Thursday, December 18, 2014

Comic Shop Comics: December 17

Batman Eternal #37 (DC Comics) Tim Seeley scripts and Andrea Mutti draws this issue, which checks in with a variety of characters and a few plotlines we haven't seen in a while. These include 1.) Catwoman's new role as Gotham City Kingpin of Crime, which here makes her seem quite a bit like a new version of The Penguin (including her own themed casino), 2.) Luke "Batwing" Fox, whose armor has apparently picked up some kind of ghost infection on account of his investigation of Akrham Asylum, 3.) Killer Croc, who lost his people and home after the asylum collapse, 4.) Jason Bard, who came awfully close to killing Batman in the previous issue and failed and, finally, the "name" Arkham inmates who escaped: Bane, Mister Freeze, Poison Ivy, The Scarecrow, Clayface and Joker's Daughter (This last bit confused me, as we saw Freeze and I thought also Clayface get captured by Batman and the GCPD, and Bane taken down by Alfred).

Lumberjanes #9 (Boom) With the first arc complete, this issue offers a one-issue vacay for regular artist Brooke Allen. Filling in for her are seven artists for a sort of campfire Canterbury Tales anthology issue, or, as the credits page puts it, "A Flippin' Sweet Susan B. Anth-Ology!" Ha, feminism jokes! I'll discuss this ish in greater detail elsewhere, just be advised this exists and its awesome. Look for the Chynna Clugston Flores cover, and join me in lamenting that we don't get to see Chynna Clugston Flore art more often.

The New 52: Futures End (DC) Sadly, nothing at all like this cover occurs within this particular issue. Well, Fifty Sue does briefly don a Deathstroke helmet and refer to herself by the new codename of "Sequel," but her helmet lacks holes for pigtails. Also, no orange and black tutu and utility belt.

What does happen? Eh, Stormwatch vs. SHADE, the new Firestorm vs. the new Dr. Polaris, Batman Beyond and Plastique talk on a rooftop and boring business involving King Faraday, Sgt. Rock, Lana Lang and Grifter. Aaron Lopresti and Stephen Thompson pencil different parts of it, while Art Thibert and Thompson both ink. I like certain parts more than other parts, visually, and I'm assuming those were the Lopresti/Thibert parts, but I'm not 100% certain.

The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures #1 (DC) This is the issue in which artist Cameron Stewart, colored by Nathan Fairbairn, joins writer Grant Morrison to tell a story set on Earth-5, the new, numerical designation for what used to be known as Earth-S, the Earth in the original DC Multiverse upon which Captain Marvel lived, after DC acquired the character from Fawcett.

So it's Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart doing a Captain Marvel comic or, in other words, it's apparently a comic book created just to make me happy.

And it did. It's as close to perfect a Captain Marvel comic as I could imagine. Wait, scratch that, I couldn't have imagined this particular Captain Marvel comic book, which is a large part of why it was so delightful. While it had many of my favorite elements of Captain Marvel and his incredibly rich cast and milieu, they were all presented in interesting and fresh ways.

It's Captain Marvel and The Marvel Family (the extended Marvel Family), versus Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana (who uses his full name and everything), Sivana's children (Magnificus included) and The Monster Society of Evil, with the life of The Wizard Shazam, and the entire world, no the entire universe, no the entire Multiverse at stake! Sivana's plan, naturally, includes him naming shit after himself and, interestingly, refreshingly, Morrison downplays the "Shazam" (As The Wizard Shazam is the only character called "Shazam," and he even thinks up a title that doesn't include "Shazam" in it) and eschews using Black Adam, who has become the most ubiquitous character from the Fawcett family of characters, oddly enough (He appears in this week's Futures End for example; Captain Marvel, now called Shazam, does not).

There are additionally a few other nice digs at DC's continuous fucking up of these characters, some of which Morrison has contributed to, directly or indirectly. Sivana's plot comes so close to working because he's allied himself with his counterparts on various parallel worlds, one of which is a scary blood-soaked parody of a "dark" version of the character:
(The Infinite Sivanas are one of the more rewarding gags in the book, as we see Baby Sivana, Luchadore Sivana, Punk Rock Sivana, etc).

And then there's the newly empowered Georgina Sivana, part of The Sivana Family and highly reminiscent of the "dark" phase Mary Marvel went in and out of and back into during Countdown and Final Crisis, confronting Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr.
Dig the shape of Georgina Sivana's sigil, too; it look a bit like Marvel-ous lightning, and a bit like a stylized S.

Morrison and Captain Marvel are really a perfect match of creator and concept, given the former's affection for, and perhaps even obsession with, the intersection of magic and words and superheroes. Like Mr. Mxyzptlk and Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt (who Morrison included in his old JLA arc "Crisis Times Five!"), Captain Marvel is the character Grant Morrison would have created if Grant Morrison were a Golden Age superhero writer. Since he wasn't, he's a character Morrison has been repeatedly drawn to, and generally finds great success with, even though this story is probably the longest one devoted to the character Morrison ever penned.

What I liked most about this book, both in the writing and in the design and rendering, is that Stewart and Morrison, free to do whatever the hell they wanted with these characters, didn't see a need to scrap them and rebuild them, as is so often the case with creators tackling them (See Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's recent Shazam trade paperback for a good example of that). The only changes they make are basically tweaks; giving the Sivana kids street clothes instead of labcoats, giving Billy a live-streaming radio show on the Internet, kaiju-sizing members of Cap's rogues gallery to give them a cameo, and, in maybe the nicest touch, giving Uncle Marvel and the Lieutenant Marvels (who go unnamed, thankfully, since Fat Marvel, Tall Marvel and Hill Marvel don't really, um, work as superhero codenames in 2014) jetpacks and laser guns to give them the approximation of superpowers...and, since they're empowering Uncle Dudley in such a fashion, why not give Tawky Tawny a Lieutenant Marvel Uniform and jet pack and ray gun too?
I'm not sure how long Morrison would be able to keep a Captain Marvel series like this going—with these one-shots, I often find myself wondering if they're so good because Morrison used every single good idea he had for a character or concept in that one script, cutting out all of his lesser ideas—but, in a more perfect world, DC would be publishing a Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart Captain Marvel comic just like this, and this is the Captain Marvel we'd see in Justice League, rather than the hood-wearing, glowing chest-having Shazam.

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #5 (DC) Pay no attention to the man behind the title character's shoulder; he doesn't appear in any way, shape or form in the interiors. The name of a company owned by his archenemy appears on a box in several panels of this story, but that's as close as we get to a Superman connection within the actual book. This appears to be just another case of DC slapping any old random image of Wonder Woman on an issue of Sensation; hell, this might be a rejected Superman/Wonder Woman cover.

The story, which fills all 30 pages of this issue, is by Corrina Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; the former writing, and the latter writing and drawing, with Jordan Boyd handling the muted colors. They're muted for a reason: This story takes place on Apocolips.

It's a pretty great done-in-one issue, apparently set sometime pre-Flashpoint, as Wonder Woman has her previous costume on, and Darkseid and his followers all also look like their more recognizable, pre-New 52 selves.

In fact, in dialogue, plot and tone as well as visuals, this felt very much like the first time I've read a story about the "real" Wonder Woman (and the "real" Darkseid and Apokolips in a while).

Queen Hippolyta has sent two Amazonian spies to Apokolips, and they never returned, so she sends her daughter Diana to find and, hopefully, rescue them. She achieves her mission (sort of), but not before taking on Parademons and the Female Furies, getting tossed in a firepit, meeting the unfortunate subjects of Darkseid, and saving him and his entire world from destruction...while simultaneously sowing the seeds of rebellion against him.

There is a lot to like in this issue, from the fantastic Boom Tube entrance (something I don't think I've ever seen, despite all the Boom Tubes I've seen) to Wonder WOman using her magical lasso to actually get people to tell her the truth rather than just strangling them with it to a fantastic three-page action sequence that scans a little like a movie car chase, only one car is a flying lady carrying a couple of Amazon warriors, and the pursuing cars are Steppenwolf and some dudes on giant dogs (That scene kicks off with the line "Oh great...Now they've got giant dogs.").
I've always liked Hardman's style and it was a great pleasure to see him drawing iconic characters like Wonder Woman and the villains of Apokolips; I particularly liked his take on Mad Harriet and the way he's able to make Kirby's original Darkseid design look so goddam scary and menacing simply by rendering it that way, rather than feeling the need to tweak it or redesign the character, who endures because he was created so well.

Also, I love the way he draws omega beams.
Hardman's figure work in this really made me think he would have been an ideal artist to follow Cliff Chiang on the Wonder Woman monthly, if DC wanted to stick with that basic look for the book, as there's a lot in his linework and figure work that has the same basic, classic, bold design and storytellng chops as Chiang, but Hardman's work has a lot more lines, giving it a darker, grittier feel (and note I'm talking about the way the art looks, not the way the story unfolds or the character acts; this is Wonder Woman in full-on superhero mode, saving lives and fighting only after trying not to).

I really can't recommend this issue highly enough to fans of Wonder Woman. While we've seen some pretty great stories in the previous issues, this one is great while being a perfectly straightforward superhero action adventure story; it's not so much a radical new take on the character or a wild depiction of a versin of her, it's just a really well-done comic book starring teh Wonder Woman you knew and loved from all the good Wonder Woman comics you've read.

Speaking of Darkseid and Wonder Woman, I haven't read Batman and Robin yet, which is currently telling a story about Batman invading Apokolips to retrieve the body of Damian (I read it in trade), but I did flip through it, and I loved Patrick Gleason's take on Darkseid, giving his craggy, rock-like skin so much detail that he had a complexion that looked like it was somewhere between a circuit board and a labyrinth.

And the biggest Wonder Woman-related news of the week comes not in Sensation, but in the pretty awful Wonder Woman #37...specifically a shocking last-page reveal that suggests that the thorniest aspect of all of Wonder Woman history (and one of the DC Universe's continuity as a whole) is going to be raised and explored by a writer who has confessed ignorance of Wonder Woman history.

I may post about Wonder Woman #37 next week or so, but, in the meantime, this was my initial reaction, as shared with Twitter: "So, how best to discuss the last page of this week's Wonder Woman, and to do so without spoiling it? How about a metaphor: DC is a person in a cartoon who just threw a stick of dynamite out the front doore and breathed a deep sigh of relief; the Finchs are a cartoon dog that runs back in holding the sill lit dynamite in its mouth, thinking they're playing fetch."

Um, that probably spoils it anyway, doesn't it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DC's March previews reviewed

Well, March of 2015 is going to be a very interesting month for DC Comics, based on the solicitations they released this week. They've come up some pretty interesting but pretty much all at least slightly flawed themed variant covers. And they're canceling, like, a million titles, while meanwhile many other titles seem to be winding down/concluding in the same way that so many of DC's summer of 2011 titles seemed to be in their solicits.

These solicits include one for the April 1 release of Convergence #0, which will kickoff a two-month holding-pattern event while the brick-and-mortar DC Entertainment HQ switches coasts, and, from what I understand, is another story about the goddam Multiverse and DC's continuity. Here's the solicit for that:

Advance solicit • On sale APRIL 1 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US RATED T
Where do worlds go when they die?
The Earthquakes felt round the Multiverse, Superman’s lost days after “Doomed,” the World’s End – all these points will converge as the history of the DCU is spun from a new perspective, the perspective of a mad god and his arrogant child. The biggest story in DC history ties into literally every DC story ever told – and it all begins here.
Kingdom Come, Red Son, Wild West Justice League, Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew – all the worlds you remember can still be found on Telos. Everything matters. Every story matters.
Don’t miss the start of DC’s April/May 2015 event with this special issue!

The gag this time around seems to be that Brainiac is collecting cities from different "universes" within the DC Multiverse and preserving them; based on the advanced solicits for those miniseries, it seems like the inhabitants of some bottled cities/worlds/continuities are invading other bottles.

Will this signal the long-awaited de-boot, or re-reboot of the New 52 reboot...? I...don't think so. At some point DC's gonna have to stop saying "New 52," since that's an unsustainably high number of monthlies for them to publish, and it's over three years old at this point, and I imagine there will come a time when another rejiggering occurs, which will keep the stuff from The New 52 that worked best and jettison what didn't, but I don't think we're quite there yet.

That said, it looks like we'll be close, come March.

As Comic Book Resources notes, 13 monthly series will be shipping their final issues in March (Many due to low sales, a few, like three-fifths of the Green Lantern line, likely to be relaunched...perhaps replaced by a Green Lantern weekly) and the three weekly series (two of which deal with time travel, the Multiverse and continuity navel-gazing) will reach their conclusions.

Additionally, the Batman story arc of the moment is entitled "Endgame" and, in the pages of Justice League, Geoff Johns is launching a storyline he's been building up to since the launch of the New 52, one involving the Anti-Monitor of Crisis On Infinite Earths fame.

What's in the air?

I don't know. Let's not speculate. Instead, let's look at all those movie variant covers, and then the solicits for the comics DC plans to ship in March. Sound like a plan?

So remember a million Internet years ago, when Cliff Chiang drew that sweet Purple Rain homage, featuring Batgirl and Batman...? Well, DC does, and they've apparently decided to have Chiang redraw the Bats for a variant cover and do an entire month of variant covers in which artists homage various movie posters.

That's...not a bad idea, as you'll see from the results below (If you haven't already, and, this being the Internet, you probably have already). As is generally the case with DC's variant covers, there's something kind of sad about the program. It's not just that I think variants are an ill that has created a weakness in the market, or that they can almost sell people on a comic book (as retailer Mike Sterling recently noted), but because it seems unfortunate to waste so much creative energy and talent on variant covers instead of having some of these greatly talented creators creating actual comics and, as is often the case, most of these suggest stories that are infinitely more interesting and fun than the comics that will actually be under the covers.

Okay yes, it does look a little like Aquaman is totally punching Willy in the gut in this Richard Horie image. But, to be fair, it also looks like that little kid is punching the whale on the movie poster/DVD box art, too. I've never seen Free Willy, I've just always assumed it was about a super-strong little boy who fights orcas.

Chiang redraws this image, making Batman, Batgirl and Batgirl's motorcycle "match" their current incarnations, rather than those of the "campy" 1966 TV show. Which is weird because it's not like these covers are in-continuity and also because the versions from the TV show are so much more Prince than the current versions.

I do like the bat-winged ankh sticker on her bike, though. Like Prince's sigil, it's unpronounceable, but we all know what it refers to.

Brian Stelfreeze does an a nice job of making this cover look like a Matrix poster, but, um, there's not really anything to it. It leave me cold.

Why does it say "Bruce Wayne," and "Batman" and a Batman-specific "From Cowl to Scowl" when it has The Joker on the cover?

Also, remember when there was actually a Joker/Mask comic book miniseries? No? It prominently featured Harley Quinn, so I wonder if it's going for a lot on ebay right this minute...?

Anyway, this is the only one of these that, oddly enough, is an homage to a movie that was an adaptation of a comic book. It's the circle of...something.

This just seems to borrow the Harry Potter font, and basic lay-out. So, like The Matrix homage, there's not really anything to this one.

I do like to imagine Damian Wayne going undercover at a secret wizard school and beating the living hell out of its students and teachers, though.

Here's one that just seems to pair the characters with a random movie. Was Tango and Cash a Warner Bros movie...? Has Warner Bros ever made any buddy cop movies at all? Because any of those might have been appropriate.

I probably would have went mask-less to better resemble the poster and better reflect the contents of the comic, but still, that's a pretty nice one.

The special effects ruin this one, which would have been a pretty straightforward and clever homage, otherwise.

This Tony Harris cover is the first one I didn't get; it's an homage to the 2001: A Space Odyssey poster.

Not sure how I feel about this one, although points for using a martial arts movie instead of a more obvious spy/espionage/thriller move for inspiration.

Another one I didn't recognize the inspiration for...Forbidden Planet, apparently.

This Dave Johnson cover is probably my favorite of 'em. Nicely done all-around, and the character/film pairing is a logical one.

Becaue Martian Manhunter is from Mars! I get it.


That Supergirl really freaks me the fuck out.

Joe Quinones is one of those artists I'd rather see making comics for DC than just making covers for other people's comics for DC, but damn, does he ever nail Michael Keaton's expression and transpose it to Deadman perfectly...!

This is the image that makes it all worthwhile. That is a thing of beauty, the most perfect DC variant cover ever conceived. I think the chest logos are a bit much—what are they, body paint? Tatoos?—and they're all drawn well enough and have the necessary signifiers that we should be able to recognize the characters without their logos obscuring their waxed and oiled chests (Wait, is Hal even wearing his ring? Maybe Emanuela Lupacchino shoudla slapped a green domino mask on him).

So as much as I love, like, everything else about the image, I kinda wish it was just slightly altered.

I get the "Super" and the flying, but I don't know; I don't think an alien who looks like a white guy can properly appropriate blaxpolitation imagery without it feeling...weird.

Eh, it's been done:

Woah, woah, woah.

Okay, first of all: What's Toto doing there? Toto is not even wearing a red cape. I can understand Krypto being too big for the basket, but you can stick a puppy Krypto in there. Or Streaky. Streaky even makes more sense. And if you have to use the same breed and species as Toto, then you can at least give him a little red cape and make him a superdog, even if he's not The Superdog.

And who are those goofballs standing in for The Cowardly Lion, The Screcrow and The Tin Man...? Is there a reason we're not using Lion-Headed Superman, Jimmy Oslen and Steel...? And even if you were going to use supporting characters from this dumb series, to make sure your Wizard of Oz homage variant cover is in continuity, why would you cast New 52 Cyborg Superman as The Scarecrow instead of the Tin Man?

Oh man, this cover fills me with rage.

Another fantastic Quinones image. The text and the "casting" of Superman as Ted really bothers me for some reason though; it's I mean, Superman can spell, you know? "Death of Superman" Superman may have hair a little like Keanu Reeves, and thus match the character's visual in that one respect, but he doesn't match the tagline.

Now, if they plugged Bizarro into that image instead of Superman, it would be perfect. Oh, and guess which imperfect clone of Superman's happens to be appearing in this particular issue of Action Comics...?

Wait, I don't get it. Sinestro's not a cowboy or a robot, let alone a robot cowboy. I kind of wish he was, though. I'd totally read a comic book about one of those robots from Westworld getting a Sinestro Corps ring.

Yikes. Those costumes just plain always look bad. Conceptually, this doesn't work at all. They just switched out the word "vampire" for "superhero," and those terms aren't exactly analogous, you know?

Has Warner Brothers never produced a teen comedy or drama of any kind before? Or did Marvel's Loners miniseries use up all those homage ideas...?

Of course, Chiang already has a Teen Titans Breakfast Club homage image, but maybe that wasn't a Warner Bros movie...?

Woah, wait a minute, you know what was a Warner Bros movie? Only one of the greatest films of all time:
Raven as Debra, Kid Flash as Mark, Speedy as Lucas, Supergirl or Troia or Wonder Girl as Corey (we just need a girl in a skirt, basically), Robin as A.J., Starfire as Gina and Krypto listening to music on earphones in the foreground.


Or do these have to be the New 52 versions of the characters? Because then forget it; it's impossible to make the New 52 Teen Titans look good.

Wait a minute, don't you dine in Themyscira every night, Wonder Woman?

This is a pretty obvious connection to make—Oh wait, this movie is also based on a comic book, like The Mask poster homaged above—but Wonder Woman seems to have way too many clothes on in that image to make a convincing Gerard Butler in 300. You can't even see her bare, glistening abs! This is a rare instance where Wonder Woman's costume just isn't skimpy enough; maybe the mid-nineties "Diana" costume—the black bra and biker shorts look, sans the jacket—would work on this cover better? At least it would allow her to show off a six-pack...

Written by DAN JURGENS
On sale MARCH 4 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
This is it: the final showdown between Aquaman and the Others and the members of Mayhem! KGBeast and Cheshire stand ready to destroy Earth in their maniacal efforts to take down Aquaman’s team, but the king of Atlantis is without mercy. Blood will be spilled!

What? A secondary Aquaman comic, starring Aquaman and a team of just-introduced, rather unpopular characters who are so generic and indistinct that their team name is actually "The Others," making the title of this book only one degree removed from Aquaman and Some Other People Too has been canceled after just eleven issues? Who could have possibly predicted such a shocking turn of events?

Oh right, everyone who heard that DC was launching an Aquaman and The Others comic book by someone other than the team's creators, Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis.

That's a pretty nice cover for Arkham Manor #6, courtesy of very good artist Shawn Crystal.

I guess this is the last issue of this series too, which is only surprising in that it's only been published for six months...DC oughta be able to squeeze at least two trades of Aquaman and The Others, whereas they'll only get one out of this.

Given the surely temporary status quo that the series was premised on—Bruce Wayne has his family's fortune seized due to legal difficulties and Arkham Asylum is destroyed in Batman Eternal, leading to the unlikely conversion of Wayne Manor into Gotham's new insane super-villain storage famility—the book was launched with an expiration date.

That said, I suspect DC thought they had a bit longer, and that the book either sold terribly, Bat-book plans changed behind the scenes, or one of the creators became suddenly unavailable.

Art and cover by GREG CAPULLO and DANNY MIKI
On sale MARCH 25 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $5.99 US
The finale of “Endgame” is here! Batman risks everything against The Joker! Who will laugh last?

Fantastic cover, there. I'm a little surprised to see Snyder returning to The Joker so soon, particularly since the size and scope of his "Death of The Family" story arc in the pages of Batman seemed to suggest a sort of definitive take on the character and the Batman/Joker relationship. Additionally, what suggestions of the "Endgame" plot that have slipped through in the solicitations so far call to mind the 2001 Joker's Last Laugh series and that 1987 Superman vs. Joker issue from John Byrne's Superman run.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really excited about finding out how The Joker gets his face back.

I kinda hated the first volume, almost as much as I was confused by its very existence, so I'm not looking forward to this at all.

That said, I will probably read it, because I'm interested enough in Geoff Johns as a writer that I'll continue to pay attention to his novel-length pitch for a Batman TV series. So, that puts Batman: Earth One one-up on Superman: Earth One, which I can't even summon enough interest in to crack the covers.

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Damian’s powers have been a source of concern to Batman – and it’s only a matter of time before he’s called up to the big leagues!

Just wanted to note how much I love the Gleason/Gray art team, and how happy I am to see they'll be drawing the Justice League soon. I sure wouldn't mind if they ever moved over to Justice League, and, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm a little curious what a Tomasi-written run on Justice League might read like.

I'm honestly having a little trouble imagining a post-Johns Justice League at this point, and I can't imagine who DC could get to follow Johns, should he ever give the book up. Maybe Snyder...?

BATMAN ’66 #21
Written by JEFF PARKER
On sale MARCH 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E • DIGITAL FIRST
There’s a new villain in town and even Batman’s rogues gallery trembles at his name: Lord Death Man! Soon, the Dynamic Duo are jetting off to Japan to track him down. The classic villain from the 1960s Batman comics and manga gets the BATMAN ’66 treatment. Don’t miss this landmark moment in Bat-history!

I like when Mike Allred draws Batgirl.

Also, I'm pretty fascinated by how far Lord Death Man has come based on that single appearance in the Chip Kidd curated Bat-Manga!: The History of Batman in Japan book: Batman, Inc, part of an episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold, the just-released Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga collection representing the original manga without Kidd acting as go-between and now an introduction into the world of Batman '66.

Okay, let's get organized people. Let's have all the Superman villains on the left of Ardian Syaf's cover for Batman/Superman Annual #2, and all the Batman villains on the right.

Bane? Brainiac? What are you two doing? You're on the wrong sides! I thought you two were supposed to be smart! One of you even named himself after the smartness organ!

On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+ • FINAL ISSUE
Where will Batwoman’s adventure with her “anti-team,” The Unknowns take them? And what’s next for Kate Kane?

What's this? The once fairly-popular book that the only reason any one ever bought was the spectacular work and unusual style of its dedicated artist was canceled due to depressingly low sales after that artist (and his co-writer) left the book following a disagreement with the publisher over whether or not DC superheroes should be allowed to get married or not has been cancelled? Who could have possibly predicted this turn of events?!

Oh right, everyone.

To writer Marc Andreyko's credit, he (and the Batman connection, and probably some stubborn insistence on not canceling it too soon after J.H. Williams' departure) kept the book alive for a lot longer than many likely expected, even surviving a pruning of the Batman line that saw the cancellation of Batman: The Dark Knight and Batwing.

As for the argument between the editors and publishers on one side and the creators on the other side over whether or not Batwoman should be allowed to marry (and, by implication, if the creators on certain titles are really interchangeable as far as readers are concerned or not) I guess Williams and Haden Blackman retroactively won that argument. And all it cost was...their jobs on the book. And the book itself.

Hopefully the editors involved learn the right lesson from this: If J.H. Williams is willing to work on your tertiary Batman spin-off title, for God's sake, keep the man happy.

Cover by MIKE ZECK
On sale APRIL 15 • 144 pg, FC, $14.99 US
In this epic tale, Deadshot learns he has a daughter! When he discovers she’s living in a neighborhood plagued by violence, he decides to clean up the area by any means necessary! But can even a former Suicide Squad member give his daughter a life of peace and security? Collects DEADSHOT #1-5 and BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #214.

I liked that Deadshot costume.

Written by DAN DIDIO
On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
All secrets are revealed as Big Bear uncovers the origin of The Infinity Man. In the days prior to “The Pact,” Highfather makes a fateful choice that forever changes the path of the New Gods and in its wake gives birth to The Infinity Man!

What's this? The new series featuring obscure Kirby creations from the 1970s written by the very least popular writer DC could have possibly hired (and who isn't a very good comic book writer to boot), one half of the team whose previous collaboration was among the first of the New 52 titles to get cancelled, has been cancelled?

Who could have possibly foreseen this turn of events?!

Actually, looking back at the solicitations for the first issue of this series, I predicted it would last maybe eight issues. I was wrong; it lasted nine issues. Ten, if you count September's Futures End one-shot special issue.

Written by GARDNER FOX, GEOFF JOHNS and others
Art by various
On sale MAY 20 • 400 pg, FC, $39.99 US
In 1940, ALL STAR COMICS #3 introduced the Justice Society of America. Featuring Hour-Man, Doctor Fate, The Spectre, The Sandman, The Atom, The Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman, the JSA soon became a mainstay in super hero comics! This anthology stories by legendary talents including Gardner Fox, John Broome, Robert Kanigher and Geoff Johns.

Not a whole heck of a lot to go on when it comes to guessing the contents, but I've found these volumes pretty fascinating, not just because of the nice, big slab of comics featuring particular characters they offer—although if you know a Lois Lane or Batman fan, they make great gifts—but also because of the window they provide into the publisher's collective brain, and how they happen to see their characters.

I think this one should prove particularly interesting because, unlike all the other characters covered so far, the JSA wasn't around for the entirety of those 75 years, appearing in continuous fashion the way Superman, Lois Lane, Batman, The Joker, Robin and The Flash/es have been. Rather, they had their Golden Age adventures, they went away for a while, they'd resurface for a some crossovers, then go away for a while, short revival, rest period, and so on.

The cover image is from JSA: All-Stars #1, and is practically readymade for this addition, depicting both the characters as they originally appeared and as they appeared during the James Robinson, David Goyer and Geoff Johns revival that lasted well over 90 issues.

Damn, I miss that title...

Written by ANN NOCENTI
On sale MARCH 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
Klarion has wrecked his relationships with everyone at the Moody Museum and seems ready to live a life dedicated to evil! Is our hero a hero no more?

Okay, this one actually DID catch me by surprise. I thought eight was the magic number a title had to hit before DC would cancel it, but, given the production schedule and lead time for modern comics, they must have decided to cancel this book almost as soon as they launched it; it's weird too, because just last week DC was promoting it via a two-page advertorial feature in their whole line of books.

But yeah, who thought a book starring Klarion The Witch-Boy was long for this world? A supporting character from Jack Kirby's The Demon (And, by the way, Jack Kirby's The Demon hasn't had a New 52 solo title yet) who Grant Morrison and Frazier Irving reinvented during Morrison's Seven Soldiers storyline/event, the character has only been popular (or, to put it more accurately, "popular") based on the creators attached and the other characters he was interacting with. This book? It was doomed on arrival.

I suppose the predominant way of looking at DC's sometimes insane-seeming New 52 launches is to assume they're just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Me, I think it has more to do with ticking every available box in their massive IP archives, and looking at every "ongoing" as a miniseries that may or may not become a maxiseries. Klarion, for example, lasted long enough for about one decent-sized story arc, which is enough to fill up a trade paperback.

And now they can move on to The Red Bee or Young All-Stars or Ms. Tree (Actually, don't do a New 52 Red Bee, DC; you'll onlly break my heart).

Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
“How would you feel, McG, if the future you came here to prevent doesn’t exist?” A reluctant hero rises as we realize the world still needs saving.

McG? McG?! The Charlie's Angels director is going to be in Futures End? Whaaat?

On sale MARCH 25 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
The secret history of The New 52 comes to a close with a bang! Don’t miss the origins of Black Canary, by Christy Marx and Dave Bullock; Red Lantern Guy Gardner, by Landry Q. Walker and Scott Hepburn; and John Constantine, by Ray Fawkes and Richard Isanove!

That's it. There is no more secret history of The New 52. You now know everything you need to know about The New 52, I guess.

I haven't read this after the first few disappointing issues. Did they explain the end of Flashpoint yet, and how it was that Pandora rejiggered the Multiverse, and why she did so? Because I'd kinda like to know that before they re-rejigger and re-reboot again. Or have I mentioned that already?

Pretty nice Dale Eaglesham cover on this month's issue of Secret Six. But then, the cover for the first issue of Secret Six was pretty great too, and the contents of that issue were...not.

Cover by JAE LEE
On sale MARCH 18 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST
Teenaged Diana comes to Man’s World and discovers a “Wonder World” where she makes new friends. That part’s great, but her Amazon bodyguards are busy tracking her down and scaring everyone she meets! Then, in “Sabotage Is in the Stars,” Wonder Woman aids India’s space program, making it safe for them to launch their new SpaceCrops platform. But when Diana discovers that LexCorp caused the problem, she takes matters into her own hands!

Martian Manhunter! It seems like I haven't seen you in forever! At least not since Brightest Day. What's up, man?

Oh, and what's this? Art by Noelle Stevenson? That is the best news ever. I can't imagine better news than that. Wellll, maybe Kate Beaton writing and drawing her prickly, cigarette-smoking version of Wonder Woman for the length of an issue, but that's it.

Art and cover by SCOTT HAMPTON
On sale MARCH 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+ • FINAL ISSUE
The end is nigh! The mission is blown sky-high as G.I. Zombie learns that he is a big part of the plan and races to save the world from a zombie apocalypse!

No shit Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie is cancelled; DC was practically daring people to read that thing.

I read the first issue, and it was fine; typical superhero/espionage/crime-fighting stuff, with the twist that one of the characters is a hot chick, and the other is a zombie...albeit a "smart" zombie who can pass as human and only devours the flesh of people who deserve it.

But the title was dumb (it was not an anthology; so the only reason they didn't just call it G.I. Zombie was a trademark, maybe? To handicap the book?), the covers and interiors didn't match and were working in opposite directions (If you were pulled in by Darwyn Cooke's cartoony covers, you'd be repulsed by Scott Hampton's lush, realistic linework; and vice versa) and it was a whole lot of nothing special.

Written by various
Art by various
Cover by PAUL POPE
On sale MARCH 18 • 40 pg, 1 of 4, FC, $4.99 US • MATURE READERS
Comics’ top talents, including some making their Vertigo debut, take on the classic DC Comics anthology title for four issues of strange, scary, sexy and sensational sports stories. Featuring stories and art by Brian Azzarello, CM Punk, Paul Pope, Gilbert Hernandez, Lauren Beukes, Ben McCool, Ivan Brandon, Monica Gallagher, Lee Loughridge, Nick Dragotta, Christopher Mitten, Darick Robertson, Mark Finn, John Lucas, Gabe Soria, Ronald Wimberly, Michael DiMotta, Tim Fish, Rael Lyra and many more!

When I first saw that title, I was pretty excited, thinking DC was launching the most daring New 52 series yet...until I realized this was another one of those Vertigo anthology books where they repurpose the title of an old DC comic to allow interesting creators to riff on the theme in short story format. This one differs from previous efforts in that it is a miniseries consisting of four shorter issues, rather than one, big, fat issue.

Of the names I'm familiar with, I like the work of four of them a whole lot.


Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Cover by ED BENES
On sale MARCH 11 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US
It’s a bloody showdown as Circe and Magog attack the power couple! And the outcome will bring about a major change in Kal and Diana’s relationship.

Say, does the cut of Wonder Woman's shorts look particularly diff—Oh, cover by Ed Benes. That explains it.

Art and cover by DAVID FINCH and BATT
Backup story art by GORAN SUDZUKA
Advance solicit • On sale APRIL 1 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US RATED T
A story so big we couldn’t contain it in the monthly title! Wonder Woman faces off with the foe destined to become her ultimate nemesis in a battle that will determine the fate of Paradise Island! And in a backup tale that will alter the course of the Amazon Queen, an old face returns, and we mean VERY old! You couldn’t ask for more from Wonder Woman’s very first annual!

Oh couldn't I?

(Also, "Wonder Woman's very first annual"...? The fuck...?)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1

DC sure hasn't been shy about striking while this particular iron is hot. The new Harley Quinn solo series, the character's second, launched in November of last year with a #0 issue featuring one drawn-out fourth-wall breaking gag and drawn by a who's who of artists. It probably shouldn't have been a surprise that that issue was a hit, but, rather remarkably, the issues that followed also sold very well.

Perhaps it was the higher profile the already sorta popular character received thanks to various video games, perhaps it was the presence of cover artist and co-writer Amanda Conner, perhaps it was that the book was in the DC Universe line of books, while striking a very different tone and style than that of the other 51 or so books in "The New 52." Whatever the reason, Harley Quinn was working better than pretty much anything other than Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo on Batman.

And so in the last year DC has published Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International and Harley Quinn Annual #1, both with the sam basic different-artist-for-every-scene format as the #0 issue (the annual additional boasting the incentive of being a scratch 'n sniff rub 'n smell comic), and, just this last week, Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1.

It's a 36-page, three-story anthology, featuring two Christmas story and one New Year's story, which is why it's called a Holiday special and not a Christmas special, Kirk Cameron.

All three stories are written by the regular Harley Quinn writing team of Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, and each drawn by a different artist, each of whom works in a much looser, more distinctive style than regular Harley Quinn artist Chad Hardin (At the rate they're going, I wonder if Harley will be the next DC super-character to get a digital-first anthology series following Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman).

The first of these, entitled "Bad Toy," is the longest, and at 19 pages is essentially an extra issue of Harley Quinn, albeit with guest art by Mauricet. Harley, who is apparently now a pet hoarder, failed to properly spay or neuter her many pets (Public service announcement: Spay or neuter your pets!), and they've been multiplying like rabbits. She and her friend Tony come up with a brilliant plan to get rid of them: They dress up as "Santa's Helpers" who volunteer to carry packages to the cars of shoppers and, if they think the shoppers will be good pet-owners, they hide a puppy or kitten in one of their bags.

But on Christmas Eve, Harley decides to check on one of them, and ends up getting busted Christmas morning. The cartoonishly bratty little girl of the house thinks Harley herself is the present, and so the girl's father bribes Harley into playing along for a while...but to make herself so undesirable a playmate that the girl gets rid of her of her own volition.

It reads much less complicated in-story.
Anyway, Harley eventually solves the family's problems by virtue of being immature, juvenile and a deranged lunatic with a heart of gold. It works surprisingly well as a Christmas story and a Harley Quinn story.

The art is pretty great. Mauricet has a highly kinetic, highly expressive style used to great effect throughout, The characters—human and animal alike—are highly expressive, and Harley is drawn as super-sexualized as usual, but with a good girl, cartoonish edge that bleeds toward parody.

That's followed by a shorter, sillier story entitled "Get Yer Cheer Outta My Ear," in which Conner and Palmiotti introduce us to the humbug, a tiny parasitic insect that embeds itself in the ear of a human host hums Christmas music directly into the brain of its victim. Then they introduce it into Harley.

She is saved by Santa Claus in a way that isn't as dirty as this panel might imply...
...who then takes Harley out to dinner at a kosher deli and expresses his thanks to "these great people" for not celebrating Christmas, and thus "making my job easier each year!"

This one is drawn by Brandt Peters, in a painterly, picture book style that reinterprets Harley as a big, bobble-headed doll.

Finally, there's "Killin' Time," drawn by Darwyn Cooke, who is probably the ideal Harley Quinn artist, at least this side of her creator Bruce Timm. Cooke's Harley is Harley as originally conceived and designed for her birthplace, Batman: The Animated Series, although Cooke renders her in her "New 52" look, with the bone-white skin and half-red, half-black hair. He additionally outfits her with a winter version of her costume (In Mauricet's story, she merely wears her regular duds, albeit more skimpy versions, with a jingle-bell collar and short leather jacket; in Peters', she puts a coat and furry boots oon over her roller derby uniform).
The story here is one of cartoonish insanity, made more cartoonish still by Cooke's suepr-flat, unapologetically 2D artwork (I imagine the jokes in the regular series would sing much better if they were always drawn in such a style). On New Year's Eve, Harley notices that she has a gray hair—not sure how that works, given her New 52 origin—and when her friends tell her about Father Time and the New Year's Baby, she becomes convinced that all she has to do to stop from growing older is track down a Mr. Harold Tyme, an elderly patient of hers in a nearby hospital, and either break his magical time piece and/or murder him.

No one gets murdered, and while Harley doesn't exactly learn a lesson in this one, she does get that gray hair taken care of.

I'm inclined to say that I wish Cooke was drawing Harley Quinn monthly, but then, I'd rather see him work on other, better comics, particularly ones he might be more passionate about. But then, if he's just going to waste his time on things like Before Watchmen projects and vigorously, ignorantly defending them in interviews with industry media outlets, well, he might as well be drawing Harley Quinn comics monthly, you know?

In-between the stories are a pair of Billy Tucci-drawn holiday pin-ups, both needlessly labeled "Pin-Up." The first features New 52 Harley in front of a wreath and dangling mistletoe above her head, the second features the Bombshell version of Harley (save this one has all-white skin) in front of the New Year's Ball.

I'm not really a fan of Palmiotti and Gray's take on the character, which amounts to little more than a sexy Halloween costume version of Marvel's Deadpool, but I enjoyed the looks of all three of these stories, and while some of the previously mentioned Harley comics feature more artists, this one is probably the best preview or gateway comic into what all the Harley Quinn hype is about, as it allows the regular writers to tell short, complete stories, each with talented artists who stick around long enough to make an impression, rather than just drawing a page or three.


Hey, any of you out there regularly Harley Quinn readers? If so, can you identify the...character in the below panel who appears to be a large egg in some kind of robot suit...?
That's not the New 52 version of obscure-ish Wonder Woman villain Egg Fu, who Grant Morrison and company resurrected for the weekly 52 series, as a giant-er egg in a big robot suit, is it...?

Just wondering. I checked out of the Harley Quinn monthly after about two issues, and have only read the specials since then.