Categories
Comics Film Television

Batman Day 2021 Recommendations

Batman is a household name worldwide. From movies, to toys, to everything in-between…Batman is everywhere. While many lament the sheer amount of Bat content constantly coming out, there is a reason he is so popular with so many. Batman is an extremely beloved character and means so much to so many. Instead of bringing you some sort of top 10 reads list or something similar, our staff brings you a bit about their personal relationship with the characters of Gothams and a story they want you to check out that means something to them.

Dan McMahon

I don’t think my love of Batman and Gotham characters is a secret in the slightest. I grew up on a stream of Batman. Hell, we started this whole thing as a DC podcast, so my allegiances have never been a secret. Batman for me has always been a versatile character that you could use to tell any type of story. He was the character you could drop into any story and it would make sense. I’ve talked about Batman on the show at length so I wouldn’t take up space here from our other writers. Batman is a character you can always depend on to keep the lights on. Now more than ever, I appreciate the characters’ stories, family, and what he stands for.


Now I assume if you know me, you would assume my recommendation would be “Heart of Ice from Batman: The Animated Series. I do think if you haven’t seen it, it’s time to pop it on and get ready to put your heart on ice. But I wanted to recommend a story I haven’t read since I was young up until the moment before writing this. I want you to read Gotham Knights #18 “Cavernous” from Devin Grayson, Roger Robinson, John Floyd, Rob Schwager, and Bill Oakley. It’s an issue that I read multiple times when I was younger because it made me realize that Batman was depressed. That his choices and things he had done actually alienated the people he cared about. Batman didn’t have the emotional tools needed to reach out to others to tell them he just didn’t want to be alone so instead he did his normal pushing them away. But eventually he asks Aquaman to help him get his penny unlodged after the Earthquake (See No Man’s Land). But there is a moment on the last page that is very worth reading this one off issue for. You don’t need any knowledge of the stories surrounding this, it’s rather stand alone to highlight the loneliness of the bat.

Jordan

I often get very sick of Batman. I loved him as a child of course, because of all the movies, cartoons and toys. But growing older and getting into comics I start to resent his overexposure and by extension Batman himself. But then occasionally I read a great Bat story or revisit a classic episode of the animated series and I remember that Batman is just the coolest thing. Unlike a lot of characters Batman’s world could survive entirely on it’s own. Divorced from the wider DC Universe, Gotham is a living, breathing world with its own internal logic and world. Batman’s villains know each other, they have their own rivalries and relationships and that’s not something you can say for most superhero rogues. There is just something about Gotham that is so endlessly appealing, that brings out the best in its creators. With a moody atmosphere but also poppy fun. Because Batman can be anything. He’s malleable in a way other characters aren’t. That’s why despite the oversaturation of the character I will always love Batman. Because it’s a whole world of stories and characters in its own right that feels timeless and larger than life in its own way. 

Shadow of the Bat #1-4:

Up in the pantheon of Batman writers there are names like Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder and Denny O’Neil and rightfully so. But for me my favourite work with the Bat of Gotham has always been with Alan Grant. I revisit his stories a LOT, especially those with art by the late great Norm Breyfgole. Together these two created the ultimate image of Batman to me. A dark mysterious creature of the night. Breyfgole’s stylized art depicts a Gotham larger than life. It’s angular and all encompassing and within it stands Batman. Stylish and angular, a haunting shadow streaking across the night sky. It perfectly suits Grant’s dark and psychological stories. But it’s not all darkness. I’m a believer in Batman needing empathy and levity. This particular story has Batman fighting a murderous serial killer, but also walking a lost girl home. Alan Grant’s Batman is one that perfectly encapsulates all aspects of the character to me. He’s a dark vengeful spirit but a compassionate hero at the same time. 

But what’s a specific story from this run that I recommend? Really anything by Grant and Breyfgole I say is worth a read. One story stands out to me though and that’s the first arc of Shadow of the Bat. This was a new Batman title made especially for Grant to go wild, and his first arc was a real mission statement. The story here takes place over four issues and follows Batman as he tries to solve a series of serial murders around Gotham City. The catch is that he’s already sure of who it is, Victor Zsasz. This is Zsasz’s first ever appearance and Grant and Brefygole established everything about him here. His sickening need to kill people, his obsession with marking himself with tallies from his victims and his lanky visage. The only problem for Batman is that Zsasz is already in Arkham, after he caught him in a previous adventure. So Batman has to break into Arkham to try and figure out what’s going on and how he’s getting out. A super simple conceit that gives way to a brilliant story dripping in atmosphere. To me this is the definitive Arkham story. It’s a building that feels gothic and larger than life, a sickening hole where the superstitious and cowardly are thrown away and forgotten. Grant and Breyfgole are the kinds of nailing the mood of Batman. They really build up the world of Gotham in a way that lets us understand Batman even more. It’s a perfect Batman comic and one that I will cherish forever.  

José Cardenas

My Bat-Love began when I was eleven years old. It was December, between Christmas and my birthday, and my parents presented a double-whammy Birthmas present that would set me on a path to creativity and superhero fandom. 

The gift — Lego Batman: The Videogame

As children, my brother and I adored Legos, always building the sets, playing with them and inevitably breaking them because we were never the delicate type of boys. The idea of playing a video game version with Batman, who we knew from a collection of cool cartoons, was a dream come true, and I’m sure welcome salvation for my poor parents’ feet. 

That game introduced me to the meaning of “atmosphere” with the eerie music from the Burton films, dark urban environments and the Stud sound effects that will haunt me forever. It was also a really great relationship-builder with my little brother. It helped so much, we even got to a point where I would let him play Batman, a true mark of respect in our household.

That’s what Batman means to me. A dark and strange city filled with wonder, and me with my family, trying to make our way through it all. 

So in comics, my Batman recommendation is Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Not only did the trade paperback reignite my love for Batman in high school, but it also brought back those childhood feelings of dark discovery.

The Caped Crusader, after years of experience with his villains and his city, is faced with a threat even older than him and completely unfamiliar to me. What helps him persevere are the thoughts of his family, who stay with him through the end. 

This is a Batman comic that anyone can read.

Andrew Malacarne

I was born after Batman: The Animated Series but before the era of streaming so I had to find my own connections to Batman. We’re now in an era full of kid friendly comics coming from DC and Marvel but those used to be far and few between. Cartoon Network came to my rescue in the form of Young Justice. I was three years old when Teen Titans came out and had forever wanted to fill that void after seeing heroes my age going on the adventures I could only dream of. Young Justice was the solution I needed. My connection to Batman is through his family. I never felt a strong connection to Bruce’s dark quest for vengeance but the light his family brings is what made me believe in Batman. My favorite Gothamite is Tim Drake, the third Robin, who represents what I saw in myself as a kid. He’s the one who wasn’t chosen but had to prove himself worthy of his place. It may be that constant imposter syndrome but I feel the same way. I wanted to, and still do, be seen as worthy in what I do. Tim’s my fictional brother and I wouldn’t choose another.

Young Justice is a perfect introduction to Batman and the greater DC Universe for new fans. Balancing new and established characters it gives fans their own young heroes that they can see themselves in. From energetic Kid Flash to brash Superboy or mysterious Artemis and optimistic Miss Martian there’s a hero for everyone. It explores the depths of DC with some great deep cuts that will make old fans happy while giving new fans a great look at everything DC has to offer.

Rook


I think the first cartoon I ever saw was Batman: The Animated Series. I was two, so I was a little young for it — something I proved almost immediately, when I saw Batman bleed and I started crying. I don’t think I had ever seen an adult or authority brought low like that before, so it was a visceral shock.

But images of that night, the deep red skies and hostile silhouettes of Gotham City, lived in my mind from that point forward. There was always an allure to it, like a nightmare that’s so exciting you almost remember it fondly. As I grew older, some of the sharp edges became less threatening, and I enjoyed the occasional Batman comic or episode of Justice League. But I didn’t really feel like I “got” Batman on a personal level until I was eight. 

My parents didn’t get shot in an alley or anything, but I’ve had post-traumatic stress disorder ever since. And Batman, for all of his stylish visual presentation and plethora of incredible skills, is first and foremost the character built around trauma. His triumphs, his defeats, his villains and his family all reflect the singular moment that destroyed his life, and his steadfast refusal to give in to the cruelty of the world and the ragged wound at the center of his psyche means a lot to me.


On that note, the Batman story that I’m going to recommend is I Am Suicide from Tom King, Mikel Janin, June Chung, and Clayton Cowles. This is a little bit of a cheat, because it’s following up on the end of the first Batman arc of Tom King’s run, I Am Gotham — but I’m picking it anyway, because I think this story is essential. The main thrust of the story is a Suicide Squad mission to Bane’s island nation stronghold to recover a power that can heal someone’s severe psychological damage. At its core, the arc is anchored by narration from Bane, Catwoman, and Batman. It cuts right to the heart of their parallel traumas, and how both defying and accepting their pain fuels them. 

Violet 

Batman has always been a part of my life, having two older brothers, it was an inevitable escape. I used to watch Batman The Animated Series clips on YouTube with them most evenings. One character in particular caught my attention.

To be honest with you, a few months back, I was asked to write something similar about what a certain comic book character means to me, and I couldn’t type out the right words without my vision getting blurred from my own tears. I ended up backspacing everything thinking it was “too deep” for a comic book character. But now I realize it’s important to voice how you feel; especially about particular escapes such as comics and how they transport you to another world for a few blissful moments. They make you forget about the harsh, horrible reality we all share. 

Harley Quinn does exactly that for me, each time, without failure. I don’t relate to wanting to maim humans who look at me funny, trust me (well only sometimes, I’ve got a pet peeve about people staring but anyway). I relate to her highly on how she can be so conflicted with her own demons yet make someone smile. That someone being me. 

She intrigues me with how persistent she is despite the trauma she’s been through, she remains motivational but in no way glosses over the ugly. Harley never denies that; sometimes life is shitty and most definitely doesn’t always work in your favour but it’s important to make do with what you have and chase better things for yourself. I’ve said before; she’s messy and unsure, but will figure out the answers with you along the way and it’s makes you feel less dumb for not knowing the answer to every situation life. 

Harley’s individuality certainly has rubbed off of me in the best of ways. I’ve learned life is waaaaay too short to not have colourful hair and to not impulsively do the things you’ve always wanted to do. You have your entire old age to be boring! Spice up your life, manically dye your hair every month, just please use a conditioner mask!

Her charismatic, bubbly, unpredictable nature breathes life into my soul each new release. I should probably find a new source of serotonin, or maybe it’s about time I finally book in for that therapist but until then, I’m going to continue soaking up every last little frame of this joyful jester. 

Recommendations: 

Vengeance Unlimited

Harley Quinn Vol.6 Angry Bird by Frank Tieri, Inaki Miranda, Mirka Andolfo

Adam

I think there are very few people in the world who aren’t in some way aware of Batman.  They might not know much but Batman, Robin, Joker; these are some of the most recognizable brands in the world.  And that was the level of recognition I had.  I knew some names but who the characters really were?  No clue.  All that changed after the most on-brand Batman introduction I could possibly have, the LEGO Batman – The Videogame.  But unfortunately LEGO Batman gives a very skewed perception of what Gotham really is.  Apparently Killer Moth ISN’T a major player in Gotham?  There are very few Mad Hatter stories?  Disgraceful.

Years later when I began dipping my toe into comics, Batman seemed like one of the logical places to start.  And I followed a lot of the New 52 and Rebirth titles for Batman and the larger Bat-family, and liked most of what I read but it was never my favourite thing.  I was never a Batman or Nightwing FAN.  Just someone who occasionally reads them.  All that changed when I first read a book with Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown.  I can’t even remember which book it was, but now these two were my favourites who I’d follow anywhere (except War Games/Geoff Johns Titans).




Batgirl Volume 3

The third volume of Batgirl was part of the Batman Reborn relaunch, as Dick Grayson takes on the mantle of Batman, Damian Wayne becomes Robin and Stephanie Brown, once Spoiler, then Robin, then back to Spoiler, takes on the mantle of Batgirl.  And it’s fantastic.  Written by Bryan Q. Miller, the art team is PACKED full of future talent like Lee Garbett (Loki: Agent of Asgard), Pere Perez (Rogue & Gambit) and Dustin Nguyen (Batman: Lil’ Gotham) and stunning covers from artists like Phil Noto, Dustin Nguyen and even early Artgerm covers (which makes tracking down the single issues a nightmare).  

Only 24 issues thanks to the New 52 cutting the run short, Steph’s run as Batgirl is just unashamedly fun.  We really get to the core of how she stands out from Barbara and Cass and she gets to show why she deserves to take on the Batgirl mantle perfectly.  It’s also very tied into the Batman Reborn line as a whole and Dick!Bats, Robin and Red Robin make frequent appearances.  Stephanie’s time as Batgirl may have been much too short, but every issue was perfect and balanced really fun moments with some real heart.  I can’t recommend it enough but just be prepared to fall in love with Stephanie Brown and start to hate DC for the years of Steph erasure.

Isabel

I didn’t get into superheroes until late in life. (Late for superheroes – I was 14). It was a very gradual thing, I watched all the MCU movies, and slowly moved into Marvel comics, where I stayed for a good number of years. And then, two events coincided: my stepbrother gave me his DC Universe log in (remember that?), and on March 10th, 2019, I broke two bones in my ankle. I had to go on medical leave from college, and I spent my days lying in bed with nothing to do. Except, of course, watch everything DCU had for me to consume. I was ravenous, it was like I was a kid again – I watched Young Justice twice, I watched all of Batman: The Animated Series in about a week. At some point, I started reading comics too. I still have the excel sheet with everything on it, I read hundreds and hundreds of issues. I read the entirety of Birds of Prey (127 issues), I read Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl in two days (73 issues), I read over half of the 90s Robin run (117 issues).

I watched the Justice League Unlimited episode “Dead Reckoning” the same day a different, traumatic thing happened to me – and it all kinda clicked there. You might not even remember this episode, it’s the one with Deadman, and Gorilla Grodd tries to turn all humans into gorillas – you probably remember that. In it, Devil Ray almost shoots Wonder Woman, but Deadman stops him, by possessing Batman and shooting Devil Ray – who falls backward into some kind of electric panel, and dies. Obviously, Deadman didn’t mean to do this, but he can’t communicate this to Batman, who comes back to himself holding a gun, and looking straight at a dead body. And it was that, that sense of being trapped, the betrayal of my own body, that clicked with me. The show never follows up on it! It’s never mentioned again, beyond cursing Deadman to more time on earth as a ghost, and Batman storming off near the end of the episode. But – Batman knew how I felt. Batman understood. That’s a big part of Batman, that self identification. And after self identification is caring, because he does care – of course he does. He sees himself in the people around him, just like we see ourselves in him. How can you not care about someone you see yourself in? 

I want to recommend “Death Strikes at Midnight and Three” which is an interesting story. Denny O’Neil writes prose, with Marshall Rogers on art and page layouts. It’s a fascinating style, one that never really caught on. The story is pretty good, but the page design by Marshall Rogers was what really caught my eye, because it’s not a standard comic book, it’s much more abstract. The interaction between text and image is fascinating, the balance of prose and art switching easily between pages and propelling the story along. It’s almost like a collage, text pasted over and into the art behind it. The last page of the story made me audibly gasp, it’s incredibly striking, white text boxes standing out on the black of the page. It’s a beautiful comic.

I also want to direct people towards the gem that is Batman: Black & White. It was brought back recently, but I’m talking about the 90s stuff here. The main conceit of a short comic about Batman – written and drawn by people who haven’t necessarily worked on Batman – means it’s full of perfect little stories about all the different things Batman means to people. Brubaker & Sook’s “I’ll Be Watching” is a story about the comfort of having Batman there, always, while McKeever’s “Perpetual Mourning” is a quiet thing about Batman bringing humanity back to the dead, and Claremont, Rude & Buckingham’s “A Matter of Trust” is a heartwarming story about Bruce babysitting for a friend.

Marc Quill

Growing up consuming a fair amount of superhero fiction meant I was fully aware of who Batman was, even while I was just a kid in the Philippines. 1995’s Batman Forever may have been critically panned, but as a kid, it didn’t matter to me. I found it enjoyable and a rather entertaining first exposure to the world of Batman. Then came Batman: The Animated Series, the beloved cartoon which pretty much helped define Batman to a new generation of young kids.

Over the years, I came to realize that while Batman himself was cool, his “family” of costumed allies edged him in that regard. Whether it’s old favorites like Dick Grayson (Robin I/Nightwing) and Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle) or newer characters like Cass Cain (Black Bat/Orphan) or Harper Row (Bluebird), it’s been quite satisfying for a character often characterized as a loner to have this massive support network of Gotham-based heroes helping him out at a moment’s notice.

As such, I feel that the 52-issue Batman Eternal is a good series that helps showcase the Bat Family at their finest. These stories — largely written by Scott Snyder and a rotating group of guest writers, plus various artists, are high-stakes tales that obviously feature Batman, but also gives a good amount of page time to various characters.

Eternal shines a light on characters such as Tim Drake (Red Robin) and Stephanie Brown (who’s introduced into the New 52 continuity here), as well as Red Hood and the aforementioned Harper Row (whose transformation into Bluebird is chronicled over multiple issues). It’s an adventure that manages to maintain steam through 52 weekly issues, with Snyder being helped on writing duties by an all-star stable of writers including Tim Seeley, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, and current Bat-scribe James Tynion IV. The art throughout these issues isn’t too shabby either, with heavy hitters like Dustin Nguyen, Jason Fabok, Guillem March, and Joe Quinones all providing some well-drawn panels.

The main thing, however, that drew me to Eternal was the culmination of Harper Row’s hero’s journey. She’s been a polarizing character for some, but I think what’s made her one of my favorite Bat-Family characters is how she’s defined by resolve and refusing to falter even as the world in Gotham grows more dangerous. Despite not having any actual combat experience and only having her resourcefulness as an engineer on her side, Harper proved herself to be a hero by striving to do the right thing not only for her, but for her younger brother Cullen. That familial bond is why she even decides to be Bluebird, and her first outing in Eternal #42 is a great debut for a Gotham hero that doesn’t nearly get enough of a spotlight.

My Bluebird-based bias aside, you really can’t go wrong with Batman Eternal for an adventure that truly lives up to its title in every way imaginable.

Jimmy Gaspero

I don’t remember when I first heard about Batman. I just always knew there was a Batman. My dad was a fan of the Adam West/Burt Ward movie and television series that was on from 1966-1968 when he was between the ages of 10-12. I didn’t grow up ironically loving that version of Batman for its camp or corniness, because my dad didn’t. He genuinely loved it and I did too. It didn’t take long for me to learn about a different version of Batman though, which happened through the comics. My dad wasn’t an avid comic book collector, but he would take my brother and I to the local comic book shop. He was always interested in new number 1 issues of anything or issues he thought might be valuable one day. So I wasn’t a regular reader of Batman comics, but you better believe I still have all the issues from Batman: A Death in the Family from 1988 as well as Batman #500 from 1993. My thoughts and feelings about Batman are inextricably linked to my dad.

Since getting back into reading comics around 2008, I’ve read a lot of Batman comics, and truth be told, when I try to look at it objectively, I’m not a huge fan of the character. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly read some great Batman comics, but too many times it feels like different writers giving subtle variations on a theme I don’t find that interesting. I will always love Batman though, because I can’t think of Batman without thinking of my dad, and I love my dad. 

When it comes to suggesting Batman comics, I don’t believe it gets any better than Batman: The Black Mirror. This storyline was published in Detective Comics issues #871-#881 written by Scott Snyder and artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla. Dick Grayson is the Batman and must contend with the return of James Gordon, Jr., Commissioner Gordon’s son and a psychopathic killer. This storyline begins Scott Snyder’s run and is the final arc of Detective Comics before DC’s New 52. Snyder writes as though he’s not going to be allowed to write Batman again and the result is, in my opinion, the best Batman story ever written. It’s smart, dark, full of twists and turns, and gorgeously illustrated. If you read one Batman story in your life, this should be the one. 

Categories
Episodes

Doom Patrol Season 3 Premiere Review: The Gang Is Back And Stranger Than Ever

Brief summary of where the show left off (Spoilers for seasons one and two of Doom Patrol):

The chief was behind all of our Doomies’ supposed accidents, orchestrating them to find a way to outlive his daughter, Dorothy Spinner. This was due to the threat she posed to all humanity, thanks to her powers that allowed her to bring anything she imagined into reality. One of those things she imagined was the Candlemaker, an ancestral entity able to grant anything Dorothy wishes (Of course, in some twisted way) and will be released from the young girl’s mind after she makes three wishes or starts puberty. The last time we saw our favorite team of mentally ill people, the Candlemaker was unleashed and left them in a sort of catatonic state, covered in wax, while Dorothy was set on confronting him.

Our views on the series going into season 3:

Gabrielle: I don’t think there’s gonna be many surprises here. Doom Patrol is my favorite show of all time. I remember when the first promotional material came out, with all five of them taking a photo in the Doom Manor’s hall, and the reception was pretty mixed. A lot of people complained it looked ridiculous and campy. Turns out, they were kinda right all along, except those elements were for the better and just a part of the bigger picture that is Doom Patrol.

I have a strong emotional connection to the show. There are few times where I cried as much as in Frances Patrol when Larry says goodbye to John, or when Cliff has a breakdown in Therapy Patrol, or when Jane faces her father in Jane Patrol. Few other sequences fill me with excitement and happiness as the musical number in Danny Patrol. There’s certainly nothing else that fascinates me quite as much with its weirdness as when Ezekiel, a talking (and now giant) cockroach with a god complex, makes out with Admiral Whiskers, a giant rat looking for revenge after Cliff ran over his mother. It’s all a beautiful rollercoaster.

I think the second season is equally excellent as the first one, being consistent with the marvelous weirdness and the character development we all love. But it didn’t quite hit me on an emotional level as the first one did (Which was to be expected. It’s an extremely high bar, and I still cried a lot). However, I feel like this third season could easily be the best one yet. As always with the show, there’s a lot of potential everywhere, and the place where the characters left off is a really interesting one to explore.

Jordan: I’m with Gabrielle in just loving this show. Doom Patrol has been important to me for a very long time and going into season one, I had sky-high expectations. So it’s all the more amazing that it exceeded them. It’s such a wonderful show that I think perfectly encapsulates what the Doom Patrol is. It pulls stories and concepts from the team’s vast history. There’s obviously a lot of Grant Morrison’s influence, but there are also references to the Silver Age and the Young  Animal stuff. It feels like a show made by people who just really love these characters.

But it’s not just all fan service. There’s so much heart and humanity within it all. It’s got the Doom Patrol’s usual oddities, but it feels fresh and new. It’s more focused on the quiet moments, the conversations of healing between characters. The Doom Patrol is a therapy group, and this show really leans into that. Each character is so fully realized and developed, they feel like real, living, breathing people. Small moments like Jane thanking Cliffe for getting her food in season one speak to the quality of this show. That moment only works because we have spent so long with these characters and care so deeply for them. It’s my favourite live-action adaptation of a comic book, so I was, of course, ecstatic to get into season three.

The Plot:

Jordan: Honestly, I think that Doom Patrol doesn’t even need to be described plotwise. The hook of the first season was rescuing The Chief from Mr. Nobody, but that’s not really why people were watching. The reason I kept coming back was because of the characters. It’s a very character first show. The characters and their conflicts and failings are what drive the show forward. This season I think that is especially true as from the episodes I have watched so far, it feels even more episodic. Which isn’t a bad thing in any way. In fact, I quite like the approach. It’s a lot like the comics, where there is a throughline throughout, but each episode can stand on its own as a singular story. I’m sure this will start to converge into something more focused as the season progresses, but so far, it’s brilliantly focused on character.  

Gabrielle: Describing the plot for Doom Patrol is hard. One second they’re having group therapy, and then they’re in an underground facility with living, human-eating butts on the loose. This season is no exception, which is great! It has to take the previous unresolved plot points on its shoulders while slipping in the plot for this one, and it does a great job at it. It’s the most emotionally charged premiere and amongst some of the most emotional episodes from the show at all. There’s a particular sequence with Jane that I believe will break everyone’s hearts. But it does not forget to also be fun as always, of course. Taking into consideration what this season sets out to do in its first few episodes, how it handles the characters, and all the fun it has while doing it, I think it’s not crazy to say that this is the series at its best. I won’t say yet it is the best season. For that, I will wait until it’s done. But I sure as hell believe it will be.

Characters:

Gabrielle: While I love basically everything about the show, its stronger aspect is the characters, in my opinion. When I made a Larry article a while back, I rewatched the two seasons while taking notes, and it was such a different experience that allowed me to get a deeper glimpse of just how many layers these characters have. It’s honestly insane.

From the get-go, this season doesn’t hold any punches, getting into tough territory and making us feel once again for these people that we love so much. All of them are taken into unexpected paths that feel incredibly daring on the writer’s part. They’re not directions many other shows would decide to take; you have weird, larger-than-life storylines that surprise you as they continue each episode, and at the same time, you’re told that one of them is going through some of the rawest and serious situations possible (Although sometimes mixing it with the weirdness, because Doom Patrol is just that good that it can pull it off).

This season had me realizing that I want these people to be happy. The last thing I want is for Doom Patrol to end. It’s an excellent show that I’m glad exists, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. But it had me thinking, ‘’I just want them to have a happy ending’’. They’re so well written that, for a moment, I would’ve chosen the happiness of these fictional characters over my favorite show of all time if given a choice. If that doesn’t speak for its quality, I don’t know what will.

Jordan: I’m in agreement with Gabrielle here. The characters are at their best this season. It feels like the creators are totally keyed into everyone’s voices. Every character feels fully realized, and their dynamic is well and truly established. But I wanna talk about the other characters of these first 3 episodes. Season 3 adds Michelle Gomez to the cast as Madame Rogue. She’s a perfect addition and slots into Doom Patrol’s unique brand of wackiness perfectly. Her interactions with Rita, in particular, are delightful. There is also an episode featuring the Dead Boy Detectives from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Their inclusion was incredibly fun, and I think people are really gonna love to see them. The villains so far have been great fun as well. The Sisterhood of Dada, Garguax, The Brain, and Monsieur Mallah all feel true to the comics but with fun twists and new angles. Garguax, in particular, was so much fun, a very different take on that character that still feels in line with his history. I really can’t wait for people to watch his episode. It’s totally wacky in typical Doom Patrol fashion, but the character is imbued with a surprising amount of pathos which makes him really engaging. This season seems most interested in exploring its characters as it takes them in new exciting directions. I’m super excited to see where this goes from here. 

Moments Where You Felt ‘’Oh this is the best possible show’’

Jordan: For all the wackiness of the show, all of the bombast and crazy extradimensional villainy, the best moments for me have been the quiet character beats. These early episodes are intimately focused on these characters, where they are, and where they’re heading. This show gets me emotional a fair bit, but usually towards the end of a season. This season, however, I had cried 3 times by the time of the second episode. A scene in the first episode with Jane and another with a dancefloor are particular standouts. I think this is also the funniest season so far. There’s a scene with Cliff and Garguax in particular, which was hilarious in its audacious imagery. This show always feels like the creators had a blast making it, and I think that’s truer in this season than ever.

Gabrielle: There are quite a few moments, actually. There’s a scene in the first episode that felt like a warm hug to the heart and the culmination of a lot of build-up since the start of the show that I feel will make a lot of people tear up. There’s a little musical number too, and we all know how good Doom Patrol is with those (Humanity peaked at Larry’s People Like Us cover). Also, I won’t mention which character I’m talking about, but there’s a decision that I wouldn’t have expected to see them take, and it ends up in a really compelling and layered character that I wish we could see again.

Is It Time To Give It a Chance?

Gabrielle: Well, if it wasn’t obvious already: Yes! It’s always a good time to watch Doom Patrol. So far, the show hasn’t declined in quality. Quite the opposite, really. If you like character-driven shows, with an out-of-time feeling, some of the best LGBTQ+ representation you can find, and bizarre comedy and plots, I’m sure you will love it!

Jordan: I mean, that’s not even a question. Doom Patrol is the best comic book show on TV and one of the best shows on TV right now, regardless of genre. This season particularly feels tight and streamlined with precision in its tone and universality in its characters. It’s 100% accessible and universal. There’s something here that everyone can connect to and see themself in. For those expecting more of the same, I think they will be surprised by the decisions and chances this season makes. Those behind Doom Patrol clearly aren’t content with hitting the same beats and this season really demonstrates that. It’s more of what worked but bolder and better than before.

Categories
Comics

The Belle Reve Files – Suicide Squad #10

Welcome back convicts. Today we’re discussing a landmark issue of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, #10. You might’ve encountered this cover before. It’s incredibly iconic and might be the single most recognisable image associated with this run. Obviously, that’s because of a certain vigilante taking up much of the page. Batman sells books and bumps those numbers up.

But outside of Batman, it’s an incredible cover. It’s a powerful statement and in my mind, the greatest image of Amanda Waller ever drawn. Here we see Batman with his back to the wall, a much shorter and obviously less physically powerful character barking at him. It boldly throws Waller into the wider universe and having freaking BATMAN as the one she’s backing into a corner sends a powerful message. It’s one of those covers that says a lot with a little and leaps off the stands. So what about the story behind the cover? Well let’s dive in, shall we? 

The issue starts with the introduction of Father Craemer, a priest who is setting up shop in Belle Reve. Craemer is one of my favourite supporting characters in this run, it’s clear that Ostrander loves him since he’s used later in his Spectre run. Craemer has decided to move here to help these criminals and minister to them. The good word and all that jazz. He’s a great character that has a really unique and interesting relationship with the Squad. We have psychologists to get into their heads, but Craemer gets to their hearts. He’s someone who actively tries to empathise with the Squad and that’s something Ostrander uses to great effect later.

Craemer is introduced alongside another member of the Bell Reve staff, Murph. Murph is a prison guard, who helps to fill out the Bell Reve supporting cast. I particularly like his conversation with Craemer in this opening scene. We get to understand why he’s working here and that he doesn’t like it all that much. It helps to ground the series and shows that these are real people, not background extras. This conversation is only on the third page and we already know everything we need to know about these characters. We understand who they are, what their role is, and what their perspective is on working here. 

The two of them then encounter Duchess, who we met in the last issue. She seems to have linked up with Belle Reve between issues after hauling in Slipknot. We get this really great panel of her with this massive sci-fi gun like something out of Aliens. It’s apt since Duchess is basically a female version of Dutch from Predator. A muscle-bound commando with a bandana firing massive machine guns from the hip. Ostrander, McDonnell, and the team then move from her introduction into a scene with Flo, Waller, and John Economos.

I love the way that the scene changes here as Waller sees the Duchess on a TV screen from the last panel. There are a lot of characters in this series and it could feel all over the place shifting between them all. Thankfully Ostrander manages to tie it all together seamlessly. When you read these issues you’ll notice that he only shifts perspective through action and reaction. We start with Cramer and Murph but switch to an introduction of Duchess when Murph gets a call about her. That then moves us to Waller as she watches her on a screen. It’s just really damn good writing and it feels totally seamless. Everything just flows really well and the momentum is never slowed for a second.

Now comics are often spoken of as condensed storytelling. Comics are a medium that has to do a lot in a small number of pages, especially back in the day when long-running stories weren’t as common. I want to point to this specific page as an example of Ostrander doing this condensed storytelling perfectly. It’s a conversation between Flo, Waller, and Economos and it tells you vital information about the characters while setting up plot points for future stories. In a single page, we learn that Flo has a crush on Bronze Tiger and that Waller knows about it. We know that Waller feels she’s saddled with Flag and believes he’s inevitably going to crack and we understand that Flo yearns to be in the field but that Waller cares too much about her.

That’s a lot for a single page but it never feels exhausting or forced. Flo never outright says she has a crush on Tiger but Waller joking about it tells us all we need to. Waller telling Flo that she’s not expendable tells us all we need to know about their relationship. Nothing is explicitly said but the implication is enough for us to immediately understand. It’s all done so efficiently and smoothly. If someone is wanting to make comics they should look at this page and study why and how it works. 

Following this, we get a brief but important scene with Rick Flag and Mark Shaw. Shaw announces that he’s leaving to do his own thing as Manhunter and invites Flag to come with him. Flag just ignores him, locked in his grief for Karin. It’s a brief moment that mostly acts to set up Manhunter’s own series which was also written by Ostrander and his wife Kim Yale. But it also helps to establish just how grief-stricken and disillusioned Flag is. It also goes back to my point about transitions. Waller spoke about Flag going off the deep end and in the next scene, he barely talks. 

Shaw heads out and the issue cuts to midnight. A lone figure sits in their cell, shrouded by shadow. The figure blocks the security camera and escapes his cell. The guards note that the man is Matches Malone, thrown in Belle Reve as a favour from Commissioner Gordon. We get these great pages by McDonell with lots of small panels showing glimpses of this figure breaking out and heading to storage revealing a package from Gordon. Inside of course is Batman’s costume, revealing that this figure is our very own Caped Crusader. Batman breaks into the office of John Economos and does some snooping around as Batman tends to do. He is eventually found out by Waller and she calls in Flag, Duchess, and Deadshot. Only Waller is interrupted by something on the monitor, Batman.

Here we finally get the reveal. This whole breakout sequence is so incredibly well done. See what needs to be understood is that here, Batman’s a horror movie monster. He’s like Jaws or the Xenomorph. He’s revealed in brief glimpses only to come out in this amazing big panel, as a dark vengeful creature of the night. It makes perfect sense as well given that this is a Squad book, not a Batman book, so we get to see him in a new light and from a different perspective. I’m also just always gonna love anytime Matches Malone is used, such a fun part of the Batman mythos. 

Of course, the Squad aren’t just gonna let Batman collect his things and leave. We get to see Duchess in action first, McDonnell draws her as a massive imposing figure that towers over Batman. It’s here where we get a lot of our understanding of the character. She’s someone who revels in a good fight and yearns for a worthy opponent. Introducing a character by essentially having her hold her own against Batman is a smart way for the creative team to set up how powerful she is. Of course, being Batman, Duchess is taken out as he moves on to Deadshot. There’s a great little page of Batman ducking under Lawton’s line of sight and knocking him out.

Batman seems to be home free before Flag comes in and tackles him. We get a great action sequence of these two stern heroes coming to blows. It’s depicted in another one of those full-action pages that McDonnell does a lot in this run. We don’t really get to see who wins though as Waller interrupts with the entire staff of Belle Reve. 

Here we get just some of the coolest stuff ever in a comic as Batman negotiates with Waller. Millennium as an event wasn’t amazing but it’s important for how it thrust the Suicide Squad into the wider universe. The Squad is supposed to be a secret so what happens when they take part in a line-wide crossover event? This is the fallout of that event as Batman notes that he had heard rumours of the Squad and became curious during the crossover.

This issue really functions as a way for Ostrander to address how the Squad can even function in a world of superheroes. So Ostrander throws in a character to effectively tackle this head-on, and what better character for it than the world’s greatest detective. Only Batman doesn’t get out with the evidence, Waller threatens to find out who he is and blow his cover if Batman blows theirs.

The whole issue effectively ends in a stalemate which is hardly the most dramatic end for a crossover comic book. But it’s important to remember just who these characters were at this point. Batman had just broken into and out of a prison and torn through the Squad with little effort. He went through all of this and in the end, was only stopped by Waller. It’s the defining moment for this character. She’s tough as nails, will do anything to get what she wants, and won’t let anyone jeopardize the Squad, no matter who it is. Not many characters can say that they blackmailed Batman. It’s such an important moment because it solidifies her place within the wider DC Universe. She’s not just someone who commands a Squad of criminals, she’s someone who made Batman think twice. 

Also as a side note, we get one single panel of Deadshot talking to Batman that just reveals so much about Lawton. Deadshot remarks how he’d take out Batman just for fun. Only Batman points out that if Deadshot could’ve he would’ve, instead, he was holding back. It completely shatters everything we know about the two characters’ rivalry. It’s not explained or elaborated on and it doesn’t need to be. The implication is interesting enough and forces us to think more deeply about the characters.

This whole issue is just damn good writing with a killer premise and fun action but it’s all in service of character. Like how Batman’s presence causes Flag to yell at the Squad and complain that he deserves better than to be working with this scum. It’s here where Waller reinstates Flag as leader since he’s just proven himself. Despite the story ending in a stalemate so much happens in this issue. New characters are introduced, old characters are given new motivations and interesting new elements of characters are revealed. This was all done in a brief 22 pages. 

It’s also just a stellar Batman story. Ostrander is one of my favourite writers to work on the character despite not having a proper long run with him. He just gets Batman and the unique presence he brings to a story. This entire issue is an absolute masterclass of comic book storytelling, it might just be the greatest single issue of the entire story. Just really highlights how good this medium can be when everyone is working at the top of their game. 

Categories
Episodes

Deep Diving into Aquaman with Brandon Thomas

Brandon Thomas stops by to talk about Aquaman: The Becoming with Dan! The conversation takes a deeper look into Jackson Hyde as a character, learning who he is and what he can become. We got to chat about our favorite Queen, Mera. There’s also a look at the current mantle holder of the Aquaman name, Arthur Curry. This is a must-listen for any fans of Aquaman!

Subscribe now or listen below!

Interview with Todd McFarlane GateCrashers

The man who needs no introduction joins us today. Todd McFarlane himself. Creator of Spawn, one of the founders of Image comics, and so much more joins Dan for an interview. Todd talks all about Spawn Universe, Gunslinger, and so much more!
  1. Interview with Todd McFarlane
  2. Deep Diving into Aquaman with Brandon Thomas
  3. Interview with Bill Moseley
  4. Deep Diving Into Black Manta With Chuck Brown
  5. Interview with Meghan Fitzmartin
Categories
Comics

I Am Batman #1 Impresses as Jace Fox takes up the Cowl

I Am Batman #1
Written by John Ridley
Art by Olivier Coipel, Alex Sinclair, and ALW’s Troy Peteri
Edited by Ben Abernathy
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: September 14, 2021

Jace Fox’s Destiny has arrived. We’ve been following the estranged son of Lucius Fox and his quiet reintroduction to the DC Universe but it’s here that he (literally) steps up to be something more real, concrete, for Gotham. The Batman, albeit differently, is already showing signs of the type of hero he’ll set out to be. I Am Batman throws Jace into the fires of Fear State in an #1 that gives an idea of Ridley’s mission statement for our new Batman.

Picking up from I Am Batman #0, Jace is moving comfortably in his Father’s world with reservations remaining given their past. It’s the work that takes place outside the offices and boardrooms that Jace is more attentive to. Coipel’s exquisite pencils sharply have Jace suit up in his freshly printed Batsuit with details that describe how grounded of an approach this Batman and the person behind the symbol will be. Ridley writes our Hero as someone who is well aware of Batman, as far as what he stood for and acted like. He doesn’t want to be that. He wants to be a man of the people and that starts in times of unrest. A Batman that is seen and heard, a vocal and physical reminder in the face of danger.

It’s a great contrast from our traditional and mainline Bruce Wayne’s characterization when it comes to being Batman and what he does with it. Ridley has been charting Jace’s character backward and forwards through time given his introduction with Future State and then working backward with the prequel series The Next Batman: Second Son and now the current present-day series. We’re understanding more about Jace through this investment in this character and it’s slowly paying off as he steps up as his own character taking on a mantle that plenty of characters have before. 

As Coipel’s pencils guide our next Batman around the Gotham City streets, he’s presented as a smaller…a more intimate figure on his cycle. A man in a suit really as he catches two kids tagging walls with graffiti. He humors but sternly attempts to warn them away from the activity and it’s the small acts that set Jace apart, the honest effort to be seen and heard as the Batman. We zip through the city streets in a widescreen page that features some stylized nightlife, pedestrians, and a speeding car giving Jace another bout with both citizens and police in his newfound crusade.

Coipel’s mastery of the page can’t be overstated as he uses both small and large panels, sometimes window-like to show actions all contributing to the overall action and always taking care to never lose the characters in the process. He’s aided by Alex Sinclair on coloring duties and even at night, the backgrounds and surroundings never make Jace a darker figure, losing him in the nighttime. Instead, he’s the focus as he rides and battles his way across Gotham with a crisp and kinetic Coipel drawn ferocity. 

While I Am Batman #1 is a first issue and I would say that it is reader-friendly to a point…it also lends itself to be read like a Part 2 or a continuing piece of a narrative given how much of Jace’s backstory and prequel series has led to this point and story threads are mentioned to give readers enough information to know what’s happening. If someone chose this as their first introduction to Jace Fox, I’d probably hand them the #0 issue as well just to be on the safe side. 

Categories
Comics

Is Titans United #1 New Reader Friendly?

Those familiar with HBO’s Titans will recognize the lineup in Titans United. Nightwing, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, Red Hood, Superboy, Donna Troy, Hawk, and Dove are together again for a new, 7 issue mini-series from Cavan Scott and Jose Luis. Although the book is using its connection to the show for advertising purposes, it quickly establishes that the mini-series will ultimately not tie itself to the shows’ specific continuity. 

Issue #1 of Titans United is a fairly fast-paced start to a new adventure for the team. Within the blockbuster action, Cavan manages to include a bit of breathing room for showcasing relationships within the Titans. The team dynamics will be familiar for more regular readers, but some new conflicts are simmering as well. Particularly, with the addition of Red Hood as a roster regular. The art is well done and the designs are some of my favorites for these characters yet! 

Overall, the plot is fairly straightforward without being remotely boring, making Titans United #1 a great place to start for anyone that is vaguely familiar with the IP from any type of related media (comics, cartoons, HBO series). There are bits and pieces from almost every iteration of the team sprinkled throughout the book, making it very easy for fans of any version of the team to find something they like. However, the lack of character introduction makes me hesitate to recommend it to those that are completely unfamiliar with the property. 

Titans United #1 is a great start to a story that all fans of various Titans media are likely to enjoy!

Categories
Comics Uncategorized

Batman: Wayne Family Adventures Brings Us Closer to the BatFam than Ever Before

The first offering of DC and Webtoons’ recently announced partnership, the first 3 chapters of the Batman: Wayne Family Adventures are absolutely delightful.  Written by CRC Payne and focused on Batman and the larger “Bat-family,” it’s a fun, slice-of-life, all-ages story that is allowing it’s lesser-known characters to really shine. And best of all, it’s completely free on the Webtoons app!

Wayne Family Adventures biggest strength is that it’s a story that could only be told in this format. A low-stakes book of fun family misadventures isn’t going to be dominating the direct market, but on a platform like Webtoons it’s able to bring more eyes to the Bat-family than there would be reading any regular issue of Batman.  As a huge fan of the Bat-family aspect of the DC universe, this is a story I, and many others, have wanted for years and as the family begins to tighten up in the main continuity, now is the perfect time for it.  With the series focusing on characters like Cassandra Cain and Duke Thomas who aren’t as well known to the wider audiences and more casual comic fans, it’s a great opportunity to bring more eyes to them.  While it acknowledges the 80 years of Bat-continuity by bringing in more recent characters like Duke and Damian, it’s not tied down by it.  You don’t need to know anything coming into these stories beyond the basics of “Batman fights crime and adopts orphans.” Every character gets a brief little blurb that tells you everything you need to know about them and the dynamics between the kids has all been set up perfectly to allow new readers a chance to really get to know them.

The art from the team of Starbite, Maria Li, Lan Ma and Jean Kim is absolutely perfect for this book.  The renditions of all these characters are adorable, and seeing Damian Wayne not coloured as a white person for a change was great.  The comic is vibrant and kinetic in the brief action scenes and every character is so expressive and cute.  Although some gutters seem unnecessarily large, it flows perfectly through the webtoons vertical format and little background details, like Bruce having a “worlds okayest dad” mug, just make the whole thing so charming.  The lettering from Kielamel Sibal is also key to the fun vibe that makes this series so special.

The first three chapters introduce us to the Bat-family, first through the eyes of Wayne Manor’s newest resident Duke Thomas, and then through the daily life of Oracle.  There’s an episode focused on the battle for the last cookie, and honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever read. The episode is full of the witty banter we all expect from our superheroes and as someone with many siblings, it completely nails the family dynamics and constant but loving fights there.  The whole thing is just complete fun and even Batman gets to just be an exasperated dad overwhelmed by his wonderful idiot children instead of a dark and broody figure.

If you’ve ever seen a silly tumblr post or fan-comic of these kids interacting and wanted more of that, this webcomic is exactly for you, and I cannot recommend it enough.  And once again, it’s completely free to read, with an option to read the next few early with Webtoons coins system!

Catch new episodes of Batman: Wayne Family Adventures on Webtoons every Thursday.

Categories
Comics

GC52 News for DC Comics Released 09/07/2021

(Spoilers for DC Comics released 09/07/2021)

If you missed last week’s report, check it out here.

(Words in italics signal actions)

The GC52 Logo appears on televisions, computers, and all other types of viewing devices at its normally scheduled time. Intern Jerry sits at the center of the newsroom behind his desk. This week he’s wearing a t-shirt that says “Jokerize deez nutz”. The large window behind him looks out over Metropolis. The setting sun sparkles off the Daily Planet Globe, the crown jewel of the City of Tomorrow. The GC52 theme music begins to dim as the actual program begins.

Jerry: Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Evening to all our wonderful viewers from the docks of Coast City to the furthest reaches of Oa, you are watching the multiverse’s best news show that brings you the news that you need to know! Jerry here filling in for Dan while he is on assignment in Gotham. Just doing my part to bring you up to the minute updates on the worlds you live in!

So you remember when Dan went to that nice house on the lake? They got an email over to us, well to Dan…but I’m sitting at his desk so I opened it. They were running out of food and stuff but they got some magic notepad that makes packages appear the next day. I would just write 900 copies of Shrek 2 to see if it happened. Sorry, that was insensitive, I’m really nervous doing this. Bad things are happening to those people. They can’t die and things are looking… bad. Just really bad. I hope they’re alright.

Our next story comes from an unusual source, this message in a bottle found floating in the sink of the GC52 office break room. While we don’t usually endorse weird ways to submit stories like this, it’s about time someone investigated these strange headaches people are reporting worldwide.

Jerry begins reading the message.

Dear Diary, things have been pretty tense aboard the Manta-sub recently. Ever since the boss found that weird rock he’s been a man possessed. Even when we’re after the fish-man he never gets this intense. It all started when he began getting these strange headaches and had to hunt down this artifact, but Captain Demo went and stole it from him. So Black Manta went after him on his own and took it back with ease and we even got some fine plunder from that loser’s ship. Picked up some new recruits from his crew too!

I got a peek at this rock a while ago and I really don’t see the fuss. Just a stone with weird red lines on it. Boss is working with Gallous the Goat (who is a human woman, not an actual goat) to figure out what’s going on, and all the bickering between those two is making the sub miserable with all this talk of “morality”. I hope this rock stuff is figured out soon, we haven’t tried to kill Aquaman in weeks! Anyways, time to throw this diary entry into the ocean to annoy Atlantis!

Love,

Mark the Manta-man

Jerry: We sent out the best reporter the seven seas have to offer in order to investigate further. There…aren’t many reporters that live on the seas though, so all we got back was a jumbled voicemail from a “Captain Jim”. 

Captain Jim: OK OK OK.  HEAR ME OUT HERE. The Human Flame’s the key here. It all comes back to him. Word on the high seas is there’s someone running around stealing the Human Flame’s essence and doing Doctor Fate magic. Speaking of magic, my friend Dead Dave also told me there’s a lady with a fire sword causing trouble in the underworld and there’s no such thing as a coincidence where magic is involved. Probably a magic rock causing all of this too!

Jerry: I hope you enjoyed those random unrelated facts and just remember, it’s easier to teach a reporter to sail than a pirate to report. 

An overlay image of Crush appears to Jerry’s right. 

Jerry: Did you all hear that Crush escaped space prison? Honestly, good for her. Sounds like her dad betrayed her which ya know…tracks for Lobo from what I know. Maybe she had some time to really think about how she is betraying herself in all of her relationships with the issues she has with… never mind not her therapist. I just love gossip and I love people getting through their baggage. Oh, emergency report coming in!

On the screen, bold letters flash in front of a blaring red background reading, UPDATE. The camera cuts to Katie wearing a SAVE THE GREEN! T-shirt. Felicia also appears to be donning a verdant-colored shirt on her little cat body.

Katie: Urgent news today, Earth-lovers! Felicia and I finally bought matching outfits. Doesn’t she look purr-fect in her tiny kitty shirt! 

As if on cue, Felicia stands up on her hind legs and lifts her paws to reveal her SAVE THE GREEN! shirt. 

Katie: Look at that! Talented and beautiful. She’s a cat of all trades! On to the actual news report I’m required to give you now. We last heard word from intel relaying information about Task Force X’s plan to capture the mysterious green force disrupting Kaziranga forest. Sources report a deluge of trouble raining down on the infamous Suicide Squad members deployed inside. Antihero Heat Wave was recovered after team leader Rick Flag found Heat Wave’s body half-drowned, along with his equipment. It must have taken an immense threat to extinguish his flame! 

A green god himself, Chemo split off from the rest of the group, leaving destruction in his wake. Who told him he could fight fire with fire by decimating the marshland even further? SAVE THE GREEN PEOPLE!! 

Again, Felicia rises. She points a black paw at the barely scrutable words on her shirt and taps in consolidation.

Katie: See! Even Felicia doesn’t like what she’s hearing about all this mangled forest mess. I have scarce details about the location of the other Task Force members, Parasite and Asa. Amanda Waller must be feeling the heat now! Oops, too soon? 

All we can say for certain is this: The Suicide Squad is scattered throughout Kaziranga, and the “Swamp Thing” they are hunting remains at large. I believe a supernatural force is battling against — or with? — Mother Nature here. It sounds like a nightmare out there. No one will be resting easy tonight. The search for the “Swamp Thing” has run into some major roadblocks. Thankfully, we can’t hear anyone scream in the forest…I’ll have a new update soon. Let’s hope we don’t get another visit from King Shark again! Also, SAVE THE GREEN! T-shirts are available on my website at-

The camera cuts Katie off before she can offer unsolicited promotional material on-air.

Jerry: You think Swamp Thing ever… hits the green? Darkseid’s Lettuce? Joker’s Laughing Grass? Poison Ivy’s Smokey Kiss? Speaking of lighting it up, let’s check in with Jordan about Task Force X.

As the camera cuts, a small room comes into view, Jordan adjusts his chair and riffles through different folders and books. 

Jordan: Welcome back to our top-secret Bell Reve branch for GC52. It has been an incredibly eventful few days here with a move to a new location which unfortunately is confidential. Anyway, let me get you up to speed. The Squad recently encountered Superboy on assignment on Earth 3. Of course, this was more than a little strange given that Superboy was already on the Squad. Our own Superboy didn’t take well to this imposter, in much the same way as this other motorcycle Superboy. 

As the two came to blows, the rest of the Squad fulfilled their assignment. Turns out this assignment was recovering a whole lot of Superboy clones which Waller had kept as a secret, even worse than that is the fact that our Superboy wasn’t the real one after all. Instead, he’s a defective clone called Match who was unaware of his own identity. After securing the clones, the Squad was suddenly teleported back to our new base. 

Ambush Bug: Whoa there, you don’t wanna forget the stinger at the end of the annual do you? 

Jordan: Ugh. Sorry everyone this is Task Force X’s newest teleporter, Ambush Bug. What are you talking about Bug? 

Ambush Bug: Well at the end of the issue Robbie Thompson revealed that the escaped Rick Flag has recruited the original Mirror Master Sam Scudder for a new Suicide Squad designed to stop Waller. 

Jordan begins looking progressively annoyed the more Ambush Bug talks.

Jordan: Uh-huh, sure. Look I don’t think I’m gonna be able to get you to leave, so please at least simmer down and stay quiet. Anyway, the Squad got a bit of downtime in a simulated reality. Unfortunately, our friend Ambush Bug here broke some bad news to the Squad. 

Ambush Bug: Bad news?! Hey buddy someone needs to keep this story rolling

Jordan: I said be quiet, please. It turns out that Nocturna is from another Earth, was brought here by Bloodsport, and brainwashed into believing she was of this Earth. All this intrigue was promptly interrupted however by a bunch of demons sent into the simulated reality by Waller. She’s testing the Squad to enter hell itself and reach the Rock of Eternity.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the Squad has run into a bit of an obstacle as a group calling themselves the Hell Squad has appeared. These seem to be previous members of Task Force X who died in the field, and they’ve returned with a vengeance. We’ve since lost contact with the Squad and are trying to bring comms back online now. I’ll be sure to update you as this progresses. But in the meantime, just remember that you didn’t hear any of this from me.

Ambush Bug: Ooooo very ominous.

The camera cuts before Ambush Bug decides to teleport into the studio.

Jerry: Thomas is in this week! This should be…enlightening. Get it? Like Green Lanterns ligh-

Thomas stands in front of a dead screen.

Thomas: Hello Jerry, I’m standing in front of the GC52 Smart Report Interactive Screen, which as you can see is powered down. I had all kinds of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold footage queued up for display, but apparently someone told those dunderheads that NFTs exist, and now every smart device that tries to show an image of them…well, see for yourself.

Thomas turns on the display, which momentarily shows Blue Beetle and Booster Gold in an exciting car chase before pop-up ads for “Blue & Gold” shaving kits, mattresses, food crates, and website tutorials fill the screen and cause it to freeze.

Thomas: So that’s what the media is dealing with. This NFT menace arrives on the heels of Booster Gold’s announcement that the two superheroes are available for less-than-Justice-League level jobs and threats on a pro-bono basis. Every recorded moment of their exploits becomes a digital product for sale that, itself, promotes another product with their name on it. Kord Industries is bankrolling the initiative, which goes to show that the only thing trust fund babies have more of than discretionary spending is time and industry to waste. 

Jerry: Thomas, is there any risk of “Blue and Gold” clients being used in future advertisements, especially if these, excuse me, en-eff-tees can manipulate devices used to watch them?

Thomas: That’s an excellent question, Jerry. NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, were invented by the Riddler as a means to skim rich people who want to skim middle-class people who want to skim poor people. It’s all tracked on a digital ledger that perfectly accounts for all transactions except when it doesn’t, and uses enough energy to qualify as a Swamp Thing story. This crossover sounds brutal, but I have hope that people can tell the difference between a risky investment and unadulterated bull–

Thomas’s video and audio feed freeze as a 3D rendering of Booster’s face appears in front of him to address the camera.

Booster Gold: Hello, fans and Gold Club members! Blue & Gold Restoration LLC does not endorse this fake news valuation of NFT markets. Any ideas or strategies discussed herein should not be undertaken by any individual without prior consultation with a financial professional for the purpose of assessing whether the ideas or strategies that are discussed are suitable to you based on your own personal financial objectives, needs, and risk tolerance. Blue & Gold Restoration LLC expressly disclaims any liability or loss incurred by any person who acts on the information, ideas, or strategies discussed herein. Stay golden!

The Booster graphic disappears, and regular video and audio resume. Jerry is visibly disturbed.

Jerry: Moving on… Thomas, you’re pulling double duty this week, as there have been quite a few developments among the Green Lanterns. Care to bring us up to speed?

Thomas is drenched in sweat and slurring his words.

Thomas: Umm let’s shee herr… new information indurcates that Lantern Mullein met with Sinestro to discuss potato involvement in the attack on Oa. Lantern Stewart has been deployed to investigate Gold Centurions and their presence in the Dark Section following the Barrier War, including whether New Gods are involved. 

Jerry: Thomas, everything okay over there? You haven’t been hitting the sauce between takes, have you?

Thomas: I feel abs… 

Thomas begins melting from the top-down, becoming a pile of goo and JCPenney clothing. Jerry is once again visibly disturbed.

Jerry: Oh my. Security? We might have a supervillain attacking us? Someone call janitorial, at least!

The real Thomas kicks in the studio doors, microphone in hand, letting in glorious yellow light.

Thomas: That was just a lifelike model biding for time while I made my way here in person, Jerry. We’ve got CRUZ NEWS!

Confetti and released birds burst forth from all directions as a choir’s powerful chords wash over the studio space

Thomas: Okay, first off. We knew Jessica was a Yellow Lantern, right? Like, we all knew. But what was really going on there? We finally got the full scoop. Not only did she defeat three Yellow Lanterns while depowered in a derelict space station, not only did she drop the gauntlet at Sinestro’s door, but she used a yellow ring to put Hal Jordan in his cocky place afterward, too! What a hero. What an inspiration.

Jerry: What will this mean for Cruz’s standing within the Green Lantern Corps? Soranik Natu has jumped corps before, but are the Yellow Bogeypeople really so trustworthy?

Thomas: They are when Jessica’s taking point. Her sensitivity to fear means she can find strong expressions of the emotion and act to help those situations. There’s a whole candle metaphor that gets the point across beautifully. Lantern Quintela is some ten steps behind Cruz on using rather than abusing Sinestro’s Corps. 

Jerry: That all sounds rather promising. How are other prominent Lanterns taking this power shift?

Thomas: Kilowog returned from some space raid with barely a few survivors, sounds like a rough day. He’ll probably take it well. Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner are Rao knows where at the moment. If they’re feeling profound fear, though, they have a friend on the way! ‘Til next time, Jerry.

Jerry: Thank you, Tho-

Jerry’s replacement intern rushes in front of the camera, tears off his shirt, and screams “CRUZ NEWS” just before blacking out.

Jerry: Now I know how Dan felt like when I was interning here. You’ll remember viewers that over the last few weeks we’ve been receiving reports from an ex-GC52 reporter, Ethan. He’s actually a DEO agent and has been assisting with an investigation into the Multiverse. Well, looks like everything that’s been happening has drawn to a close. Let’s take a read of what Agent 17 had to say.

Jerry picks up a report from the desk and begins to read.

For storage in DEO Archives regarding Operation: Infinite Frontier.

Compiled by Agent 17.

After-action Report.

It’s over. Our heroes are back home. Is it a win? In the long-term, hard to say. But right now, at this very moment, yeah, the Chase, JSA, and Justice Incarnate did it. So once this report is filed, I’m going on break. I’m gonna lie down on a sun lounger at some beach, with a cold can of MultiBrewery, and do nothing for a week.

But first, what happened exactly? Well, turns out Justice Incarnate had been investigating everything that’s happened from their side, just the same as Chase and JSA were conducting their own investigations. After communications were cut off on Earth-Omega as they all converged on Darkseid, Chase filled me in on what went down. It’s a lot, some stuff involving our Earth’s Flash being controlled to chain the universes off from each other. Injustice Incarnate being defeated by the combined forces of the heroes present. President Superman of Earth-23 rescuing Flash. And in the end, with his plans thwarted, Darkseid sending everyone back to their own universe, except Flash. No one knows where he is.

Now, what’s happened with the DEO, well, Bones vanished. No surprise there after his plan failed. So Chase now has charge of the organization. Good I say, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone I trust as much as her. She’ll steer us right. And we’ll find Bones soon enough. Anyway, she’s in New York right now debriefing Roy Harper. He went through some stuff during this old thing but I think he’ll be okay.

Once Chase is back and I’m done with my holiday, I’m going to ask about getting a posting in Justice Incarnate’s base. Having a permanent presence there will be good and hopefully help prevent something like Operation: Infinite Frontier from happening again. But first thing I’ll be doing when I’m back is catching up with an old friend.

Report Ends.

Jerry places the report back on his desk and looks to the camera.

Jerry: I think I know who this old friend is and well, that’s gonna be something. To end our report tonight, I’m handing you back over to Dan who is coming live from a Batcave in Gotham City. I will see you next week. 

When the report cuts over to Dan, he looks nothing like he normally does. Gotham City is a hellscape where suits and ties don’t cut it. His hair is pulled back by a black bandana with the bat symbol on full display at the front to show his allegiance if it comes down to it. His eyes are bloodshot from lack of sleep due to keeping such long hours. His normal formal attire is replaced with his worn GC52 T-shirt hidden beneath a heavy bulletproof vest with a spray-painted bright teal bat symbol on his chest. The lid to his thermos pops off as he takes a long swig of his coffee. 

Dan: Evening viewers, it’s only been a week since I’ve arrived in Gotham but things are not great. Since Oracle was taken over by some hijacker, people have had fear driven deep into their hearts like a stake. But we are out here doing what we can in the city. It’s been a long time since I’ve been home in Gotham but this is what needs to happen…

Dan takes a deep breath as he rolls his neck to release some tension. 

Dan: Saint’s propaganda reports continue to run on every major news station but ours… Must be easy to have the Devil’s hands in your pocket to slip you a 20. But he’s trying to make sure Gotham knows his intentions are pure… That he wants to build a new Gotham. I think the people of Gotham know better than to trust the Magistrate program. They’re just Robocop’s with their prime directive to serve their masters’ whim. What Gotham needs isn’t a police state, it needs the Bat. 

A loud buzzing can be heard from one of many pouches on Dan’s person as he pulls out his phone to answer. The phone has been patched directly into the Ghost-Net, the network the bat-family is working from in this crisis. He speaks off-camera for a bit before lifting it up again to speak. 

Dan: Batman is alive. I hope people see this report because Batman lives. The Scarecrow captured him and things sound worse than we thought. His tech has had a major upgrade somehow… Maybe a tech mogul helped him? But my contact is beneath Gotham with Queen Ivy, Harley Quinn, and Ivy’s ex-girlfriend The Gardener. The Unsanity Collective is down there with them so they’re safe currently. For the time being, things are calm. But eye of the storm… I have a strange feeling that Saint has something much worse coming for Gotham.

Now I have to get back on the streets to help people. As always… be it the Bat Symbol in Gotham, a red streak through Central City, or a golden lasso on Themyscira… GC52 has you covered with the news you need to know. Till next week, I’m your host Dan McMahon. Be strong in all your convictions.


Books covered this week:

  • Batman #112 by James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles.
  • Crush and Lobo #4 by Mariko Tamaki, Amancay Nahuelpan, Tamra Bonvillain, and Ariana Maher.
  • The Nice House on the Lake #4 by James Tynion IV, Álvaro Martínez Bueno, Jordie Bellaire, and AndWorld Design.
  • Black Manta #1 by Chuck Brown, Valentine de Landro, Marissa Louise, and Clayton Cowles.
  • The Swamp Thing #7 by Ram V, Mike Perkins, Mike Spicer, and Aditya Bidikar.
  • Suicide Squad #7 by Robbie Thompson, Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Marcelo Maiolo, and Wes Abbott.
  • Suicide Squad 2021 Annual #1 by Robbie Thompson, Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Dexter Soy, Chris Sotomayor, and Wes Abbott.
  • Blue & Gold #2 by Dan Jurgens, Ryan Sook, and Rob Leigh.
  • Green Lantern #6 by Geoffrey Thorne, Marco Santucci, Tom Raney, Mike Atiyeh, and Simon Bowland.
  • Green Lantern 2021 Annual #1 by Ryan Cady, Sami Basri, Tom Derenick, Hi-Fi, and Rob Leigh.
  • Infinite Frontier #6 by Joshua Williamson, Xermánico, Romulo Fajardo Jr, and Tom Napolitano.
Categories
Episodes

Deep Diving Into Black Manta With Chuck Brown

Ringo and Eisner Award-winning writer Chuck Brown joins us for an in-depth look on the character of Black Manta. We discuss how David sees himself, the idea of legacy, who the character was and who he can be. Make sure to check out Black Manta #1 available now from DC Comics.

Subscribe now or listen below!

Interview with Todd McFarlane GateCrashers

The man who needs no introduction joins us today. Todd McFarlane himself. Creator of Spawn, one of the founders of Image comics, and so much more joins Dan for an interview. Todd talks all about Spawn Universe, Gunslinger, and so much more!
  1. Interview with Todd McFarlane
  2. Deep Diving into Aquaman with Brandon Thomas
  3. Interview with Bill Moseley
  4. Deep Diving Into Black Manta With Chuck Brown
  5. Interview with Meghan Fitzmartin
Categories
Comics

Aquaman’s 80th Anniversary is Celebrated with a Mix of Greatness and Baffling Decisions

Aquaman has been my favourite DC superhero since I was a little kid. Growing up watching shows like Justice League and especially Batman: The Brave and the Bold made me fall totally in love with the character. The aesthetic of the whole world is what sucked me in, but what kept me around was Arthur himself. An adventurer, a family man, and a king under the sea respected by his peers. So it was weird to me to enter into reading comics where I learned people didn’t seem to think he was cool, because to me he always was.

Well now everyone seems to be more or less on the same page as we celebrate 80 years of the character. DC this week released the 80th-anniversary special with a great deal of amazing creators on board. It’s heralded as a celebration of the character and his long legacy. So let’s dive in and see if it stacks up to that goal and if it’s worth a buy. 

I’m not going to go in depth into every story, but I’ll go through the good, the bad and the ugly of this special. Or in this case, the stellar, the average and the baffling!

The Stellar

The special started off really strong with a story called ‘Foxtail’  by two of my top creators, Jeff Parker and Doc Shaner. The story concerns Aquaman saving a great creature of the deep from a naval submarine. Parker wrote one of my favourite runs on the character back in the New 52, so it was a joy to see him back on the character. He gives Arthur such a warmth and humanity which is just so perfect for him. Shaner perfectly matches that warmth with his adventurous and friendly Arthur. It’s a depiction of the character that I feel like would give really good hugs but could also call on the wrath of the seven seas. Shaner should be drawing this character forever. Overall this was an incredible little story that nailed why I love Arthur Curry. His empathy and compassion is on full display here, essential aspects of  the character. 

Marguerite Bennett wrote a gorgeous story with Trung Le Nygen on art titled ‘The Rhine Maidens.’ This story really stood out, thanks in no small part to the great Jordie Bellaire on colours. This story follows the Bombshell versions of both Arthur and Mera as they evade some sirens. I’m not at all familiar with DC’s Bombshells continuity but this gorgeous little story really gets to the heart of Arthur and Mera’s relationship. 

Dan Watters did a really interesting story with Miguel Mendonça on pencils. It focused on Arthur’s relationship with his brother Orm, the villainous Ocean Master. Arthur plans to meet with his brother and talk peacefully before he is swept up in a clashing storm, driving the two brothers into battle. It’s an interesting way to visualise the two characters’ conflict and asks if they can ever truly resolve their differences. 

The issue ends with two vignettes setting up the upcoming miniseries’ following Black Manta and Aqualad respectively. The first by Chuck Brown and Valentine de Landro feels a bit more like setup. It establishes Manta’s conflict and mission, as well as his relationship with a supporting character. It looks gorgeous and I am very excited to read this book but this doesn’t stand on its own as a story.

The story by Brandon Thomas and Diego Olortegui however does feel like its own adventure. Aqualad must protect little baby Andy (Arthur and Mera’s daughter) from the Scavengers. It’s a really fun little adventure with great characterization and a charming tone. Thomas has a great voice for these characters and Olortegui has a really expressive style that suits it perfectly. These are two wonderful preludes to bigger and hopefully even better things 

Similar to the Thomas story, we get another fun tale of the Aquafamily hanging out on a beach. This story by Shawn Aldridge and Tom Derenick is a great little throwback to the old Silver Age Aquaman. An era of simple stories and conflicts.  It even brings back a classic Nick Cardy character, Aquabeast. Being a huge Aquafan I really appreciated it, but it may not be to everyone’s tastes. It harkens back to the simpler days of Aquaman when Arthur would just hang with his fam and trouble would eventually disrupt the peace. Nice and wholesome. 

Those are the stories that I loved and wholeheartedly recommend. I would recommend reading the special just to get a look at any one of these stories. The art by the likes of Shaner and Nygen especially is worth checking out. 

The Average

The following are the stories that I thought were decent or okay. Ones that have strong ideas or concepts but left me wanting in execution. Which is a shame because there are some incredible creators here. Sadly sometimes things just don’t pan out and these stories just didn’t work for me. 

For example, Michael Moreci and Pop Mhan did a story featuring Garth and Arthur. Instead of examining the relationship between the two and how it’s changed, it follows Arthur fighting the Lady of the Lake and rejecting Excalibur. It feels unfocused and fairly flat. It’s a standard beat the villain light show, lacking any nuance or heart. Out of everything in this special, this felt the most like an afterthought sadly. 

We also got to take a trip back in time to the 80s with Stephanie Phillips and Hendry Prasetya’s ‘Multitudes.’ This story functions as a throwback to the Aquaman miniseries by Neil Pozner and Craig Hamilton from the 80s. That’s a great little mini that leaned more into the mysticism of Atlantis and it’s the story that suited Arthur up in his blue camouflage gear. This tries to go for that as well with Arthur in that blue suit again and teaming up with Arion, an ancient king of Atlantis. It tries to alleviate Arthur’s stress about being King but it feels a bit rushed. Its message doesn’t really land. It functions well enough as a team-up between Arthur and Arion but with a special like this, I was wanting a little more. 

Unfortunately, Geoff Johns returned for this special. Of course, Johns is an influential creator in Aquaman’s history but with the allegations against him, it feels incredibly tone-deaf to bring him back. It wasn’t even worth it, considering this is my least favourite of the collection. The story here follows Aqualad as he battles his father, Black Manta which they apparently do every year. It feels rushed and the characters don’t speak like real people. It just feels forced and stilted and sadly not even the art team can save it. Paul Pelletier who I usually love puts in some decent enough work but feels less defined and more rushed than his usual high standard. 

The Baffling

These last two stories just confused me more than anything. Again they aren’t awful, they just left me a bit baffled. The first is ‘Between Two Shores’ by Cavan Scott and Scott Eaton. This follows Arthur and Mera as they protect a Trench creature that has been raised by an Atlantean. Just a bizarre concept for a story with odd stereotypical characters. I get what they were trying to accomplish here with Arthur sticking up for those caught between two worlds. But this could have worked better with say a character from the Ninth Tride introduced in Abnett’s run. I can see this working better with more time but the lack of pages available left this feeling incomplete. 

Another odd addition was a story by Dan Jurgens and Steve Epting. These two are a returning creative team from a small run in the late 90s. This takes place around the time of that run. If you’re asking yourself if Jurgens really did a run in the 90s you would be forgiven. DC has never reprinted it and it’s almost never talked about. I can appreciate an overlooked run being given the spotlight but this was a bizarre inclusion. Especially since this is so beholden to characters and concepts that most won’t even be familiar with. It doesn’t help that the story also isn’t all that compelling. I can’t see this wanting to draw in new readers to that old material, especially since the same concepts have been executed far better in other work. 

Conclusion

I think the feeling of confusion really sums up my thoughts on this special. I just have so many questions. For something that claims to celebrate 80 years of Aquaman it sure does very little to show it. Most of these stories had Arthur in his shirtless look from the run by Kelly Sue Deconnick, with a few exceptions. I love that run but he didn’t even keep that look by the end of the run? It feels more like it’s cashing in on Momoa’s Aquaman with the tattoos, rather than paying homage to the character. 

I liked how some stories focused on specific eras of the character, like the work of Nick Cardy but why wasn’t there more of that? Why is nothing done to reflect on the work in the 70s by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo? The work that Ramona Fradon did seems to be completely ignored, same with the stories in the 2000s like Sub Diego and Sword of Atlantis. Harpoon-hand Aquaman from the 90s is controversial but that look is incredibly iconic. That was Aquaman for the better part of a decade, why isn’t that here at all?

Where are characters like Dolphin, Tula, and Vulko? Even fish characters like Topo the Octopus and Storm the seahorse would have been great to see. Where are creators like Dan Abnett, Stjepan Šejić, Brad Walker, or Ivan Reis? Artists who have defined the look of modern Aquaman. Oddly I think the great selection of variant covers honours the legacy of the character better than the actual issue did. There are covers that acknowledge important touchstones of the character’s history, with odes to the golden age, 70s, and 90s. 

The best stories inside all reveal different aspects of the character. Parker and Shaner focus on his relationship with his finny friends and Bennett and Ngyeun focus on his relationship with Mera. Why wasn’t there more of that? Another one of my favourite characters got that in spades earlier this year, Green Arrow. That issue brought in characters and creative teams from across the character’s history in a way that truly celebrated that character, how he’s changed and what he means. If you were a fan of Green Arrow you got a wonderful celebration of his history and evolution. But it was also an issue that was approachable and easily recommendable. If you were new you could instantly understand why people loved that character.

I don’t know if you would get that from this, despite some very strong stories. I can’t say I’m all that surprised. So much of the older Aquaman comics are out of print and unavailable. Ramona Fradon worked on the character longer than any other creator. Can you find her work anywhere? No, not in trade and not on Comixology or DC Universe Infinite. A few issues are there but nothing close to the extensive catalogue of work she did. 

When I put down this issue I struggled to think that I could really give this to someone and say “THIS IS AQUAMAN.” I think that’s what these issues should do, celebrate the character and what makes them so special. Outside of a few stories I didn’t really get that. Instead, this felt quite rushed and scattered, with creative teams chosen supposedly at random. Each story taken on its own, there is more here that I would say is good than bad. But something celebrating 8 decades of a character should be better than that. It’s not all bad though. I’m very excited for the future, what Thomas and Brown are doing is really exciting. It seems the future is in safe hands, it would just be great if the past could be appreciated as well. 

GIVE ME MY RAMONA FRADON AND NICK CARDY OMNIBUSES DC DAMMIT!