DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as Young Animal, Wildstorm, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu, entertainment editor Kyle Pinion, and contributor Louie Hlad are here to help you with.
THIS WEEK: It’s DC NATION time! Let’s talk in brief about the big moving and shaking in the DCU. After that, Kyle touches a bit on the Action Comics Special that sends off the Dan Jurgens era
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
DC Nation #0
Writers: Tom King, Brian Michael Bendis, Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson
Artists: Clay Mann, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Dexter Vines, Jorge Jimenez
Colorists: Jordie Bellaire, Alex Sinclair, Alejandro Sanchez
Letterers: Clayton Cowles, Josh Reed, Andworld Design
This week marks the release of DC’s new 25 cent promo comic, entitled appropriately enough, DC Nation #0 – which basically indicates that it’s a ground-zero comic for anyone wanting to hop into the new status quo of the DCU. It’s been a while since they’ve done one of these universe-spanning “jumping on” comics, which has more often been the purview of their chief competition. They’ve done some FCBD type outings, such as Divergence (just ahead of DC YOU) and a primer for the New 52 when that was right around the corner. But what this most puts me to mind of is DC Universe #0, which some of you might remember having come out just before Final Crisis, Blackest Night and Batman RIP which provided a set of prelude stories for a number of talents who were working on their biggest books at the time. DC Nation #0 doesn’t quite take the same narrative tact in attempting to tie its own respective disparate stories together, but it still provides a similar showcase for its biggest writers who are attached to its marquee titles.
The issue kicks off with a Tom King/Clay Mann Joker story, and while I feel like King’s Batman can be hit or miss (though it’s always swinging for the fences in a way I appreciate). Here they do a “nice” side-story about the Joker awaiting his invitation for Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle’s wedding. He spends the story holed up the home of a poor sap whose life he’s invaded named Roger. Basically the next in a long line of stories where Joker makes some random guy’s life a living hell. Of all the stories here, this is the one that feels the most complete, it’s also of course the smallest scaled…so it’s an odd opener to the issue (I would have put it in the middle myself), but there’s some solid tension and Clay Mann’s art is pretty great as per usual. Lots of that go-to Tom King nine-panel gridding.
The middle story is Brian Michael Bendis’ first “real” Superman story and I think what will probably be a better reflection of what his more grounded Action Comics run will be like. Drawn by the incomparable legend Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, this is a story firmly focused on the inner-workings of the Daily Planet in the modern age, with Perry giving a (timely) speech about the need for truth in their reporting over trying to sell fear and sensationalism. Superman spends the entire issue in Clark duds, and we learn that Lois is no longer at the Planet – for reasons that I don’t think have been explained just yet, though for some reason I seem to recall something about writing a book. I read too many of these things and my wires get crossed. Anyhow, Bendis introduces some new cast members like Trish Q, the gossip columnist, and Robinson Goode, the new hot reporter who is looking to step into Lois’ role as the Planet’s ace reporter…though she seems to have other, more sinister plans. This is a much better entry point than Bendis’ slugfest in Action #1000 and definitely plays more to his dialogue-driven strengths. It’s all prelude to what’s coming next month in Man of Steel, but I’m quite intrigued now.
And finally the one-shot ends with a prologue for No Justice, the huge Justice League driven weekly event comic co-written by the new Justice League triumvirate of Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Joshua Williamson, which picks up in medias res after the events of Metal. The Source Wall is broken and suddenly the Omega Titans are out to destroy…well, everything. Basically this is a short that introduces the concept of all four teams that will comprise the No Justice event and why they’re broken up into the specific formations – each team being representative of a specific Titan and the type of cosmic energy they wield. It’s not a lot of space to sell you on the concept at play, but the writing team give Jorge Jimenez an opportunity to draw a lot of beautiful pictures, and his ability to capture the grandiosity of these heretofore unknown entities is pretty lovely to behold. The narrative captions also do a nice job of framing this conflict from the perspective of each team leader (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg) in a baton-passing fashion, with each character commenting on the one before. It does the trick in pulling you in and convincing you this is a epic battle worth following into next week. Plus, I really like those team-based costume designs.
Verdict: Buy…I mean, it’s 25 cents, and even free online.
Action Comics Special #1
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Mark Russell, Max Landis
Artists: Will Conrad, Jill Thompson, Francis Manapul
Colorists: Wil Quintana
Letterers: Rob Leigh
With a pair of Specials, DC is giving a nice final goodbye for the two year long runs that populated both Superman and Action Comics. The latter is the focus of this week’s oversized release, and if you had caught my article about two months ago when I wrote about Action #999, I basically said my piece about the Jurgens run. It was basically what I refer to as “comfort food” Superman. Never anything that I particularly remember from an individual story stand-point, but always enjoyable in the moment, which is basically all I can ask for the character. Give me a burst of hopeful escapism and I’m there. And when he’s paired with a great artist (be it himself, or someone else), Jurgens stories shined all the more. For this final chapter, the writer is back again with the great Will Conrad, who I just do not understand why he’s not a household name among the comics faithful (or maybe he is and I just don’t talk to enough humans…this is also possible). The story here, which is Jurgens and Conrad’s take on an eventual/possible end for Lex Luthor is a nice closer and terrific to look at – while also returning to some of the earlier material that this Action run began on, when Lex attempted to take Superman’s place as Metropolis’ protector, even taking on his emblem. That gets touched on here, as does the sort of moral grey that modern day Lex is still skirting vs. the full-fledged return to evil that his future counterpart has re-embraced. It’s a tale that doesn’t quite hit the same intriguing thematic highs as the Superman-Cyborg conflict in #999, but it’s a more consistently interesting story on a page to page basis. There’s nothing earth-shaking here, but Jurgens leaves Action just where he found it. A well-spring of wonder and his tenure was something to be rather proud of, all things considered.
Two back-up tales follow the main story, the longer of the two is actually a nice surprise, as Mark Russell and Jill Thompson team up on a Lex Luthor story of their own. Speaking of timely, they present a Lex who is getting ready to attend a gala event set to honor Superman, which has its own form of roast during the festivities. Shades of the White House Correspondents Dinner, obviously. As Lex arrives, we’re treated to him narrating his own backstory, his relationship with his father, and how he was bullied in school until he realized money could get him out of that and buy him his own entourage. As this is a Mark Russell comic, you can imagine the socio-political barbs are going to be pretty razor sharp, and here there are a number of shots taken at the current occupier of the Oval Office, though mainly through the lens of the 2011 WHCD – which if you listen to some journalists, it was the moment that Donald Trump decided to run for President thanks to double-edged vicious roast on the part of President Obama and Seth Meyers. Not a theory I subscribe to personally, but it makes for an interesting think-piece, and gives Russell some latitude to utilize Lex as a stand-in for all the points the writer is trying to make regarding the inability to laugh at one’s self and what does that say about the person in question.
After Clark Kent makes a public spectacle of him a bit, with a pretty funny Moon Pie gag – and I am always here for Hostess Fruit Pie joke by the way – Lex decides to run for President. As I said, given the timing with the Michelle Wolf controversy, it’s a weird bit of kismet. It’s also easily the best thing about the issue, by and large.
The last Superman story is a Max Landis/Francis Manapul short that I’m rather certain is a leftover from Action #1000 that didn’t make the final cut. It’s a sweet little story about Superman’s capacity for forgiveness in the face of one man’s mistakes, as well as his deep, abiding love for Lois. The last page, where he delivers her Christmas present, is quite touching. Not so much because of the gift itself, but more her reaction, which is very human in the face of Clark’s utterly alien selflessness and caring.
Y’all let me know if this is the case in the actual comic, but in the back of my digital review copy there was also a short intro story for The Unexpected, which is wholly unexpected (really wasn’t going for the pun there) to say the least. It’s a book I’m really excited about, though I’m not sure why it would pop up in an Action Comics special. Between Ryan Sook and Cary Nord, I’m not sure who is drawing what, but somebody is doing their darndest to channel John Romita Jr here, and I find that pretty fascinating on its own. I definitely get why this is placed here in order to get readers a bit more interested in a property they aren’t attuned to necessarily, but I might have wanted just another Superman story instead. Ah well…pretty good oversized comic, I say.
Verdict: Buy (the price is just right for what you get)
And that’s it for me this week. The only other thing I read was the new Ben Percy Nightwing issue, but I’m way past my word count. In short: It’s pretty good! But the bar is extremely low for Nightwing these days – woof, is it ever. And of course, the new installment of the “Deathstroke vs. Batman” storyline. Always a thrilling read.
See you kids in three weeks!
Entertainment Editor for The Beat covering film, television and the occasional comic book. His work can also be found at GeekRex.com and can be heard on the GeekRex podcast. He really loves the Legion of Super-Heroes a lot.