Friday, February 24, 2017

Marvel's May previews reviewed

And now it's Marvel's turn...

No, Daredevil! Don't change clothes! I really like the black costume!

Hopefully that's just a flashback, to the point where he was considering ditching the red unitard for the black one. That's how superheroes decide on what to wear; they clutch various garments in their fists, and stare intently at them, brooding about the choice. It takes Matt forever to get ready for work in the morning.

• New York City is under attack by dark forces, and only Doctor Strange has a shot at saving it. But it’s quite a longshot!
• And welcome new ongoing writer DENNIS HOPELESS (ALL-NEW X-MEN, SPIDER-WOMAN, JEAN GREY) and artist NIKO HENRICHON (Pride of Baghdad, NEW MUTANTS).
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo are gone already? That seems like a particularly short run on the title, especially for Aaron, who stuck with Wolverine and Thor for many years through many different titles. That said, Niko Henrichon! That seems like a real get; Pride of Baghdad was pretty fantastic (particularly on the visual side of things), and I'd be interested to see what he can do with the weirdo visuals that Doctor Strange comics can lend themselves to.

The Xavier Institute for Mutant Education and Outreach has opened its doors and is ready to foster the next generation of heroes and diplomats! But this time around, the X-Men recognize an unfortunate truth: not all mutants are created equal. Some mutants are not made to fight Sentinels or serve as ambassadors on behalf of their kind. Some mutants will just be lucky to survive another day in a world that hates and fears them. And who better to mentor mutantkind’s lovable losers than perpetual sidekick Jubilee? But will Jubilee and GENERATION X survive the experience??
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

While I like Jubilee's current status as a co-worker and all-around bro of Patsy Walker in Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat, and will miss artist Brittney Williams' super-cute portrayal of one of Wolverine's top teenage sidekicks, this strikes me as an interesting use of the character. And hey, the Institute has a new name again! I wonder why they stripped it of the Jean Grey designation? Is it because there's a teenage version of her from the past living in the present, and now it just seems a little weird?

Also weird? "Generation X" no longer sounds quite right for a title about young X-Men types, now that actual members of Generation X are in their 40s, but then, I guess as long as a phrase has an "X" in it, it will work for a short-lived X-Men spin-off comic (and these days, all Marvel comics are short-lived, but design). And besides, X-Post-Millennials doesn't quite roll off the tongue...

I'm afraid I'm just not feeling Luke Cage's latest costume redesign...

It’s been building for months, across a bevy of titles! But now, the moment has arrived for Steve Rogers to step into the light and declare his allegiance to Hydra! How can the heroes of the Marvel Universe cope with this shattering betrayal by the most trusted figure among them? And what will this mean for the world? The map of the Marvel Universe changes in ways nobody will expect — TRUST THE SECRET EMPIRE!
48 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

This is Marvel's next big event thing, so I suppose it's worth noting for that reason alone. As far as I understand it, the premise is that Captain America is, and has always been, a secret off-brand Nazi. Given that he was recently de-aged by a reality-warping entity (in Standoff, I'm not sure I understand why this has bothered a lot of fans. Maybe I just don't understand how the Cosmic Cube works, but couldn't it have just remade the past so that Cap was always a sleeper agent for the Fake Nazis? And if that is the case, is it anything to even be slightly annoyed by, as it's so easily the climax of a big crossover series, of course.

There will be a million covers for this, of course, but I pulled out the two I found most interesting. The first one, the regular cover by Mark Brooks, I find interesting if only because if you saw those characters on the cover of the first issue of a Marvel line-wide crossover, even as recently as, I don't know, maybe five or six or seven years ago, your brain might explode. Spider-Man and Cap look pretty similar to themselves, and there's the Human Torch, (an) Iron Man (or Person, as I suppose that's actually Ironheart, right?) and Storm is in a dumb costume, but she's pretty clearly still Storm.

But what's Doctor Strange wearing, if that's even him? Why is Wolverine so old-looking, and not wearing anything even approaching a superhero costume? Why is there a female Thor? What the hell are Medusa and Rocket Raccoon doing on the cover of a major Marvel crossover series like this? And who are those other two ladies?

It just provides a sharper-than-usual snapshot of the current state of the Marvel Universe, and how different it is than it was in even the fairly recent past.

The other one, which I assume is the Todd Nauck cover, although I can't be sure without seeing the figures closer (they look kinda Nauck-y from this distance though, don't they?), I just wanted to pull out because it looks so awesome. I love character-crowded images like that, where a reader can spend minutes and minutes taking in the characters and making up little fight scenes for them in their heads.

Enshrouded in darkness, plagued by the minions of Baron Mordo and cut off from all assistance, The Defenders and Doctor Strange struggle to save the lives of the innocent people consigned to this hell on Earth. Will Dagger prove to be the key to stopping this nightmare? Meanwhile, will the appearance of a new hero provide Iron Man with the key to Captain America’s startling change? THE SECRET EMPIRE WILL DEFEND YOU!
48 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Oh cool, The Defenders! I...Oh. Wait. It's those Defenders. Hmph.

I guess it's cool Team Netflix is teaming up with original Defender Doctor Strange. Personally, I'd kind of love a Defenders comic that teamed the original Big Four of Strange, The Hulk, Namor and The Silver Surfer with the new, Netflix-inspired team, who could take the place of the lamer of the original Defenders (like, wouldn't you rather read about Daredevil than Nighthawk?).

MATTHEW ROSENBERG (W) • Javier Garrón (A)
Hip-Hop Variant Cover by MARCO D’ALFONSO
Captain America has been revealed to be an agent of Hydra – and he’s coming after Inhumans!
S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Daisy Johnson, a.k.a. QUAKE, wants no part of Hydra, so she goes underground, teaming up with MS. MARVEL, MOON GIRL & DEVIL DINOSAUR, KARNAK and INFERNO to set things right – for the Inhumans, but also for the entire country!
Penned by rising star Matthew Rosenberg (Kingpin, Rocket Raccoon, 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank) and drawn by the immensely talented Javier Garrón (Death of X, Inhumans vs X-Men), SECRET WARRIORS is one part coming-of-age story, one part spy-thriller, all action and all heart. Don’t miss the next (and final?) generation of Inhumans as they take the Marvel Universe by storm!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

The (All-New, All-Different) Avengers, The Champions and now The Secret Warriors? Jeez, Kamala just can't seem to stop joining new superhero teams!

• This is it! The epic showdown between Melissa and Squirrel Girl, as the fate of New York City — and everyone in it — hangs in the balance!
• Will Melissa’s secret intentions be uncovered? Will Doreen and her friends be able to stop her? Can squirrels TRULY hope to match an army made up of EVERY OTHER ANIMAL EVER?
• Great news: We have studied each of these questions extremely carefully, and we are pleased to reveal our answers in this upcoming issue of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

Having outlasted not only Howard The Duck, but also Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is now unquestionably Marvel's all-around best title. This is, of course, bad news, as it means that Marvel is now publishing two fewer greater titles (three, if you count Mockingbird, which, while excellent, I don't think was as excellent as those other three, but that may just be because I like squirrels, cats and ducks more than secret agents).

You know what else sucks about Patsy ending? I don't see Brittney Williams' name anywhere in this months Marvel solicitations, so it doesn't look like they've moved one of their best artists on to another title yet!

I like Gambit's cards on this cover to X-Men: Gold.

That is all.

The original manga is adapted into English for the first time!
Time and again, the Avengers have assembled to save the Earth from destruction. But they’ve never had to face a threat as gruesome and UNDEAD as this one! Now, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes must fight to contain an outbreak of horrifying zombies, and stop them from spreading across the Earth! But not all of the Avengers will escape uninfected…
Issue #1: 48 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99
Issue #2: 40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

Everyone's pretty sick of the Marvel Zombies at this point, right? I mean, they must be, as Marvel finally quit publishing Marvel Zombies-related comics. But this looks a little different. After all, it's created outside of Marvel's U.S. offices, and, for another, this appears to be the Marvel heroes fighting zombies, rather than being zombies, and while that is a very, very obvious story, it's actually kind of a fresh new twist on Marvel's past zombie comics.

I'll read it.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

DC's May previews reviewed

Is it time to do another one of these already? It seems like I just did one last month...

Written by DAN JURGENS
“REVENGE” part two! Both Superman and the Revenge Squad must traverse the deadly Black Vault in a race against time to reach General Zod! Amanda Waller’s secret Kryptonian weapon reveals himself to the world, but Cyborg Superman and Eradicator move in to recruit him. Tying directly into the events of this month’s Suicide Squad issues—and no matter who wins in this epic showdown, it spells certain doom for the Last Son of Krypton!
On sale MAY 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Wait a minute, why is General Zod so small now? The last time we saw him in the pages of Suicide Squad, he was like 9-12-feet tall! Now he's back down to regular human size...?

It's nice to see Cyborg Superman appearing here instead of Supergirl, as it seems like that title has been devoted to Supergirl fighting him for, like, ever now. I dropped it after the first issue, but he or other Kryptonian cyborogs have been on every cover published since, and I think that means it's been at least a six-issue story far.

Written by JOHN RIDLEY
Academy Award-winning author John Ridley (12 Years a Slave, Three Kings) presents an alternate U.S. history with the Civil Defense Corps, a team of superheroes, and their handlers, the FDAA (Federal Disaster Assistance Administration). The FDAA stages showdowns between “superheroes” and “super-villains,” but in reality they are little more than superpowered actors that front for the public. What will these manufactured superheroes do when real danger arrives at the door? Collects THE AMERICAN WAY #1-8 in a new anniversary edition that includes bonus material!
On sale JUNE 7 • 208 pg, FC, $19.99 US • MATURE READERS

I haven't re-read this since the first time it was published serially, but I remember liking it quite a bit at the time and, more than that, being regularly surprised by it, as it went in directions I would not have expected from it. I do recall it struck me as somewhat Watchmen-esque, at least in terms of ambition, if it wasn't in the same ballpark in terms of craft or construction, and it seemed more interested in telling its story and wrestling with its particular themes rather than genre commentary.

...Which, now that I think of it, I wonder why the Civil Defense Corps haven't fought the Justice League or appeared in one of the many Multiversal crossovers yet? Perhaps because it wasn't as popular as Watchmen.

Anyway, if you missed it the first few times around, I'd recommend it, particularly if you like these sorts of analogue-hero morality tales. I'm sad to say that it is probably even more relevant in 2017 than it was in 2007, or any of the years between than and now (Maybe 2015 and 2016; those years were pretty rough too, come to think of it, and for some of the same reasons).

Written by CHUCK DIXON
Art and cover by GRAHAM NOLAN
Variant cover by KELLEY JONES
The co-creators of Bane make a triumphant return to the character, with a twelve-issue series that will push him to the limit! Bane is seeking to create a global criminal empire with the help of his original gang, Bird, Trogg, and Zombie. The Man Who Broke The Bat moves beyond Gotham to find new cities to conquer and new enemies to crush. He won’t stop until he stands at the top of the world of crime! For Bane, it’s all about CONQUEST.
On sale MAY 3 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 12, $3.99 US • RATED T+

This is honestly the comic I am most excited about of any DC's solicited this month. I know Dixon's personal politics can seem pretty repugnant, and I know he's said some pretty repugnant things, and he's even lent his comics-writing talent to some pretty repugnant comics in recent years--although, in his defense, I suppose some of that could have been due to professional desperation.

All that said, he was one of the most prolific and talented and enduring of DC comics' writers in their street-level superhero/vigilante books for most of the '90s, and created some great characters who were adopted, embraced and championed by many fans on the Internet, like Spoiler Stephanie Brown (who other writers would turn into first Robin IV and then Batgirl III) and Green Arrow Connor Hawke, the latter a sexually ambiguous, Buddhist vegetarian Native American/Asian/caucasian twentysomething that you have to imagine Dixon himself wouldn't have had a whole lot in common with. And while he didn't create Robin Tim Drake, Nightwing or The Birds of Prey, he defined all of those characters and made them into the iterations that remain best-loved today.

Oh, and he created something like 10,000 new villains, I think, including Bane, with Graham Nolan.

So while I might hate to talk politics with the guy, I'm happy to see hims getting to work on some DC characters of late. I've been reading a lot of his work lately, thanks to DC's republishing of his Robin and Birds of Prey and sundry Bat-related collections (Batman: Elseworlds, DC/Dark Horse), and it appears that Detective Comics writer James Tynion is a huge fan, having resurrected many Dixon creations big and small, just as Tim Seeley has gradually been turning Nightwing into something of an extended Dixon homage, returning the character to Bludhaven and stocking it with Dixon co-created characters. (Meanwhile, in the pages of Batman, Tom King just re-introduced Zombie, Bird and Trogg, characters who haven't been used in forever, and who were also Dixon/Nolan creations; if Osoito/Osito shows up in this series, I will explode with excitement).

Nolan is an excellent artist who is similarly underappreciated today--if you ever find any of his Detective Comics books in a back-issue bin, snap them up. They are fantastic.

So I'm really looking forward to seeing this team working on familiar characters for DC again, and to see how they may have matured, and how they fit into the weird new post-Flashpoint DCU, which erased all their work, even while the current, more popular characters continually raid it for inspiration.

I am also, it should go without saying, super-excited about the Kelley Jones variants. Hopefully they are of the kind where I can just, like, pick one up on the shelf, rather than having to pay a marked-up price or something (In which case, forget it). Some of Jones' first Batman-related work was drawing the covers of "Knightfall" and other comics that tied into or followed it, so he drew a lot of Bane back at the same time Dixon and Nolan were introducing him. Jones' Bane sure is...something, as his ridiculously over-the-top, ludicrous-level exaggeration invents so many new muscle groups for the character.

The action heats up in 1970s Gotham City as the Amazon Princess arrives in Man’s World in search of her old ally, Batman! Instead, she finds a new hero: a motorcycle-riding daredevil with a familiar face and a new crime-fighting costume!
On sale MAY 24 • 32 pg, FC, 5 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED E • DIGITAL FIRST

I...was not expecting that. But then, this issue will be set in the 1970s, likely somewhere between four and 11 years after the time we saw Dick Grayson as Robin in the Batman TV show, which means this is set in the future of that show. And Dick's 1980s comic book costume looks remarkably appropriate for that era.

There have only been two issues out so far, but it's been remarkably great, with chunks of each of those issues set in the 1940s and the 1960s.

Art and cover by RILEY ROSSMO
Variant cover by TIM SALE
The second chapter in the historic team-up of history’s greatest vigilantes is here! The Shadow must convince Batman of his innocence so the two can seek out their true common foe, the Stag, before he takes out Batman’s greatest allies. Co-published with Dynamite Entertainment.
On sale MAY 24 • 32 pg, FC, 2 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T

I'm pretty surprised to see The Stag appearing as a villain here, as he was introduced with some small amount of fanfare in the most recent Batman Annual #1, in a short story by Orlando and Rossmo that ended with a little tag saying that the character would be returning in 2017. I guess this is where he is returning in particular, rather than in a regular book within the Batman line.

Written by LEE ALLRED
Art and cover by MICHAEL ALLRED
An all-new Young Animal miniseries begins! Forager is just one of the Hive before he breaks out of his cocoon and finds himself in a mysterious house in an unknown realm. There he meets all kinds of strange creatures: a ghostly girl, a talking teddy bear and otherworldly weirdos that have literally jumped out of his worst nightmares. But these interdimensional oddballs are nothing compared to the evil General Electric, who is on the hunt for a reality-bending metal that could alter the fabric of life itself. To stay one step ahead of him and preserve the multiverse, Forager must travel through alternate dimensions to seek the metal and, hopefully, catch up with that cagey stuffed bear. If he does it, will he finally be able to distinguish himself as a New God?

DC’s Young Animal celebrates Jack Kirby’s centenary with this new six-issue miniseries—and who better to tackle this task than the Eisner Award-winning Allred clan! Featuring scripts by Lee Allred (BATMAN ’66), art by Michael Allred (Silver Surfer) and colors by Laura Allred (Lady Killer), BUG! is truly a family affair.
On sale MAY 10 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • MATURE READERS

I've been luke warm to DC's Young Animal imprint, which seems like a 21st Century cover version of the original Vertigo a point where just about every comic being published is for Mature Readers, and all-ages ones are now the outliers (at least among the Big Two). I like Doom Patrol and Cave Carson (but I'm not crazy about either), and I don't like Mother Panic and Shade, The Changing Girl, but none of it has approached the glory of Tom Scioli's Cave Carson back-up feature, Super Powers.

This looks awfully promising though, and if Team Allred is allowed to completely ignore everything that's happened with the New Gods since at least Countdown To Infinite Crisis, all the better!

Cave Carson has done it all: survived countless adventures below the Earth’s surface, met the love of his life, and gotten a cybernetic eye…somehow. Now, newly widowed, Cave tries to piece his life back together when a knock on the door of his secret underground lab pulls him back into a past that he and Eileen thought they had left buried deep within the Earth.
In these tales from issues #1-6, Cave must determine if his recent hallucinations are the work of his mind or his mysterious cybernetic eye. (Spoiler: It’s the eye.)
On sale JUNE 28 • 176 pg, FC, $16.99 US • MATURE READERS

Well speak of the devil! I've grown curious how they were planning on collecting Scioli's back-ups to this series, given that they have absolutely nothing to do with the title stories, and had just sort of assumed that at some point there would be a Super Powers collection. But no, it seems like they will be sticking 18-pages worth of Scioli's berserk DC superhero comic in the back of a Cave Carson trade for some reason.

Written by PAUL DINI
Art and cover by EDUARDO RISSO
The Caped Crusader has been an icon of justice and authority for generations. But in this surprising original graphic novel, now in trade paperback for the first time, we see Batman in a new light—as the savior who helps a discouraged man recover from a brutal attack that left him unable to face the world.

In the 1990s, Eisner Award-winning writer Paul Dini had a flourishing career writing the hugely popular Batman: The Animated Series and Tiny Toon Adventures. Walking home one evening, he was jumped and viciously beaten to within an inch of his life. His recovery process was arduous, hampered by the imagined antics of the villains he was writing for television, including The Joker, Harley Quinn and the Penguin. But Dini also always imagined the Batman at his side during his darkest moments.

DARK NIGHT: A TRUE BATMAN STORY is the harrowing and eloquent autobiographical tale of Dini’s courageous struggle to overcome a desperate situation. It is a Batman story like none other and one that will truly resonate with fans, with art by Eduardo Risso (100 BULLETS).
On sale JUNE 14 • 128 pg, FC, $16.99 • MATURE READERS

I ended up liking this one an awful lot
, so if you missed the hardcover, here's another chance to get it, in a cheaper, trade-paperback format. It was one of those weird comics where I actually appreciated it more as I started to write about it, and thus thinking about it more deeply as reviewing a comic so often entails, than I did when reading through it the first time.

After investigating a series of gruesome murders, Batman realizes that these crimes aren’t perpetrated by anyone from Gotham City…or even this planet. Soon, the Dark Knight finds his real enemy—the intergalactic hunter called the Predator! This collection features BATMAN VS. PREDATOR #1-3, BATMAN VS. PREDATOR II: BLOODMATCH #1-4 and BATMAN VS. PREDATOR III: BLOOD TIES #1-4 and is co-published with Dark Horse Comics.
On sale JUNE 7 • 408 pg, FC, $34.99 US

Oh hey, there's Chuck Dixon again! He writes Blood Ties, which, if I recall correctly, also involved Robin Tim Drake and some other Batman allies. I've read and liked all of these, to varying degrees. I only actually own the original in singles, so there's a pretty good chance I'm going to drop a wad of cash on this thing. Great cover by Mignola; I'm wondering now if that was a cover or variant cover for the original, or if it is art from one of the tie-in trading cards? Because the original came out in the early 90s, there were of course trading cards involved. Hell, maybe there were even some pogs.

“The Wrath Of Spoiler”! Stephanie Brown wants nothing more than to save Gotham City from the epidemic of costumed vigilantes and madmen that regularly tear the city apart. But before she can try to stop them, she must face the challenge of one in particular: the insane idealogue the Wrath is back, and Stephanie knows what he has planned—but she refuses to let Batman risk more lives to stop him. That means it’s all on her…and a very unlikely ally!
On sale MAY 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

This synopsis sounds like another one that might have been referring to a rather interesting story had it been occurring in a Flashpoint-less, un-rebooted DC Universe, the newer, New 52 Wrath is hella dumb, with a hella dumb costume that made the purple suit and the W-shaped cowl look cooler by comparison. No easy feat, that.

“FATAL ATTRACTION”! Batman and Xenos work on the Secret Sanctuary while the Ray and Vixen perform community outreach. But it’s not all fun and games for DC’s newest superhero team, as the Atom and Killer Frost face off against the Terrorsmith (and their own budding romance) while Lobo and Black Canary come to blows in a casino caper. And it’s all capped off with a moment fans have been waiting for since DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH!
On sale MAY 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Terrorsmith? I both kind of appreciate and kind of hate the fact that Steve Orlando apparently read and liked all the same DC Comics I did growing up, and seems intent on bringing as many of the characters he enjoyed in his youth back into circulation (James Tynion and a few other writers seem to be doing the same in their books). The fact that we're on the other side of a cosmic reboot kind of sucks the charm out of such callbacks, as they essentially ask a reader, "Remember that obscure character you might have liked from some comic you read 20 years ago? They're back. Except they have a different back-story. And a different costume. And the story, you liked? That never really happened, or maybe it did happen, but in a different way we won't get into. Anyway, you liked the name and the powers, right? Well here!"

It's like asking for a pony and getting a goat with rabies, except not like that at all, really.

Anyway, Terrorsmith! You remember Terrorsmith, right? He was one of the "New Bloods" introduced in DC's 1993 annuals, a kinda sorta villain who was created by William Messner-Loebs and Greg LaRoque for their Justice League America Annual #7. He had the weird, but visually compelling power to transform other people into monsters, and, like too many of his New Blood brethren, he never took off (I believe his only other appearance was a Messner-Loebs-written short story in an issue of Showcase '94). He looks weirdly old on this cover, but I guess it will be interesting to see what Orlando can do with him. Like a lot of the New Bloods, he was a character with potential that was never quite realized (The idea between the recent, terrible Bloodlines miniseries, reintroducing some of these "lost" characters into the new continuity, was a solid one, but the execution was all but unreadable, and Loose Cannon seemed to be the only semi-recognizable character. In retrospect, I wonder why DC didn't have Orlando take a crack at that?).

Also: Xenos...?

Spinning out of JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. SUICIDE SQUAD, as a part of DC Universe Rebirth, the most diverse Justice League of America ever returns! Explore the roots of four very different metahumans in stories from Justice League Of America: Rebirth #1, Justice League Of America: Killer Frost #1, Justice League Of America: The Ray #1, Justice League Of America: The Atom #1 and Justice League Of America: Vixen #1
On sale JUNE 7 • 128 pg, FC, $14.99 US

I read all of these comics. With the exception of JLoA: Rebirth #1, none of them are very good, and this will likely be a pretty dull trade, as it's just four unconnected origin stories, followed by what is essential the #0 issue of the latest volume of JLoA;

Written by TIM SEELEY
Art and cover by MARCUS TO
“BLOCKBUSTER” part one! After years of living in the shadows of others and traveling the globe, Nightwing has found a purpose and a city to call his own in Blüdhaven. Now, Blüdhaven’s prodigal son, Blockbuster, returns to reclaim his city and dispose of Nightwing by any means necessary.
On sale MAY 17 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

See what I mean about Chuck Dixon nostalgia? Not only is Dick in a black-and-blue costume closely resembling that he wore during that era, not only is he back in Bludhaven, but now Blockbuster is coming back! And apparently in his post-Underworld Unleashed, Wilson Fisk-with-a-weird-head iteration.

In these tales from SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #25-36, Wesley Dodds meets the Hourman, battles the Python and faces the Night of the Butcher. Plus, the mortal Sandman meets the godlike Morpheus in the SANDMAN MIDNIGHT THEATRE #1.
On sale JUNE 21 • 368 pg, FC, $29.99 US • MATURE READERS

I read this sporadically when it was being released in singles, but every issue I read was awesome. I really need to invest in these collections at some point.

Art and cover by SCOTT JERALDS
Scooby and the gang can handle phony ghosts and goblins, but a gang of high-kicking martial arts dragons? Only one superhero can help them: that Number One Super-Guy, Hong Kong Phooey! By the time the dust clears, will Scooby solve the mystery and earn a black belt around his waist, or just a yellow streak down his back?
On sale MAY 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E

This is one of those months where I wonder if DC is publishing this comic just for me specifically.

Oh snap, the newest member of the Suicide Squad is...Moses?!

Cover by MIKE McKONE
“THE LAZARUS CONTRACT” part one! When Deathstroke discovers that Wally West’s return holds the key to bringing his son back from the dead, he’ll stop at nothing to do just that! Don’t miss the debut chapter of the epic crossover event that you’ve been waiting for!
On sale MAY 10 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Cover by MIKE McKONE
“THE LAZARUS CONTRACT” part two! The Teen Titans collide with the Titans after both groups are targeted by the World’s Deadliest Assassin—Deathstroke! But when Robin interrogates Nightwing about his history with Deathstroke, dark secrets are revealed and alliances are broken!
On sale MAY 17 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Cover by MIKE McKONE
“THE LAZARUS CONTRACT” part three! Will Slade succeed in reuniting with his son even at the risk of cataclysmic disaster? Or will the Titans and the Teen Titans be fast enough to stop him from changing the world as we know it? Find out what happens when the World’s Deadliest Assassin becomes the Fastest Man Alive!
On sale MAY 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

Cover by MIKE McKONE
Includes a code for a free digital download of this issue.
“THE LAZARUS CONTRACT” finale! The conclusion to our epic crossover is here, the consequences of which will be felt for years to come! What does the future hold for the Titans teams after this game-changing run-in with their greatest enemy? Find out here as we set the stage for the next era of Titans, Teen Titans and Deathstroke!
On sale MAY 31 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Well, this sucks. I've tried all three of these books. I can't stand I like and am currently reading Deathstroke and Teen Titans, but am planning to drop the latter when its price increases. I tried two issues of Titans, but just can't stand it. So hopefully this makes sense if you only read random parts of it!

With the characters' histories all scrambled up, and still being scrambled, as the other shoe doesn't seem to have dropped yet regarding the older, paler Wally West and the grown-up Titans, I'm not sure how much oomph a Titans vs. Deathstroke story will have at this juncture, but I guess we'll find out. Here's hoping it reads more like Deathstroke than Titans...

Art and cover by GUILLEM MARCH
Includes a code for a free digital download of this issue.
You don’t betray Ra’s al Ghul and legendary sorceress Circe and just walk away. That’s what Lex Luthor is about to learn the hard way. Now, he has to unite with his former Justice League teammates if he wants to stay alive. Meanwhile, the Trinity fear this ordeal will push Lex back to the dark side.
On sale MAY 31 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

Hey, it's Guillem March! I haven't seen much him lately, but he's a hell of an artist, and I've long been hoping he would get a regular gig on a Batman book. While the first Trinity story arc, yet another dip into the "For The Man Who Has Everything Well," was pretty derivative and uninspired, but this at least sounds interesting, and that is an interesting creative team. Like like the idea of this Villainous Trinity, too.

Written by GREG RUCKA and others
Art by NICOLA SCOTT, LIAM SHARP and others
Includes a code for a free digital download of this issue.
The world of the Amazing Amazon expands in a collection of short stories that take Wonder Woman around the globe! In the days after “Year One,” Diana comes face-to-face with Superman and Batman for the first time, as illustrated by “Year One” artist Nicola Scott…and years later, Liam Sharp brings you the story of how their friendship has evolved!
On sale MAY 31 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T

There was a Superman annual once that did something similar, detailing Superman's first meetings with the various members of the then-"Year One" version of the Justice League, and I really rather liked that. This will be interesting because we've already seen Wonder Woman's first meeting with Batman and Superman; it was 2006's Justice League #1. Greg Rucka has some long-form, continuity-fixing game plan going on in Wonder Woman though, and perhaps it will have borne fruit by the time this gets released in May.

Monday, February 20, 2017

(I haven't been able to stop thinking about this since I finished reading Justice League/Power Rangers #1)

Please imagine the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers theme song while reading.

That's Ghuldar, Talia, Strangester, Splatt and Nocturna Eclipsa

Seriously, it doesn't work if you don't imagine the theme song.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Gotham Grove...

"And with favorite colors they dress almost exclusively in, if you can find them!"

His full name is Alfred 5, of course.

He wields a Power Staff.

I basically just added a cape; he's pretty much already costumed like a Power Ranger in Batman comics.

Those are Power Batarangs, even though Cass doesn't really need any weapons.

I'd also accept her as The Purple Ranger.

That's supposed to be a Power Blaster, which shoots lightning bolts.

Who else could it be? He pilots the mighty Goliath Megazord.

Pronounced "GORE-DAWN."

The Red Robin, Bluebird, Golden Bat, Black Bat and Pink Crane Batzords...

...all combine to form The Batman Megazord!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: February 15th

Archie #17 (Archie Comics) There's one really strong gag that runs through this entire issue, a source of mounting tension that powers it towards a climax. Cheryl Blossom, newly arrived in Riverdale, has set her sites on Archie Andrews as a way of seeking revenge against Veronica Lodge. Blossom mainly knows Archie from the fact that a young woman of Veronica Lodge's wealth, standing and superior social combat skills was madly in love with him, and thus she assumes that he is some sort of "Greek god." She therefore spends the majority of the issue laying groundwork for their eventual meeting as a secret admirer. The gag works because we know Archie differently, and the climax is, of course, when she finally meets Archie and discovers what he's really like. He makes his grand entrance in spectacularly goofy fashion...and I'm afraid artist Joe Eisma just doesn't sell the moment, which an entire one-third of a page is devoted to.

I don't want to spoil it, but the specifics of the panel, it's lay-out and interior logic, they communicate the idea, but only in the most rudimentary fashion. It's rather disappointingly drawn, a good joke poorly told, and because so much of the issue has been leading up to it, it feels even more like a let-down than some other random, poorly-executed panel might have. It's really too bad, because it's a very Archie moment, one in which the original iteration of character surfaces in the more modern, more sophisticated "New Riverdale" take, and thus really demonstrates core aspects of the Archie character.

Also! This $3.99/20-page issue again features no back-up, but instead another, albeit different, six-page ad for the CW's TV show Riverdale. Come one, Archie! Let's get that back-up back; I'm actively considering dropping you at this point. (A decision that will be made much easier knowing that sister books Jughead and Josie and The Pussycats art both many times more awesome than Archie at the moment, anyway.)

Batman #17 (DC Comics) First, some thoughts on the script:

  • Remember how last issue's cliffhanger ending was Nightwing, Red Hood and Robin all shirtless and dangling from nooses from in the Batcave, wearing signs reading "I AM BANE"...? At the time, I wondered if they were meant to be mannequins there to freak Batman out, or people dressed in their costumes to freak Batman out or...what. I still don't know! This issue opens with Batman bringing the three of them in some kind of cryogenic, status tube-looking things to the Fortress of Solitude and asking Superman to babysit them. Also, he put their shirts back on. I still have no idea what happened to them last issue, but presumably that was them hanging from nooses, and they somehow didn't die from it?

  • This is yet another issue of the recent Batman comics where the writer himself raises the issue of "Why doesn't Batman just ask Superman for help?" (As in "Night of The Monster Men," when Batman, Batwoman and Nightwing fought a bunch of giant monsters rampaging through Gotham City, and then called Superman to help with the clean up, not the monster-fighting). If you're going to go to the trouble to fly to the North Pole with your pals in stasis tubes, break into the Fortress of Solitude and then wait in the shadows until Superman arrives just so you can ask him to babysit your comatose friends, why not instead just text him, "Fighting Bane; could use a hand" and wait for Superman to fly in, locate Bane in, like, a few seconds with his super-senses and have him bend a few lampposts around Bane and fly him to Belle Reve? The answer "Because this is a Batman comic, not a Superman comic" isn't as convincing when they keep putting Superman in it too, you know?

  • King uses the Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely update of the old idea of Superman having a key to the Fortress that is so heavy pretty much only someone as strong as him could lift it to open it, as seen in All-Star Superman.

  • There's a weird name-dropping of Mister Miracle, which, like the mention of Steel during "Monster Men," sounds like a holdover from the pre-Flashpoint DCU, not the New 52. Remember, Mister Miracle was just introduced during "The Darkseid War," and barely knows Batman, the Justice Leaguers or...anyone on this planet, really. And he just sort of disappeared at the end of that story, like a bunch of the characters. So it's weird to think Jeremiah Arkham hired him to design a security wing for Arkham Asylum, isn't it?

  • I was quite pleasantly surprised to see the return of Bird, Zombie and Trogg, Chuck Dixon/Graham Nolan creations from Batman: Vengeance of Bane who served as the character's original gang and confidants...and then pretty much disappeared after the events of "Knightfall" and its aftermath. So surprised, in fact, that I didn't recognize Bird until his bird showed up (artist David Finch dresses him in his more flamboyant vest and falconry outfit in a later scene).

  • There's a very nonsensical scene where Bane comes at Commissioner Gordon and Duke through a wall in an alley for some reason, but instead of punching his way through the wall (there's no sound effects there, although King makes a big deal out of the cawing of a bird later in the issue), or ripping through the wall with his bare hands (Finch never draws his fingertips or anything until he's through), the wall just gradually cracks, like Bane was...slowly pushing into it with his knuckles until it gave way....? The mechanics of the scene make no sense at all, although this might be because Finch is terrible at drawing comic books.

Speaking of Finch, a few notes on his performance:

  • Do you know how you can tell the difference between teenage girl Stephanie Brown and grown-ass woman Selina Kyle in a blonde wig? The latter has green eyes. And that's the only way! David Finch is...not real good at drawing distinct characters.

  • This may have been me more than him, because on a third reading it is clear enough, but the first time I read this I thought Bird's bird was tearing a huge chunk of bloody flesh out of the dead Catwoman, not a random dead cat.

  • I already mentioned the bit where Bane walks through a wall weirdly.

  • The placement of the splash pages is pretty weird and unfortunate, and both of them seem like complete wastes of space. Granted, this could have been King, rather than King accommodating Finch's wishes, but a tight close-up on Bane lighting a flare on a rooftop isn't the dramatic part of that scene, it's what he highlights with that flare that's the kicker, right?

So this was a pretty fun issue, with lots of the little deep DCU references I generally like (although given the uncertain nature of DC continuity, which in the "Rebirth" era seems to be an awkward use of the New 52 as canon and pre-Flashpoint allusions as permissible), but I would have preferred a different artist.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #4 (IDW Publishing) Batman, Leonardo and Raphael go after The Scarecrow, before reuniting with the others to tackle The Joker, Harley, their commandeered Footbots and their two new mutants, a pair of hyenas named Bud and Lou dressed in big, purple suits like The Joker's own. Given that these hyena men appear to be at least nine-feet tall, I can't imagine where they got those suits. Surely even the biggest and tallest Big and Tall store in New York City wouldn't have suits on the rack for anyone that big and tall, would they? And, in the off chance they did, would they have them in purple?

Writer Matthew K. Manning and artists Jon Sommariva and Sean Parsons seem to be doing a pretty good job at working their way through Batman: The Animated Series' rogue's gallery at a quick clip, with The Scarecrow's fear gas effects on Batman allowing Sommariva to draw a panel full of deep, deep cuts of TAS villains, from The Condiment King and Baby Doll to that Lady With The Tattoo that was in the first Catwoman episodes and That One Ninja Guy Batman Fought Once. Hell, there's Clock King, Lock-Up and...that one guy who basically just a Charles Dickens character who lived in the sewer....? (Look, it's been a long time since I watched Batman: TAS, okay?)

The Scarecrow's design is his second (not the one from his first appearance, which was my favorite of the TAS Scarecrows, nor the later, redesigned version with the noose around his neck), which looks pretty cool in at least one panel, where Batman, suffering from the gas' effects, sees him with a straight-up Jack O'Lantern-style face on his mask.

Somewhat surprisingly, Team Bat and Team Turtle are able to take down The Joker and Harley--with an assist from The Shredder's iron will and his mutant soldiers deciding to sit the fight out--which eliminates all of the above as the Big Bad's of the miniseries. The actual Big Bad appears on the last page and it's a surprising one, given his relatively low place in the hierarchy of Batman villains. There's still two more issues to go, so it will be interesting to see how they deal with this villain...or if there ends up being someone behind this villain as well.

This comic has been weird, but a pretty fun kind of weird.

Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye #5 (DC) So much happens in the three pages of Tom Scioli's "Super Powers" back-up story! The Joker and his army (now fortified by The Penguin and his army!) vs. The Green Lantern Corps on the streets of Gotham! They've already taken down Wonder Woman, stolen her clothes and tied her up in a Satanic mummy bondage dreamcatcher; what hope does Batgirl have as she uses her bicycle in hand-to-hand combat against The Joker and his talking mallet? Oh shit, Batman arrives right from the set of Batman '89!

On Exxor, the mysterious Sphinx has the lower part of his big, red robe torn, revealing a very familiar-looking pair of knee-high boots and a bit of stone-gray thigh! And then Superman's Super Powers toy-line vehicle, the one with punching fists, struggles in vain against Brainiac's ship, and Supergirl a version of her later pre-Crisis costume!

All I can say about this back-up feature this month is multiples of exclamation marks!


It is preceded by a Cave Carson story, perhaps most notable for the fact that DC is publishing a Cave Carson story at all, and Superman is discussed and will apparently appear in a future issue of this comic book title, which in this issue featured a young lady' snaked breasts and swear words! Not exactly Superman's normal stomping grounds. (On the other hand, I did just watch an R-rated Justice League cartoon with Superman in it last week, so who can say anymore?)

Future Quest Vol. 1 (DC) So DC decided to stick two of the very best artists they've got willing to do work for them at the moment, Evan Shaner and Steve Rude, on this weirdo Crisis Of Infinite Fairly Obscure Cartoon Superheroes and Adventure Types From the 1960s-style book instead of, say, Batman and Superman? Huh.

I'll talk about Future Quest at greater length elsewhere. It's...weird, but since it is part of a mini-line that includes The Flintstones, the weirdest comic I've read in years, it doesn't seem that weird at all. It's definitely the all-around best of the Hanna-Barbereboot books, and one of the all-around better super-comics DC's publishing at the moment, and this moment sees the publisher's line stronger than it has been in a good half-decade, if not longer.

Also weird isthe fact that it sucks up so much talent, Jeff Parker, Ron Randall, Jonathan Case, Aaron Lopresti and Craig Rousseau also contribute to the art, and Parker, of course, writes.

If you like superheroes, you're going to like it.

Green Lanterns #17 (DC) I've been pretty lukewarm on the various Green Lantern books since Geoff Johns left the franchise, but of the two current books, this is the one I check out most frequently. This time I did so because of the presence of one of my favorite characters, The Scarecrow.

As established last issue, something weird and fear-related is going on in Gotham City, and Batman has his two new Justice League peers, Green Lanterns Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, helping him investigate. Because it is happening in Gotham and happens to involve fear, Baz assumes it must be The Scarecrow. And because it involves some sort of weird fear energy, Batman assumes it must have something to do with the Sinestro Corps. And it turns out they're both right!

The Scarecrow, who you may remember briefly had a Sinestro Corps ring during the events of Johns' Blackest Night, has been obsessing over the fear-fueled power ring ever since, and in his down-time had devoted some off-panel research into how it works. He didn't figure it all out, of course, but he did build a big fear energy contraption, with which he infects YouTube watchers with fear, which makes them commit terrible crimes? I don't know, exactly; the science is a bit vague.

I rather like pencil artist Eduardo Pansica and inker Julio Ferreira's design of The Scarecrow. He is still stuck in the post-Flashpoint, no-variation-ever mode of costume, in which he wears a bag over his head and a rope around his neck, but Pansica draws the bag with a bit of a tail at the top, which after five years actually looks like a rather dramatic departure. There's also a flashback panel showing him with the yellow ring, where he's wearing a hat and long coat).

He has a Sinestro Corps/fear symbol drawn on his chest, and, oddly enough, in a second minor variation, he is wearing a green shirt rather than a brown one, as he has been. Of all the times to wear green, doing so when appearing in a book called Green Lanterns and fighting against Green Lanterns seems an odd time to do it.

I might have picked this up for The Scarecrow, but the more dramatic turn of events seems to be Batman finally--finally--convincing Baz that he doesn't need to carry a fucking gun all the time when he's a fucking Green Lantern, and a weird moment at the climax where Batman tells Baz he doesn't really like Green Lanterns, but, in Baz, he's finally found one he can work with, and that he intends to ask him to do something for him at some point.

This involves Batman talking smack on Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner, a "glory hound" and " idiot", respectively (These lines could have, should have, been much longer, as Batman lists their many flaws. In this continuity, apparently Batman never really hung out with Kyle Rayner or John Stewart*, and Gotham City's original superhero (in post-Crisis, pre-Flashpoint continuity, anyway) Green Lantern Alan Scott never existed, so when he says "I've waited a long, longwork with... And you're it." he really just means five years.

James Harren's cover, which features neither Batman nor The Scarecrow, would appear to be an inventory one the editors just had laying around. Generally speaking, if you've got Batman guest-starring in your comic, you would want to drive that home by including him on the cover, but here there's just a pretty generic cover of the two stars using their powers, while Batman's appearance is announced only by the somewhat awkward use of his name and the logo of his own book on the cover.

Lumberjanes #35 (Boom Studios) I have always really wanted to like the sport of roller derby for its many appealing aspects (girls, puns, violence), but I could just never quite figure out the rules (My grandfather used to watch it on television when I was a child, and I assumed it was like professional wrestling on roller skates; I assumed wrong). In this issue of Lumberjanes, writers Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh spend two entire pages explaining the seemingly over-complicated rules of Roller Derby in the medium I find most appealing, and I still found myself zoning in and out of that sequence. And man, if a comic book involving a Sasquatch roller derby team can't get me to understand and enthusiastically embrace the sport, I can't imagine anything ever will.

That said, I really love how artist Carolyn Nowak draws the sasquatches--who look huge here, now that we see them standing right next to the tween stars of the book for scale, and the violent pun names of the various Lumberjanes, I mean, Rumblejanes, are all pretty funny.

Nightwing #15 (DC) Provisionally, I really, really liked this issue by regular writer Tim Seeley and artist Minkyu Jung. It is by far the best issue of the series since its relaunch (and yes, I realize that's not saying all that much, given that there have only been 14 issues and two story arcs so far), and one of the smarter, more clever issues of a Dick Grayson-starring comic book that I've read in...years...? Maybe since the Futures End one-shot of Grayson...?

Seeley and Jung condense a 68-day relationship between Dick Grayson and Shawn Tsang into a single, 20-page issue, with a series of flashbacks that hops and skips through their relationship, much of the information about it communicated second-hand, as we hear them describe the events that are unfolding to their friends and confidants and, ultimately, their mentors. There are a lot of little milestones--first date, first time they spent the night together, Dick meeting her parents, their first fight, etc--and a lot of guest-stars. Seeley handles all of this very well, and actually does a pretty fine job of selling Dick's relationships with various other heroes remarkably well. That's harder than it used to be, given the events of Flashpoint, which basically scrambled all of Dick's relationships, and he's maybe the most prominent DC superhero who is almost completely defined by his relationships, to the point that a solo comic starring him that doesn't mention his relationship to any other hero is damn near unfathomable (I had a hard time buying him and Jason Todd as best buds here still, and Dick and Barbara Gordon's relationship seems so weird to me now that DC seems to be de-aging Babs while Dick remains the same age).

The sole reason I say "provisionally" is because of the ending, which I won't spoil, but is hopefully more of a matter of routine mortal peril that the superhero genre is soaked in, rather than the eve of a fridging, as if it is the latter, this issue would seem almost despicably manipulative, as it so thoroughly invests the reader in a burgeoning relationship, basically "cheating" on the pacing. We'll see in a few weeks, I guess. Until then, definitely highly recommended, and a good jumping-on point for anyone curious about Nightwing in general, or at this point in time specifically.

Superman #17 (DC) This is a pretty weird issue, from the regular writing team of Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason and guest artist Sebastian Fiumara. Within its pages, Superboy is left home alone by his busy parents when neighbor girl Kathy comes to him for help finding her missing grandfather, who went looking for his missing cow. The pair of them go into the nearby swamp, and a series of very crazy, rather scary things start happening, in such a rapidly increasing manner that by the end of the issue, I was more than half expecting it to end with Jon waking up from a dream. Something unusual is going on, but it's quite unclear what it is. There appears to be someone or something around the swamp messing with Jon and Kathy, and there are points where here grandfather seemed like a likely suspect, and other points where it looked like it could be the mysterious extra Clark Kent (from the pages from Action Comics) or perhaps The Eradicator. It's an okay issue, but it's not a story so much as a sequence of weird, wild events, so it will likely leave most readers wanting.

I didn't buy it, but I did read this week's Super Sons #1, which has a lot in common with this issue, featuring as it does Jon in an after-dark adventure that begins after dark in his Hamilton County farm home. The relationship between Superboy and Robin, which was already established and explored in previous issues of this series, is a fun one, and what is maybe the most fun thing about it is that it is still so new, making it more exciting than many already-classic superhero team-ups. If you like Superman, there's a pretty good chance you'll like, or even love, Super Sons (I certainly liked the revelation of some of the weird shit Damian gets up to when he's bored during the day). I would add it to my pull-list, but as they have already announced that it would be getting a price increase in the near future, I guess I'm just gonna trade-wait it like I do Marvel's $3.99 books.

Kong of Skull Island Vol. 1 (Boom) This trade paperback collection includes the first four issues of the weird, apparently ongoing King Kong origin story, Kong of Skull Island. When I first saw issues of it appearing in the shop, I flipped through them and saw multiple giant gorillas and a couple of dinosaurs, and assumed that this was a prequel to the original King Kong film, and somehow related to the upcoming feature film, Kong: Skull Island. And given the price and number of cool-looking variants, I decided to await the trade paperback

It wasn't until I started reading it in this format, however, and I came across a few familiar feeling elements, most specifically the mention of a tribal storyteller and, later, strange, feathered dinosaur-like creatures that seem to be even smarter than Jurassic Park's smartest raptors that the waves of deja vu were strong enough that I realized that this is actually set in the world of Joe DeVito's 2004 illustrated novel, Kong: King of Skull Island**, a rather rollicking adventure story that served as both a sequel to the original King Kong film (and its accompanying novelization) and an origin story.

I say it doesn't have anything to do with the upcoming film, but that's not quite true. One imagines that the timing is no coincidence--the first issue didn't show up in comic shops until well after the film and its title was announced, and the trade arrives in shops the month before the film opens--and a quick Google shows me that there was at one point some legal issues regarding DeVito's book and the film, as the latter apparently includes elements of the former. At least, that seems to be DeVito's contention. My opinion, which is pretty worthless anyway in legal matters, can't even be offered until I see the film.

But here's what we've got: This is a comic book series written by James Asmus and drawn by Carlos Magno that the title page says is "Based on Kong of Skull Island created by Joe DeVito." In other words, this is a comic book spin-off of an illustrated novelization of a spin-off of a feature film. Got that? Meanwhile, a feature film rebooting the feature film that this comic is ultimately descended from is also going to be in theaters shortly, but they seem to be parallel, despite sharing a single ancestor...although whether they intersect or not can't be said for certain at this point (Well, they will intersect to a degree, at least; I mean, at the very least they should both feature a giant gorilla and an island with a huge skull-shaped mountain on it. I'm hoping for some dinosaurs and a sexy lady, too).

As a fan of King Kong, I'm certainly not unhappy about all these Kong narratives, regardless of what went on behind the scenes. I just hope they are all good. This is...well, it's not great.

The origin of the giant gorilla is revealed, and it's pretty prosaic: a mixture of selective breeding and "growth stimulants" has resulted in a race of likely impossibly giant, intelligent, bipedal gorillas (I'd have to do some research, but I think a giant gigantopithecus could potentially get in the neighborhood of King Kong's size, but gorillas? Not so much...and certainly not the size of the new movie's Kong, who seems to be closer to Godzilla's weight-class than the original Kong. Personally, I don't think an explanation for Kong's existence is necessarily a good thing, as he's the sort of character for whom an explanation drains some of the magic and mystery out of, automatically making him less interesting.

These giants, referred to collectively as kongs, aren't the center of the story Asmus tells, though. Rather, this is the story of a completely isolated civilization composed of two distinct groups, the Tagu and the Atu. They have different methods of kong training, and they use their giant gorillas to fight one another in what appears to be a mixture of ritual and sport. The actual center of the story is the political intrigue of the royals in the two warring clans, and the way they react to a potentially apocalyptic natural disaster: Their volcanic island is about to be destroyed by geological calamity (not unlike Skull Island was in the only really official King Kong sequel, 1933's Son Of Kong).

Luckily for them--well, some of them--Kong trainer Ewata had just rediscovered the cursed island full of monsters known as Skull Island, and it is there that all of the people and their giant gorillas must flee to, an out of the fire, back into the frying pan sort of situation. Ewata's first trip there wasn't exactly a successful one; they were attacked by pteradons and giant, sea-going reptiles that flipped their boat, ate a bunch of people and fought the Kongs. When they made it to the beach, they were met by more dinosaurs. They bugged the fuck out and headed right back to their homeland, which was about to be destroyed anyway.

So this is the origin story not only of King Kong, but of the Skull Island natives, who, it turns out, aren't natives so much as settlers. As one of the most problematic elements of the original film, I think dwelling on the Skull Islanders too can be a mistake, and Peter Jackson and company rightly tried to minimize their role in their remake and to drain them of ethnic/racial/national signifiers as much as possible.

It's not the Kong story I would tell, but I think Asmus builds on what DeVito did admirably enough, and with Magno they too present a people that are cryptic in terms of race, looking like a mish-mash of "native" cultures and drawn with physical features and clothing that make them impossible to place. They seem to be people of color, but they don't look black, like the people of the original film. They could be the original people who lived in the continents of North and South America, or perhaps from some island in the pacific (um, which they technically are, I guess).

As a white guy, I know I'm not particularly well-equipped to speak on this aspect of the narrative, which, as I said of the original film was pretty damn problematic (i.e. racist, but hard to eliminate completely from the basic King Kong story). Is the best way to deal with it to make the people who live on an island in the Pacific look more like Pacific Islanders than like African-Americans playing Hollywood's 1930s definition of "natives," who in the film had African signifiers...? Or is taking almost all of the black folk from King Kong and making them explicitly not black folk a form of erasure...?

God, I don't know. I wouldn't wanna have to be in the position to make these potentially fraught decisions, though. I suppose that it is now a native woman rather than a blonde-haired white girl from America who is the human star is a bit of an improvement, right?

I...didn't mean to get hung up on the race or the provenance of this particular comic book series.

Is it good...? Eh, it's not bad. It's certainly well made. It has some giant gorillas, and we see them fighting one another, an fighting dinosaurs. But we don't see enough of that, and the title seems a bit misleading, at least so far, as this is more People And Kongs Of Some Island than Kong of Skull Island.

As I mentioned on the blog after first reading Weta Workshop's 2005 The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island, that was chock-full of information about the creatures of Skull Island--many, many, many more than actually appeared in the film--and it read a little like a source book upon which a shared universe setting for future films or novels or comic book series could be set. Hell, the text even suggested the events of prequels and sequels.

But that was tied to a different extrapolation of the King Kong film, the previous remake. This is set in  DeVito's particular extrapolation and, thus far at least, it's dealing with the least interesting parts of his extrapolation of the original: The origin of the Kongs and the peopling of Skull Island. It drains some of the power out of the original film, while dwelling on those parts (For example, that big wall wasn't to keep King Kong locked up in the jungle, but to keep his ancestors safe from dinosaurs, I guess? And the people who worshiped him as a god didn't just find him and acknowledge his mastery of their small island world, but they used to raise his species like cattle?).

Magno's art is top-notch, though, and there are plenty of cool variant covers included, my favorite being from a pair of artists who I wouldn't normally think of as guys I'd like to seek out to see how they would draw King Kong: Stan Sakai and Paul Pope.***

*Although this story specifically references the events of "Blackest Night," which occurred pre-Flashpoint, in a continuity where Batman worked with all four Lanterns for long periods of time on various iterations of the Justice League. Reboot or don't reboot, goddammit! Quit trying to have it both ways!

**I wrote about the book, and the next Kong-related book I mention in the above post, in 2013 here, if you are interested. Re-reading the post myself now, I see that I had noted at the time that a comic book adaptation of DeVito's novel would have been potentially difficult to pull off successfully. I think I was wright, too!

***Well, actually, I would personally like to see how every artist draws King Kong, but those aren't two guys who come immediately to mind when I think giant gorillas, you know?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: February 8th

All-Star Batman #7 (DC Comics) I suppose I wasn't paying close enough attention to the solicitations, but I thought "Ends of The Earth" would be a Mister Freeze story arc in the same way that "My Own Worst Enemy" was a Two-Face arc. Instead, this issue follows on the events of last issue's first chapter of "Ends of The Earth," but Mister Freeze's part in the story seems to be over, and this issue's focus falls on Poison Ivy.

So if the first story arc featured a bunch of Batman villains basically crashing into and getting thrown out of a story focusing on Batman's struggle against Two-Face and The (KG)Beast, then perhaps this story arc will feature a bunch of Batman villains one at a time, each one getting the focus of an entire issue (Well, not counting the back-up, of course).

For this issue, writer Scott Snyder is joined by Supreme Blue Rose artist Tula Lotay, who is extremely talented, even if she might not meet the same definition of "All-Star" as established by previous lead story artists John Romita Jr and Jock (Although I suppose you could make the argument that Jock doesn't quite meet the definition of "All-Star" established by JRJR in terms of longevity, success and body of work, so maybe we should just agree that "All-Star" is going to be used rather relatively in this series). Regardless, I suppose collaborating with Scott Snyder on a Batman comic book should go a long way towards elevating her status.

I am personally torn on her artwork. It is very good, and tells the story rather effectively and efficiently. I wasn't crazy about her Ivy redesign, which includes a green leotard and sorta silly wedge-heeled boots, all of which have what look more like reptilian scales than leaves (The version on the cover, which is more evocative of an Ivy of the "No Man's Land"/"Hush" Era, is merely an expressionistic suggestion of the character within). She does give Ivy some vaguely Furiosa-like eye make-up, which looks pretty cool.

Beyond that, Lotay seems to use computers in certain panels to capture a particular tree and the paramilitary organization that is stalking Batman (which, unless Snyder is re-inventing them drastically, seems to be in keeping with the New 52 version, who had their own, extremely short-lived title; in fact, theirs was among the very first cancellations of the initial 52, if I'm remembering correctly).

So between issues #6 and #7, the prehistoric bacteria that Mister Freeze was trying to unleash on the world that Batman thought he had eradicated seemed to have escaped after all, and shown up in Washington state. He hunts down Poison Ivy for her scientific expertise (this, by the way, is the second issue in a row in which Batman encounters one of his villains who is a fallen scientist; next issue features The Mad Hatter; depending on the continuity, all three were also people who worked for Wayne until they had accidents and/or falling outs).

Batman and Poison Ivy try to manipulate one another at the base of a special tree in Death Valley that Snyder writes so convincingly about I can't tell if it and its kind or real or not. Then the paramilitary types, which look like photographs of real soldiers run through computer filters and inserted into Lotay's layouts, attack. Getting what he needs, Batman moves on to save the world, leaving Ivy free...although she's been recently portrayed as less a psychopathic murderess and more of a Catwoman-type bad guy-gone-good type more and more frequently.

There were some neat little details in here, like the fact that Ivy apparently only eats meat and water which...well, I'm not a nutritionalist, but she looks pretty good for having such a shitty diet. Hopefully she doesn't die of a heart attack or colon cancer in her mid-forties.

The back-up story, another chapter of the Duke Thomas-starring storyline, is illustrated by Francesco Francavilla again. Interestingly, Duke says he's been at his training, which began in Batman: Rebirth #1, almost a year now. Time flies in the Batman books! Taken altogether, it would appear that at least three, but more likely four years have passed since the launch of the New 52 line (in-comic, anyway), and that therefore Batman and his peers in the Justice League have already been at it 8-9 years. They are therefore only about a year away from the 10-year-time line of the Modern Age of Heroes (kicked off by Superman's debut) established in Zero Hour!

Deathstroke #12 (DC) After last issue's meditation on gun violence and Creeper crossover, writer Christopher Priest returns to the complicated, multi-thread storytelling that has mostly characterized this book so far, in which Slade Wilson and his children's sometimes parallel but regularly-intersecting narratives eat up the many-paneled lay-outs.

In this issue Raptor, a character introduced in the first Rebirth-ed Nightwing story arc "Better Than Batman" appears, and his facing off against Slade accounts for the cliffhanger ending. The art in this issue is from pencil artist Joe Bennett, inker Mark Morales and colorist Jeromy Cox. It's all as clear as a bell, even if it obviously lacks the weird, jittery energy of last issue's collaboration by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz. Sienkiewicz is back for the (well, a) cover this time, though.

Detective Comics #950 (DC) This is a big, over-sized anniversary special of sorts, now that DC has adopted the Marvel strategy of switching back and forth between rebooted numbering and the old numbering on at Action Comics and Detective. Surprisingly, hell, shockingly, there is a gigantic surprise appearance on the last page of a DC comic that was released on February 8th this week that relates directly to Detective Comics, and that last page is not in this issue but, instead, in New Super-Man (Comics Alliance has a spoiler on the matter, if you have no idea what I'm talking about*).

So what is Detective Comics doing to mark its 950th issue? Well, it is, as the cover announces, an "Oversize Anniversary Special!", a $3.99/38-page book featuring a trio of stories all written by James Tynion IV and starring various members of the current Detective Comics cast.

The first of these is "League of Shadows Prologue: Shadow of a Tear," drawn by Marcio Takara. This is apparently the prologue to the next big Detective Comics story arc, the League of Shadows being the threat that Batwoman's dad's weird, Batman-based splinter group of the U.S. military was formed specifically to fight, even though Batman and friends didn't believe the League of Shadows even existed. Hey, how ironic would it be if they did exist? (And given that the next story arc will be called "League of Shadows" I'm pretty sure that means they do.) Batman didn't believe the Court of Owls really existed either, and they totally did! The World's Greatest Detective really isn't all that great at figuring out whether or not shadowy organizations that people tell him exist really do exist or not!

This is basically a Cassandra Cain solo story, as we follow her through much of a night and are privy to her thoughts, as told to us via third-person narration in the narration boxes. She stalks a ballerina, as this new Cassandra is a fan of dance since it is a sort of language based on the movement of the human body that doesn't involve violence, she beats up some bad guys, she visits Harper, Batman, and passes by Clayface, Batwing, Azrael and Batwoman, and then retreats to what I guess is her apartment, and we see she is being watched by someone who understands her: Lady Shiva!

Takara's art is great, but may in fact be too good, as it really accentuates just how clunky Cassandra's new costume really is in certain panels. Really, the shoulder-pads and other bits of armor need to go. If her whole deal remains that she's this phenomenal, un-hit-able, invincible fighting machine, then why does she need armor? I suppose the designer just wanted to break up the black blob of the costume with bits of color (here a golden, metallic yellow), but it doesn't look very good, and doesn't really fit with the character. I think if she's drawn well enough, as she obviously is here, then she doesn't need any decoration. The well-drawn human form is a great enough design on its own, and the all-black costume and the featureless, pupil-less white eyes on the mask are more than fantastical enough to make the look pop as a costume.

There are a few moments in this story, in which we are told how much Batman means to her and how much she looks up to and relates to Batwoman, which did give me a glimmer of hope that she might return to a more Batgirl-like costume at some point, and re-adopt "Black Bat" instead of "Orphan."

That 24-page story is followed by the 10-page "Higher Powers," drawn by pencil artist Alvaro Martinez and inker Raul Fernandez. In it, Azrael and Batwing fight Sentinels in their version of the Danger Room, which is probably taking the borrowed-from-the-X-Men nature of "The Mud Room" a little far. They debate about the existence of God, and talk science and religion for a while. I'm somewhat curious about the new, post-Flashpoint take on the Order of St. Dumas, which is much, much weirder than the original, but it has yet to be presented in anything approaching an palatable fashion, as Tynion (and a few other writers here and there) have mostly just thrown details at us in the midst of other storylines more focused on and interested in other aspects of the story. It should go without saying that in a reboot-less DCU, where Jean-Paul Valley and Azrael had actual history and relationships with many of these characters, and the The Order was an established presence, this would make a lot more sense, and his presence on this little Justice League of Gotham would be more compelling.

Finally, Tynion and artist Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira present a four-page story sent before Red Robin's "death," in which Tim Drake basically just pulls Batman aside and tells him he's figured out what he's doing, how he's manipulating his allies into various places of influence or power and assembling various teams--"And what's next? Your own private Justice League?" Tim asks--and the climax of the short story is simply Tim asking, "Why are you preparing for war?"

In answer, Batman frowns and a tag along the bottom reads "DARK DAYS are coming - 2017." Is that a Batman-specific thing, or a reference to whatever is going on in the DCU at present, the long, slow build-up to whatever Watchmen-related shenanigans have been teased since DC Universe: Rebirth (mostly in the pages of the Superman books, but here and there throughout the line)...?

I don't know.

Empowered and The Soldier of Love #1 (Dark Horse Comics) This is something new for Adam Warren's Empowered. For years he's collaborated on different artists for between-volumes Empowered one-shots, scripting them and drawing the covers and recap page while his collaborators handled the interior art work.

This is similar, but it's not exactly that. Instead, it's a three-issue miniseries written by Warren, and featuring both interior and cover art by Karla Diaz. There are two pages of back-matter combining prose from Warren and sketches from Diaz explaining how the project came about, exactly.

No sooner does a young, Spanish-speaking woman show up in town, than things start going pretty weird among the supehero community. Two heroes are caught hooking up by TMZ CMZ, and one of their significant others goes on a drinking and crying jag downtown, while he is the size of a size-scraper. Three other heroes are hooking up in a stall together during karoke night. At Superhomey's HQ, most of the team is too busy texting and sexting to even pay attention to another disaster involving heroes hooking up, and when Captain Rivet and Empowered head to the Homeycar, they find it rocking, as two of the members are inside, making it go KREEK KREEK KREEK.

It doesn't take long--well, only the entire issue, so maybe it does take kind of long--for Empowered and her gal pal Ninjette to realize that all this rampant shipping is coordinated. "This isn't just a coincidence, this is an attack!"

The perpetrator? The lady in the militant version of a magical girl costume on the front, naturally, the so-called Soldier of Love (or Solado del Amor), who appears to be causing this chaos with some combination of pink, heart-shaped fire-arms or perhaps the pink smoke emanating from her vape thingee. She also has a cute talking sidekick, Mr. Pangolin, a pink, um, pangolin with a bowtie.

Yes, it is awesome.

Adam Warren comics don't always feel right when he's not drawing them himself, given how much of his overall body of work is both written and drawn by Warren, but the pleasures of his writing, particular that of the his pun-filled superhero piss-taking Empowered scripts, are all in clear evidence. Additionally, Diaz's art, while extremely different, seemingly shares at least one similar point of inspiration in anime and manga. So the art has that in common with Warren's, while also looking completely different. This is the first tie I've seen her art, but I'm hoping it won't be the last time; she's really amazing.

The series is also in full-color, it's probably worth noting, something not new to these short-and-stapled Emp books, but still overall unusual among the vast page count of Warren's overall Empowered epic. Of course, it would almost have to be in color, also by Diaz, because there is just so much pink in it.

If you've never tried Empowered, this is probably a pretty good place to try it. One of the one-shots might have been even better, but, on the other hand, this three-issue $3.99/26-page series has a scope bigger than the one-shots but not as big as the first volume of Empowered.

Gotham Academy: Second Semester #6 (DC) We're still telling the "Second Semester" story arc (the title of the story in this book, which itself is entitled Gotham Academy: Second Semester, read "Second Semester Part 5" this issue), and it's still probably the first time in a long time that Gotham Academy felt like the book it was selling itself as. That fact makes me wonder and worry how much longer it has left before cancellation.

Together and apart, various combinations of the members of Detective Club are running around the Academy grounds with a map, trying to solve various mysteries, aspects of which go back to the very first issue, when it was still just Gotham Academy. It's good stuff. I hope it sticks around. If not, um, read it while you still can...?

Justice League of America: Rebirth #1 (DC) So the precise premise of this series is, as far as I understand it, that writer Steve Orlando really wanted to write a Justice League comic, but DC didn't want to take Justice League away from writer Bryan Hitch (even though it is not very good, and Hitch is not very good at writing Justice League comics)...or, perhaps, that Orlando wanted to write a Justice League comic with a different line-up than the one that has barely changed at all over the last 5+ years, but DC wanted to keep that line-up in place, as it is the one that will be starring in their upcoming, awful-looking Justice League movie.

The solution? Another Justice League book, this one just plain old randomly called Justice League of America for no reason apparent in the one-shot special that will presumably lead in to the actual first issue. (DC's already used Justice League of America for a short-lived book in the New 52-iverse, one that had the advantage of starring a team put together specifically to work on behalf of the United States government; they also randomly used the title JLA, for the ongoing-turned-miniseries by Hitch that preceded his take over of the main League book following Geoff Johns' departure).

But the book will of course need an in-story premise offered, too, since Batman kinda sorta needs an excuse to just go set up a second Justice League for no reason, and the one Orlando settles on here doesn't sound too terribly convincing. Here's Batman's pitch to Black Canary, who I guess commutes between Seattle and Gotham City so she can be in both Green Arrow and Batgirl and The Birds of Prey: "I've started something new. A different team. Mortal. Not gods."

Later, The Atom Ryan Choi goes to recruit The Ray and tells him that Batman is building a team, and says: "People need heroes like them. Human."

This line-up--Batman, Lobo, The Ray, Black Canary, The Atom, Killer Frost and Vixen--don't seem to fit the bill for that type of team. Like, at all. While Batman is mortal and human, and I suppose an argument could be made for The Atom, a regular guy who uses a super-tool to access powers, and Vixen, ditto, it's not exactly a regular joe, person-on-the-street, non-godlike, team, you now? You've got Batman and six metahumans, which is pretty much the make-up of his last League at the outset of The New 52 (I guess one could parse whether or not Green Lanterns count as metahuman or not, since Hal Jordan, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz are just regular people with extraordinary weaponry on their fingers). It doesn't seem like it would be too hard for Batman to assemble a team of non-meta-humans if he really wanted to--actually, he's already got two if you count The Club of Heroes/Batman Inc and whatever he calls his team in Detective Comics.

He offers a somewhat different explanation to Killer Frost, his first recruit, when he tells her that she inspired him by telling him that "everyone deserves a chance," and he hopes to offer a group of people a fresh start. A chance to be a hero. And, there are a few points in these 20 pages where it's noted that something in particular is coming, and this is a team meant to deal specifically with that something.

This issue follows on the events of Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad, which is where Killer Frost redeemed herself and where this version of Lobo was reintegrated into the post-Flashpoint DCU, and a few mostly unnecessary one-shot specials telling the slightly tweaked new origins of Vixen, The Ray, Killer Frost and The Atom. I honestly don't think any of them are too terribly necessary to make sense of what is going on here.

Batman takes Killer Frost to a mysterious old cave in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, which is where the original Justice League met...pre-Flashpoint, anyway. (Batman talks about the place in vague terms, calling it a "relic" and "a remnant of a bygone era.") They then go about recruiting their team, with one person approaching the next in order to convince them to join, with Batman sometimes tagging along. So Killer Frost and Batman recruit Black Canary; Canary recruits Lobo (who Batman kinda sorta semi-tricked into joining a League at the end of JLvSS, a series I plan to review in typically excrutiating detail in the not-too-distant future); Batman and Lobo go looking for Ray Palmer and recruit Ryan Choi instead (Ugh, have I mentioned lately how much I hate how nonsensical the post-Flashpoint Ray Palmer/Atom continuity is?); Choi recruits The Ray (whose helmet I dislike as drawn here by artist Ivan Reis, although it might just be a coloring choice or mistake); Batman recruits Vixen, and then they all pose for a group shot in which Batman reveals their name without explanation.

Reis and inkers Joe Prado and Oclair Albert, both of whom he's worked with extensively before, do a pretty great job. They can do this stuff in their sleep, at this point, really. I'm not crazy about The Ray's costume tweaks, and kinda hate the various costumes we've seen The Atom in so far. I'm also not a fan of how they illustrate Vixen's powers, but I think I've noted before that her powers are really hard to illustrate, and I don't think I've ever seen them depicted in a way that I thought felt quite right to me. Just a personal hang-up, I know.

All in all, there's not a whole lot to this book, it's just a quick, efficient getting-the-team-together book, but it's an interesting team full of interesting characters--far more so than the other, main Justice League book of the moment--so I'm interested in following it for a while.

I should probably also note that it ends with a page of four teaser panels, with a "Coming Up In Justice League of America!" box in the upper right-hand corner. Of these, some aren't terribly exciting--Lobo will fight a teammate, if you can believe it, while Choi will find Palmer--but I did like the fact that Batman seems to be facing off against Lady Liberty or, more likely, using a shield with her face on it for some reason (the placement of the balloon tail makes it seem like someone other than Liberty is doing the talking). I guess we'll see.

Still not sure why this isn't called Batman and The Outsiders though, to be honest...

Justice League/Power Rangers #2 (Boom Studios) In this issue, the rest of the (a?) League show up to rescue Batman from The Pink Ranger's Pterodactyl Dinozord: Superman, Green Lantern John Stewart, Cyborg and Wonder Woman. After some light combat, everyone figures out that it was all basically a misunderstanding, brought about by how damn villainous Batman looks and acts.

I'm pretty sure this entire series is worth it for this line of dialogue alone:
Honestly, the most fun parts of the series have been those in which the Justice Leaguers react to the more, um, stylized actions of the Rangers, which are, of course, perfectly natural in their own, home narrative. So the bits where Superman knocks on the Pink Ranger's zord cockpit and says "I'm going to have to ask you to land your pterodactyl," for example, or when The Flash witnesses the Rangers summon their Dinozords in disbelief (I kinda wish artist Stephen Byrne would have spent the double-page spread of that sequence more faithfully recreating how that scene might have played on the TV show, for maximum narrative clash).

Unfortunately, the series can no more be the Justice League smashing up Dinozords than it could be The Pink Ranger becoming Batman's new sidekick (Pink Robin, naturally), and so after about half a book's worth of fighting based on misunderstanding, we cut to Brainiac teaming up with Lord Zedd. The firs step in their plan? Send giant space octopuses to four cities around the globe, where they immediately begin wreaking havoc.

Magical Character Rabbit (Alternative Comics) I'll be 100% honest, Kinoko Evans' story didn't do a whole lot for me. There aren't a whole lot in the way of jokes, nor is the conflict too terribly engaging. No matter though, Evans' character design is adorable, her page construction, lettering and coloring perfect and her storytelling on point. This is a super-fun comic to look at, to read, to spend time with. Even if there was something of a cotton candy element to it, wherein it evaporated almost immediately upon consumption, leaving me with a pleasant enough sensation and a fond memory, but nothing substantial. If you like fun and cute drawings of fun and cute stuff, check it out; it is also all-ages, so it's probably a pretty good comic to share with some particularly short people of your acquaintance.

Suicide Squad #11 (DC) Well, now that Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad is totally over, including the not-really-an epilogue to it that filled the previous issue of this series, Suicide Squad resumes its weird-ass format of a 12-page lead story and an eight-page back-up story. I assumed that this was in part to accommodate the schedule of Jim Lee, who was drawing the 12-pagers for a while, and was only going to be something the book engaged in for its first few months, as the back-ups were all dedicated to solo origin stories of each of the characters on the team. But here we are, with John Romita JR in for Lee, and the back-up is...just another part of the story...? It's really weird, frankly. At least the first run of split format issues had a degree of interior logic to them.

So, writer Rob Williams gives us "Burning Down The House" Part one, penciled by JRJR and inked by Richard Friend. The Squad is on the hunt for "The Annihilation Squad" from the first arc, which here involves a big action scene in Tibet. Meanwhile, Rustam is traveling the world, cutting people in half with his flaming scimitar and causing problems for Amanda Waller. On the last page, he releases the prisoners of Blackgate in Gotham, which is good; I do so love seeing JRJR draw the denizens of Gotham City.

He is a pretty perfect match for this material too, really. His figures have only gotten bigger, blockier and more powerful over the years, and are thus very well-suited to this particular group of amoral killers with superpowers. Additionally, the cold-weather setting allows him to bundle most of the characters up, so that Captain Boomerang, for example, wears a huge coat, and Harley Quinn wears...I don't know what. It looks a little like a Harley-themed football uniform, but with more padding and straps. JRJR's style is just cartoony enough too that when random soldiers get cut down, either by magic swords or giant crocodile men, it's not gross or gory, it's just paper figures ripping each other up.

It's a sever disappointment then to turn a page and find "Life Outside" by Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira, and a return to DC house style. In reaction to something from the first story arc, the Squad is given leave to go do fun stuff on the outside (Katana's cursed blade whispered "Shopping" to her over and over in one panel, while others complained of being worked too hard). A pretty big event happens here: Amanda Waller is shot in the chest by someone in a trench coat holding two handguns. In a sense, the previous pages are simply setting up suspects, with her temporary replacement Harcourt, Boomerang and Deadshot all being pushed pretty hard. I imagine it will end up being the one of the three who isn't on the cover every month, but hell, it could be anyone, I guess.

Wonder Woman #16 (DC) I don't much care for the chimera that show's up in this issue of Wonder Woman, if only because it looks sort of...plain, even generic. But what I found really weird about it is that it is drawn with a mane, like a male lion has. But Wonder Woman refers to the monster as a female repeatedly. Now, I'm no zoologist, and I know relatively little about sexual dimorphism in real animals, and chimeras are, let's not forget, totally not real. However, wouldn't it stand to reason that a female chimera would not have a mane on its lion head, in the same way that real female lions do not have manes...?

*I don't share Kieran Shiach's concerns, as writer Gene Luen Yang has won many awards for a graphic novel dealing with pretty much that exact subject matter, and said graphic novel was so well-received that it essentially launched his comics career, allowing him to further write about Asian identity in superhero comics in future books, including this one.