Thursday, May 25, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: May 24th

Detective Comics #957 (DC Comics) This issue of Detective, which sees regular writer James Tynion joined by co-writer Christoper Sebela, is kind of garbage. Entitled "The Wrath of Spoiler," it revisits the character after she left the team at the end of the second story arc, "The Victim Syndicate," and lays out her current mission in life kind of nonsensical, really.

The idea is that she views Batman, and all the other caped and masked vigilantes (like herself, I guess?) as part of the problem with Gotham City, the thing that attracts so many supervillains and their constant terror attacks on the city. Okay, that is an understandable opinion, and one that has been expressed by various characters dozens and dozens of times in post-Crisis Batman comics (in addition to super-comics in general).

Spoiler's solution? To continue to fight crime as a caped and masked Batman-style vigilante. Her one innovation is that she strives not to get any recognition for the supervillains she busts. Stacking the deck for their argument, Tynion and Sebela use the villain The Wrath, who attacks "GNN" headquarters in Gotham to call out Batman and kill him on-camera, and he arrives making a speech that almost exactly echoes the Spoiler's argument against vigilantes.

Before Batman can arrive, Spoiler takes on The Wrath and his men herself, but she does so by impersonating Batman, using a recording of his voice and a Batarang. Her goal was to beat him up and tie up his and his gang for the police to find, but she's not quite there yet, and so the police see Spoiler there, and she has to disappear in a cloud of smoke from a smoke bomb.

So her plan doesn't really make any sense; hell, if she really wanted to make sure no vigilante gets credit for vigilante crime-fighting, she probably shouldn't engage in it. If she wasn't seen by the police, they would still know someone--probably Batman--had taken down the Wrath and his men and tied them up for them. And if and when she's seen, she's immediately recognizable as a particular superhero (She even worked closely with Detective Harvey Bullock during "The Night of The Monster Men," although he seems not to recognize her here). Shouldn't she ditch the costume, or at least the superhero parts, and just stick to all black and a ski-mask or something?

Aside from the problem with her logic and the contrived convenience of a character semi-proving her point attacking this very issue, this seems really early for Stephanie Brown to be rethinking superheroics at all, given that she has only been a superhero for, like, a few months in Gotham time. This is a problem with the book in general, though, as Tynion just kind of skipped over parts of an expected story (like Spoiler and Tim's romance, for example) to just tell us they were dating, rather than to show it gradually happening. How much of this was his fault vs. how much of it is DC's constant reboot strategy is perhaps up to debate; the characters had a long relationship in the last continuity, and maybe Tynion wanted to basically tell a pre-Flashpoint story as much as possible in a post-Flashpoint universe...?

Speaking of which, the very last page has an appearance by one of my favorite characters, a relatively minor Bat-villain created by my favorite ever Batman creative team of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, a character who never really became the arch-enemy of Robin Tim Drake that I always wanted him to be, given how much the pair had in common and their early clashes: Anarky.

Anarky, of course, has a terrible costume redesign, although given the Wrath's redesign, I suppose it might even seem subtle in comparison (This is Wrath's second post-Flashpoint appearance; he traded in his purple costume with the W-shaped cowl for a generic-looking suit of gray, Iron Man-esque armor in the pages of a previous Detective Comics arc from the previous Detective Comics volume). I skipped the Detective Comics arc that introduced the post-Flashpoint Anarky (again, from the previous volume) because I was afraid to see what they might have done to the character (the teenagers of his "generation" of heroes and villains didn't come out of Flashpoint in reasonable, let alone good, shape). So I was a little surprised to see had traded in his signature color, robe, cape, hat and weapon for...well, he's basically just a guy in a mask with a red jacket now.

He only gets a line or two of dialogue, and only appears on the last page. I broke down and looked him up in the new edition of the DC Comics Encyclopedia, which seems to be updated to around the time of "Rebirth" (and good God is it a mess to make sense of), and apparently the original Anarky Lonnie Manchin is not the Anarky of the post-Flashpoint DCU, but the name and mask was used by an entirely different character with entirely different motivations...? There's a cryptic line in there saying he was inspired by a figure briefly glimpsed during the Zero Year. I...don't remember seeing any Anarkies during in the pages of Batman back then, nor of any of the tie-ins to "Zero Year" I read, but that doesn't mean anything, as now I am old and my mind is going.

Anyway, as with pretty much every other aspect of this title, if this book being published in, I don't know, 2006 or so, I would be so excited about it. I mean, Anarky teaming up with The Spoiler? That sounds amazing! But it is 2017, and the two characters, like the rest of the cast save maybe Batman (who isn't really in this issue), are just badly bowlderized versions of themselves, wearing worse costumes and more poorly drawn than usual.

Die Kitty Die: Hollywood or Bust #1 (Chapter House) The subversive nature of aspect of Archie Comics' Dan Parent, Fernando Ruiz and Rich Koslowski doing a high-concept parody of Archie and Harvey-style characters in a decidedly PG-13 narrative with some mildly exploitive cheesecake and some sex talk may be wearing off for some readers. For me, it started to wear off sometime during the second issue of the original miniseries, of which this is a sequel to (This is more of the same as the original series, so I'll likely drop it from my pull; as it's a $3.99 book).

It opens with a "reprint" of a classic Kitty comic, and then jumps to the present. After a quick and clumsy conversational recap of the events of the original series--in which the evil but bumbling publishers of a Sabrina, The Teenage Witch-like comics character named Kitty repeatedly try and fail to kill off the real Kitty in order to revive their flagging sales--we learn that Kitty is now hotter than ever. Naturally, there is interest in a Kitty movie, and so the publishers and Kitty herself head west. Meanwhile, a seemingly super-villainous character is trying to kill Kitty.

So you've got Dan Parent drawing a sexy, buxom witch, you've got a parody version of Riche Rich and you've got commentary on the comics and entertainment industry. And, as with each issue of the original series, there's a great J. Bone-drawn pin-up in the middle.

It's certainly not to everyone's taste, but I think the overall joke of the project is engaging enough to read--just not at $3.99 a pop forever. The original series was released in a collected, graphic novel format, and I'm interested in at least looking at that, as I wonder if maybe that isn't the better way to experience these comics, as if so often the case once comics reach this particular price point.

Justice League of America #7 (DC) If the previous seven issues of the series didn't convince you, here's some more evidence that JLoA writer loves the '90s, which would have likely made his recent-ish DC super-comics somewhat Geoff Johnsian in their eagerness to weave new narratives around continuity trivia and personal nostalgia...were not for that pesky Flashpoint/New 52 reboot, which really just serves to make that sort of thing really, really fucking annoying. (I talked about this a little in discussing his Midnighter, as its reliance on reordering and recycling other creators' creations made me somewhat uncomfortable; it was even worse in Midnighter and Apollo, which featured as its Big Bad Mark Waid and Howard Porter's Neron and Garth Ennis and John McCrea's Mawzir and Ace of Killers, both from Hitman, which was rebooted out of existence...although Ennis has written a couple of quasi-sequels, and Peter Tomasi has written a few weird references to it into a Batman story and a Superman story now. I don't want to get too far off track here, but what makes me so uncomfortable about it as the characters and concepts he often uses are specifically tied to specific creators; there's a difference, I think, between using a minor character or item from Hitman and say, using, Captain Cold or The Ultra-Humanite or Felix Faust).

Of course, that tendency in his writing is the sole reason I picked up this particular issue, after having accidentally dropped the book a few issues ago (I missed an issue, and then decided to just keep missing them, rather than trying to have my local comic shop re-order the one I missed). The issue features Terrorsmith, a villain-turned-anti-hero introduced by creators William Messner-Loebs and Greg LaRoque in Justice League America Annual #7, part of that summer's Bloodlines annuals crossover event (It was just recently reprinted in Wonder Woman and Justice League America Vol. 1). Terrorsmith made exactly one other appearance, in Showcase '94 #7, again by writer Loebs, but with different artists.

Like a lot of the New Blood characters, I felt he had a lot of potential, albeit unrealized potential (Hitman is really the only one who went on to all-around great t hings, although I really enjoyed Anima at the time). I wasn't crazy about his color scheme, but his personal appearance was transformed from a regular-looking blonde schmoe into the kind of character that might have appeared as a mad scientist or alien warlord in an old Hollywood serial, complete with sharp teeth and a Fu Manchu mustache. His power was that he could turn people into monsters just by touching them.

What exactly he's doing here isn't really clear. The Atom Ryan Choi, still wearing that stupid Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow inspired costume, and Killer Frost, are visiting the Museum of Unnatural History, looking at a possible lead on a cure to Frost's heat vampirism, and a redesigned Terrorsmith, who has lost his monstrous looks, and wears a hooded green cape that looks like the sort that Mr. Oz rocks and is also in the company of possibly illusory cat-like creatures with glowing eyes all the time, enters. He's looking for the skull of Glonth, one of the Parasites from the out-of-continuity Bloodlines event, at the behest of some female that talks to him from the other side of the mirror.

This is another head-scratching, you-can't-have-it-both-ways example of modern DC comics, where an issue is pretty much built around something that was purposely excised from continuity in an attempt to simplify the comics' shared setting. (They also tried to re-do Bloodlines in a miniseries which had almost nothing at all to do with the original, although a few characters had similar powers to those of the original New Bloods. It was garbage. I made it through the first issue and a half, I think.)

The rest of the characters make brief appearances and, despite the fight with a super-villain, this seems to be one of those breath-catching issues, of the sort that Johns used to write between his longer, more eventful JSA arcs. Orlando also uses Mr. Scarlet, the Alex Ross redesign of the old Fawcett character with the same name, as seen in Ross and Mark Waid's Kingdom Come (I'm not sure if this Mr. Scarlet appeared in the DCU before or not; there was a period where they were importing characters from Kingdom Come left and right a few years before Flashpoint.)

Like Detective, I have a feeling this is a comic book series whose writer would rather be working with the pre-Flashpoint (and/or the post-Doomsday Clock...?) continuity then the current, confusing one.

Lumberjanes #38 (Boom Studios) Ha, I think I liked the idea of the various woodland creatures suddenly all acting like jerks and pulling dumb pranks on the 'Janes and their parents better until I got to the various last page, which seems to reveal the true culprit, which I am guessing is supposed to be a particular trickster god figure with something of a career in comic books already. It should still be interesting to see how the girls deal with supernatural shenanigans of that kind while trying to hid it from their parents, which seems to be the plan they are going with and likely to stick with. Sure, it's a pretty sitcom-like tack to take, but that doesn't mean it won't also be fun.

Still adjusting to Ayme Sotuyo's art style.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #26 (DC) The other day, a writer-about-comics of my acquaintance asked a question I have never once considered before: Is Honk-Kong Fooey racist? I have relatively limited experience with the character, based solely on re-runs of his short-lived 1974 Saturday morning cartoon show (Mostly on the USA channel in the early '80s, I want to say). I remembered he was voiced by Scatman Crothers, that he had a pretty damn amazing transformation sequence and a remarkably strong theme song (covered by Sublime on the 1995 album Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits, a pretty great album that I just listened to again recently and has aged quite well). Oh, and he was on the Scooby Doobies team in Laff-a-Lympics.

Of course, I hadn't yet reached double-digits in age the last time I watched either Hong-Kong Phooey or Laff-a-Lympics, so, if there was anything openly racist, or even just culturally insensitive about it, it wasn't anything I would have been likely to notice then. I went to YouTube to watch the theme song and, well...

Yeah, I could see that being somewhat problematic.

Penrod "Penry" Pooch is a walking, talking anthropomorphic dog with the job of janitor at the local police station,and as such he seems to be one-third of the police force, with Sarge (voiced by Joe E. Ross of Car 54, Where Are You?, and using his trademark "Ooh! Ooh!") and Rosemary, The Telephone Operator seemingly making up the other two-thirds. When Penry would overhear news of trouble, he would leap into his transformation sequence, emerging from a filing cabinet wearing a read gi and a mask and jumping into his Phooeymobile, which had the ability to transform into a boat or helicopter or whatever whenever he gave the little gong in it a Hong Kong Phooey chop.

While he technically knows kung fu, he learned it from The Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu, which also seems to have answer to every question in it somewhere, not unlike the Junion Woodchuck's Guide Book. The book was part of a correspondence-course, and I suspect that is one of the many, many clues in the narrative that this was a parody not only of the 1970s kung fu craze which also birthed Marvel's Iron Fist, a character the Internet has been talking about and/or freaking out a lot about recently, given his new Netflix show and that the '70s iteration of '20s action adventure tropes don't read in the 21st century the way they did in the past. I don't know if it was intentional, I'm assuming not, but Hong Kong Phooey being confident in his own martial arts prowess based on having read a mail-order book about kung fu can be read as a subversion (while I cringed at the that "chika chong chicka chong" part of the theme song and the gong noise, there may be potential in the character these days, specifically because of recent cultural criticism leveled at Hollywood's continued exoticification of Asia and Asians and various white-washing controversies).

But as heroes went, despite being declared the "number one super guy" in the theme song, HKP was fairly useless, and most of problems were solved and conflicts resolve through the actions of Spot, a striped cat who seemed to be a regular cat, albeit a very smart one. Re-watching episodes, as I started doing as I was writing this, thanks to a DVD from the library, I find myself incredibly upset by the fact that the title character is an anthropomorphic dog in a world of human beings. That kind of thing bugs me so much! It always has and always will. Scooby-Doo may be able to talk (with a speech impediment) and do some pretty human stuff, but he's still a dog, and treated as such in the majority of the Scooby cartoons.

Anyway, I suppose it's possible to tell a single-issue comic book story featuring the character teaming-up with Scooby-Doo and avoiding potential pitfalls, but it seems...challenging, to say the least, particularly since the format of Scooby-Doo Team-Up doesn't exactly allow writer Sholly Fisch to do much in the way of reinvention, but rather just make some off-hand jokes about the participating characters. So I was looking forward to this particular issue of the series more than pretty much issue to date, but mostly because I was so curious to see what Fisch might do with the character, and what, if any, the reaction would be.

Fish has Scooby and the Gang in the middle of being menaced by person-sized, fire-breathing ninja Chinese dragons in "Chinatown" somewhere, and so Velma calls a superhero for help on her cellphone. Rather than calling any of the man, many DC superheroes whose contact info must be in her phone by this point in the series, she calls Rosemary, the telephone operator (hard at work at a switchboard, which so boggled my mind that it took me a few seconds to recover, and then I spent a few minutes thinking about how switchboards worked, and if they even exist anymore).

Hong Kong Phooey goes through his transformation sequence, and he and Spot arrive on the scene. Hong Kong Phooey demonstrates his skills, which seems to distract the dragons, but doesn't really stop them, as he never actually kicks or chops any of them...hitting an opponent is not an aspect of the martial arts he has mastered. Eventually Mystery Inc. figures out what's what, destroys the dragons and, with some help from Spot, capture the criminal. Nothing really racist or even iffy occurred in the story, which really read more like a Scooby-Doo story featuring Hong Kong Phooey, then any kind of amalgamation of their narratives (Rosemary, for example, is in two panels, while Sarge is in just one).

Regular artist Dario Brizuela is MIA this issue, and Scott Jeralds is on hand instead. Jeralds's work is fine, and the characters all look like themselves, which is really the main thing in a comic like this. The dragons, though, as Jeralds seems to use some kind of computer cloning to make them look creepily exactly like one another, to the extent that they resemble, say, a pattern instead of a group.

Sun Bakery #3 (Image Comics) Is everyone reading this comic? I hope everyone is reading this comic. This issue has five more stories of various genre, length, tone and style by Corey S. Lewis, one of like three or four younger creators that I think everyone should keep their eyes on all the time. Three of the five are chapters in continuing narratives--"Bat Rider", "Dream Skills" and "Dead Naked"--while there are two brand-new narratives, at least one of which looks set to continue. And man, dig that cover! I don't even like or play video games, due to my advanced age, but now I kinda wanna play a Sun Bakery fighting game...

Wonder Woman #23 (DC) This is the surprisingly effective conclusion to "The Truth," or at least the climax, and, as such, is pretty dang close to the conclusion of writer Greg Rucka, and artist Liam Sharp and company's, run on the title. I'm extremely curious as to what happens following the end of their run, which looks like it just has two issues (one of which at least will be set in the past, and thus be part of a prequel-esque story that lead into this story) and maybe an annual left to go. I know what's next in the immediate future, a five-issue fill-in arc, but after that?

Pretty great cover, too. Sharp leaving is going to be a blow. It's really too damn bad that just as the world's attention will be turning to Wonder Woman in such a big way, the Wonder Woman title will be finishing up a 25-issue mega-arc by a fairly talented group of creators. Maybe, in retrospect, they shoulda waited a few moths to launch Wonder Woman as part of the "Rebirth" initiative...?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Marvel's August previews reviewed

Say, Secret Empire will still be going on come August? Huh. Given the rate at which President Trump is incriminating himself for obstructing justice every chance he gets--television interviews, meetings with foreign leaders, simply walking by groups of people with microphones and cameras--it's possible that our national story of an all-American role being filled by a nefarious fascist will be over before Marvel's event series about the same is.

What else has the House of Ideas got in the hopper for August, aside from Secret Empire? You can go to CBR to find out. You can also just hang around here for a while for a much less complete listing, plus some remarks. I don't care. It's all the same to me.

I don't think this comic book, Doctor Strange and The Sorcerers Supreme should even exist--at least, not at this moment in history, when there is already another Doctor Strange title on the shelves--but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate that excellent Javier Rodriguez cover. Wow.

Variant Cover by RON LIM
Logan’s adopted son, Scotty, has been missing for years…but Warren Worthington III, formerly the X-Man called Angel, has found Logan at the bottom of a bottle to bring him a message: Scotty is alive, and Angel knows where he is.
A new and original story from Ryan Key, lead singer of Yellowcard, set after the events of the original epic OLD MAN LOGAN!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

So I've read this solicitation very closely multiple times now, and I just don't see any part of it that explains the dinosaur on the cover, which I am assuming is either a Venom-ized Devil Dinosaur, or juts a plain old Venom-ized no-name therapod dinosaur. Either way, i would expect that any comic book with a Venom-ized dinosaur on the cover to at least mention it in the solicitation.

BRUCE BANNER. AMADEUS CHO. Both have carried the curse of the Hulk. Now they come face-to-face at last – but will they meet as friends or foes?
Fan-favorite Hulk scribe GREG PAK is joined by red-hot artist MATTEO BUFFAGNI (X-MEN BLUE) for a time-bending tale that will finally answer the question on everyone’s minds: WHO IS THE STRONGEST ONE THERE IS?
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$4.99

One of several different one-shots pairing a particular modern legacy character with a previous version of the character whose name and/or legacy and/or powers they have since adopted, apparently through the means of time travel. I'm not sure if that is all that will collect these, or if they are part of a bigger storyline, in which, say, the modern day characters are all dispersed through time via the same means or not.

I thought this one was interesting simply because of its title, and the reference to the original Hulk as "Banner Hulk," while the Cho Hulk is named for the title of his comic, The Totally Awesome Hulk. Certainly The Incredible Hulk & The Totally Awesome Hulk, or perhaps even just The Hulk & The Totally Awesome Hulk, would have made more sense. So too would Banner Hulk & Cho Hulk, even though that sounds hella dumb.

KELLY THOMPSON (W) • Stefano Raffaele (A)
TWO ARCHERS. ONE-SHOT. Kate Bishop, A.K.A. Hawkeye, finds herself smack-dab in the middle of a battle royal between the world’s most skilled sharpshooters — including an inexplicably young Clint Barton, A.K.A. the OTHER Hawkeye. The prize? Bragging rights for being named the best, of course — oh, and you get to stay alive! Unfortunately for Clint, several of his competitors are villains he’s taken down, making HIM a primary target. So, on top of figuring out where and WHEN she is, Kate’s got to find a way to win this little contest of skills and keep her not-so-old pal Clint out of the crosshairs… easy, peasy.
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$4.99

This one is of interest mainly because of all the participating duos, this is one in which both characters used the same name at the same time and not only co-existed together for quite a while, they also teamed-up and spent an awful lot of time around one another while they were both using the name.

It's nice to see that Thompson herself is writing this, as that means it's a little more likely to tie-in to her ongoing Hawkeye comic (starring the Kate Bishop version, of course), even if only tonally. I'm not sure which of the multiple variant cover artists drew that particular cover, but I find Kate's costuming...interesting.

The title of this one makes perfect sense, but I think I would have preferred Hawkguy & Hawkeye, or, perhaps, Hawkguy & Lady Hawkguy. But that's just me.

Teenage Jean Grey is willing to do whatever it takes to avoid the fate that befell her predecessor. But when Jean is cast through time and comes face-to-face with the newly possessed Phoenix, will she find the key to saving herself…or learn that her fate is sealed?
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$4.99

Huh. So in this iteration of the concept, rather than two different characters from two different generations, we get the same character from different generations of her own life...? Also, I guess this one will involve double time travel, as the teenage Jean Grey is already in the present Marvel Universe thanks to time travel, and now she's time travelling again, but only like, what, half-way back to the point at which she left her original time in the first place?


THE TEAM-UP YOU’VE ALL BEEN ASKING FOR! The death of WOLVERINE shook the Marvel Universe… And the ascension of the ALL-NEW WOLVERINE reimagined what a healing factor and some Adamantium claws can do!
But the amazing combination of LOGAN and LAURA is the duo you’ve been waiting for! Tom Taylor, the mind behind ALL-NEW WOLVERINE, brings you Generations…a double-Wolverine team-up for the ages!
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$4.99

Er, has anyone been asking for this particular team-up? Logan and Laura have spent plenty of time together over the years, but I guess this would be the first time they did so while they were both going by the codename "Wolverine" and both wearing their goofiest costumes.

Again, this is being written by the writer who handles the modern character's ongoing series, and thus is probably going to be more relevant than it might otherwise be. Plus Tom Taylor is a particularly good writer, so that's promising too.

A king in training. A brother destined for madness. These are the early days of the Boltagon legacy. When the king of the Inhumans is attacked, Black Bolt and Maximus spring into action to save their leader! But when Black Bolt loses control, what are the consequences for his future kingdom – or his own family? Plus: A two-page backup (in every issue!) starring Lockjaw, as told by UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL writer Ryan North and artist supreme Gustavo Duarte!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

There are few Marvel concepts that I find more uninteresting these days than the Inhumans, but man, look at the folks making this Inhumans comic. Christopher Priest! Ryan North! Gustavo Duaarte! A Nick Bradshaw cover! And not one but two stories featuring Lockjaw!

I may actually read this one...!

The secrets of Maria Hill are revealed, and the Marvel Universe will never be the same again! Has Jessica opened a door that she can now never close? And how will it affect the other Defenders?
32 PGS./Parental Advisory …$3.99

"Mr. Oz"...? The guy in the green cloak who has been giving Superman and some of the other heroes of the DC Universe such a hard time since DC Universe: Rebirth? Huh. I didn't even know he was an artist, let alone a sculptor who specializes in either clay or maybe Play-Doh. I wonder how Marvel managed to land him for that gig...?

Welcome to the Marvel Age of Comic Boxes! Store your treasured collection in sturdy surroundings every bit as exciting as the issues inside! Featuring action-packed illustrations on all sides from some of comics’ finest artists, Marvel’s Graphic Comic Boxes will star all your Marvel Universe favorites – continuing with MARVEL LEGACY with art by JOE QUESADA! Preserve your comic collection with Marvel Graphic Comic Boxes!
Inside dimensions – 15-1/2” x 7-5/8” x 10-7/8”…$9.00

I'm afraid I am unable to think of a joke that can properly express the true depths of my reaction to this. I wish there was an eye-rolling emoji on my keyboard though...

I read (but didn't review) the first collection of this current volume of The Punisher--it was, like the bulk of post-Ennis Punisher comics, fine but nothing spectacular--and while I stopped there, I remain fascinated by the various ways in which they work skull designs onto the covers. This one looks like a particularly good one.

Reprinting the Groot story from TALES TO ASTONISH (1959) #13 and the Xemnu story from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (1952) #62
32 PGS. • ALL AGES …$1.00

Ooh, this is a story I've really been wanting to read for a while now. I'm not sure what the economics of these reprints are, as I've never yet purchased one of Marvel's "True Believers" line of occasional reprints, and therefore don't know their page count or anything. I'm not sure if Marvel takes a loss on them but views them as ads for their collections, or if they make a profit but not a huge one, or what. But man, I would totally buy an ongoing series reprinting the classic monster comics of that era for $1 an issue. Hell, I'd buy it for $2.99 an issue.

Reprinting material from AMAZING ADVENTURES (1970) #1-2
32 PGS. • ALL AGES …$1.00

Oh hey, look! An Inhumans comic from back when that group of characters was still kinda cool and interesting, because they were a) weird and perhaps most importantly, b) rarely seen.

AL EWING (W) • TRAVEL FOREMAN (A/C) VARIANT COVER by MARK BAGLEY Kirby 100th Anniversary Variant Cover by JACK KIRBY
A double-sized issue celebrating ULTIMATES #100! • Eternity is free – but can even he stand against the might of the First Firmament? • Or does the embodiment of everything need help…from Outside? • Featuring the Ultimates and…the Ultimates? 40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Well, I'm stumped. Even if you add together every issue of every comic ever entitled Ultimates 2 that ever published, there's still no way in hell you get anywhere near 100.

Monday, May 22, 2017

DC's August previews reviewed

So, what kind of axes do you think those are that Batman is holding on the cover of Dark Days: Metal #1...? Me, I'm guessing they are BATtle axes.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

So DC released their solicitations for the comics they plan to publish in August. For the complete listings, I guess you can go to, even though they don't pay me to write for them anymore. For commentary and more jokes like the one above, but maybe not as funny, you can simply read on...

Written by ROB WILLIAMS • Art and cover by GUILLEM MARCH • Variant cover by MIKEL JANIN
“EVE OF DESTRUCTION” part one! Superman finds himself side by side with Lex Luthor once more, but is his former foe truly committed to being a hero, or is it just a ruse to gain the Man of Steel’s trust? As world events point to something dark on the horizon, the mysterious Mr. Oz makes his final move against the Man of Tomorrow.
On sale AUGUST 9 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Written by ROB WILLIAMS • Art and cover by GUILLEM MARCH • Variant cover by MIKEL JANIN
“EVE OF DESTRUCTION” part two! The inhumanities of Earth put even Superman’s trust to the test as he and Lex Luthor begin to see a pattern emerging that points to Mr. Oz and his agents. When Lex confronts Mr. Oz alone, one walks away changed forever.
On sale AUGUST 23 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

I think DC's recent comics have been far too Guillem March-less of late, so I'm glad to see he's getting the opportunity to do a big story for one of the publisher's bigger books, even if I don't think a Superman comic is the most natural fit for his particular design and rendering skills (Dude is so good at drawing Batman, and he draws some of the best gargoyles! He'd also be pretty great on the cheesecake-fueled fan-fiction-as-alternative history DC Comics Bombshells, but his style is so different than everyone who has previously drawn that title that it would result in some seriously severe whiplash).

Of course, when I say this is a "big" story, I mean relative to, like, most of the other stuff being solicited for this month. It features Mr. Oz, anyway, which seems to indicate that this will be the next in the Bataan death march towards The Doomsday Clock, and the inevitable re-reboot of DC Continuity.

I kinda hope this is where they finally reveal who the hell Mr. Oz is and what his whole deal is. The obvious answer, Ozymandius, seems so obvious as to be too obvious (and it wouldn't explain his eschewing purple and/or gold in favor of green), so I can't help but imagine it's someone non-Watchmen related, and then give up in frustration when trying to think of who it might be.

Written by HOPE LARSON • Art by CHRIS WILDGOOSE • Cover by DAN MORA • Variant cover by JOSHUA MIDDLETON
“SUMMER OF LIES” part one! Batgirl and Nightwing’s feelings for each other have always run deep…but is their bond built on more than Bat Family loyalty and a long-ago childhood crush? When an old villain comes back into Babs’ life, she and Dick will have to reopen painful wounds and remember a time they’d hoped would remain forgotten. This is an event no Batgirl or Nightwing fan will want to miss!
On sale AUGUST 23 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Among the many things I can't wait for a Doomsday Clock-related reboot to wipe away? Poor Dick Grayson's dumb-ass post-Flashpoint Robin costume.

Written by TOM KING • Art and cover by MIKEL JANIN • Variant cover by TIM SALE
“THE WAR OF JOKES AND RIDDLES” part four! War is hell. Unless it’s in Gotham City, where it’s so much worse. The clash between The Joker and the Riddler continues to escalate, with the rest of the city’s villains picking sides and joining in. In the midst of the battle, Batman must try to save whoever he can while knowing he will forever be haunted by those he can’t.
On sale AUGUST 2 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Written by TOM KING • Art and cover by MIKEL JANIN • Variant covers by TIM SALE
“THE WAR OF JOKES AND RIDDLES” part five! Batman has done his best to keep the peace, but with neither faction backing down, he may have to choose the lesser of two evils if he wants the violence to end. Will Batman embrace the murderous anarchy of The Joker or the bloody fascism of the Riddler? If he wants to win, he’ll have to choose a side—and either way, he loses.
On sale AUGUST 16 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Scott Snyder has done a pretty good job of elevating The Riddler into a truly menacing threat to Batman during the course of his run on the character, but he hasn't done so thorough a job that The Riddler seems to be in The Joker's weight-class to me. Ra's al Ghul? Bane? Two-Face? Maybe even The Penguin or, of late, The Scarecrow? They seem like legitimate rivals to The Joker, but I just can't quite picture The Riddler posing a threat to Batman's archenemy. I guess that is one of the functions of this story, though, and I am rather eager to see what King does with it...especially since he'll be working with his "I Am Suicide" artistic partner, rather than his "I Am Gotham" or "I Am Bane" partner.

I've been reading Batman in single issues ever since the "Rebirth" relaunch and renumbering, but I've got to say, knowing Tim Sale is doing variants and that this arc will feature a huge swathe of Batman's rogues gallery really rather makes me wish I was trade-waiting Batman. Sale's versions of many of these characters are among my favorites, and I like his designs of all of them...

Shilo Norman has taken up the mantle of Mister Miracle, following the example of Scott Free by cheating death on a daily basis. But when he pushes himself to the limit, the Black Racer comes calling. Now Shilo is literally running from death itself and a cosmic chase leads both target and hunter across the universe. Also featuring a Fourth-World era reprint!
ONE-SHOT • On sale AUGUST 30 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

This is one of several specials featuring Kirby-created characters that is solicited for August, all of which look to be somewhere between rather dreadful and quite promising, depending on the creative teams involved (this looks closer to promising than dreadful, in my estimation; I mean, it's hard not to enjoy anything that Cowan and Sienkiewicz draw). The idea seems to be a continuity-free (or at least continuity-lite) comic by top talent (and/or Dan DiDio) paired with a reprint of a classic Kirby comic. I'm curious if this will continue into the fall, as there are a handful of Kirby characters that I might have expected to get their own specials that didn't.

Anyway, this one is former Black Panther writer Reginald Hudlin (whose run I managed to read more of than that of Ta'nehesi Coates'!) and the aforementioned Cowan and Sienkiewicz. It also features two of the most prominent black characters Kirby created while working for DC, and it never really occurred to me until just now that it was Jack Kirby that created some of the publisher's earlier black super-people (Black Lightning debuted in 1977, while Norman appeared in 1973 and The Black Racer in 1971).

At last, DC collects Catwoman’s 1990s adventures! Gotham City’s Feline Fatale has turned a new leaf as she faces off with Bane, takes on thugs and includes Knightquest, Knightsend and Zero Hour crossovers!
Collects Catwoman #0-14.
On sale SEPTEMBER 6 • 328 pg, FC, $29.99 US

Ha ha, I was wondering if and when DC would start collecting this series, given how much attention they have paid to various Batman-related books of the '90s recently.

Say what you will about Balent's rendering of the female form in the pages of Catwoman, the man could draw, and I remember him doing a pretty great Batman. And Robin. And Azrael as Batman. And Two-Face. And Scarecrow. He also displayed a rather remarkable stick-to-it-ivness that was rather rare for an Big Two artist back then, and only more so now. I haven't seen much of Balent's post-Catwoman artwork, aside from what Chris Sims used to post on his Invincible Super-Blog to make fun of, but I don't really care for his current style as much as his Catwoman-era art, some of which might be attributable to his having worked with some truly great inkers back then, and some of which is due to the fact that I just prefer the way they used to make comics back then, when computers were less omnipresent.

I personally didn't care for this initial chunk of the what would end up ultimately being an eight-year, 96-issue series...which Balent stuck around for the first 77-issues of. Of the issues included in this trade, Duffy wrote the first fourteen, while Doug Moench wrote the #0 issue. I think the strongest runs on this particular book were those written by Chuck Dixon and, later and especially, Devin Grayson. As Dixon comes on with issue #15, I suspect the second volume of this will be a bit more enjoyable than this first one for most Batman and/or Catwoman fans, but, in the mean time, here's about 330-pages of Balent's Catwoman, including encounters with the Jean-Paul Valley version of Batman.

In this final issue, will Power Girl join Faora in creating a new Krypton? When given the chance to avenge her family on Hugo Strange, will Lois Lane take the shot? Then, find out which side Lex Luthor has truly been on, and what this means for the future of the Bombshells!
Watch for the return of the Bombshells in an all-new series coming soon!
On sale AUGUST 16 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST

What? "Final issue"...? Nooooooooooooooooooooo-- Oh, wait. I didn't read far enough. There's an "all-new series" coming soon. Well, hopefully they just keep on keeping on, only with a new #1, as there's relatively little I would change about the series, and that which I would might not be feasible if they want to keep their current publishing schedule. That is, I'd rather it be drawn by a single artist, rather than changing artists every ten pages or so.

Well, I'd change that, and I'd definitely put President Eleanor Roosevelt on-panel.

And maybe make it "Rated M," so it could be naughtier...

“LONGER CHAINS” part one! Having exiled herself from Batman’s world, Spoiler has nearly destroyed herself trying to expose the corruption of Gotham City’s vigilantes. Fortunately for her, help has arrived…but unfortunately for the city, it’s in the form of the mysterious Anarky! Is he truly on the side of the people, or is he a dangerous lunatic?
On sale AUGUST 23 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Anarky...? I love Anarky! And this book already has or had Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain and The General in it...! This book really has all the makings of a dream Batman book for me personally...if it weren't set on the wrong side of Flashpoint, and the versions of all of those characters appearing in its pages weren't all mangled beyond (almost) all recognition and (almost) all affection.

I was kinda hoping Anarky wouldn't appear again in The New 52-isverse, as I've managed to avoid reading the Detective Comics arc (from the previous volume of the series, not this third volume) because I was afraid to see what DC did to him. All I know for sure is that his costume is terrible now.

Written by JOSHUA WILLIAMSON • Art and cover by CARMINE DI GIANDOMENICO • Variant cover by HOWARD PORTER
“NEGATIVE” part one! It’s a bleak new day as the citizens of Central City meet Negative-Flash! He’s got a terrible attitude and volatile powers that leave a wake of destruction wherever he goes. Exactly the kind of person you’d want The Flash to put behind bars. There’s just one problem: he is The Flash! Can Barry Allen get his new powers under control before they kill him?
On sale AUGUST 9 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Negative-Flash, huh? Well I guess at this point they have so damn many Reverse-Flashes they had to come up with something new to call evil opposites of The Flash.

The original Kid Flash's original costume always freaked me out.

Written by JEFF PARKER • Art and cover by ARIEL OLIVETTI • Variant cover by STEVE RUDE
After the thrilling events of FUTURE QUEST, a new age of adventure begins! First up, Space Ghost and his young wards Jan and Jace team up with the Herculoids to rebuild the mighty Space Force. Will they rise again to become defenders of the galaxy? Or is there something lurking in the shadows ready to stop them for good?
On sale AUGUST 16 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Space Ghost, Future Quest, Green Lantern/Space Ghost and now this. Come on, DC: Just go ahead and introduce Space Ghost into the DC Universe proper already. Have him join the Justice League. It will be awesome.

For the first time, DC collects the complete run of Jack Kirby’s MISTER MIRACLE in one stand-alone color volume! Traded as an infant as part of a peace pact between the twin worlds New Genesis and Apokolips, Scott Free grew up in the cruel care of Granny Goodness to become a super escape artist who fights for freedom. Along the way, he battles Darkseid’s forces, including Dr. Bedlam, Kanto the assassin, the Female Furies and more, with the help of his assistant, Oberon, and former Apokoliptean enforcer Big Barda.
Collects MISTER MIRACLE #1-18.
On sale SEPTEMBER 20 • 448 pg, FC, $29.99 US

No lie, this is one of the all-around best superhero comics I've ever read.

Written by TOM KING • Art by MITCH GERADS • Cover by NICK DERINGTON • Variant cover by MITCH GERADS
From the team behind THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON and the Hugo Award-nominated writer of Vision comes a unique new take on one of Jack Kirby’s most beloved New Gods.
Scott Free is the greatest escape artist that ever lived. So great that he escaped Granny Goodness’ gruesome orphanage and the dangers of Apokolips to travel across galaxies and set up a new life on Earth with his wife, the former female fury known as Big Barda. Using the stage alter ego of Mister Miracle, he has made a career for himself showing off his acrobatic escape techniques. He even caught the attention of the Justice League, which counted him among its ranks.
You might say Scott Free has everything…so why isn’t it enough? Mister Miracle has mastered every illusion, achieved every stunt, pulled off every trick—except one. He has never escaped death. Is it even possible? Our hero is going to have to kill himself if he wants to find out.
Written by Tom King (BATMAN) and illustrated by Mitch Gerads (The Punisher), this is a MISTER MIRACLE unlike any you’ve read before.
On sale AUGUST 9 • 32 pg, 1 of 12, FC, $3.99 US • MATURE READERS

I mentioned my excitement and reservations about this book in the previous post, as last week's issue of Batman served in some ways as a preview of what this particular creative team can do with a DC superhero. I really like the cover by Nick Derington, and it kind of makes me wish he was handling the interiors as well, but I'm definitely interested in giving this book a shot. I really like this character, who I think should--along with Captain Marvel and Plastic Man--be pretty much a permanent fixture on the Justice League roster, along with the Big Seven.

Written by HOWARD CHAYKIN • Art and cover by HOWARD CHAYKIN
Jack Kirby’s two wartime kid gangs share their first adventure together in a novel-length tale written and illustrated by Howard Chaykin! When the Boy Commandos arrive in New York on the trail of a secret Axis agent, they’re greeted as turf invaders by the crime-fighting Newsboys! Can these kids put aside their rivalry and join forces to protect the home front? Also features a Kirby reprint!
ONE-SHOT • On sale AUGUST 9 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

I have no idea what Chaykin is going to do with these two groups of characters, but I love the idea of smashing them both into a single story.

Don’t miss two new tales starring Jack Kirby’s costumed Master of Nightmares from the 1970s. Sandman, Brute and Glob battle an onslaught of dreams so powerful that they are invading the dreams of other people! Then, a grown-up Jed Walker returns to his childhood home, only to find himself haunted by dreams from the past. Plus: a seldom-seen Sandman story from the 1970s!
ONE-SHOT • On sale AUGUST 16 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

An unfortunate side-effect of the success of Neil Gaiman's reinvention of Kirby's 1970s Sandman for DC Comics in the early '90s in the pages of The Sandman was the fact that Gaiman's series included just enough of the source material that it made any future use of the character more-or-less undesirable (And when DC did publish other comics starring a Sandman, they went with the Golden Age version, rather than this superhero who patrols the dreams of children version). In fact, this version of Sandman was so scarce for so long that I remember thinking it genuinely scandalous when the Geoff Johns-written JSA incorporated elements of it into the "Waking The Sandman" arc.
I wasn't the only one who clutched my pearls when I first saw this cover, was I?
(If I recall correctly, Sandy Hawkins went by the codename "Sand" during most of the JSA/Justice Society of America run because DC wouldn't let them call him The Sandman. Is that correct? Or did I dream that?)

Anyway, he's back! Dan Jurgens' writing is...well, it's reliable, and that's probably good enough for a one-shot homage comic like this. And I'm genuinely eager to see Jon Bogdanove's art again, as I see it so rarely these days.

For any fans of Kirby's seventies Sandman who might have missed it, do check out The Allred Family's Bug!: The Adventures of Forager #1, as he is rather prominently featured in that issue (Also that comic is awesome).

Written by ROB WILLIAMS • Art and cover by CLAY MANN • Variant cover by BILL SIENKIEWICZ
“DARK DESTINY” part one! Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman must turn to the mystic trinity of Dead Man, Zatanna and John Constantine when Red Hood, Artemis and Bizarro are sacrificed into the depths of the Pandora Pits by Circe and Ra’s al Ghul.
On sale AUGUST 16 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Okay, let me get this straight. There's the title trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, who turn to the "mystic trinity" of Deadman (it's all one word, DC Comics Solicitation Writer!), Zatanna and John Constantine in order to help them rescue the dark trinity of Red HOod, Artemis and Bizarro? That's three trinities! A trinity of trinities!

I don't know if I should groan or applaud. I will go with a slow clap. I will need both hands to do it though, so I will have to stop typing for the night now.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: May 17th

Archie #20 (Archie Comics) Well this series got serious fast! Writer Mark Waid, again working with Pete Woods, starts in his usual comedy mode, and, indeed, for much of the issue tells the usual jokes about how clumsy Archie is, but the ending involves a terrible car crash in which three vehicles get totaled, and three of the characters on the cover are involved. It's a cliffhanger--in fact, at least one car goes over a cliff--so we don't know exactly who is in jeopardy at this point, but what whiplash. I suppose that's the point, of course, and Waid managed to make it feel dramatic precisely because it was such a sudden change of tone.

It strikes me as a little less dramatic than the fate of Reggie's newly acqured Vader at the end of Reggie and Me, however, as there's no way any of these three are actually going to be killed off.

The reason that Archie is so easily goaded by Reggie felt a little unconvincing to me, as this was literally the first time it came up, and was probably something Waid could have/should have laid the groundwork for in earlier issues. I was also a little surprised to hear Archie talking about the fact that he hates Reggie, which is a pretty damn strong word for Archie. I mean, Reggie's a jerk, but he's always been more of Archie's frenemy and rival than someone good-natured doofus Archie would use the h-word about, right?

Of course, there's a TV show in which Archie had sex with Ms. Grundy airing these days, so it's not like the rules of Riverdale aren't more malleable than ever.

This issue, by the way, is labeled on the cover as "Over The Edge Part 1." Waid has worked in arcs throughout the previous 19 issues, and this has been one big ongoing storyline, but this is the first time that an issue has been specifically labeled as part of a multi-part story arc.

Batman #23 (DC Comics) Writer Tom King takes a break from his ongoing "I Am ____" story arcs for a done-in-one "The Brave and The Mold" with guest-artist Mitch Gerards (King's partner on Vertigo's The Sheriff of Babylon, which is heavily promoted with a house ad within this very issue). The cover bills it as "The STRANGEST Team-Up in History!" which is just...weird, no matter how you parse it. It's not like Batman is teaming up with the center-fielder for The Gotham Knights or the ghost of Emily Bronte or my grandfather; it's just Swamp Thing, a character who Batman has teamed-up with plenty of times before and who is, in fact, in Batman's regular team-up rotation, along with the likes of Deadman and Zatanna (In fact, I'm fairly certain there are enough Batman/Swamp Thing team-ups that DC could fill-out a trade paperback entitled The Greatest Batman/Swamp Thing Team-Ups Ever, and maybe even a big, fat Batman: Arkham--Swamp Thing collection. Only Mike Sterling knows for sure! Well, Mike Sterling and some other people, I guess).

What is perhaps slightly strange about this issue is that it is a murder mystery involving a character incredibly close to Swamp Thing--Alec Holland's birth father--who is found shot twice in the head in an apartment on the 84th floor of a building in Gotham City. Swamp Thing arrives at the scene of the crime, and he and Batman spend the majority of the issue trying to figure out who the killer might be and how to find him. They do.

There's a pretty great two-page spread in the middle of the issue, in which Swamp Thing visits Wayne Manor, and in general the interplay between the two characters is a lot of fun. It's nice to see a character who towers over Batman, for a change, and to see Swampy crammed into Robin's seat in the Batmobile.

I was a little unconvinced by the high-drama here, which ultimately involved two ways of looking at death, each articulated by Swamp Thing, and then reacted to rather fiercely by Batman. One way involves a sort of acceptance, the other a sort of rage tinged-with-acceptance, but both involve ways of looking at death as part of the natural world, neither of which would be too terribly comforting to most human beings, Batman, I would guess, included. (The gist of it is that Batman would prefer the way of looking at death that is more positive, but, like I said, this is basically an argument over whether his parents are tree food or dust; a more convincing take on this came at the end of the Spectre team-up in 1997's Batman #540-#541, as at least that big guy in green dealt in souls, and with Heaven and Hell...more traditional human concepts of what might happen after death).

I liked seeing Ace, introduced in that Eisner-nominated* short-story from Detective Comics, curled up on the two-page spread, even though it did make me wonder about Titus. Do the two dogs get along? Does Titus leave in San Francisco now? Or is Wayne Manor big enough that the two hardly ever even run into one another...?

Also, King manages to work Kite-Man in again. At this point I think King is just including Kite-Man in ever script just to see how long DC will let him do so.

I was a little disappointed in Gerads' artwork, which only really alarmed me because I had heard the very exciting news that there would be a new Mister Miracle series soon, and it was going to be by King...and Gerads. I'm not personally crazy about this sort of super-realistic style, as anyone reading this blog for long probably knows (I would have preferred, for example, to see variant cover artist Tim Sale draw the interiors of this issue, instead of the 20 or so variants he's probably done at this point).
Gerads still sells what needs to be sold; I really liked the monstrous quality he invests a big, ape-like Swamp Thing with (particularly his entrance into the museum), for example, and the sight gags of the awkward pairing of heroes all work well.

On the other hand, I have no idea how Swamp Thing made his entrance; specifically, what he made his entrance out of. It looks like a paperweight, or rot. Based on the title, I'm assuming a hunk of bread gone moldy, but I honestly don't know.

I'm still looking forward to Mister Miracle, but not as much as I was before reading this...

DC Comics Bombshells #27 (DC) Wait, I don't think I like whichever artist drew the middle section of this issue...! There's a scene where a bunch of monsters and creatures of folklore attack a circus, and it's just as confusing as all get-out. If the narration wasn't explaining what on Earth was going on, I surely wouldn't have been able to find, like "sides" in the conflict, or figure out who or what was doing what to who or what...

The first two-thirds of the book involve Raven running away with Harley and Ivy for Russia, while the final third picks up with Supergirl, Steve Trevor and Lex Luthor on the train. Nice cover, and I Mirka Andolfo's character work was as fun as always, but this was overall a bit of a disappointment, I'm afraid, as the art too rarely effectively sold what the script called for (There's some stuff with the flying manta ray too that it's easy to imagine looking really cool if drawn differently, but which just looks confusing here).

Flash #22 (DC) This is it! The conclusion of Batman/Flash/Watchmen pin crossover "The Button," in which our heroes finally figure out the true nature of the button and solve the mysterious murder of The Reverse-Flash!

Or at least that's what I thought it would be. Instead, the story ends with Batman, apparently acting on the advice of his father from the Flashpoint reality to not be Batman, decides to give up. See November's The Doomsday Clock, advertised on a two-page spread in the back of this issue, for more. (Batman will presumably go back to being Batman, however, given all the Batman comics DC needs to put out between now and November.)

In retrospect, not a whole hell of a lot happened in this story arc, at least not a whole hell of a lot that you didn't already know from reading DC Universe: Rebirth. My main takeaways were that DC continuity is confusing and is still in a very, very long state of flux, in addition to a handful of refugees from the previous continuity (Johnny Thunder, Saturn Girl) there's a Justice League storage room full of objects from the previous continuity, and Wally West wasn't the only Flash bouncing around the Speed Force, seeking to break back into reality (see the cover). As for Jay Garrick, unlike Wally he doesn't make it into the current DCU, but disappears shortly after rescuing the marooned Barry Allen and Batman.

I had fun reading these four issues while I was reading them, but now that I've finished the fourth and final chapter, I can't say that it was necessarily worthwhile, if that makes sense. (Well, in retrospect, the Batman/Reverse-Flash fight scene was still pretty cool, and...yeah, that's all that really holds up.)

Pretty nice cover here, though.

Jughead #15 (Archie) With writer Ryan North gone, and with pre-Ryan North writer Chip Zdarsky not returning, this would have probably been a good time to drop Jughead, save for two factors. One, artist Derek Charm, who I maintain is the best of Archie's current line-up of artists, is still here and two, this issue guest-stars not only Sabrina The Teenage Witch (and Salem, who Charm's version of is the best version of of all time) but also Josie and The Pussycats, and really, how could i not read that?

The writing team is Mark Waid, joined by Ian Flynn; Waid's done okay by Jughead in the main Archie title, but his forte isn't exactly comedy, and I was unsure of how well he would be able to handle the current Jughead book, which isn't just funny, but also ridiculously dense with gags (I'm actually having trouble thinking of any comedic comic writer whose scripts are as gag-dense as North's) and often wildly absurd. Waid and Flynn definitely get the absurdity part down just fine: Jughead misses an opportunity to get a ticket to The Pussycats' Riverdale show, so Sabrina tries to help, casting a spell that accidentally makes Josie, Valerie and Melody all fall madly in love with Jughead Jones, whoever that is, and, later, all of the girls in Riverdale.

What would be a dream come true for Archie or Reggie is, of course, Jughead's worst nightmare, as established by North and Charm in their Sabrina-centric arc.

This is a premise with a lot of potential, so Waid and Flynn are off to a good start.

Also, Charm draws some epic eye-rolls on his darling version of Salem.

Justice League/Power Rangers #4 (Boom Studios) After figuring out a way to punch through to the Power Rangers' home universe, Batman suits the kids up with costumes and weapons from the Justice League armory (So that Trini is dressed like Katana, Billy wears Prometheus' helmet and has Blue Devil's trident and so on) and they all go after Brainiac, who has already shrunk Angel Grove and added it to his collection.

There's a scene where The Flash tries to explain Green Arrow's boxing glove arrow to Kimberly, and she cuts him off:
No. I get it. It's for when you want to punch someone who's a long way away. It makes perfect sense.
I re-read that panel twice, and was about to accuse the writer of this issue of stealing that from the writer of Injustice, where Green Arrow and Harley Quinn first bonded over a boxing glove arrow with pretty much those exact same words, when I realized that Justice League/Power Rangers is written by Tom Taylor...who also wrote that scene in Injustice. And I guess it's not really stealing if you're stealing from yourself.

This series, like that first Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover, remains fine, but somewhat disappointing in that it's not everything I want it to be, nor everything I think it could be.

Nightwing #21 (DC) After the rather rocky first story arc ("Better Than Batman") introducing Raptor, I felt like Tim Seeley really found his footing with Nightwing, and the last two story arcs were so solid that I finally added the book to my pull-list last week. And...Seeley's not writing this issue. Rather, a Michael McMillian is, with Christian Duce providing the artwork.

Despite my initial disappointment, McMillian did a pretty fine job here. It's a done-in-one, superfirends-hang out issue, in which a bored Wally West speeds to Bludhaven in order to visit his life-long friend Nightwing (this is a little awkward at the moment, given the uncertainty of DCU continuity, as Wally hasn't existed in the current continuity until DC Comics: Rebirth, and his history with various characters is subjective, but I think it works here, as Nightwing and the other Titans from Titans seem to have recovered their memories of Wally West, even though they don't really line-up with either the old continuity or the current continuity.

Anyway, Nightwing and The Flash hang out for 20-pages, inevitably fighting a supervillain with the kind of comic book-science high-tech gizmo that a classic one-off Flash villain might have.

Superman #23 (DC) Fair warning, I'm going to spoil the last pages of this issue, which explains why this story arc is called "Black Dawn." As you likely know, I don't generally worry much about spoilers in these posts, but given that there are only two events in this issue that are of any real interest and/or likely to be picked up on in the future, and the reveal is one of them, I guess knowledge of it could actually ruin the reading experience of this issue, so, um, "spoiler alert," okay?

As it turns out, this issue reveals that the current "Black Dawn" arc, which in itself is a bit of a culmination of the Kents' lives in Hamilton County up until this point, is yet another riff on the modern classic Joe Kelly-written story from 2001's Action Comics #775, "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and The American Way?", which pitted the classic superheroics of Superman against the cynical, amoral super-combat represented by WildStorm's then-popular The Authority, by having Superman meet The Elite, a DCU analogue to The Authority, lead by Manchester Black.

It was a very good story, and popular enough that DC riffed on it repeatedly, with Manchester Black becoming a recurring Superman villain, and Kelly even writing a Justice League spin-off title for a time called Justice League Elite. I'm abut 90% sure I remember seeing Manchester Black in the New 52, I want to say in some dumb Teen Titans arc, but I honestly don't know. It may not matter at this point anyway, as "Superman Reborn" restored Superman's pre-New 52 continuity, which presumably effects the characters that participated in it to some level of indeterminate degree. So this might be the first time we've seen this new version of Manchester Black since...I don't know when, actually.

The Elite, here referred to as The Super Elite and made up entirely of new members, are a curious thing in the post-Flashpoint DCU, now that the WildStorm characters are fully integrated into the DCU. That is, there's no real reason for an Authority analogue when you have easy access to The Authority itself, and there's no real reason for a Jenny Sparks analogue when you have access to the real Jenny Sparks, right? (At the moment, however, I think the only WildStorm character still functioning in the DCU to any extent is The Midnighter, and his partner Apollo. But that's about it...? The current series The Wild Storm seems to be rebuilding the characters in a universe of their own, although who knows what that will ultimately mean for the status of the characters in the DCU.)

A DCU with both The Authority--or at least the characters from the pages of The Authority--and The Elite feels slightly redundant. But we'll see; at the moment, this is just a reveal, and we've no idea what they will be doing, exactly.

It's nice that this particular arc fell to Superman pencil artist Doug Mahnke, as he drew the original Elite story, and plenty of those that followed. He is here inked again by too many inkers, and this is one of the unfortunate issues where it is apparent from the art that there are too many inkers in the kitchen. Er, studio.

*Which totally doesn't deserve the nomination, by the way. That short story was drawn by David Finch, who did a literally incompetent job on the art. There's a panel where Batman finds Ace in a "pit" with the corpses of a few other dogs, where The Joke apparently left them all, and Finch draws the pit just a few inches deep, so that any or all of the dogs could easily have stepped out of it at any time, rather than having been forced to kill one another. Feh.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review: Civil War II: Choosing Sides

Ever since the first Marvel Civil War, the majority of the publisher's big, line-wide crossover events have been accompanied by a companion miniseries, generally showing the how the world-changing goings-on of that year's story is impacting the normal people of the Marvel Universe, or perhaps the many, many lower-tier characters who don't show up in the crossover event proper, or have books of their own that can be tied-in to the the event. Civil War had Civil War: Front Line, World War Hulk had World War Hulk: Front Line, Fear Itself had Fear Itself: The Home Front, and so on*. For last year's Civil War II, that companion series was Civil War II: Choosing Sides, a six-issue anthology miniseries, each featuring a chapter of a Nick Fury story written and drawn by Declan Shalvey entitled "Past Prologue," plus two short stories featuring various Marvel characters.

It is surprisingly quite good, with most of the stories being good ones, almost all of them being interesting ones, and only a few being neither.

It should be noted that the sub-title is more-or-less random. Few of the stories have anything at all to do with their stars deciding if they are Team Carol or Team Tony--as discussed though, there aren't really "sides" in this particular civil war, beyond the ones that exist for its sole battle in in #4 and #5--but rather with the characters reacting to various story beats from Civil War II, some quite personally, others in a more vague way.

It should furthermore noted that the cover doesn't really reflect the sides of the civil war. Aside from Captain Marvel and Tony Stark, and Medusa, Captain America and Black Panther, most of the characters dpeicted play relatively small roles in Civil War II...if they appear in the main series, or this companion series, at all. They certainly aren't pictured on the right "sides" here. Vision fights against Carol, for example, while Spider-Man sits that particular fight out. Star-Lord and Ms. America fight on Carol's side, while Daredevil sits it out. Not that comic book covers have ever been all that strictly reflective of their contents, but given the title of this particular series and the arrangement of the cover images, it sure seems to heavily imply that what we're looking at are Team Carol and Team Tony, and that the stories under this cover will show how the various heroes chose which side they would fight on.

In the trade paperback collection, the contents are slightly rearranged, so that all of the Nick Fury chapters run consecutively without break, making for a single, uninterrupted, 40-page story, the rest of the short stories following it.

Let's take them one by one...

Nick Fury in "Post Prologue" by Decan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire

While SHIELD has long-since proliferated to the point that they serve as supporting characters in just about every Marvel Universe comic, one imagines this is exactly the sort of comic that would run in a SHIELD monthly, if such a thing existed, and the concept was kept rather tightly relegated to a single, super-spy series within the Marvel Universe.

The Nick Fury is not the original one, but the one who looks like Sam Jackson--not the original one that looks like Sam Jackson, but the other one. That is, not Ultimate Nick Fury from the Ultimate Universe, but Nick Fury Jr. from Earth-616. Isn't it cool how incredibly complicated the road can be to get to something presumably simple and "easier," like a degree of synergy between what the comic book, cartoon and movie versions of a particular character might look like...?

Shalvey's story is just barely related to the plot of Civil War II. SHIELD Commander Maria Hill sends Nick Fury on a mission based on intel from "The Inhumans' precog--Ulysses" to wipe out a particular Hydra cell that, if successful in its mission, could spell doom for SHIELD. A version of the specific prophecy is repeatedly voiced through a fight scene in the first chapter: "SHIELD must live! Fury must die!" and there's a double-cross involved. As far as the prophecy goes, like those in a lot of the Civil War II tie-ins, it's rather cryptic, and ultimately turns out to be true-ish; that is, true, but not in the way that the people acting upon it think it is, and their attempt to prevent it only fulfill it.

Fury, outfitted in a personalized version of the standard SHIELD uniform, with a big SHIELD eagle emblem on his chest and a trench coat, has to fake his own death and go solo to route out a rogue faction of SHIELD within SHIELD. It's a nice, straightforward story, featuring some neat gimmicks in Fury's souped-up super-suit (which has some neat visuals to accompany its functions) and a satisfyingly inevitable, expected conflict, all carried along by Shalvey's clean, elegant artwork and fleet storytelling. It reminded me a bit of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's Black Widow, which is quite appropriate given that it shares a specific genre and a few plot points with that book. Also, Black Widow shows up for a few pages to unknowingly fight Fury.

I can't imagine a Marvel getting a Nick Fury series to work at the moment, but this story sure works, and it's not hard to imagine the publisher getting a Declan Shalvey series to work.

"Night Thrasher" by Brandon Easton, Paul Davidson and Andrew Crossley

The first of the 10-page short stories stars Night Thrasher, the former New Warriors character whose "powers" revolved around his super-skateboard (He was one of the two black, super-skateboarding heroes of late '80s marvel that lead to the late, great Dwayne McDuffie's sarcastic proposal for a series entitled Teenage Negro Ninja Thrashers). Set during the battle against The Celestial Destructor and its foot soldiers from Civil War II #1, the all hands on deck threat that was Ulysses' first prediction, it is basically just Night Thrasher Dwayne Taylor introducing himself to readers via narration, as he and the rest of the Marvel Universe fight off the invader. During the course of the battle, he crosses paths with both Iron Man Tony Stark, who he finds to be kind of an arrogant jerk (notably, the two have a lot in common), and Captain Marvel Carol Danvers.

To Easton's credit, he is able to craft an actual story out of this, accentuating the character's street-level focus and giving him an important side-quest. He also gets to the opportunity to point out that as dangerous as the fantasy land version of Marvel's New York City may seem during fantastical threats like this, it ain't got nothing on the fucked-up aspects of a lot of real American cities for real people. It's actually a bit of a sucker punch of an ending, but it is effective.

On the other hand, he has Night Thrasher seem a little too defensive about his skateboard, refusing to even call it a skateboard, and bristling when Tony does. Look Turner, you're the one calling yourself Night Thrasher. You're just gonna have to own that.

"Damage Control" by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims, Leonardo Romero and Miroslav Mrva

This story starring the members of the Marvel Universe's post-superhero battle clean-up and reconstruction crew is set in the immediate aftermath of the Everyone Vs. The Celestial Destructor battle that readers of the first issue of this series would have just finished reading about through Night Thrasher's point-of-view.

The business is in a bit of trouble, made worse by the fact that someone seems to be vandalizing their equipment in the middle of their job cleaning up after this latest battle. That "someone" turns out to be Trull The Unhuman, an alien being in the form of a sentient steam shovel...and evil sentient steam shovel. (I had to look him up, but turns out he is not original to this story, and is an old Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creation).
How it is that a Kirby/Lee sentient steam shovel has never before appeared in a Damage Control story, I don't know, but writers Chad Bowers and Chris Sims finally make it so. Romero's art is excellent, and of the same classy, classic aesthetic of the previously mentioned Samnee and a handful of other artist working for the publisher these days. His version of Trull makes the story, as does the fact that his realistic human beings contrast so sharply with the steam shovel with an angry face.

"War Machine" by Jeremy Whitley and Marguerite Sauvage

We're still not to the civil warring point in Civil War II, but this short story picks up on one of the plot-points from the first few issues of the event series: The death of War Machine James "Rhodey" Rhodes. Specifically, his funeral, and how a handful of female heroes of color process his death in snippets of two-pages apiece.

The eight-page story is book-ended by America (former Young Avenger and current member of The Ultimates, who was at the battle in which Rhodey died), tries to keep Hawkeye Kate Bishop at a distance, and explains how her ability to punch her way into different realities allows her a certain perspective on Rhodes' death, which she shares.

Between those two pages are a series of three, two-page vignettes starring Spectrum Monica Rambeau, Misty Knight and Storm, each narrated by each character.

There's so much telling in these rather wordy eight pages that it's easy to see how this comic could have been a bit of slog to read, but it's drawn by the incomparable Marguerite Sauvage, so every panel is beautiful, perfectly rendered and slightly radiant.

"Goliath" by Brandon Thomas and Marco Rudy

The original Civil War featured a single casualty, Goliath Bill Foster, who was essentially murdered for resisting arrest cyborg that his peers Mister Fantastic and Iron Man had created from the genetic material of their other colleague, Thor. Oops. So there's something that both of Marvel's Civil Wars have in common--both kill off a prominent hero of color.

Foster's legacy was later carried on by his nephew, Tom Foster. I lost track of the character shortly after he was introduced--around the time of World War Hulk, I believe--but apparently he did something at some point to land himself in jail. This short story is narrated by a prison guard working at the supervillain jail where Foster was serving time, in which the young hero-turned-villain regains the use of his powers and has the opportunity to do bad, do good or just get the heck out of there. He chooses to do good.

The story is mostly a little character sketch, the purpose of which seems to be the rehabilitation of Tom Foster, but it's presence in the closest of the Civil War II tie-in books is appreciated, as it provides a rather rare call back to the original Civil War story (For the most part, Bendis' invocations of the first Civil War only consist of things like Tony saying he's learned not to disagree with Captain America, or other characters mentioning that all the heroes are fighting "again").

Thomas also ties it to the death of Rhodes, with the narrator explicitly comparing the two heroes at the outset.

"Kate Bishop" by Ming Doyle and Stephen Byrne

So how does the other Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, feel about her sometimes crime-fighting partner and the guy she named herself after being on trail for shooting Bruce Banner in the forehead with a super, Hulk-killing arrow? That's what this story is for! She's...not happy. Most of the story focuses on her trying to shut out news that can't help but assault her, and writer Doyle probably over does it with Bishop's narration, as the scenes she lays out for artist Stephen Byrne to draw are pretty self-explanatory. But the resolution is a fun one, as most of her teammates from the last iteration of the Young Avengers--Wiccan, Hulkling, Ms. America and Prodigy--show up to be there for her. Also, Pizza Dog.

"J. Jonah Jameson" by Derek Landry and Filipe Andrade

So I guess Jonah runs some kind of Fox-esque news channel now, rather than a newspaper...? He was the mayor of New York City last time I saw him, I believe. There's not a whole lot to this story, which is essentially one big walk-and-talk scene between Jonah and a bespectacled, bow-tied Robbie Robertson type (That is, someone for Jonah to talk to in the office).

Mos of the talking part revolves around how they are covering the Barton trial, and it's not a whole lot clearer who is representing who here, but Matt Murdock does seem like maybe he's acting as the prosecutor (I still don't know why the case is being tried in New York City, though), as New Robertson refers to "Murdock's office" and "Barton's team" as if they are different entities.

Andrade's art is quite nice, and differs quite sharply stylistically from the more standard superhero art of Byrne in the story that preceded it, and pretty much everyone else's art in this book.

"The Punisher" by Chuck Brown and Chris Visions

So what is The Punisher's role in this here superhero civil war? He doesn't have one. He's just going around murdering criminals, as per usual. This story has so little to do with Civil War II, one wonders why it was even commissioned. The criminals/victims, who are attempting to steal a deadly virus from a lab, mention that there's a guy who can see the future now, and worry that maybe he's predicted the crime they are in the process of carrying out, and...that's about it, really. The Punisher arrives, and kills them.

Visions' art has a loose, sketchy look to it, and he draws big figures with big, thick lines, but aside from it's interesting look and some meta-commentary on casting Finn Jones as Danny Rand on Netflix's Iron Fist**, there's nothing to this.

"Power Pack" by John Allison and Rosi Kampe

The Power Pack's Jack, Julie and Katie visit Empire State University Campus, and briefly chat about current events, like Hawkeye having killed Bruce Banner, and the existence of Ulysses.

"If people are going to die, and you can stop it, then stop it before it happens!" Jack says. "Just do it!"

"Why does it hav eto be just one thing or another? It's stupid to take sides," Katie says. "Things are very complicated. Very very very complicated."

And that's it for Civil War II relevance! This story and The Punisher both ran in the fourth issue of Choosing Sides, which makes it the least relevant of the issues in this series, I think, as it has almost nothing at all to do with Civil War II (I guess we could qualify these as verbal red sky tie-ins), and the very idea of choosing sides is explicitly dismissed.

"Alpha Flight" by Chip Zdarsky and Ramon Perez

Now this one I actually found to be a valuable story in terms of understanding the greater Civil War II method, in addition to the other pleasures it promised, as it was the first time I had seen any explanation for what the hell the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight was doing working with Captain Marvel Carol Danvers out of the Triskelion in New York. Apparently, they--or at least Puck, Sasquatch and Aurora--are part of something called the Alpha Flight Space Program lead by Danvers, and its an international body focused on defending the entire planet from space invaders.

In the first half of this surprisingly full and Civil War II-centric story, the trio take down a couple of American citizens on intel gained from Ulysses in Michigan, and then get called into a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who gives them a good talking to, and makes it pretty clear that he thinks Team Carol is kinda dumb (The best part of this scene, I think, is that Puck is shown sipping from a Tim Horton's coffee cup. That is also the worst part, as it made me crave Tim Horton's, and the nearest one is almost two hours drive from me. What I'm saying is Tim Horton's should build a Tim Horton's in Mentor, Ohio, or somewhere nearby (Of course, that would be one less reason to visit Erie, Pennsylvania...Hmm...Maybe Tim Horton should just call me and we can discuss this further...)

The second half of the story is a surprisingly touching scene between Trudeau and his apparent bro, American billionaire millionaire industrialist and superhero Tony Stark, with whom he occasionally boxes. Here Trudeau says that while he does indeed think Alpha Flight is wrong, he doesn't think Tony is right, either. "There's a middle ground," he says "There always is." Well, I don't know about that, but I was really surprised at how emotional this story was, and how effectively conveyed those emotions were, given that it was written by a guy I know primarily from writing comics about Jughead Jones and a talking duck, and that it featured the Canadian Prime Minster and Bigfoot.

"Colleen Wing" by Enrique Carrion and Annapaola Martello

If I had to guess, I would guess that the only reason this story exists is that Colleen and Misty Knight are featured characters on some Netflix TV shows? Otherwise, there's nothing to it, and this is another story in the title that has pretty much nothing to do with Civil War II, save maybe some thematic business, as besties Colleen and Misty fight one another at one point.

Misty is hero-for-hired to act as an escort on a S.T.A.K.E. mission, transporting a prisoner along with Man-Thing. Then Colleen attacks, because she needs the prisoner's help finding a missing person. After a brief, forgettable sword fight with Man-Thing, Misty lets her take the guy and, um, that's it. That's the whole story. Dum Dum Duggan appears and says "Carol Danvers" once, but that's as close as it gets to having naything to do with Civil War II.

I'm usually down for any and all Man-Thing stories, but while Martello's art is fine, it doesn't do anything particularly special with the generic material.

"Jessica Jones" by Chelsea Cain and Alison Sampson

There's a little note saying that this issue takes place before Civil War II #3, which is all well and good, but I was more curious as to where it takes in relation to the Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 2, as the Civil War II tie-in arc in that title has Jessica and Danielle on the run and separated from Luke, while Jessica's only real role in the main series comes at a point where Tony Star name-drops her, saying that he's hired her and Dakota North to dig up whatever they can on Ulysses.

That's this story, by Chelsea Cain, the prose fiction writer turned one of Marvel's best comics writers (in the too-quickly canceled Mockingbirds, the first volume of which I can't recommend enough). Cain is here paired with artist Alison Sampson. It's a very short story, as all of these are, but it's also very good, and the one thought I couldn't get out of my mind while reading it was that I liked Cain's writing of Jessica better than I liked Brian Michael Bendis', even though the latter created the character (I think the same goes for Alison Sampson's art vs. Michael Gaydos'; Sampson draws in a very realistic style like Gaydos, and this Jessica similarly looks like one you might run into at a grocery store or the library or the bank instead of a movie star pretty woman like Kristen Ritter, but there's a bit more life in Sampson's art than in Gaydos' stiffer lay-outs and photo-referenced settings).

Jessica is in Ohio--Point Pleasant, Ohio***, specifically--trying to dig up as much dirt as she can on Ulysses, the new Inhuman who is the maguffin of Civil War II. At the very least, she discovers why he's named Ulysses! As in Mockingbird, Cain writes sharp, fun, funny dialogue and comes up with some striking situations and characters (and, in the case of Jessica, characterizations), even if it is much more realistic and down-to-earth than her series about the super-spy-turned-superhero-turned-super-spy/superhero.

Chelsea Cain and Alison Sampson for Jessica Jones! Brian Michael Bendis has more than enough other stuff he can be writing...

"White Fox" by Christina Strain and Sana Takeda

So I've never heard of this White Fox person before. She is apparently a Korean super-person, who is maybe actually some kind of fox demon or fairy or spirit that poses as a human, and she can talk to animals and out-fight Abigail Brand (who now works for Captain Marvel, I guess? When did that happen?). Carol wants her to come work with them in "The Ulysses Initiative," White Fox thinks about it and declines. The end!

I still don't know a whole heck of a lot about this White Fox person, but now I've at least met her. Takeda's art is gorgeous, but this is another of those no-there-there stories, and it's a rather bum one to end the collection one. Heck, if they had only switched this one and the Jessica Jones short, then it would have ended on a high note.

Anyway, to recap: This is an overall pretty good collection, a much-better-than-expected companion series to a much-worse-than-expected crossover event series.

*The best--or should I say "best"...?--of these was probably the one that ran alongside 2012's Avengers Vs. X-Men,AVX: VS, which, of course, stood for "Avengers Vs. X-Men: Vs.", and consisted of extended fight scenes that there just wasn't quite room for in the main series, making it a comic book series that was the equivalent of deleted scenes from a movie that one might find available on the DVD.

**At least, that's how Iread the exchange. When someone mentions that Tombstone is the buyer for the thing they are stealing, one of them says "Word on the street is he's burning through cash to take out the bulletproof black dude and the Chinese karate guy." Another member of the gang corrects him: "It's kung fu, not karate, and he's a white guy." To which the original guy replies, "You're kidding?! Really?"

***Yeah, we've got one of those too.