THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up team convenes for their monthly roundtable discussion to talk about the current goings-on in the Fear State storyline, in particular this week’s Peacekeeper-01 Secret Files & Origins, plus the debuts of Nubia and the Amazons and Catwoman: Lonely City.

Batman Secret Files: Peacekeeper-01

Writer: Ed Brisson
Plot: James Tynion IV & Ed Brisson
Artist: Joshua Hixson
Colorist: Roman Stevens
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Rafael Sarmento

Joe Grunenwald: Welcome back to another DC Round-Up roundtable edition. We’ve got some exciting books to chat about this week, team, so let’s get right into it. We’re past the halfway point for the current Fear State storyline in the Bat-titles, with four new entries this week alone. What’re everyone’s impressions of how the event has gone, and the new additions to it for this week?

Cori McCreery: I’m still very much digging it. The main plot in Batman is fantastic, and the sideplots in the tertiary books are really cooking. But most importantly the one-shots continue to blow me away unexpectedly. I didn’t expect to come out of a Peacekeeper one-shot actually liking the character and understanding his struggle. I still don’t like him as a person, but the character is a lot more interesting to me now.

Greg Silber: I fell behind (I say this every week, sorry but it’s true!) but the Peacekeeper-01 one-shot makes me want to catch up. What a wallop of a done-in-one. Perfectly representative of how politically urgent Gotham stories can be when they’re allowed to, with barely any Batman or superheroes at all. Timely too, with a great commentary on how police corruption affects communities and individuals for generations

Zack Quaintance: I’ve mentioned this before but I remember feeling a little trepidation when they were teasing all these new characters. These one-shots, however, have generally done a great job of giving each of them depth in a way that expands a different theme in the event.

Silber: The bat-books throughout James Tynion IV and company’s tenure have felt wonderfully additive. These are new characters who feel like they’ve belonged in Gotham since 1939.

McCreery: It’s definitely more additive than we’ve seen from this line since the 1990s for sure. And if these characters have the staying power of the ones introduced that time around, we’re in for some good years.

Grunenwald: I agree that, of all of the new parts of the storyline this week, the Peacekeeper-01 Secret Files was the most surprisingly strong entry. I enjoy Ed Brisson‘s crime comics quite a bit and there’s a lot of that vibe in this one. Joshua Hixson‘s artwork is also reminiscent of Michael Lark‘s work on Gotham Central, which I really appreciate as a different look at the GCPD.

McCreery: Yeah the art was dirty and pulpy and I loved that. It was just the right tone for the story.

Quaintance: Joshua Hixson is one of those artists — like Jorge Fornés as well — whose style is really well suited for Gotham.

Silber: Hixson is great, and I want to shout out Roman Stevens‘ colors, too. I really appreciate how they make it look gritty without literally being dark, two things that superhero comics tend to think go hand in hand.

Grunenwald: Yes, Stevens’s colors are fantastic. I also really enjoy the convention of using different palettes to denote flashbacks vs. modern-day scenes that’s used very effectively here.

Silber: I really love how the flashbacks humanize him without forgiving him for his present self.

Grunenwald: As for Fear State overall, I think it’s been a pretty solid storyline. The middle of these events sometimes feel like they drag – I know I felt that way with Joker War – but the ancillary tie-ins have helped with that. I don’t even find myself really caring what Batman’s doing at this point because everything around him has been so entertaining.

McCreery: Yeah they do a great job of telling you why he turned out that way, but also demonstrating that the fault was not entirely on others. I am mostly waiting for the next issue of Batman for more “Batgirls,” because I’m a parody of myself.

Silber: The backups lately have been so tight. Can’t wait for Mark Waid and Dan Mora to bring World’s Finest to Detective Comics.

Quaintance: Wow, I think “I don’t even care what Batman’s doing” might disqualify Joe from this chat.

Silber: Why do you hate Batman Joe

McCreery: Joe, hater of Batman and Supergirl.

Grunenwald: Look, it needed to be said. This was my unpopular opinion about Batman.

Quaintance: Fair. We finally got it out of you.

Silber: In your defense, there aren’t enough people on the internet attempting to make unpopular statements about Batman. (This is sarcasm, for anyone not on Twitter)

McCreery: Luckily this is all the Batman we’re talking about this week.

Grunenwald: But yes, let’s move on, shall we?

Nubia and the Amazons #1

Story: Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala
Script: Stephanie Williams
Penciller: Alitha Martinez
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Emilio Lopez
Letterer: Becca Carey
Cover Artists: Alitha Martinez & Laura Martin

Grunenwald:This week also saw the delayed debut of the new Nubia and the Amazons miniseries. What’d you all think of the first issue of that one?

McCreery: I thought it was very interesting, and I think it’s setting the seeds for the Trial of the Amazons event that will be coming next year, but it wasn’t quite the knockout punch I was hoping it would be.

Silber: I really wanted to like this one, because I like the creators and the character, but I gotta say the pacing left me feeling a bit empty. Especially for a first issue, it’s hard to get me invested in a comic with so many words and so little eventfulness.

McCreery: It has big ideas, but it didn’t do a lot with them to really capture me.

Grunenwald: You know, I actually really enjoyed this one. I liked the pacing, giving readers an extended look at what the process is like for welcoming new Amazons to Themyscira. I also think the Well of Souls opening up and all of the other elements that are established here, plus just seeing what Nubia’s reign as Queen of the Amazons looks like, are fairly eventful. It is definitely a lot of set-up, but I thought it was executed well.

Quaintance: I liked it as well. I enjoyed the little character touches, which felt well done throughout. It reminded me of the start of a really good sword and sorcery story almost, with the look at mythos, ruling tradition, and history. Plus, I thought the artwork was great, well suited for the plot and themes.

Silber: Alitha Martinez rules. I think we can all agree on that.

McCreery: I feel like I’ll like it more as more of it comes out. I don’t think it was bad, it just wasn’t the exact thing I was looking for.

Grunenwald: I also thought this was a more engaging intro to Nubia than what we got during Future State. I appreciated that Stephanie Williams and Vita Ayala actually gave readers her origin (especially since I didn’t know it beforehand).

Quaintance: I think one challenge Wonder Woman comics often have is that there are so many ideas that are part of the character. Writers seem to at times struggle with what to explore, which is especially a problem when there’s one main Wonder Woman title. I’ve appreciated editorial going in on more titles, which have let creators sort of split up the various ideas.

Silber: Yeah, she’s so iconic that it creates a real temptation to try to make every Wonder Woman story a grand statement about what she represents, and while great stories have certainly come out of that, she needs space to just have good stories that don’t necessarily encapsulate her entire being.

Quaintance: Exactly. Themyscira is a thing we almost always only see in brief, or in really simplified terms.

Grunenwald: I think that was what I liked so much about this issue. We really get to spend some time there and just see what life is like outside of tournaments and fighting and arguing over whatever crap Man’s World is getting into.

Quaintance: And Steve Trevor or Orion or whoever is probably not about to show up, as is often the case.

McCreery: Or Jason.

Quaintance: Who…I’ve blocked that out.

Grunenwald: Let’s never speak of him again, please. I don’t know why you would bring that unpleasantness in here, Cori.

McCreery: If I have to remember him, you all have to.

Silber: I for one am a huge fan of Wonder Woman’s brother, a thing she definitely needed to have. (Just kidding, I never read that arc and if I can help it never will.)

McCreery: We should probably move on from this though.

Silber: Yes please.

Grunenwald: Agreed.

Catwoman: Lonely City #1

Writer, Artist, Colorist, Letterer, & Cover Artist: Cliff Chiang

Grunenwald: This week also saw the long-awaited debut of Cliff Chiang‘s Black Label book, Catwoman: Lonely City. Did we need another possible future for Gotham?

McCreery: I don’t know that we needed one, but I was blown away by what Chiang delivered here.

Silber: Actually, yeah, it turns out we did, Joe. I really loved this debut issue, mostly on the strength of Chiang’s art. But I really love that we have a riff on The Dark Knight Returns – a Gotham hero returning to adventuring well into middle age – that actually grapples with the theme of aging in a way Frank Miller never did… and probably couldn’t, as a 30-year-old at the time.

McCreery: Old Lady Catwoman was an absolute delight, especially the references to how her body can’t really handle the things she’s trying to do with it now.

Grunenwald: Yeah, that was a cheeky way to start but I agree, if DC wants to keep giving us possible futures for Gotham that are as good as this one is, I’m on board. I hadn’t considered that it’s a riff on TDKR but you’re absolutely right, Greg, and it works beautifully.

Quaintance: I also read it as a riff on TDKR, and I absolutely loved it. It’s just so charming in every way, and relentlessly well done.

McCreery: I didn’t, because I try not to think about Frank Miller, but I can also see it.

Silber: I really loved how, as much as it realistically depicts an older woman struggling to be as spry as she once was, it’s not ageist or sexist. For example, as intentionally unpleasant as it was to have The Penguin creeping on Selina, I appreciate that Chiang makes the point to show us that she’s still sexy as hell.

McCreery: God Penguin was so nasty, and it was perfect for him.

Quaintance: I thought all the villains were used super well here. It actually might be my favorite use of all time of Killer Croc, unless there’s one I’m forgetting.

Silber: Oh my god, can we talk about how… adorable Croc is here? I love old, chilled-out Killer Croc.

Grunenwald: I also love the use of Croc here. He’s a Croc who knows who and what he is and seems fine with it.

Quaintance: I believe in Old Croc…uh…Croc.

McCreery: He was absolutely the best. Croc here is like King Shark in the Harley Quinn show, the absolute best version of a monstrous water creature man hybrid.

Silber: Yes! Very different takes on that premise, but a perfect comparison. I liked the design of middle-aged Barbara Gordon, too.

Grunenwald: I was just going to say, Babs was one of my favorite parts.

Silber: I appreciate that she’s once again disabled in this universe.

McCreery: She’s sapphic right? That’s the vibe I was getting.

Grunenwald: Oh yeah I totally got that vibe as well.

Silber: The vibe is undeniable.

McCreery: I hope that gets expanded on more in future issues, and actually textualized, but it really felt like Wayne was her kid with that interruption.

Grunenwald: Oh yeah, I felt like there was more to Babs and Wayne’s interaction as well. The only part that I bumped on was Babs saying that Bruce’s money did more good for Gotham than being Batman ever did, but that’s mostly because I’m so tired of that discourse on the internet. I also thought it was handled well, though, with the acknowledgement that things still aren’t perfect.

Silber: The “Bruce’s money” bit had me bracing myself for cringe but it was perfectly handled. Acknowledges that, yes, a billionaire’s money could go a long way in the real world, but it’s not quite so simple in the DCU.

Quaintance: I’m also super-tired of that discourse but it was fine here, in part I think because what happens with the money is a natural question if you take Bruce Wayne out.

Grunenwald: I think my favorite character here was Two-Face, though. I love that he’s just a regular politician now, but half of his face is horribly disfigured. Usually in a ‘reformed Harvey Dent’ storyline there’s some sort of plastic surgery involved, but Harvey coming to terms with his other half and learning to live with it really struck a chord for me.

Silber: Oh yeah, that like everything else in this issue felt really cleverly considered.

McCreery: I did really enjoy Two-Face the mayor.

Silber: And let’s face it: can we really say someone like Two-Face wouldn’t get elected in real life?

Grunenwald: Finally a politician you can easily tell is two-faced, amirite?

McCreery: Sadly that’s one of the most believable things about it.

Grunenwald: Any final thoughts about Catwoman: Lonely City, or any of the other new DC books for this week?

Silber: Just that this is a great time to be a DC fan! It’s been, what, a year since Marie Javins took over from Dan DiDio? If that? She seems to run a super-tight ship and while there’s comparatively less material than the recent past, the books DC is putting out remain remarkably consistent.

Grunenwald: From what I’ve seen people who work there say on social media it feels like a lot of the philosophy at DC right now is just to get out of creators’ ways and let them tell good stories, which who would’ve known that’s a recipe for success?!

Quaintance: Catwoman: Lonely City is certainly a good example of that. My last thought is this book just might be my favorite Batman comic of the year, which is really saying a lot.

McCreery: The last thing I have to say is that I’m really glad that Superman: Son of Kal-El didn’t do what I was afraid it was going to do.

Grunenwald: Ooo, cryptic! I haven’t read that one yet. That’s as good a place as any to leave it, though. Until next time, everyone!

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  1. I loved the Catwoman book. Chiang could draw a Denny’s menu and it would still be worth reading. It especially stands out given how bad so much of the rest of DC’s line is right now.

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