The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage (2020)
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz
This recent DC Black Label mini-series provides the perfect opportunity for both a review and stealth superhero spotlight on a character who has intrigued me since I first saw them as a kid. The Question was a purchase by DC Comics when from their buyout of the flagging Charlton Comics in the early 1980s. He came with characters like Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, Nightshade, and more.
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Animal Man existed in the DC Universe for twenty-three years before he became a character of considerable note at the hands of writer Grant Morrison. This post-Crisis transmutation created a platform to do a metaphysical examination of what it is like to be a fictional character observed by a nonfiction world. It highlighted the struggles of a working-class superhero with a family. Issues surrounding the environment and animal rights were brought up and discussed at length. Ultimately, Animal Man became a character who still resonates through the DCU today, but he certainly didn’t start that way.
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Justice League International Omnibus Volume 2 (2020)
Reprints Justice League America #31-50, Justice League American Annual #4, Justice League Quarterly #1, Justice League Europe #7-25, Justice League Europe Annual #1, and Justice League International Special #1
Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Art by Adam Hughes, Mike McKone, Bart Sears, Chris Sprouse, Darick Robertson, and Marshall Rogers
The JLI came across my radar with Justice League America #42, a cover that promised a team’s recruitment drive. I was nine years ago, and my knowledge of the Justice League came mostly from watching Challenge of the Superfriends, so you can understand how shocked I was when I opened up this book and found none of the characters I expected. Where were Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman? Instead, I was given new faces and names like Blue Beetle, Mister Miracle, and Guy Gardener. I didn’t have any idea who these people were. And they didn’t fight anyone; they spent a lot of time talking with a very comedic tone. I was confused as a child but still intrigued. A decade later in college, I would rifle through quarter bins on the floor of comic book shops, slowly but surely assembling a near-complete run of Giffen & DeMatteis landmark controversial run on the League.
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Wonder Woman by John Byrne Volume 2 (2018)
Reprints Wonder Woman #115 – 124, Annuals #5,6
Written by John Byrne
Art by John Byrne, Norm Breyfogle, Dave Cockrum, and Tom Palmer
The one thing that can’t be denied about John Byrne’s run on Wonder Woman is that he most certainly made it his own thing. At this point in his career, his name carried tremendous clout, and he could essentially do what he wanted. In the early 2000s, he rebooted the Doom Patrol during his run on JLA and completely scrambled established continuity that rippled through characters in the Teen Titans and didn’t care. His run on Wonder Woman definitely carries on George Perez’s rebooted version of the heroine and the Amazons, but he seems much more interested in pitting her against very different foes.
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Batman: Three Jokers (2020)
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Jason Fabok
In 2015, in the pages of Justice League #50, Batman used the Mobius Chair, a device of great cosmic power, to ask who the Joker really is. He suddenly appears shocked at the answer. That same day, in the pages of DC Rebirth #1, we follow up and find Batman contemplating that he now knows the Joker is three different people. For five years, that plot beat remained unresolved. Promises were made that a mini-series was forthcoming that would address this shocking revelation, but it took until this year for readers to finally get access to Batman: Three Jokers. There was a lot of hype leading into this story arc and many questions about how much continuity would be changed by the answers revealed inside.
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JSA by Geoff Johns Book Four (2020)
Reprints JSA #32-45
Written by Geoff Johns & David Goyer
Art by Peter Snejbjerg, Leonard Kirk, Keith Champagne, Steve Sadowski, and Patrick Gleason
There is something deeply satisfying about reading Geoff Johns’s JSA run. When I was a kid with a limited amount of money to spend while perusing the comic rack on the wall at Kroger, I always leaned towards the team books because it was more economical in my line of thinking. I wanted to expand my knowledge of obscure characters, and team books always gave you the most characters for your buck. So, as an adult, when I stumbled across this run by Johns, it was like my childhood dream come true. He always found creative ways to weave together disparate strands of the DC Universe by using those commonalities.
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Booster Gold: Future Lost (2020)
Reprints Booster Gold #13-25, Action Comics #594, Secret Origins #35, Millennium #3,4,6,7
Written by Dan Jurgens & Steve Englehart
Art by Dan Jurgens, Ty Templeton, John Byrne, and Joe Staton
Booster Gold had evolved since his first appearance by the time Dan Jurgens was kicking off the second year of the title. Gold was an intriguing gimmick, a personification of 1980s corporate greed as presented in a superhero, but as his origins were fleshed out and his life complicated, the man from the 25th century fell from grace and had to rebuild. Jurgens didn’t really know what quite to do with Booster Gold beyond the idea, and the stories suffer for this reason. His villains are entirely forgettable, and the supporting cast feels dull. D.C. saw some potential in Booster, though, and in these issues, he’s recruited by Maxwell Lord for the newly formed Justice League International.
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The Dollhouse Family (2020)
Written by M.R. Carey
Art by Peter Gross & Vince Locke
Hill House Comics hasn’t really lived up to the hype. Other than The Low Low Woods, I haven’t found any of them very enjoyable or all that horrific, really. The Dollhouse Family is one of the most frustrating entries into the DC imprint because it has so many seeds of potential greatness but then gets lost in the plot and ends with a horrible whimper. I would say The Dollhouse Family is the least satisfying Hill House Comics read for me so far, made even more irritating by the fact that it has that previously mentioned potential.
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Wonder Woman by John Byrne Volume 1 (2017)
Reprints Wonder Woman v2 #101 – 114
Written by John Byrne
Art by John Byrne
I first became aware of John Byrne when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I remember being at K-Mart (I think) and picking up one of those 3 for a dollar polybagged comic book grab bags. Inside, I had two issues of the Superman reboot helmed by John Byrne (issues 2 & 3) to be specific. I remember I really liked the art, especially Byrne’s take on Jack Kirby’s New Gods characters. I’d been aware of who Darkseid was from watching Challenge of the Superfriends, but this was my first introduction to the larger pantheon of characters in that niche of the DC Universe. Being a child at the time, I wasn’t quite aware of John Byrne’s love affair with the work of Jack Kirby, but fast forward to the mid-1990s, and the writer-artist was folding in those elements to his run on Wonder Woman.
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The Low Low Woods (2020)
Written by Carmen Maria Machado
Art by Dani
I became familiar with author Carmen Maria Machado from her short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties. It’s a wonderful book of stories that are horror but also a commentary on being a woman. There’s some inventive work going on here, including a mind-blowing story presented as episode recaps of Law & Order: SVU episodes that become a sinister, disturbing & reality-bending tale. When I saw her name attached to a Hill House Comic title, I got pretty excited to see what she had to offer.
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