Comic Book Review – Batman by Grant Morrison Omnibus Volume One

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Batman Omnibus by Grant Morrison Volume One (2009)
Reprints Batman #655-658, 663-683 with material from 52 #30,47 and DC Universe #0
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Andy Kubert, J.H. Williams III, Tony Daniel, Joe Bennett, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Ryan Benjamin, and John Van Fleet

Batman has had a wildly varied history over his 80 years as a comic book character. The popular conception of Batman as The Dark Knight started in the 1970s and was continued by Tim Burton’s 1989 film. That wasn’t always the way. The most notable example of a different sort of Batman is the high-camp television version of the 1960s, but even before then, the title had a much sillier bent in the 1950s as science fiction stories were more popular. Grant Morrison is a writer who always seeks to encompass the totality of a character when he’s writing a comic, finding a way to make all the ideas fit even if some seem absurd. They understand that comics are inherently silly and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. During their run, Morrison managed to reinvent Batman, adding one particular element that has stuck around for fifteen years and counting: Batman’s son.

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Comic Book Review – Superman: Space Age

Superman: Space Age (2023)
Reprints Superman: Space Age #1-3
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Mike Allred

In 2019, there was a lot of buzz around DC Comics’ next planned reboot. It would have been the fourth (Infinite Crisis, Flashpoint/New 52, Rebirth, and this one) during editor-in-chief Dan Didio’s tenure at the company and proved to be an idea that didn’t come to fruition. The comics website Bleeding Cool has a series on the plans we are aware of and how dramatically they would have shaken up the DC Universe. The concept was to make Wonder Woman the first official superhero in the timeline, inspiring the mystery men & women of the Golden Age. Superman would have come along during the Kennedy administration, as would Batman. Eventually, Warner Bros. was bought out, and leadership at DC was drastically altered, leaving DiDio without a job. 5G was scrapped though pieces of it have been used in small projects like Future State, Superman & the Authority, and this Black Label mini-series.

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Comic Book Review – Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow (2022)
Reprints Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #1-8
Written by Tom King
Art by Bilquis Evely

On November 1, 2022, filmmaker James Gunn and producer David Zaslav were made the co-heads of DC Films. In March, they announced the opening slate of projects, a mix of animated series, live-action series, and movies that would be a heavy reboot of the previous DC Extended Universe pictures. Many comic arcs were cited as the inspiration for these projects; one was Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, which will be made into a feature film. This is part of a ten-year plan, so don’t expect to watch this movie anytime soon; it has a tentative release date of sometime in 2027. Quite ambitious, given the forecast for the climate’s ongoing collapse. If you are a regular reader of PopCult, then you know I am not a fan of Tom King. I find his neoliberal perspective one of the worst I’ve encountered in the funny books, making much of his work unenjoyable for me. However, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt as I sat down to tackle this book.

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Comic Book Review – Twilight

Twilight (1990)
Reprints Twilight #1-3
Written by Howard Chaykin
Illustrated Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

The late 1980s/early 1990s were a period of experimentation for DC Comics. In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, creators had a chance to dramatically reimagine classic characters. You have probably heard of books like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns or John Byrne’s Man of Steel. Throughout this period, “more serious” takes were published that made the books, for better or worse, more adult. One of the losses of the post-Crisis period was the non-superhero comics. Before 1985, DC still published comics that fell into the horror, war, western, and science fiction genres. The popularity of these titles had severely diminished from their peak decades earlier, but they still had a few devoted fans. One of those fans was comics creator Howard Chaykin. 

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Comic Book Review – Hawkworld (1989)

Hawkworld (1989)
Reprints Hawkworld #1-3 (1989)
Written & Illustrated by Tim Truman

From their heights, the privileged in our societies can see the full scale of what they do. The people forced to live at the bottom, the ones who toil the most fruitlessly, for whom every day is a struggle to make it to the next, rarely having the means or the time to take in the state of their world. When they do, it is always a time when those at the top are brought down, when the people have had enough. In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC Comics wanted to transform their shared universe of superheroes. Books like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen revealed something about the genre; its audience had matured and were interested in stories that explored more than heroes beating up villains. There were moral spaces that had never been explored. Hawkman was a character in need of such a freshening up. Tim Truman, an artist/writer known for pulpy comics, was brought in to reinvent Hawkman, and he did so in dramatic fashion.

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Comic Book Review – Superman: The Exile and Other Stories

Superman: The Exile and Other Stories Omnibus (2018)
Reprints Adventures of Superman #445-460, Superman v2 #23-37, Action Comics #643-646, and Action Comics Annual #2
Written by Jerry Ordway, George Pérez, Roger Stern, Dan Jurgens, Tom Peyer, and Keith Giffen
Art by Jerry Ordway, Mike Mignola, Kerry Gammill, Dan Jurgens, Paris Cullins, Curt Swan, George Pérez, Keith Giffen, Dennis Janke, P. Craig Russell, John Beatty, Brett Breeding, John Statema, Art Thibert, Klaus Janson, Tim Gula, and Andy Kubert

I have reached that age. You know it. The age where a guy with graying hair on his head and beard says things like, “I liked [insert] character here better when I was a kid.” I see this and acknowledge the silliness of it. A character like Superman has never been a static thing, but exists in a never-ending flow state where tweaks are happening to the narrative and mythos with every new issue that comes out. Superman couldn’t fly for his first few appearances, and things like Smallville were rectons. There is no ultimate version of Superman and the one you like is probably the one you first encountered. I was always a Christopher Reeve fan because that was my first Superman and when it came to comics the post-John Byrne era was when I joined in. 

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Comic Book Review – The Nice House on the Lake

The Nice House on the Lake (2023)
Reprints The Nice House on the Lake #1-12
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Álvaro Martínez Bueno

The evocative painted covers of each issue of The Nice House on the Lake hint at a dark horror tale to be unfolded, its spotlighted character standing in a stark scene of the macabre. I wish I could tell you the interior matches this outside wrapping. I also wish I could say I enjoyed this as much as I did Tynion’s The Department of Truth. But honestly, I really disliked this comic a lot. Bloated with so many characters introduced so quickly, I almost immediately lost track of who was who besides maybe two or three of them. That wasn’t a great thing to happen when this is a survival story, and I’m supposed to care about who lives or dies. It also doesn’t help that right away, the book reveals itself as some sort of post-apocalyptic narrative, which was not the story I sat down to enjoy.

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Comic Book Review – Shazam: The World’s Mightiest Mortal Volume One

Shazam!: The World’s Mightiest Mortal Volume One (2019)
Reprints Shazam! #1-18
Written by Denny O’Neil, Elliot S! Maggin, and E. Nelson Bridwell
Art by C.C. Beck, Dave Cockrum, Bob Oksner, Vince Colletta, Kurt Schaffenberger, Dick Giordano, Pat Broderick, and Tex Blaisdell

Once upon a time, there was a superhero named Captain Marvel (not that one) who was the most popular comic book character of his time. He was so popular, in fact, that DC Comics sued Cap’s publisher, Fawcett because they believed the similarities between him and Superman were so much that the character infringed on the Man of Steel. So Captain Marvel faded into obscurity in the 1950s, but not before a few other things happened.

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Comic Book Reader – Aquaman: Andromeda

Aquaman: Andromeda (2023)
Reprints Aquaman: Andromeda #1-3
Written by Ram V
Art by Christian Ward

DC Comics’s Black Label imprint has produced some of the best work from the company in recent years, and that trend continues with this three-part mini-series, Aquaman: Andromeda. I won’t say this is my favorite Black Label book so far, that belongs to Catwoman: Lonely City, but it is a fantastic science fiction/horror story. My one wrinkle is that it didn’t feel like this was an Aquaman story but rather a story in which Aquaman appears. Instead, this is a clear homage to the work of writers like Michael Crichton, particularly his novel Sphere, but also elements of cosmic horror straight out of H.P. Lovecraft and the psychic manifestations of Solaris. The writing is handled by the insanely prolific Ram V, and the art is handled expertly by Christian Ward.

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Comic Book Review – JSA by Geoff Johns Part 7

JSA by Geoff Johns Part 7
Reviewing JSA #73-87
Written by Geoff Johns, Keith Champagne, and Paul Levitz
Illustrated by Don Kramer, David Lopez, Jim Fern, Dale Eaglesham, Rags Morales, Luke Ross, and Jerry Ordway

The issues in this final batch are only partially written by Geoff Johns. Keith Champagne (normally an inker) and Paul Levtiz (an icon at DC by this point) cover a couple long arcs while Johns was writing Infinite Crisis (and Green Lantern and Teen Titans and the weekly 52 series and something else I’m probably forgetting). This also isn’t Johns’ final say on the Justice Society. He’d write the first twenty-eight issues of Justice Society of America, the follow-up ongoing to this one. Johns currently writes two JSA-related mini-series: Justice Society of America and Stargirl & The Lost Children. Because these are in a period of somewhat confused continuity right now, I don’t get the feeling he’s folding in everything that happened way back here in JSA.

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