THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up crew takes on a trio of big releases, including DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero CelebrationFuture State: Gotham #1, and Justice League: Last Ride #1.

ZACK QUAINTANCE: Okay team, for this month’s roundtable discussion, we’re actually tripling our fun and talking about not one but THREE notable new comics. Let’s start with the Future State: Gotham #1, since Future State was the impetus for these roundtables…thoughts on that book?

GREG SILBER: I like Red Hood now. Like, a lot. How did that happen?

Festival of Heroes

CORI McCREERY: I don’t know if I just didn’t pay attention to the solicit or something, but I did not expect it to be black and white, so that was a little jarring to be honest?

GREG: Yeah, I can’t lie, I was tempted to message you all like “hey was something wrong with my comp or is this supposed to be in black and white?” I’m here for black and white comics, although I do question its use for a character literally named Red Hood.

ZACK: I could see that being jarring if you weren’t expecting it, but I have to say, I dug the black and white. But Giannis Milonogiannis did a really great job with the shading. It kind of felt like an artistic choice that paid off to me.

CORI: I understand that this book is meant to be a bit Manga-inspired, but also I just didn’t expect it. Loved the art in the book though. It was really sleek and made good use of the restrictions of being black and white. Specifically when you are unable to use color to exaggerate things like explosions, you use other tricks like the distortion placed on a “BOOM” sound effect.

GREG: As a big Batman: Black and White fan, I love this noir-shaded Gotham, but I have to admit I confused Red Hood with the Peacemakers a few times. Their costumes are rather similar when you take the colors out, especially those masks.

ZACK: It all worked for me, visually. It also speaks to something that I’m really enjoying about this new DC regime, which is that they’re taking wild chances I can’t see the recently-moved on leadership taking, at least relative to normal Big 2 publishing. Somehow like every DC Comic is about Batman, but the line still feels more varied than it did five years ago. And I think books that take deliberate and confident artistic risks are part of why.

CORI: I also loved the end of the issue with the rest of Jason’s family confronting him for turning on them. That was a great end scene.

GREG: I agree. It is disappointing (even as a huge Bat-fan) that so much of the slimmed-down line is Bat-adjacent, but if that’s how it has to go, I’m glad they’re differentiating things so much, especially visually.

ZACK: That last page was fantastic. It makes me wonder what the end game for this comic is. I mean, I think the last two months have really made clear that Future State is basically the darkest timeline, and we’re watching the heroes make weighty decisions to avoid it. But this book is just going to wallow in that timeline? I think it’ll be interesting to see what the end game is to that.

GREG: It really has Jason stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place too in terms of being forced into an anti-superhero government stooge position, and I’m optimistic that the theme will be handled with appropriate weight.

Festival of Heroes

ZACK: I don’t have a good transition here, but we’ve got a lot to cover and I really want to spend a whole lot of time talking about my favorite book of the week, which we’re going to save for last…so, let’s get on to book two: what did you all think of Justice League: Last Ride #1? I for one am a little confused.

CORI: I think I wanted to like it more than I did. I love Chip Zdarsky, but it’s just yet another bleak alternate future, and there’s a lot of mystery to unpack with it right now. I get that bleak futures are an easy out for minis but we just had two months of that line-wide, and I’d like to see something a bit different, you know.

ZACK: I definitely trust Zdarsky and his collaborators to not make it excessively bleak in the end, or maybe to walk the line and not quite tip over into despair. But what is this book? Is it meant to be an Elseworlds title? Is it a leftover part of the Future State flash forward? Wasn’t it supposed to originally be digital-first? I’m disoriented.

GREG: I’m with you Zack in terms of the confusion, and I agree with Cori that as much as I like and trust Zdarsky, so far this just isn’t the kind of Justice League story I want right now. Granted, it’s incredibly well-done for what it is. I prefer to see the JL getting along more often than not, but their interactions here were spot-on, especially Superman’s argument with Lois. That said, I’m uneasy about the offhand remark that Batman killed someone. I’m a bit of a purist about Bruce’s “no killing rule” so I hope that’s handled in a way that makes sense.

ZACK: Was that someone revealed at the end to be Martian Manhunter? Someone burned up ol’ J’onn here.

Festival of Heroes

CORI: Also confusing to me, John, Jess and ’Wog are all in street cloths (Killowog in a hoody is a weird look), but Hal is in some ornate gobbledygook GL costume, how does he rate?

ZACK: Layers of confusion. And Wally is the Flash…what. timeline. is. this.

GREG: I think a lot could’ve been solved with a simple “sometime in the future” caption or something to that effect. But I suppose the confusion is intentional.

CORI: Well, clearly its before he becomes a speed zombie and kills all his family. The confusion is definitely intentional, but it’s a cheap trick to put the readers on their back foot, and while I expect it out of Tom King, I expect better of Zdarsky.

ZACK: I think we’re all in agreement that this book mostly just rates a “huh.” Any other thoughts on this one?

GREG: I guess I’ll have to… ride it out to see where it goes.

CORI: It had one of your favorite things at least Zack.

ZACK: The Daily Planet’s planet got destroyed. I did appreciate that. Let’s ride past Greg’s wordplay and on to my favorite book of the week. DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration.

CORI: I think we’re probably all in agreement there, this book was something special.

Festival of Heroes

GREG: There was such a palpable sense of joy throughout this whole thing. It really made me smile.

CORI: It really feels like Festival of Heroes and next month’s “Pride” book are a true testament to the New DC of Marie Javins. It’s hard to see either of these getting green-lit under Bob Harras and Dan DiDio.

ZACK: There’s a real commitment at DC these days to bringing new and different voices to this world and these characters, and some of those voices are massive talents who have really shone in other parts of the industry. DC wasn’t great with that in the recent past. But just look at some of the folks who worked on this book. Trung Le Nguyen, for example, made a HUGE debut last year with the excellent YA-skewing graphic novel, The Magic Fish, and now is in Festival of Heroes drawing a gorgeous Green Lantern short. I loved it.

GREG: Oh my goodness, that story was so pretty. I haven’t read The Magic Fish yet but this made me even more eager to.

ZACK: Consider it assigned reading, Greg. You’ll love it.

CORI: And characters we’ve really not seen lately getting a spotlight was great! Kenan Kong! Grace Choi! CONNOR HAWKE (yeah yeah I know he’s in Robin, but I have missed him so much!!!!)

Festival of Heroes

ZACK: I was going to bring that up. There’s plenty in Festival of Heroes for the wider DC Universe continuity nerds (us!) to feast on.

GREG: Yes! Besides showcasing the rich community of Asian creators throughout the comic book industry, Festival of Heroes was a fantastic showcase for some of DC’s lesser known heroes.

CORI: But there’s one character coming back that I honestly didn’t expect, and when I realized it, I almost cried. Because as much as I missed Connor Hawke, what was done to Lian Harper at the hands of DC editorial and James Robinson is one of the biggest beefs I have with DC of the last fifteen years. And Lian is back, but a bit different than we remember her.

ZACK: Continuity is really fluid right now linewide, and it seems like a lot of creators are using that to right wrongs like the one you mention, Cori. That touches on what I thought was another strength of this anthology: it reaches back in continuity but also moves ongoing plot threads (that one, specifically) forward, while kicking off some other new stuff to be explored later this year.

CORI: Also I LOVED the lettering in that particular story, especially the Bat-ears on the word balloon when Selina mimics Batman.

ZACK: Nice touch of the week, right there.

Festival of Heroes

GREG: There’s a lot of great comedy in this book. I especially liked the Robin story, which made me laugh out more than once in just a few short pages. I also appreciate that it reminds fans of Damian’s oft-forgotten Middle Eastern heritage. Anyway, guess who my new favorite superhero is.

CORI: Well I’m guessing it’s the Monkey Prince, but he’s not a superhero, in fact…

GREG: He hates superheroes! I know! But he is a monkey who, as far as I can tell, fights crime, so I have no choice but to stan.

CORI: I really loved that story, but it does just make me angrier that Shazam is getting handed to Tim Sheridan when YANG IS RIGHT THERE. GIVE HIM THE BOOK.

ZACK: Yang writing Shazam! is such a great fit, and the Monkey Prince is a perfect character debut.

CORI: The fact that his parents are career henchmen is a fantastic touch.

GREG: And what a great reveal too! I kept thinking “wait, is Billy Batson Asian? Is Dr. Sivana?” They sure had me fooled. I’m so excited to get more of this guy. It’s not just because I have a well-documented love of comic book monkeys. He’s just such a vibrant and interesting new addition to the DCU.

CORI: Honestly opening with Billy made me think we were going to move focus to Eugene, so that also got me.

GREG: Me too. I hate to say it, but Gorilla Gregg’s status as Sensational New Character Find of 2021 has been revoked. It’s all about the Monkey Prince now.

ZACK: I have no idea who Gorilla Gregg is. Anyway, I dig that these anthologies are getting meaningful debuts like this one too, and that it will surely drive plenty of folks to pickup the book for presumed later value, some of whom might read and enjoy the heck out of it as a result.

CORI: What was everyone’s favorite story in the anthology? I think mine was actually the first story with Cass. It was a really neat focus for her, and one of the more interesting aspects of her character with the minimal talking. And also Marcus To absolutely killed it.

ZACK: I loved the Cass story, in part because I also love boba with a burning intensity and banana boba sounds amazing.

GREG: I loved her monologue about feeling like speaking aloud is a barrier. My speech issues aren’t nearly as severe, but as a guy who’s had a lisp my whole life, I really appreciated the thoughtfulness with which it was written.

ZACK: I think my favorite story was the one with Kenan Kong and Connor Hawke. I really enjoy both of those characters, and I thought the dynamic between them was great. It’s also a thing where when I was reading New Super-Man however many years ago, I never in a million years would think he’d ever get be in a story/work so well with Connor Hawke, and the ending was a nice little blast of happiness.

CORI: Yeah that one’s probably my second favorite of the bunch. You could tell that Kenan was probing Connor to recruit a “Chinese” Green Arrow to the team.

GREG: I love Kenan (and that New Super-Man run, again by MVP Gene Luen Yang), and was also thrilled to see him return. And I appreciate that while he hasn’t regressed to where he was at the beginning of that series, he’s just enough of a jerk to be recognizable.

Besides Monkey Prince and that Damian story I mentioned, I think my favorite story may have been the one about Emiko Queen vs the kawaii monsters. It looks gorgeous, first of all, and I relate to the theme of resisting enjoyment of certain things you like because you’re afraid of seeming like a stereotype, and ultimately embracing it anyway.

ZACK: So many great and varied stories to pick from in that anthology. I think we’re all in agreement that one gets a hearty BUY recommendation.

GREG: Oh yeah, no question.

CORI: Oh absolutely. Without a doubt a Buy.

GREG: There’s not a bad or even mediocre story in the bunch. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more consistently enjoyable anthology.

ZACK: Alright crew, I think with that. We’ll wrap this discussion up. In conclusion, go buy Festival of Heroes…it is Very Good.

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