Friday, March 23, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: March 21st

Aliens: Dead Orbit (Dark Horse Books) James Stokoe's four-issue miniseries, now in convenient trade paperback collection format. Rare among mainstream publications of this nature, Dead Orbit is written, drawn, colored and lettered by Stokoe himself. I'm not sure if he hand-bound each volume and also personally delivered them to each shop this Wednesday morning, but I wouldn't be too terribly surprised either.

The result is a surprisingly personal take on a sci-fi/horror franchise that is just about as well-trod in many media as any other. That is, it's an Aliens comic, but it feels like Alien/Aliens was an invention of Stokoe's own.

I should note that the feeling is more evident in how the artist suffuses every aspect of the book with his own style, and not in how original the story is--although, it's worth noting that it is so true to the spirit of the original Alien film, with its mix of visceral body horror and dreadful isolation, in which space itself is just as scary a threat as the monster, that Dead Orbit seems fairly far removed from most of the other Aliens-related films, comics, etc.

A space station full of grizzled employees find a mysterious derelict ghost ship, and board it in the hopes of rescuing any passengers. The only ones they find are in suspended animation, and they wake them up rather violently, taking them back to their own station to heal them. And then, before long, Aliens burst out of their chests: Two of the three were carrying the parasites.

The rest of the book, then, is the handful of survivors trying to continue being survivors, while a scary alien or two stalks them.

There are a couple of pretty notable scenes, beyond how Stokoe handles the expected stuff, like the chest-bursting. (That he slows time down for, rendering it in a second-by-second, six-panel sequence, complete with anime-esque speedlines and, well, "anime time" and technique. If you've seen the movies or read even a handful of the comics, you've seen this sequence repeat over and over and over, but you've never seen it quite like this (Ramping up the body horror, the victims were all burned beyond recognition, so they are missing most of their flesh and features when they give "birth")

There's also a neat scene where the Aliens' acid blood comes into play, revealed while a large portion of the creature is blown off while in the vacuum of space, and so the blood forms deadly acid droplets floating around it.

The best, truest scene may be the one where our protagonists mistakes a few pieces of junk arranged just so as an Alien, a pretty classic mind-playing-tricks-on-you sequence that pretty much anyone who has ever been a child has experienced for themselves.

I wasn't really a fan of Stokoe's decision to tell the story out-of-sequence, which doesn't always work in comics as well as it does in film, and there's nothing really new being said here, it all just feels new, which is good enough with such an exhausted franchise.

As much as I enjoyed Orc Stain and Wonton Soup before it, Dead Orbit and Godzilla: Half-Century War make a pretty good argument for publisher's handing Stokoe whatever franchise he's interested in to do whatever the hell he wants with for a miniseries or two.

The ending comes a little abruptly, as the last panel on the last page is followed immediately by an unencumbered cover, that looks for a few moments like it could be a splash panel. The back matter though includes covers by Stokoe and others (the Geoff Darrow one is pretty great) and, more interestingly, some eight-pages of pencils that were part of Stokoe's pitch. That would have been a pretty different story, an action-packed one that, in these eight pages at least, seemed to focus on the marines more than the Aliens, who only appear in--by the horde--in the distance as sickly black scythe-headed blots.

Archie #29 (Archie Comics) It's a romance-free issue, as Archie's main conflict is the fact that he's lost his guitar, and needs to find it before the big dance, which he will be playing at. Meanwhile, Reggie tries to be nice, and no one trusts him, and The Blossom twins bully him, and get to the bottom of their own secret origin. That feels a little Riverdale to me, and it fits a little awkwardly with the rest of the book, as we're only told that their real father is a bad and dangerous guy who has hurt people, but don't really get any sort of detail to let us know why that is so. In that respect, it feels like an adult plot element in a story meant for kids, and doesn't sit quite right.

Writer Mark Waid, now with co-writer Ian Flynn, is still working with artist Audrey Mok, and this volume of Archie continues to look as good as it ever has, if not, perhaps, better.

I miss Jughead and Josie and The Pussycats, though. I wish they would bring those books back, or perhaps adopt a series-of-miniseries approach. As long as they can make them as good as they were. I suppose there's some wisdom into just ending the titles if they aren't certain future issues can be as good as the ones they already published.

Batman #43 (DC Comics) The World's Greatest Detective has figured out that Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are more than just really good friends.

Bombshells United #14 (DC) The focus on this issue is on the Bombshells-iverse's Suicide Squad, who come to blows with Black Canary, Bumblebee and the two Batgirls present. They are all in Hawaii to figure out what's going on with this weird music thing that Canary seems to be tied to, and are forced to team-up when the music thing takes over two of the Squaddies.

David Hahn is the artist for this issue. I really like the new design for vampire Barbara Gordon--er, Gourdon--whose cape/wings extend from a backpack shaped like a little coffin.

Oh, and we get our first look at Bombshell Oliver Queen. It's just a single image, but he looks a bit Errol Flynn-like which, in my humble opinion, is what he should always look like.

Justice League #41 (DC) In this third-to-last issue of Priest's run on Justice League--and the third-to-last issue of Justice League before it is relaunched in June with a #1 and a new writer--the imperiled Justice League satellite has crash-landed in Africa...specifically, the fictional nation of warring tribes more-or-less ruled by bad guy Black Panther analogue, The Red Lion (First seen in Priest's Deathstroke run).

I actually kinda like that Priest didn't even bother bridging last issue's cliffhanger ending, in which the satellite was plummeting from the sky and Cyborg came up with a complicating plan involving the super-powers of like a half-dozen different heroes working in concert to keep them all alive, and the fact that the main League is alive and well, while the Batman's "of America" team has gone home. I mean, it's not like there was any real suspense over whether or not both Leagues were going to be killed off or not.

The Red Lion claims their satellite as his own by right of salvage, while his government's army, his nation's warring tribes and LexCorp all convene with weapons drawn and spoiling for a fight, testing the League's commitment to stay out of things like civil wars and international politics.

One of the cliffhangers here to me, involving as it does Wonder Woman being apparently shot repeatedly with automatic weapon fire, causing her to collapse into unconsciousness, and bleeding profusely. I know her powers have fluctuated and changed radically over the decades, but I thought currently she was invulnerable to bullets (Hell, Aquaman is almost completely bulletproof at present).

The Fan makes an appearance, wearing a horrible, horrible costume.

I'm really excited about the just-announced Snyder-written Justice League book, but this has been good enough that I'm kinda sorry Priest won't just keep writing it for awhile. Maybe if there is another secondary Justice League book, Priest will be able to write that or, if not, hopefully DC will offer him the book as soon as Snyder decides to move on to something else.

Nightwing #41 (DC) The text on this issue's cover--"At Last"--pretty perfectly encapsulates my feelings about this Nightwing vs. The Judge story arc, which has comprised the entirety of writer Sam Humphries' run on the title to date. I think it was about 500 issues long, or maybe it just felt like it.

In all honesty, it has been a perfectly adequate super-comic, but, given the number of perfectly adequate super-comics out there these days, that's just not enough.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Marvel's June previews reviewed

Based on this month's round of solicitations, Marvel's "Fresh Start" looks to be anything but fresh, with a few titles being relaunched with new #1s and/or new titles, and with the usual suspects handling the writing.

In a few cases, like that of Iron Man and The Hulk, the original version of the characters are reclaiming the starring roles of their books. Of course, in doing them more or less all-at-once like this, it looks like in the short period of just a few months, Marvel is jettisoning all the characters who aren't white, male characters created somewhere between 1941 and the 1960s.

So in last month's solicitations male Thor reclaimed his book from female Thor. The last issue of Spider-Man, starring Miles Morales, is scheduled, leaving Peter Parker as the only Spider-Man with his own book (Not counting clones, of course). Previously, Captain America Sam Wilson resumed his Falcon code name and costume, so that the one and only Captain America is white dude Steve Rogers. Now we see that Ironheart Riri Williams has surrendered the starring role in the Iron Man comic book to Tony Stark, who will be starring in the new Tony Stark: Iron Man, and Amadeus Cho's Totally Awesome Hulk/Incredible Hulk is off the schedule, but it looks like Bruce Banner and the original Incredible Hulk are back in The Immortal Hulk.

Aside from the retreat from recent years' diversification through legacy characters--something that was, perhaps, inevitable, but doing it all at once like this can't help but make it look and feel reactionary, rather than part of the inevitable ebb and flow of superhero comic tropes--and the same old bylines being assigned different books, there isn't really anything new in here. Perhaps most emblematic of the staleness of Marvel's "Fresh Start" is a new Sentry ongoing series.

That's right, The Sentry! Conceived as a Miracleman/Marvelman-esque Superman analogue and originally appearing in a 2000 miniseries, the character was originally sold by then-EIC Joe Quesada with a dumb-ass, goofy stunt, in which Marvel claimed he was actually a character created by Stan Lee in the 1960s, but lost and only just recently rediscovered (that marketing accompanied an aspect of the character's shtick, as, like DC's Triumph, he was forgotten by all the other characters in his superhero shared-setting universe).

Brian Michael Bendis sucked him up into his New Avengers, and Bendis was the main caretaker of the character until some baffling stories, like how The Sentry was Moses or something, and then he turned into a crab and died in the pages of Siege, perhaps the worst comic ever written by a talented comics writer.

The new series starring The Sentry, a superhero with dramatic mental problems, including multiple personalities, will be written by Jeff Lemire, who has been writing Moon Knight, a superhero with dramatic mental problems, including multiple personalities.

So, yeah: "Fresh."

It is, of course, possible that Marvel's "Fresh Start" is a very gradual thing, and that lots of new, exciting, actually-fresh comics are set to start in the future, like, maybe in July. But for now? The line looks an awful lot like it did this winter, only with fewer good comics being published, starring fewer diverse, new or interesting characters. That, and there are some awfully alarming trends, like a huge emphasis on comics starring Wolverine--not All-New Wolverine Laura Kinney, whose book is canceled, but on-his-way-back-to-life OG Wolverine, Logan, whose the focus of a whole suite of miniseries.

Anyway, let's take a look at Marvel's June offerings, shall we...?

ANT-MAN & THE WASP #1 & 2 (of 5)
Wasp was just trying to help Ant-Man get home to Earth to see his daughter…but a little problem got in the way. Very little. Subatomic, in fact, as Scott Lang was lost in the vast spaces between atoms! Now, Nadia is his only hope of rescue…if only he would listen long enough for her to save them! From master storyteller Mark Waid (CAPTAIN AMERICA, CHAMPIONS) and Marvel Young Gun artist Javier Garrón (SECRET WARRIORS, STAR-LORD) comes a story of a big journey getting smaller all the time!
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T+ …$3.99 (EACH)

This is Mark Waid, so it should be pretty well written. The impetus for the miniseries is almost certainly the fact that a movie with this exact same title will be released in theaters this July. It may be worth noting that this Wasp is a completely different Wasp than the one who will be in the film. Both Wasps are the daughters of Hank Pym, but Nadia is a lot different than the film's Hope.

I don't know what on Earth is going on in the pages of Captain America--is that Chris Evans from the Infinity War set?--but that is a pretty nice-looking cover by Michael Cho.

The Champions vs. Alpha Flight? Ms. Marvel vs. Captain Marvel?
’Nuff said!
Saving the north just got a whole lot more complicated…
Plus…Nova no more?!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I always kinda liked the idea of Alpha Flight, although I found them to be a more fun group before Carol Danvers took over their team, turned them all into Republicans and enlisted her in her weird space army.

The Nova/Puck match-up looks pretty great on that cover.

The Eye of Agamotto is closed! Doctor Stephen Strange has lost his connection to the Earth’s arcane power, and he can’t wait to recover while nightmares press against the seams of our reality. Tony Stark offers a 21st-century solution: When astral travel fails, try astronautical travel. Enter Doctor Strange: Space-Explorer Supreme! New spells, allies and enemies – new and old – await Strange beyond the stars, along with corners and secrets of the Marvel Universe seen here for the first time! Space is endless, but time is short. After years of threats, Stephen’s bill for magic use is coming due – who will come to collect?!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Here, for example, is a not very fresh fresh start, even though I imagine the book will pretty great. Mark Waid, who has written Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Avengers, The Champions, Black Widow and Captain America in the past few years, and had a promising-looking, short stint on the Doctor Strange character in 2010, will be the new writer the the newly relaunched Doctor Strange. Again, no knock on Waid, who is good at this stuff, but he's not exactly a bold choice.

The new direction seems to be pretty similar to the new direction of Black Panther: He's going to space.

God, I love Gurihiru art.

This is the cover of Marvel Rising: Alpha #1, written by Devin Grayson, and drawn by someone who is not Gurihiru.

A handful of people’s favorite X-Man – Jamie Madrox – was alive for a while. Then he was dead. Now he’s not. But he will be again if he doesn’t kill himself trying to make sure he doesn’t die. It makes sense when you read it. Trust us. In his fight to not die, Jamie has stumbled across a threat even greater than his own death, but fixing it might make it worse. Can he save the world from himself?
On top of all that, the X-Men are mad at him now, and a mysterious new group of foes is after him, too. We can’t tell you who they are, but they’re pretty great.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Peter David has done some pretty great stuff with the Multiple Man character in the past, a mutant with an interesting enough super-power and divorced enough from the core X-Men goings-on that he can make for a fairly reliable lead character. That is, unlike most X-person solo series, a Multiple Man monthly wouldn't necessarily seem dead on announcement. Of course, this series is being pre-canceled, as it is a minniseries.

I'm not overly familiar with the work of the creators, but I do like cover artist Marcos Martin a whole lot!

Pretty nice Alice's Adventures in Wonderland homage on Kris Anka's cover to Runaways. I haven't read any of the current series just yet; is it any good...? It seems like a challenging series to start up again after both lying fallow for a few years and the fact that the original premise exhausted itself pretty, you can't stay a teenager on the run from your supervillain parents forever, you know...?

…but is that really such a good thing?
The greatest hero that the Marvel Universe ever forgot has returned! The Sentry – shining sentinel with the power of a thousand exploding suns – is back from the dead, but his troubled mind is far from finding peace. By day, he trudges through a mundane life as Bob Reynolds; at night, the Sentry soars across a gleaming, perfect skyline. But how much of the Sentry’s dual existence is real? And what of his dark other self, the Void?
Jeff Lemire (MOON KNIGHT, Black Hammer) returns to Marvel and unites with Kim Jacinto (AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER) for this mind-bending series that will shake the Sentry, and the Marvel Universe, to its foundations.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Why...? Seriously, why?!

Thor Odinson has regained his mantle – and with it, a wild new world of trouble on his mighty hands! The artifacts of Asgard have been scattered across the earth, and to reclaim them, Thor will have to face some ugly truths. Like the production cost of hundreds of new hammers! And the Thunder God is going to need every last one of them if he’s going to stop the unstoppable Juggernaut. Jason Aaron takes the Prince of Asgard in a whole new direction with YOUNG GUN artist Mike Del Mundo joining him at the helm! And don’t miss the latest chapter of the King Thor saga with acclaimed BLACK BOLT artist Christian Ward, as the Thor of the far future encounters an old friend who’s undergone some startling changes.
56 PGS./Rated T+ …$5.99

I wonder just how many times Jason Aaron has written Thor comics with a "#1" attached to them at this point. I feel like it has to be at least a half-dozen times. Don't get me wrong, he seems to be rather good at it. I've liked all the Thor comics by Jason Aaron I've read. It just seems like he keeps relaunching the book over and over and, again, is perhaps the least fresh choice to give Thor a fresh start.

Oh, and in my criticism of Marvel's whole "fresh start" thing, I neglected to mention that they are re-employing the "Young Gun" artist strategy, which is something from, what, late 2004 or so...? Mike Del Mundo is a weird artist to assign that designation too. I have no idea how old he is, and I'm not about to look up his age, but he's been working for Marvel for years now, and has had several very high-profile gigs for the publisher. So, even in a metaphorical sense, his career with the publisher hardly seems "young"...

From the cusp of tomorrow’s dreams to the forefront of imagination, one man always soars on the cutting edge of adventure! You know his name. Tony Stark is Iron Man. And Iron Man…is an idea. Always changing. Always evolving. An idea without limit! Take wing with DAN SLOTT (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) and Valerio Schiti (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) as they propel the ultimate Self-Made Hero to new heights of inventiveness!
Tony Stark is Iron Man. The future is now. Strap in!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

In recent years, Dan Slott temporarily turned Spider-Man into Iron Man--right down to the superhero identity posing in public as the bodyguard of the wealthy industrialist identity--so why not write the genuine article? Slott is something of a special case for the publisher, I imagine, as he's been writing Spider-Man for pretty much ever now, and had to move on eventually, but they have to find something for him to do, right? So why not Iron Man? But, once again, here's a new series launched by a guy who has been writing for Marvel for pretty much ever. Fresh!

Oh, and I generally take out the part where the variant covers are listed, but I left them in above to show just how heavily they are relying on variants to goose sales. Now, the five listed above might seem like an excessive amount of variant covers, but you haven't seen anything yet! There are so many goddam variants for this issue that the variants get their own solicit!

Check it out:


As for those "Many Armors of Iron Man" variants, a few examples are given, and I guess they are just the same picture of Tony Stark thinking over and over again, with a different suit of armor appearing in his imagination:


Nnedi Okorafor (W)
Cover by Terry Dodson
The blockbuster Black Panther film has everyone talking about Wakanda’s best warriors, the fierce Dora Milaje! Now witness the Dora outside of Wakanda – and in Spider-Man’s world! When the Dora catch wind of a Wakandan threat causing trouble in New York, they’ll leap into action – with or without their king. Don’t miss Okoye, Ayo and Aneka on a globe-trotting mission to protect the realm at any cost. WAKANDA FOREVER starts here!
40 PGS./ one-shot /Rated T …$4.99

This is interesting. Marvel saw they had something of a hit on their hands with the first few issues of Ta-Nehesi Coates' Black Panther--which is also being relaunched with a new #1--and immediately overextended the franchise, launching two other Black Panther books that were canceled immediately. Now that the film has made several kajillion dollars, it seems safe to try extending the brand a bit again, and here they are using the Dora Milaje. I'm actually a little surprised that Shuri isn't getting her own title or miniseries, but then, Movie Shuri and Comic Book Shuri are pretty different.

I love that it is described as a "one-shot," but is also "PART ONE OF A THREE-PART STORY."

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

DC's June previews reviewed

Scott Snyder and Jim Cheung relaunch Justice League, and it looks like it might be good! Brian Michael Bendis' run on the Superman franchise begins!There's a new round of Hanna-Barbera/DCU crossovers, and they look much better than the first round! There's actually quite a bit exciting stuff in DC's solicitations for the comics they plan to publish in June...or May through July, I guess I should say, as some of these are "retro-solicited" and others "advanced solicited."

Anyway, here's some of what we can look forward to, three months hence...

Backup story written by JEFF PARKER • Backup story art by SCOTT KOLINS •
When the town of Amnesty Island is besieged by a series of shark attacks, authorities call Aquaman for help! What’s unusual about this case is that the shark isn’t trying to kill people—he just wants to talk to them. The very confused Jabberjaw needs to get back to Aqualand, the future undersea utopia where he came from. But that peaceful city where man and sentient sea life have been living in harmony has been turned into a dystopian nightmare created by a new Ocean Master. Now the King of Atlantis and his friendly shark ally have to team up to set things right. Also includes a Captain Caveman meets the wizard Shazam in a short story by Jeff Parker and Scott Kolins.
RETRO-SOLICITED • ONE-SHOT • On sale MAY 30 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Well hell, this one practically writes itself, doesn't it? I actually rather like Jabberjaw, which is one of the weirder of the many, many riffs on the basic Scooby-Doo formula that Hanna-Barbera experimented with. I'm also a big fan of Paul Pelletier's artwork, although since most of these seem to involve translating the simpler, more dynamic old school cartoon designs into busier, more realistic DCU house style designs, I'm not sure how well Jabberjaw and the will look in the book itself. The glimpse on the cover isn't too terribly promising; I do hope Jabber's human bandmates play a decent-sized role in the story.

I'm also pretty excited about the back-up. As you all know, I'm a fan of the original Captain Marvel. As you likely don't know, I'm also a fan of Captain Caveman and The Teen Angels. Futurequest, which weaved together many of Hanna-Barbera's superhero and adventure characters together into one, big, epic storyline was fine and all, but I'd much rather see a series weaving together the studio's many crime-solving teenagers-and-their-mascots into a single story.

Art and cover by DAN BRERETON
Back in print at last! It’s 1961: a world of jazz and smoky cafes, Italian suits and skinny ties, beatniks and bohemians. In Gotham City, two thrill-crazed youths calling themselves Batgirl and Robin are making headlines. But when Dick’s family is murdered, mere mischief becomes serious business as Batgirl and Robin arm themselves and set out to get justice. At it’s up to Detective Bruce Wayne to stop the young thrill-seekers and solve the mystery of the Grayson murders. Collects THRILLKILLER #1-3 and THRILLKILLER ’62 #1. Includes a new introduction by Howard Chaykin and never-before-published art by Dan Brereton.
On sale JULY 4 • 144 pg, FC, $19.99 US
ISBN: 978-1-4012-8074-1

I'm afraid I don't remember much about the story, although I do recall liking these comics, and, in particular, Dan Brereton's art. That guy is the best. It seems far too long since I've seen something he's drawn and/or painted on the racks of a comic shop...

Written by BRYAN HILL • Art and cover by DENYS COWAN and BILL SIENKIEWICZ
Backup story written by JEFF PARKER • Backup story art by SCOTT KOLINS •
Back from Viet Nam, kung fu master Hong Kong Phooey has set up his own detective agency in the inner city. Meanwhile, Jefferson Pierce (a.k.a. Black Lightning) has uncovered a plot by three assassins to collect the components of a sacred text revealing the darkest secrets of Martial Arts magic, and they’ll kill anyone who owns them—including the dog who holds the last chapter of the book, Hong Kong Phooey. Plus, a tale of the Funky Phantom as he goes toe-to-toe with the Spectre in a tale by Jeff Parker and Scott Kolins.
RETRO-SOLICITED • ONE-SHOT • On sale MAY 30 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

This isn't a pairing I would have imagined--it's certainly not as obvious a one as the Aquaman/Jabberjaw--but it actually makes a lot of sense, as a 1970s-era, blaxploitation/kung-fu movie kind of thing. I'm not sure that's what they're going for, exactly, but the cover seems to indicate that--particularly with Jefferson wearing his original, "first appearance" costume. God, I hope that afro is detachable...!

The Funky Phantom/Spectre pairing sounds pretty promising, too; hopefully Kolins draws an old-school Spectre, and not the weird-looking New 52 version.

Art by MIKE MIGNOLA and others
This new title collects Mike Mignola’s work on comics including SUPERMAN: THE WORLD OF KRYPTON #1-4, ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #2, SUPERMAN #18 and #23, BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #54, BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #36, SWAMP THING ANNUAL #5, PHANTOM STRANGER #1-4 and more! Also collects dozens of covers by Mignola!
On sale JULY 25 • 400 pg, FC, $19.99 US
ISBN: 978-1-4012-6888-6

So DC has a collection of shorter works by Alan Moore and another collecting shorter works by Neil Gaiman, both using the "The DC Universe By..." titling convention. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the first time they have had a "DC Universe By..." book devoted to shorter works of an artist (although considering there's a four-issue miniseries in there, I don't know if you can consider these all shorter works, but probably shorter than, say, Cosmic Odyssey). I'm not familiar with a lot of the particular stories here--except the LDK story and the Phantom Stranger mini--but this sounds like a pretty interesting book. I'm particularly happy about the "dozens of covers" bit, as I suspect there are an awful lot of those in Mignola's work for the publisher.

I wonder if this one, which I just re-encountered in the pages of Aquaman By Peter David Book One, will be included...?
I love that picture so much. In large part because it's Mike Mignola drawing nineties Aquaman, in larger part because I like the contrast in how natural Mignola-drawing-Kirby designs looks compared to Mignola-drawing-Whoever-Designed-That-Aquaman-Look and, in largest part, because I like that Aquaman looks like a rectangle, with limbs drawn in the corners, a head plopped on top, and then everything rendered expertly. Like, it looks like the basic design of a very little child, but with the drafting skills of a brilliant adult artist.

“On The Outside” part one! Duke Thomas. Cassandra Cain. They and other young heroes don’t intend to stand down, no matter what Batman thinks is best. Who can Batman trust to guide them? They need a teacher…and Black Lightning fits the bill!
On sale JUNE 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

“On The Outside” part two! Batman wanted Black Lightning involved in the lives of his protégés—but how involved was the Dark Knight thinking? What kind of missions will Jefferson Pierce take them on? And what, exactly, is he whispering in their ears about Batman himself?
On sale JUNE 27 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Hey, remember when I predicted that Brian Michael Bendis would take over 'Tec, if not the whole Batman line, upon arriving at DC? Boy was I wrong! Bendis instead took over DC's flagship--but secondary, in terms of sales--franchise, and 'Tec went to...some guy named Bryan Hill. Well, whatever; readers will show up for the Batman, not whoever the writer is.

This solicits sounds...odd. It seems like Hill may be continuing with outgoing writer James Tynion's concept, of the title being devoted to a team consisting of Batman's many, many sidekicks all being trained by trustworthy adults. At least in part. Like, one of those sidekicks is explicitly mentioned, Cassandra Cain, aka "Orphan." The other, Duke Thomas, aka "The Signal," hasn't been involved in 'Tec or with that squad, but, as per Scott Snyder, Tynion and company, was being taken under Batman's wing to be trained personally by him. That seems to have fallen by the wayside a bit--the last time I saw Duke was in Batman and The Signal--and here it looks like Batman is trying to pawn off his two newest, worst code-named sidekicks on another hero to train.

Black Lightning seems like a pretty logical choice, given his long, long history with Batman on The Outsider and then the Justice League, and the fact that his day job is a teacher, and the fact that he has two daughters who are also metahumans...Oh, but wait. That's PRE-Flashpoint Black Lightning I'm thinking of. This is post-Flashpoint Black Lighting, from the continuity in which there never was a Batman and The Outsiders and Black Lightning was never on the Justice League, but he helped them fight Atlanteans that one time. I suppose the pair may have met during that get-together, or on the Satellite once or twice, but I'm hard-pressed to remember them even having, like, a conversation (That said, the retcon-iriffic Metal does mention Black Lightning being part of a secret squad of heroes Batman works with, so whatever).

Well, whatever goes on in this next run of Detective Comics, I hope the first order of business if for B.L. to give Duke and Cassie new codenames, because The Signal and Orphan are the worst.

Written by SCOTT LOBDELL • Art and cover by BRETT BOOTH and NORM RAPMUND
When Wally West tries to take down Kilg%re, he’s stunned to find he has an unknown ally who can move just as fast as he can. Dr. Pernell, a brilliant S.T.A.R. Labs scientist, has found a way to power his buggy using the Speed Force. When The Flash agrees to help test the limits of the vehicle in a race, something sends them spiraling out of the Speed Force and into the unknown. They land in a post-apocalyptic future, but Dr. Pernell is gone, leaving only the buggy, which is now sentient. Together with his new anthropomorphic ally, The Flash must find a way to repair the time stream and stop the triple threat of Savitar, Speed Demon Buggy and…Reverse Speed Buggy!
RETRO-SOLICITED • ONE-SHOT • On sale MAY 30 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Good God, what is with Brett Booth and this "Pizza Fish" thing he works into, like, every image...?

I think this is a pretty swell pairing--although it's curious they're using the current iteration of Wally West as opposed to The Flash who looks like what one imagines The Flash looks like when they hear the words "The Flash." It's also curious that this Speed Buggy doesn't sound like the Speed Buggy, at least according to the few sentences of solicitation copy above, but I suppose we'll see. I dislike the work of the writer and the artists, though, so my hope for this one is to be able to read the whole thing from start to finish, not necessarily that it turns out to be a really good comic or anything.

Written by ROBERT VENDITTI • Art and cover by BRYAN HITCH •
Spinning out of the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, Carter Hall returns to the DC Universe! An explorer of the ancient and unknown, Hawkman finds himself embroiled in a long-standing mission to discover the true purpose of his many reincarnations. Carter races around the globe trying to piece together an ancient prophecy, but will he be able to face down his past lives lurking around every corner?
On sale JUNE 13 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

I suppose it was inevitable after Hawkman's rather prominent role in the set-up of Metal, although given how...troubled the character has been pretty much ever since the Geoff Johns and Rags Morales-launched ongoing ended, well, good luck, guys!

“THE END OF FOREVER” part three! The Immortal Men have risked everything to save the otherwise unremarkable teenager Caden Park. But neither Caden nor the immortal heroes who saved him know the crucial role he’s predicted to play in the upcoming war between the Immortal Men. So when the hero Reload falls into the horrifying hands of the Bloodless, Caden Park must learn the Secret History of the DC Universe, and the truth behind his family heritage—and fast—before the Batman Who Laughs has all his pawns in play!
On sale JUNE 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Well, unlike the most of the Dark Matter New Age of DC Heroes line, Tynion's book sure seems to be tying into Dark Nights: Metal as directly as possible, even using one of the most prominent of the new characters from that miniseries front and center on the cover. As this was originally announced as an artist-driven series, with the artists being responsible for the creation of the characters and co-writing, I was a bit surprised to see the name "Ryan Benjamin" up there, as it doesn't quite seem to demand the same market clout as some of the other involved artists. But I had to Google who the original artist tied to the series was, as it's been so long since it was first announced--and the first issue hasn't yet shipped. It turns out that this was the Jim Lee series.

I didn't expect Lee to be able to stick around all that long, but, originally at least, I thought he would make it about four to six issues. But then, it appears that most of the New Blood New Age of DC Heroes books are only being drawn by their creators for the first two or three issues.

“THE TOTALITY” part one! A brand-new era begins here! Comics legends Scott Snyder and Jim Cheung launch the Justice League into a cosmos-shaking mystery that will draw out their most terrible foes…in ways our heroes couldn’t possibly imagine! In this debut issue, Martian Manhunter struggles to protect the team from an incoming threat that will shatter the world as they know it, while a familiar face strikes out on a dark path…
On sale JUNE 6 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+

Written by SCOTT SNYDER • Art and cover by JORGE JIMENEZ •
“THE TOTALITY” part two! The League faced an impossible decision…and now they must face the consequences! While Martian Manhunter and Batman attempt to recruit an old ally back into the fold, The Flash and Hawkgirl are blindsided by new challenges that could rewrite their mythologies!
On sale JUNE 20 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+

So after the events of last month's No Justice--and by "last month" I actually mean May, which is of course still two months in the future--it looks like we see what the future of the post-Metal Justice League is.

Scott Snyder is writing, which is good news, and quite surprisingly, art will be provided by Jim Cheung, who wasn't even on my radar as a possibility. It looks like the book will stay biweekly, and Cheung will be alternating with artist Jorge Jimenez. Both are pretty good artists, although their styles aren't at all similar, and they seem like a pretty poor match. Hopefully once they get settled, they can alternate arcs rather than issues, as if the book goes back and forth between two artists and two radically different styles ever 20 pages, that's going to be...less than ideal.

We also get a sense of the line-up. Remember, other than a brief shake-up between the end of Forever Evil and Rebirth, wherein Captain Marvel Shazam, Lex Luthor and Captain Cold joined, and then then Green Lantern Hal Jordan being replaced by Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz at the start of the Rebirth era, the League line-up has been remarkably, even boringly steady: Six of the Big Seven, plus Cyborg.

Here we get the return of too-long missing Martian Manhunter (who was assigned to Stormwatch for some strange reason in the New 52 launch), the return of Hawkgirl (or maybe the debut of Hawkgirl? The Hawks' continuity didn't get any more streamlined by recent-ish reboots!) and Green Lantern John Stewart in for Baz and Cruz (and joining the Justice League for the very first time, in the current continuitiverse). That is, as you've probably noticed, the original Justice League TV show line-up. Plus Cyborg. Men, I'd prefer the Justice League Action line-up.

Anyway, the team make-up is actually rather refreshing; it's nice to have J'onn back where he belongs, and for Wonder Woman and Cyborg to not stick out so much as the only non-dude and the only non-white person, respectively. Aside from John's inclusion, this is basically the team being suggested by the events of Metal--minus Mister Terrific, Plastic Man and Deathstroke, of course, the first two of whom are half of the line-up of The Terrifics (at least until it gets canceled) and the last of whom was in the No Justice event.

J'onn's elbow spikes may take some getting used to (although he's a shape-changer, so maybe they'll just change as soon as the cover is turned), as will Kendra's feathers.

Oh and John, dude, maybe cool it with the guns, yeah? You've got kids looking up to you, you know?

A new era begins for Superman as a threat from his earliest origins reemerges to destroy the Last Son of Krypton. As Superman struggles to come to grips with what has happened to his wife and son, he must also face a new threat that’s determined to burn down Metropolis!
RETRO-SOLICITED • On sale MAY 30 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T

"What happened to his wife and son"...? I don't like the sound of that at all. I do hope that there isn't some sort of weird, franchise-specific reboot that radically alters the status quo of Superman and his family, given that it seems like DC just did that not too long ago, in the story that gave us his wife and son.

Super Sons is no longer being solicited--except for the Hanna-Barbera team-up special below--but I kinda sorta assumed that maybe DC was canceling all the Super-books until after this series, at which point we'd get a new status quo, including a new Supergirl. Now I'm worried Superboy is going to be written out of existence or something dumb like that...

With an arsonist loose in Metropolis, Superman’s powers are almost useless in finding the culprit. And back at the Daily Planet, everyone wants to know what’s going on with Lois Lane. How can Clark hold on to the secret of what happened to Lois and Jon much longer?
On sale JUNE 6 • 32 pg, FC, 2 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T

Oof. This solicit does nothing to allay my concerns.

Hard to imagine an artist better suited for a Superman comic than Evan "Doc" Shaner, though.

Written by WALTER SIMONSON and others
Legendary writer/artist Walter Simonson takes on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World! These tales star the heroes and villains of the Fourth World as Darkseid seeks the Anti-Life Equation and Orion battles to stop him! This volume includes material from ORION #1-11, SHOWCASE ’94 #1, DC UNIVERSE HOLIDAY BASH #1, NEW GODS SECRET FILES #1, SECRET ORIGINS OF SUPER-VILLAINS 80-PAGE GIANT #1, LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE 80-PAGE GIANT #2 and more!
On sale JULY 11 • 368 pg, FC, $29.99 US
ISBN: 978-1-4012-7487-0

I honestly don't know anyone who read Simonson's 25-issue, 2000-2002 Orion series and didn't rave about it, so I imagine this will be pretty damn good. I've only read a handful of issues, so I'm really looking forward to this. I'm pretty curious about all the stuff that's not from Orion is, exactly, as some of it pre-dates Simonson's series pretty dramatically. Like, Showcase '94 #1 is, obviously, from 1994 (The Simonson contribution to that issue is the script for a 10-page New Gods story drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, if you're wondering).

Meet Eel O’Brian: a petty thug, thief and con artist who runs a strip club. Hey, he’s also dead, at least according to the gang that tossed him out like last week’s garbage. Literally. Don’t worry, though—he bounced back from all that, and now he’s trying to make a new life for himself, but the effort is stretching him pretty thin. How can he get revenge on his old boss, keep a street kid out of trouble, make a dancer fall in love with him and stop a mysterious society from taking over the world? Eel has no idea!
On sale JUNE 13 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T+

Jesus. I love Plastic Man, but they lost me on the first sentence. That last bit, "RATED T+", doesn't help either. I'm not sure we need a more adult, more mature Plastic Man comic, any more than we need a dark, gritty Plastic Man comic.

On the plus side, this sounds like it's meant to be self-contained--Plas is currently appearing in The Terrifics, and dressed completely differently--and sounds pretty different than where we last saw the DCU version of Eel O'Brian (in a Forever Evil tie-in), so I imagine this can be safely ignored.


Actually, come to think of it, I remember Simone and artist Ethan Van Sciver having talked about wanting to collaborate on a Plastic Man comics for years, so I wonder if this miniseries is simply Simone dusting off an old pitch and DC publishing it now, either because The Terrifics hit better than expected, or because it was time to publish something under the title "Plastic Man" or risk losing exclusive legal rights to do so in the future.

Nice Scooby Apocalypse cover by Kaare Andrews. Well, actually, Scooby himself looks wrong here, as that looks a lot more like a German shepherd than a Great Dane. And Daphne looks a bit generic. So nice Velma on a Scooby Apocalypse cover, I guess I should say.

Art and cover by DARIO BRIZUELA
To stop a spectral menace in the 21st century, the gang will have to travel back through time to solve the mystery before it even begins. But that’s easier said than done, as visiting World War II means facing spies, saboteurs and Nazi monsters! Good thing the gang isn’t alone, fighting side by side with the Golden Age’s premiere superhero team: the Justice Society of America!
On sale JUNE 27 • 32 pg, FC • $2.99 US • RATED E

I've been eagerly awaiting the return of the Justice Society since the events of DC Universe: Rebirth, but this is maybe the last comic I expected them to show up in. That's cool though; Scooby-Doo Team-Up generally offers better versions DC's classic superheroes than the DCU line.

When the sun temporarily goes out, Superman temporarily loses his powers…but when they return, they are not what the Man of Steel expects! Clark Kent is suddenly transformed into a being of crackling blue energy, complete with new abilities and a totally new look! And before long, the villainous Cyborg Superman splits the Man of Steel into two beings: Superman Red and Superman Blue! Will Metropolis have two protectors? Includes stories from SUPERMAN #122-125, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #545-547, ACTION COMICS #732-734, SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #67-69 and SUPERMAN ANNUAL #9.
On sale JULY 11 • 376 pg, FC, $24.99 US
ISBN: 978-1-4012-8091-8

Okay, I deliberately passed the bulk of this Superman storyline up while it was occurring on a weekly basis. And I'm pretty confident that, if I really wanted to, I could find all of these comics for cheaper than $25 in back-issue bins. That said, I'm sorely tempted to get this.

It’s no fun for Jon Kent to be visiting Big City with his parents for the funeral of an old friend. So his best pal Damian Wayne decides to follow along and give him the inside scoop on the city. But when they go to meet Robin’s local friend, Dynomutt, they find him injured and in need of help. And Dynomutt’s human superhero companion, Blue Falcon, has seemingly turned evil. What’s the reason for this betrayal between once-loyal companions, and what role might the evil Red Vulture play in this scenario?
RETRO-SOLICITED • ONE-SHOT • On sale MAY 30 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

The Super Sons team isn't who I would have paired with Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, but then, I'm not writing a Blue Falcon and Dynomutt DCU team-up book (although I've got a swell idea for one!). Still, I fucking love Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, and their existence as a weird parody of Batman and Robin, particularly the most prominent pop culture expression of the Dynamic Duo at the time of their creation, makes them a pretty perfect fit for DC Comics.

As I said in the last edition of this column, wherein they were solicited as guest-stars in an upcoming issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, I've been curious about their absence from DC's Hanna-Barbereboot books to date, so it's cool to see them here.

In the aftermath of DARK NIGHTS: METAL, the DC Universe has been forever changed as new heroes are called out of the shadows. Amid this all is Janet Fals…Firebrand! Once a paramedic dedicated to saving lives, she must now start a fight once every 24 hours to feed the Conflict Engine that’s replaced her heart. But Janet’s heart isn’t just a curse—it’s a beacon, drawing out both the mysterious Neon the Unknown and the seductive, malevolent Bad Samaritan. One of them wants to cut out her heart, the other wants to save it—but neither of them knows the true danger hidden within that will kick off a superhero manhunt ranging from Thanagar to the deepest heart of the Dark Multiverse!
On sale JUNE 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Hey, this is unexpected...! Based on the cover image, this group looks pretty Fourth Worldly--the lady with the axe looks like a gender-reversed Kanto, the big blue guy appears to have a Megarod--but the characters mentioned in the solicit copy instead reference new versions of two obscure-ish Golden Age heroes (Firebrand, Neon THe Unknown) and a new version of a minor character from Mike Barr and Jim Aparo's The Outsiders (Bad Samaritan). If I'm counting right, this will be the fifth version of Firebrand, and the third version of Neon.

Man, nothing says "New Age of DC Heroes" like Firebrand V!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Comics Shop Comics: March 14th...I got nothing

Nothing. Nothing! Not even a single comic book! Sorry. So I've got nothing to fill this feature with this week, which is kind of too bad, as you may have noticed EDILW has gone from being daily-ish to weekly-ish, and this was generally the one post I would do every week. I've been working on something else that has been devouring the majority of my free time, and I've been spending my writing-about-comics time on occasional pieces for Good Comics For Kids, since that pays me money, and writing here doesn't help me buy food or keep a roof over my head. (Speaking of which, here's a super-long post about Black Panther comics; I'll probably return to the subject here on EDILW...someday?)

Scrutinizing the shipping list this week, I see that there were new issues of Gotham City Garage and Mister Miracle, but I'm trade-waiting those series, so I didn't pick up issues of either.

In a perfect world, where Marvel didn't charge 33% more than DC for 20-pages of content and I still read their comics serially, I would have bought All-New Wolverine, Avengers, Marvel Two-In-One, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but ours is not a perfect world. So instead I'll buy the trades collecting all of those issues...except for Wolverine; that I'll read in a trade I borrow from the library.

I'm curious about Vampironica and Kong On The Planet of the Apes, the first of which launched this week and the latter of which is in-progress, but not so curious that I'd drop $4 on 20-page installments instead of wait for the trade.

So yeah, no new comics from the shop for Caleb this week, and thus no new content for EDILW readers today. Hopefully one of my in-progress posts will be ready soonish.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: March 7th

Batman #42 (DC Comics) I'm not sure how this necessarily rates as a Batman story, but it's a pretty good Justice League story. Batman and Catwoman continue their campaign to retake planet Earth, which Poison Ivy has completely taken over via plants, leaving only Batman, Catwoman and like maybe one dude in Gotham City who was immune for a reason Batman here figures out un-brainwashed. Ivy sends the big guns after the Batman/Catwoman team here, including having Superman chaperone their outting and The Justice League and all The Flashes to take them down at one point.

Artist Mikel Janin is still working with Tom King. So far, his run has been hit or miss but mostly hit; so far, this arc definitely seems to be one of those hits.

Bombshells United #13 (DC) The last two arcs of this series, featuring Wonder Woman and the team of Batwoman and Montoya respectively, have kept the series relatively far away from its inspirational origin: World War II era pin-up girl art. With this new arc, we finally meet the Bombshells-iverse's Black Canary, a songstress to at least bears the visuals of that original inspiration. Not only has she her almost-ever-present fishnet stockings, you can even see a hint of the lace of her bra beneath her unbuttoned blouse (both on Sandy Kelly's cover, as well as in Sandy Jarrell's interior art.

For this arc, writer Marguerite Bennett sends two of Gotham City's Batgirls to Hawaii, seeking the source of a bizarre phenomenon. Apparently some dark force has co-opted music playing over pirate radio, turning those who here it into smiling but murderous zombies. Once there, they meet Bumblebee, the Canary herself and, in an unexpected twist, the Frankie Charles-lead Suicide Squad. Who want to arrest Canary for murder. The murder of Oliver Queen!

As always, the art is very nice, the script is perhaps a bit over-textured for my tastes and it's nice to see characters here that don't appear often enough throughout the DC Universe line--or, when they do, aren't drawn as nicely or as written as well as they are here.

Justice League #40 (DC) Following a rather public argument involving the two Justice Leagues--the primary League of this title, and the "of America" League of Steve Orlando's Justice League of America--The Fan arranges for them all to be teleported onto the satellite watchtower, which is in the process of falling out of space, killing them all. Or, at least, killing most of the Leaguers who aren't A-Listers (as several characters point out, it is mostly the of America and the weaker Leaguers who will be done in. Superman, wonder Woman, The Ray and The Atom would all be fine; Cyborg and Vixen should be okay too, and maybe they can save some of the others, but not all.

Credit to Christopher Priest for actually selling this dilemma. Being trapped on a satellite plummeting from the sky really shouldn't be that big of a threat two the combined might of two Justice Leagues. First, he removed the two Lanterns--who also would have rendered the conflict in the last issue moot--and then explains why it is that Superman can't just push the satellite back into space, for example.

I wasn't entirely convinced. I still think Superman could have saved them all himself applying his powers slightly more creatively, and The Ray should be able to do almost anything the Lanterns could do with his ability to construct hard light, but, for the most part the threat to the characters' lives is convincing enough, if you want to be convinced, and it was fun trying to pick the situation apart, and figure out alternative ways the heroes could have applied their powers to save them all. What Cyborg comes up with is a plan that involves a whole bunch of them, and should save all of them. That's the cliffhanger ending, so I suppose we'll find out for sure next issue (Also, couldn't The Atom shrink everyone down to sub-atomic size, put them insider Superman, have Superman fly down to Earth at super-speed, and then everyone can re-enlarge before enough time elapsed that they would explode? Or couldn't Superman and The Ray ferry them down from the satellite to Earth one or two people at a time?)

Anyway, another pretty good issue in the singular, although I'm not sure how the run is holding together as an overall arc.

I was a bit confused by the presence of The Atom, as I had no idea which Atom it was. The last of the JLoA I read was about halfway through that arc where they met a combination of Danny Rand and Tarzan, but it was Ryan Choi who was The Atom, and he was wearing that dumb suit from the CW shows. Here The Atom is wearing what looks an awful lot like Ray Palmer's original costume, but with some of the paneling that is all the rage these days. He's never called anything other than "The Atom" though.

Oh, and Cyborg gets a pretty radical redesign via The Fan. I actually kinda like it quite a bit. I'm not crazy about the left arm, but I like this look much more than all of his post-Flashpoint variations, or that of the movie. I think I'd prefer his C-cymbol and his robot eye be the same colore though.

Nightwing #40 (DC) I am 99% sure that giant squid don't work like that, but artist Bernard Chang sure drew the hell out of that scene, highlighting its extreme surreality.

Dick is still fighting The Judge, as he's been doing since writer Sam Humphries run the book began a half-dozen issues ago. I am eager for the story to end at this point.

Super Sons Vol. 2: Planet of The Capes (DC) Wow, has no one ever used that title before? It's one that seems so obvious once you hear it that you assume someone must have used it somewhere before, but then, the fact that it's used here certainly implies that no one else ever has. The bulk of this five-issue trade is devoted to that four-part story arc. Robin and Superboy are on patrol together with a 10 p.m. curfew, until the former gets called away by his super-team the Teen Titans on a more urgent mission. While Robin refuses to let Superboy join them--as a ten-year-old, he technically doesn't qualify as a teen*--they are forced to turn to him for help when they encounter a threat that bests them all...but Robin more than the others. Ultimately, our title heroes find themselves on another planet in another dimension, where they are the rather unlikely inspiration that lead to an important conversion.

As with the first volume, writer Peter Tomasi's take on the characters, their interactions with one another and their interactions with their families is the truly inspired, really winning element of the writing, while the plots involving the genre-conflicts are a lot less so (Here, Tomasi has a rather convoluted way of getting to use some minor super-villains that may or may not comport with whatever is going on with DC's Multiverse this month). The artwork by Jorge Jimenez and, to a lesser extent, Carmine Di Giandomenico, who helps fills in during part of thetitle story, and Jose Luis and Scott Hanna, who draw the fifth issue, is mostly very good. Jimenez has a very energetic style that is equal parts superheroic posing and posturing and melodramatic character acting leaning hard towards cartoonish that suits the book's tone pretty perfectly (although the variant covers by Dustin Nguyen that run in the back of the book as a gallery--particularly that one with the duck--makes me wonder what a Nguyen-drawn issue might look like).

The fifth issue of the collection, the one drawn by Luis and Hanna, has the dads of the Super Sons again interfering, building them their own superhero headquarters and giving it to them on one condition for Damian: He will have to start attending a real school. And it's going to be the same school as Jon. That sounds pretty awesome, actually.

*Er, does Starfire?

Thursday, March 01, 2018

On The Terrifics #1

*As with Sideways, I didn't read this one. That, however wasn't because of the creators, who are all decent enough at their jobs, or the characters, three of whom I really like, and the fourth of whom I barely know. No, it was that last page, in which Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse's 1999 creation Tom Strong, a pulp hero pastiche that starred in a title for Moore's America's Best Comics line at the pre-DC WildStorm, makes his completely unnecessary appearance. I've talked about this so much already that I'm sure no one wants to read me talking about it again, certainly not any more than I want to talk about it again. But I just can't bring myself to support trying-to-annoy-Alan Moore-just-for-the-sake-of-annoying-Alan Moore as a publishing strategy. Seriously, that is it. That's the sole reason to put Tom Strong in a new DC comic book in 2018.

It's not because DC anticipates a huge sales boost or anything, as they might with importing his Watchmen characters into their latest continuity cleaning event series Doomsday Clock. In 2013, Sprouse and writer Peter Hogan launched the second of their Moore-less Tom Strong miniseries, Tom Strong and The Planet of Peril, under the umbrella of the wilting Vertigo imprint. I think it's safe to say that if you added every single person who bought a copy of all six issues of that miniseries to the, what, 40,000 or so who might buy a copy of the Terrifics, you're still not going to see the sales needle move in any appreciable way. Certainly not any more than if you had Mister Terrific and company team-up with Grifter or He-Man or Huckleberry Hound or Yosemite Sam or the cast of Camelot 3000 or Jack from Dan Brereton's Giant Killer.

So I honestly can't think of a reason DC is so committed to getting all their Moore-created IP into the DCU in the wake of their weird Watchmen crossover. One would think that the market's more or less complete and total rejection of the WildStorm characters being added into the DC Universe during the New 52 initiative might have sent them the message that there's not much of an audience for non-DC comics characters in the DC Universe. Beyond it basically just being a dick move, and one more instance of doing whatever little thing they can to try to get irritate Alan Moore, I can't figure out why they are doing it, and I'm honestly trying here. Anyway, as I've said before, I'm done with Jeff Lemire and Steve Orlando (who wrote Promethea into Justice League of America) for signing their names to this sort of thing; both should know better, and neither should be financially desperate enough to have no choice other than to take such directives.

*This book is unlike all the others in the "New Age of Heroes" line of Metal spin-offs in two ways. First, of those four so far released, it looks to be the one most directly tied to the events of Metal, as Mister Terrific and Plastic Man have been appearing through the Metal event series. Second, and perhaps more dramatically, it neither features original characters (like The Silencer and Sideways) nor new versions of preexisting characters (Damage, The Challengers of The Unknown and Curse of Brimstone), but is rather a teaming of four exceptionally long-lived characters into an original arrangement as a new team.

*So let's see, that makes two of the first four of DC's "New Age of Heroes" books that I couldn't bring myself to read. They're not off to a great start. That, or I am most definitely not the target audience for DC Comics after all.


On Sideways #1

On The Silencer #1

On Damage #1

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Comic Shop Comics: February 28th

Saga #49 (Image Comics) Hey, Saga is back! I confess to forgetting where we left off exactly in the months since #48, but Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples seem to have anticipated that to a certain degree, as pretty much all of the characters in the fairly expansive cast make at least a brief appearance in this issue. After the initial scene with The Will and his captor, I got pretty caught up. Interestingly, although they've been at this for quite a while now, the creators are still launching new, fresh and dramatic conflicts based around the basic concept of how dangerous the now extended family at the center of this saga are, and how their value in that concept, a value that can be exploited.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #35 (DC Comics) It's two of the biggest Hanna-Barbera stars of all time, together in a single tale, when Scooby-Doo meets Yogi Bear! If the pair crossing paths in the pages of a comic book is really an occasion, it's not exactly treated as such. Rather, this is just one more entry in Scooby-Doo Team-Up's ongoing pairing of the Scooby and his human friends with various IP, always resulting in a succinctly told 20-page story that generally manages to flatter the guest-stars quite well.

Over the course of the last 35 issues, writer Sholly Fisch's stories have tended to fall into one of two categories, with very few exceptions. Scooby and Mystery Inc meet with a DC Comics superhero or some combination of various heroes, or they meet a fellow Hanna-Barbera character. This might be due the fact that I am more of a DC superhero fan than a Hanna-Barbera funny animal character fan, but I've generally found the former to be the more successful of the two types of story. I think, in large part, that is because the Scooby-Doo narratives reliance on ghost, monster and crime-fighting--even at its most gentle--lends itself to the good vs. evil, law vs. crime conflicts of superhero comics more than the sitcom-like premises of The Flintstones or Jetsons or Quickdraw McGraw or Top Cat.

That said, Yogi Bear's gluttony offers an area of crossover with Scooby and Shaggy, and so the pieces fit together surprisingly comfortably in this outting. Fisch's usual collaborator, Dario Brizuela, sits this issue out, with pencil artist Walter Carzon and inker Horacio Ottolini stepping in; they do a fine job, but there's an inevitable gulf between the character designs that can't be bridge without altering the designs of the Yogi characters. This is most evident whenever the human being share a panel.

Anyway, Scooby and the gang head to an unnamed national park for a picnic, and Scooby and Shaggy's over-sized basket immediately draws the attention of Yogi. His pic-a-nic basket predation draws the attention of the ranger. And there's a ghost haunting Yogi's cave--or is it really just some criminals pretending to be a ghost? If you've seen a single episode of almost any Scooby-Doo show, you know the answer to that mystery. Still a fun comic, though.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Marvel's May previews reviewed: I imagine "A Fresh Start" will include the scare quotes, right?

So it seems like not all that long ago Marvel had correctly diagnosed one problem with their comics line: Their near-constant relaunches of their series with new #1s were no longer attracting readers, but were actually having a deleterious effect on their sales, as readers were using the relaunches as jumping-off points. In order to address that, they did so in probably the worst possible way, what they called "Legacy" numbering. This was just adding up all of the issues of all of the various volumes of titles starring particular characters throughout their publishing history to come up with a more-or-less randomly high number, so that books that were in the teens or twenties or thirties in their numbering were suddenly in their hundreds. In a worst of both words kind of way, the immediate result was another relaunch, only this one would make the books even harder to follow and more alienating to anyone who didn't already have subscriptions to them through their local comic shops.

The only plus side to the legacy numbering? Marvel was finally going to knock off the renumberings.

Of course, they then got a new editor-in-chief, a man who had previously defrauded the publisher, the comics press and comics readers by pretending to be a Japanese writer in a scheme that still hasn't been explained in any degree of satisfactory clarity and now where are we? "A Fresh Start," which will lead to the sort of line-wide relaunch that Marvel has been engaging in on a regular basis (The Beat counted seven in five years), complete with the release of a posed group shot of various characters, new #1 issues featuring mostly the same characters by mostly the same creators and, of course, new #1 issues.


The first bit of news was that image and the extremely uninspired slogan, "A Fresh Start."

The image was incredibly depressing in how...normal it is. If you scrutinize it, you'll see that, for the most part, none of the characters on it are new or much different than they are right now in late February of 2018, and that the characters in this image don't seem all that changed from one they might have released a few years ago.

Spider-Man changed clothes, putting on a previous costume. Thor Odinson has his, or perhaps just a, hammer again, and is dressed more Thor-ishly than he has been, but it's not like he's been away or off the pages of various Thor comics since he became "unworthy" at the end of 2014's Original Sin. Iron Man is apparently back, having spent the time since the conclusion of 2016's Civil War II as a hologram AI while his body was in suspended animation; again, he was hardly even "gone," and in Secret Empire, he was a major player, to the extent it seems only the colorist remembered that he wasn't supposed to be around in the usual form.

Let's see...Oh, the original, Logan-version of Wolverine is back, but then, we knew he was coming back for a while now, and seeing as Marvel had simply replaced him with the Old Man Logan version of himself--that is, they changed his hair color for a few years--I still haven't gotten around to missing him. Jean Grey is back, but she's already come back.

Hmm...She-Hulk is green instead of gray...? That's a change, albeit a small change, and a change back. Oh, speaking of Hulks, there's a pretty good chance that male hulk is meant to be the Bruce Banner version instead of the Amadeus Cho version, given the shorts, but it's difficult to say for sure, especially since the Cho Hulk is apparently growing more and more like the Banner Hulk in his comics.

What I found most interesting who is not in there. There are no Inhumans nor characters from Guardians of The Galaxy, characters that have been getting such big pushes from the publisher at late (If you look back through the previous promotional images to promote previous initiatives, you'll see Medusa or Rocket a lot, for example). The Thing may be there, but not the rest of the Fantastic Four; if they are coming back after half of them being missing since the end of Secret Wars, Marvel didn't announce them here.

Also, there's a distinct lack of the newer, more diverse versions of older characters. Sure, Spider-Man Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan and Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes, but they are pushed to the back. Where's Thor Jane Foster? (Dead, I guess? For reals?) Where's Wolverine Laura Kinney? Where's "Totally Awesome" Hulk Amadeus Cho? (If that is, indeed, Banner, of course). Ironheart Riri Williams?

Apparently Marvel heard many such questions, as Marvel Senior Vice President and Senior Editor Tom Brevoort told CBR not to read too much into who is and isn't in that image (he also made it sound like the numbering will be a combination of new #1's and continued "legacy" numbering, something Marvel did try for a while long ago). It's a fair point; obviously not every Marvel character that will be appearing in Marvel comics can be put in a single promotional image. That said, it does offer a clue into which characters Marvel is promoting, so if not seeing Laura Kinney or Riri Williams in the image isn't necessarily a reason to worry about their future, it's also not a reason to not worry, you know?

Beyond the image, what exactly Marvel intends to accomplish with this relaunch/re-branding exercise--that is, if it is only, as Tom Spurgeon recently put it, a matter of rearranging the deck chairs on the helicarrier, or if it is genuinely meant to be a fresh start for the publisher, their retail partners, their consumers and, most importantly, their potential consumers, well, we'll only be able to guess at that once Marvel starts releasing their plans for the near-future.

And guess what? They just released their solicitations for the comics they plan to ship in May of this year earlier this week! So far, it sure looks like deck chair re-arranging. Their are some new #1s, new directions, and new creators on different titles and characters, but, for the most part, they simply amount to the likes of, say, long-time Marvel super-comics writer Jason Aaron taking over Avengers from Mark Waid. Stuff like that. The coming months might offer more clues, as May features what looks to be the last issue of Brian Michael Bendis' run on the Iron Man character and as well as the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man he co-created.

I didn't notice any new and exciting names among the creators though, nor did I see Marvel addressing two systemic problems with their comics: They are way too expensive (still, on average, a dollar more expensive than a DC super-comics) and they over-produce them. For a good example of the latter, although they have whittled their Avengers line down to just one book, they are also publishing not one, not two, not three, but four four-issue Hunt For Wolverine miniseries. The X-Men still have four different teams in four different books that ship twice a month--Blue, Gold, Red and Astonishing--and that's just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of miniseries, wedding specials and mutants with solo books.

Oh, and they don't seem to have scaled back on the variant covers one whit. There are still a ton of those damn things, including "Deadpool variants" which are thematically mushy; some have various Marvel heroes cosplaying as Deadpool, others have Deadpool cosplaying as various Marvel heroes. I don't know; there is presumably a market for them, and they presumably help Marvel more than hurt them.

But enough big picture stuff, lets take a closer look and see what jumps out of Marvel's May publishing plans...

Written by JASON AARON • Penciled by ED MCGUINNESS
Thor Odinson. Steve Rogers. Tony Stark. The Big Three of the Avengers are reunited at last! And just in time to save the world from total annihilation at the hands of their most powerful enemies yet: the 2000-foot-tall space gods known as Celestials. Behold the coming of the Final Host.
Who will answer the call to assemble for a wild new era of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? Hint: one of them has a flaming skull for a head. And what strange, world-shaking connection exists between the Final Host and Odin’s ancient band of Prehistoric Avengers?
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Jason Aaron is a very good super-comics writer, and his Wolverine and The X-Men was one of my favorite X-Men runs ever, following only Grant Morrison's (As you guys probably know, I'm not really a fan of Marvel's merry mutants, though). I am sure this will be a good Avengers comics. Regarding how "fresh" a "start" this new #1 issue of Avengers is, however, well, Aaron's written long runs on Wolverine, the X-Men, Thor and Doctor Strange already, so this isn't exactly a big, exciting personnel choice. Rather, it's like when Brian Michael Bendis took over Iron Man.

Ed McGuinness is a similarly great artist, and will do a hell of a job on the Avengers...for the 2-4 issues he will likely stick around before work from fill-in artists start interrupting his issues, anyway.

The line-up seems like a pretty decent one for a single Avengers comic in the era of a mature and successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. She-Hulk and Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes are the only ones on the team that haven't starred in their own movies yet and/or aren't slated to in the near future, and Shulkie mainly seems to be there as something between a Bruce Banner-stand-in and to give the team a second female character, while a Ghost Rider has starred in two movies, and this Ghost Rider was on that one Marvel-related TV show I never watched, so there's that.

As noted from the Jim Cheung-drawn promotional art at the top of the post, She-Hulk has gone back to green, while she's been gray since Civil War II. Cheung's art seems to suggest she's back to her old self, wherein "hulking out" just makes her taller, greener and more voluptuous, whereas McGuinness' art suggests she is more angry, monstrous and brawny, in the way that Bruce Banner's hulk form always was.

I'm curious about Thor's arm and golden hammer too; is he wielding a hammer other than Mjolnir now...?

Anyway, you can jump on board for just $5! Or wait a few months and buy the trade for, like $16-$25! I know what I'm doing! (Actually, I will more than likely just read the library's copy when it comes in. That's free! That said, I think an Aaron/McGuinness Avengers comic is promising enough to spend money on).

Ha ha, everyone hates Spider-Man...!

That's the cover for May's Doctor Strange #390, by the same writer as the previous few issues. Aside from Avengers, the only #1 issues that aren't one-shots or miniseries are Black Panther #1, written by Ta-Nehesi Coates, who wrote the last Black Panther #1 and here paired with long-time Marvel artist Daniel Acuna and Venom #1 by Doctor Strange writer Donny Coates and long-time Marvel artist Ryan Stegman.

That’s her mission, anyway! The fan-favorite Captain America — Peggy Carter of the Marvel Puzzle Quest game — faces off against an apocalyptically armed Red Skull! And the Exiles are just in time to join the fight — ’cuz they’ve been kicked off their mission! There’s a new team of Watchers in town, and they’re cracking down on the Exiles’ interference in the timestream — even if it means the death of everything. Can the Exiles salvage Peggy Carter’s world, fix the Tallus and get back to saving reality before the Time-Eater tracks them down again?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Guys, I have no idea what the fuck a Marvel Puzzle Quest game is, but Peggy Carter as Captain America is brilliant. Someone needs to get Hayley Atwell on the phone and see if she's down for playing the Captain America of the 1950s in a Secret Avengers movie.

JIM MCCANN (W) • Diego Olortegui (A)
Carol Danvers has crossed the borders of reality itself and returned in possession of the Reality Stone…and with it has contacted the Marvels of many worlds! Join the Captains Marvel for a cross-time adventure into the nature of the Infinity Stones!
32 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$3.99

Is that supposed to be Monica Rambeau, aka Captain Marvel, aka Photon, aka Pulsar, aka Spectrum on the far right there...? I kinda like the costume but man, hat is up with her hair. That doesn't loo quite right to me. But then, I am a middle-aged white man with no hair. Quick, someone ask the ladies of Misty Knight's Uninformed Afro...!

Okay, see, this is an example of one of those Deadpool covers in which a Marvel hero is apparently cosplaying as Wade Wilson, as opposed to vice versa. It is by Gerald Parel, it is for Marvel 2-in-1 and my God is it disturbing...!

That's Ulises Farinas' cover for Lockjaw #4. It is, as you can clearly see, awesome.

“The Death of the Mighty Thor” has come and gone. But Jane Foster’s power to inspire lives on — even in the far future! Don’t miss the tribute to Jason Aaron’s epic tale of Thor and the mighty hammer Mjolnir, drawn by rising star Jen Bartel!
And with or without a Thor, the War of Realms continues. As Malekith’s power grows, the realms will fall — and who is left to stop him? Eisner Award–winning artist Ramón Pérez kicks off the next stage of Jason Aaron’s ongoing saga.
40 PGS./ONE SHOT/Rated T …$4.99

My greatest fear of the possibility that Marvel will actually kill Jane Foster off once and for all (for now) here is that their Thor comics might morph into some kind of superhero Funky Winkerbean, with Jane being Lisa to The Odinson's Les.

Tradd Moore draws Star Wars! Sadly that's it. Just that image above. The cover for Star Wars Annual #4. The interior art? Not by Tradd Moore. I would be very, very interested in a Trad Moore-drawn Star Wars comic, if anyone cares.