In June 2016, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu, entertainment editor Kyle Pinion, and contributor Louie Hlad are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
THIS WEEK: Milk Wars begins! Kyle has things to say! The Silencer also makes her debut! Kyle has more things to say!
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.
Justice League of America/Doom Patrol Special #1
Writers: Steve Orlando & Gerard Way
Illustrator: ACO (with Hugo Petrus)
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain & Marissa Louise
Letterer: Clem Robins
And here we are, at the comic in this new year I found myself most curious about. 2017 was really a year where I pretty hard for the Young Animal line, particularly the incredible Shade the Changing Girl, which was inarguably one of the stronger comics of the year, superhero or otherwise. But even in the titles where my feelings were a bit more mixed, they still had a creative momentum line-wide that was hard to deny. Sadly, the ever hanging Sword of Damocles on any critically acclaimed monthly comic is going to be its sales figures, and that was an area where Young Animal tended to struggle to find its way.
And so, built up in overt ways – through Doom Patrol‘s second arc – and more subtly – such as brief nods in Bug!, the first big crossover of the line has arrived. It’s weird to imagine comics with such strong individual identities falling into the ultimate crevice of superhero IP: the dreaded event-crossover, but even early Vertigo did it (1993’s The Children’s Crusade) and the corollaries between that era of the once towering “House that Alan Moore built” and the Gerard Way-curated imprint are pretty clear as Gen X to Millennial mirrors of one another. And so again, the crossover…Milk Wars, where the Doom Patrol as envisioned by Way and Nick Derington cross paths with the psuedo-CW inflicted iteration of the Justice League of America that’s been overseen by Steve Orlando. It’s an unexpected blend, that ends up making more sense the more you unpack it and get a great awareness of just what Orlando and Way have cooked up, and how it builds towards the shared themes of both titles.
The first half of the book is driven by its action, heroes arrive, twisted heroes then show up, they fight, which probably doesn’t sound all that appealing on its face, but that’s where bringing in Orlando’s old Midnighter collaborator ACO back into the picture is a tremendous stroke of visual aptitude. One of the things that made previous series sing was how these partners balanced Orlando’s heartfelt essaying of a (very violent) gay superhero with a pretty tragic back-history with ACO’s ability to perfectly conjur on the page just how that same hero’s powers work from his own perspective. God, I loved that book. And they get to do quite a bit of that here, but formatted to the themes and fantastical abilities of the Doom Patrol and JLA. From the long-missed DC YOU, there’s an always returning thought that books like Midnighter (and to an even greater degree, Prez) played as a sort of precursor to the Young Animal line, and now all of those key creators have been enlisted into its ranks in some form or another.
Everything is art!
Damn, there’s quite a bit of meat on this bone. It’s this week’s must-read.
The Silencer #1
Storytellers: John Romita Jr. and Dan Abnett
Inks: Sandra Hope
Colors: Dean White
Letters: Tom Napolitano
I’m not sure what to think of DC New Age of Heroes line so far, though admittedly we’re only two books deep into it. There’s a lot to admire in the effort, particularly when one considers how few *new* characters and concepts are ever really introduced at the Big Two. Not that anyone can be blamed for that trend given the issues surrounding lack of ownership and/or ancillary media rights, but it’s led to superhero comics basically recycling its core ideas even with hit characters like Ms. Marvel. Everything is an antecedent to something else basically. So when DC started to roll-out a line of brand-new characters and teams, the majority of which not having pre-existing relationships with their recognizable superhero families, that’s something worth taking notice of.
But last week’s Damage, while an attractive comic with a storytelling sensibility that feels like it was ripped right out of early 90’s Image (two-page splashes galore!!), there wasn’t a lot really there beyond a very Hulk-like character that the government is trying to get under control…just like the Hulk actually. Which is funny, I haven’t kept up with Marvel’s current status quo in some time, but it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that DC would offer a Hulk-like book, or their own take on Spider-Man or Fantastic Four when those titles have undergone significant chases from the baseline. A sort of, “if you’re looking for this, we’ve got it on offer!”. Neither here nor there, but it’s an interesting thing to muse on. The Silencer, on the other hand, really gets away from that idea.
- It’s a fifth week, which means a really thin selection of comics, though I was impressed that this time around there were a number of titles that had me excited to crack it open. I saw Astro City hit #50 this week, and here’s what that prompted me to do over the weekend…to finally sit down and read this current volume. I’ve read that title in fits and starts, always enjoying it, but getting distracted by something else along the way. This time around I’ve decided to read the new volume all the way through, especially to get caught up before it ends at issue #52 (ahead of its new OGN release schedule). Maybe just maybe I’ll have it all read in a couple of months. Root for me! And then I can go back and read The Dark Age, which I got on sale months ago.
- The Flash had its first annual, which is surprising, as I figured we had one already, but this one kicks off Flash War – giving Williamson a chance to play fully with the older Wally West and in turn find a way to build a fairly believable way to drive a wedge between he and Barry (and the other Wally). I’ve found this run, by and large, to be a reliable producer of solid superhero comics over the past almost two years. It’s never spectacular, or at the top of my to-read pile, but I rarely come away thinking that I’m exhausted of reading it in the way I feel about something like Green Arrow or the current run on Wonder Woman. The end twist of course really sets things into motion and has me really anticipating where this big storyline is headed.
- I quite enjoy the manic energy and ridiculousness of Dark Nights: Metal #5, and it brought back my girlfriend’s favorite superhero of all time. That’s a book that’s going to be in my good graces no matter what, but that it continues to play with the darker side of the musical intonations of The Multiversity makes it feel like the proper follow-up to pre-establish Morrison ideas that my friends and I complain we never get makes me enjoy it all the more. Also, lots of good Wonder Woman here, especially right at the end when she and Kendra have a big moment of pure badass together. I love how nuts this book is.
- Mystik U #2 is my favorite Zatanna story since Seven Soldiers and the best attempt at the Harry Potter meets superhero idea that I’ve seen yet. Of the prestige mini-series line that DC is putting out, it’s inarguably among my top 3 (Mister Miracle and Batman: Creature of the Night are tough competition). But it’s a wonderful little tribute to the magic side of the DCU, and a perfect way to rope in those YA fans who were into Gotham Academy are curious to see what the best possible follow-up to it might be.
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