THIS WEEK: A pair of excellent new series arrive from DC — Unstoppable Doom Patrol #1 and Waller Vs. WildStorm #1 — and we’ve got reviews of them both. Plus, we check in with Action Comics #1053, Gotham City: Year One #6, Harley Quinn #28, and more!
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.
Unstoppable Doom Patrol #1
Writer: Dennis Culver
Artist: Chris Burnham
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
The concept for the new Doom Patrol run — launching this week with Unstoppable Doom Patrol #1 — is relatively simple. After DC’s Lazarus Planet event filled the atmosphere with material that vastly increased the earth’s count of metahumans, the Doom Patrol has taken it upon themselves to act as metahuman paramedics. It’s a concept that builds directly on the most-recent comics run for the franchise, which put Danny The Ambulance front and center and heavily bore that out in its visuals (although we don’t see said ambulance in this first issue).
It’s a clever enough concept, and it’s nice to see the Doom Patrol intermingled with other pieces of the DC Universe they share (we get a requisite Batman appearance already in #1). What really makes this new book work, though, (at least through the first issue) is the absolutely stunning artwork by Chris Burnham, colored here by Brian Reber. Burnham’s style and sensibilities are such a perfect for Doom Patrol, you’ll find yourself almost wondering how he’s never drawn a Doom Patrol comic before. As adept at depicting existential dream on faces as he is at laying down gnarly monsters, Burnham absolutely crushes this first issue, making it look so good that you’ll want to read this miniseries right through to the end.
So yes, for me those are the two headlining qualities of this issue — an interesting new concept that clearly wants to get the Doom Patrol involved with their fellow DC characters, and artwork that not only looks amazing, but also deeply understands what has always made this franchise work in a visual sense.
Past that, I also appreciated how this first issue worked to almost subtly incorporate new concepts into the Doom Patrol — Jane acting as Chief, the introduction of Beast Girl, the surprise appearance of another DC character as possible foil, and a last page splash that sees a gross status quo change for another long-time DCU oddball.
All in all, Unstoppable Doom Patrol #1 is good freaky fun with a hint of existential sadness and a clear desire to honor its central characters’ pasts while also pushing toward finding earned new additions. I highly recommend it (with extra points if you can score a Jane scratch-off cover).
Waller Vs. WildStorm #1
Writers: Spencer Ackerman and Evan Narcisse
Artist: Jesus Merino, with some inks by Vicente Cifuentes
Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
DC Comics has been making some smart new books lately. Books like G.C.P.D.: Blue Wall — the finale of which we reviewed here last week — and Gotham City: Year One, are using classic DC characters and settings to raise complex questions about major societal systems and structures, keeping readers engaged with genre fiction touches along the way. This week’s Waller Vs. WildStorm #1 is another worthy addition to this burgeoning line at the publisher.
The book — at least in this first issue — is from the perspective of Lois Lane, who is still relatively early in her journalism career. She’s risen in the field enough to get a complex overseas assignment paid for by a major city’s paper, but she’s still fighting editors (Steve Lombard, specifically in this one) for how her reporting should be handled. This is all (presumably) pre-Superman, and she’s faced here with what seems like the largest challenge of her career to date — unraveling power machinations in Gamorra at the end of the Cold War.
Lois is there to get the story, and already she’s encountering the leaders of rising movements, deep government operatives, spies, stories of Amanda Waller, and more. She’s trying to figure out who to trust, how to handle them, and how to handle their stories — and we as the audience are right there with her, with the book doing a great job of letting the reality and visuals be shaped by the perspectives of various narrators.
The book is being written by Spencer Ackerman and Evan Narcisse, both of whom have worked as prominent journalists, but as they told me recently when we spoke, this comic is not about journalism. While that is a useful framing device (and great entry point for readers), it’s more about the geopolitical power structures, the people who try to be heroes within them, and what the desire to help ultimately costs.
Like I said, it’s smart stuff. But it doesn’t shy away from the comics it is built upon. In this first issue, we’ll see characters that range from Jackson King (Battalion) of the WildStorm Universe, to the titular Amanda Waller, to Deathstroke, to Adeline Kane, of Checkmate. All of them are being bounced off of each other in ways that make sense but our also wholly new in their own right. There’s a feeling several times throughout this book that these characters must have previously interacted before — their pairings just make too much sense.
Making all of this coherent and interesting of course also involves top-tier work from artist Jesus Merino and colorist Mike Atiyeh. Their work makes it readily apparent which scenes are flashbacks, which are the stories being told by other characters, and which are happening in the book’s present. This is not always an easy task, and many very well-done scripts have been undone by artwork that doesn’t make these things readily evident.
All in all, I absolutely loved this first issue, a smart comic built on a foundation of some of the best superhero espionage comics ever made. It’s a big swing on the part of DC Comics – Black Label imprint, and after one issue, I’m in for the full ride.
- I am happy to report that Action Comics #1053 is yet another fantastic issue from that title, which has been great for a good while now. This one is written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, illustrated by Rafa Sandoval (who might be Big 2 leader for giant superhero slugfest at the moment), colored by Matt Herms, and lettered by Dave Sharpe. In this one, a big chunk of the Super-family squares off with Metallo and a bunch of people Metallo has deputized. It continues to build on the work Kennedy Johnson et al have done, while also starting to incorporate new threads from the relaunched Superman title. It’s good stuff.
- Simply put, Gotham City: Year One #6 this week stuck the landing for what has just been a fantastic miniseries, start to finish. It’s a hardboiled noir set in Gotham City before Batman, with Slam Bradley (of pre Golden Age Batman Detective Comics fame) as the center of the narrative. From there, it takes on questions of developmental opportunism as they intersect with housing, urban development and abusing/displaing long-time residents. It’s the type of book that will be mentioned among the top tier of the creators’ overall work, which is really saying something given it was written by Tom King and penciled by Phil Hester, with inks by Eric Gapstur, colors by Jordie Bellaire, and letters by Clayton Cowles.
- Well folks, Detective Comics #1070 was a total banger, probably the best individual issue from this run so far. It was written by Ram V., illustrated by Steffano Raffaele (fresh off a star turn with GCPD: Blue Wall), colored by Adriano Lucas, and lettered by Ariana Maher. It’s basically the pitch-perfect mix of action (we open with Solomon Grundy battling a paramilitary strike team) and introspection you want from your Batman. I also appreciate how this run continues to offer a different brand of Gotham-based storytelling than the main Batman title. I think those two books have always been at their best when they try to cater to different sensibilities, rather than one-upping each other or even acting as complimentary. That’s certainly what’s happening now as Tec provides a more gothic, grounded Batman story while Batman itself engages in flashy multiversal hijinks.
- Finally, you may have missed it, but there was more newness from DC’s slow-rolling Dawn of DC initiative this week, with Harley Quinn #28, which welcomed a new creative team onto that title. The book was written by Tini Howard, with art by Sweeney Boo, and letters by Steve Wands. Harley Quinn comics, of course, will vary wildly by your taste in superhero humor, but, like the run before it, this one felt pretty clever. It also made clear and satisfying effort to show us where Harley is at in relation to some other Gotham fixtures, as well as her currently-away-on-a-road-trip partner, Poison Ivy (in a must-read title right now). I’m finding I like Harley Quinn comics much better when they function in the same world as the rest of DC’s line, and not as some kind of fourth-wall breaking experiment in crude absurdities. But that’s just me.
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I dunno. I just find too much that comes out of DC today to be of poor quality. I think Johnson is probably the worst writer of Superman in recent memory (that Warworld story was endless and the new storylines aren’t much better). This issue of Detective was pretty incoherent and uninteresting overall, and the least said (And seen. And heard..And read.) about King, the better. The guy makes gibberish seem like Shakespeare, He has one note: crap all over legacy characters to the point where their inevitable deaths are preferable to reading more of his addled takes on them.
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