THIS WEEK: DC kicks off their now-annual Pride celebration with the latest DC Pride one-shot anthology of stories about and by members of the LGBTQ+ community. Plus, a new Poison Ivy series picks up the character where the Fear State storyline left off.
Note: the following discussion contains 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 verdicts.
DC Pride 2022
Writers: Devin Grayson, Stephanie Williams, Ro Stein & Ted Brandt, Jadzia Axelrod, Alyssa Wong, Tini Howard, Greg Lockard, Stephanie Phillips, Travis G. Moore, Dani Fernandez, Danny Lore & Ivan Cohen, and Kevin Conroy
Artists: Nick Robles, Meghan Hetrick, Ro Stein & Ted Brandt, Lynn Yoshi, W. Scott Forbes, Evan Cagle, Giulio Macaione, Samantha Dodge, Travis G. Moore, Zoe Thorogood, Brittney Williams, and J. Bone
Colorists: Triona Farrell, Marissa Louise, Ro Stein & Ted Brandt, Tamra Bonvillain, W. Scott Forbes, Evan Cagle, Giulio Macaione, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Jeremy Lawson, and J. Bone
Letterers: Aditya Bidikar, Ariana Maher, Frank Cvetkovic, and Lucas Gattoni
Pinups: P. Craig Russell & Lovern Kindzierski, J.J. Kirby, and Jess Taylor & Rye Hickman
Introduction: Nicole Maines
Cover Artists: Phil Jimenez & Arif Prianto
Cori McCreery: Happy Pride everyone! Cori here to go through the first week of Pride books from DC Comics, and I brought along my token straights Zack and Joe! Delayed a week, so it actually comes out during Pride Month, was DC Pride 2022, the second annual DC Pride special! There were several fantastic stories in this issue, but I’d be remiss to not start with Nicole Maines’s introduction. I’ve been very open about what the character of Dreamer means to me, and really, Maines put most of my feelings into words in her introduction. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a transgender superhero in any book I’d be allowed to read, instead I had serial killers, jokes, and victims; those were the only times I saw people like myself. Thanks to DC, the CW, and Nicole Maines, today’s transgender youth get to look at themselves and see the potential for superheroics. That’s powerful. What did you guys think of the introduction?
Zack Quaintance: I thought the introduction was great, and it really set the tone for this entire set of stories, sort of emphasizing both celebratory aspects of this anthology as well as its poignancy. It was great to be reminded that superhero representation inherently means quite a bit to readers.
Joe Grunenwald: Agreed, Maines’s intro was a strong start to the DC Pride anthology. It felt to me both like a nice reminder of how far comics have come, and of how much further there still is to go. This year’s anthology overall felt more diverse and inclusive than even last year’s was, which really impressed me.
Cori: It really did. Last year’s was great because it was something brand new and exciting, but this year’s felt like they had a better idea of what they wanted to achieve with the special. I know we all want to talk about the Kevin Conroy story, but do either of you have a particular favorite moment from the issue? For me, seeing Heather After, Dreamer, and Coagula at Pride in the opening story really felt special.
Zack: That entire opening story looked so great. It made me want a full Jon Kent comic (or even series!) illustrated by Nick Robles and colored by Triona Farrell.
Joe: It’s hard for me to pick one favorite moment because I felt like a majority of the stories in this anthology were incredibly strong, and covered a nice range of tones, from earnest and heartfelt to just a lot of fun. I’ll second what Zack said about the art on the opening story and extend that to the rest of the issue. Each of these stories looks magnificent, with artists Robles & Farrell’s Superman & Robin, Ro Stein & Ted Brandt‘s Connor Hawke, Evan Cagle‘s Jo Mullein, and W. Scott Forbes‘ Aquaman stories all standing out in my mind.
Cori: God that Far Sector story was so beautiful. I loved the spot coloring in it.
Joe: I think that might’ve been my favorite story in the book, and definitely my favorite thing that Tini Howard‘s ever written.
Zack: One of my favorite moments was in the Batgirl story “Up At Bat”, by Jadzia Axelrod, Lynne Yoshii, Tamra Bonvillain, and Aditya Bidikar. And it’s mostly because it struck me as just a really comics-y moment, but it’s when Alysia Yeoh beats Killer Moth by sticking an actual bat (like, baseball not flying rodent) in his jet pack and exploding him out into the sky. I liked that because it speaks to something I enjoyed about this whole anthology; the villain fights in it are fun, too.
Joe: There are great villains throughout, from Killer Moth to the Music Meister to a rival roller derby team. The Connor Hawke vs. Music Meister story by Stein, Brandt, and Frank Cvetkovic really nicely threaded the needle of entertaining superhero action and a strong emotional core.
Zack: Definitely. Surprising no one the Green Arrow story was one of my favorites. In addition to being a good action comic, I felt like I came away from that one with new understanding of asexuality.
Joe: I definitely did as well, Zack.
Cori: I enjoyed that too, and I think that both the Alysia story and the Jo story really did something that this special set out to do, and really brought up some of the scary parts of being open about who you are and who you love. Like yes, this issue is a celebration, but also there are very real dangers to being queer in the world right now. Whether it’s having to deal with stigmas and prejudices like Jo, or having to arm yourself against actual physical threats like Alysia, there’s more to being out and queer than just celebrating at a parade in June.
Joe: I appreciated the multiple reminders that the original Pride event was the Stonewall riots. Again, it’s about how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. On that front, the illustrated Kevin Conroy essay that closed the book is breathtakingly powerful.
Zack: It’s a credit to the rest of the anthology that we’ve gone this long and not yet discussed that comic, which as you say really is breathtakingly powerful and just an incredible piece of storytelling.
Cori: Yeah I thought it was worth saving it for the end of our talk about this issue because of how powerful it was. I did not open DC Pride 2022 expecting a story to have a content warning, but I’m glad it did, and I’m glad that it said what it said.
Joe: It’s one thing to read stories about beloved fictional characters experiencing prejudice, but it’s really another thing entirely to read a true story told by an equally-beloved icon of superhero animation. To multiple generations Kevin Conroy just plain is the voice of Batman, and reading his story of how his personal experiences as a gay man in Hollywood relate to that role was incredible. J. Bone‘s three-color art and Aditya Bidikar’s lettering do an excellent job bringing the story to life while still giving Conroy’s words the spotlight.
Cori: You could feel the same venom he felt as the slurs were thrown at him in this story. It really was powerful and incredible. I’m so glad he’s finally able to be open about who he is. It was also powerful the way he compared his own life to Bruce Wayne’s and how they both had to have a secret identity. Truly a heart-wrenching story.
Zack: Just incredible. To this day nobody has even come close to capturing the dichotomy between Batman and Bruce Wayne as well as Conroy did. Turning your personal experience into art like that is just so inspiring and so powerful.
Joe: It’s not even something I had considered about Conroy as Batman. I recall a lot of people were surprised when this story was announced to hear that he’s gay. Hopefully it’ll open up some eyes that a fictional story might not otherwise have.
Cori: The last thing I want to say about the DC Pride Special is how excited I am that we got confirmation that Nicole Maines is doing a graphic novel for Dreamer after the cowritten issue of Superman: Son of Kal-El. And that Rye Hickman art they used to tease it was just incredible.
Joe: It looks great, and the crossover art with Galaxy by Jess Taylor was a nice way to introduce it. Hopefully we’ll get some more information about when that’ll be out soon.
Cori: Comes as no surprise that this is an instant BUY from me.
Zack: It’s a BUY from me as well. Read this now, before that Conroy/J.Bone story wins the short comic Eisner next year…
Joe: Yeah, unsurprisingly it’s a BUY from me as well. Here’s also my official putting-it-out-into-the-universe to see more Jo Mullein stories from Howard, Cagle, & Lucas Gattoni in the future.
Final Verdict: BUY.
Poison Ivy #1
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Marcio Takara
Colorist: Arif Prianto
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Cover Artist: Jessica Fong
Cori: As we’re already getting a bit long in the tooth, who wants to switch gears and talk about Poison Ivy #1 by G. Willow Wilson and Marcio Takara with colors by Arif Prianto?
Joe: I sure do. In a word: Wow. I’m not a huge Poison Ivy fan, though I’ve always found her interesting, but this issue might’ve fully converted me. Wilson’s Ivy is both completely sympathetic and utterly terrifying, and Takara and Prianto’s artwork is beautiful and hideous.
Zack: Yeah, I absolutely loved it. Every element of it just worked so well together, and it doesn’t shy away from being harsh where it has too, a key ingredient in a comic like this one.
Cori: I think the crux of it was that as monstrous as Ivy’s actions were throughout, they didn’t feel unnecessary or even evil. They felt like nature clawing it’s way back from us, and that’s a really fine balance to pull off.
Zack: Exactly! There will be more than a few “Ivy Is Right” Tweets stemming from this one.
Joe: I interviewed Wilson about this series shortly after it was announced, and she likened some of the body horror to Annihilation, which excited me very much, but I still was not prepared for just how hard this issue went. And yeah, Ivy totally has a point. It’s fascinating.
Cori: I have at least one friend who is going to just swoon over the floral horror of this comic. Takara did a fantastic job with it too, it’s beautiful and horrific all at once.
Zack: The art is so outstanding in this one. I especially liked the reveal of the people she’s had – uh, I guess the word is growing? – in the back of her van for a while.
Cori: I think composting is the term you’re looking for.
Zack: There it is. The people she’s had composting in the back of her van…by the way, if you are not intrigued by that sentence, I don’t know what to tell you.
Joe: It’s both worse and better than you can imagine. In the best way.
Cori: Mostly worse. Also the very first thing I said when reading this issue, after the slew of gorgeous covers and the opening splash page reveal of Ivy, was that this book was absolutely made for feral WLW. Ivy is so goddamn hot in this comic.
Joe: Being on the road definitely suits her.
Zack: In the desert no less. It’s not an obvious setting at all for a comic about Poison Ivy, but it works so well that you kind of wonder how it didn’t occur to you sooner.
Joe: One thing I really loved about this issue is that it didn’t feel like it was trying to do too much all at once. It sets up Ivy’s headspace wonderfully, and we see some of her activity and learn about her plans as she’s making her way cross-country, but otherwise it’s a fairly small, entirely character-driven story. Sure, she’s got a potentially world-ending plan underway, but it’s also just nice to spend time with her and get into her head for 22 pages.
Cori: There’s also romance at the heart of the story, even if it’s not actively the focus. I feel like that is also a fine line to walk that Wilson does really well here. I just hope that a certain contingent of fans lets the story play out rather than getting mad that Harley and Ivy aren’t immediately back together.
Joe: I mean, they’re going to be mad about the murders probably, but what’re you gonna do.
Zack: If the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that somebody somewhere is mad about any and every thing. Just a shame to be mad about this comic, because it rules.
Cori: Yeah it was definitely one of the strongest first issues I’ve read in a long time. Maybe since the last first issue Wilson did in The Dreaming: Waking Hours.
Joe: I’m so excited to see where the rest of this series goes. Poison Ivy #1 is an easy BUY for me.
Cori: Yeah an absolute BUY from me as well.
Zack: Enthusiastic BUY from me as well. It surprised me in several excellent ways. So, I’d say even if the idea of a Poison Ivy comic doesn’t necessarily do it for you, you still ought to consider picking this one up.
Cori: We’ve already rambled enough this week, but I promise to talk about the other two Pride releases from this week when I talk about the Tim Drake special next week!
Joe: Happy Pride, everyone!
Final Verdict: BUY.
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