THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up team convenes for a roundtable discussion of notable new DC Comics titles including the weekly Shadows of the Bat story in Detective Comics, Superman ’78, and more.
(A Note About Spoilers: The following discussion contains mild spoilers for the titles being covered. For a spoiler-free verdict on each title, scroll to the end of its respective section of the discussion and look for the verdicts in bold.)
CORI MCCREERY: I’m absolutely loving it. It’s a Batman story without Batman, which is always fun, and Mariko Tamaki really did a wonderful job of setting up the mystery of what’s going on.
JOE GRUNENWALD: I too am I really enjoying this one. I particularly appreciate how well-paced it is, with stories focused on individual characters and plotlines playing out gradually (well, as gradually as they can for a situation that we already know is going to come crashing down at some point). The mystery of what’s going on and how it’s happening has been great, and the reveal with this week’s issue was executed wonderfully. I’m also a longtime big fan of that particular character, so I’m always happy when he pops up.
ZACK: Are we not saying the character who shows up at the end, his face is the cover of next week’s issue…
JOE: We can say it, I’m just spoiler-shy. It’s Roger Hayden, aka The Psycho-Pirate.
CORI: Is it his face on the cover or is it his mask, Zack, come on.
ZACK: His masked face.
CORI: Hmm… I’ll allow it I guess.
JOE: I know he was kicking around a bit during Tom King’s Batman run — I’ll go back and finish that at some point — but he was last seen in a very different form in Infinite Frontier, so it’ll be interesting to see if this ties in to that over-story somehow.
ZACK: But I too enjoy that character popping up, and I appreciate that he was sort of present in this story all along in a way that made total sense. I like when weekly stories set twists like that up and then reorient slowly as it all unfolds.
CORI: I do really like how he’s being used in this story though. It seems like a perfect use of him.
JOE: It really does. It’s the sort of no-brainer thing that makes you wonder why it’s never been done before.
ZACK: Another thing I’ve loved about Shadows of the Bat so far, which is about to change, is the art team. Ivan Reis has evolved so much and is now one of my favorite DC artists. I appreciate the way he tailors his work so specifically to the aesthetic of the stories he works on, and I especially like his work here inked by Danny Miki and colored by Brad Anderson. What a team.
JOE: It has been wonderful having one art team on four weekly issues in a row. What a rare thing to have happen.
CORI: Really makes you wonder how far ahead he had to be working to accomplish that.
ZACK: What do you all think of the specific members of the Batfamily in play throughout Shadows of the Bat?
CORI: It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen so much of Kate, and I’m very glad she’s getting an expanded role right now. I feel like we probably could have had a different Batfam member than Dick though for the other lead of the story, maybe one without their own book like Tim? I dunno.
JOE: I like the dynamic between Kate and Dick, though. She’s one of the only members of the family that he’s not sort of a big brother to, so there’s room for interesting tension there. I thought their interactions were great. I also feel like, over the course of her run on Detective, Tamaki has done character-defining work with Huntress.
ZACK: I was actually trying to lead with my earlier question to bring up Huntress, so I’m glad we got there. I really like how this run is using Huntress.
CORI: Yeah, agreed there. This is the best the Huntress has been in decades.
ZACK: For a good while, she’s basically just been, “the one with the crossbow.”
CORI: Or the spy matriarch of spy school.
JOE: I like Helena because she’s never felt like an actual ‘member’ of the Batfamily to me. She was never ordained by Batman, she just did her own thing, even when she was masquerading as Batgirl during No Man’s Land. I could imagine a scenario in which Huntress and Spoiler became a crimefighting duo, had Steph’s path gone differently. It’s been nice to see Helena brought into the fold more in Detective overall and in this storyline in particular.
CORI: No no Joe she was very briefly ordained by Bruce in JLA, and then quickly exiled again.
JOE: Ha, I always forget she was in the JLA for fifteen minutes.
ZACK: It was a very good 15 minutes.
JOE: She got fired for trying to kill Prometheus, right? Good times.
ZACK: I have one more question about Shadows of the Bat: what do you all think of the way the supporting cast is being used? I’m thinking of characters like Mayor Nakano, Dr. Chase Meridian, and the reporter, Deb Donovan?
CORI: I really like it, I think these civilian characters are adding a lot of depth to the story that we don’t often get with Batman stories because all of his normal supporting cast are also crime fighters. And the fact that we get Dr. Chase Meridian is just an absolute joy. It’s a shame Batman’s out of town because I want her to be absolutely horny for him.
JOE: Agree 100%. I like that Detective has been very much a series about more than just Batman, and now about more than just the Batfamily. The fleshing out of characters like Nakano and Deb Donovan has been really well done, and makes the whole of Gotham feel richer.
ZACK: I entirely agree, which is why I brought it up. I love how most of these characters don’t fit into a neat box. They may be allies, they may not be, and that all may change based on circumstance. I’m finding it really compelling.
JOE: The relationship between Batman and Nakano in particular is really interesting. Nakano seems like a good person, and it’s fun to see those two come up against each other philosophically.
ZACK: Yeah, like they’re definitely both trying to help, but in ways so different that it’s put them at odds at times. We’ve kind of moved past that following Fear State, but the memory still lingers in a way that keeps me interested in what Nakano is going to do from situation to situation…Anything else anyone wants to add about Shadows of the Bat before we move on?
CORI: DAN MORA WORLD’S FINEST!!!!! (Well not Shadows of the Bat, but Detective #1050 all the same)
JOE: I will just say that I’m also really enjoying the House of Gotham backup stories, filling out Doctor Wear’s background.
ZACK: Oh yeah! Those have been great. Some of my favorite backups in this new backup-heavy era, and that says a lot because I’ve enjoyed so many of the backups.
JOE: And yes, the Mark Waid/Dan Mora/Tamra Bonvillain teaser for World’s Finest in this week’s issue was an utter delight.
CORI: Yeah I too have really enjoyed the backups here. They are a really interesting character dissection of a man harmed by both Batman’s war on crime and the Joker.
ZACK: So verdict-wise, I’m a BUY on Detective Comics and Shadows of the Bat this week.
CORI: Hard BUY for Shadows of the Bat.
JOE: Enthusiastic BUY from me as well for Shadows of the Bat. Worth it for the World’s Finest backup alone, to be honest.
JOE: I’m a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, so I’m a really easy mark for this series, and it didn’t disappoint in the slightest.
CORI: I absolutely loved it. I’ve actually been leading a Discord I’m part of through a watch of the Reeve canon Superman movies, so falling into this series has been very natural, and I wish it had been the third installment of the movies instead of Superman III. (We’re watching Superman IV: The Quest For Peace on Sunday, pray for me).
JOE: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is the most comic book-y Superman movie, and for that reason I love it.
CORI: I do look forward to seeing the best live action Lex Luthor before he was LEX Luthor.
JOE: I thought Robert Venditti and Wilfredo Torres captured the spirit of those films wonderfully, though.
ZACK: I really enjoyed how Gene Hackman-y the Lex in this comic looked. I mean all the characters looked a lot like their movie counterparts, but Torres seemed to have a lot of fun hamming it up with Lex/Hackman faces.
CORI: But back to the comic, it was really, really well done. Venditti did a great job of capturing these versions of the characters so well that I heard the actors’ voices in my head, and Torres did a great job of making them look like those same actors. And god, Venditti wrote one of the best Superman lines I’ve ever read: “I came from one planet and crashed on another. The first two people I met took me in and loved me as their own. How could I not see good?”
JOE: Torres did a great job capturing Marlon Brando‘s vacant stare as he reads his lines off of a baby’s diaper.
ZACK: There was such a sense of gleefulness that ran throughout this book, almost in every issue. This one, for example, had …and I really don’t want to spoil this for anyone…the Goonies show up, paying homage to another famous Richard Donner film. It caught me totally off guard and I loved it.
JOE: I LOVED the Goonies cameo.
CORI: It was delightful.
JOE: The previous issue had Shaggy from Scooby Doo in it for some reason, among others.
ZACK: This book has been a romp. It just did a really good job capturing the spirit of the films and also combining some superman elements that weren’t in those movies, maybe because of special effects.
JOE: But yes, I think “gleefulness” is the best way to describe the vibe of this series. It’s a total nostalgia trip that does interesting things with the characters and the story that would maybe not have been doable given technological limitations in the early ’80s…Haha I said what you said, whatever I’m okay with it.
CORI: I think maybe they couldn’t have done this in the 80s with the effects limitations.
JOE: I bet you’re right, Cori.
ZACK: Next question. Have we considered that some of the things in this comic might not have been possible in the movies, given the 80s effects limitations?
JOE: This is another BUY from me, and I hope they put out a nice hardcover collection that explores how this series builds on the technical limitations of the ’80s.
CORI: BUY from me as well. I really hope we get another mini-series from this team with the plot of another movie.
JOE: Robin Williams as Mxyzptlk, please.
CORI: GOD PLEASE JOE.
ZACK: BUY from me too, and yes, buy for the whole series once it gets collected…So, we’re winding down our first roundtable of the year here, and I wanted to ask, in 2022, what are some things we’re all looking forward to/hoping for from DC Comics?
JOE: So I held off on getting into this during our Detective #1050 discussion, but pump that World’s Finest series directly into my veins.
CORI: Honestly, I just want them to keep on doing what they’ve been doing for the last year. This past year has been a breath of fresh air, and the editors and creative teams are really getting to play with ideas in a way that had been stagnant for a long time.
ZACK: I’m on the keep doing what you’re doing train too. But also? Cannot wait for the second half of Nice House on the Lake. That’s not only one of my most anticipated DC things, but one of my most anticipated comics things for the year overall.
JOE: That book was the biggest surprise of 2021 for me. What an incredible comic.
CORI: For me the most anticipated things are: Earth Prime (which includes a story with art from my favorite Superman artist of all time) and the next iteration of DC: Pride. Last year’s Pride was a major highlight for me, and I can’t wait to see the follow up.
JOE: World’s Finest aside, I think the thing I’m most excited about for 2022 is the thing I haven’t thought of yet. That maybe sounds stupid, but I’m excited for the next book like One-Star Squadron, a totally odd-ball out-of-left-field series that you never even knew you wanted but that, when it’s announced, it just hits all the right buttons. That’s what I’m excited for – being surprised by things, and DC taking chances on things.
ZACK: That’s a nice thought, Joe. I agree with that. Okay! Last question…let’s dream big, what’s a thing you all want that hasn’t been announced yet? I’ll go first: new Doom Patrol comics.
JOE: Greg’s not here, so I’ll say the thing he would say but also I want it as well: a new Animal Man comic. They’re setting up a team-up in The Flash – let’s see it!
CORI: You mean aside from their appearance in World’s Finest Zack? For me though, I want a Dreamer series written by Nicole Maines. If I’m gonna dream (heh heh) big, I might as well shoot for the stars.
ZACK: I actually did mean aside from their appearance in the World’s Finest, but great answers all around. Anything else to add before we wrap up?
JOE: 2022’s off to a solid start so far, both for DC and for the Round-Up. Happy to still be here with you all again for another year.
CORI: It feels weird that we didn’t do any number ones, but uh, that’s for the best, friends. Happy new year everyone!
ZACK: Thanks for chatting friends, and thanks for reading! Here’s to a solid 2022!
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