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: Love in the time of the anti-life equation!
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.
While some DC heroes are spending this Valentine’s in crisis (more on that below) others are spending it in love. At least they are in the pages of DC’s latest 80-page giant anthology. It’s become a hallmark of the seasons lately—Christmas, Halloween, even summer—for DC to put out one of these books, which takes a looser approach to the publisher’s iconic characters while also giving attention to some of its deep bench. These vignettes are short, seemingly continuity-free stories often told by rising stars.
This week’s Mysteries of Love in Space #1 is no exception. With Valentine’s Day approaching, it gives us eight short comics about romance. I don’t always pay attention to these anthologies (though it’s usually great fun when I do), but this one caught my attention right off with the fantastic Silver Age homage cover by the towering talent that is Joelle Jones. On it, Superman clenches his fist in anguish, wondering what Lois (who is caressing the chin of stoic Darkseid while holding a bouquet that looks an awful lot like Black Mercy from the classic For the Man Who Has Everything story) sees in his rival.
It’s fun with superheroes and their histories that’s also cut with universal (in more ways than one) stories about love. And it’s great. This week, I’ve made us all a reservation for a similarly tongue-and-cheek approach to the round-up, recapping each story from Mysteries of Love in Space #1, along with a quick description of each story’s “type.” If you don’t like it, apologies, but all’s fair in love and weekly corporate comic book recaps. Onward!
The New Gods in “An Apokoliptian Love Story”
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Jesus Merino
Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Recap: This story has a nice twist ending. In it, a lowlie being tortured by Granny Goodness continues to resist for the sake of a revolutionary leader she’s fallen in love with, until—gasp—it is revealed that leader is none other than Darkseid himself! In a sense, this story argues romantic devotion is the same as blindly following a dictator. On the surface, this may come across as cynical. I liked it, though, taking it as I did as a metaphor for devotion without critical thinking to any person, idea, or fandom. Basically, the simple way to read it would be that love is foolish. I don’t believe that, and so I prefer to take the message as blind hero worship is foolish.
This Story’s Type: The lover who finds themselves rushing from one relationship to the next, never stopping to be alone or work on themselves before joining their life to another’s. Also, must enjoy politics and long walks on an Apokoliptic beach made of suffering and ash.
Kilowog in “Old Scars, Fresh Wounds”
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Cian Tormey
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Recap: There’s a scene in this one wherein Kilowog and Guy Gardner talk love (Guy is apparently a romantic who set Kilowog up with a friend), and it’s somehow not played for laughs. Instead, it turns into a poignant tale of isolation, one in which Kilowog seems to realize he’s the true poozer, and life might get better if he let down his constructs and invited another to join his personal corps.
This Story’s Type: The career poozer who’s spent too many recent years focused on the guardians and is now starting to wonder if life would be richer were they to let down their shield construct to form a personal corps of two.
Bizarro in “Backward Heart”
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Max Dunbar
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Recap: Bizarro experiences a brief love that burns bright and fast, leaving him drinking and wishing it would have lasted. With the help of a kind stranger and another chance to be a hero, he ever so subtly realizes sometimes love is best appreciated for what it was, rather than mourned for what it was not.
This Story’s Type: The ugly soul who knows they don’t have much to offer another person or the rest of the world. Ugh, doing Bizarro backwards talk is…ugly for real. Anyway, this is a story for a misunderstood romantic with a rough exterior but full heart, one brimming with too much love to give.
Hawkgirl in “Galentine’s Day”
Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artist: Elena Casagrande
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Steve Wands
Recap: Hawkgirl, upset her pre-destined lover Hawkman has not reached out on Valentine’s, spends the holiday partroling space, watching old movies, and eating chocolates sent for other heroes. When a cosmic threat emerges, she’s joined by Starfire and Jessica Cruz, who help her vanquish it through understanding. The wonderful emotional payoff comes at the end when the three find more comfort in being together than in dwelling on the absence of someone else.
This Story’s Type: The recently wounded who just got out of a relationship several thousand lifetimes long and isn’t quite ready to get out there, but would love a friend to listen, to care, to understand.
Space Cabbie in “GPS I Love You”
Writer: Aaron Gillespie
Artist: Max Raynor
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Recap: Space Cabbie’s cab gets some new programming that gives it a humanoid face and sentient personality, plus all the “memories” of his actual cab. He falls in love with it, and hi-jinx! One of the more absurd stories (which says a lot) in this collection.
This Story’s Type: That one friend who keeps watching the 2013 film Her over and over, wishing it were real (I’m not sure that’s a real person).
Crush in “Crushed”
Writer: Andrea Shea
Artist: Amancay Nahuelpan
Colors: Trish Mulvihill
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Recap: This story fluctuates across a couple genres, doing so with via fun narrative twists. First it feels like a story about fame and crushes, then it feels like a story about acceptance, and finally it lands on what it’s really about: loving yourself before looking for validation from others. It’s an empowerment story at its core, in which Lobo’s 15-year-old maybe-daughter Crush gets to a place where she only needs to be comfortable with herself to unlock a vast potential. It’s a fun one, with a strong message.
This Story’s Type: Those who have realized looking for validation by loving others is a band-aid for a wound that really has to do with not loving yourself. Plus, fans of one of DC’s most interesting new teen characters in some years, Crush.
Lois Lane & Superman in “Glasses”
Writer: Jeff Loveness
Pencils: Tom Grummett
Inks: Cam Smith
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Recap: This story isn’t nothing new, but it’s very very sweet nonetheless. It’s a look at the evolution of the Lois and Clark relationship. Classic stuff. It looks at the triangle and the way that to be the world’s best man, Clark needs Lois. Also, it once again establishes that Lois is a better writer than Clark, which she proves in the end by moving him to tears with a Valentine’s Day love note.
This Story’s Type: The Clois shipper who can’t get enough of stories about the most iconic love story in all of comics, if not all of pop culture. In a broader sense, this is a story for anyone who likes to watch romantic movies where the ending suggests a couple is stronger together than apart.
Adam Strange in “The Planet Pendulum” A Holiday Encore
Writer: Gardner Fox
Artist: Mike Sekowsky
Inks: Bernard Sachs
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Recap: This is a reprinted story in which Adam Strange is kind of in love but puts saving a whole ton of people over a rare chance to spend time with his paramour (if I’ve understood it correctly). A nice historical edition to the rest of the volume.
This Story’s Type: The Silver Age romantic whose turn-ons include thought balloons, wordy captions in every panel, and, obviously, space.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Scott Kollins
Colorist: Luis Guerrero
Letterer: Wes Abbott
I’d like to play Good Cop, Bad Cop here. Starting with Bad Cop. After Flash War, I think this title lost some momentum. Following that storyline, which wrapped up in Flash #50, Wally West went off to Sanctuary (where he was seemingly murdered during Heroes in Crisis, but c’mon…), Wallace West joined the Teen Titans, and long-time Flash grandpa Jay Garrick was still nowhere to be found, occupied presumably in Doomsday Clock. The book seemed to be hamstrung, absent as it was the generational elements that have become a core strength of the character’s best stories in recent years, the ones seemingly promised to readers by Flash: Rebirth.
So, while Flash #50 had an ending that brought back another generational Flash character, Impulse, the issues that followed soon became all Barry. The stories that followed seemed to be running in place (apologies), maybe awaiting a time when the events in the wider shared universe would allow a return to the overarching generational Flash story. In other words, The Flash has slipped in the past three months or so due to inertia. End Bad Cop.
Now, let’s play Good Cop in looking at this week’s The Flash Annual #2. It’s a straight-up great comic. This is the upper potential of what this run can be, a wickedly-paced sprint through so much of what makes this character great—the family, the future, a brief appearance of The Flash Museum, the character’s roll at the center of DC’s ever-shifting continuity—it’s all in there, and the end result is a compelling story with better character work than we’ve seen in some time. Barry struggling to be a responsible teacher is so much more interesting to me than Barry chipping away at a mystery.
In this annual, Barry isn’t a man alone investigating a series of forces and having adventures/occasional disagreements with Iris. No, he’s the seasoned superhero we know him to be, a character tasked with overseeing and mentoring a number of others who share his powers, which is a situation that allows for so much better drama than him being alone. I fear it will be a few months before we get to see the rest of The Flash’s family characters returned to Williamson’s toolbox, but if this is a preview of what to expect when he gets full use of all of them, I for one am pretty excited.
- Action Comics #1007 is another gorgeous entry in Brian Michael Bendis’ ongoing Superman saga, powered here by the phenomenal Steve Epting and Brad Anderson artwork. This issue does mostly setup, and I don’t mind. I have full trust in this run at this point.
- Justice League Annual #1 works hard to orient readers in one of DC’s other sagas (there are many headliner-level events unfolding in DC right now). It’s a step in the right direction, for sure. There were several times where I nodded and thought, Oh! That’s what that’s about!
- Heroes in Crisis #5 was paced better than the overly decompressed early chapters of the story. The Booster-Ted stuff was great, too. Still, the series continues to feel a little like getting a phone call from police saying a loved one was in…a wreck…and…it looks like…they’ll be…long pause…we don’t know yet. Anyway, I suspect this will all read much better in trade.
- Detective Comics #997 was great. I’m hooked on the mystery pulling toward #1000. This book is building a nice look at the roots of the character, one that even feels organic.
- Finally, The Terrifics #12 was so good it made me sad, knowing writer Jeff Lemire will depart following #14. I know we’re getting Gene Luen Yang (a great choice), yet I’ll miss Lemire’s sad family sensibilities. These were put to especially great use here with the Plastic Family story, which featured a pickup game, oodles of emotional honesty, and a joyride in the—hold up, I’m not going to spoil that for you here.
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