Category Archives: Reviews – DC

Fire Starter

The Curse of Brimstone #1
“Inferno, Part 1”
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist/Cover artist: Philip Tan
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Wes Abbott
Editor: Jessica Chen
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

With this new creation, writer Justin Jordan and artist Philip Tan delve into a socio-political reality of rural life in America and beyond, but surprisingly, this comic book, at least so far, isn’t all that political from a partisan perspective. This script is going to speak to a lot of people. While I live and work in an urban area, the Canadian province in which I live is suffering from population decline and a struggling economy. While I don’t find myself in dire straits like the characters in this story, it’s incredibly easy to connect with the despair tempered with hope for change. The socio-economic ideas Jordan explores here are important ones, and not something one typically finds in mainstream super-hero comics, so the first chapter of The Curse of Brimstone was a refreshing change of pace in that regard. What hampers it somewhere, though, is the over-declaration of the plight of the backdrop and insufficient information on the real premise that emerges at the end of the issue.

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A Tale of Two Asylums

Doomsday Clock #4
“Walk on Water”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist/Cover artist: Gary Frank
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

I’ve been a fan of Geoff Johns’s writing for some time, but this single issue may be the best thing he’s crafted in his career. Much to my surprise, this event book takes a bit of a hiatus to explore the background and psyche of the new Rorschach, and it’s a fascinating character study. Despite the controversy over mining Watchmen for new stories over the objections of Alan Moore and his fans, it really feels that Johns does right by the source material here. This is completely unlike anything Johns has written before. This issue feels more like an organic extension of Watchmen than the three preceding it. Even if one hasn’t read the first three chapters of Doomsday Clock, one could easily delve into this character-focused issue for a satisfying read in and of itself.

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Flea-Market Finds: Cosmic Odyssey

Cosmic Odyssey #s 1-4
Writer: Jim Starlin
Pencils: Mike Mignola
Inks: Carlos Garzon
Colors: Steve Oliff
Letters: John Workman
Cover artist: Mignola
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.50 US/$4.75 CAN per issue

When I saw this bundle of the original, “prestige-format” issues Cosmic Odyssey for sale for less than 10 bucks, I knew I had to grab it right away. That I didn’t own this 1988 series, even as a trade-paperback collection, was puzzling, as I’m a major Mignola fan (who isn’t?) and enjoy big universe-spanning, super-hero epics. While this is far from a masterpiece or an example of the best of these creators’ work, Cosmic Odyssey is a solid read, making room for some nice bits of characterization amid the accessible (if overly predictable and simplified) plot. One needn’t be familiar with all the minutiae of DC history to enjoy what is essentially a fairly traditional. Perhaps what’s best about this book is that it demonstrates that a major cosmic super-hero crisis needn’t cross over into all titles in a publisher’s line and can rather just unfold in a self-contained mini-series.

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

Green Lantern: Earth One Volume One original hardcover graphic novel
Writers: Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman
Artist/Cover artist: Hardman
Colors: Jordan Boyd
Letters: Simon Bowland
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $24.99 US/$33.99 CAN

DC almost invariably grabs my attention with these Earth One graphic novels, with the promise of innovative reinterpretations of familiar characters and some strong talent. I was looking forward to this one, in part for Hardman’s art, but moreso for the fact that the creators here toss out Hal Jordan as a cocky test pilot and reinvent him as a disillusioned astronaut. There’s no denying that Hardman and Bechko have completely turned the Green Lantern Corps concept on its ear, transforming it into a story of corruption and war. But after reading the book, I felt like something was lost along the way. I’m fine with a new take on Green Lantern, but what’s missing here is the sense of wonder.

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Flea-Market Finds: Convergence comics

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since DC Comics undertook its ill-conceived Convergence event. While it did bridge the publisher’s ailing New 52 brand for its superhero line to the successful Rebirth reboot, Convergence and its “who’d win” approach to character conflict was handled inconsistently and illogically. That being said, the extensive array of two-part spinoff titles, focusing on different characters from different eras of DC’s history, offered some entertainment value. There were so many of them, though, demanding a hefty price ($3.99 US per issue), that there didn’t seem to be any point and trying to collect them all. I picked up a handful, mainly those featuring a few characters and the work of creators that interested me.

Like many comic shops, my local retailer had quite a few leftover Convergence comics lying around. Not long ago, they bundled a bunch of those two-part series together at discounted prices, and a subsequent blowout sale of those marked-down bundles offered me a chance to sample some more of these Convergence titles at pennies on the dollar. As was the case the first time around, I found a mixed bag. Some stories were compelling and novel, while others were scattered and confusing. Here my some thoughts on some of them…

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Flea-Market Finds: The Rann / Thanagar War

The Rann/Thanagar War #s 1-6
Writer: Dave Gibbons
Pencils: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Joe Bennett
Inks: Marc Campos, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert & Jack Jadson
Colors: John Kalisz, Richard Horie & Tanya Horie
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Cover artists: Reis & Campos
Editors: Peter Tomasi & Stephen Wacker
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.50 US/$3.50 CAN per issue

One of my favorite comics titles ever is Crisis on Infinite Earths, so when DC announced a sequel — Infinite Crisis — I was understandably interested. In the buildup to that event book, the published released several limited series in 2005 purporting to lead into it, and I read most of them, including Villains United, Day of Vengeance and The OMAC Project. However, for some reason, I didn’t delve into The Rann/Thanagar War, despite it being written by the highly respected Dave Gibbons. Well, my local comics retailer had a blowout sale of its comic bundles not too long ago, and I scooped up armfuls of discount comics. Among them was a complete of this limited series at a ridiculously low price. As such, I certainly can’t say I wasted my money on this series, but reading it was a waste of time. If the the overly verbose script and annoyingly complex plot weren’t frustrating enough, the complete lack of any real resolution to the plot after six issues is enough to leave the reader wondering what the point of the book was in the first place (other than a means to pluck a few extra bucks from the pockets of DC’s fanbase).

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The Fate of the Four

The Terrifics #1
“Meet the Terrifics, Part 1 of 3”
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Joe Prado
Colors: Marcelo Maiolo
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Cover artists: Reis & Prado
Editor: Paul Kaminski
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While I’m somewhat leery of the various new DC launches in the wake of its Dark Nights: Metal event, this new series stood out from the pack from the first moment it was promoted. The title itself and the diverse quartet of characters offered a lot of promise, but most interesting is the fact that DC has essentially crafted its own Fantastic Four title while Marvel has let its flagship founding property languish for years. Writer Jeff Lemire has successfully brought together these unconnected characters in a plausible fashion, and he’s offered up a wonderfully traditional superhero adventure. While I think a lighter and simpler tone would have suited the visuals better, Ivan Reis delivers some exciting and expressive artwork that reinforces the wondrous and impossible circumstances in which these characters find themselves.

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Killing Time

Action Comics #996
“Booster Shot, Part IV”
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Will Conrad
Colors: Ivan Nunes
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Dan Jurgens & Trevor Scott (regular)/Dustin Nguyen (variant)
Editor: Paul Kaminski
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I started reading this series again for the “Oz Effect” story arc, which piqued my interest and impressed with its artwork. I continued to read because this followup arc, “Booster Shot,” offered the promise of a classic team-up tale, and new Booster Gold artwork from the character’s creator, Dan Jurgens. And at first, this title delivered. But four issues into this story, we’re on our third artist, and plot hasn’t really advanced in any appreciable way. It feels as though the approaching milestone for the series is dictating the pacing of the plot, rather than any focus on storytelling.

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Think Pink

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1
Writer: Mark Russell
Pencils: Mike Feehan
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artists: Ben Caldwell (regular)/Evan “Doc” Shaner (variant)
Editor: Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

As many comics critics are still offering up their Best of 2017 lists, we’re faced with what may be the front runner for 2018’s finest right off the bat. I knew The Snagglepuss Chronicles would be great, given that it’s the brainchild of Mark Russell, the writer behind the surprising and relevant take on The Flintstones. Furthermore, we got a taste of his unconventional and innovative interpretation of Snagglepuss in last year’s Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special last year. But even that sneak peek in that short backup story didn’t prepare me for the strength of his social commentary in this new title. This comic book is a fascinating piece of historical fiction that has the potential to spark an interest in 1950s creative culture, and at the same time, the writer offers a powerful perspective on the realities of 21st century America.

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Flea Market Finds: Outsiders: Five of a Kind

When this weekly series was released 10 years, I was terribly curious about it. There was a lot about the premise that piqued my interest. Each of the five issues offered a team-up between two unlikely characters, and I’m always been a sucker for team-up titles. Furthermore, I was a fan of the original Batman and the Outsiders title from the 1980s and had lost track of the 21st century revival. I also appreciate a comic on a weekly schedule, and several of the creative contributors on the series were of interest to me. Nevertheless, I ended up passing on it. I was probably bogged down with too many other comics to read anyway. I recently got the chance to pick these comics up at a fraction of the original price (cheaper than the cost of a single issue), and now I’m wondering if maybe I sensed something less than satisfying about these books when they originally hit the stands.

Just about everything in these comics is wrong-headed. The plots are unconnected and the effort to force such a connection falls flat. Some of the plots are outlandish and defy a reader’s ability to suspend disbelief, and the various storylines are linked to a handful of other event-driven titles. DC also committed that typical cardinal sin of making all five of these comics “first issues,” even though they’re meant to be a series of five linked one-shots. And worst of all, while Five of a Kind endeavors to establish a new Outsiders lineup, it fails horribly when it comes to introducing these disparate characters and team concept to new readers.

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Bruce Almighty

Batman: Creature of the Night #1
“Book One: I Shall Become…”
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist/Colors/Cover artist: John Paul Leon
Letters: Todd Klein
Editors: Chris Conroy & Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $5.99 US

I had no idea this project was in the works at DC, but as soon as I saw the cover and who was writing it, I immediately recognized it as a sister book to the much heralded (and deservedly so) Superman: Secret Identity from 2004. In that book, a man living in a world in which Superman is a comic-book character just as he is in ours ends up developing the same powers as the Man of Steel, and essentially becomes Superman. It was a fascinating character study and an exploration of how the world who really react to such a powerful figure. With Creature of the Night, Busiek offers the same examination, but this time, he delves into the notion of the Batman. I suspected it wouldn’t work as well in this context, given that Batman is a hero without powers; I thought the lack of the fantastic might not offer the same opportunities to the writer. I might be right, but I don’t know, because Busiek surprised me, bringing an element of the supernatural or paranormal to bear here as well. Creature of the Night hasn’t quite hooked me as strongly as Secret Identity did right off the bat, but I remain intrigued. What pleased me the most about this book was how it appears to serve as another example of DC’s willingness to experiment with format and non-continuity examinations of its more noteworthy properties again.

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Clock Works

Doomsday Clock #1
“That Annihilated Place”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Gary Frank (regular)/Gary Frank & Dave Gibbons (variants)
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US/$5.99 US (lenticular)

World-building. That’s what shared super-hero continuities are about. The juxtaposition of diverse characters and the connections that link them have become a huge part of the genre’s appeal over the years, and more recently, TV and movie audiences have discovered that appeal. Watchmen featured a huge world with such connections among an unusual array of characters, but it was crafted as a limited story. A few years ago, DC tried building on that limited world with its Before Watchmen line of limited series. Doomsday Clock is different, as it aims not only to build on the world constructed by Alan Moore going forward rather than add to the backstory, but it also seeks to connect that world to DC’s other super-hero properties. It’s a controversial project, as many felt this world was complete as it was when Moore finished with it three decades ago. The controversy, I’m sure, won’t stop this book from performing well for DC (though I question the publisher’s decision to launch this event book when another, Metal, is still unfolding). It remains to be seen if Doomsday Clock will prove to be a successful creative enterprise; thus far, I have to admit I’m intrigued.

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Justice, Like Lightning…

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1
“Cold Dead Hands, Part One: Ready to Do It All Over”
Writer: Tony Isabella
Artist: Clayton Henry
Colors: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Josh Reed
Cover artists: Clayton Henry (regular)/Ken Lashley (variant)
Editors: Rob Levin, Harvey Richards & Jim Chadwick
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I took note of this comic book’s release this week because it marks a turning point in a creative relationship between DC Comics and a writer, Tony Isabella. The latter has been quite vocal over the years about his dissatisfaction with how the Black Lightning property has been handled in the decades since it debuted, and how he’s been treated as the character’s main creator. With a Black Lightning TV series set to begin next year and Isabella’s return to pen new BL comics, it’s clear the relationship has been repaired. The problem with such a backstory is that it sets an awfully high bar for a creator’s return to the notable character he crafted, so it begs the question: is the comic any good? I’ll be honest that I was expecting something different — something edgier and far more steeped in socio-political issues than it is. I was surprised to find a rather traditional super-hero comic, not nearly as dark as I anticipated. There’s actually an unexpected playfulness to the titular hero that was a bit of fun. Easily the best thing this comic has going for it is the artwork by Clayton Henry, whose crisp lines, paired with some popping colors, bring as much energy to the story as what we see pouring out of the protagonist’s fingertips.

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Flea Market Finds: Batman: Dreamland

Batman: Dreamland original graphic novella
Writers: Alan Grant & Norm Breyfogle
Artist/Cover artist: Breyfogle
Colors: Noelle C. Giddings
Letters: John Workman
Editor: Dennis O’Neil & Joseph Illidge
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $5.95 US/$9.25 CAN

The two Batman artists who made the greatest impression of me in my 40 years of comics reading have been Jim Aparo and Norm Breyfogle, and one could argue they both offered up the least conventional interpretations of the Dark Knight. I loved Breyfogle’s runs on Detective Comics, Batman and Shadow of the Bat in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, so I was taken aback when I happened upon this prestige-format one-shot from 2000 at a local flea market. It’s an unusual example of the work of the creative team of Alan Grant and Breyfogle for a number of noteworthy reasons. It has its flaws, but it definitely satisfied that part of me that loved this team’s work years ago. After reading it, I completely understood why this was released as a one-shot (though it needn’t have been so expensive), because the premise just wouldn’t have worked in the context of serialized DC Universe comics.

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Flea Market Finds: Future Quest #1

Future Quest #1
“Part One: Lights In the Sky”
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Evan “Doc” Shaner & Steve Rude
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Dave Lanphear
Cover artists: Shaner (regular)/Rude, Bill Sienkiewicz, Joe Quinones & Aaron Lopresti (variants)
Editor: Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

I was sorely tempted to pick this comic up when it was released last year, given the creative team and the strong recommendation of the manager of my local comic shop. However, I was reticent, given my lack of nostalgic attachment to the many Hanna-Barbera adventure properties that populate the book. When I saw a copy at a flea market for a steal, I saw my chance to indulge my curiosity and appreciation of the work of writer Jeff Parker and artist Evan Shaner. While I’m pleased I was finally able to examine the book, my initial instinct proved to be correct: Future Quest is for the die-hard fan of these 1960s and ‘70s cartoons, and that’s about it. There’s nothing wrong, per se, with how the writer and artists present the material; it’s solid. But it seems clear to me that appreciation of this comic is wholly dependent on a pre-existing love for these characters.

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