Favorite Comic Books of 2020

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It’s time for my annual tradition of looking back at the previous year of comic books and talking about my favorites.

Also, listen for details on how to win some TKO Studios comic book collections!

Please send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com, chat with me @longboxreview on Twitter, or visit longboxreview.com.

Thanks for listening!

52! Week Ten

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Batista, Palmiatti, Jadson, Sinclair, Fletcher, Cohen, Jones, Richards, and Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Stop the Press”

Week 10, Day 1: In Kahndaq, Black Adam meets with his allies and potential allies. He is interrupted by the young woman, Adrianna Tomaz (who was given to him as a gift in issue three), who is attempting to flee.

Week 10, Day 2: At the Daily Planet, Perry White reprimands Clark Kent for allowing the Daily Star to get the scoop on the newest Metropolis superhero, Supernova. Perry tells Clark that because of his poor performance over the last few months, Clark is fired. Clark then sees Supernova flying by the Daily Planet and jumps out the window. His tactic pays off because Supernova catches him, allowing Clark to interview him.

Black Adam’s palace guards release Adrianna from her overnight holding cell and she and Black Adam have a conversation. She tells him that he will “plunge this world into war”.

Week 10, Day 3: Lois chastises Clark for throwing himself into harms way for a story, the irony of which is not lost on her husband. He tells Lois that he thinks Supernova is on the level.

Week 10, Day 4: Booster Gold is feeling sore that he’s had to relocate from his penthouse condo to a three-room rental and is looking to take it out on Supernova.

Week 10, Day 6: Will Magnus visits Dr. Morrow again, and he shows Morrow an empty cocoon that Dr. Sivanna had been treating with radiation.

Thoughts

Look at the artistry on display with this Jones/Sinclair cover. The folds and wrinkles in Clark Kent’s clothing and the look of the newspapers falling around him are just spectacular.

Notice the issue title is “Stop the Press”, not “Presses”. Aside from Clark’s employment issue (which is quickly resolved), these phrases usually mean that urgent information has come to light and needs to be disseminated. So what is that information this issue? That Black Adam’s mission will fail? That Clark is not a great reporter? That Dr. Morrow is still grateful that Magnus visits him?

The opening scene with Black is interesting for a couple reasons:

  • One, he says “Shazam” but the lightning does not come. He appears to be intrigued, but what will come of this? I love how the artists drew this scene, especially the middle panel: it’s just Adam staring into the sky with some birds in the distance — its a quit moment for him before all of the drama.
  • Two, the gathering. I have to confess, while I did recognize the big guy from the Great Ten and a Rocket Red, I had to look up the others in this two-page spread. From left to right, we have: Queen Cobra (who is new, according to my internet source), Sonar (whom I thought I recognized but wasn’t sure because of the way he was drawn), Lady Zand (whom I thought at first was Blackfire), Ibis the Invincible (whom I thought was a new Sargon the Sorcerer at first), August General in Iron, Cascade (whom I did not know was from the Global Guardians), and Rocket Red. I’m sure some of the “normals” in the scene are based on people who either work at DC Comics or from the artist’s life — there’s just too many of them looking at the camera to not be more than background characters.

Clark Kent is fired for underperforming. This is just calling out what we already know — Clark, in normal circumstances, is the equivalent of an athlete who is doping. Is he even a good reporter? I’ve always disliked that Clark got his job because he cheated (writing about himself), and it seems this reliance on his super abilities has only continued over the years. Hell, he even borrows a page from Lois’ playbook by falling into the arms of a superman! (And the later scene of her chastising Clark for that act was priceless.) Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

I loved the scene between Adrianna and Black Adam with her speaking truth to power. She’s also not a bit player and not a victim. Is their argument their meet-cute?

The scene with Lois and Clark is notable not just for their conversation about what Clark did and Supernova, but also for the fact that this is the first scene with one of the Trinity since the series started and we get an update on the other two! Speaking of Supernova, we see that he apparently can teleport, flies, has destructo-vision or something (more teleportation, perhaps?), and he gets Superman’s seal of approval.

Finally, in the scene with Morrow and Magnus, the former doctor is tidying up his cell by returning some books to a shelf. One is Brave New World and the other is 1984. Given the dystopian futures in both novels, how ominous is this message? Is Morrow preparing for his role in this future (taking inspiration from the stories) or are these just his version of “light” entertainment? In the next panel, we see Frankenstein, which is more up Morrow’s alley, but what do all of these books have in common with him, his situation, or this series generally?

History of the DCU, part 9

by Jurgens, Lanning, Napolitano, Cox, Major, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

This installment was a reminder of everything going on between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, including Villains United, the Rogue War, the return of Hal Jordan, Day of Vengeance, the Rann-Thanagar War, the murder of Blue Beetle by Max Lord, Batman’s OMAC Project, and Wonder Woman’s execution of Max Lord. There’s also the rebirth of Jason Todd and Donna Troy, so this time in DC Comics publishing history wasn’t all about distrust, death, and destruction.

Pull List Review – January 2021 Comics

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I talk about the following comics I read during January 2021:

  • Superman: The Man of Steel #80-82
  • The Brave and the Bold #177 and 179
  • Giant Days v5
  • SFSX v1
  • Moneyshot v1
  • Dark Ark v3
  • Dark Ark: After the Flood
  • Batman: Three Jokers
  • Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt v1
  • Adventureman v1

Please send your comments to longboxreview@gmail.com, chat with me @longboxreview on Twitter, or visit longboxreview.com.

Thanks for listening!

52! Week Nine

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Moll, Nguyen, Baron, Fletcher, Jones, Richards, and Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Dream of America”

Week 9, Day 1: In Metropolis, Lex Luthor and guests gather for a 4th of July celebration where he talks again about his dream “where every man becomes a super man”. Steel crashes the party demanding to know where his niece is. Steel threatens Lex, and Natasha arrives, along with some new friends. In short order, Natasha assaults her Uncle, possessing strength and resilience thanks to Lex’s genetic manipulation. The fight between the family members ends with her punching Steel over buildings into the harbor.

Animal Man awakens on that alien world, a captive to Devilance, the Pursuer. The giant explains that he has captured Buddy, Adam Strange, and Starfire because

You saw beyond the veil, beyond the two score and twelve walls of heaven. That knowledge belongs to the gods alone!

Starfire awakens too, and she and Buddy devise a hasty escape plan, helped by a distraction from Adam. They leave with Devilance’s power staff. Unseen by them, Devilance watches them….

Week 9, Night 1: The 4th of July celebration continues that evening in Gotham City. Vic, or Charlie to his friends, visits Renee Montoya, revealing to her that he is the Question. Outside, Vic tells Renee that Gotham is being targeted by Intergang while a red-haired woman in a bat costume listens from a nearby rooftop.

Thoughts

Ugh, the Irons’ family melodrama continues. I know this is comics and soap opera-esque events occur, but Steel threatening to kill Lex so publicly and Natasha hitting her uncle so hard that he spits out blood is just so over the top, even if it does heighten the tension between them. Regardless, because it involves Lex Luthor, you can’t help but think that along with the genetic alterations that perhaps he is also controlling his experiments in some way (both Luthor and Steel implied it in different issues). Besides the same argument John and Natasha continue to have, about the only new plot point here is that Natasha — whom we last saw hooked up to Luthor’s machine looking frightened and vulnerable — is now part of a group of superpowered people wearing purple and green suits. However, I did like the two-page spread of images on pages 6 and 7 showing Natasha punching John out a window and as he fell several floors to the street below. Also, we see fireworks going off in the background, and one of them explode in a shape similar to the light effect around Natasha’s fists — nice touch there.

I have discovered that Devilance, the Pursuer, is indeed a Jack Kirby character first (and last?) seen in Forever People #11 and is one of Darkseid’s minions. Given the connection to Darkseid and his to Intergang, that overall plot is becoming more interesting. I have to wonder if there is any significance to the “walls of heaven” Devilance mentions — is it a reference to Revelation 21:12, or is it just one of those phrases that give Devilance’s words more importance than is actually there, beyond 52 (2 score and 12 = 52)? One quibble with this scene: Animal Man mentions that Devilance had them captured for days and he is shown bound and dangling upside down. How did they relieve themselves in that position? Or did Devilance allow them potty breaks and them truss them back up? And why dangle Animal Man and Starfire in this manner and not Adam Strange? Ahh, but who am I to question the whims of (demi)gods? I like the half-page panel setting this scene: Devilance is squatting over a device that appears to be a cage he will presumably place his captives, along with some other machinery, but it’s his size that is of note (apparently he grew since his appearance in Forever People) and the Kirby costume with all the glory that is short sleeves and shorts! But why change the white part of his costume to purple in an issue where there’s already a lot of “bad guy” purple?

The number 52 makes another appearance in the ballgame score (5 and 2), but I think the collaborators missed an opportunity to place the game in the ninth inning (this being the ninth issue) instead of the seventh (unless there’s a significance to the number 7 that I’m not seeing…). Also making its first(?) appearance is Molly’s Bar, which will be featured in Detective Comics #859 a few years later and plays a role in Kate Kane’s story — I like to think the writer or artist remembered this scene and included the bar in the Detective Comics issue. Speaking of Kate Kane, here we see Batwoman in her , even though some sources indicate that issue 11 is her first. I imagine that #11 features Batwoman in a speaking/action role and this “cameo” is not significant enough to be considered her first appearance. This is where I shrug and say, “Ehh. Comics.”

History of the DCU, part 8

by Jurgens, Lanning, Napolitano, Cox, Major, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

This part covers what I consider one of, if not THE, lowest points in DC Comics history: Identity Crisis. While the story was not wholly a bad one, the “event”, much like is stated in this History, crossed a line that was perhaps unnecessary and tarnished more than a few characters if you also include what happened in Infinite Crisis (which is mentioned at the end). It seems my assessment of Identity Crisis was shared by others, something I was not aware of at the time of publication. Fortunately, things would improve, as they always do.

52! Week Eight

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen, Barrows, Stull, Sinclair, Lanham, Jones, Richards, and Wacker. Cover by Jones and Sinclair.

52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series 15 years later. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).

Synopsis

“Thief”

Week 8, Night 1: At Steelworks, Natasha Irons is busy building her armor, eliciting a proud smile from her uncle John. Later, just as John is listening to a news report about Luthor’s metagene program, his chest transforms into metal.

In Star City, Green Arrow stops a store owner from chasing down a thief (and giving us the elicit use of the issue’s title and on the same page as the title!). Nearby, Green Arrow explains to Ralph Dibny that he thought the thief was the “guy charging thirty bucks for disposable diapers in a disaster zone” — typical Ollie! Ollie is guilt-ridden for not being able to keep his chosen city safe during the metahuman war. Ralph also tells Ollie that he lost his taste for gingold last year.

But Ralph is there to ask for Green Arrow’s help to investigate the Cult of Connor location in Star City. Ralph tells GA that the Cult believes that the dead can be resurrected.

Week 8, Day 3: John Irons visits STAR Labs seeking help with his condition. Based on the analysis, the metal in his body is stainless steel, “Lex Luthor’s idea of a joke”. John theorizes that when Luthor visited STAR Labs (in issue three), he must have “injected me with something … that either triggered my metagene … or infected me with one…”.

Week 8, Day 3 – 5: A new superhero is in town saving people and Booster is not happy about it. He asks reporter Clark Kent is he knows who the “new mystery hero” is. Clark tells him no, but that he will find out.

At Steelworks, Natasha is asked to relay a message to John about the “Luthor metagene strain” that is rewriting her uncle’s DNA. She then sees a LexCorp Everyman Project flyer poking out of John’s briefcase.

Week 8, Night 5: That night, Natasha is working on her armor when she knocks part of the suit to the floor, breaking it. John arrives to see if his niece is ok and she confronts him about what she discovered earlier, calling him a liar.

Adam Strange and Animal Man find Starfire in a net and realize too late that she was bait and they also become trapped and then held in a giant’s hand.

Week 8, Day 7: In Metropolis, Lex Luthor arrives at one of his properties with hundreds of people waiting to be chosen for his Everyone Project. He spots Natasha Irons in the crowd and grants her an opportunity.

Week 8, Night 7: That night, Natasha is hooked up to the DNA resequencing equipment. A technician asks Luthor which resequencing string to use and Luthor says, “The whole package…”.

Thoughts

First, yet another noteworthy cover by Jones and Sinclair. I love the inspirational tone of the flyer-like cover with the “Be Your Own HERO” tag-line and the generic superheroes flying under a blue sky, all undermined by Lex Luthor’s face in the red zone, almost like Hades in the underworld. I’m surprised they didn’t use something like this for the flyer that appears in the issue, but obviously Luthor wouldn’t use John Henry Irons’ likeness, but I could totally see him using his own.

Given the title of the issue, “Thief”, what is stolen? The obvious first choice is the person stealing the groceries or, flipped, the store owner trying to make a huge profit during a crisis. Also stolen is John Iron’s choice about being a metahuman. The glory and fame could be considered by Booster Gold to be stolen by this newcomer hero. Luthor is perhaps stealing the hopes and dreams of those he is transforming. Too on the nose or just enough to be interesting? I think I prefer story titles that keep me intrigued as to the meaning (and forcing me to look up the reference).

Speaking of Luthor, his direct admission to his assistant Mercy that the candidates for the Everyman Project are his slaves is just too movie serial villainesque. Where’s the subtlety of character? I don’t find this overt Luthor to be interesting at all. I did, however, like the sneer on Mercy’s face when Luthor called the nearby throng his slaves — such contempt for the common man!

The scene where Ralph is explaining what the Cult of Connor is about to Green Arrow was good. The way the artists drew that final panel on the page has Ralph looking at Ollie wide eyed in the realization that Ollie was recently brought back from the dead — the investigation into why the cultists defaced Sue’s grave has now just turned for Ralph, I think.

We have continuity glitch regarding the timeline. When John Irons visits STAR Labs, the caption reads “Day 3”, but the establishing panel clearly shows this taking place at night, so it should be Night 2 because the next scene is Day 3. A minor quibble.

Supernova! While not identified as such in this issue, I remember being very excited that this character had returned, but then I realized that I was thinking of Superman’s alternate identity of Nova from World’s Finest #178 that I probably read in the DC Special Series #23 digest. Regardless, I was convinced that DC was playing with that concept again and this Supernova was Superman, albeit a changed one. After all, if Superman could rebrand himself as a superpowerless hero all those years ago, why not again?

I’m finding the petulant teenager bit of Natasha to more and more grating. I don’t think John’s lesson in hard work and humility is working on his niece. I do like that in the LexCorp flyer she finds in John’s briefcase the superheroes are colored in green and purple — just like Luthor’s old battle armor. Nice touch there, Mr. Sinclair!

Another nice artistic touch is the final page showing Natasha connected to the metagene equipment because the arm and leg wires (for lack of a better word) are shaped similar to a DNA helix.

Two months in and I find myself more interested in the Ralph, Booster (as it pertains to Rip Hunter), and Black Adam stories more so than the Steel, lost in space trio, and Renee stories. It’ll be interesting to see how that evolves over time. Given the length of the series and how many plots and characters need to be juggled every few issues, I’m not surprised at my reaction, however.

History of the DCU, part 7

by Jurgens, Lanning, Napolitano, Cox, Major, Berganza, Cohen, and Schaefer

It is noted that post-Zero Hour, the timeline was reconstructed and that “previous inconsistencies and anomalies were corrected”, but how accurate is that statement at that time in DC’s publication history? The rest is a recap of late 90s and early 2000s DC Comics history, focusing a lot on the teams of that era (it pleases me that Titans characters are spotlighted multiple times in various teams).

One thing of note that is not familiar to me is the reference to Hourman being rescued by the JSA right before he died. I am not at all familiar with this event, and considering that Hourman is one of my favorite JSAers, I need to know more! So, good job (finally) History of the DCU for introducing me to something I didn’t know already.

This segment ends with a reference to Sue’s death, so I guess the next issue’s installment will be the last or nearly so? Will this backup series be replaced with something else, or will the main story in 52 take up more pages? Tune in next week, dear reader, as I find out!