Additionally, he's lately discovered that he may have some kind of latent but growing psychic powers, as when he touches someone he sees a brief image from their life.

Meanwhile, The Hunt kills a surviving super-hero in the ruins of the real Campus, where he is met by The Infinite Woman, the apparent sister to The Immortal Man, who she is warring against. The pair are then joined by The Batman Who Laughs. They are after Caden, who a group of four agents of the Immortal Man are also seeking. These four are the characters on the cover, and they make a point of saying one another's names during their scene, to let readers know who they are.

In the book's final scene, Caden is attacked on the train. He thinks he sees the Immortal Man from his dreams, but it turns out to be a hologram luring him into an attack by The Infinite Woman's "Bloodless," which appear to be some sort of big, red monsters that resemble, from different angles, either a human embryo or a beluga. The quartet of super-people come to his rescue and announce themselves as "The Immortal Men." Yes, they are 50% female, but hey, The X-Men all call themselves "X-Men" regardless of gender.

*So who are these Immortal Men? They certainly seem like Jim Lee creations! They are:
Ghost Fist: This is the character who is drawn extra-large and seems to be presenting or clutching at the others on the cover, the one who looks a little like a lightning bolt dressed like The Green Hornet. He appears to be a dude in a trench coat with a fedora and old-school domino mask. He lights up when using his electrical powers. They aren't really explained here, but I didn't think the name fit the design all that well. I was honestly expecting him to be called Doctor Zzzap (with three z's because that's how many are in his sound effect) or Mr. Shock or something. 
Stray: This is the bestial character whose head looks to be borrowed from Jeff Smith's stupid, stupid rat creatures. I kind of like the jack o' lantern like mouth, although the particular design seems somewhat strange in the otherwise realistic Lee-drawn world.

Reload: I actually didn't catch this guy's name the first time through the book. He's the one dressed all in white with the red eyes. If he has any powers, they weren't demonstrated. He does have a gun though, to go with his lame G.I. Joe-esque name. Under his hood he wears a full-face mask, and those lines stretch over its entirety. Based on the cover image, in which much of his face is in shadow, I thought perhaps that was supposed to be a big smile. 
Timber: This is the Native American character. It's difficult to get any real sense of scale from the cover images, but I think she is supposed to be giant in size all of the time. Even within the book, though, there isn't really a good demonstration of this. As she was a very large Native American super-lady appearing in a DC comic, I was afraid she would end up being a New 52 answer to Apache Chief, or at least Manitou Raven or Manitou Dawn, the Apache Chief-inspired ancient shaman characters Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke introduced during their JLA/Justice League Elite run/s. Again, we know next to nothing about her save for her name and basic appearance, but if she has a DCU antecedent, it may be Tall Tree, one of four Native American shamans who made up The Renegades in 1977's Freedom Fighters #11, by Bob Rozakias, Dick Ayers and Jack Abel (and reappeared in a different form in Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and company's 2010 Freedom Fighters). Tall Tree's power was to grow into giant size.

*There are a few panels that look particularly rough around the edges. Look at Caden and, especially, his parents on the fourth panel of page six, for example. Or the fifth panel on page five, where Dr. Calendar is shown sitting at home in front of...a giant bong? A dehumidifier? A hookah? Maybe the sort of bottle that the title character of I Dream of Jeanie was trapped in...?


*It's a fairly solid first issue, introducing a bunch of new characters and various elements (like "houses" of immortals with certain spheres of influence, for example) and offers just enough of them to let a reader get a pretty good idea of whether or not this is the sort of book they are going to want to keep reading. I think if I had to follow one of the six "New Age" books that have debuted so far, this would be the one I would follow.



Previously...

On The Curse of Brimstone #1

On The Terrifics #1

On Sideways #1

On The Silencer #1

On Damage #1

Monday, May 07, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: May 2nd

Batman #46 (DC Comics) The second chapter of Tom King, Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea's "The Gift" picks up "One Year Later"--there's a familiar-sounding jump in time--from the ending of the first chapter, to find Booster Gold bearded, bereft of Skeets (and, Skeets' time machine), talking in jittery, crazy-person dialogue and trapped in the nightmare world he created when he saved Batman's parents from being killed as part of elaborate and misguided wedding gift. It's quite a bit rougher than the first chapter.

While it's unclear what Booster has been doing for a year, other than growing his beard, he has hit on a plan to save the day by introducing Catwoman Selina Kyle to Bruce Wayne. Of course, this Selina is a criminally insane serial killer who is only able to communicate via cat noises. Nevertheless, Booster breaks her out of Arkham Asylum, says he's no good at sewing but still manages to make her a very good replica of the costume Michelle Pfeiffer wore in Batman Returns (and he gave it razor-sharp claws, for some reason), and he then takes her to Wayne Manor, where lots of different people get shot and or clawed (the injury Batman Dick Grayson received? I actually felt that while reading, so good job there, guys!).

Although the story has familiar elements of everything from It's a Wonderful Life to "For The Man Who Has Everything," it is definitely of the sort that one shouldn't think too much about, as if one starts questioning it, one will find that it grows more and more frustrating. Take for example, this alternate timeline's Batman, Dick Grayson. The idea that Dick might have grown up to be a gun-wielding, lethal vigilante without the guidance of Bruce Wayne and Batman more or less checks out, but why would Dick have adopted the name and costume of "Batman," for example...?


Bombshells United #17 (DC Comics) Oh wow, I guess the imminent ending of writer Marguerite Bennett's long-running Bombshells epic came a lot more suddenly than expected after all. The first few pages have a little boy put on his Batwoman hat and turn up the radio to hear the old-timey radio announcer explain what's going on, and it sounds like Bennett might have been making use of all the notes she had for potential, future storylines, as the announcer mentions off-panel conflicts, some featuring characters that were teased to be introduced near the beginning of the book's relaunch under it's new title:
You have stayed with us through every trouble, every crisis-- From the ghostly invasion of Japan by the spirits of the dead, and the spy called Katana who put them down! From Etta Candy's Bonbon Brigade to Cassandra Cain's Bats of Blood and Iron!...When Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy scathed The Scarecrow! When Batwoman bombarded the bullies of Bizarro World!
Aw man, I love Etta Candy, Cassandra Cain, The Scarecrow and Bizarro World! (I wonder what Bizarro Bombshells would be like? Would they be all-male and mostly straight superheroes...? Oh wait, I guess that wouldn't be the Bombshells-iverse's Bizarro World; that just be "The DC Universe," huh...?)

Aside from such mentions.--those were just some in three of the first four panels of the issue--this issue's plot moves at lightning pace. Sometime between the end of the last issue and the beginning of this one, Apokolips invaded earth, along with various alien armadas, like those of Thanagar, and other space alien threats (Brainiac, Parallax) all under the leadership of the book's surprise/out-of-left field Big Bad, Lena Luthor, whose long ago disappearance ties into the behind-the-scenes motivations of several of the major characters in the overall book's narrative. Some of these characters, and the revelations of their plots, also seem like Bennett simply trying to get them worked into the book in one form or another before the series ends (Brainiac and Edward Nygma teaming-up to black out the United States, only to have their plot foiled on the next page by the introduction of Bombshell Jesse Quick, for example).

The art, which is here all provided by Siya Oum, also looks a lot more rough and rushed than I would have liked, as just about every character that has appeared in the Bombshells books at one point or another makes at least a cameo here, but they're not all terribly recognizable, and in some cases I might actually just be projecting who I think a character is supposed to be onto a tiny, sketchy figure in the background of a panel because that's who I think should be there.


DC Nation #0 (DC) This specially-priced, so-cheap-you-have-to-buy-it issue is comprised of three short stories, each previewing a point of emphasis of the publisher's in the coming months: Batman and Catwoman's upcoming marriage in the pages of Batman, writer Brian Michael Bendis' arrival at DC and take over of the Superman line and the No Justice miniseries which leads in to a relaunch of Justice League and two supplementary Justice League books. As these stories are all told by the same creators working on the regular series in question, there's a lot of top talent being mustered here.

The strongest of the three is Tom King and Clay Mann's "Your Big Day," as it stands more-or-less completely on its own. It certainly fits within the context of the current overarching Batman narrative, but even divorced from that--like, say if you picked it up in six or ten years time--it still makes sense as a Joker-being-crazy/scary story. The Joker has broken into some poor sap's house and is holding him hostage, awaiting the arrival of the day's mail, as he is convinced that he is going to receive his invitation to Batman and Catwoman's wedding at this random man's house (So, I guess maybe The Joker does know Batman's secret identity? King has thus far not really shown us how the news of the wedding has been received--or if it has been received at all--by the world outside of Batman's immediate superhero peers. Surely the general public is going raise their collective eyebrows about the fact that Gotham's perpetually eligible bachelor Bruce Wayne, famous for his funding of Batman, is marrying master thief and one-time organized crime boss Selina Kyle, aka Batman villain Catwoman, right?).

As is so often the case with King, there's a somewhat rigid format to the story, with almost every page beginning with the word "Later..." in a narration box as the story jumps ahead in time from beat to beat of the pair's interminable--especially for the victim--waiting game. This is the second time King has written The Joker at any length, after his "War of Jokes and Riddles" story arc (which I kind of hated), and the first time he's written The Joker in a story set in the present. This Joker is pretty similar to that Joker, although instead of having lost his ability to smile and laugh, here he wears a perpetual, pained grin-turned-grimace. He still peppers his dialogue with jokes, but seems to enjoy them a bit. Mann sure makes him scary-looking, never more so than on the bottom of page five, when he's told a pretty decent joke and then stares intently at his victim, waiting for him to laugh.

The Bendis-written Superman story is perhaps most notable for its excellent artwork, provided by pencil artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and inker Dexter Vines. Beyond that, it accomplishes a few modest goals, introducing a new character to the staff of the Daily Planet, and teasing a shift in the status quo and an upcoming conflict. The character is Miss Robinson Goode, and Perry White is very proud of her (but, er, shouldn't that be "Ms," Perry?), but, in the last panels of the story, we see her seated at a table talking to someone we aren't shown about how she's in and how she will soon be running the place. Her motivations are apparently pretty sinister. The bigger tease is that something has happened to Lois Lane, and she's apparently been missing for a while. Her office is empty, Perry White doesn't know where she is, no one seems to know where she is, and Perry tries to get that information out of Clark, but he insists that he doesn't know either.

That's...not a terribly compelling aspect of the books, as it seems like the Superman status quo had pretty much just changed, but I suppose it's good to know that Lois wasn't wiped out of continuity or anything. I do hope she and Jon haven't been somehow cosmically rebooted out of Superman's life, though. I suppose we'll see.

The part that actually stuck with me the most from the story--hell, the whole issue--however? That would be the fashion cape wore to her fist day at the Planet.

Finally, the Justice League story is striking in just how in medias res it is. The League has teamed with some Titans and magical types as well as a completely random assortment of supervillains (Deathstroke, Harley Quinn, Sinestro, Starro) to save Brainiac's home world from what look like Marvel's Celestials (Maybe that is what was on the other side of the Source Wall that came in after it was broken in the conclusion of Metal...the Marvel Universe). They are four in number, each representing one of the four fundamental forces of the universe, and to combat them the League has split into four teams, each devoted to one of those forces (and, weirdly, redesigning their costumes so that the characters on each "team" are wearing matching colors, that last bit of which feels a little too close to what Geoff Johns did with his emotional spectrum during his Green Lantern run).

It makes sense, which is something of an accomplishment given how weird the No Justice teams looked upon announcement, but, even more so than the Superman story, it doesn't seem like this one's going to be terribly relevant for too terribly long. And, like Bendis' contribution, I find myself wondering where this will fit in the overall story, when No Justice is collected, as it doesn't read like the beginning of the story, so much as a passage of maybe the second issue or something (I suppose this could kick off the no Justice collection, and then No Justice #1 could start with a "Two days ago" or something... As for Bendis' Superman runs, this is the second short, teasing preview, following the one that was in Action #1,000).

The art is by Jorge Jimenez, and it's not too terribly good. Perhaps owing to the compressed nature of the story--there's 21 name characters on two planets fighting battles on four or five fronts in just 10 pages--it's a little cluttered and confusing. But then, perhaps it's not the best way to judge how good Jimenez is going to be at drawing Justice League after this event wraps up, and he becomes one of that series' two primary artists.


Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Vol. 2 (DC) The second collection of the Kyle Rayner era of Green Lantern--or Ron Marz era, if you prefer--covers much of 1995 and, like the first volume, is more than complete. That is, not only does it contain the next chunk of issues from that particular volume of Green Lantern (#58-#65), but because there are a pair of crossover storylines that included issues of Green Lantern, other titles participating in those storylines are included herein as well.

So two issues of Guy Gardner: Warrior, which begin the "Capitol Punishment" three-parter that concludes in Green Lantern, are also collected in this volume, and the last storyline in the book is "The Siege of the Zi Charam,"a five-parter that began and ended in New Titans, and included an issue a piece of Darkstars, Damage and, of course, Green Lantern.

Marz writes the lion's share of these comics, although Beau Smith, Marv Wolfman, Michel Jan Friedman and Tom Joyner also contribute, scripting the books they were writing at the time. Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal are similarly the primary pencil artist and inker, but there are a total of 19 other artists involved, perhaps the most surprising of whom was Cully Hamner, who draws part of single issue of Green Lantern, in which his current style is only just recognizable, and I likely would have passed over it without recognizing it had I not read that issue's credit box.

This period finds Kyle Rayner getting settled into his new life in New York City, which includes membership on the Titans superhero team being lead by Arsenal Roy Harper, and a burgeoning friendship-becoming-romance with fellow Titan Darkstar Donna Troy. He's grown increasingly comfortable with his new role as a superhero, and there's another one of those teases of Hal Jordan reclaiming the mantle, only to reinforce that it's Kyle's again. That comes in a two-parter entitled "Parallax View," in which both Ganthet and Hal show up at his apartment at the same time, both asking for the ring back. While Kyle and Hal fight using green light constructs, Ganthet teleports around the DCU collecting a little ad hoc Justice League to throw at Hal: Superman, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Flash Wally West, the then-composite Hawkman and Green Arrow Oliver Queen (wearing the costume that Connor Hawke would be assuming shortly). That's...a lot of dudes, isn't it? Ganthet visits Black Canary, who he interrupts while admiring herself in her classic fishnet costume and saying that she doesn't care if it is sexist since she looks so good in it, but when she informs him that she's lost her sonic scream he leaves without her.

The aforementioned "Capitol Crimes" storyline is mostly a Guy Gardner one--this occurs shortly after he lost his Sinestro ring and learned that he's Vuldarian and has weird, gross new powers--that intersects with Kyle's story in that he fights Major Force, who has stuffed a woman into another refrigerator (the cliffhanger implies that it is Guy's mom, but we later find out it in Guy's mom's friend...and Guy's mom's cat!). For some reason, I had never heard of this particular woman in this particular refrigerator, so I guess that Alexandra DeWitt dying as part of Kyle's origin wasn't exactly the straw the broke the camel's back in that regard, even if it did eventually lend a name to the phenomenon.

The relationship with Donna includes a quieter issue where she helps Kyle unpack his new apartment (that's the issue that includes Hamner art), a Christmas issue set partially at the Titans HQ, a team-up in which Kyle draws the attention of Darkseid and the pair have to battle Kalibak and the aforementioned "Siege" crossover, a actually pretty weird, sci-fi story that is a natural fit for GL and Darkstar/s and the new Titans character Jarras Minion, but not so much the rest of the Titans team (here, that's Arsenal, Terra II, Mirage, Damage and the-Matrix-verison-of-Supergirl, as Impulse missed the spaceship's launch).

In addition to all of those characters, Steel puts in a brief appearance, and Kyle briefly battles Felix Faust and Doctor Polaris.

The art in this issue is mostly of the not-very-good sort, although some of the most egregious examples are the fault of the style of the time more so than just all-around poor work. I think the most striking work might have been that of Warrior artist Mitch Byrd; there are some cringey-looking panels, but his figures are always thick, somewhat squat, and don't much look like anything anyone else was drawing in these issues. In general, the Banks art was strong, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Ron Lim pencils during the "Siege" storyline.

I'm not sure how much this book will have to offer many readers who weren't at least somewhat familiar with the state of the DCU at the time--I think I had only read two issues of these Green Lantern comics, plus most of "Siege" previously from back-issue bins--given how of their time they are. That is, almost every hero who Kyle crosses paths with, particularly Guy and Donna, are in such strange and such different places than they are now that I imagine anyone coming into these collections cold would have a lot of questions.

I'm enjoying them for the most part, though, even if it is clear at a glance that these aren't exactly the best-drawn comic books DC was publishing in the mid-1990s.

Looking ahead, which is something I like to do with these collections, it looks like the next volume should contain the very first Flash team-up (the fact that Wally disliked Kyle as much as most Hal Jordan fans and only rather gradually got to the point where he begrudgingly became his friend was one of the aspects of those characters I really liked), some Underworld Unleashed business, "Hero Quest" (in which Kyle tries to force Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel to teach him something about being a hero) and maybe the first meeting and team-up with the new Green Arrow (another interesting relationship of the era of DC heroes), although given the collections inclusion of other books thus far, one never knows. I doubt we'll see any more issue of Titans though, as after "Siege" that book just had one more story arc, the five-part finale, "Meltdown."

Street Angel Goes To Juvie (Image Comics) The latest of Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca's hardcover, oversized, 9-by-12-inch Street Angel album from Image Comics (and the fourth such album, unless I missed one, which would be a terrible tragedy), finds our heroine Jesse Sanchez going deep undercover as "Shiraz Thunderbird" to juvie, aka "Alcatraz Junior." She's kinda sorta on a mission to bust someone close to a local superhero out, but she's also kind of their on vacation because, as it turns out, Street Angel fucking loves prison life. They feed her as much food as she can eat three times a day, they let her sleep in a bed, school is taught at her precise learning level and they get to watch movies once in a while!

The central gag, that Street Angel actually kinda sorta loves being in jail because prison life is infinitely easier than being a homeless little girl, never quite gets old, as Rugg and Maruca keep finding new ways to demonstrate that tension and, well, it's a pretty short comic, so it's not like any gag has too much time to wear out it's welcome. This comic contains pretty much all of the images of Jesse smiling I can remember seeing, too; eventually she gets so happy that her face looks not entirely unlike that of a smiling emoji.

As with previous books in the series, there's a ton of fun back matter, including book club discussion questions (man, I really need to start a Street Angel book club), and I particularly enjoyed the end pages, which are presented as a sort of scrap book including newspaper clippings of Jesse's adventures and various mug shots that reveal other dubious aliases, like Jenny Sandwich, Johnny Manchez and Finnley McGee.

The only bad part of the book? There's a mention of Street Angel's Dog, a Free Comic Book Day comic, and I completely forgot this Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, which means I probably missed my chance to get a copy of that.

True Believers: Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #1 (Marvel Entertainment) My sister is an elementary school teacher and a few years ago she asked if I had any kids comics I could give to her for use in her class. From what I understand, she has her own little personal library of books and now comics and graphic novels that the students in her class are allowed to pick out and read when they finish their work early or during free or down time or whatever. They are third-graders, and they seem to particularly enjoy the DC Super Hero Girls original graphic novels and the various IDW-published Star Wars-related comics I've sent their way.

I generally ignore Marvel's "True Believers" $1 reprint line, given that most of the stories that appear in them can be read in their entirety in collected form, but this week when my eyes fell on them among the new releases in my local comics shop, it occurred to me that they might make for a good source of cheap comics to send to my sister's students--after I read them myself, of course.

Kitty Pryde and Wolverine #1 seemed like a good bet, starring as it does the preeminent juvenile point-of-view character of the X-Men franchise, if not the Marvel Universe as a whole. It is, as most readers with a deeper knowledge of the X-Men and Marvel than I know, the first issue of a 1984 miniseries, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Al Milgrom (or Allen Milgrom, here). Despite the shared billing, this issue at least is a Kitty comic, with Wolverine only appearing in a panel or two, when Kitty calls the mansion in a moment of desperation and he picks up the phone.

I liked it okay, and it was a pretty good reminder that, for all of Claremont's quirks and as sophisticated as comics storytelling has become in the decades since, the sort of first pass through of X-Men adventures were perhaps their strongest, as the franchise hadn't yet expanded horizontally into too many books, nor been passed between so many different editors and writers, so many of them quoting and homaging their own favorite stories from the Claremont era, that X-Men comics can often seem to be something between unwelcoming and impenetrable to new readers. Like, I picked this up with no knowledge of what the hell was going on in the early 1980s, and it was easy to follow. I can't say the same of the first issue of virtually any X-Men comic I can pick up these days, despite keeping at least an eye on what Marvel's been up to in that corner of their publishing line for the past, oh, 18 years or so.

That said, I suppose I should have double-checked the credits box before purchasing this, because I forgot how much verbiage Claremont comics used to bear...some of his scripts can make Brian Michael Bendis read like Raymond Carver, and this issue had more words in it than most chapter books. Aside from just how much reading it involves, the content seemed okay for third-graders, but Marvel doesn't seem to agree, as they labeled it T. So I guess I won't be passing this on, after all.

Milgrom's art is really quite great though. I really love his line work throughout this, particularly the inking on the trees in the park on the opening splash page, and the scenes involving water--a rainstorm in Tokyo, a scene set in the sewer. By the time I reached the last page, I was curious to see what happens next, so I guess the book succeeded in enticing me into reading another Marvel collection (if not buying one; that's what library's are for, after all). It just didn't seem to meet the purpose I bought it for (passing it on to a bunch of third-graders; I suppose if I wanted to get them a high-quality comic featuring Wolverine and Kitty Pryde, I'd have to look for some Wolverine: First Class back issues from Fred Van Lente and company).

Still, it wasn't anywhere nearly as inappropriate for little kids I'm not related to as...


True Believers: Wolverine--Sword Quest #1 (Marvel) I bought this for the same reason I did Kitty Pryde and Wolverine, but by the sixth panel the script started alluding to rape, and the first dozen or so pages continually do so. That's on top of all the killing, mostly accomplished by stabbing with claws and, as tastefully as it is all staged--that is, it's neither gratuitous nor gory--it adds up to something that reads way too much like an R-rated 1980s action movie to hand to a bunch of third-graders, I think, as cool as they no doubt think Wolverine is.

This is another Chris Claremont joint, the first issue of the first Wolverine ongoing series, launched in 1988. The sub-title of the True Believers edition, "Sword Quest," is just the name of the story arc, but adding it to the cover sure sold me on it. I mean, I like Wolverine just fine, and I quite naturally like both swords and quests, so why wouldn't I buy this for a $1...?

Despite not being anywhere near appropriate for the kids, this comic is perfectly appropriate for Caleb's. Again, I have no sense of what the hell was going on with the X-Men at this point, but from Wolverine's narration, the world apparently thinks they are all dead, and he works to try and keep the fact that he's not dead a secret. I suppose that explains why he's not wearing his Wolverine costume, but is instead wearing all-black, with some pain around his eyes to form something of a mask, although one imagines the wolfman hairstyle and the claws coming out of his knuckles would be a pretty good giveaway that he is, in fact, Wolverine of the X-Men, regardless of what he's wearing or how well one can see the area around his eyes.

He later adopts and even dumber disguise, when he meets someone who actually knew him. He puts on an eye-patch and a hat while in Madripoor--not sure if this is the beginning of his "Patch" identity or not--and apparently that's enough to make Lindsay McCabe not recognize him, despite the fact that he's still a pretty short guy with extremely prominent, not-at-all-in-style Civil War era sideburns.

The art is penciled by John Buscema and inked by Al Williamson, and it's pretty good stuff. There's something particularly Joe Kurbert-y about it, particularly in the first half of the book, which features a lot of modern pirates and some uniforms. There are a lot headbands, bandoliers, coats with collars and folds filled with shadows, knives and firearms, and haunted, world-weary looks.

I really dig their Wolverine. While he looks like he's wearing all-black on the cover, the costume he sports in the interiors looks more-or-less like his traditional one, sans the cowl, only the color is a light blue with darker blue and and black highlights (Of course, his hair also looks blue, not unlike the way Superman and Wonder Woman used to have blue-black hair). Their Wolverine has a magnificent mane, and in at least one splash page, he doesn't even seem to have a human head, just a too-small, mask-like face fringed by swoops of blue hair that form a sort of four-pointed star around his twisted-face scowl.

He kills so many pirates, in one scene they pile on top of him, and he somehow seems to make a human shish kebab out of them a stack of seven flailing bodies stacked atop his extended right arm, which he then hurls through the walls of a shack. When he's not in dude-killing mode, his hair seems to calm down quite a bit. For example, when he's in disguise later, his sideburns lay down flat. I'm not sure if it's intentional or not, but the implication is that Wolverine's head of hair bristles like that of a wolf when in battle...?

A lot of what is in here now seems like cliche business, with Wolverine spouting off his catchphrases, and Madripoor, the eye patch, his Canadian samurai posture, even the particular sword he's questing after, but that's only because I'm reading this in 30 years after it was originally published, and those are all elements that the scores of other Wolverine writers to follow Claremont all incorporated into their own comics over and over and over again until they became cliche.