Welcome to the March 2020 DC Pubwatch. What a month, hey? March was a lot. The biggest news is only tangentially comics-related, but is affecting the industry enough that we have to talk about it. Of course, that is COVID-19 and the havoc it's wreaking on the world. Shelter-in-place orders are hitting cities all over
Welcome to the March 2020 DC Pubwatch. What a month, hey? March was a lot. The biggest news is only tangentially comics-related, but is affecting the industry enough that we have to talk about it. Of course, that is COVID-19 and the havoc it’s wreaking on the world. Shelter-in-place orders are hitting cities all over the country, preventing comic shops from operating for the health of the populace. This is good for the general public but potentially disastrous for comic shops already skirting on paper-thin margins. We may emerge from this pandemic with a drastically altered industry. I have faith that the medium will go on, but in what form we may not know until later. In the meantime, please try to support your local stores however you can (if you can, don’t do anything that would put yourself at risk, please). And right before press, Diamond Comics (you know the ones with the monopoly on comics publishing) informed shops that this week’s books would be the last ones to be distributed for the foreseeable future.
The pandemic also has destroyed the year’s con scene, with a slew of conventions canceling or rescheduling their events, starting with Emerald City Comic Con, which is why I’m not reporting on that convention this month like I’d planned. ECCC will still happen, hopefully in August. I hope to get you info then.
Lastly, this month saw longtime DC-exclusive writer Steve Orlando depart the company, following the announcement that his Wonder Woman run would end with May’s #758. I’m very sad to see Orlando leave, as he’s long been one of my favorite writers in the DC stable.
Robin 80th Anniversary 100 Page Super Spectacular
Brad Anderson (colors), Andworld Design (letters), David Baron (colors), Adam Beechen (writer), Tamra Bonvillain (colors), Jeremy Colwell (colors), Jeromy Cox (colors), Chuck Dixon (writer), Javier Fernandez (artist), Devin Grayson (writer), Tom Grummett (pencils), Scott Hanna (inks), Hi-Fi (colors), Rob Hunter (inks), Mikel Janín (artist), Jorge Jimenez (artist), Dan Jurgens (layouts), John Kalisz (colors), Tom King (writer), Rob Leigh (letters), Adriano Lucas (colors), Carlos M. Mangual (letters), Scott McDaniel (pencils), Tom Napolitano (letters), Dustin Nguyen (artist), Troy Peteri (letters), Protobunker (colors), Norm Rapmund (finishes), Alejandro Sanchez (colors), Damion Scott (artist), Tim Seeley (writer), Robbie Thompson (writer), Peter J. Tomasi (writer), James Tynion IV (writer), Ramon Villalobos (artist), Steve Wands (letters), Freddie E. Williams II (artist), Judd Winick (writer), Marv Wolfman (writer), Amy Wolfram (writer)
I wrote about this issue at length over at Comics Beat, and there was no other issue that compared this month. It hit every sweet spot I have as a Robin fan.
John Constantine: Hellblazer #5
Jordie Bellaire (colors), Matías Bergara (artist), Aditya Bidikar (letters), John Paul Leon (cover), Simon Spurrier (writer)
This series has been fucking brilliant, and not the least of that has been Simon Spurrier’s creative use of English vocabulary to craft new and passionate swears to come out of Constantine’s mouth. Constantine is both funny and mean bordering on cruel, and that’s exactly what that wanker should be. I still don’t entirely trust Tommy, and doubt I ever will, but fuck if I didn’t feel bad for him with what happened in this issue. He may not be great, but he didn’t deserve that.
Legion of Super-Heroes #5
Jordie Bellaire (colors), Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Scott Godlewski (artist), Dave Sharpe (letters), Ryan Sook (artist), Wade Von Grawbadger (artist)
Yet another great issue of setting up the status quo of what this new Legion is. My absolute favorite part of the issue was Brainiac 5 actually using his intellect to deescalate a crisis. Please for the love of Rao, let him meet Kara soon. I need that in my life like I need air in my lungs. With the mess that was the Infected, she could probably use some time in the future to recoup. There were a couple of little things that were interesting, like the different Invisible Kid from previous issues (my hope is both Jacques and Lyle are running around).
Lois Lane #9
Simon Bowland (letters), Mike Perkins (artist and cover), Greg Rucka (writer), Andy Troy (colors)
Rucka pulls no punches with this issue, specifically calling out something many conservative fans ignore: Superman is an undocumented refugee, who gets a pass not because he’s a hero, but because he’s white-passing. If his skin were darker, fewer people would trust him and more people would be calling for him to be removed from America. The issue also spoke to the inhumanity of ICE, focusing on family separation and the dehumanization of people ICE consider to be less. I also loved the bits of humor between Renée and Batman, and later between her and Lois about Batman. That little bit of humor provided relief in a very somber issue.
Oclair Albert (inks), Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Joe Prado (inks and cover), Ivan Reis (pencils and cover), Dave Sharpe (letters), Alex Sinclair (colors and cover)
For what amounts to not much more than a slugfest, this issue was absolutely beautiful. For the Superman bits we got a little bit of internal monologue, but mostly a lot of external Mongul slugs. Just beautifully composed two-page spread after two-page spread. The fact that I didn’t just gloss over these fight scenes is a testament to how good an art team Reis, Prado, and Sinclair are. For the quieter moments, back on Earth, we saw how Lois is dealing with some of the fallout of her husband’s revelation, and how despite how good their marriage is, there are still some communication issues.
Superman: Villains #1
Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Clayton Cowles (letters), Gabe Eltaeb (colors), Nathan Fairbairn (colors), Matt Fraction (writer), Michael Gaydos (artist and colors), Scott Godlewski (artist), Cully Hamner (artist), Bryan Hitch (artist and cover), Jody Houser (writer), Steve Lieber (artist), Jim Mahfood (artist and colors), Dave McCaig (colors), Tom Napolitano (letters), Troy Peteri (letters), Ivan Plascencia (colors), Josh Reed (letters), Riley Rossmo (artist), Dave Sharpe (letters), Alex Sinclair (colors and cover)
I wrote about this issue and its hopefulness over at Comics Beat.
Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #9
Clayton Cowles (letters), Nathan Fairbarin (colors), Matt Fraction (writer), Steve Lieber (artist and cover)
Late-stage capitalism is a scourge! Poor Mr. Teddy was too bourgeoise! Some super-heroes probably shouldn’t go on roller coasters… The Fall-Off family reunion gets wild! A trapped piggy bank complete with Libertarian politics! Pyro’s not the only comics character with a poorly placed face tattoo! Whomst is Fraction and Lieber’s folly? Chasing butterflies! ALWAYS READ WHAT YOU SIGN! Don’t be a dummy like that Jimmy Olsen kid. Jimmy plays big money in baccarat against Lex Luthor. Does Lex have the fancy new three-camera iPhone? Probably. And finally, we find out who’s behind the conspiracy to murder our hero! And it’s not Lex. (And breaking my standard Jimmy Olsen review format to say that the background gag on the second page made me laugh harder than I have at any gag in this book so far, and since it’s my column and my rules, I’m sharing those pages with you).
The Batman’s Grave #6
Warren Ellis (writer), Bryan Hitch (artist and cover), Alex Sinclair (colors and cover), Richard Starkings (letters)
This moved into my top ten this month primarily for one reason: Ellis takes the time to focus on an aspect of Batman that is all too often ignored in today’s comics. There’s a lot to be said about Batman’s steady increase in power, and how that increase gets portrayed. He’s often made to be the best fighter in the DC Universe. Definitely seen as the best planner. Frequently the smartest. And while he’s good at all of these things, he shouldn’t be the best at any of them. Black Canary’s a better fighter. So is Shiva. So is Cass Cain. Luthor and Brainiac are both better planners and smarter. Mr. Terrific is smarter too. John Stewart is a master tactician. But the one thing Batman is the absolute best at, yet is often ignored? Nobody is a better detective, and this issue focuses on that skill as few do.
The Dollhouse Family #5
M.R. Carey (writer), Jessica Dalva (cover), Peter Gross (layouts), Todd Klein (letters), Vince Locke (finishes), Cris Peter (colors)
As we dive further and further into the origins of the Dollhouse, things are getting more and more grotesque and horrifying. The trauma of the last issue’s cliffhanger still hangs over the story, with Alice desperately trying to get Una back. As much praise as I’ve put upon Carey, Gross, and Locke throughout this series, Todd Klein also deserves some. There’s a reason he’s won so many lettering Eisners, and he truly shines in this issue. I’m not going to spoil exactly how the Dollhouse came to be, but it is by far the creepiest thing in the series thus far, and going back to look at the cover after you know is absolutely terrifying.
Wonder Woman #754
Brad Anderson (cover), Pat Brosseau (letters), Romulo Fajardo Jr. (colors), Gleb Melinikou (artist), Danny Miki (cover), Steve Orlando (writer), Robson Rocha (cover)
One of the few things to like about the New 52 is the reinvention of Maxima for the latter issues of that era of Supergirl. K Perkins took the Queen of Almerac, who had been introduced in the late 1980s as a woman trying to coerce Kal-El into being her mate, and flipped the script to make her running from heteronormative rule. This new Maxima was a lesbian struggling with what society expected from her and Steve Orlando brings that chapter of her story to a close. With the help of Wonder Woman, Maxima is able to claim her throne without sacrificing her identity, and in the process teaches Diana a lesson about not giving up love.
Basketful of Heads #6
Batman Beyond #42
Daphne Byrne #3
Far Sector #5
Justice League #42-43
Justice League Dark #21
Justice League Odyssey #19
Suicide Squad #4
Teen Titans #40
The Dreaming #19
The Flash #750-751
The Last God #6
The Low Low Woods #4
The Terrifics #26
Wonder Woman #753
Young Justice #14
Books of Magic #18
DCeased: Unkillables #2
Detective Comics #1021
Harley Quinn #71
He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse #5
House of Whispers #19
Red Hood: Outlaw #44
The Flash #752
The Green Lantern Season Two #2
Action Comics #1021
Brad Anderson (colors and cover), Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Klaus Janson (inks and cover), John Romita Jr. (pencils and cover), Dave Sharpe (letters)
There are two reasons this book suffers. The first is that it is tangled up in continuity of books that it’s behind. It’s before Superman’s revelation. It’s before Hell Arisen. It’s before the Justice Doom War. Yet it came out after all three of these. But more importantly, this book is hurt by John Romita Jr.’s art. I’m not a fan of his style on the best days, but here it was absolutely dreadful. I don’t know that Romita has ever seen a gorilla because Grodd looked nothing like any gorilla I’ve ever seen.
Batman and the Outsiders #11
Clayton Cowles (letters), Veronica Gandini (colors), Bryan Hill (writer), Tyler Kirkham (cover), Arif Prianto (cover), Dexter Soy (art)
Did anything really even happen in this issue? I hate to beat a dead horse, but more and more this series is reminding me of Fallen Angels to the point where even in today’s age of decompressed storytelling it just seems to drag on and on and on. But hey, we’re getting yet another orphan adopted into the Bat-Family, so that’s cool. Once more Gandini struggles with consistent coloring through this book, mostly when it has to do with Sophia’s hair. Yes, lighting matters, but it’s not going to shift the actual color of her hair to six different shades.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight #8
Andworld Design (letters), Matt Hollingsworth (colors and cover), Sean Murphy (writer, artist, and covers)
I’ll say a nice thing about this book, in that this issue looked great. There are times when Murphy’s art pops, and his rendition of the Batman ’89 Batmobile is pretty fantastic. That said, I’m very glad this series is finally over and I truly hope that the imprint Murphy was talking about never comes to fruition. This series and the one that originated the line are all line-straddling both sides bull crap, and I don’t need to see any more stories about “what if our hero was actually the villain” for a good long while.
Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen #4
Steve Epting (art and cover), Nick Filardi (colors), Travis Lanham (letters), James Tynion IV (writer)
So continues the never-ending DC event comic. Metal didn’t end, it just set-up No Justice. No Justice didn’t end, it just set-up the Justice-Doom War. That didn’t end, to the point where I felt like the last issue was missing a page. Hell Arisen didn’t end, it just leads into Death Metal. I’m tired of the Batman Who Laughs, I’m tired over this never-ending saga, and I’m tired of conclusions not feeling like conclusions. There are no real ramifications to this series on its own, and I’m not sold on what’s to come.
Strange Adventures #1
Clayton Cowles (letters), Mitch Gerads (artist and cover), Tom King (writer), Evan “Doc” Shaner (artist and cover)
I wrote about Tom King’s latest and why it was wildly irresponsible over at Comics Beat.
The Solicitation Situation
BATMAN: THREE JOKERS #1
written by GEOFF JOHNS
art by JASON FABOK
cover by JASON FABOK
variant cover by JASON FABOK
1:25 variant cover by TBD
1:50 variant cover by TBD
Thirty years after Batman: The Killing Joke changed comics forever, Three Jokers reexamines the myth of who, or what, The Joker is and what is at the heart of his eternal battle with Batman. New York Times bestselling writer Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok, the writer/artist team that waged the “Darkseid War” in the pages of Justice League, reunite to tell the ultimate story of Batman and The Joker!
After years of anticipation starting in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the epic miniseries you’ve been waiting for is here: find out why there are three Jokers, and what that means for the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s a mystery unlike any Batman has ever faced!
PRESTIGE FORMAT | ON SALE 06.17.20
$6.99 US | 1 OF 3 | 48 PAGES
FC | DC BLACK LABEL
Hey look, it’s finally almost here. Will it be worth the wait? Eh, probably not. But maybe it will surprise me. Doomsday Clock did after all.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #48
written by SIMON SPURRIER
art by AARON LOPRESTI and MATT RYAN
cover by DAVID MARQUEZ
variant cover by CLAUDIO CASTELLINI
Wonder Woman 1984 variant cover by JIM LEE
As writer Simon Spurrier jumps on board for the start of the three-part tale “The Rule of War,” it’s close encounters…of a Justice League kind! After answering a distress signal from distant space, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Green Lantern discover an abandoned cargo ship full of young aliens! When the League attempts to return the children to their home planet, they are met with awe, terror, and war! Thus begins a three-part storyline that will take the League to a previously unknown planet, with an all-new species, a dangerous mystery, and a new, otherworldly villain.
ON SALE 06.03.20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES
FC | DC
Si Spurrier on Justice League should be fun because it should get weird.
SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #12
written by MATT FRACTION
art and cover by STEVE LIEBER
variant cover by BEN OLIVER
Whoa—is that what I think it is? If I’m reading this solicitation text correctly, we made it to issue #12! Mazel tov! Party time! If you see Matt and Steve at the next convention, go buy them a drink because I have no idea how we made it this far! No, wait, I do—it’s all thanks to you guys! In this final issue, with the Daily Planet on the ropes, Jimmy learns something about it that’ll change everything forever.
ON SALE 06.17.20
$3.99 US | 12 OF 12 | 32 PAGES
FC | DC
🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁 All good things I guess, I’m gonna miss this book terribly.
SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL VOL. 1 HC
written by JOHN BYRNE and MARV WOLFMAN
art by JOHN BYRNE, DICK GIORDANO, JERRY ORDWAY, and others
cover by JOHN BYRNE
Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, comic book superstar John Byrne reimagined Superman for a new era in bold tales presented in this new collection! Starting with the six-issue Man of Steel miniseries, Byrne fundamentally changed Superman’s origins and propelled him into the present, including iconic encounters with Lex Luthor, Metallo, and Darkseid! This title collects The Man of Steel #1-6, Superman #1-4, Adventures of Superman #424-428, and Action Comics
ON SALE 07.22.20
$49.99 US | 480 PAGES
I’m glad DC is finally reprinting the earliest part of the Byrne runs, and will probably buy it to be a completionist.
And that’s a wrap for the March 2020 DC Pubwatch! We’ll see if we have anything to discuss next month. Please, please stay safe, readers.