It’s almost St Valentine’s Day, which means it’s time for another DC giant collection of all-new tales of ‘like, love and loss’. The book kicks off with a perfectly pink cover starting Harley Quinn and a dinosaur from illustrator Yanick Paquette and colourist Nathan Fairbairn. The throwback cover dress, complete with homage Comics Code Authority seal, is a delight.
Inside, Harley isn’t being romanced by a prehistoric prince, but she does get a pretty good offer from Black Adam in an amusing short from writer Stephanie Phillips. Lightning in a Bottle features personality-packed cartooning from Jon Sommariva, with colours by Rex Lokus and letters by Pat Brosseau. Captain Marvel is in there too, but his encounter with Harley is far from kissy-kissy.
There’s more cuteness as Barry Allen arrives home from a spot of Valentine’s gift gathering to find Gorilla Grodd dancing with girlfriend Iris West. Is he out to do a Professor Zoom and steal the Flash’s lady love? Nah, he’s not into a ‘soft, pink bag of flesh’. But he does have his eye on someone.
Cue a comedy of errors as Iris and Barry go on a double date with Grodd and Primat – I’d love to see her show up in non-whimsical special continuity. For now we have this gem from writer Rich Douek, artists Scot Eaton and Wayne Faucher, colourist Hi-Fi and letterer Saida Temofonte. Even the title is brilliant – The Grodd Couple.
If you enjoy John Cena’s portrayal of Peacemaker, you’ll probably like Love of Country as much as I did. Writer Rex Ogle captures the manic madness of the screen patriot as he fights the umpteenth version of the Fearsome Five in a tale terrifically drawn by Geraldo Borges. Peacemaker’s skewed view of love is just what the Titans bad guys need to hear as they try to rob the good folk of St Louis. Nick Filardi and Ferran Delgado contribute colours and letters in a story that channels the latest Suicide Squad film vibe to perfection.
There’s a treat for old school Legion of Super-Heroes fans in Ritual of Love as a couple of extraterrestrials who breach Earth’s atmosphere are ‘welcomed’ by Blue Beetle.
They’re from Dryad, homeworld of Blok, and they’re not actually there to cause trouble – they’re on a date, and Jaime Reyes’ ignorance of their culture lands him in a situation that’s pure Silver Age Jimmy Olsen. Andrew Marino delivers a sparky script, matched by the energetic artwork of Pablo M Collar. Dee Cunniffe’s colours add an extra layer of goodness, while Josh Reed’s letters cry out for praise.
At a loss as to how to spend Valentine’s Day, Billy Batson accepts the invitation to the wedding of school pal Hope. The thing is, he has a crush on her, but reckons he has no chance of romancing her. Time to bring in a wingman.
Ah, Chekhov’s jerk… yep, soon that ex is around and causing trouble. Luckily there’s not one, but two superheroes around. Then again, VR in the DC Universe means three ordinary thugs can challenge Captain Marvel and Superman. Clark Kent acting as big brother to Billy Batson is a terrific surprise from writer Che Grayson, and this Billy is a lot more palatable than he’s been since the Marvel Family was DC Rebirthed. Jon Mikel’s personality-packed art for In the Name of Love begs for a regular DC berth, while the colours of Nick Filardi and letters of Carlos M Mangual add to the general jollity.
Alfred Pennyworth muses on a life of Service in a story by Devin K Grayson which would fit into pretty much any Batman Annual or Special you could name. Here, it’s a weird choice. Alfred talks of love, but dismisses romantic love as a reason for his dedication to the Wayne Family. This special is all about romance, but not the adventure that is butlering. So while this is a sharp tale, with fine art by Roger Robinson, colours by Tony Avina and letters by Pat Brosseau, it’s something of a passion killer.
Birds do it. Bees do it. Even dinosaurs do it… Sgt Rock stars in Romance on Dinosaur Island and the title doesn’t lie, this is a touching tale of large lizard love. Frank Rock has been downed and crash landed on the mysterious setting for The War That Time Forgot. His Japanese opposite has also survived, but it’s two soppy dinos that have his attention.
Writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly might be playing fast and loose with Rock’s war role – since when was he a flyboy? – but this wonderfully weird war tale earns them forgiveness. The glory of nature has Rock concentrating for awhile on something other than war, putting the hardboiled soldier back in touch with his softer side. I’ve no idea if they’re accurate according to current theories, but the dinosaurs drawn by Christian Duce certainly look great on the page – there’s real life in those eyes, and the feathers are fab. He does a mean Sgt Rock, too. The glowing tones of Enrica Angiolini enrich the pages, while the letters of Steve Wands are another plus.
The issue’s third Gotham story, and the issue’s final entry, has the Riddler challenge Batman to solve a puzzle on 14 February. The answers cast light on the mystery that is Edward Nigma, as we get ever closer to a Dinner For Two. Ram V’s story is a nice spin on the classic Riddler vs Batman contest, while Phil Hester’s chunky art, inked by Eric Gapstur and Ande Parks, really suits Gotham, and Dee Cunniffe’s high contrast colours are perfect. Veteran letterer Clem Robins adds extra class.
Edited by Katie Kubert, Andrew Marino, Michael McCalister and Ben Meares, and designed by Darran Robinson and Sandy Alonzo, Strange Love Adventures is a better than average DC giant, with 80+ pages of sharp story and outstanding art. Dare I say, I love it.