How cute is that cover by the always-excellent Joelle Jones? This 80pp giant’s title straddles two of DC Comics long-lost genres, the sci-fi anthology and the young love portmanteaus, but the cover tells the whole story – this is sci-fi, romance and superheroes. Which is fair enough, received wisdom has it that ‘pure’ anthologies don’t sell – not that DC has tried for a while, the Vertigo themed giants sans superheroes generally try for postmodern twists… it’s a little annoying.
Still, there’s truth in advertising here, so I can’t complain, I paid my money knowing what I was going to get, and the witty cover is a great tease. OK, we don’t have Lois leaving Clark for the dark lord of Apokolips (it’d be no less daft than the current Lois/Clark plot in the Superman books), but we do get a Lois story and a New Gods tale.
It’s the latter that kicks off proceedings. The first page sets things up beautifully – we see the agony of life on Apokolips and the ecstasy of young love in freedom fighters Saraquel and Markus. Inevitably, the Lowlies don’t do too well when Granny Goodness and her Female Furies show up. As the story progresses it seems to be going in an especially awful direction, but writer James Tynion IV catches me completely offguard. An Apokoliptian Love Story is a neat tale, evocatively drawn by Jesus Merino and coloured by Romulo Fajardo Jr… there’s a bit of a Jerry Ordway vibe, which is never bad.
Eschewing the marquee Green Lanterns, Kilowog is next up in Old Scars, Fresh Wounds. Guy Gardner sets up the Corps’ training officer with a gorgeous forensic scientist and they get on really well. At the same time, one of the new recruits isn’t playing it by the book. Can Kilowog balance duty with a personal life? Kyle Higgins writes, Cian Tormey illustrates and DC really should team these guys again, because there’s a lovely synergy that has me dying for, at the very least, a sequel. It’s a shame the company have stopped publishing 74 GL titles a month, because here we have instant creative team. Higgins quickly sets up Kilowog’s dilemma and really has me feeling for the pig-faced old grump. Tormey’s storytelling is great, and with John Kalisz colouring, the result is smooth but not soulless. As with the previous story, Clayton Cowles letters – he knows what he’s doing.
Cowles’ professional colleague Dave Sharpe really earns his dosh with the next entry, as we meet Bizarro in Musky’s Dead Sun Saloon, where specific space fonts are the order of the day, not least for our backwards-logic hero. Or villain, depending on your perspective. In this story, the pasty-faced Superman non-lookalike is definitely doing good, teaming up with a rather lovely superheroine. And who better for a parody of the Man of Steel whom many consider grotesque than…
Wotta doll! So, will there be no need for Bizarro Lois No.1 in current continuity? Writer Saladin Ahmed, artist Max Dunbar, colourist Paul Mounts and that man Sharpe reveal all in Backward Heart,a tight little tale that features the best monster worm this side of Dune.
The Justice League prove terribly irresponsible in Galentine’s Day, leaving Hawkgirl to mind the Hall of Justice on February 14 as they go off on dates. It’s not the most plausible scenario, but who cares, this is a giant holiday book, I can accept a daft set-up if I’m entertained. And I was entertained, from the cute opening on… when was the last time current Kendra got to be cute? Actually, I think this is the first time, and I like it. I also like when a couple of fellow single heroines show up to help out with a cosmic menace that ties in with the current Justice League books, without necessitating any real knowledge of the overarching Source nuttiness. So well done writer Cecil Castellucci, artist Elena Casagrande, colourist Jordie Bellaire and letterer Steve Wands – if I had no date on Valentine’s Day I’d be happy to read this again.
Cards on the table, I dislike hugely the modern Space Cabbie design. The look we had for decades debuted in the Fifties and back then likely looked futuristic. Over the years, it’s increasingly anachronistic look has given it huge charm. But as of a couple of years back we have a genetically crusty looking fella with a metal leg. Still, he appears in a terrific tale here as the futuristic version of GPS is installed in his taxi; extra points to writer Aaron Gillespie for the brilliant title, GPS I Love You. And while I don’t like Space Cabbie’s current visual, artist Max Raynor’s skill with body language and facial expressions serves him well. Raynor and colourist HiFi also do a nice line in space worms – that’s two so far in one issue.
The current Teen Titans is an underrated gem and one its best characters, Crush, gets her first solo strip here. Crushed is a tale of love and heartbreak well told and sold by writer Andrea Shea, illustrator Amancay Nahuelpan, colourist Trish Mulvihill and letterer Tom Napolitano. Lobo’s daughter is taken by surprise when she meets a metahuman cage fighter… then taken by surprise again. Script and art bring more nuance to Crush than you might think a character linked to Lobo could ever have.
Lois Lane stars in Glasses, a tale predicated on the idea that the modern version of Lois Lane couldn’t see through Clark Kent’s disguise. The story recaps their relationship, ignoring the fact that Lois once went to Smallville and asked Superman directly if he was Clark, before landing on a notion that to me seems very peculiar.
This is Superman who had his parents alive well into adulthood (until recent continuity changes), had Lana Lang as confidante and oodles of superhero pals who know his true identity and was never shown as being especially lonely. So despite some decent craft from writer Jeff Loveness, the usual scrumptious art by Tom Grummett and Cam Smith, and fine colouring and lettering from Adriano Lucas and Tom Napolitano, this was the one story that didn’t work for me.
And that’s it for the new stuff. As a bonus ‘Holiday Encore’, we get The Planet Pendulum, a reprint of the second-ever appearance of Adam Strange, and it’s a peculiar choice, being neither especially romantic nor particularly good, despite being by three of the greats, writer Gardner Fox, artist Mike Sekowsky and inker Bernard Sachs. And yet, just seeing Silver Age stuff fair glowing on my tablet makes me grin from ear to ear.
Overall, while I wasn’t in love with every story, I enjoyed this package loads, so thanks to everyone involved, not least editors Alex Antone and Dave Wielgosz… the overall design is great, with smart use of a panel from the Lois story on the contents page. If that’s the work of DC’s design director Mark Chiarello, it’s further, though unnecessary, evidence that the recent decision to lay him off in a restructure is a massive loss to the company.
Happy Valentine’s Day, for when it comes – forget romance, may Cupid bring you some spiffy comics!