Weekly Comic Book Roundup #19

Harleen

(Harleen #1-3)

by Stjepan Šejić

The Synopsis

Dr. Harleen Quinzel has a theory: mental illness is a survival mechanism. As she seeks to help the broken souls of Gotham City piece together their sanity she will become the one thing she fears the most: one of them. A bold new retelling of the tragic origin of Harley Quinn told through the eyes of the only person who knows her better than anyone: Harleen.

A young psychiatrist with a potential cure for the madness that haunts Gotham City, Dr. Harleen Quinzel must prove her revolutionary theory to a skeptical establishment by delving into the disturbed minds of Arkham Asylum’s deadliest inmates. But the more time she spends with her criminally insane subjects, the closer she is drawn to one patient in particular–and the further she falls away from reality. The birth of legendary antihero Harley Quinn and the shocking origins of her twisted romance with the Joker are revealed in Harleen, a stunning new tale of love and obsession written and illustrated by renowned comics storyteller Stjepan Sejic (Aquaman: Underworld, Sunstone).

Collects: Harleen #1-3.

The Verdict

A brilliant and visceral look into the woman who became Harley Quinn. Before the madness and before the haze lifted and she ended her toxic relationship with The Joker, there was a brilliant young woman who sought to end the cycle of violence infecting particular mental health cases. The heart and emotional depths of this story are well balanced with the striking imagery and thriller elements of this more mature and heart-pounding narrative. 

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Titans: Burning Rage

by Dan JurgensScott Eaton (Illustrator)

The Synopsis

Fan-favorite writer Dan Jurgens continues his popular run starring the world’s most powerful teenagers!

Paranoia rules the streets while crime-fighting couple Hawk and Dove lead ordinary citizens in an uprising against the rich–but former Doom Patrol member Mento is pulling their strings! It’s up to the Titans to try and uncover his sinister purpose and keep peace before someone gets killed!

Collects issues #1-5 of TITANS: BURNING RAGE from DC’s popular Titans Giant.

The Verdict

A fantastic look into the heart of the Teen Titans, the author did a brilliant job of crafting a narrative that redefined what family truly means and the dangers of what the feelings of being an outsider and having a crisis identity can do to a person. With great action and showing the power the team has on their own without the Justice League backing them up, this was a promising read.

Batman: The Adventures Continue, Season One

(Batman: The Adventures Continue #1-8)

by Alan BurnettPaul DiniTy Templeton (Artist), Mark Morales (Illustrator), Sean Parsons (Illustrator), Monica Kubina (Colorist), Josh Reed (Letterer)

The Synopsis

From Alan Burnett and Paul Dini, the visionary producers of Batman: The Animated Series, comes a collection of all-new stories and adventures that turn Batman’s world upside down!

Starting off with an attack on S.T.A.R. Labs in Gotham City by a giant robot that steals an entire room of the laboratory! Batman is going to have to stop it before it can cause more harm… and with Lex Luthor freshly back in Gotham, he knows where to start his search. Will Batman be able to topple the billionaire before he leaves Gotham?

Collects Batman: The Adventures Continue #1-8.

The Verdict

I grew up watching Batman: The Animated Series. The impact that had on me would influence my love of comic books and all things DC Comics for the rest of my life. From the stoic heroism of Kevin Conroy’s Batman to the sinister and chillingly captivating villainy of Mark Hamill’s Joker, this world was rife with comic book goodness. The continuation of this series was perfect and captured the tone and noir atmosphere of the show as well as the campy superhero adventuring. The artwork was stunning and the incorporation of larger DCAU elements was great to see here. A definite must-read for die-hard Batman fans.

Batman: Noël

(Batman)

by Lee BermejoJim Lee (Foreword)

The Synopsis

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BestsellerInspired by Charles Dickens’ immortal classic A Christmas Carol, BATMAN: NOEL features different interpretations of The Dark Knight, along with his enemies and allies, in different eras.

Along the way, Batman must come to terms with his past, present and future as he battles villains from the campy 1960s to dark and brooding menaces of today, while exploring what it means to be the hero that he is. Members of Batman’s supporting cast enact roles analogous to those from A Christmas Carol, with Robin, Catwoman, Superman, The Joker and more playing roles that will be familiar to anyone who knows Dickens’ original holiday tale.

The Verdict

As a longtime fan of both Batman comics and the classic Christmas Carol story, I thought this gritty and Dickinson-esque story to be quite entertaining. The perfect read for fans of iconic ghost stories meeting equally iconic comic book characters, the narrative was matched by the equally cold yet emotionally-driven artwork. For years fans of the comics have known the stoic and at first glance stone-cold demeanor of Batman, but watching the story peel back the layers of this man’s determination and cynicism was amazing to behold. A definite must-read during the holidays!

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The Joker, Vol. 1

(The Joker (2021) #1-6)

by James Tynion IVGuillem March (Illustrator), Matthew RosenbergFrancesco Francavilla (Illustrator), Arif Prianto (Colorist), Tomeu Morey (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)

The Synopsis

Batman: The Joker War was only the beginning!

Arkham Asylum has been attacked and all eyes are on the Joker. A mysterious benefactor hires former Gotham City Police Commissioner Jim Gordon to go on a global manhunt to catch…and possibly kill…the Clown Prince of Crime!

But nothing with the Joker is ever as easy as it seems. What Gordon finds and what the Joker wants him to see…will change his perspective on the world forever. And he’s not the only one who wants the Joker found…

Who are the wicked Sampson family? And who is Vengeance, daughter of Bane, striking fear into the world’s heart?!

Brought to you by the all-star creative team behind Batman: Their Dark Designs, James Tynion IV and Guillem March, this volume includes a special Year One flashback issue co-written with Matthew Rosenberg (Legends of the Dark Knight) and Francesco Francavilla (Batman: The Black Mirror).

Collects: The Joker #1-5, plus Joker stories from Batman #100 and Batman: The Joker War Zone.

The Verdict

As a longtime fan of stories involving the Joker, whom I consider to be one of literature’s greatest and most complex villains, it was amazing to see the approach the authors took to a series dedicated to the Joker. The man’s legacy for heinous crimes defines the narrative, focusing on those who have been pushed too far by his actions as they seek to end his life, while alluding to a deeper mystery and showing off the never-ending depths of the man’s evil. The most fascinating aspects of this series have been the close examination of whether or not the Joker is truly “insane”, or just pure evil, as well as the personal examination of Jim Gordon as a person and not just the personal link between Batman and the Police. It was an incredible story.

Superman: Year One

(Superman: Year One #1-3)

by Frank MillerJohn Romita Jr.

The Synopsis

From legendary writer Frank Miller comes a groundbreaking, definitive treatment of Superman’s classic origin story, with art by John Romita Jr.

From the collapsing spires of Krypton to the bucolic fields of Kansas, from the submerged splendors of Atlantis to the chaotic energy of the Daily Planet, the story of Clark Kent, last son of the House of El, is the stuff of legend. Now, two of comics’ greatest creators join forces to bring a bold new vision of the Man of Steel’s origin to life.

With Superman: Year One, writer Frank Miller (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Ronin, Sin City), and artist, John Romita Jr. (Iron Man, The Amazing Spider-Man, Kick-Ass) bring their renowned storytelling talents to bear as they reimagine the formative trials that young Clark must undergo to claim his place I our world.

As he learns to balance the grave responsibilities of his powers against their limitless possibilities, Clark must also build his humanity just like everybody else-one relationship at a time. Greater than a super-powered adventure, more powerful than a coming-of-age tale, Superman: Year One is a visceral exploration of the fundamental importance of choice in this American icon’s journey into heroism.

The Verdict

The balance of light, hope, and heroism with the mature and gritty world-building that Frank Miller has become known for over the years was felt deeply in this story. The exploration of Superman’s earliest years, from his flight from a dying Krypton to a high school experience standing up to bullies, finding young love, and more, was truly captivating. The unique changes to Superman’s origins, from his decision to join the military and train like a soldier to his experiences with an underwater society and his introduction to Batman, Wonder Woman, and the larger DC Universe, really were balanced out with the warm artwork that draws the reader into the narrative further. 

Thor by Donnny Cates, Vol. 1: The Devourer King

(Thor by Donny Cates #1)

by Donny CatesNic Klein (Artist)

The Synopsis

The prince is now a king. All Asgard lies before Thor, the God of Thunder. And after many months of war, the Ten Realms are finally at peace. But the skies above the Realm Eternal are never clear for long. The Black Winter is coming. And the God of the Storm will be powerless before it. Before him lies the Black Winter; behind, a trail of death wrought by his own hand. The God of Thunder hurtles through the cosmos, searching for the power to save Asgard and all existence. But no power in the heavens can save a god – a king – from his bloody duty. COLLECTING: THOR (2020) 1-5 

The Verdict

A brave new world emerges out of the War of the Realms! Thor is now king of Asgard, and the exploration of his psyche and his responsibilities now in the face of that new role is so fantastic to read and watch unfold. The decision-making of the hero and the awe-inspiring power he wields is matched by the much grander threats he must now face. The artwork makes readers feel drawn into an Old Norse mythological tale, while the events themselves are very cosmic and multiversal in nature (a great little nod to showing how Marvel and DC’s omniverses could be connected). A gripping and awesome must-read tale for fans of Thor!

Loki: The God Who Fell to Earth

(Loki (2019) #1-5)

by Daniel Kibblesmith (Goodreads Author), Oscar Bazaldua (Illustrations), Andy MacDonald (Illustrations), Victor Olazaba (Inker), David Curiel (Colors), Carlos López (Colors), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)

Loki is…Earth’s Mightiest Hero?! After dying a grisly death in WAR OF THE REALMS, the reborn Trickster learned a valuable lesson in warmongering: Don’t get caught. But now Loki has a whole new set of responsibilities – and his brother Thor isn’t about to let him walk away from them. Restless with his new duties, Loki seeks out the advice of the closest thing Midgard has to a king – Tony Stark, the Invincible Iron Man! Close enough, right? But it turns out that Shell-head isn’t too happy to see Loki, on account of all that stuff he did in the past. Now the God of Mischief/Stories/Evil/Chaos has to outsmart the cleverest man on Earth – or die (again) trying. Meanwhile, could Thor be hatching a mischievous plot of his own? COLLECTING: LOKI (2019) 1-5, MATERIAL FROM WAR OF THE REALMS: OMEGA (2019) 1

The Verdict

Loki’s heroic journey is what Marvel fans have been dying to read. The most beloved and engaging villain in Marvel’s long history, the trickster is no more, and the storyteller has arrived. Seeking his own story, readers have treated to a fantastic and fresh take on a new hero’s emergence and the journey it takes to reach that role. Pitting Loki against a powerful cosmic foe and seeing his interactions with Tony Stark were both humorous and captivating, and the rich mythos blended with the colorful artwork so well. 

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Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Monster Squad

(Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1-6)

by Frank J. Barbiere (Goodreads Author), Brent Schoonover (Illustrations), Al Ewing (Text), Stefano Caselli (Illustrations)

The Synopsis

Hidden deep beneath Area 13 lies the clandestine headquarters of S.T.A.K.E. – a top secret division of S.H.I.E.L.D. that houses aliens, mythical beasts and all manner of extra-normals. Now, under the command of legendary soldier – and newly resurrected Life Model Decoy – Dum Dum Dugan, these monsters step out of the shadows and defend the world against threats too dangerous for normal men as the All-New, All-Different, all-too-literal Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D.! COLLECTING: HOWLING COMMANDOS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. 1-5, MATERIAL FROM S.H.I.E.L.D. 9

The Verdict

A fantastic look into the supernatural and horror aspects of the Marvel Universe and how it impacts the broader Marvel Universe overall! The more muted and haunted artwork compliments the mythos-heavy storyline and exploring what it means to be a “monster” in the Marvel universe was so fascinating to read. The deep-cut villains that are explored here really make this an unusual yet powerful story to dive into.

Non-Stop Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Big Brain Play

(Non-Stop Spider-Man #1)

by Joe KellyChris Bachalo (Visual Art)

The Synopsis

Buckle up, tiger! Get ready for the most action-packed, pulse-pounding, adrenaline-pumping comic of all time! Once you read page one, panel one, Spider-Man just does not stop! A mystery at Empire State University thrusts the webslinger into a thrilling adventure that starts in uptown Manhattan and takes him around the world — pitting Spidey against Marvel villains old and new and giving you a Spider-Man adventure (and a Spider-Man) the likes of which you’ve never seen! Something terrible is happening to ESU’s students — some of New York’s brightest young minds — and to save the day this time is going to take a side of Peter Parker that neither you nor Peter thought existed. And the clock is ticking! This book is not for the faint of heart, so check with your doctor before reading!

COLLECTING: Non-Stop Spider-Man (2021) 1-5

The Verdict

A much more intimate and unique story for longtime fans of Spider-Man, the look into life for Peter as a college student and getting to see how the pressures of school or university life can impact students while paired with a superhero world and advanced tech made this such a captivating story. The bright and colorful artwork blended well with the fast-paced action, and made for a truly memorable experience, especially with the shocking villains Spidey had to face. 

Sinister War

(Amazing Spider-Man (2018) (Collected Editions) #15.5)

by Nick SpencerMark Bagley (Artist)

The Synopsis

The next amazing chapter in Nick Spencer’s shocking saga of Spider-Man — is guaranteed to get your Spidey senses tingling! We literally can’t say any more without ruining it all!

The Verdict

A truly incredible deep-dive into all things Spider-Man. The depths of Peter Parker’s heroism and strength are pushed to the limits as almost every Spider-Man foe and iteration of the Sinister Six collides in an attempt to take his life. The hunt takes an even more personal note with the final act of the villainous Kindred, as shocking revelations lead to emotional ends and new beginnings. The gripping story matched the brutal yet artful imagery used in the narrative and made for a brilliant story.

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Runaways, Vol. 1: Find Your Way Home

(Runaways (2017) (Collected Editions) #1)

by Rainbow Rowell (Goodreads Author), Kris Anka (Illustrator)

The Synopsis

GET READY TO RUN!

The “IT” book of the early 2000s with the original cast is back–Nico! Karolina! Molly! Chase! Old Lace! And, could it be…GERT?!

The heart of the Runaways died years ago, but you won’t believe how she returns! Superstar author Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, Carry On) makes her Marvel debut with fan-favorite artist Kris Anka (ALL-NEW X-MEN, CAPTAIN MARVEL) in the series that will shock you and break your heart! Did Chase and Gert’s love survive their time apart? Have Karolina and Nico’s feelings made their friendship impossible? What emotional landmines lie in wait to DESTROY the Runaways?!

COLLECTING: RUNAWAYS 1-6 

The Verdict

I was uniquely drawn to this series because out of all of Marvel’s properties, the Runaways was one of the teams I was the least familiar with. Aside from Nico, I was not familiar with the team members, and getting to see the team’s dynamic in a follow-up series was so fascinating to read. The shocking return of a long-thought-dead member packs a punch with its suddenness and heart, and the impact of her return on both her and the people she calls family is so engaging. The lighthearted dynamics between them are paired equally with their drama, and the exploration of everything from family and romance to their place in the Marvel Universe made this an incredible story to behold. 

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