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, Jinxworld, Wonder Comics, 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 our team is here to help with, every Wednesday, with the DC Round-Up!
THIS WEEK: The Wonder Comics line gets a new heroine!
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.
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis & David F. Walker
Artist: Jamal Campbell
Letterer: Josh Reed
How does Bendis write so many comics? Seriously, as if writing two blockbuster titles like Superman and Action Comics isn’t enough, he is also putting out four books in his Jinxworld line every month. But wait, he also rebooted Young Justice a couple weeks ago as the start of yet another DC line, Wonder Comics. That’s a lot of comics! But apparently it’s not quite enough, as he added yet another book to his list of writing duties this week with Naomi #1 (alongside David F. Walker). I’m exhausted just thinking about his writing schedule.
Naomi is a new character and a new addition to the teen-targeted Wonder Comics line. The titular character is a high school student in a small town in Oregon where nothing ever happens. Except that Superman just crashed through the town in a super-fight with the world-conqueror Mongul yesterday! Now everyone in town is talking about it, but Naomi (who is kind of obsessed with Superman, to be honest) missed the whole thing. It’s just the sort of devastating event that can really ruin a teenager’s week.
Most of this first issue is spent showing the reactions of various townsfolk to the alien superfight. It’s a setting where people definitely know and love the heroes of the DC universe, and are mostly thrilled that a little bit of what they see on the news touched their quiet corner of the world. Her friends are content to talk it up for a day or two and then move on, but Naomi has a gut feeling that there’s more to the story. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but she can’t shake it.
This was a solid introduction to a fun new setting in the DCU that is different than the usual large city environment. People in the town gossip and know each other, spreading rumors of things that might or might not have happened. Naomi feels like a fully formed character already; we get hints that she doesn’t have a great relationship with her parents and that she’s struggled for a long time with her place in the world. She’s also got a boss who looks out for her, a counselor who listens to her, and good friends who genuinely love her. This is all about her, and Superman appears only in the background to spark her interest into investigating the town rumors.
One thing that strikes me about this book and the introduction of the Wonder Comics imprint in general is that we’ve never seen DC teenagers portrayed in a way that feels this contemporary. The big headline for the imprint is that the Young Justice team is back, but we’ve never seen these characters in a setting where smartphones are so ubiquitous and teens can access information so rapidly and easily. It’s a drastically different world today than it was when those older stories were written. I mean, imagine recreating any episode of Seinfeld where they all had cell phones — the plots would fall apart immediately. Sure, these are the characters that we nostalgically remember, but they’re not going to be the same. The characterization of the young protagonists in Naomi feels spot-on to modern high school interactions. And that’s exciting.
This is a story about connected teens in a sleepy town in a superhero world. I’m glad Bendis is making time to tell it.
Created by: Brian Michael Bendis & David Mack
Owen Art by: Michael Avon Oeming
Digital Coloring: Zu Orzu
Letters: Carlos Mangual
As much as I love the world of comic books, my exposure is admittedly very narrow in scope. You might not know it from reading these regular reviews: I dove into the deep end of the DC universe many years ago and could rattle off minute details of whatever obscure DC title you can think of from the last 30 years. My knowledge gets a little bit fuzzier as we inch into Vertigo/Wildstorm territory, and stops altogether at the Source Wall between comic publisher universes. When I had the chance to interview Brian Michael Bendis at the beginning of his Superman and Action runs last year, I greeted the opportunity with an enthusiastic, “Great! Now who is he?”
It’s not that I don’t enjoy a wide range of comics, it’s more that I only have so much brain space to hold all of the characters, relationships, events, and other facts that come with a sprawling fictional world. I tend to get fairly obsessive with my media consumption so I stick to familiar waters and only occasionally venture into the unknown.
It is against this backdrop that I’ve been eyeing Cover for the past few months. Flipping through this comic it’s clear that the art is something special. And best of all, it’s self-contained. No crossovers, no team-ups, no special guests. Just a rich story beautifully told.
Cover is a story about creating comic books and living as a comic book creator. Sure, there’s a cool spy story layered on top of it, but at its core it feels like a semi-autobiographical look at what life as a creative type is like. The main character, Max Field, attends comic conventions and gives interviews, trying to sell original art and struggling to answer fans’ questions about his work. When he’s not working a convention floor he’s drawing his next story arc or spending time with other industry folks who have become his close friends.
The real draw of this series is the way it uniquely incorporates the visuals into the storytelling. The reader is shown completed pages of Max’s published works that are overlain with a silhouetted figure of him in the act of drawing it. The effect is one of kinetic resonance — as if the act of creating the art is embedded inside the art itself. The reader is invited to contemplate the history of each brush stroke, to feel the author’s heart being poured out onto the page in real time.
There’s a (purposeful) sense of the art being unfinished. Panel borders are shakily drawn, the watercolor bleeding outside of the lines and splashing across the gutters. The figures are cartoonishly drawn in some places, hastily sketched in others, and appear as beautiful full-color portraits later on the same page. The entire piece gives off the feeling of being alive, in motion.
Cover also offers an array of contrasting art styles within its pages. In the same book, we are treated to an epic fantasy battle of Valkyries and ogres, eloquent Japanese calligraphy and spring blossoms, a Kirby-esque space opera. And above or outside of it all is the artist himself, contemplating what he has created and what he might next create. It’s an impressively rich world of color, form, and substance.
David Mack and Brian Michael Bendis have given us something personal and inviting in Cover. It’s as much about the world of art as it is about the art itself. Beautiful, moving, and quite unlike anything else.
- The pieces are starting to fall into place in this week’s Lucifer #4. This book is addictive- a dolorous wash of color and emotion, with secrets to spare. It’s a given that the characters will be put through hell and that’s exactly what we see here. Some pay for past treachery, others are marked for future punishment. It seems doubtful that any of them will escape unscathed, even (and especially) the Lord of Hell himself.
- Freedom Fighters #2 feels like a huge improvement on the jarring first issue. The team has been revealed and spends this issue doing what they do best: taking the fight to the oppressors. This feels like the old team at last, with Phantom Lady teleporting on the outskirts of the battle while Black Condor and Doll Woman take the direct approach. And you just know there are going to be some satisfying fireworks when Human Bomb’s gloves come off.
- Another fun-packed issue of SHAZAM! this week, as the kids blow off family time to explore the unknown frontiers of the Magiclands. Don’t skim past the wordy encyclopedia entry for Mr. Mind…there’s a subtle reveal in there that might make you question what you know about the immortal elders that give the kids their powers.
- The “Knightmares” issues of Batman have been fun, but it’s honestly getting a little bit much. Issue #63 this week goes out of its way to remind you that this is all a dream, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that nothing of consequence has happened in this book for a couple of months. It doesn’t help that this storyline won’t be continued until March, as the next two issues are a fill-in.
- Aquaman #44 is the second installment of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run, and so far it’s been a great read: Thoughtful, poignant, and mystical. The Arthur Curry we get here is a simple man who seeks answers and humbly navigates new relationships, not a regal pain in the ass who swim-punches his way through challenges. And is Queen Mera referring to herself with the royal “we” now?? Yes, we are quite pleased.
Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!
Louie is a freelance writer, editor, and desert dweller. He manages TimeIsBroken.com where he writes about comics, meditation and football. When he’s not reading Green Lantern, he is likely to be found crying over the Cleveland Browns.