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, 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: We enjoy the long-lost Doom Patrol #12, while Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound Special tells a Vietnam story that also speaks to the unease of modern times.
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: Gerard Way, Nick Derington, Jeremy Lambert
Artist: Dan McDaid
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: Todd Klein
DC’s Doom Patrol has become an erratic friend, one we only see sporadically, but man do we have some fun when we hang out. It’s been six months since we last got together, yet here comes Doom Patrol #12 this week, wanting to grab a drink and catch up, feeling at once familiar and different, as entertaining as it ever was (more on that in a second) despite much having changed since we last saw each other.
To recap: Doom Patrol was the flagship title of DC’s Young Animal imprint, which launched two years ago and was curated by My Chemical Romance frontman-cum-comic writer Gerard Way. Young Animal was loose, non-conventional, surprising, and delightfully-abstruse. It featured a half dozen titles and was essentially a refuge for quirky DC characters, separate from the mainstream sensibilities of the publisher’s traditional superhero universe. In May, however, Way announced that Young Animal would be put on pause, making clear as he did a desire to later rekindle the imprint and continue Doom Patrol, ideally free of the delays that were plaguing the book.
With this in mind, Doom Patrol #12 reads almost like a pivot issue. It’s an entertaining and well-done comic, to be sure, with a plot that capitalizes on the pop culture zeitgeist’s current familiarity with and interest in Dungeon and Dragons, doing so by plunging Lucius Reynolds (aka The Great Ludini) into a fantasy role playing quest alongside his family. Lucius is one of this run’s most relatable (if underused) characters, and it’s good to see him back and featured so prominently. During this adventure, reality blurs (this is Doom Patrol, after all) as our heroes fight to reclaim the thorned throne of the Daemonscape. More importantly, their little family must come together as a unit, overcoming past trauma to face down fantastical weirdness inherent to a good D&D game. It’s a solid concept and story, very much in keeping with the metatextual spirit of the title.
Dan McDaid’s artwork, however, is the real star. He’s got big pencils to fill, stepping in for Nick Derington. Derington and McDaid’s styles share little in common—Derington takes a cleaner, more minimalist approach—but both artists do imaginative work rich with flourishes and surprise. McDaid’s art here is certainly distinctive, more than capable of nurturing the oddball aesthetic of the book on his terms. I was thoroughly impressed by the linework in so many panels, far too many to name. There is, however, a Lord of the Rings-esque panoramic battle about midway through that ranked as my favorite, intermingling expansive blurry chaos with intricate foreground detail.
Colorist Tamra Bonvillain is also vital, providing the clear definition the story needs to separate its fantasy world from past events that are more firmly grounded in reality. Bonvillain uses a lush palette that turns the fantasy realm’s sky to a pastel magenta, before shifting to more ominous blues once the group heads into the villain’s interior lair. Simply put, this would be a very different comic without this specific colorist’s contributions.
I enjoyed this comic a good deal, even though it’s unclear when (or if) we’ll see a new installment. Doom Patrol #13 is yet to be solicited. Doom Patrol #12, however, feels like a pivot point, not a series finale, a potential passing of the torch, with Derington giving over to McDaid while Way entrusts some of the writing burden to collaborator Jeremy Lambert. Taking Way’s comments from months ago about the future of Young Animal, one can surmise that Doom Patrol #12 is less an ending than it is a blueprint for the title moving forward. Who knows, maybe as Doom Patrol gets a little older, it’ll also get more reliable and we’ll be able to hang more than once or twice a year.
Writer: Mark Russell
Penciler: Rick Leonardi
Inkers: Dan Green (pgs. 1-12, 15, 23, 29) & Ande Parks (pgs. 13, 14, 16-22, 24-28, 30)
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Wes Abbott
A standard preface for discussing writer Mark Russell’s work has become, “This sounds weird, but…”, and I get it. How else does one start a sentence that ends with, “…this comic book about Snagglepuss made me want to be a better man”? See, in the past four years or so, Russell has consistently taken bygone Hanna-Barbera and Looney Tunes characters (see The Flintstones, Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, Lex Luthor/Porky Pig Special #1) and used them to tell poignant, often-satirical stories about our times. He’s at it again now with Green Lantern/Huckleberry Hound Special #1.
So yes, this sounds weird, but the Green Lantern / Huckleberry Hound Special #1 is one of the smartest thought-provoking comics I’ve read this year. It’s a narrative meditation on power and the shockwaves that exercising power sends into the world, with special attention paid to racial dynamics, fascism and corruption. The plot is set in the Vietnam era, an inspired decision that enables the storytellers to create historical fiction that doubles as provocative wish fulfillment for modern times. That concept sounds contradictory, but Russell and artist Rick Leonardi pull it off.
Their means for doing so is twofold: first, this story depicts President Nixon’s Watergate scandal and real outraged reactions of politicians on both sides of the aisle, drawing understated yet obvious parallels to the behavior currently enabling the corrupt lies and petty combativeness roiling the White House. It had never before occurred to me how absurd it is that we can look back today at a sitting president leaving office in shame as idyllic, like, “Ah the halcyon days of the Watergate scandal, how I miss them so.” Yet, that’s where we’re at as a country.
The second way this comic deals in wish fulfillment is simpler, though no less serious. Out of continuity, it reimagines John Stewart’s origin a bit, giving him an older brother beaten to death by police during what should have been an innocuous interaction. Stewart’s conflict then becomes whether he should use his green lantern ring to stop police abuse. This decision is made more complex by a reminder of Sinestro, whose own intentions to enforce justice eventually crumbled into fascism. The test for Stewart, it turns out, is not whether he can follow rules. No, it’s whether he knows when to disobey, to be human and do the right thing independent of governing power structures. The central idea is, essentially, that the road to peace is not through strong man-isms, but rather through leading by example and inspiring people to want to be peaceful, to want to be better because it’s in the world’s best interests. Stewart could stop police violence all he wants; the real challenge is healing the discord that causes racism and abuse.
If I have a quibble with this comic, it’s that the Huckleberry Hound storyline feels tacked on. The book works to make Huckleberry’s presence support the themes in the story, using the character to provide some insight about those who perpetrate racism. In this capacity, Huckleberry is able to give relatable voice to the shared plight of poverty, having him then wonder aloud why some folks choose to get angry at other populations of oppressed peoples, rather than those who unjustly abuse power. Huckleberry is also alluded to here as the son of the Huckleberry Hound character from Russell’s recently-concluded Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, and he’s used to reopen and contextualize anew that book’s ideas about costs artists pay when they try to change society, although all of that rightfully takes a backseat to Stewart’s story. In the end, this is another top-tier Mark Russell comic, akin to The Flintstones and Snagglepuss, netting it a full recommendation.
- Heroes in Crisis #2 is basically more of the same. If you felt ambivalent toward issue one, carry on. If you found it intriguing, same. Here’s hoping #3 packs some surprises.
- I wanted to like Hex Wives #1. This debut, however, was a little disappointing. There’s a twist halfway, but I couldn’t fully appreciate it because I was still struggling to orient myself in the story. The pacing is also rough. For example, there’s an empty page with just three words on it at one point, which just feels messy. Mirka Andolfo’s art, however, is sharp, and so hope springs eternal. Maybe the next issue will change my mind.
- The Terrifics Annual #1 was decent, one of those annuals with a main story plus smaller vignettes to elucidate tangential ongoing plotlines. I know this is essentially a Fantastic Four homage starring deep bench DCers, but I guess I’m into The Terrifics now? This book is just so low maintenance and charming.
- While The Witching Hour crossover felt like it could have been done in fewer issues, I did enjoy the start of this Drowned Earth business. Aquaman has been understated for a while, and I liked seeing his world cranked up to 11.
- Batman: Secret Files #1 features some writers and artists who’ve been doing great creator-owned work of late, including Ram V. (These Savage Shores), Jorge Fornes (Hot Lunch Special), and Cheryl Lynn Eaton (Bitch Planet: Triple Feature), plus a killer Batman-Detective Chimp team-up written by Tom Taylor…someone should get him on a prominent book. Cough cough NIGHTWING cough cough.
- Finally, we are now just seven days away from Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp’s The Green Lantern…
Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!