Sorry, we missed last month; technical difficulties got the best of us. Over the last two months, we saw quite a bit of change at DC. There were mass layoffs, that included long-time Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras and a good swathe of editorial. Full details aren’t available, but we wish everyone who was affected the absolute best in whatever comes next. Two big changes to DC’s power structure include the new Editors-in-Chief and the installation of a general manager. DC’s running with two Editors-in-Chief: Marie Javins and Michelle Wells. Both have been with the company for a long time and have strong editorial hands. Wells has also been leading the immensely successful Ink and Zoom lines, which gives a glimpse of what may be to come for the future of the company. The new General Manager, Daniel Cherry, was recently the Chief Marketing Officer of Activision Blizzard eSports and looks to embrace the diversity of the company. It’s important to note that for the first time all the people in positions of power at DC Comics are people other than white men. DC also did two separate FanDome events, but those events were primarily TV and movie focused, with little in the way of comics announcements. The best book of the month this time around is The Dreaming: Waking Hours #2, and had we gotten a column out last month, it would have taken the prize for the first issue as well.
The Dreaming: Waking Hours #2
Simon Bowland (letters), Mat Lopes (colors), Nick Robles (art and cover), G. Willow Wilson (writer)
This book is an absolutely gorgeous addition to the Sandman universe. Every character is so jaw-droppingly beautiful it makes your heart hurt. The parts set within Lindy’s dreamscape are just ethereal enough to make it feel mystical and whimsical, while the parts set within the waking world are starker and more dynamic. And finally, rounding out our settings is the otherworldly darkness that is the Box of Nightmares, for which Robles switches to a painted look, that absorbs all color and hope as we view the terrifying realm of our worst dreams. Ruin is a glorious mess, and his friendship with Jophiel is delightfully human for a nightmare and a fallen angel. I’d be remiss not to mention the lettering too. Simon Bowland goes above and beyond the lettering standard, delivering diverse styles for several personalities, but never so much to make them unreadable or confusing. There’s a distinct personality to his typography that is unparalleled in today’s comics and sets him up to be a worthy successor of the legendary Todd Klein. This series through two issues has been as near perfect as a series can be, seamlessly delivering flawless writing, art, colors, and letters. Really just a phenomenal job from everyone involved.
Batman: The Joker War Zone #1
Derick Chew (cover), Gabriella Downie (letters), Hi-Fi (colors), David LaFuente (art), Joshua Williamson (writer)
There are actually five stories in this issue, all setting up future plotlines for Bat-books into next year, but the only one I’m really going to talk about is Williamson and LaFuente’s “The Symbol,” as it is the story that made this issue a must-buy for me. The variant cover by Derick Chew promised us Spoiler and Orphan content, and boy did this story deliver that! The story was about the two girls teaming up to track down an old Bat-Signal, to use it to provide hope to an ailing city that Batman and his allies were still out there, still doing what they can to drive back the Joker’s evil. In the end, the old Bat-Signal is just as broken as the one at GCPD, but Cass has an idea that will help on a lesser level than the light in the sky. The issue ends with Steph and Cass leaping from Oracle’s Clocktower (a nice nod to their predecessor), garbed once more in the costumes that they wore when each of them was Batgirl (Steph is still wearing her Spoiler hood and mask, but the rest of the costume is her Batgirl suit). They couldn’t reclaim the night sky, but they could reclaim the symbol of the Bat. With Batgirl ending next month, I have a feeling we are going to see a Batgirls title featuring all three of them in the very near future. With Didio and Harras gone, it seems like DC is willing to embrace the legacies that make it so wonderful in the first place again.
Laura Allred (cover), Fernando Blanco (art), Juan Ferreyra (art), Joëlle Jones (cover), John Paul Leon (art), Ariana Maher (letters), Tom Napolitano (letters), FCO Plascencia (colors), Ram V (writer)
Ram V’s first issue of Catwoman is an interesting and intriguing affair. A double-sized anniversary issue, it acts more like an anthology book than a regular issue. Rather than a single long story, it’s broken into three stories. The first, illustrated by Blanco, is a portion of Selina’s part of the Joker War, and while important to that story, it feels like the least important one to V’s ongoing story. Both of the other stories involve Selina setting up a new base of operations in the Nest, and especially the middle story sets her up with a fresh supporting cast in a fun and interesting way.
Dark Nights: Death Metal: Multiverse’s End #1
Ian Bertram (cover), Juan Gedeon (art), Mike Spicer (colors), David Stewart (cover), James Tynion IV (writer), Rus Wooton (letters)
As lackluster as the main series has been, I didn’t expect these superfluous one-shots to be nearly as good as they are. While Trinity Crisis was a bit of a letdown, the other two were really something special. Multiverse’s End had some good moments at the beginning, including making me cry about freaking Captain Carrot of all people, but where it really stuck the landing was the end. The revelation that this is not the first Crime Syndicate and not the first Owl Man is stark, and provides a compelling argument, that the first version of Dark, Evil Batman is the only one that truly matters, the only one that will keep returning no matter what the universe looks like. Having Owl Man symbolically kill the concept of other evil Batmen is something refreshing, and the fact that he did this to a BABY EVIL BATMAN even more so. I just hope that Death Metal is actually the end of new evil Batmen.
Dark Nights: Death Metal: Speed Metal #1
Eddy Barrows (pencils), Eber Ferreria (inks), Adriano Lucas (colors), Steve Wands (letters), Joshua Williamson (writer)
In a banner month for Williamson, this was probably the highest point. This, in concert with The Flash #762, served as one long conclusion to Williamson’s hundred issue run on the character. While the end of “Finish Line” did its part to scrub Heroes In Crisis from our minds (see below), Speed Metal did a lot to give us the Wally West we love back. It felt as though it was Williamson saying, “Hey I know I just did 100 issues of Barry Allen, and I know you’d all it have rather been Wally, I wish it had been too.” Wally’s story in Death Metal isn’t over, and hopefully, when we come out of the other side of this event he can get some well-deserved love in an actual book. Thanks for your time on the book, Williamson. May the Speed Force be with you.
The Flash #761
Hi-Fi (colors and cover), Howard Porter (art and cover), Steve Wands (letters), Joshua Williamson (writer)
As far as swan songs to long-tenured runs on a book go, “Finish Line” is shaping up to be an instant classic. Between bringing in one of the best Flash artists of all time in Howard Porter, and Josh Williamson gleefully pulling in references from all the eras of the Flash, it is the most fun a Flash book has been in years. Seeing Jessie Quick working alongside John Fox; XS fighting side-by-side Wally’s twins; seeing Walter West at all—this book is an absolute masterstroke of nostalgia to drive a story. This also gives us a retcon for Heroes In Crisis and I’m so happy about that, in that Wally’s actions to cover up the deaths were actually because of Thawne’s influence. In fact, Wally’s absence from this book is the only thing keeping it from being absolutely perfect.
Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #5
Jason Badower (art flashbacks), Kami Garcia (writer), Edward Kurz, M.D. (consultant), Annette Kwok (colors), Francesco Mattina (cover), Comiccraft’s Tyler Smith (letters), Richard Starkings (letters), Mico Suayan (art present sequences)
As the action in this book ramps up, we see this game of cat and mouse that’s been persistent through the title switching roles. Harley, once the predator hunting for a killer, is now the prey: a wounded animal whose blood is thick in the air. The Joker has shown he has the upper hand, and in doing so has increased his odds even more. Harley is too stubborn and proud to admit that he has her right where he wants her, and this is leaving her more open and vulnerable. As always the shifting from black and white present sequences to color flashbacks is beautifully done, and as we get closer to the conclusion, these switches are happening closer together.
Justice League #52
Romulo Fajardo Jr (colors and cover), Daniel Henriques (inks and cover), Jeff Loveness (writer), Tom Napolitano (letters), Robson Rocha (pencils and cover)
The Black Mercy is one of my favorite ideas in the DC Universe. For those who don’t know, it’s a parasitic plant that feeds on its hosts’ physical bodies while serving them psychic illusions of their greatest desires. In this issue, we saw what that entailed for Batman. And much like the Batman discourse that consumes Twitter every few months, it showed Bruce an idealized world where he didn’t have to be Batman, and where he used resources to befriend his rogue’s gallery and better the world. In the end, Batman realizes this is an illusion, and not something that has really happened but is told by Clark that it can be. If you make your reality your greatest desire, the Black Mercy would lose that power over you.
Mike Atiyeh (colors), Rob Leigh (letters), Jeff Loveness (writer), Brandon Peterson (art and cover)
It is an absolute crying shame that Jeff Loveness only got to do two issues of this series, one as a fill-in for Geoff Johns, and then this, the final issue of the series. Both of his issues were better than anything that Johns did in his thirteen issues, and both felt more like an embrace of the character than the other issues in the series did. This issue actually revolved around the question, what can superheroes do for the good of the world that isn’t just punching robots? Billy is challenged by a substitute teacher about this and takes it a bit personally, but then when he later saves her life as Shazam! he sees where she is coming from. In the end, she inspires Billy to be better, and because of that, Shazam! provides her with the encouragement that she herself needed at the same time.
Young Justice #18
Wes Abbott (letters), Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Gabe Eltaeb (colors and cover), Scott Godlewski (art), Michael Avon Oeming (art), John Timms (cover), David Walker (writer)
Alright, so let’s get the important thing out of the way. R.I.P. Drake. You were an absolutely terrible codename (who the hell thinks using their last name as a codename is a good idea?!?) with an absolutely terrible poop-colored costume. Long live Robin! Woo! And with the events of last month’s Teen Titans, where Damian quit being Robin, this means Tim is the ONLY Robin. You love to see it. Do you know what else you love to see? Stephanie Brown’s time as Robin referenced in canon. No lie, I cried when I read the first page of this month’s issue and they referenced both her and Tim as former Robins. Godlewski and Oeming on art were a refreshing change from Timms and his more angular style. For a book like Young Justice, I really prefer rounder more cartoony art than Timms tends to provide.
Action Comics #1025
Batman/Superman Annual #1
Detective Comics #1027
John Constantine: Hellblazer #10
Justice League #53
Justice League Annual #2
Justice League Dark #26
Legion of Super-Heroes #9
Suicide Squad #9
Teen Titans #45
The Flash #762
The Last God: Songs of Lost Children #1
The Terrifics #30
Wonder Woman ’84 #1
Wonder Woman #762-763
Batman Beyond #47
Dark Nights: Death Metal Trinity Crisis #1
DCeased: Dead Planet #3
Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #3
Justice League Odyssey #24
Metal Men #10
Red Hood: Outlaw #49
The Batman’s Grave #10
The Green Lantern: Season Two #7
Clayton Cowles (letters), Jorge Jimenez (art), Guillem March (cover), Tomeu Morey (colors and cover), James Tynion IV (writer)
This event just keeps dragging on, and on, and on. Half of this issue took place entirely within Batman’s subconscious while drinking tea. The other half was Harley fighting Punchline AGAIN. Batman eventually breaks the hold of both the Joker toxin AND the psychotropic tea because he’s BATMAN. Just sheer force of will. As he breaks out of his stupor, there is the absolute most inane page in comics I’ve seen in a very long time where he says, “I’m BATMAN” and his speech bubble is replaced by his silhouette with what looks like a chalkboard rendition of his logo. In all, almost nothing happened in the issue, and that’s what this event is feeling like too. Two Joker events and both feel like nothing burgers.
Batman and the Outsiders #16
Clayton Cowles (letters), Veronica Gandini (colors), Bryan Hill (writer), Tyler Kirkham (cover), Arif Prianto (cover), Dexter Soy (art)
So here we are, sixteen issues into the run, and we finally have the climax of the Outsiders versus Ra’s Al Ghul. This is a perfect example of poorly done decompressed storytelling. What had enough substance for one five or six-issue arc of a title has been stretched to three times that, and in the process made it feel extremely slow-paced and boring. At the end of the issue, we’re left with where I hoped the team would be after five or so issues, with Batman taking a step back and letting them all grow and develop. Instead, now we get this in the penultimate issue of the series, and it feels like a catastrophic waste of potential. The only thing I really loved about this issue was Cassandra coming into her own again and hope that whatever happens after this series wraps next month, that there’s more on the horizon for her.
Batman: Three Jokers #2
Brad Anderson (colors), Jason Fabok (art and cover), Geoff Johns (writer), Rob Leigh (letters)
This series is absolute filth masquerading as a book that thinks it’s important. The first issue was terrible save for a cathartic piece for Jason at the end, and this issue doesn’t even have that. In fact, it has the opposite of that, in that Jason gets the absolute shit kicked out of him while bare ass naked. But the worst thing of this issue, and of the series as a whole, is how it treats Barbara Gordon. In this issue it’s implied that she’s stronger than Jason because she has gotten over her trauma. But I ask how she can have gotten over her trauma when DC goes back to referencing it every six months. On top of that, that’s absolutely insulting to real people struggling with real traumas. It’s gross, ableist and has no reason to see print in a comic of this scope (or any scope really, keep those gross ass thoughts to yourself Geoffrey). And beyond even that, she spends most of the issue disgusted by Jason having killed one of the Jokers, and saying how he needs to be arrested for murder, only to jump into a makeout session with him at the end of the issue. This book is gross, and nobody should pay money to read it.
Hellblazer: Rise and Fall #1
Darick Robertson (art and cover), Diego Rodriguez (colors and cover), Tom Taylor (writer)
There is severe whiplash going from Si Spurrier’s Hellblazer to this. I might rate this higher if it wasn’t against such steep competition, but Spurrier’s Constantine is pitch-perfect. He’s just the right amount of slimy arsehole, while Taylor’s feels a little too clean. The same can be said about Robertson’s art, which goes back and forth between absolutely perfect and a little bit too neat for the character. I know Robertson can be absolutely grizzly when he needs to (he’s my absolute favorite Wolverine artist for just that reason), but there are moments where his John is just a little too clean. I was also absolutely infuriated by the decision to put a Harry Potter joke in this, considering the absolute bile that has come out of Rowling’s mouth over the last six months. There is absolutely no need to ever reference her works again, especially not for a stupid joke.
Strange Adventures #5
Clayton Cowles (letters), Mitch Gerads (art and cover), Tom King (writer), Evan “Doc” Shaner (art and cover)
Issue five opens with an extended diatribe about how cancel culture is wrong and only used for clout. Clearly the Justice League is in the wrong to ask that their members not associate with someone who is the focus of a murder investigation, how dare they. Booster Gold is the only one of them with actual morals who reached out to Adam to make sure he was okay through all this. Once again this is an incredibly toxic viewpoint to reinforce in a comic, as it gives credence to all of the most toxic of fans and creators. It then goes on to paint SUPERMAN as too political of a figure, which again, is an argument made by the absolute worst subset of fandom. And then at the end of the issue, there’s a moment of very thinly veiled racism (where he all but calls Mr. Terrific uppity), right before a press conference where Adam’s speech patterns are positively Trumpian (“I have a great relationship with the League. An excellent one.”). It’s clear that Strange Adventures is nothing more than Tom King using a comic script in lieu of a therapist and getting his aggressions about fandom out on paper.
DARK NIGHTS: DEATH METAL #7
written by SCOTT SNYDER
art by GREG CAPULLO, JONATHAN GLAPION, and others
cover by GREG CAPULLO and JONATHAN GLAPION
The Batman Who Laughs variant cover by DAVID FINCH
The Batman Who Laughs variant cover by STANLEY “ARTGERM” LAU
The Batman Who Laughs variant cover by JAE LEE
1:25 variant cover by DOUG MANHKE
1:100 black & white variant by GREG CAPULLO and JONATHAN GLAPION
ON SALE 1/5/21
$5.99 US | 48 PAGES | 7 OF 7 | FC | DC
CARD STOCK COVERS
The song remains anything but the same as the house lights start to come up on DC’s biggest, baddest battle for control of the Multiverse! The Darkest Knight is on the verge of ending this concert once and for all, but Wonder Woman has more than just a greatest hit planned. The Amazonian warrior stands ready to shred the Darkest Knight, solo! Plus, this extra-sized finale issue includes not one but two mind-blowing epilogues that lead directly into the next phase of the DC Universe—and no fan will want to miss that!
The end to the latest of DC’s events and likely the start of something brand new? Let’s hope these times of change are good for DC in 2021.
GREEN LANTERN: CIRCLE OF FIRE TP
written by JUDD WINICK, BRIAN K. VAUGHAN, JAY FAERBER, and SCOTT BEATTY
art by DARRYL BANKS, M.D. BRIGHT, DALE EAGLESHAM, RON RANDALL, CARY NORD, TREVOR McCARTHY, PETE WOODS, and others
cover by DARRYL BANKS and KEVIN NOWLAN
ON SALE 2/9/21
$39.99 US | 416 PAGES | FC
A new era begins for Green Lantern Kyle Rayner! It begins as Nero escapes a mental institution and finds himself in possession of a yellow power ring, thanks to the Qwardians. Now with the power to materialize the inner workings of his mind, the madman looks to destroy the planet. And as the Justice League attempts to fight his hordes of minions, Kyle must find a way to defeat a ring-bearer more powerful than he is! Then, when Rann is attacked by the entity known as Oblivion, Green Lantern enlists other heroes to join the “Circle of Fire,” as Power Girl, Firestorm, Adam Strange, and the Atom answer the call. Collects Green Lantern #129-136, Green Lantern/Firestorm #1, Green Lantern/Adam Strange #1, Green Lantern/Atom #1, Green Lantern/Green Lantern #1, Green Lantern/Power Girl #1, and Green Lantern: Circle of Fire #1 and 2.
This is my absolute favorite Green Lantern run of all time, and I’m very, very excited to see it coming back into print. I do hope that this doesn’t mean the earlier collections of Kyle’s tenure are getting discontinued, but it’s nice to see the Winick stuff get some new life.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: BEFORE THE DARKNESS VOL. 1 TP
written by GERRY CONWAY, PAUL KUPPERBERG, E. NELSON BRIDWELL, and J.M. DeMATTEIS
art by JIMMY JANES, STEVE DITKO, JOE STATON, RIC ESTRADA, JIM SHERMAN, and others
cover by GEORGE PÉREZ and TERRY AUSTIN
ON SALE 2/2/21
$49.99 US | 352 PAGES | FC
The greatest heroes of the 30th century star in these classic stories that set the stage for “The Great Darkness Saga,” one of the most beloved tales in Legion history! First, the Legion—including Mon-El, Brainiac 5, and Phantom Girl—takes on a Circus of Death! Then, the villainous Dagon strikes, kidnapping several Legionnaires’ parents for ransom. And the Fatal Five return—now working for the Dark Man! Plus, find out startling new information from the pasts of the Legion and their ally R.J. Brande. This title collects Legion of Super-Heroes #260-271 and Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes #1-3.
So this brief era of the Legion isn’t great by any use of the word, but it’s very nice to see it getting collected. If we get volumes one and two of this collection, it means that everything of the Legion’s Bronze Age leading up to the Great Darkness Saga will have been collected.
That’s a wrap on the September edition of the DC Pubwatch, come back at the end of the month for the October edition, where we’ll see what’s in store for 2021. Will The Dreaming: Waking Hours #3 be able to maintain #2’s hold on the top spot? Only time will tell, but I’d be willing to bet on it.