Category Archives: Reviews – DC

Future Tense

The Next Batman #1

“The Next Batman”
Writer: John Ridley
Artist: Nick Derington
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Ben Abernathy

“Future State: Outsiders”
Writer: Brandon Thomas
Pencils: Sumit Kumar
Inks: Sumit Kumar & Raul Fernandez
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Steve Wands
Editor: Dave Wielgosz

“Future State: Arkham Knights – Chapter One: Rise”
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Jack Herbert
Colors: Sabe Eltaeb
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Paul Kaminski

Cover artists: Ladronn (regular)/Olivier Coipel & J. Scott Campbell (variants)
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $7.99 US

Despite the two-month duration of its “Future State” branding event, DC has managed to generate a lot of interest and hype in this slate of new, fresh takes on its familiar properties, and if The Next Batman is any indication, it could prove to be a creative success as well. The writers deliver a trio of accessible stories with novel interpretations of iconic names. All three stories are set in Gotham, and it seems greater collaboration among the editors overseeing these stories could have made for more consistent depictions of a dystopian Gotham City, each of the segments entertained. If this book (and others in the “Future State” line) proves to be a commercial success, I suspect we’ll see more of this future backdrop in the months and even years to come.

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Scar Issue

Batman: Three Jokers #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist/Cover artist: Jason Fabok
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics/DC Black Label imprint
Price: $6.99 US

It comes as no surprise that DC is inundating its readership with so many Joker-related comics over the past year. Given the financial and critical success of the Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix, it stands to reason the publisher wouldn want to capitalize on that boosted profile. While I haven’t delved into the “Joker War” event in the main Batman titles or some of the other Black Label books featuring the Clown Prince of Crime, I was anticipating this limited series. I was thoroughly impressed with Geoff Johns’s work on Doomsday Clock, as it represented a huge leap forward in the complexity of his plotting and maturity of his characters, and as such, I was hoping for more of the same from Three Jokers. Sadly, this book doesn’t boast the same kind of strength. It has its cool moments, but it feels rushed.

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Striking the Wrong Chord

Dark Nights: Death Metal #1
“Death Metal – An Anti-Crisis, Part 1: It All Matters”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils: Greg Capullo
Inks: Jonathan Glapion
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Cover artists: Capullo & Glapion (regular)/David Finch, Francesco Mattina, Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Doug Mahnke and Capullo & Glapion
Editor: Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

Given the success of a key villain introduced during the Dark Nights: Metal event, it wasn’t surprising when DC announced this sequel. There were elements from the first limited series I thoroughly enjoyed, but the execution was scattered, and the cosmic aspects of the plot weren’t clearly delineated. While the story looked and seemed cool, it was a cluttered, confusing capsule of chaos. It should come as no surprise that this followup project falls into the same pattern, and honestly, I can’t fault DC or the creators for it. The first was a resounding success; why would they shift gears with the sequel? Like the first Metal event book, Snyder and Capullo populate this title with novel concepts and new takes on familiar characters, and on that level, it’s a bit of fun. But it fails to establish any real suspense. Dark Nights: Metal really changed nothing about the DC Universe, save to inject a new, popular villain into the mix. The various spinoff titles fell flat. The main purpose here seems to be to offer a multitude of variant covers re-imagining icons of the super-hero genre as members of a metal band.

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Frail, the Conquering Hero

Strange Adventures #1
“Chapter 1: They floated above the ground”
Writer: Tom King
Artists/Colors/Cover artists: Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner
Letters: Clayton Cowles 
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

When people find out I’m into comics, they inevitably ask me who my favorite super-hero is. After I note that I’m into all sorts of genres in the medium, I add that I don’t really follow characters anymore, but creators. One of the creators whose work I follow intently these days is writer Tom King. I’m inclined to say he can do no wrong in my eyes, but that’s not entirely true (Heroes in Crisis, while rife with potential, was awkwardly executed). Nevertheless, after the thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking Mr. Miracle series, I was eager to see what King would do with another second-tier DC character. His take on Adam Strange boasts a lot of the qualities that made Mr. Miracle so compelling… in fact, it almost features too much of what made that prior project so good. The beats, plot and structure here elicit far-too-easy comparisons, and while King offers a novel interpretation of Strange, it doesn’t feel all that distinct from his exploration of Scott Free.

Coming Clean

Superman #18
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Joe Prado
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artists: Reis & Prado (regular)/Bryan Hitch (variant)
Editor: Mike Cotton
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I had a keen interest in this issue, as it brings together to major interests and influences in my life: the super-hero genre and journalism. The latter element isn’t as examined as prominently as I’d hoped in this issue, but it’s felt nevertheless as part of Clark Kent’s identity. Ultimately, this is the sort of story I was hoping we’d see when it was announced Bendis would take the reins of DC’s Superman titles. The focus here is on character above all else, as he shakes up the status quo of an iconic character’s existence. There’s an inspirational, hopeful tone to Superman’s confession to the world here, and it made for an enjoyable reading experience. But there are other questions to be explored – ethical failings and potential fallout that I hope Bendis examines in coming issues.


Harleen #1
Writer/Artist/Colors/Cover artist: Stjepan Šejić
Letters: Gabriela Downie
Editor: Andy Khouri
Publisher: DC Comics/DC Black Label imprint
Price: $7.99 US

Black Label, DC’s darker, mature-readers imprint, has been hit and miss for me since it launched, and despite the character’s popularity in recent years, I’m not exactly a Harley Quinn fanatic. However, I have enjoyed the artwork of Stjepan Šejić as of late, and it was interesting to see that the artist was given his own out-of-continuity project to write and illustrate. I think DC’s going a little overboard with the Harley projects – on top of in-continuity stories, we’ve also seen a young-readers graphic novel in recent weeks, and the upcoming Criminal Sanity – but I thought this might be worth a glance. As expected, the artwork is quite sharp, and to my surprise and pleasure, Šejić doesn’t take an overly sexualized approach to depicting the title character. But his inexperience as a writer shows through in the script, which is repetitive and predictable.


Lois Lane #1
“Enemy of the People, Part One”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Mike Perkins
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: Perkins (regular)/Jenny Frison (variant)
Editor: Mike Cotton
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Of this week’s new releases, the first I read was The Walking Dead #193, given the buzz about it being the final issue of the series. It impressed, and I figured it would be the best new book I’d read this week. And then I turned my attention to the DC titles in my pile. I was even more impressed with Superman: Up In the Sky #1 and pleased I finally got a chance to read one of the Wal-Mart exclusives that have only been available in the United States up to this point. 

And then I read Lois Lane #1.

It’s powerful, resonant and relevant. It’s incredibly grounded in our reality, but at the same time, it’s a delightful fantasy for those with a passion for journalism. It’s one of the better takes on the profession I’ve seen in comics, and the only thing about it that disappointed me was the realization that it’ll only run for 12 issues. Greg Rucka not only delves into the importance of the news media here, but also offers a touching and novel examination of Lois and Clark’s relationship.

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A Walk in the Clark

Superman Year One #1
Writer: Frank Miller
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: John Workman
Cover artists: Romita & Miki (regular)/Miller (variant)
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publisher: DC Comics/DC Black Label imprint
Price: $7.99 US

Frank Miller’s importance to comics can never be ignored or forgotten. The only influence from the 1980s that equals his is like Alan Moore’s. However, I think it’s safe to say that Miller’s work in more recent years pales in comparison with his groundbreaking efforts from three decades ago. Still, I couldn’t help but be curious about this latest project, so I decided to peruse its pages. The good news is that this is much better than Holy Terror; there’s no sign of the twisted perspectives that marred that graphic novel. To my surprise, the biggest liability of Superman Year One is that it’s just so… standard. We’ve seen material like this time and time again with retellings of Superman’s early years, and I just didn’t find anything novel in this book. Thirty years ago, this would have been heralded as a poignant interpretation of the kid who would become the Man of Steel, but so many other creators have already told stories such as this one — and they’ve done it a little better, more often than not.

Hungry, Hungry Heroes

DCeased #1
“Going Viral”
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Gaudiano & James Harren
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Saida Temofonte
Cover artists: Greg Capullo (regular)/Francesco Mattina and Yasmine Putri (variants)
Editor: Ben Abernathy
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

(Note: I started writing this review the week the comic was released, but I got significantly sidetracked. I figured I’d begun, I might as well finish.)

DC seems a little late getting into the 21st century zombie craze, and by “a little late,” I mean ridiculously late. I honestly wasn’t going to delve into this latest event book, but one thing changed my mind: two proper nouns on the cover. Tom Taylor has impressed repeatedly with his super-hero genre work. I was thoroughly impressed with X-Men Red, and I’m really enjoying Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man now. But the clumsily titled DCeased just doesn’t scratch the same itch, as it’s pretty much devoid of the charm, relevance and strong characterization that one normally finds in the writer’s work.

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Specs in the City

Man and Superman 100-Page Super-Spectacular #1
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist/Cover artist: Claudio Castellini
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Tom Orzechowski
Editors: Brian Cunningham, Peter Tomasi & Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $9.99 US

This is another one of those instances for which I’m thankful that I have a savvy comics retailer from whom I buy my comics, because he brought this book to my attention. I hadn’t heard about it at all, when I looked at it on the shop shelf last week, I hesitated at dropping 10 bucks on it. But the manager at the shop said writer Marv Wolfman had proclaimed it to be his best Superman story, and that the collection of the previously unpublished four-part story was already sold out at the distributor level. So I decided to take a chance on it, despite the fact that I already have far too many comics and graphic novels – both read and unread – cluttering my house.

I’m pleased I did. Wolfman – who had a solid run on Adventures of Superman in the late 1980s – wasn’t exaggerating when he dubbed this his best Super-story, and that’s because it’s not a tale about the Man of Steel. It’s about Clark Kent, and it’s powerfully resonant and relatable. The only aspects of the writing that kept this from being perhaps Wolfman’s greatest oeuvre was the thinness of the conspiracy plot and the depiction of journalism. But those weaknesses were minor as compared to the strength of the characterization and universal tone of the rest of the book.

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You’re Only Young Twice

Young Justice #1
“Seven Crises”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Colors: Alejandro Sanchez
Letters: DC Lettering
Cover artists: Patrick Gleason (regular)/Amy Reeder, Derrick Chew, Yasmine Putri, Jorge Jimenez and Evan Shaner (variants)
Editor: Mike Cotton & Andy Khouri
Publisher: DC Comics/Wonder Comics imprint
Price: $4.99 US

One of my favorite super-hero comics is 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, which explored just about every corner of DC’s multiverse, and therefore, just about every character and facet of the publisher’s extensive continuity. But the ultimate purpose was to simply that continuity, to streamline its properties to offer a more accessible product to readers. DC has done so on other occasions since, notably its New 52 relaunch that tried to establish a tighter timeline for its super-hero universe. I completely understood those goals, but as a longtime reader, I rather love DC’s history, and honestly, it was the complexity of the parallel-earths concept that helped to hook me on the genre when I first discovered comics in the late 1970s. With Young Justice, writer Brian Michael Bendis makes it clear that there’s a new approach at play: to turn the long history into an asset, to make use of the interconnectivity of the characters, and to revive or to reshape that extensive continuity.

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Objection to Objectifications

Heroes in Crisis #4
“$%@# This”
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover artists: Trevor Hairsine (regular)/Ryan Sook (variant)
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

While Tom King’s scripting and pacing continues to obfuscate the plot purposefully, this stands out as the most interesting chapter of this event book thus far, exploring emotionally poignant and ethically challenging ideas. However, this also stands out as the most irksome and disappointing issue in the limited series due to a couple of visual choices that objectify strong female characters. This struck me as a major step backward in a genre that’s slowly been evolving, in general, toward a more progressive approach. The most egregious instance of gratuitous sexualization in this issue threatens to blind the reader from the more nuanced and mature notions that King examines here, and it completely detracted from my overall enjoyment of the story and characterization. I felt completely let down by the creators here.

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Say Uncle

Freedom Fighters #1
“Chapter One: Death of a Nation”
Writer: Robert Venditti
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Eber Ferreira
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Letters: Deron Bennett
Cover artists: Barrows (regular)/Ben Oliver (variant)
Editor: Paul Kaminski
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I’ve been obsessed with DC’s Golden Age characters, as well as others from the era it acquired from other, now-defunct publishers over the years, such as the Quality characters, such as Uncle Sam, the Human Bomb and the rest of the lineup that DC rebranded as the Freedom Fighters in the 1970s. When DC reintroduced the characters in one of its annual JLA/JSA crossovers of the time, they were on Earth-X, fighting against the Nazis, who’d won the Second World War. After DC did away with its multiverse with Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985, the Freedom Fighters just became another group of WWII-eras, taking away that unique mission. With a one-shot during the Multiversity not long ago and now with this new limited series, DC has clearly seen that the characters work better in that alternate-universe setting. Despite my interest in Golden Age super-heroes, what drew me to this comic was news that it featured another hero, a different kind a hero: a real-life one whom writer Robert Venditti had incorporated into a tale of resistance and horror that made a lot of sense. Though I’m a little late to the game, I’m realizing that Venditti is a skilled and powerful creative force in DC’s stable, and I’m definitely going to be paying closer attention for his name on future projects as well.

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Good Cop, Green Cop

Martian Manhunter #1
“A Prisoner”
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Deron Bennett
Cover artists: Rossmo (regular)/Joshua Middleton (variant)
Editor: Chris Conroy
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

DC has clearly decided to embrace the title character once again, not only placing him in the spotlight in its new Justice League but giving him another shot at an ongoing title. What drew me to this was Riley Rossmo’s art, and his weirder, more exaggerated style suits the alien, shape-shifting nature of J’Onn J’Onzz nicely. I didn’t know what to expect from Steve Orlando’s plot; he’s been a hit-and-miss writer for me. He definitely took me off-guard with his take on the character, exploring him as a much darker, broken figure than we’ve seen before. This isn’t the pure-of-heart vision of the Martian Manhunter with which long-time genre readers would be familiar. Instead, this is the story of a man seeking redemption for past sins. It’s intriguing and challenging, but the creative team might have been a little too successful when it came to capturing and conveying alien culture, physiology and perceptions.

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Ragnarockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

DC Nuclear Winter Special #1
Writers: Mark Russell, Collin Kelley & Jackson Lanzing, Steve Orlando, Jeff Loveness, Tom Taylor, Mairghread Scott, Paul Dini, Phil Hester, Cecil Castellucci and Dave Wielgosz
Pencils: Mike Norton, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Cam Smith, Brad Walker & Drew Hennessy, Christian Duce, Tom Derenick & Yasmine Putri, Dexter Soy, Jerry Ordway, Phil Hester & Ande Parks, Amancay Nahuelpan and Scott Kolins
Colors: Hi-Fi, Romulo Fajardo Jr., Nathan Fairbairn, Luis Guerrero, Yasmine Putri, Veronica Gandini, Dave McCaig, Trish Mulvihill, Brian Buccellato and John Kalisz
Letters: Deron Bennett, Clayton Cowles, Tom Napolitano, Steve Wands, Dave Sharpe and Josh Reed
Cover artist: Yanick Paquette
Editors: Alex Antone & Dave Wielgosz
Price: $9.99 US

DC certainly made this year’s holiday special stand apart from previous ones with a post-apocalyptic theme. It’s an odd choice, but for longtime DC readers, it’s a fun and interesting divergence from the norm. However, newer readers or those with only a passing familiarity with DC lore, this could make for some confusion, as there are some deep cuts that might leave the uninitiated scratching their heads. Ultimately, this is as diverting and entertaining as most super-hero holiday specials have been in the past, but not particularly memorable either.

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