Wednesday, March 18, 2020

ROBIN 80TH ANNIVERSARY 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR #1 by Various Writers/Artists - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: DC Comics celebrates Robin the Boy Wonder’s 80th anniversary in style with an all-star creative team representing each iteration of the iconic character across eight decades of history! From the high-flying adventures of Dick Grayson to the tragedy of Jason Todd, the enthusiasm of Tim Drake and the arrogance of Damian Wayne, the persistence of Stephanie Brown and the rebelliousness of Carrie Kelley-the mantle of Robin has been worn by many, but always represents one thing: a hero.

Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 (Robin henceforth) is a compilation of short stories by many authors, some who have a long history with the character(s). Dick Grayson is one of my favorite DC characters, so I was looking forward to reading this. It touches on all of the people to wear the costume, except for Carrie Kelly (in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns series, etc.). There are three stories starring Dick Grayson (2 as Robin, 1 as Nightwing), one with Jason Todd, two with Tim Drake, one with Stephanie Brown, and one (I think) with Damien Wayne, which actually sets the stage for some upcoming storylines with the Teen Titans and possibly Batman.

Robin was a fun read and I enjoyed all the various takes. There is such a rich and varied history to Robin; this book captures and celebrates that diversity very well. The authors (some of whom placed Robin in the era they actually wrote during) and artists took great care to capture the feel of the time period their stories were set in. For example, I believe Chuck Dixon wrote the Nightwing story, which took place during his run on the first volume of Nightwing, and felt very much like it might have been a missing story from that time. This creates a nice variety in Robin, rather than read and look at stories that are uniform one after another. Changing Robins and art styles added to the enjoyment of Robin and showed just how great a legacy the character has, which is great since this is the 80th anniversary of Robin.

I really enjoyed Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 and recommend it to all fans of Batman and any of the various Robins.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

THE DREAMING #19 by Simon Spurrier - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: A lost dream has returned to the Dreaming to rally the troops against the rule of Wan-but without Dream himself, do his subjects have the strength they need to prevail? Or has the unconsciousness of humankind already been changed forever?

Yes! Finally, Simon Spurrier, you begin to reveal your master plan. The Dreaming #19 is more than a year and a half in to Spurrier's story, and it seems we are nearing the climax. Arcs and characters that at times seemed unconnected to each other have finally been shown to all be part of one big tapestry. And while this issue isn't the end of the story, it does seem to be the beginning of the end of the story.

Here's the deal: Dream has disappeared due to a plot against him. Dora, Lucien, Matthew, Cain, Able, and the rest of the denizens of the Dreaming try to get along in his absence. A leadership void occurs. Wan, a sentient AI, fills it. Things in the Dreaming and the real world begin to go haywire. It seems Dream needs to be restored to his throne/realm, but he is unable to do it. Wan has a "Dark Twin" that is going to wipe out the Dreaming and creativity, thus killing the human race. Enter Lucien, who has returned from near death stronger than ever. Lucien has discovered the key to defeating Wan, restoring Dream, and saving everyone, and it has to do with Dream's talismans of power. And that sets up the next issue.

Now, I'm not sure how many issues Spurrier is going to need to bring this story to its conclusion (however, five more would bring us to 24 total issues, or two years). But at this point, we are in the homestretch, and I've enjoyed each new issue more and more. As the greater plan becomes more clear, I feel like I have a better grasp of just how detailed and nuanced this story that Spurrier is writing actually is. It is hitting on all cylinders, and while telling a new tale, it actually hearkens back to Gaiman's original Sandman stories when the first Dream was in the process of escaping captivity and reclaiming his helm, bag of sand, etc., and reclaiming his kingdom. I've always appreciated the intricate storytelling of Sandman and I'm really pleased with how Spurrier has carried on that particular tradition. This feels like more than just another story, and I like it.

I would highly recommend The Dreaming #19 by Simon Spurrier. For those readers who've been here since the beginning, this is what we've been waiting for. If you are a new reader, what are you doing? Go grab the first 18 issues and get caught up. As for me, I can't wait until next month!

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #1 by Tom King - Comic Book Review

From the publisher: After winning five Eisner Awards and topping year-end “best of lists,” the comic book of 2019 was Mister Miracle. The comic book of 2020 will be Strange Adventures.

The Mister Miracle team of writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads are joined by fan-favorite artist Evan “Doc” Shaner to bring you an epic tale in the tradition of Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and DC: The New Frontier—a story of blood, war and love that readers will be talking about for years to come.

Adam Strange is the hero of Rann, a man famous throughout the galaxy for his bravery and honor. After leading his adopted home to victory in a great planetary war, Adam and his wife Alanna retire to Earth, where they are greeted by cheers, awards and parades. But not all is as happy and nice as it seems, as the decisions Adam made during battles on Rann come back to haunt his family and threaten the entire DC Universe. And now a surprise DC hero will have to choose between saving Adam Strange and saving the world.

A story like no other, Strange Adventures is an ambitious, thrilling, shocking and beautiful 12-issue saga that will push Adam Strange to the breaking point—and beyond!

Strange Adventures #1 by Tom King, with art by Mitch Gerads and Doc Shaner, is the opening chapter of King's latest exploration of deep topics using lesser known comic characters. In the past he has written acclaimed stories starring Vision and Mister Miracle. Now, he takes on Adam Strange. For those unfamiliar, here's a quick recap: Adam Strange was an ordinary archaeologist who was struck by a Zeta Beam and transported to the world of Rann. There, Strange became a jet-pack wearing hero in the battle against the Pykkts. On Rann, Strange found a new family, marrying Alanna and having a daughter named Aleena. He was hailed as a great hero and the protector of Rann. The only catch was that when the Zeta Beam wore off, he was sent back to Earth until the next time. Adam Strange has been around for decades, and there is a Flash Gordon or John Carter of Mars quality to him.

Now, in King's story Strange has retired to Earth with his wife, Alanna. He has written a memoir, and is in the midst of a publicity tour, which includes book signings, morning talk shows, and even a visit to the White House. But not everyone is happy with Strange; some people believe he isn't the hero he claims to be, and that he may even be more of a villain, with some veiled references to his actions against the Pykkts. After a video of a crazed "fan" confronting him goes viral, Strange is accused of murdering the man. To save his reputation, Strange must prove his innocence. To this end, he asks a friend in the hero community to investigate Strange and prove he is not guilty.

Just this story alone is very engaging. However, King is interspersing this modern day story with a story from Stange's past on Rann, where we see his actions against the Pykkts and also may discover just what happened to his daughter, Aleena (something that is aluded to in the present timeline). This dual storyline leads to one of the cooler aspects of Strange Adventures: the art for each time period is done by a different artist. The past on Rann is drawn by Doc Shaner, and looks very much like a comic from the 1960's, while Mitch Gerards draws the present in a more realistic style. The two contrast nicely and also add the weight of the story. The present day story is very heavy and serious, while the time on Rann is more adventurous and pulpy.

King seems to have a way of tackling deep subjects with his writing, and Strange Adventures looks to be more of the same. There is a heavy feeling hanging around Adam Strange's celebrity and retirement, a sort of sadness and lack of contentment. The relationship between Strange and Alanna seems fragile, with Strange carrying some sort of guilt and his wife trying to help him through it or just ignore it altogether. King excels at this sort of characterization and development, and I'm curious to see how they grow and change throughout the course of the story.

King has made two statements (in an interview with DC Nation in the back of this issue) about the story he is telling in Strange Adventures that I find interesting. The first is regarding the difference between the story we tell others and the story others tell about us. The second is looking at the nature of truth, particularly when it comes to 19th century European colonialism, and the gap between myth and reality (Strange, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, etc. being stand-ins for white European explorers). I'm really interested to see where King takes this story and what his conclusions in regards to this ideas are.

I highly recommend Strange Adventures #1 by Tom King. It is an interesting and engaging beginning to what should be an intriguing story. I'm looking forward to the next issue.

I received a preview copy of this book from DC Comics in exchange for an honest review.