Friday, July 21, 2017

DC's October previews reviewed

Cover by BENGAL
Trapped in the Dark Multiverse, Batman must face his greatest fears!

Written by FRANK TIERI
As the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL rock the DC Universe, the creatures of the Dark Multiverse stand ready to invade our world! How can the World’s Greatest Heroes stop a horde of deadly beings that appear to be powerful nightmare versions of familiar figures? Find out in these special tie-in issues!

As the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL rock the DC Universe, the creatures of the Dark Multiverse stand ready to invade our world! How can the World’s Greatest Heroes stop a horde of deadly beings that appear to be powerful nightmare versions of familiar figures? Find out in these special tie-in issues!

I confess to being both a little confused and a little annoyed by the way this event is taking shape, as it seems to consist almost entirely of one-shots. I suppose that could mean that everything other than the Dark Nights: Metal mini-series proper is unimportant/optional, but somehow I doubt that (two of these above books, for example, are written by the co-writers of the Metal prequel issues, two of which have been published so far, and both of which were also marked "#1.")

Of course, DC did provide the following house ad/checklist in all of their books this week:
That's kinda helpful, I suppose, but I don't know, I get the feeling there are gonna be a lot of those that I'm not going to want to read, based on the books they appear in or the creators involved. We'll see.

Looking at the three solicited above, I'm sure what Lost could be, but the other two look like villain versions of the last round of solicitation' one-shots in which there seemed to be Batman versions of various Justice League heroes. The Batman Who Laughs is a pretty great title, and Rossmo is a hell of a Batman artist. As I'm not really a fan of Tieri, Daniel or Doomsday, The Devastator, on the other hand, looks pretty skip-able. Or will they be collected in the trade? Is this an event I should trade-wait? I don't like the Marvel-pricing on these, and since I'm not sure how to read the event yet, maybe I will end up reading it in trade next year...?

•Written by DAN ABNETT
•Art and cover by STJEPAN SEJIC
•“UNDERWORLD” part five! Desperate to penetrate the supernatural barrier surrounding Atlantis, Mera enlists the help of an ex-Atlantean magician: Garth, the Titan known as Tempest! But Aquaman’s former protégé has sworn off his mystical practices, and the magisters of the Silent School don’t take betrayal lightly. Meanwhile, as Arthur and Dolphin fight off both the armies of the Drift and Krush’s criminal empire, Vulko discovers that which the former will need to take back his throne…something forgotten!
•On sale OCTOBER 18 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

I tried about an issue and a half or so of artist Stjepan Sejic's Aquaman, and as gorgeous as it looks--in fact, I'm unsure of a time when an Aquaman monthly has looked so good--I just couldn't get into the story. It's set in Atlantis, involves Atlantean politics and palace intrigue and societal woes and, well, the retcons, deaths and resurrections, the sinkings and risings, the legacy passing down and up, the reboot--I've not only lost track of all that since the Peter David-launched 1994-2001 series concluded, but I have also apparently lost interest. I think I would have been more into this if it were set on the surface world, or at least wasn't so wrapped up in the rebooted, rectonned and rejiggered Atlantis, but I found myself looking at the pictures appreciatively, but losing interest every time I took in a few lines of dialogue.

The current Aquaman is perhaps a perfect jumping-on point for new readers, but I'm afraid I'm just not invested in the Atlantean national story as I was 15 years ago.

Written by PETER DAVID
Art and cover by ESTEBAN MAROTO
At last, the epic history of one of DC’s most iconic characters is collected! Chronicling generations of Atlantians, this epic saga reveals why Atlantis sank in the Great Deluge, tells of the ancient war between undersea cities and much more!
On sale NOVEMBER 1 • 328 pg, FC, 7.0625” x 10.875” • $49.99 US

Speaking of which...! This is a miniseries I had been trying to track down for quite a while at one point, and had wished DC would have released in trade. I started reading Aquaman with 1996's Aquaman #26, and then started following the series forward through new releases of monthly issues, and backwards through back-issue bins. This 1990 miniseries was one of the few chunks of the Peter David version of Aquaman that I could never completely track down; I probably read four issues of it, and not in the correct order. I guess I'm a little surprised DC is releasing this, if only because it would seem that it is no longer canon. Aquaman's real father being the ancient Atlantean sorcerer Orin, for example, or Kordax presenting a vision of what could and would happen to Aquaman if he pushed his telepathic powers too far to dominate others, no longer seem to be at all relevant.

That's okay, though. If I'm not reading New 52 Aquaman anymore, then the one from the David-launched volume of Aquaman and the Grant Morrison-written JLA comics can still be my Aquaman, and this trade will remain relevant to that version of the character.

•Written by TOM KING
•Art and cover by JOELLE JONES
•“A DREAM OF ME” part 1! Following his marriage proposal to Catwoman, Batman leaves Gotham City on a quest of renewal and redemption. As he travels and fights, he encounters members of his family—each disturbed by Batman’s journey, each ready to stand in his way, each ready to push back against Batman’s stubborn determination to evolve into something better than a superhero.
•On sale OCTOBER 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Oh hey, look! A lady! Drawing an issue of Batman! That doesn't happen very often. What is this, the second issue in 77 years...?

The basic plot sketch here reminds me of that from 2013's Batman and Robin #19-23, where Batman was met and challenged by a different member of the Bat Family in each issue as he went about a lunatic quest to resurrect Damian from the dead, so I guess we'll how similar they end up being. If nothing else, it will inevitably have different members of the Bat Family involved! I'm a little intrigued by what Batman considers "better than a superhero" too...

While investigating the murder of a Gothamite, Batman identifies his prime suspect as Lamont Cranston…but there are two problems with that. One, Batman is not aware of Lamont’s alter ego as the master detective known as the Shadow. Two, and more importantly, Cranston seems to have died over half a century ago! The Shadow was a major influence of the Batman himself and now appears in this incredible six-issue miniseries.
Collects BATMAN/THE SHADOW #1-6 and a story from BATMAN ANNUAL #1.
On sale NOVEMBER 22 • 168 pg, FC, $24.99 US

I'm trade-waiting this, in part because of the price point and in part because the Tim Sale variant covers looked so good that I didn't want to buy the single issues when I could just wait for the trade and presumably get all the Sale variants in the back. I was a little surprised that the first issues of this didn't sell better than they did, at least according to available sales estimates because A) The first issue was really, really good and B) It's Batman, by Scott Snyder and, Shadow crossover or no, it appears to be in continuity...why isn't it selling as well as Snyder's Batman was...? Were people reading that book for the Capullo art more than the Snyder or the Batman...?

I was a little surprised to see this get a sub-title, but then I do believe a second Batman/Shadow crossover has already been announced.

Written by SEAN MURPHY
Art and cover by SEAN MURPHY
Variant cover by SEAN MURPHY
In a world where Batman has gone too far, The Joker must save Gotham City. He’s been called a maniac, a killer and the “Clown Prince of Crime” but “white knight”? Never. Until now…
Set in a world where the Joker is cured of his insanity and homicidal tendencies, The Joker, now known as “Jack,” sets about trying to right his wrongs. First he plans to reconcile with Harley Quinn, and then he’ll try to save the city from the one person who he thinks is truly Gotham City’s greatest villain: Batman!
Superstar writer and artist Sean Murphy (PUNK ROCK JESUS, THE WAKE) presents a seven-issue miniseries of a twisted Gotham City with a massive cast of heroes and villains that, at its heart, is a tragic story of a hero and a villain: Batman and The Joker. But which is the hero—and which the villain?
On sale OCTOBER 4 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 7, $3.99 US • RATED T+

Sean Murphy is a hell of a Batman artist, so this should be worth taking a look at, regardless of whether the plot is intriguing or how well Murphy handles the script.

There's already a very, very minor Batman villain named The White Knight--I think he's only had the one appearance, in that one Batman and Robin story arc where we learned that Batman can shoot the tips of his ears off like little missiles--but I guess that's just the subtitle of this series, and not the name this good guy version of The Joker will be going by.

Written by MIKE W. BARR
Collecting a Batman classic in hardcover for the first time! A close friend of Bruce Wayne introduces him to Rachel Caspian, and the two quickly develop a romantic relationship. But in the midst of love, Rachel’s father decides to come out of retirement as the Reaper, Gotham City’s first vigilante!
On sale NOVEMBER 22 • 176 pg, FC, 7.0625” x 10.875” • $29.99 US

Confession: I have never actually read this story. I've long had the impression that, despite the title, it was more-or-less murky in terms of Batman's official continuity, and it definitely seems like the whole Batman-flirted-with-firearms-early-in-his-career aspect has been long ago retconned away.

I find the cover of this particular collection interesting, as it features Alan Davis art rather than that of Todd McFarlane. Is that, perhaps, a reflection of how much the heat of one-time red-hot artist Todd McFarlane has diminished over the decades? Because, for the longest time, whenever I heard anyone discussing this particular series, it was always in the context of "The Batman story that Todd McFarlane drew."

Clayface is on the loose! How can Wonder Woman protect Cassie Sandsmark, Donna Troy and their friends and family from danger if Clayface can disguise himself as anyone in the camp—including Wonder Woman herself?!
On sale OCTOBER 18 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST

The current iteration of Bombshells, which I'm still reading regularly, has gotten a little stale, particularly as Bennett has seemed to stop trying to tie it to the specifics of the war and instead gone off on some (admittedly charming) tangents. So I'm kind of looking forward to this next iteration, which looks like it will be a bit more focused on particular characters and particular storylines, rather than the sweeping cast of characters that Bennett has been juggling. I'm also looking forward to Sauvage returning to the Bombshells-iverse after a way-too-long absence. And I'm actually even looking forward to seeing Donna Troy, given how cool her Bombshells costume looks. Why, I can't remember the last time I liked a Donna Troy costume that much! Maybe...War of The Gods...?

Team Allred's Bug comic is another promising looking miniseries that I've been anxiously trade-waiting. Look at that cover for its final issue. Damn, Mike Allred...

Written by GARTH ENNIS
Art and cover by MAURICET
From man to man’s best friend! Mutt has undergone a shocking transformation and unstabilium is to blame! Can he and Dick find a cure back home in the United States? Or will Air Force General Harrier personally make sure the guys are grounded for good? Meanwhile, the president holds a very important press conference…trust us, you won’t want to miss it!
On sale OCTOBER 4 • 32 pg, FC, 2 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T+

When this was first announced, all I saw was the above cover image and the headline and, before even clicking through to see who the creators were, I thought to myself, "The only way I would possibly be interested in reading this comic book is if Garth Ennis were writing it..."

And it turns out he is! I guess when I see airplanes in a comic book, I just naturally think of Garth Ennis...?

Sculpted by DAVE CORTES
Aquaman and Mera, first couple of Atlantis, are portrayed in this romantic new statue designed by Pat Gleason, illustrator of their epic adventures in Sub Diego and beyond.
Limited Edition of 5,000
Measures Approximately 16.32” Tall
$250.00 US • On Sale FEBRUARY 2018
Allocations May Occur

I don't normally have anything at all to say about DC's non-comics offerings in their solicitations, but this statuette caught my attention simply because I rather vividly remember the cover that it is based on. The reason?
Gleason seemed to have forgot to draw the bottom half of Aquaman on the cover.

My best guess was that his legs were behind him, and that he was meant to be swimming up behind Mera in a horizontal position, but that doesn't really square with the way his upper body was drawn.

An all-new, all-creepy one-shot set in the DC Universe—just in time for Halloween! Martha Kent fights for her life against a creature from a spacecraft that lands in front of her farmhouse. A young woman is possessed by the spirit of a murderous Amazon warrior. The last surviving member of the Justice League faces down a horror beyond imagining. All these and more are what happens when the most exciting new voices in contemporary horror fiction are paired with the talents of some of the greatest artists in the DC firmament! And if that isn’t enough to scare you, there’s Keith Giffen, too.
ONE-SHOT • On sale OCTOBER 25 • 80 pg, FC, $9.99 US • RATED T+

Not being much of a prose fiction reader, I can't tell you whether or not "the most exciting new voices in contemporary horror fiction" really are the all that exciting or not, but I really love the work of artists Rags Morales and Bilquis Evely, and that's a hell of a Kaluta cover, isn't it?

It's hard to believe we're at the point where an 80-page giant really costs $10; at that point, they really should just go ahead and take out the ads, add a spine and sell it as an original trade paperback. That's the price of the first volume of an Image series, and just about what you would pay for a manga volume these days.

Written by NEAL ADAMS
Art and cover by NEAL ADAMS
“Journey into Death” part one! When we last left Deadman, the true story had barely begun! Deadman’s death was unsolved, and his fate was intertwined with that of his parents and siblings. Even the Dark Night Detective couldn’t solve the mysteries of Boston Brand’s fantastic secrets! Now, Batman is back, confronting Deadman about who was really behind his death. Was Boston Brand’s assassination a test for the League of Assassins? Why does Batman think Ra’s al Ghul was involved? And why does Deadman need the help of Zatanna, Phantom Stranger, Dr. Fate and the Spectre to defend Nanda Parbat?
ADVANCE SOLICITED • On sale NOVEMBER 1 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6

Based on Neal Adams' recent Batman and Superman mini-series, both of which I started reading but just couldn't force myself all the way through, I think it's safe to assume this will be somewhere between rather weird and completely bonkers.

Glow-in-the-dark covers are, incidentally, the only cover gimmick I ever actually liked.

Variant cover by DAN PANOSIAN
A new series inspired by the DC Collectibles statue line! It’s been decades since Governor Lex Luthor turned Gotham City into a modern utopia, saving his people from the devastation that made the rest of the continent a wasteland. But his city isn’t paradise for everyone. If the Lexes network misfires, and a citizen wakes up and steps out of line, the Bat and his minions are brutal in restoring the status quo. So when young Kara Gordon, whose ridealong tech has never functioned optimally, rushes headlong into the Freescape, she’s shocked to find Gotham City Garage—where new friends might become family, if she lives long enough.
On sale OCTOBER 11 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+ • DIGITAL FIRST

Gotham City Garage strategist Barda Free is determined not to let the new kid slow them down. But when her team rolls into trouble in Clayface Valley, will Kara be the only thing standing between them and sudden death?
On sale OCTOBER 25 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+ • DIGITAL FIRST

Part of me sees this and thinks, "A comic book series based on some dumb collectible statuette line? Who wants that?" But then another part of me reminds that first part that I just finished reading my 31st consecutive issue of DC Comics Bombshells. (And before that, there was Ame-Comi Girls, which had a few bright spots, but wasn't actually all that good, and I'm pretty sure I dropped it well before it was canceled.)

I know almost nothing about these, other than they involve motorcycles. I just went to Google Image, and all I saw were the Wonder Woman one, and then ones featuring Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. It looks like Harley has hyenas riding in a sidecar? That's kinda cool.

I'll try it, and hope it's more along the lines of Bombshells than Ame-Comi Girls.

•Art and cover by JAMAL CAMPBELL
•Variant cover by MIKE GRELL
•“THE TRIAL OF TWO CITIES” part one! With the Ninth Circle crippled by Green Arrow and the Justice League, the Emerald Archer returns to a Star City ripe for a resistance. But Ollie Queen has one pesky thing to deal with first: his trial for murder!
•On sale OCTOBER 18 • 32 pg, FC • $2.99 US • RATED T+

What? Now Green Arrow is on trial for murder? Geez, what is with these archery-based superheroes and their murder trials?

Free college tuition for all Riverdale residents?! That’s the plan—after the town drains the wetlands that lie between it and Gotham City and then builds a new campus. The only snag? A certain botany-obsessed super-villain. When Poison Ivy enlists her bestie, Harley, to kidnap both Veronica Lodge, daughter of Riverdale’s most important citizen, and her friend Betty, she’s counting on some assistance—and the mayhem that ensues will probably work as well!

DC Comics and Archie are proud to present the adventure of a lifetime for all these best pals. Their hijinks are brought to you by the real-life team-up of Paul Dini (HARLEY QUINN) and Marc Andreyko (WONDER WOMAN ’77), with art by Laura Braga (DC BOMBSHELLS)!
On sale OCTOBER 4 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T

Well this is...unexpected. If DC and Archie Comics were going to do another crossover, their last being 2010's Tiny Titans/Little Archie by the Tiny Titans team of Art Baltazar and Franco, one might expect them to do something more obvious, like Archie Meets the Teen Titans or Justice League/Super Teens or, my preferred pitch, Archie Andrews and Jimmy Olsen pulling a prince-and-the-pauper thing for a Superman crossover.

Of course, the fact that this isn't an obvious crossover makes it infinitely more interesting than a Batman/Archie crossover might be (But admit it: You'd like to see Bruce Wayne and Hiram Lodge comparing financial portfolios and Alfred and Smithers in a butler battle). There's not a whole hell of a lot to go on so far, of course, but I like Amanda Conner's cover a whole lot, and feel pretty confident that a writing team like Paul Dini and Marc Andreyko could pull this particular comic off as well as anyone. Braga's a hell of an artist, although I have to admit that, stylistically at least, I woulda preferred someone with a bit flatter, more Dan DeCarlo-esque, old-school Archie art-iness in their design sensibility (If it were up to me and it weren't impossible, I'd kinda like Derek Charm to draw all Archie comics).

I'm somewhat bemused to hear that Riverdale is apparently a suburb of Gotham City. Apparently two cities famous for not being located in any particular state are in the same state, whichever state that might be.

Written by RENAE DE LIZ
Art and cover by RENAE DE LIZ and RAY DILLON
In the beginning there was only chaos. But Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, saw a better future—and eventually her daughter would be destined to bring that new world to life! Before her ultimate fate unfolds, though, Diana of Themyscira must learn the important lessons of an Amazonian childhood!
On sale NOVEMBER 15 • 288 pg, FC, $19.99 US

This is the comic I recommend to any fans of the Wonder Woman film who are so enamored of it they want to try reading a Wonder Woman comic. Sure, this is set during World War II rather than World War I, but then, no Wonder Woman comics are set during WWI, really; that's one of the things that made the film so distinct. This is, however, an excellent comic book, completely self-contained and broadly features some of the same characters and situations of the film.

That DC included a "Vol. 1" in the title gives me hope--perhaps groundless hope, but hope nonetheless--that despite what has been said publicly, De Liz and DIllon will get to make more Wonder Woman comics featuring this version of the character (I would love to see their Wonder Woman teaming up with Plastic Man and/or the Justice Society of America, for example; Plas appears on the cover of a comic book in, like, one panel of the series, and I believe there's a verbal mention of the JSA).

Spoiler alert: She's foe.

Written by RAY FAWKES
After a failed mission to raid a tomb in the Israeli Desert, war veteran Rory Harper is plagued by the death of his partners. As Rory battles his guilt back in Gotham City, he discovers that what was in that tomb has followed him home, and it’s about to change his life. But as Rory begins his journey, an evil is invading Gotham City, and it wants what he’s discovered. A hero is born in this visionary reimagining of the Ragman mythos by writer Ray Fawkes and artist Inaki Miranda!
On sale OCTOBER 11 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $2.99 US • RATED T

Ragman is one of those superhero characters that I really like a whole lot for rather superficial reasons--his name, his costume, his powers, his milieu--even though I would be hard-pressed to point you towards any particular stories featuring the character that are actually really great comic book stories.

With only an image and a few sentences of text, it's hard to speculate much about this comic, but if that cover image is any indication, he won't be wearing the Joe Kubert-designed costume, but...just mummy-like wrappings? (Based on that image, it looks like that could be a redesign of The Unknown Soldier, Negative Man or Hush, rather than Ragman.) It seems like the Jewish mysticism angle might be gone, although there is mention of a tomb in "the Israeli Desert," so maybe it is Jewish mysticism that makes, like, a direct flight from Israel to America, without a stop in Prague, or anywhere else in a Jewish/European tradition? Finally, the protagonist has a different surname, but then, maybe that is part of the story.

Like I said, hard to speculate. I'm not filled with much confidence though, and this looks like the sort of reboot-for-reboot's sake of, say, The New 52's Ray or Human Bomb rather than, say, the Grant Morrison-written reboots of Animal Man or The Doom Patrol.

We'll see. Someday. In trade. From the library.

(I do like that Guillem March cover, though; I'd be a lot more interested if March were doing the interiors too. Other good Ragman artists? Kelley Jones, who drew a pretty great Batman/Ragman crossover during his run with Doug Moench on Batman, and John McCrea, who briefly drew Ragman in a Day of Judgement-related special.)

Taking place after the events of BATMAN: DARK VICTORY, this epic tale recounts the beginning of Dick Grayson’s career as Robin, the Boy Wonder. The devious Two-Face is very interested in recent reports that Batman now has a teenage sidekick. Indeed, Bruce Wayne has taken young Dick Grayson under his tutelage as Robin the Boy Wonder! Alfred Pennyworth is unsure if the inclusion of Dick Grayson into Batman’s nightly adventures might not end up in a disaster, but the butler cannot deny the positive influence the lighthearted boy has on his master Bruce Wayne.
Collects ROBIN: YEAR ONE #1-4.
On sale FEBRUARY 21 • 208 pg, FC, 7.0625” x 10.875” $34.99 US

Just a reminder, if you have somehow managed to never read this story, you should, as it's really rather great. It's Dick Grayson's post-Crisis, pre-Flashpoint origin story as Robin, by Chuck Dixon, who is probably history's greatest Robin writer, and Scott Beatty, who collaborated with Dixon on the similar Batgirl: Year One. The art, by the way, is dynamite, as you can see from the cover image. I'm not sure that this hardcover is the best way to read the story, as DC published a Batgirl/Robin Year One collection a couple of years back that would have given you two great stories for less than the price of this collection, but, again, if you haven't read this, you totally should.

I always found it amusing that DC used this title, though, as Robin: Year OneBatman: Year Three in terms of telling the story of how Dick Grayson became Robin and, to a certain extent, Batman: Dark Victory, which is actually even name checked in that solicit. (Dark Victory, please recall, contains my favorite two pages of Jeph Loeb's comics-writing career.)

Art by MAC REY
Variant cover by MAC REY
In the Golden Age of television, Ruff and Reddy were on top of the entertainment world…until the world turned, and they were forgotten. Now, Ruff is a washed-up television actor. Reddy is a clerk in an upscale grocery store. Can a hungry young agent convince the two one-time partners to make a comeback—and convince the world that it wants to see the famously infamous dog-and-cat comedy team back in the spotlight? Don’t miss it if you can!
On sale OCTOBER 25 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T+

So a few months back DC did some pretty weird crossover series involving some pretty random DC characters (Booster Gold, Adam Strange, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, The Suicide Squad) and some equally random Hanna-Barbera characters (The Flintstones, Jonny Quest and others from the Future Quest comic, Space Ghost, The Banana Splits). They were...odd, but one thing they all had in common was fairly strong lead stories and fairly poor back-ups, featuring dark, adult-focused reboots of the stars of various Hanna-Barbera cartoons, mostly in the spirit of the "Hanna-Barbereboot" suite of books (all but one of which have been canceled). Each of those back-ups ended with a "To Be Continued," but it was unclear where. Well, this looks like it will be the first of them to get it's own series.

I...don't hold out much hope for it, as this pair of characters was so obscure I had to Google them to figure out who the fuck they were. So, um, good luck with that DC! I'm sure having Howard Chaykin, who is currently cresting a wave of goodwill and positive PR, attached will help sell four dollar comics featuring a dark, gritty take on those barely-remembered characters immensely...!

Written by K. PERKINS
“SUPERMAX” part two! It’s a clash of incredible power as Superwoman and Supergirl struggle to contain the might of Maxima! But with Maxima’s origin revealed, and a startling new villain looming on the horizon, do our heroes actually need to save Maxima…or be saved by her?
On sale OCTOBER 11 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Honestly, every time I read a new batch of DC Comics' solicits, I expect to see this one with the words "FINAL ISSUE" in there somewhere, but it's still going.

Here's a pretty great Suicide Squad cover by Stjepan Sejic. Sadly, he's just providing the cover, while someone else handles the interiors.

Cover by DAN MORA
“HARD TARGET”! Still recovering from the events of DARK DAYS: METAL, the Teen Titans decide they need a day off…but their plans are soon interrupted when the one and only Green Arrow demands that his younger sister Emiko join the team! Are the Teen Titans about to get a new member? Or will Emiko Queen be Damian’s undoing?
On sale OCTOBER 25 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

I really like that cover, and I'm really rather looking forward to seeing Andolfo draw the Titans. I'm not terribly excited about the prospect of Emiko Queen showing up, as Green Arrow is another character, like Aquaman, that I've lost pretty much all interest in after the Flasphpoint rejiggering (I have noted the art on Green Arrow has been pretty superlative since "Rebirth," however, and I do like that GA grew his beard back). So I don't really know and/or care who Emiko Queen is. That said, DC's super-teen teams--be they the Titans or Young Justice, in comics or in cartoons--traditionally have an archer on the line-up, so I suppose it must make some sense to at least consider some teen archer from Green Arrow's corner of the DCU.

“DARK DESTINY” part three! The Pandora Pits’ secrets start to be revealed as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman team with Constantine, Deadman, Zatanna, Red Hood, Artemis and Bizarro to attempt to close off the pits forever, but the dark energies are starting to corrupt the heroes.
On sale OCTOBER 18 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

This is another DC comic I keep expecting to hear is canceled. The main selling point of the book, I thought, was the artwork by Francis Manapul, and if he's not attached, then I'm not sure what the attraction is to a book that stars one-half of the current Justice League line-up.

“CHILDREN OF THE GODS” part two! Wonder Woman must find out who is targeting Zeus’ children before their sights are set on her! What kind of monster has the power to murder a demigod?!
On sale OCTOBER 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

“TIMES PAST” part one! Grail, the daughter of Darkseid, has been on a quest to restore her father to his full power and glory after the events of Darkseid War! She must challenge children of the gods to steal their energy for the almighty Darkseid. Will any hero of myth be able to withstand her onslaught?!
On sale OCTOBER 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

I question the wisdom of tying the next Wonder Woman arc directly into the long-past (and now mostly irrelevant!) "Darkseid War" of Justice League, but it looks like the best places to read comics featuring Wonder Woman will be those set outside the DCU proper (Bombshells United, for example, there's that Gotham Garage that may or may not be any good, and I just saw on Twitter there will be more Wonder Woman: Earth One OGNs).

I don't care for Hitch's cover. I mean, it's cool that she stole Hercules' lion hat, I guess, but it looks like she killed the hell out of those various mythological monsters, and I'm not a big fan of a Wonder Woman who kills the hell out of everything constantly.

Art by H.G. PETER
In these Golden Age tales that introduced Wonder Woman to the world, Diana heads into adventure and battles the evil of German operative Paul Van Gunther, the god Mars and more in stories from the pages of ALL STAR COMICS #8, SENSATION COMICS #1-14, WONDER WOMAN #1-3 and COMIC CAVALCADE #1.
On sale NOVEMBER 22 • 392 pg, FC, $24.99 US

Now here's the really good Wonder Woman stuff...! I'll have to consult the volumes of Wonder Woman Chronicles I have to see if I actually already have all of these in a different format or not--and yeah, it's kind of irritating that DC dropped the Chronicles format just to start over with a new format--but whether I end up needing this on my bookshelf or not, Marston and Peter's entire body of Golden Age Wonder Woman comics should be readily available to new readers for, well, forever, really (Ditto the original, Golden Age comics starring Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel and Plastic Man).

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: July 19th

Archie #22 (Archie Comics) Jeez Mark Waid and Pete Woods, why are you guys trying so hard to make me cry while reading an Archie comic? They didn't quite get me there, but it sure wasn't for lack of trying. The majority of this issue is devoted to the various loved ones of The Person Who Was Injured In The Car Accident, loved ones as close as parents and as distant as school principal Mr. Weatherbee, remembering particular instances that demonstrate to them just how much they love The Person.

It should come as no surprise that the cliffhanger from the previous issue, in which The Person flatlines, turns out okay, and the doctors are able to revive The Person, but it ends with another dramatic cliffhanger, when The Person asks, "Why can't I feel my legs?"

And then there's seven pages of ads for Riverdale. Did you know there's a TV show based on Archie Comics called Riverdale? Well, there is.

I thought the cover of this issue kind of ironic, with the phrase "Everything changes" on it. Archie Comics' most defining characteristic is, after all, that nothing ever really changes for its characters and their setting. I mean, it was only 22 issues ago that the line had a major shake-up and relaunch, and even then, the changes weren't so dramatic as to completely reinvent the basic, essential characters or web of relationships between them, you know?

Anyway, I'm far more interested in the comedy Archie books (Jughead, Josie) than the dramedy ones (Archie), but after the rather rocky first chapter of this arc, Waid and Woods have been doing a pretty dang incredible job.

Batman #27 (DC Comics) There have only been two chapters of "The War and Jokes and Riddles" so far, so it seems a little early to take a break for an "Interlude," but that's where we've arrived, with "The War of Jokes and Riddles Interlude: The Ballad of Kite Man Part 1," by regular writer Tom King, guest pencil artist Clay Mann and a trio of inkers, including Mann himself.

King's fascination with Kite Man, who has at least cameo-ed in every single arc King has written since the "Rebirth" relaunch 27-issues ago, has been one of the more charming aspects of the series. Here, in this story set sometime near the end of Batman's new, post-Flashpoint "Year One" era, we get to see the origin of Kite Man, and I'm afraid it sort of drains the humor out of the character, as King must naturally give him a dark origin story (It's not quite as bad as what the Bat office did with Calendar Man, though)>

Charles Brown (Get it?) is a minor, down-on-his-luck Gotham City criminal who specializes in aerodynamics and, for reasons never made clear, always wears the same blue suit. He apparently worked with The Joker to designs The Jokermobile, and was the only one of that particular crew The Joker didn't kill. That's what leads Batman to bully Brown into establishing first contact and then a meeting with The Joker, in the hopes that Batman can then swoop in and collect The Joker.

The Riddler has also heard of the meeting, and so he kidnaps Brown and bullies him into revealing the whereabouts of the meeting as well, threatening the life of Brown's beloved son to get him to cooperate.

The meeting is a bit of a clusterfuck, although what exactly happened isn't the least bit clear--there's just a two-page spread in which we see The Joker stalking off with Brown, while Batman fights The Riddler, The Scarecrow, Killer Croc and Solomon Grundy in the background. One imagines this will be explained when the interlude is over, and King gets back to the story proper?

Meanwhile, The Riddler has pre-emptively murdered Brown's innocent young son (in this storyline's, like, third major act of completely un-Riddler-like behavior--is he a Skrull or what?) on the assumption that Brown would betray him, which pushes Brown to become a superhero and join The Joker's "side" in an attempt to get vengeance on The Riddler. This argument is laid out by the Frank Miller-like technique of television pundits arguing about news in Gotham City constantly in the background--I guess there's like a CNN devoted specifically to covering Gotham City...?

The art's okay, and the last page is pretty great, but I don't think the world really needed the dark, secret origin of Kite Man any more than it needed violent serial killer Riddler. The very idea of the city's supervillains picking sides like this is also an ongoing spot of complete weirdness, especially since they are picking the side of either a chaotic serial killer/terrorist who is almost definitely kill them (and is not a team player of any sort, rarely if ever teaming up with anyone, and generally no more than one other bad guy at a time...and usually Lex Luthor at that) and a methodical, ingenious thief who is now being presented as just as vicious as The Joker. If this were The Penguin or Luthor (or hell, Two-Face or Bane or Hush, just so long as it's a rational actor with incredible resources and some form of interest in the actual gains of a gang war) hiring these guys to fight Falcone or a traditional, rational actor with a reason for engaging in a gang war at all, then I guess it might be more plausible, but in this interlude we see a bunch of villains having already taken one side or another, but no real justification has been given as to why they've chosen one violent lunatic with no real ability to make it worth their while over the other.The two generals in the crime war should have something to offer their soldiers, something of so much value that they would get involved at all, and, in many cases, it would have to be a lot more than just money, which most of them are perfectly capable of stealing on their own.

So far, the only justification given is that from the Frank Miller-style Greek chorus of TV punditry:
We're supposed to have leadership. We're supposed to decide. We want safety, someone has to win. So pick a winner. We want The Joker gone, we help The Riddler. We want The Riddler gone, we help the damn Joker!
Again, maybe this will be explained when we get out of the interlude and back to the story proper--we did see The Joker threatening The Penguin to be his lieutenant and The Riddler lying to get Poison Ivy on his side earlier--but, at this point, the villains seem to be taking sides simply because that's the premise of the story arc King has come up with, not because he's made it part of the story. But thus far, this story has been incredibly unsatisfying; King's strings are far too visible, and it all seems too artificial to be immersive.

Sadly, this issue does not include a variant cover by Tim Sale, but instead has one by Tony Daniel, and Daniel's features not Kite Man, but Batman posing on a scary gargoyle. It's too bad; I'd really like to see a Sale version of Kite Man. The sole virtue of the Sale variants on Rebirth Batman has been seeing Sale draw modern characters, and those we haven't already seen his often quite idiosyncratic versions of in his past Batman work.

Batman '66 Meets The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 (DC) This is the first of DC's Batman '66 comics I've read since Adam West passed away and it is admittedly a little uncomfortable, particularly because artist Mike Allred--who here actually provides all of the interior art as well as the cover art, the latter of which he has been contributing to these comics as long as DC has been publishing them--is so adept and marrying recognizable celebrity likenesses with his own style.

That aside, this is the exact Batman '66 comic I've been waiting for since I saw Allred's very first cover. Well, not the Legion of Super-Heroes part, obviously (that is actually a little out of left field), but an all-Allred issue, cover as well as interiors (Well, actually, I wanted it to be very Batgirl-centric, and she only has a few panels in this issue).

So Lee Allred, Mike Allred and Laura Allred have the Dynamic Duo holed up in the Bat-cave, using the Bat-computer to track their foe Egghead. When who should appear but a half-dozen Legionnaires--the ones on the cover there--who have journeyed back from the year 2966 to recruit the greatest teenage superhero of all-time to help them capture Universo, who is on the loose in the 20th century. And bears a rather striking resemblance to Egghead.

It turns out that this is only a one-shot special, rather than a miniseries, which is the format the Batman '66 material has taken since the monthly was canceled. I was at first a little surprised and a little disappointed by this, as more Allred art is better than less Allred art, but this length actually works pretty well, giving the creators just enough room to work in as many characters from both settings as they want, at least in cameo form (the rest of the LOSH and the Legion of Super-Pets appear in the skies in the background of one panel, for example).

It's a lot of fun, and I say that as someone not overly enamored of the Batman '66 milieu and actually rather repelled by the LOSH in general. Near the end, when Robin says that it might have been fun to join a group of fellow teenage superheroes, Batman points out there are probably some teenage superheroes right there in the present that he could hang out with, which Robin says sounds like a "titanic" idea.

I don't know of Team Allred will follow through with a Batman '66 Meets The Teen Titans or not, but it certainly suggested a new way forward for DC's use of the characters. If the latest model was miniseries teaming them up with the stars of other live-action TV shows, maybe the next one should be teaming them up with various '66-iterations of other DC superheroes.

DC Comics Bombshells #31 (DC) In this issue, it's the secret origin of Killer Frost, and the secret origin of Supergirl, which is different from the origin of Supergirl, which we've already seen. This new origin ties her pretty directly to Faora and Krypton, and we learn how Faora has been behind pretty much all of the various villains the various Bombshells have faced off against up until this point in the series. There's really a sense of writer Marguerite Bennett winding things down now, in preparation for the already announced next iteration of a Bombshells comic.

Nightwing #25 (DC) This over-sized twenty-fifth issue seems to be the conclusion of the "Blockbuster" arc, or at least a turning point in in Nightwing's fight with Blockbuster, as the villain has fairly successfully used Nightwing to take out Tiger Shark's operation for him.

Also, Dick Grayson finally gets a job! But it's too late; Shawn has dumped him for his...unwillingness to get a job doing menial labor...? I never really got this part of the arc, which, as I've said before, seems more like the kind of plot point for a different super-comic starring a different superhero, not the one who grew up in an obscenely generous zillionaire's mansion.

The "tiger sharks" were cool.

Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat Vol. 3: Careless Whisker(s) (Marvel Entertainment) I still have one more issue of those collected in this third and final trade of Kate Leth and Brittney Williams' all-around superlative title yet to read, and I'm actually kind of reluctant to do so, as it means that I will no longer have any more issues of their Patsy Walker to look forward to.

It's too bad. This was one of my favorite Marvel comics of the last few years (with Unbeatable Squirrel Girl being the other one) , and, in my humble opinion as a semi-professional comics critic, it was also one of the better Marvel comics of the last few years.

I understand Leth is leaving comics-scripting behind in the near-future, but I do hope Marvel finds something for Williams to draw for them on a regular basis. Preferably whatever the hell she wants. In a perfect world, it would be Jubes, as Williams and Leth have been maybe the only creative team to really make the weird-ass current version of Jubilee work, by having her embrace her weird, disparate elements--mutant, X-Man, superhero, single mom, vampire, etc.

Superman #27 (DC) Scott Godlewski is the guest-artist for what may be the single preachiest comic book I have ever, ever read. After a frankly weird scene where Superman falls asleep while flying home one night--I could have sworn I had read in various '90s Superman comics that he doesn't need to sleep, he just does it out of habit and to feel human--Lois Lane decides to rent a mobile home so the family can spend the Fourth of July holiday driving around the country and learning shit.

Check this out:
If you thought, "God, shut up Lois!" at any point during that, then you will hate this issue, as the entire issue is like that. The pages showing the Super-Family spending time together or doing normal-ish, family-on-vacation stufff are just bridges between history lessons like the one above. Also covered is the meaning of the famous "COEXIST" bumper sticker, the horror of Word War I, the bravery of the founding fathers in signing the Declaration of Independence and, in a fairly cringe-inducing scene, Clark and company inviting a paralyzed Iraq war vet to join them for dinner and, when the hostess balks, Clark gives a very respectfully-delivered public-shaming to her about how vets rule. The dinner changes the man's life! He even gets offered a job as a dish-washer!

Now, as cynical an asshole as I may be, I don't necessarily disagree with...let's see...anything at all that either Clark or Lois say in this issue, but holy hell, did writers Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have to convey it in the form of a lecture? Superman is already Superman, and super-comics work with blunt force symbology; you can share broad, treacly, impossible-to-argue-with political sentiments in a way that can be, you know, entertaining. At the very least, they could have tried to do less telling and more showing.

That said, it wasn't any less entertaining than another issue of Superman and Superboy fighting Manchester Black, I guess; I actually had fun yelling at the characters in the comic to shut up, so, you know, there's that.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: July 12th

To my great disappointment, my comic shop had sold out of Dark Days: The Casting #1 by the time I got there after work, so the individual issue I was most looking forward to reading last night was unattainable. Luckily, there was still one comic I was intensely curious about--the first issue of the new Wonder Woman team--and a new issue of one of my all-around favorite ongoing monthlies, Josie and The Pussycats, so it's not like it was a complete waste of a trip or anything. Anyway, here's what I brought home with me last night...

Detective Comics #960 (DC Comics) This issue splits its attention between two so-far un-related plots, Batman trying to get some particular information from Zatanna that is only available through a particularly dangerous magical object, and the Azrael stuff.

The former is all pretty well written by James Tynion, complete with flashbacks to the time they spent together in their youth, Zatanna trying to scare Batman out of using the device and discussions about magic in general. The latter is a little messier, in part because it seems to deal with thorny continuity issues--Tynion references some very old-school, pre-reboot business as well as his own, current version of Azrael and the Order of St. Dumas, and doesn't do a very good job of synthesizing the two different versions, making this another example of the number one problem with DC's half-ass reboots--and in part because it has, so far, nothing at all to do with the other plot.

I guess that's how comic books might have worked in the '70s, '80s and '90s, but it feels wrong in 2017, when we've come to expect story arcs rather than soap opera-style plots and sub-plots that don't always align.

There's also what looks to be a robot pope in one scene of this. I really like the robo-pope. He looks cool.

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #11 (DC) This is it! The penultimate issue of Brenden Fletcher and company's Gotham Academy saga, under both its titles. As the cute cover by original series artist Karl Kerschl indicates, this issue once again sees Maps Mizoguchi crossing paths with Damian Wayne, and thus it is one of the better issues since the last time Maps and Damian shared panel space.

The characters are so divergent from one another, so opposite that Maps plays off of Damian maybe better than any other kid character, certainly better than any of Damian's current Teen Titans line-up, or his friend Maya or even the new Superboy, whose odd-couple chemistry is what is powering the current Super Sons ongoing.

It's pretty clear that the market has spoken in terms of where it stands on Gotham Academy, and re-tooling the book so completely as to make it more salable would be a disservice to Fletcher, Kerschl, Cameron Stewart, Becky Cloonan and company's original conception, but I for one would love to read a new Robin series by Brenden Fletcher in which Damian Wayne enrolls at the Academy, and Maps is a prominent part of his supporting cast.

Anyway, now that the fact that Olive is semi-possessed by a centuries old pyrokinetic witch is firmly established, Maps is ready to write her old friend off completely, but Pomeline and Colton convince Maps to help them get the one thing that might cure Olive, which is held in a safe in Wayne Manor.

Unfortunately for them, Two-Face has the same idea, and so it's up to Damian and Maps to team-up and save the day. So, yeah, lots of great Maps/Damian scenes.

Gotham Academy's Two-Face still seems a bit off, especially compared to the one in All-Star Batman; just seeing him work with regular hench-people in ski-masks seems wrong. The last pages, in which Damian reappears as Robin are pretty great, as is the moment he hands something over to Maps. I think the sequence could have been handled a little better, as it's not entirely clear if she even takes in who he is under the mask or not; it could very easily be not, considering how worried she is for Olive at that point.

It's ending, but if this issue is any indication, than at least it's ending strong.

Josie and The Pussycats #8 (Archie Comics) What fortuitous timing! Just yesterday Archie Comics announced a new series called The Archies, focusing on the Archie's band (last seen, I think, as first The Reggies and then The Jugheads in the pages of Jughead), and then the very same day The Archies guest-star in the pages of Josie and The Pussycats...!

What are they doing there? Well, apparently The Pussycats invited them to open for them when they played the Tokyo Dome. In Japan. That's...a pretty good gig for a high school garage band. The Archies are mostly incidental to the plot, there to zing and ping quips off of, as most of the action involves the Pussycats' decision to either keep Alan M as their manager, or accept Alexander Cabot's offer to be their manager. Both have their downsides; Alan slept with Josie and kinda sorta broker her heart a little bit. Alexander kidnapped the band and flew them to his Antarctic fortress.

Oh, and then there's the fact that Alexander's sister, Josie's long-time frenemy Alexandra, just slept with Alan the previous night, and the pair of them must wrestle with whether it's better to tell Josie and potentially hurt her feelings, or not tell Josie, and potentially hurt her feelings.

It's great that Cameron DeOrdio and Marguerite Bennett, have finally got all of the players in the same comic at the same time, as well as The Archies for texture, and they are doing a pretty good job of balancing drama, music and crime-fighting, as villains the Pussycats previously busted return to exact their revenge mid-show.

There was a cryptic meta-statement from Melody that kinda scared me there, but I haven't heard anything official to confirm it yet.

As usual, the 20-page story is followed goddam pages of Riverdale (the TV show) ads.

Wonder Woman #26 (DC) The Wonder Woman title experiences its first transition between writers since last year's "Rebirth" relaunch, and only its fourth since the 2011 "New 52" reboot and relaunch. The new writer taking the torch from Greg Rucka is Shea Fontana, a name that will likely be unfamiliar to a lot of DC Comics readers and fans, but she's not exactly new to scripting comics starring female superheroines, including Wonder Woman. Fontana, a television writer, has been writing original graphic novels based on the Mattel line of DC Super Hero Girls toys and merchandise (I've read two of the three published so far, and they were both just fine).

Fontana, who is writing a five-part, place-holding story arc, is paired with artist Mirka Andolfo, who similarly has a great deal of experience with Wonder Woman, just not this Wonder Woman, as Andolfo has been a long-time part of the DC Comics Bombshells artist roster.

I was quite pleasantly surprised by their first issue. It is a little strange to finally be reading a "new" Wonder Woman story after so long, as the entirety of Greg Rucka's 25-issue run (plus an annual and a special) was devoted to telling a single story, that of Wonder Woman's origins and conflict with Veronica Cale. Because this is not that, I worry that many readers will think it feels like a fill-in arc, something to generate content while DC waits for the next writer's scripts to get drawn (That next writer, by the way, is James Robinson, although I believe he too will have a pretty short run).

Fontana opens with Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor on a mission to protect a U.N. refugee camp in Greece, where she sees something that triggers a painful (but cute!) memory of her own girlhood on Themyscira. Back home, Diana has a medical check-up which seems slightly suspect, and then joins Etta Candy at Etta's brother's wedding (Sadly, her brother is not named, so we don't know for certain whether or not the brother getting married is Mint Candy). There Diana encounters a little girl, and a pretty rote cliffhanger ending (see the cover), although it is presented in a rather dramatic fashion.

Andolfo's artwork is in pretty sharp contrast to her predecessors Liam Sharp, Bilquis Evely and Nicola Scott, but it's good, and I liked how cute everyone looked...not just Wondy and the Amazons and Etta, but even the gray-haired, mustachioed army guy and so on. Like the storyline being started, it's a pretty drastic change of pace, but it's a refreshing one.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Some recent Marvel collections I read recently

All-New Wolverine Vol. 3: Enemy of The State II

Well, this was interesting move. Writer Tom Taylor follows a Civil War II tie-in, which was collected in the trade paperback All-New Wolverine Vol. 2: Civil War II, with a story arc entitled "Enemy of The State II." The original "Enemy of The State" was a 2004-2005 Wolverine story arc by writer Mark Millar, artist John Romita Jr and others in which Hydra, The Hand and a new group "killed" Wolverine, resurrected him as a brain-washed Hand super-assassin, and then sicced him upon SHIELD and a large swathe of the Marvel Universe, and he fought and almost-but-didn't-kill pretty much everyone...well, I think Northstar might have "died" for a while. It was pretty cool; Wolvie fought a shark, and JRJR drew it, so, you know, it had that going for it.

For this "Enemy of The State," Taylor puts this Wolverine in a situation that...isn't really like that at all. Just enough that they could get away with using the title, I guess. JRJR is not involved; it's drawn by Nic Virella, Djibril Morissette-Phan and Scott Hanna. There is no shark.

I'm not sure if Taylor used that title simply as an attention-grabbing call-back, or if he was making a sarcastic meta-point, since "Enemy of The State II" has hardly anything in common with "Enemy of The State," in the same way that Civil War II had hardly anything in common with Civil War (which was also written by Millar!). Probably the former.

So when we last saw All-New Wolverine Laura Kinney and her clone/little sister Gabby, the pair had just survived a Civil War II tie-in, and took the opportunity to tell everyone off, express their dissatisfaction with the very premise of Civil War II and announce their intention to stay out of it.

That entailed Laura putting cosplaying as Netflix's Jessica Jones--well, she put on a scarf and leather jacket--and packing up Gabby and their pet wolverine Jonathan for a cross-country trip to a stinky old cabin of Logan's, where they can sit out the civil war and also stay off the radar of Laura's old handler, who just mailed her a scary package tying into her origin as X-23. But trouble follows Team Wolverine!

Doused with her "trigger scent," which turns her into an unstoppable, mindless killing machine, Laura blacks out and kills the entire population of a nearby small town! (Spoiler: Not really, but she thinks she did). She's promptly arrested by SHIELD, escapes and then she tries to get to Madripoor, but along the way she's abducted by bad guys lead by Kimura, who wants to use her trigger scent to have her assassinate Tyger Tiger so they can...take over Madripoor? (I believe the original "Enemy of The State" took its name from the fact that the bad guys wanted to use Wolvie to kill the president of the United States, after his various fight scenes; I guess "The State" Laura is the enemy of is Madripoor...? Huh; I think the worst part of this arc may actually be its title...)

It takes the combined efforts of Gabby, time-travelling teenage Angel (Laura's boyfriend, remember), Teen Grey, the rather randomly here Gambit and some unlikely allies to not only straighten out what happened and why, but to also cure the trigger scent's hold on Laura once and for all, essentially purging her of the sorts of berserker rages that plagued her predecessor for so long and bringing to a close the grown-and-programmed-to-be-an-assassin part of her backstory.

It may have taken two consecutive trade paperbacks specifically labeled as sequels to comics from over a decade or so ago, but it looks like Laura, Taylor and All-New Wolverine are all ready to move on once and for all and into a less Old Wolverine sort of series. In essence, this storyline seems to complete the X-23 part of Laura once and for all.

The artwork is pretty rough, and the changes in personnel don't do any of it any favors. The trade collects issues #13-18; Virella draws the first two issues (with Hanna inking), and then Morissete-Phan comes on for an issue, and then Virella returns for an issue, and than Morissette-Phan returns for an issue, and then it's back to Virella again. I couldn't guess what was happening behind the scenes, but the results don't look so hot; the two artists draw one character, Roughhouse, completely differently, and thanks to a change in colorists, he even has different color hair, depending on the issue.

There are some minor things--Gambit's staff looks more like a huge pipe in a panel, Laura dons an Iron Man costume but leaves off the helmet for some reason--but it's mostly the aesthetic whiplash that hurts the visual aspect of the book...which, this being comics, is kind of an important aspect.

The comic has its moments--I liked the bit where Gabby responds to the smuggler who says she sees things differently, for example--but it's probably the worst of the three volumes collecting the series to date.

Avengers: Unleashed Vol. 1--Kang War One

Here's a good example of how challenging Marvel makes following their comics in trade paperback. Despite the "Vol. 1" on the spine, this continues writer Mark Waid's run on the flagship Avengers title, All-New, All-Different Avengers. That produced 15 serially-published issues of a comic book series and three trade paperback collections, which was apparently enough that Marvel decided they needed to relaunch the series with a new title and a new #1 issue, despite the fact that it had the same core cast (with Civil War II and Champions prompted a few defections) and that the same writer would be continuing the same storyline from his All-New, All-Different Avengers series.

To make matters more confusing still, the relaunched, renumbered and retitled comic book series is called simply Avengers, but it is being collected as Avengers: Unleashed for, um, reasons...?

As always, this is hardly an insurmountable barrier that is keeping larger numbers of people from buying and reading Avengers trade paperbacks, but it's still a barrier, and I can't quite make sense of why Marvel continues to keep throwing up such barriers at all. It seems pretty abundantly clear to everyone now, even Marvel, that whatever positive effects a continuous cycle of relaunches-in-numbers-only might have had in the past are disappearing, and I'm not convinced those positive effects of a temporary bump in periodical sales to comic shops were ever really more valuable than the potential loss of audience for the trade paperbacks which can, of course, last and sell indefinitely.

The copy I read, for what it's worth, came from the nearest book store to me, a Barnes and Noble. This store has the bulk of their graphic novels in two aisles; one devoted to manga, the other to everything else. Titles are shelved more-or-less alphabetically, but in this case Avengers: Unleashed Vol. 1 came before All-New, All-Different Avengers Vols. 1-3, probably because they decided to start the shelf devoted to Avengers comics with the adjective-less title. (If you want to catch up on Mark Waid's Avengers run, and haven't yet started, the actual reading order is All-New, All-Different Avengers Vols. 1-3, and then Avengers: Unleashed Vol. 1. Lockjaw and The Pet Avengers: Unleashed, while pretty good in its own right, has nothing to do with any of this).

After Iron Man Tony Stark got kinda sorta semi-killed at the end of Civil War II, and the kids Ms. Marvel, Nova and Spider-Man Miles Morales all decided to bounce and start their own team, what's left of this line-up quickly recruits a pair of old Avengers: Hercules and Spider-Man Peter Parker, the latter of whom basically buys his way on the team by offering them funding and a new headquarters on the top five floors of the Parker Industries, which used to be the Fantastic Four's Baxter Building. This seems to be one more point of comparison between the current Spider-Man and the old Iron Man, the main difference here being that none of Parker's teammates know he is both the rich guy funding them and letting them live in his Manhattan tower and a member of their superhero line-up.

Picking up on plot points from All-New, All-Different--particularly from The Vision issue of the Civil War II trade (reviewed in this long-ass post), Kang the Conqueror attacks the team pretty much as soon as Waid fleetly and efficiently sets up the new status quo. Waid, as I've said plenty of times previously, knows how to write comic books, and this one is very much an old-school superhero team book, right down to the pacing.

The plot, as almost all involving time travel are, is kind of complicated. Essentially, The Vision was facing a Baby Hitler situation with the infant Kang, and decided that rather than killing him, he would just abduct him and hide him. That resulted in adult versions of Kang attacking first The Vision and then the rest of The Avengers, and so the Kangs killed all of them when they were babies. They got that sorted out by the end of the third issue, but Waid then went in an unexpected direction, and had Captain America Sam Wilson decide that they should really quit playing defense and finish Kang off once and for all. All of that leads to recruiting a team of teams of Avengers from four eras, including the founders, attacking various parts of Kang's temporal empire.

The artist is now Michael Del Mundo, and as he's the only notable personnel change, he's probably the only real reason to bother relaunching, but given how often artists change on Marvel comics, it's not a terribly convincing reason. He is a great artist though, and his artwork, which he mostly colors himself, gives the interiors a painterly aesthetic that quite closely echoes that of cover artist Alex Ross (also retained from All-New, All-Different). He's really great with the trippy visuals, of which there are many. Some of these involve all the time travel and general super-hero craziness--as when Kang calls alternate version of himself in as reinforcements, and these resemble a MODOK-esque Kang with a giant head and little limbs, as well as a vaguely ape-like Kang. There are also just a few throwaway instances of Del Mundo going nuts with the visuals, as when he draws a Kang head that is itself made up of different versions of Kang.

Del Mundo is also great with lay-outs though, and there is some really effective "acting" bits, some of which call on the placement of characters, panels or lettering to have one character cut-off or silence another character visually as well as in the dialogue. He really gets to shine in the penultimate issue, in which Kang narrates his entire history on the way to a surprise ending, as the book consists almost entirely of double-page spreads, although rather busy ones with lots of visual information embedded in them. Overall, his presence really elevates Waid's Avengers run by his mere presence. Adam Kubert and those other guys were fine, but Del Mundo? Del Mundo is really, really good.

I'm no fan of The Vision, and I have been sick of Kang and his time shenanigans for almost as long as I've known who Kang is (I believe I audibly groaned when he first appeared within the pages of All-New, All-Different), but despite my personal distaste for some elements in the story arc, I still enjoyed the hell out of this comic book. If you like super-comics, this one is a good one--provided you can figure out when to read it!

Doctor Strange and The Sorcerers Supreme Vol. 1: Out of Time

Doctor Strange and The Sorcerers Supreme is a comic book series that simply shouldn't exist. Marvel has struggled with the character since 1996, which ended about 20 years worth of Doctor Strange ongoing comics in a pair of monthly series. His particular role in the Marvel Universe has meant he's never really been completely MIA for long, regularly racking up guest-appearances, memberships in various team books and rather regularly produced miniseries, but that the publisher has been able to keep the 2015-launched, Jason Aaron-written and (mostly) Chris Bachalo-drawn series going as long as they have is something of an achievement for a character some 20 years removed from his last ongoing series.

So of course Marvel, seeing some somewhat surprising success, immediately tried to strike while the iron is warmer than usual, launching a second Doctor Strange ongoing monthly series. (Similarly, when the latest volume of Black Panther proved a success with its first few issues, Marvel launched two additional Black Panther series, both of which were almost immediately canceled. Marvel seems so intent to find their next Deadpool-style cash chow that they seem to be treating everything that doesn't flop immediately as if they've found it.)

This context sets before Doctor Strange and The Sorcerers Supreme a rather unfortunately high bar: It doesn't just have to be pretty good, which it is, but it also must justify its very existence, and I'm afraid that as well-crafted as it is, as enjoyable as it was to read, it wasn't so great an achievement of comics story-telling that it had to be. The world would have continued to turn just fine were this a miniseries, or an original graphic novel, or a fill-in story arc of the monthly, or was simply never told at all.

Writer Robbie Thompson works mainly with the art team of pencil artist Javier Rodriguez and inker Alvaro Lopez, who contribute five of the six issues in this collection, while Nathan Stockman provides art for one of the issues. The premise is a rather simple one. When an incredibly powerful foe threatens Camelot, Merlin magically travels through time to assemble a super-group of various Sorcerers Supreme. In addition to Strange, these include familiar-ish characters Wiccan Billy Kaplan, from a future where he has inherited Strange's role; Strange's mentor The Ancient One, from a time when he was still a very young man and Sir Isaac Newton, who I am fairly certain has appeared in a Marvel comic of not too ancient vintage which I never read (I want to guess "SHIELD" was in the title, somewhere?), and his more intelligent-than-usual Mindless One, whom he calls "Mindful One."

Rounding out the team are two characters I thinkride anything, though).

Why Merlin plucked these particular characters from these particular points in time isn't ever explained, but it seems curious that he would recruit Strange at this particularly low-point in his magical powers, as well as The Ancient One before he was a little more, well, Ancient.

The issues are pretty formulaic. After the first, each begins with an origin story of sorts featuring one of the characters who will play a bigger than usual role in that particular issue, and then the narrative will plunge into the next step of their adventure. It takes some unexpected twists, as the threat Merlin calls them to face isn't what it first appears, Merlin himself doesn't stick around too long, and one of the Sorcerers betrays the others.

Rodirguez's art is uniformly excellent. The designs of all of the new and/or altered characters are all pretty great, from Rodriguez's version of an adult Billy to The Demon Rider and Conjuror, and, as should be the case with a 1960s-born, Steve Ditko-created character and milieu, there are plenty of opportunities for show-stoppingly intricate and imaginative imagery, like Strange and Merlin's walk-and-talk through time in the first issue, or a visit to (and battle within) Merlin's Escher-like library (which seems to owe quite a bit to the Distinguished Competition's Doctor Fate's tower).

The guest-art is strategically employed, coming during the fifth issue, a sort of pause to the action in which we learn the origin of the Marvel Universe's Sir Isaac Newton, and see his first meeting with Doctor Strange (back when he was at the height of his powers, hanging out with Clea). The final issue, for which Rodriguez appears, is a cute, clever (but kind of irritating in practice) choose-your-own-adventure style comic.

All-in-all, it's a particularly creative comic book, but it doesn't really offer anything that one can't find in the other Doctor Strange ongoing (which has also seen Strange teaming up with various sorcerers and mages, including pre-existing Marvel characters and intriguing new ones). That makes it a somewhat idiotic publishing decision--unless Marvel really thought that the movie would create so many Doctor Strange fans that they could do like they did with Guardians of The Galaxy, and build a line around the doctor--even if it does have entertainment value and impressive execution.

In other words, it's a pretty good comic that probably shouldn't have ever been least not as a $3.99/20-page ongoing monthly.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 6: Civil War II

This is the first trade paperback collection of Ms. Marvel that I did not purchase a copy of. (That's right, it's time for everyone's favorite aspect of EDILW--Caleb Talks About His Comics Buying Habits!). Ms. Marvel has been one of the handful of Marvel comics I have been not only reading in trade, but buying in trade as well (due to cancellations, I think Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is now the only one I'm still buying regularly in trade!). The week this one was released, I let it sit on the shelf at the comics shop because it was a Civil War II tie-in, and I wanted to wait until I actually read Civil War II before I read this tie-in to it, and Civil War II was still going on. And then it was expanded to last an extra issue or something. And I think it was also late...?

Anyway, by the time I had read Civil War II in its collected form, Ms. Marvel Vol. 6 was months old, and given that I had already read something close to 10,000 trade paperback collections sub-titled Civil War II that I had borrowed from the library, I didn't see any reason to not just borrow Ms. Marvel Vol. 6 too, rather than spending $17.99 on it (Well, aside from "voting with my dollars" so that Marvel keeps Ms. Marvel going, I guess, although I don't know if they make many decisions like that based on trade sales...Oh, and making sure some really great comics creators get some extra royalties...?).

So the lesson here, Marvel Entertainment Decision-Maker Who Is No Doubt Reading This Post And Hanging On Every Word,  is that tie-ins to event storylines can make excellent jumping-off points, particularly if said event is delayed. You have probably heard this before, but every jumping-on point is also a good jumping-off point, and pretty much anything at all that disturbs a comics reader's buying habits in anyway is perilous.

So this six-issue collection has a four-issue Civil War II-related story arc sandwiched in between two issues that serve as a good prelude and a good epilogue, respectively; taken as a single unit, writer. G. Willow Wilson's sixth volume of the series is a pretty well-constructed story with its own beginning, middle and end.

The first issue was drawn by the series' original artist, Adrian Alphona, and guest-stars Ms. Marvel's then-fellow teen Avengers, Spider-Man Miles Morales and Nova...although not in the capacity one might expect. There is a Tri-State Science Fair going on, and Kamala Khan, Bruno and other members of her supporting cast are there competing against the New York contingent, lead by Miles. When there's an issue that forces the superheroes to suit up, Nova is just kind of flying by.

That final issue is drawn by Mirka Andolfo, whose work frequently appears in DC Comics Bombshells, and follows Kamala to her ancestral home in Karachi, where she has gone to try and clear her head from the terrible things that happened to her during Civil War II and the tie-in arc. Ms. Marvel has already been pretty blessed with all-around great art, but Andolfo is a really good fit, maybe particularly for this particular story, which has Kamala out of costume for most of it--she purposely left her costume back in Jersey City. Andolfo is probably a good name for the editors to keep in mind when the regular artists need a break.

As for the tie-in arc, Wilson's got kind of a difficult job, as Kamala has particularly close bonds with the two opposing "generals" in the war, having taken her superhero name from her lifetime idol Captain Marvel Carol Danvers, and having served alongside Iron Man Tony Stark on The Avengers for a few years now (our time). Those bonds, and her relationship with Miles, meant Civil War II writer Brian Michael Bendis all but had to include her in the series itself, and the moment she decides Carol has gone too far is one of the more dramatic ones in the series, at least if you know/care about the character. Additionally, Ruth Fletcher Gage and Christos Gage used Kamala a bit in their tie-in arc, which was collected in Captain Marvel Vol. 2: Civil War II.

Wilson doesn't include any of those scenes, and her arc doesn't really quite line-up with the events of Bendis' main event series. They fit well enough though, as long as you don't think too much about the timeline between the various books (When I was a high schooler, this would have infuriated me, and I probably woulda wrote an angry letter to a letters column). Instead, she keeps Kamala busy in Jersey City, where Carol Danvers has assigned her to be the team leader of a group of four young (superpower-less) volunteers who are quite excited about this whole predictive justice thing.

Kamala is obviously a little torn on the matter, because it's so obviously illegal and dumb--these kids un-ironically dress like Hitler Youth, topping off their outfits with arm bands and Saddam-like berets, and keeping the victims they don't actually arrest in a makeshift Guantanamo in an abandoned Jersey City warehouse. On the other hand, it's Carol Danvers asking her to help. (The business with Miles doesn't come up in here at all; his appearance at the science fair was his only appearance in this volume.)

When a classmate gets citizen-arrested by the group, and Bruno gets badly injured, Kamala finally flips sides, trying to orchestrate a demonstration of how Ulysses' powers don't always work, one that gets Captain Marvel and Iron Man in the same place at the same time, for all the good that does.

Wilson's arc is actually pretty ambitious, as she tries, not terribly successfully, to tie Marvel's civil "war" with the geo-political events that created Pakistan. The four tie-in issues including flashback sequences drawn by Alphona that are set in the 1940s, the 1970s and in Kamala's childhood, as well as shortly into her career as Ms. Marvel. These reveal the origin of that thing she wears on her left arm, how she first met Bruno and some poetic suggestions about her Inhuman bloodline, as her grandmother and mother speak of something special inside them, something from beyond the stars.
The tone is a little all-over the place, though. Alphona's artwork in those four issues is his most stately and serious--well, there's a lot of silliness in Kamala's second-grade classroom--but the modern day business, all drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa, features a Canadian Ninja Syndicate who attack with, like, chickens and straight edges. The family history is meant to be taken quite seriously, while the Jersey City action is melodramatic in the mighty Marvel manner--all the Carol Vs. Tony stuff--while Kamala's difficulties with Bruno and her other friends are also supposed to be serious, but those scenes come between ones of over-the-top junior fascist nonsense. While not technically part of the arc, the very first issue is Alphona at his loosest, with most panels busting at the borders with little gags (Each long or medium shot is worth scrutinizing for visual gags, mostly centered around the science projects in the background, and callbacks aplenty can be found in the later classroom scene).

It's...a weird book. Well-written, extremely well drawn and with an ambitious amount of humor, drama and melodrama, it's nevertheless tonally unique, as if Wilson is deciding scene by scene what kind of modern Marvel book her Ms. Marvel is going to be, a serious one, a comedic one or a Nick Spencer-esque combination of the two.

Oh! I just noticed as I was writing this that, according to the back cover, this is rated "T+"; I found that a little surprising, if only because Ms. Marvel is one of the publisher's most consistently teen-friendly, genuinely all-ages comics I've encountered.

*Let me go check my bookshelf to be sure! Let's see... Ghost Rider canceled, Howard The Duck canceled, Patsy Walker canceled, lost interest in All-New, All-Different Avengers and Star Wars, didn't care for that first volume of the current Black Panther...Yeah, jeez, if I'm not going to keep reading Ms. Marvel in trade, I am currently down to just Squirrel Girl! At least for the time being. I am sure that will change in the near-ish future.