Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: Justice League #45 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 5)

Don't worry; that's just The Flash talking not...that one TV character who used to say that line a lot.

Previously, in "The Darkseid War"...

Justice League #41 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 1)

Justice League #42 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 2)

Justice League #43 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 3)

Justice League #44 ("The Darkseid War" Pt. 4)

The first casualty of "The Darkseid War" is artist Jason Fabok, who drew his last chapter last month, the fourth issue of the story arc (and the one with the first major in-story casualty). He is replaced this month by the excellent Francis Manapul, working with his long-time collaborator Brian Buccellato (who co-colors Manapul's art).

As jarring as it can be when artists are switched out mid-story arc like this, DC does seem to have been somewhat methodical about this move, as this issue is the beginning of "Act Two" of "The Darkseid War," picking up after the death of Darkseid last issue.

Manapul coming on board gives Justice League something the title hasn't really had yet: Good art. So far, everyone whose drawn the title has been popular, and, in all honesty, some of them have had a great deal of talent, but none have been as all-around good at telling a story visually in the comics medium as Manapul is. Thus far, Justice League has been a showcase for DC's star artists, some of whom are also fairly good at drawing comic books (Ivan Reis springs most immediately to mind), but none of whom would really generate cartwheels from a harsh critic of the form.


Here's a pretty good example of Manapul's strength. There are once again some rather random-looking shapes on the cover, but, for the first time, it's quite clear that they aren't that random, but are meant to suggest the shapes of Jack Kirby's design work. This one, in fact, looks to be based on the Greek letter "omega," associated with Darkseid, with Kirby's god of evil blocking out part of the omega's arc.

The images, on the other hand, are pretty much random: There's Wonder Woman, wearing a different costume than she's worn throughout "Darkseid War," with a pair of axes; there's Mister Miracle, trapped in some sort of elaborate super-shackle restraints; there's Darkseid looming up behind him.

The colors are pretty nice; I like the way Wonder Woman's red top seems to glow, and how the blank white of the letter/shapes contrasts so strongly with everything around them, so that they seem to glow even brighter than Wondy's luminescent armor.


A very deliberate, very dramatic opening to this next phase of the fairly huge story arc. The first page features three horizontal panels. The first of these is solid black, with a little "PING" sound effect. The second black with what appears to be red blood splattered upon it. The third black with even more blood splatter, and and a tail-less dialogue balloon: "Something is very, very wrong."

The second page is a splash, the whole page solid black save for a big red omega symbol dripping blood. The title and credits appear beneath it, informing us that we have no entered "ACT TWO" of "The Darkseid War."

The third page has four horizontal panels, each a close-up of a different characters face. Batmetron steeples his fintertips and says "Darkseid" in New New God font. Photo Negative Superman, here looking like he's made of hollow ruby and lit within, saying "Is" in New New God font. A panel of Darkseid, his stone face smashed open and leaking pink energy and Kirby dots, as if he were a piece of pottery thrown to the ground, saying nothing (because he's dead). And then a close-up of Wonder Woman's face, looking down and saying "Dead." It's raining behind her, and she starts to narrate about gods and stuff, as she's done off and on throughout the story. It's not important; you could lose her narration and you wouldn't lose anything in terms of story-telling.


A double-page splash; clearly all these splashes were in the story so far because writer Geoff Johns was putting them there, not because previous artist Jason Fabok was asking for them.

Here we see the broken, lava-leaking body of Darkseid in the immediate foreground, with Mister Miracle kneeling just above him, his little flying discs now enlarged so that he can kneel upon them while still floating, rather than just standing on them to whiz around on.

The Leaguers who were at the site of the battle are still lined-up behind him. Power Ring (who clearly survived trying to push Darkseid and The Anti-Monitor apart after all), Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman (wearing her "Darkseid War" costume, rather than the costume on the cover; her right wrist-band, which was destroyed in a previous issue, is back), Cyborg and Captain Marvel Shazam.

Miracle's Mother Box confirms that Darkseid is indeed dead, while Shazam fills us in on the fact that The Anti-Monitor and his forces (Grail and a bunch of Shadow Demons) disappeared.

From off-panel, the white print on a black, red-encircled dialogue balloon that indicates a New New God is speaking asks, "Did I do that?" the inflection perfectly capturing that of a catch-phrase from an old TV show I wish I had never seen so I would not be thinking of it now while reading about the death of Darkseid.


The speaker is shown; it's The Flash, now in his new Black Racer hybrid form, floating high above the ground. As we saw last issue, The Flash did do that. After Darkseid summoned death itself, his ultimate weapon, The Anti-Monitor fused it with The Flash, and then shot The Flash through Darkseid, killing him.

Mister Miracle tries to parse things to make The Flash feel better, telling him that it wasn't The Flash who killed Darkseid, but The Black Racer.

Flash doesn't seem too terribly troubled. He summons a scythe made out of lightning, akin to the one he was holding las tissue, and announces that he doesn't want to "escape" death, but control it. There's an extreme close -up of his eyes, and text announces his new role in the series: "The Flash: God of Death."
You know, "The Flash" isn't a very good name for a god of death. Maybe he should still go by The Black Racer? Or at least The Black Flash?

The basic format of this last panel will repeat a few times in the following pages, as four more Justice Leaguers will officially be promoted to New Godhood, although we've already seen two of them ascend in previous chapters.


Back on Apokolis, Photo Negative Superman continues to be a Super-dick to Lex Luthor. He informs his arch-enemy that Darkseid is dead, sorta, and while Luthor tries to tell him that the energy from the Fire Pits threaten to destroy his cells, Superman's all like "Whatevs." He tears off Luthor's power armor, threatens him that if he ever returns to Earth he will end up like his armor and then flies off, leaving beat-up Luthor to his fate.

At the bottom of page eight, there' sa close up of Photo Negative Superman's eyes, with the words "SUPERMAN: God of Strength."

I find this idea of the Justice Leaguers ascending to godhood in order to form a new pantheon a good one, but by tying the concept to the New Gods, and making them New New Gods raises some questions. In particular, it seems curious that they are being given particular roles–god of this, god of that–when the New Gods themselves never really had such roles assigned to them.

PAGES 10-11

There's no caption to announce it, but we're back on Qward, where Bat-Mobius and Green Lantern Hal Jordan were investigating the origin of The Anti-Monitor, and discovered that he was a dude named Mobius who fused with The Anti-Life Equation itself (which he announced while killing Darkseid).

Manapul and his co-colorist Brian Buccellato are doing a hell of a job on this issue. I like how the white of Hal's boots and gloves glow in the establishing shot; remember, Hal's costume is simply a hard-light construct. Treating it as such in a live-action movie may look hella-dumb, but it can look kinda cool when the right artists render it as such in a comic book.
Batman announces the death of Darkseid, and that they can give up their investigation, while a panel announce him as "The God of Knowledge." Hal disagrees, but upon touching the chair gets a scary vision of a bunch of New 52 Parademons. Batman tells GL the premise of his upcoming tie-in one-shot: "Without Darkseid, The Parademons are without their leader...and like the insects they are, they're drawn to...the brightest light in the universe."

Batman then Boom Tubes away, leaving GL to tend to the events on Oa (see Justice League: The Darkseid War: Green Lantern #1 for how that all pans out).

PAGES 12-15

Back on Apokolips, some Mad Max looking people throw a bunch of Lobo hooks around Luthor. One takes off her hood and scarf to reveal a lady with short red hair who introduces herself as "Ardora...Leader of The Forgotten People.."
That name will likely sound familiar to long-time DC fans with very good memories. Like Geoff Johns, for example.

Introduced in a 1983 Superman comic by Edmond Hamilton, Cary Bates and Curt Swan, the original Ardora hailed from the planet Lexor, where Superman was regarded as an evil villain and Lex Luthor was regarded as the greatest hero. In fact, in pre-Crisis continuity, she would even marry Lex and have a child with him.

That was like a half-dozen continuity reboots ago, however, so this Ardora is, for all intents and purposes, a brand-new character, albeit a bit of an Easter Egg for the Geoff Johns-types in the reading audience.

New 52 Ardora says a few dialogue balloons about a great hero from a place called Metropolis that sounds an awful lot like she's talking about Superman, but when she asks Luthor "Are you this man?" Luthor naturally responds in the affirmative.


Power Ring tries to talk sense to The Black Racer/Flash, and he starts arguing with himself; he speaks in a New God dialogue bubble about how awesome death is, but then a normal black type on white bubble voice, that of Barry Allen, chimes in with "This isn't right." Barry's voice tells The Black Racer that he's going to try and outrun death. Can he do it?! See Justice League: The Darkseid War: The Flash #1 to find out!


But wait, there are still more New New Gods to come! Shazam is in the middle of a sentence when he starts leaking lightning, and variously colored and shaped tailless dialogue balloons appear around him, saying cryptic things, like "HE WILL BE MY VESSEL." and "He will burn, like all Martians."

A close up of his eyes is accompanied by the words "SHAZAM: God of Gods."

That...well, I'm pretty sure it's meant to mean that his sphere of influence is gods in the same way that, say, Ares' sphere of influence is war or Thor's is storms, but it sounds like he's the chief god, the god that other gods worship. Kind of like how Jesus is the king of kings, you know?

He bolts too, and Wonder Woman is in the middle of telling the few that are left that they need to split up and follow them both when a voice from off-panel announces the fact that Darkseid's posse is apparently still hanging out, and have just been, like, really quite for the last few pages.


It's Kalibak and Krew! "You have problems of your own," the blinded giant says, while Kanto, Lashina and Steppenwolf pose behind him on this splash page.

PAGES 19-22

Luthor is hooked up to some big Kirby machines by Ardora, who explains that when Darkseid died his Omega Effect was unleashed, and return to Apokolips, where they planned to contain it in Luthor. THere's a three panel break to show Griff, Myrina Black and Grail posing together and regarding a big energy Easter egg decorated by horned demons. "He's becoming Mobius," Black says of The Anti-Monitor. "And then I will get what I want," Grail answers cryptically.

And Luthor announces that "Darkseid is Dead," in New New God font, "Long live LEX LUTHOR."

On page 22, a splash page, Luthor is revealed to now have gray skin, black eyes with bright red pupils and a bit of cragginess around the eyes and lips. He looks like a Darkseid-ized Luthor, basically.
He's a New New God too, although his role is a bit more unexpected than that of the others: "Lex Luthor: God of Apokolips."

Oh snap! What happens next? A bunch of character-specific one-shots, that's what!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Kiss Him, Not Me Vol. 1

I enjoyed this fairly weird high school comedy quite a bit, but I don't think there's any way around the fact that a lot of potential readers will find themselves turned off by its central conceit, which is likely to be viewed by many as, well, problematic.

At its center is a fairly typical standard of teenage pop fiction, the ugly duckling who suddenly becomes a beautiful swan, but here that transformation isn't accomplished via a makeover or Pygmalion-style coaching, but rather by fairly straightforward weight-loss. The fat girl gets skinny, and is suddenly super-hot.

The girl in question is Serinuma Kae, an avowed fujoshi (here, "a passionate fangirl of anime and manga that objectifies male characters and male-to-male sexuality") who manga-ka Junko draws with a big, round, bun-shaped head, huge glasses over her mole-like tiny eyes and the only body in the whole manga that looks like that of, say, someone you might see in real life, out shopping, rather than an idealized high school student.
Kae isn't unhappy with her appearance, though. "Who decided the Prince should be with the princess?" she thinks in the book's opening panel, "The Prince with another Prince! IT SHOULD BE LIKE THAT!!" While she "ships" certain cute boys in her class, and is friends with one of the hottest guys in schools, she explains that "Even if I have a connection with hot guys... It's meaningless to me...My happiness comes from peeping on the sidelines, uninvolved in the magic before me. That's where I belong!"
Those guys start to disagree when the unthinkable (to Kae) happens: Her favorite character in her favorite anime is suddenly killed off, plunging her into a deep depression. She spends an entire week in bed, not eating, and when her mother and brother finally drag her out from under the covers, they find her magically transformed:

Yes, simply by starving herself for a week, Kae is now not only hot, but shockingly hot.

So you can see why this might be problematic. I've thought about if there was perhaps another way around this, without involving actual magic; some way in which a girl who wasn't hot could suddenly turn into the most desirable girl in her school and, well, nothing quite seems to work. A sudden onset of puberty would have to involve younger kids, a makeover wouldn't be dramatic enough and any alternate form of sudden beautification wouldn't tie directly into her mourning the loss of an anime character, anyway.

Kae gets so sad she stops eating, and as a result loses a bunch of weight and becomes attractive–take it or leave it. (She does get some help dressing cute from her best friend Ah-Chan, who shares her fujoshi status, but hides it, while Kae is out and proud).

In a rapid fire sequence, we re-meet the four boys introduced in the first scenes–best friends (and her OTP) Igarashi and Nanashima, pretty boy underclassman Shinomiya and her fellow member of the history club Mutsumi–all of whom now ask her out, more-or-less simultaneously.
She all of them, and begins dating all four boys. At once. As in, on the same date, so that Kae has several different dates in which she and a small harem of cute guys all go out together. Flustered by any and all attention they show her but still driven crazy by the thought of the boys with one another...well, it's in the title, isn't it? There's the additional complication that she must try to hide the degree to which she's a fangirl from the boys, lest they be terrified by the level of her passion (by the end of their first date, however, she gets all five of them matching phone fobs of her favorite character).
Despite the questionable fat = ugly, skinny = pretty message, Junko makes Kae a fun and funny character before and after her transformation, with only her appearance really changing. Her defining characteristic remains her fannish interest in boys with boys, and even when boys are interested in her, that doesn't change (In other words, her lack of interest in boys wasn't something she defaulted to because she was unattractive to them; that's who she was). Additionally, while all four boys are different and all four have various strengths and weaknesses and gradually start to become real friends with Kae, it's clear from the beginning that one of them is better-suited to her than the others.

That would be Mutsumi, who she was friends with, and who was the only character who recognized her after her transformation, something even her mom and brother failed to do.

"Ah, Serinuma-san," he greets her simply upon seeing the new her. He's in the school nurses office, trying to disinfect the wounds he sustained while rescuing a cat from a tree:
"Changed?" Well, yeah, I suppose you've gotten skinnier while you've been gone...but I can still tell it's you, y'know? You kindness hasn't changed. You're still Serinuma-San.
So there's the pair that Junko and her narrative seem to be shipping, even if the protagonist is too distracted by shipping her other suitors to one another to really notice.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Marvel's February previews reviewed

Hey, Marvel is publishing a bunch of stuff in February, too! I won't be buying any of the single issues, because Jesus God, $4 for a Marvel comic book? Never! I'll probably read a bunch of these comics when they come out in trade six-to-12 months after three months from now!

I didn't notice anything too terribly noteworthy this month. The theme for February's variant covers (well, one of the themes) is "Michael Cho draws awesome," apparently, as many of the books have awesome Michael Cho portrait-style covers featuring the title characters, like the one above for The Mighty Thor.

To see the complete solicitations, you can go...well, lots of places. Comic Book Resources is as good a place as any, I suppose. Comics Alliance is better though, as they still give me money to write about comics.



They’re best friends, teammates, brothers-in-arms — but that bond is tested to the limit when Falcon targets the Rivas drug cartel, and the Super-Sailor known as the “Anti-Cap” sets his sights on Sam Wilson! Can Captain America thwart his dark doppelgänger before Sam Wilson’s wings are clipped? Fingers crossed, because there’s a Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing waiting in the wings, and nobody’s better at stopping him than Cap and Falcon! But M.O.D.O.K.’s not the only big headache on the horizon, with the Avengers about to be Disassembled and all. Is this really the best time for Steve to be kissing the Scarlet Witch? Plus: With the Rivas out for revenge, Falcon may cross a line that could finish one of comics’ greatest partnerships once and for all! Collecting CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON (2004) #1-14.
328 PGS./Rated T+ …$34.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9526-9

Wait, Christopher Priest wrote a Captain America/Falcon series as recently as 2004...and I didn't know about it? Or did I, and I told myself I would read it in trade, and then forgot too...? Huh. Anyway, I like The Falcon, don't mind Captain America and really like Priest's superhero-writing. The pencil artists seem like a real grab-bag here, though, so maybe this is more of a borrow-from-the-library collection than a buy-for-the-bookshelf-collection...

Cullen Bunn (w) • Salvador Espin (a)
Deadpool might be an Avenger now, but he’s also got his own private team of mercenaries…the legally-cleared-to-be-called MERCS FOR MONEY! Got a problem you can’t solve on your own and a pile of money you’d like to be rid of? Just call Deadpool, Stingray, Massacre, Solo, Foolkiller, Terror and Slapstick and watch as that problem is shot, stabbed, eviscerated, pulverized and generally made bloody!
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99

Wait, "merc" is short for "mercenary," and "mercenary" means "someone who does something, especially fight, for money." So isn't "Mercs For Money" kind of redundant, or is meant to echo "Heroes For Hire"...?

Not much of a Deadpool fan, and can't remember anything Bunn-written I've read that I liked, but I kinda like Stingray and Foolkiller (although I didn't recognize him on the covers, so I guess this isn't the same Foolkiller I'm thinking of, which would be the original one from the pages of the late Steve Gerber's Man-Thing in the 1970s), so this might be of some interest...

• The Witchfinder Wolves are here and Doctor Strange is in trouble.
• The Empirikul is coming, Magic’s days are numbered and Strange is not ready!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

The cover offered no clues as to what "The Witchfinder Wolves" are, but I'm really hoping their a pack of talking wolves that are dressed like Vincent Price in The Witchfinder General:
I would say that's incredibly unlikely but then, on the other hand, this is a Jason Aaron-written comic, so really, nothing's too unlikely, is it?

• The fiend kidnapped children and put their little hands to work digging. But for WHAT?! Prepare to be SHOCKED! And AWED!!!
• Drax is ready to PUNCH out an escape route, barring any WEIRD mystical surprises. (FYI, we consider a dragon in hot pants to be pretty normal, so what could weird possibly even mean???)
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Ha ha ha! "Temple of Foom"...!

If Patsy Walker, Hellcat is half as good as its covers, it's going to be a hell of a comic book...

Cover by ALEX ROSS
Things Get Weird!
• The Squadron descends into the newest, weirdest corner of the Marvel U!
• But how many of them will make it out?
• Plus: A beloved Marvel character returns amid much pomp and FANFARE!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I feel like the word "fanfare" is a clue that I am supposed to recognize as to the identity of the "beloved Marvel character," but I'm drawing a blank. I am dumb.

We KNOW you’ve been waiting to see LUKE CAGE and DANNY RAND back together and back to STREET-STOMPING basics! POWER MAN and IRON FIST are tracking a mystery with all the ingredients of a classic Heroes-for-Hire tale. Expect old friends, hired goons, crime lords, weird magic, plenty of power, a flurry of fists and as much bromance as you can handle! It’s Power Man and Iron Fist reunited, and writer DAVID WALKER and artist SANFORD GREENE are making it feel so GOOD!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I am looking forward to this. I hope it's as good as it is in my imagination.

• A magical curse has befallen the Irish countryside and only the SCARLET WITCH has the cure!
• A powerful new magician by the name of the EMERALD WARLOCK has his eye on Wanda…but is he friend or foe?
• Wanda discovers that there is much more to her family history than meets the eye…
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I kind of think having The Scarlet Witch encounter a character named he Emerald Warlock is both dumb and awesome at the same time...which is kinda what I want from my superhero comic books.

That's a pretty fantastic cover by David Aja.

• Amadeus is on the hunt for the biggest, greenest, baddest monster on the block – besides himself, of course!
• And an unlikely ally lends a hand!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Ha ha ha! "Prepare to meet your Foom"...! Marvel's killing it with the Fin Fang Foom puns!

Also, that's at least two Fin Fang Foom appearances. Too bad he's not in all of February's books. Then it could be Fin Fang Foom February...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: November 18

Batman & Robin Eternal #7 (DC Comics) There's a single art team this issue, consisting of Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez, which certainly helps make this particular issue look better than the last. Genevieve Valentine handles the script. In these 20 pages, we see three different teams of characters working the same case in two time periods.

In the past, the original Batman and Robin track Mother and company to Prague. In the present, Dick Grayson, Cassandra Cain and Harper Row are also in Prague, tracking the same operation, while Jason Todd and Tim Drake follow a different lead in Gamorra, which is a place in the DC Universe.

The details are nice. The mystery is intriguing, at least, and it was fun to see Cassandra's reaction to ballet which, if her ability to speak body language far better than spoken language remains the same, would make her maybe the world's most appreciative fan of dance. There's an interesting example of ship-bait in that scene, too.

I really wish I understood what the hell happened in #5, in which Tim and Dick had a falling out, because that seems to be a factor here, at least in terms of why they two teams aren't working together. The characters all seem to get that Dick did something to violate Tim's trust but, um, I still don't understand anything about that scene.

Also, Harper mentions that Orphan lost a foot in their previous encounter. Cassandra chopped off his hand, though.

Nice cover, though.

Batman '66 #29 (DC) Wait a minute! Ma Parker? Jeff Parker?

Huh. I always assumed Parker was hired to write Batman '66 because he is an excellent writer with a great sense of humor. I never suspected it was actually because his mom was a Batman '66 villain.

This issue has two sort of connected stories, in which Parker teams with two of the titles best artists. In the first chapter, Dean Haspiel draws "Parker Breaks Out," in which Ma Parker and her family escape jail to be together, freeing a trio of other Bat-villains in the process. In the second half, Jonathan Case draws "Catwoman Comes About," in which those Bat-villains–Killer Croc, Solomon Grundy and introducing Killer Moth '66*–kidnap Robin and Batgirl, and Catwoman offers to help Batman take them down.

It's great art all around–although unfortunately Haspiel and Case each chose to design Killer Moth in different ways–and pretty clever comics-writing. The back half is particularly satisfying, as it plays with the TV show's take on Batman and Catwoman's romantic relationship.

Doctor Fate #6 (DC) Another great cover by Sonny Liew. If you've read the first five issues, you've read this one too. At this point, I'm basically just giving DC $3 a month to thank them for giving Liew a monthly superhero comic.

Jughead #2 (Archie Comics) Well, here's a lame thing about variant covers: Sometimes you don't get to pick the one you like best, and end up with a lamer one. Like the one awaiting me in my pull-file was the Robert Hack one of the five variants, when I would have much rather gotten the Erica Henderson one.

Henderson and writer Chip Zdarsky's second issue is much like their first. The center piece is a long dream sequence which puts Jughead in a fantastical situation–recruited by a descendent of Archie's from the far future to help save Riv3rdal3 from a descendent of Reggie's, who attacks with dinosaurs and robots and vikings and stuff–which echoes the events in his waking life (here, bending rules without breaking them).

Meanwhile, the new principal and his new teachers continue to make life miserable for the students, and Jughead finds himself a target. Of course, he "finds himself" a target because he makes himself a target, but still.

I thought there were a few laugh-out-loud moments in this. I particularly liked the one reasonable robot–
–although the page immediately following the dream sequence was even better.

As with the previous issue, and issues of the new, rebooted Archie, this issue includes a a reprint of an eight-page classic Jughead story, with a one-page introduction to it by Zdarsky. I like these, as they make me feel like I'm getting my money's worth for my $3.99, and the prose bits prove that Zdarsky really is a really good writer. I mean, his introduction to old Jughead comics are really funny, and that's a little outside–or at least to the left–of his main goal here, which is writing really funny Jughead comics of his own, you know?

Lumberjanes #20 (Boom Studios) This appears to be the satisfying climax and resolution of the mer-people storyline, but it ends with a "To Be Continued." Do they meant the series itself..? In which case, duh, or do they mean the story arc, which sure seems to have reached a resolution?

I don't know. This issue was pretty great though. It strikes me as strange that Carolyn Nowak's covers for the arc feature mer-people who differs so dramatically in design from the ones that are actually in the story, drawn by Carolyn Nowak. I guess she did the covers far, far in advance of the story, maybe...?

*I think. I don't have time to check right now, but in the past I've spent some time trying to figure out if there was ever a version of Killer Moth or a character named "Mothman" on the TV show or not, because several sources that discuss the Mothman of Point Pleasant say his name was derived from a character on the Batman TV show, which was airing at the time of the flap of sightings. Please correct me if I'm wrong, though.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

DC's February previews reviewed

Well, February looks like it's going to be an extremely weird-looking month for DC Comics, thanks in large part to the massive contributions from the post-Batman: Odyssey Neal Adams handling their themed variant covers, most of which are included in their pencil form in the solicits.

Not only is Adams doing all the variants, but he seems to be basing the variants on some of his own most iconic imagery from the past, albeit it substituting characters to make for some pretty weird scenes. Like Superman apparently telling Batman that his sidekick Robin (Tim Drake iteration) is a...JUNKIE!

The swaps tend to be pretty random, as in this cover to JLA, which has Superman in for Ra's al Ghul in a re-enactment of one of the Dark Knight Detective's many shirt-less, hairy-chested sword-fights against The Demon's Head:

Others, are nice and straightforward, like this Superman cover, featuring the title's hero striking probably the most iconic Neal Adams Batman pose, the one you no doubt think of when you think of Neal Adams' Batman:
It might have got pretty repetitive, but I would have probably been A-OK if all of the Adams variants were just drawings of different heroes all rushing into action in that pose.

Also of interest is the fact that Adams seems to be drawing pretty much whatever versions of the characters he wants. Many–most, actually–look like they are the most classic or iconic versions of the character costumes (i.e. Batman and Superman wear their shorts instead of their New 52 armor, etc), while some of the characters that didn't quite exist in their present forms pre-New 52-boot are drawn in their current costumes, like Red Hood Jason Todd and Trucker-Hat Arsenal. The Flash, on the cover of The Flash, looks to be wearing his new New 52 costume...sans a glove?

I hope the final covers all include some text to help contextualize them a bit.

So, why is February Neal Adams month? Well, the fact that he has a new Superman mini-series launching probably has a lot to do with it. It's one of several big projects that DC is launching that month, some of which are long-awaited (like the Grant Morrison-written Earth One: Wonder Woman), others of which seem to come out of left-field (Another Frank Miller-related project? Does that make it DK IV, or will it just be an epilogue of sorts to DK III?).

Otherwise, it seems like a fairly quiet month for the publisher, with nothing being canceled, nothing major being launched, and only smaller, easy-to-ignore books (Aquaman, Teen Titans) getting new creative teams or directions. It's depressing to realize, but aside from Morrison's Wonder Woman graphic novel, the books I'm most excited about in this round of solicitations are all of collections of books from the 1990s or so, when I first started reading comics, but didn't have the money or interest to read, say, the beginnings of Dan Jurgens' Justice League run or all of War of the Gods (although I later assembled partial collections of both from dollar bins).

For the complete solicitations, you can check out Comics Alliance or Comic Book Resources. For my babbling about them, you should probably just stay where you are.

Look, I don't know much about first aid or anything Barbara, but I'm pretty sure that when you're applying a bandage to a wound you should, you know, look a the wound while you're doing it.

Written by FRANK TIERI
On sale FEBRUARY 10 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Catwoman’s been on the run before, but now it’s not just the cops that are on her tail! With a bounty on her head, it seems like every member of the New York underground is gunning for her…and that includes some familiar faces from Gotham City! When sometime allies Batgirl and Killer Croc decide to get in on the chase, Catwoman might be all out of tricks.

I'm not really looking forward to Frank Tieri's run on this book. I've liked some of his writing in the past, but he's not a writer I would think would have much of any great interest to say about this particular character (I just read the first issue of his Hangman, the latest in Archie Comics' revival of their superhero line under the new "Dark Circle" branding and it was...well, it wasn't very good. It's dark and gritty and tiresome, a crime comic with a dash of the supernatural and superhero, and looks and reads a lot like something Marvel might have published in the early '00s. It's does what it's attempting well enough, but I'm not sure the racks really needed another comic like that–of the four revivals I've read so far, only The Fox has been a particularly enjoyable read for me personally. The others have all been a bit of a slog).

I am very intersted in the work of Inaki Miranda though, and while I rarely find myself able to read superehro comics just for the art for very long, this is an issue I certainly wouldn't mind checking out, as it will allow Miranda to draw both the title character and Batgirl.

Cover by ANT LUCIA
On sale MARCH 2 • 200 pg, FC, $16.99 US
In these stories from issues #1-6 of the hit series, learn the story behind this alternate reality where the Second World War is fought by superpowered women on the front lines and behind the scenes! It all begins with the stories of Batwoman, Wonder Woman and Supergirl.

If you missed the single issues–and the digital versions too, I suppose–then don't miss this. This comic is really, really good. I swear. You may be skeptical, given its origins. Hell, I was skeptical, but Marguerite Bennett has crafted a fairly incredible Elseworlds-style story of the DC Universe of heroes all blossoming in 1940, with the focus squarely on the superheroines. The art is occasionally awesome–particularly when Marguerite Sauvage is drawing it–and even when it's not, it's never awful.

Wonder Woman fans in particular should be sure to read it; I'm pretty sure this is the best long-form Wonder Woman comic story since...Hell, I can't even remember.

Here Adams references an old Green Lantern/Green Arrow cover, in which the Emerald Archer interrupted GL's ring-charging ritual by shooting an arrow into his power batter. Adams has, of course, reversed their positions.

This was previously done on the cover of one of the 1996 issues in the story arc chronicling then Green Lantern Kyle Rayner's first meeting with then Green Arrow Conner Hawke, by Paul Pelletier:

On sale FEBRUARY 3 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T+
Guest-starring Green Lantern! Black and red are kind of Harley Quinn’s thing…so when the most unique power ring in the universe crosses her path, she has no choice but to put it on, right? Unfortunately for Harley—and everyone else—this hybrid ring is fueled by rage and death…and things are gonna get out of hand very quickly!

While I don't think the Red Lantern Corps or "Agent Orange"/Larfleeze or even Sinestro and his yellow lantern Corps are good subjects for ongoing monthly series, I do like the various rings Geoff Johns and his collaborators cooked up, and, in particular, the temporary promotion of various pre-existing DC characters to Lanterns of various colors...and getting new, hybrid costumes to go along with them.

So Harley Queen getting some kinda red/black ring...? That actually sounds like a fun story to me; count me in.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Variant cover by NEAL ADAMS
Batman triptych variant cover by KIM JUNG GI
On sale FEBRUARY 17 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
The massive “Darkseid War” epic continues to set the stages for the future of the DC Universe as we reveal the secrets behind its newest major player: Darkseid’s daughter, Grail! And if the Justice League is not careful, the spoils of war will all end up with her! See the truth behind Grail's role in this war and the future of the DC Universe as she tears her way across it. Don’t miss this extra-sized special offered at the regular price of $3.99!
Plus, world-renowned visualist Kim Jung Gi puts his stamp on the DC Universe with a wall-to-wall-to-wall action triptych featuring the Big Three!

Holy shit, this is still going to be going on in February...? They're publishing like a half-dozen specials tying in to the "Darkseid War" story arc of Justice League.

Perhaps instead of "Darkseid War" they shoulda called this arc "Darkseid Bataan Death March"...?

There is not an issue of Justice League being solicited for February though, so this isn't an extra installment, but the regularly allotted one.

I'm not sure what the "extra-sized" refers to though, as it says it's only 32 pages, which would be the regular length of your standard DC comic: 20-22 story pages, plus 10-12 pages of ads.

Art by ACO
On sale FEBRUARY 3 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Spyral wants the deadly Perdition Pistol back—so they turn to the only man who stands a chance of recovering it: Midnighter! The only problem is who has possession of it now...the near-unbeatable Suicide Squad!

Near unbeatable? I don't know, de-powered Superman and Goofy Costume Wonder Woman kicked their asses pretty thoroughly recently, even if it did take them a few pages longer than you would expect a Suicide Squad vs. Superman and Wonder Woman fight to take...

This is a great Scooby-Doo-crossing-the-Delaware cover, far superior to DC's previous attempt to homage the iconic paining, on the cover of an issue of the ill-fated Prez.
As per usual, the variants program only extends to the comics within the main, DCU superhero line, and not any of the Vertigo, kids books or digital-first series. Which is too bad, because I would love to have seen a Neal Adams drawing of Scooby and the Gang...

Written by MAX LANDIS
Art by JAE LEE
Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale FEBRUARY 17 • 32 pg, FC, 4 of 7, $3.99 US • RATED T+
Clark travels to Metropolis for the Cerberus Summit, a rare meeting between three of the world’s most prominent young chiefs of industry: Lex Luthor, Oliver Queen, and the enigmatic Bruce Wayne. Landing an exclusive interview with any of the three would all but guarantee Clark a prestigious internship with the Daily Planet…but Clark runs into some unexpected competition when he meets another college journalist named Lois Lane.

I just read the first issue of this limited series, by writer Max Landis and a different artistic collaborator each issue, and it was really good. Surprisingly so. I'll be really curious to see if Landis can keep it up.

I can't quite make sense of all the symbolism on it, but I really like Ryan Sook's cover for this issue.

Written by DAN JURGENS and others
On sale MARCH 23 • 412 pg, FC, $17.99 US
In these 1990s tales from JLA #61-67 and JUSTICE LEAGUE SPECTACULAR #1, Superman convinces the team to aid his former foe, Maxima, in freeing her homeworld from a tyrant. Then, the JLA must rescue the Elongated Man and Sue Dibny from the Royal Flush Gang.

After the writing team of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis finally left DC's Justice League franchise, which they reinvigorated to the point that they had taken it from a flailing, failing book and turned it into a fan-favorite, critically-acclaimed multi-book franchise, some poor sap had to take on the unenviable task of trying to follow them.

Writer/artist Dan Jurgens rose to the challenge, handling the main book in the franchise, adding Superman, who had obviously had some history with, and his own creations Maxima and Bloodwynd (It's complicated) to holdovers from the Justice League cast, Fire, Ice, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold.

It's been a while since I've read any of his work from this era, but I seem to recall it going a lot better than I would have feared, and while this isn't the best run on a Justice League title between the end of the Giffen/DeMatteis iteration and Grant Morrison's 1997 JLA, it's far from the worse.

The re-titling of the collection is probably telling, although check out that price point: Over 400 pages for $18...? That's a damn good value.

On sale MARCH 30 • 296 pg, FC, $19.99 US
In these stories from SUPERMAN/BATMAN #27-36 and ANNUAL #1, the Martian Manhunter attacks Batman! The Parasite and Titano return! Superman’s allegiances are tested in a story involving the Green Lantern Corps and more! Plus, a tale from the days before Superman and Batman were a team—and Deathstroke was gunning for Bruce Wayne!

DC's Superman/Batman ongoing was an odd beast. I remember describing an issue during Jeph Loeb's run as its writer by saying "a bunch of random stuff happens," and someone answered, "Wait, isn't that every issue of Loeb's Superman/Batman...?" Fair enough. Hell, at least it was usually drawn pretty well.

If I recall correctly, this collection includes the point in the run where the book just completely fell apart, as it went from Jeph Loeb + Popular Artist on each consecutive arc, to Popular-ish Writer + Popular-ish Artist on each arc, to...well, "garbage" is too strong a word. At least for some of these stories.

That first issue is a done-in-one team-up of the (original) Earth-2 Power Girl and Huntress,a s drawn by Kevin Maguire. It's followed by a Verheiden-written story arc involving many of DC's alien characters that was started by Ethan Van Sciver, but then went to increasingly poor fill-in artists to finish and then a Pat Lee-drawn arc featuring the Metal Men and a few other robot-related characters (An arc that probably represented the absolute nadir of the series).

The one story in here that is unquestionably awesome is the one the cover is taken from. THat's the Joe Kelly-written, (partially) Ed McGuinness-drawn annual. Set in the early days of Batman and Superman's partnership, when they were still frenimes, it involves Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent and Lois Lane on a cruise ship together. While Deathstroke is trying to fulfill a contract on Wayne. And they get visitors from Earth-2 (which, at the time of that story, was the Pre-Crisis Earth-3 equivalent world from the Anti-Matter Universe that Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely re-created for their JLA: Earth-2 original graphic novel). These are, of course, Ultraman and Owlman and...Deathstroke's opposite number, who is basically a slightly off-model Deadpool, written and drawn by one of the best-loved Deadpool creative teams (A Deadpool analogue being Deathstroke's opposite isn't really that unusual; Rob Liefeld based the character of Deadpool on Deathstroke after all).

Now that I'm stopping to think about this, if you're at all curious about this trade, you're probably better off just looking for Superman/Batman Annual #1 in a back-issue bin.

Written by NEAL ADAMS
Art and cover by NEAL ADAMS
On sale FEBRUARY 3 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T
From legendary writer/artist Neal Adams comes a threat so epic it will take more than one Man of Steel to handle it in this new 6-issue miniseries!
As Darkseid and the hordes of Apokolips lay waste to the world, even Superman is overwhelmed—but not for long, as three heroes from the miniaturized city of Kandor emerge at full size, armed with all the vast powers of Kal-El, ready to become the new Supermen!
This battle of titans also features the machinations of Lex Luthor, plus fan favorites Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane aiding in the fight for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

Here's the aforementioned Adams Superman comic. The storyline would probably be a bit more exciting had DC not already devoted like 1,000 issues of the Superman line to stories involving the un-shrunken Bottle City of Kandor in that "New Krypton" jazz. Seeing all those different guys wearing Superman costumes reminds me of Captain Marvel and The Lieutenant Marvels.

Art and cover by YANICK PAQUETTE
On sale APRIL 6 • 144 pg, FC, $22.99 US
In this new installment of the New York Times best-selling Earth One original graphic novel line, Grant Morrison (THE MULTIVERSITY) joins with Yanick Paquette (SWAMP THING, BATMAN, INC.) to reimagine Wonder Woman for a new era. Encompassing the vision of her original creator, William Moulton Marston, Morrison presents a Diana who yearns to break free from her mother and the utopian society on Paradise Island to learn about the forbidden outside world. Her dreams may come true when Air Force pilot Steve Trevor crashes on their shores, and she must defy the laws of the Amazons to return him to Man’s World.
Is she ready for the culture shock that awaits her in America? And is the world ready for this Wonder Woman?

Well, I'm definitely curious. I'm also pretty frightened by Morrison's version of "the vision of her original creator, William Moulton Marston," as he didn't seem to quite get it when discussing it in interviews in t he past, but this has been in the works for, what, 40 years now...? Likewise, Paquette's not the artist I'd most want to see on this project, but is probably in keeping with the level of skill and popularity that has been assigned to the other three "Earth One" series.

I'm exceptionally crious about that "Vol.1," as it was my understanding that Morrison was writing an original graphic novel–didn't they decide at one point it would be published not as part of the Earth One line, but under the title The Trial of Wonder Woman?–but "Vol. 1" definitely implies at least a second volume.

On sale MARCH 23 • 304 pg, FC, $24.99 US
When Zeus and his fellow Gods of Olympus go to war with other deities from across the heavens (and beyond), the heroes of the DC Universe are stuck in the middle. Teaming with Superman, Captain Marvel and others, Wonder Woman must stop a battle that could destroy the galaxy, and discover who is pulling the strings behind the scenes! Collects WAR OF THE GODS #1-4 and WONDER WOMAN #58-62!

So here's one of those '90s books I'm really interested in reading. I read the main series, but I don't recall reading any issues of Wonder Woman. And I'm pretty sure I read something like 30 tie-in comics. I believe this tied into pretty much everything DC was publishing at the time, and some of those tie-ins were extremely tenuous (Like, I remember a Batman tie-in where Batman and Robin basically just fought Maxie Zeus, the crazy Batman villain who thinks he's Zeus; that was close enough for the auspices of the tie-ins to this).

It does have George Perez drawing the whole DC Universe though, and it is therefore pretty goregous; I think this was the best Donna Troy looked since the 1960s. I imagine the story behind the crossover is at least as interesting as the story itself, as I seem to recall it being somewhat troubled, and man, it is not easy coming up with a story that includes such disparate characters as Etrigan, Lobo, the Ostrander-era Suicide Squad, Captain Marvel and so on.

So while this is 300 pages, it leaves out all of the tie-ins that weren't issues of Wonder Woman. I'm pretty sure if DC collected all the tie-ins, this would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 pages.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to finally reading this as at least whoever edited this collection thinks it was meant to be read.

As for who is pulling the strings behind the scenes, I forget. Probably Ares or Darkseid.

Written by EVAN DORKIN, ALAN GRANT, and others
On sale MARCH 30 • 296 pg, FC, $16.99 US
Bat-Mite stars in this collection of misadventures with appearances by Superman, the Justice League of America and Superman’s equally magical—and annoying—foe, Mr. Mxyzptlk. Collects SUPERMAN AND BATMAN: WORLD’S FUNNEST #1, BATMAN: MITEFALL #1, WORLD’S FINEST #6, DETECTIVE COMICS #267 and more!

Oh hey, I just mentioned the title story the other day, in discussing the Anti-Life Equation. World's Funnest lives up to its name. The Dorkin-written, 2000 one-shot featured a slug-fest between the Silver Age incarnations of Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, which they take from dimension to dimension, time period to time period, and Earth to Earth, until they've destroyed pretty much the whole DC Multiverse. Dorkin worked with somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 artists on this ting, with the appropriate artist usually showing up to draw the appropriate setting (When they appear in the pages of Kingdom Come, for example, Alex Ross handles art chores). If your favorite artist was working in comics in 2000, the chances are pretty good they contributed.

It looks like DC is filling the collection with other imp stories, like the Alan Grant/Kevin O'Neill Mitefall special and the first appearance of Bat-Mite (Tec #267). I'm not sure why World's Finest #6 is included, as it predates both characters. Maybe it's a typo? World's Finest #113 or #123 would work, though.

As for the "and more," your guess is as good as mine, but I would imagine 1992's Batman: Legends of The Dark Knight #32 by Grant and O'Neill is in there, as Mitefall was a sequel to that done-in-one comic introducing the post-Crisis Bat-Mite (as a possible drug-induced hallucination).

Anyway, Superman and Batman: World's Funnest is a must-read, and everything else I know is in here is excellent, so I would definitely recommend this.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: Kill la Kill Vol. 1

The Japanese school uniform is one of the most distinct and omnipresent aspects of manga, especially among the manga that makes it into translated and re-published form here in the United States, where the uniforms are immediately noticeable for their other-ness. In the U.S., only private and parochial schools have uniforms, and these tend to simply look preppy and/or involve a lot of plaid, rather than being derived from military uniforms, as so many Japanese school uniforms are (Not to overstate things, but remember one of the first and biggest anime/manga imports from Japan was Sailor Moon, which featured a heroine whose school uniform transformed into a superhero version of itself, and whose name was partly derived from the uniforms itself).

In Kill la Kill, a popular anime series whose manga adaptation arrives in the states this month, Japanese school uniforms inform the entire premise of the series, which is, in and of itself, an interesting concept.

If, like me, you haven't seen the anime, the setting is Honnouji Academy, a prestigious school ruled by iron fist by Student COuncil President Satsuki Kiryuin. The student body is divided into a clear hierarchy, with the many students wearing special "Goku Uniforms," which give their wearers incredible strength, speed, endurance and other powers; they range from one-star goku uniforms to three-star goku uniforms.
Thematically, it's not subtle. "The uniforms that this country makes its students wear are based on military uniforms," Satsuki explains at one point, "In which case, we at Honnouji Academy wshat treat our uniforms as combat uniforms. They shall be symbols of our control over the pigs in human clothing." She and the members of her student council are in the process of conquering all of the other schools in the country. In the book's opening scene, a teacher is lecturing about the rise of Hitler when a battle between a three-star and one-star student breaks out.

It's into this environment that a ronin transfer student wanders. Her name is Ryuki Matoi, and she wields what looks like one of those ridiculously large and sometimes oddly shaped manga/anime swords, but it turns out to be something quite different and more appropriate for the story: It's one half of a pair of giant scissors. She found it sticking out of the body of her murdered father, and is now in search of whoever possesses the other half. Naturally, the giant scissors are powerful enough to cut into even a goku uniform.

It's not enough to help her win a battle against any of the Academy's fascist rulers, of course, but she gets a more powerful weapon when she stumbles upon, well, here's where it gets really weird–a sentient sailor suit uniform that both feeds off her blood and gives her the strength and fighting abilities to go toe-to-toe with anyone in a goku uniform.
Think Sailor Moon meets Venom then, and you can start to see much of why Kill la Kill is as popular as it is, even if that description doesn't really do it justice, but just touches on some surface elements. The suit, by the way, is ridiculously tiny when in battle mode, allowing Kill la Kill to have its cheesecake and eat it too, as Akizuki draws Ryuki's exposed flesh in a barely-there uniform, while every single character makes fun of how weird it is that anyone's wearing something so small.
That is, apparently, only the suit–which she calls "Senketsu" or "Fresh Blood"–while it is in battle mode. It also appears as a too-small-for-school two-piece suit that leaves at least a little to the imagination (that's it on the cover).

In addition to its exploitation and exploration of the Japanese school uniform and its mixture of over-the-top action and fan-service, Kill la Kill also literalizes the idea of social hierarchy in school, externalizing conflicts–real or imagined–between kids of different social strata into epic super-brawls. I don't know how well it works in the anime, which I've never seen, but in Akizuki's manga adaptation it works quite well indeed.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

These are the posters for this years Genghis Con:


John G

Amber Esner

I will be exhibiting this year–my first show sitting behind a table!–selling these comics, if you would like to come by and criticize my poor art in person. For more information on the convention itself, you can visit its sites, like this one or this one.