Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: November 25

Archie #4 (Archie Comics) Finally, it can be told: The Lipstick Incident is revealed, after three issues of teasing. I have to say part of me wishes they never revealed it, as the incident one imagines is much more exciting and interesting than the actual incident (as is always the case when it comes to our unconfirmed imaginations vs. reality), but writer Mark Waid has crafted an incident that works within the parameters of the characters involved, and demonstrates a reason why they might finally split up without making either one of them seem like a bad person in the process.

The page of Archie trudging through the streets of Riverdale, staring at his phone and oblivious to everything around him, is just all-around perfect comic book storytelling on the part of artist Annie Wu and Waid, which goes a long way towards demonstrating what exactly makes this comic work so well.

Writing a preview of this issue for Comics Alliance's "Best Comics Ever (This Week)" feature, Charlotte Finn really nails what that is: "This book is a textbook example of how much raw craft matters, because all the characters are still fully familiar Archie characters—everything that Waid and Wu (and before Wu, Fiona Staples) brings to the table is all technique, and sometimes, technique is enough."

After the main story, the 7-page reprint comic, the cover gallery (Damn, Mahmud Asrar killed it on his variant, and holy crap, there's a Jaime Hernandez one too?!) and the preview of next issue's cover, there's a house ad for an 80-page "collector's edition," which puts the first three issues (i.e. the Fiona Staples-drawn ones) between the same set of covers.

The ad contains a pull-quote from a review credited to "Comic Book Resources." It went like this–Mark Waid and Fiona Staples completely reinvent Archie comics, coming up with a take on the character that should appeal to a whole new and extremely wide audience"–which I thought sounded kinda familiar.

And then I Googled the phrase and I realized why: I wrote that, for CBR's affiliate Robot 6 blog. I do wish they would have been a little more specific in terms of who said that and where. Partly–okay, mostly–because I am vain and like to see my name in print, but also because the reviews on Robot 6, when they still did reviews on Robot 6, were a lot more discerning than those on CBR's main page, and because if I liked something, it must be good, because I am incredibly hard to please. Certainly compared to the no doubt fine folks who review comics for CBR's main page, who tend to grade on a curve of whatever mainstream stuff they read, and thus everything gets good reviews.

Wait, let's look. Okay, there are 14 comics currently on their main page under "reviews": Seven Marvel comics, three Dark Horse, two DC and one IDW comic. I was assuming they would all be 3-5 star reviews, but, just to make me look like an asshole here, I see there actually are some harsh reviews, based, at least, on the star system. Both Marvel's Extreme X-Men and Venom: Space Knight are rated rather poorly, earning 1 and 1.5 stars, respectively. Even still, the average among those 14 is pretty damn high: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

I actually expected it to be a bit higher, but that's still pretty high. Anyway, to recap: I wish they would have attributed that quote to me personally, or at least to Robot 6 instead of the more vague Comic Book Resources, Archie remains awesome and I am an asshole.

Batman & Robin Eternal #8 (DC) Oh God, I'm going to have to talk about this same book every single week from now on, aren't I? Well, I don't have to, of course, but as long as I want to keep reading it (and I do; despite it's mediocre quality, I like Bat-stuff and weekly comics enough to forgive weekly Batman comics a lot when it comes to my Wednesday comic book-purchasing decision making process) and as long as I want to do these posts where I babble for a few paragraphs about whatever I bought at the shop this week (and I do), well, this is going to keep coming up, huh?

This issue is scripted by Genevieve Valentine and drawn by the team of Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez, with Scot Eaton and Wayne Faucher providing all of three pages. I didn't actually notice the art change, perhaps because the Eaton/Faucher ones deal with a brief Red Robin/Red Hood sequence, while the rest of the book is set at the ballet in Prague.

The sub-par art was again frustrating this issue, and by "sub-par" I'm referring to the storytelling more than the quality of the rendering. It turns out that the older, white-haired lady who was all dressed up at the ballet and talking to that one ballerina on The Orphan/Mother's list is a completely different older, white-haired lady who was all dressed up at the ballet than Mother. See, one has her hair pulled back, and the other doesn't. Otherwise the two are identical. Also, the Mother character appears in two different outfits in two different time periods in this issue, so watch your old ladies closely!

Part of this is a failure of rendering, I suppose, but then, there are so many artists drawing the characters, and consistent character design so frowned upon these days (note Harper's ever-changing hair, for one example), that it's sort of inevitable characters will blur and blend together (The Robins are only identifiable by their costumes, for example). I do think this is mostly a failure of initial character design, though. If Mother and Other Old Lady are two different characters, maybe one should have an eye patch or wear a silly hat or something...?

There's also a patchy bit on the penultimate page, in which the script has the characters reacting to the condition of another character as if the latter were badly hurt, whereas the art shows nothing of the sort.

I don't know. Cassandra Cain, Harper Row and Dick Grayson beat up a bunch of ballerinas. So it's got that going for it. See you next week, Batman & Robin Eternal, you frustrating comic I just can't bear to stop reading, you!

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 (DC Comics) There seems to be some amount of controversy surrounding this book, which I suppose shouldn't come as any surprise at all: It is a Frank Miller project, and this is the 21st century, after all.

Actually, the extent to which it is a Frank Miller project seems to be the cause of some of the controversy, as DC originally hyped this as Miller's next Dark Knight book, even though he wasn't writing or drawing it, as he did The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Miller has been saying in interviews that his role in writing it was extremely limited, which shocked a lot of folks. I know I was shocked this week then to see, in the back, advertorial pages of all of my DC comics except DKIII (which is completely ad-free), Miller saying pretty much the exact same thing in an interview conducted and published by DC Comics, to promote a DC comic.

"This is not my conception, actually," Miller says, correcting Brian Azzarello's A to the Q of "How was this project conceived" in the three-question promotional Q-and-A. "I set up a realm in which Batman would operate and tried to stay true to the character, and Brian is now expanding on the storyline that I introduced...You've got to undestand, DC let me play with their toys, then Brian asked me if he could play with DC's toys the way I treated them...To reiterate, and I'm not being modest here, I'm consulting. This is Brian's show."

So while news that Miller wasn't as terribly involved as the original solicitations might have lead one to believe, the revelation that he consulted more than wrote, or talked about the story with Azzarello who then went on to script it, isn't exactly a bombshell, is it? That said, I suppose if I was a retailer, I would be pretty freaked out about this coming out now, that the orders have been placed and my racks were full of issues of DK III for my customers to decide maybe they didn't want this quite as badly after all (Of course, if I was a retailer, I would have already been driven mad by trying to make sense of the solicitations for this book anyway).

So, as I mentioned in my earlier post on the book, if you approach this comic the right way, it's not bad at all. That right way? As a Frank Miller-drawn sequel to Dark Knight Strikes Again wrapped in an Azzarello-written, Andy Kubert-penciled, Klaus Janson-inked homage to The Dark Knight Returns. Because that is what it is.

In a certain respect, the Master Race story, the Azzarello/Kubert/Janson comic, reminded me of the Before Watchmen books (do note that Azzarello was involved in that project, too). Those were, as far as I could tell without actually reading any, a modern attempt by the publisher to have modern popular creators attempt to recreate one of the most popular and influential works in mainstream comics history, by way of paying homage to the original–and (hopefully) making a lot of money in the process. Where this differs from the Watchmen business, of course, is that DC has a much better relationship with Miller, and they aren't proceeding over the objections of the creator, as they did with Watchmen.

So, let's look at the outer comic first. Kubert does a passable Miller impression, particularly in the Gotham City sequences, and while no one would mistake this for the work of Frank Miller (circa Holy Terror or circa DKR), it's definitely Kubert's Miller impression. Having Miller's inker Janson finishing his pencils no doubt helps immensely.

Azzarello rather unfortunately keeps Miller's very annoying TV media-as-Greek chorus technique going, which is beyond tedious this time around (DKR was like 30 years ago). Kubert draws Jon Stewart, Bill O'Reilly and Al Sharpton as the commentators, along with a generic blonde Fox lady (Megyn Kelly?) and a pair I didn't recognize as the talking heads reacting to the fact that the Dark Knight has returned...again (Say, that might have made for an even more honest title: The Dark Knight Returns...Again).

Azzarello ads a second, more annoying innovation to narration, by having a pair of character text one another back and forth about a Batman sighting, complete with emojis (although, I suppose it's worth noting, the text slang takes fills in for the made-up futuristic street slang of The Mutants from DKR nicely).

The story, at this point more a suggestion of one than anything else, sets a few plates spinning, and breaks one on the final page. In Gotham, Batman has seemingly returned after an absence, beating up cops and making life difficult for the mayor and the current police commissioner. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman (in her Dark Knight Strikes Again costume, fights a monstrous Minotaur/Centaur mash-up in the Amazon, where the Amazons apparently dwell in the Dark Knight-iverse. She does so with a papoose on her back, and when her son starts to cry, she does something I never, ever expected to see in a DC comic:
Yes, that's Wonder Woman preparing to breast-feed her son (in the next panel). If you're going to draw Wonder Woman's nipple in a comic book, that's the way to do it, really, but that doesn't mean I wasn't surprised to see it. DC has apparently given Miller and company a lot of rope here. To be clear, I'm A-OK with nudity in comics, as long as it's in the appropriate comics (while there's not rating on this thing, it's a $6 sequel to an extremely violent comic set in a different universe, and thus it's completely different than, say, characters talking about raping Supergirl in the DCU line, you know?). And there's nothing wrong with breast-feeding. I'm A-OK with that too, in real life, on TV, in comics, wherever. I was just surprised that DC was okay with both of the above, especially when it comes to that particular character.

Anyway, Wonder Woman has a son now. Who's the father? Is it Superman's? Maybe. After all, they had a daughter together in Dark Knight Strikes Again, and she's in this issue too, albeit grown-up and wearing a lamer costume (I really dug Miller's costume designs for DK2; I wish he was consulted for when it came time to redesign the whole DCU for the New 52). She's off visiting her dad in his Fortress of Solitude, where he is encased in ice. Dead? Probably not. He's Superman.

Back in Gotham, the cops beat the crap out of Batman and unmask him only to discover...well, you'll see.

Halfway through is a 12-page mini-comic entitled Dark Knight Universe Present: The Atom #1. It's wraparound cover, by Miller, features Superman trying to land a punch on a tiny Atom before the Bat-signal. This comic's writing credits echo those of the main comic. There's the enigmatic "Based on The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller" credit that starts them off, then a "Written by Frank MIller and Brian Azzarello." This one is clearly penciled by Miller though, so his contribution isn't something anyone–even Miller–can dispute.

His style is right were it left off in Holy Terror, meaning these super-characters look pretty much as they did in DK2, only maybe rougher. In Master Race, Supergirl visits the Fortress and finds the Bottle City of Kandor. In The Atom, she delivers it to The Atom Ray Palmer, who she apparently hopes can restore the Kandorians to their original size.

The comic starts with The Atom battling a "dinosaur," which, of course, turns out to be a lizard drawn without reference. Then there's a neat reveal or two. There's not a whole lot to it, obviously, but Miller art is always welcome, and it's nice to see it applied to new characters, which was one of the greatest treats of DK2. His Atom is redesigned, but slightly so; I like the new costume. It's still not as good as the original Atom costume, but, well, that's one of the all-time great costumes. That's like trying to redesign Superman or The Flash and coming up with something better–it just can't be done.

The format is weird, but fun, and the mini-comic seems particularly well-suited for this character, who, after all, is all about being small. I'm actually kind surprised DC or Marvel haven't thought to do this with The Atom or Ant-Man before.

So, Dark Knight III...? It's good. It's probably not what a lot of fans and/or readers will have expected or wanted, but then, I don't know what one should expect at this point. To me, it read like a Before Watchmen-style sequel to Miller's previous two Dark Knight series by other creators, with a mini-comic in the style of Dark Knight Strikes Again glued into the middle. It's $5.99/40-pages, so while it feels...wrong to buy a single comic book with a $10 bill and get so little back in change, that's the standard price point and page-count for two DC comic books, only they at least spare us ads, making this prestige project feel a little more prestigious than usual.

DC Comics Bombshells #5 (DC) You know DC, you don't have to publish this on a regular schedule or anything. I mean, it's just an out-of-continuity comic starring a bunch of versions of characters who already have their own comics (um, with the exception of Supergirl, I guess, because why would you want a Supergirl comic on the stands when there's a Supergirl TV show getting everyone talking about Supergirl all the time?). I mean, if you want to go bi-monthly or so to give artist Marguerite Sauvage more time to draw sections of the book, I wouldn't complain. As much fun as writer Marguerite Bennett's scripting may be, as talented as some of the other artists to contribute to the book may be, it was really Sauvage's luminous art work that made the first issue of the series–and passages of some subsequent issues–into must-read comics.

This fifth, 30-page issue of the digital-first series is, sadly, another Sauvage-less one. We get some fine art from the likes of Ming Doyle, Mirka Andolfo and Bilquis Evely but, alsa, none of them are Sauvage. The issue features three chapters, one drawn by each of the artists, and each following a different character or group of characters. Wonder Woman, despite occupying the cover of this issue, is not one of the characters in this particular issue.

In Berlin, Batwoman goes undercover to meet the Bombshells-iverse's versions of Lex Luthor and Catwoman (and to witness some of the rather tiresome Nazi occult stuff firsthand); in France, Holiday Variant Harley Quinn meets Poison Ivy (in a sequence that seemed too cartoony to fit in tonally with the story around it, at least as concerns Harley's entrance into Ivy's greenhouse); and, finally, back in the Soviet Union, Stargirl and Supergirl attempt to rescue their parents from the clutches of General Arkayn.

If you saw that last name in previous issues and thought, "Hey, that sounds like Arcane, as in Swamp Thing villain Anton Arcane; I wonder if that means Swampy will make an appearance?"...well, you get your answer this issue, and it's an affirmative. Swampy does not wear negligee or garters or stockings; he neither dresses nor poses like a 1940s pin-up girl. Sorry, anyone hoping for a DC Comics Bombshells Swamp Thing collectible statue (and/or glow-in-the-dark variant)!

Providence #5 (Avatar Press) Did the rape scenes in writer Alan Moore and artist Jacen Burrows' previous H.P. Lovecraft-related project for Avatar, Neonomicon disgust, sicken, enrage, offend or even just irritate you? If so, you're not going to want to read this issue, which has a rape scene. It doesn't involve a monster, so, in that respect, it may not at first seem to be as scary as that in Neonomicon, but, on the other hand, it is visually more realistic (i.e. there are two human bodies involved) and because there are minds being shuffled between bodies during the act, it's psychologically pretty messed-up and scary.

I didn't think the scenes in Neonomicon were wrong, at least, not in a way that the authors didn't intend them to be wrong (that is, they were horrifying elements of a horror story). The scene in this comic, however, seemed infinitely ickier to me, even though it is still body and psychological horror in a horror comic.

Hey, there are new comics from both Frank Miller and Alan Moore out on the same Wednesday. That...doesn't happen all that often.

Saga #31 (Image Comics) Hey, Saga is back! this issue kicks off a new chapter in the book, although maybe "chapter" isn't the right word, since they label their issues as chapters with the word "chapter" right there on the cover and everything.

Well, whatever you want to call it, this issue has a time-jump, and we catch up with the now four-year-old Hazel in some kind of prison camp kindergarten, with the "how" explained via flashback.

Fiona Staples draws a penis in a rather unexpected place in this issue, and she also draws an adorable bipedal pig wearing a lab coat. Saga has the best aliens.

Is Dark Knight III: The Master Race a comic book, or just a vehicle for variant covers?

That's probably not too terribly legible, but it's the credit page for the first issue of Dark Knight III: The Master Race. Those long columns of credits are the artists responsible for the "retailer" variants; there are another handful of "regular" variants. All in all, there are 49 variant covers listed on this page, although I'm pretty sure between black-and-white versions, blank covers and the super-rare incentive variants, there's likely well over 50 variants for this book, making it, perhaps, DC's answer to Mavel's Star Wars #1, which I believe had somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 variants, if I put the comma in the right place.

Looking at that list, I can't help but wonder if maybe DC shouldn't have just published a comic book format "gallery" like they used to occasionally did in the 190s, a tribute to Frank Miller's Dark Knight comics by top creators (If you've seen many of the variant covers, you'll notice none are specific to this new series, of which only one issue has been released, after all, but to the original Dark Knight Returns series).

It's a very strong line-up, including some of my favorite artists--

--and at least one from an artist I never would have expected to produce a variant cover for a prestigious DC superhero comics project, Kevin Eastman--
(Although given the fact that it was already announced that Eastman would be contributing variant covers to the upcoming Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cover, his presence seems much less out-of-left-field than it might have otherwise.)

On the other hand, I'm sure DC is going to make many, many, many times more money publishing a new Miller-attached Dark Knight comic book series with 50-100 variant covers than they would just publishing a Dark Knight Returns tribute gallery book.

The good news is that the book itself is pretty alright, particularly if you view it for what it is--Brian Azzarello and Andy Kubert doing their best Frank Miller impressions in homage to Dark Knight Returns, with an actual Frank Miller mini-comic embedded in the middle of it. Also, there was at least one incredibly shocking moment in the book, something I never expected to see in a DC comic book. Not because it was over-the-top or anything (it's not; it's a perfectly natural thing, really), but given the particular character and the fact that what she's doing is still deemed "controversial" in some circles, I was surprised to see it appear here, and in the way it appeared.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll be talking in greater length and with (hopefully) greater insight on the book at some point later in the very near future. In the mean time, I just wanted to point out that Good God that is so many variants! and, while I generally think variants are a pox upon the industry, it is at least nice to know that it lead to so many great images from so many great artists, like those whose work is pictured above.

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.