THIS WEEK: With Suicide Squad: Blaze #1, writer Simon Spurrier and artist Aaron Campbell re-team after a critically-acclaimed Hellblazer run — can they recapture the creative magic?
Note: This piece 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.
Writers: Stephanie Williams, Vita Ayala, Joelle Jones, Michael W. Conrad, and Becky Cloonan
Artists: Laura Braga, Skylar Patridge, Joelle Jones, and Elena Casagrande
Colorists: Romulo Fajardo Jr., and Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Trial of the Amazons #1 arrives this week, starting a giant crossover for the most robust line of Wonder Woman comics ever, or at least in my lifetime. This is a story that has been building for months, across three different comics and a giant cast of characters spinning out of Wonder Woman, Wonder Girl, and Nubia and the Amazons. It’s a Wonder Woman event of a scale I don’t remember often being applied to this character, at least not in ways that feel specific to Wonder Woman outside of the larger DCU. It’s the type of story that is far more often applied to Batman or Superman than the third pillar of DC Comics.
That is part of what makes it feel refreshing to me. I’ve read so many Batman crossovers at this point that it’s hard to feel surprised by those stories, at least in where they’re going to land. Eventually, Bruce Wayne is going to return to Gotham, the various other members are going to settle in around him, and then sooner or later once again The Joker or whoever will show up. Rinse and repeat. In Trial of the Amazons #1, however, I was left with little idea where this all was heading, and I really enjoyed that.
Wonder Woman as a DC Comics property feels a bit in flux to me at the moment, in a good way. There’s an air of change throughout the DC Universe at the moment. A new Superman with Jon Kent, a new Batman with Jace Fox, and any number of other smaller additions or changes. Still, it feels to me like Wonder Woman is throwing more interesting ideas into its status quo than any of the other major titles. With Nubia, we have a new queen of the Amazons. With Yara Flor, we have a new young character that feels next in line to be the Amazons representative to man’s world. Similarly, something major happens at the end of this issue that seems built to last for the foreseeable future, launching what this crossover is really about — someone has poisoned and killed Wonder Woman’s mother, Hippolyta.
At this point, I’m never surprised to see a major superhero comics event centered on a murder mystery, as it seems to be the case more often than not, but I did enjoy the added layer the ending of Trial of the Amazons #1 gives this whole affair, which before that had been a relatively straightforward incidence of disparate characters meeting, having some friction, and ultimately laying the groundwork to unite in the service of facing a bigger challenge.
The other note of major praise I have for the start of this crossover is that even the creator list is lengthy — combining the various teams that have been working on the Wonder Women comics across the line — it all coheres well. Sometimes this sort of oversized jam session issue will have segments that feel siloed off, with one writer clearly writing the characters from their own book, but Trial of the Amazons #1 never really feels that way. Instead, it feels like a shared creative vision, and I really hope that carries through the entirety of this event.
- The other big book this week was Naomi Season Two #1, which brings back the entire creative team from the first season. That book was perhaps a breakout moment for artist Jamal Campbell, who then went on to illustrate (the very good) Far Sector comic. Campbell is back and doing more fantastic work in these pages, complete with his striking style, penchant for stunning two-page action spreads, and top-tier character work. Conceptually, this book seems interested this time around in fleshing out more of the origin of Naomi’s powers, which got laid out essentially in one issue during the first book and only revisited sparingly through brief asides was she’s made subsequent appearances in Justice League and Young Justice. There feels like a lot to explore here, and I’m excited to see where it all goes and how the creators can use it to develop a character who has momentum following what seemed like the launch of a successful CW television show.
- I think I write this every time it’s my turn to do the ol’ DC Round-Up, but I’m still absolutely loving Batman Urban Legends, a Gotham-set anthology series that is now on its 13th issue. I suppose I thought this book might come out strong and then taper off, or maybe even conclude, but it’s still as strong as ever, with this issue concluding a handful of great stories and marking the halfway point for others. What’s also worth noting is that the incoming writer for the Batman flagship title, Chip Zdarsky, did some of his first work with the Batfamily in these pages, telling a great story about Jason Todd. It’s easy to see this comic continuing as a launch pad for both character and creators that go on to do bigger things in Gotham City.
- Superman: Son of Kal-El #9 wraps up a crossover started with last month’s Nightwing #89, and maybe it’s the Bruno Redondo artwork, but this was my favorite issue of this book to date. It made me realize something I’d long suspected, which is that on the whole Superman: Son of Kal-El has suffered a bit from inconsistent artwork. The book is trying to delicately integrate a new Superman with the problems of the day, running the risk of feeling overly literal, and the art in the book has at times felt pretty clumsy. For at least this issue, though, things look great, and I really enjoyed the concept of Dick Grayson mentoring Jon Kent’s new phase as Superman.
- Finally, I’d also like to heap more praise on The Joker this week, which delivered the series’ penultimate issue. It’s a good time to be reading Batman comic books right now, with a wide variety of offerings that cater to different tastes (that’ll happen when roughly half of your publishing line is about Batman). Within all of that though, The Joker has been my personal favorite, delivering a complex chase story with Jim Gordon trotting the whole damn globe as he learns that nothing from the start of this adventure is as it seems. The Joker himself is really more of a side character here, although the ending promises he’ll be heavily involved. Excited to see how this all wraps up, even if I’m a bit bummed the book is ending.
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