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Preview: Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey #2 (of 4)

Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey #2 (of 4)

(W) Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner (A/CA) Amanda Conner
In Shops: Jun 24, 2020
SRP: $5.99

DC BLACK LABEL AGES 17+
Over the course of her illustrious and very high-class career, Harley’s met pretty much every super-villain who ever worked in Gotham City. Some hate her. Some love her. But none of that’s gonna matter once they see how many zeroes there are on the bounty The Joker’s offering for her head! Sorry, Harley-it’s just business. Your next of kin will understand, right? Meanwhile, Cassandra Cain finds herself in the unenviable position of being Harley Quinn’s bodyguard…but this could be her opportunity to learn a little about, y’know, loosening up? If she’s currently wound too tight, then just sit next to Auntie Harley…she’s got more than her share of loose screws! 8.5″x 10.875″

Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey #2 (of 4)

Batman: The Three Jokers Get Souvenir Playing Cards with Each Issue

In celebration of the highly anticipated Batman: The Three Jokers prestige miniseries, DC, and participating comic book stores, are dealing fans the ultimate wild card by offering a free with purchase souvenir playing card for each of the three issues of the series, while supplies last.

Featuring breathtaking new artwork by series artist Jason Fabok, each issue of the Geoff Johns-penned series will feature a different card, spotlighting the Clown Prince of Crime and his three major adversaries – Batman, Batgirl and Jason Todd.

Batman: The Three Jokers reexamined the myth of who, or what The Joker is, and what’s at the heart of not just his eternal struggle with Batman, but how his horrific treatment of Barbara Gordon and Jason Todd has affected them. Arriving at open and operating comic book stores on Tuesday, August 25, the series will carry DC’s “Black Label” content descriptor, identifying the series is appropriate for readers 17+.

Review: The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #3

THE QUESTION: THE DEATHS OF VIC SAGE #3

After a five-month hiatus, The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #3 returns the series with an issue that would make the late Denny O’Neil proud. Jeff Lemire, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Chris Sotomayor expertly combine a 1940s film noir story with the not-so-zen cycle of death and regeneration that Charles Szasz/Vic Sage/The Question has been on over the previous three issues. The genre story with an O’Neil-esque social conscience plus growing conspiracy and mysterious ending is a winning formula to go with Cowan, Sienkiewicz, and Sotomayor’s scratchy, impressionistic visuals. Even though these scripts and maybe even pages were banked long before the current conflict between activists and the police over their murder of Black people and general abuse of power, The Question #3 fits into the zeitgeist with a sequence of corrupt Hub City cops beating striking factory workers and protecting the easy, exploitative lives of Hub’s one percenters. In the past, I may have said that Hub City symbolizes the American id, but it’s a mirror to American reality with period piece trappings like Dashiell Hammett narration, panels of old newspapers whispering about another world war and featuring Golden Age crime fighters, and lots of close-ups of alcoholic beverages. The sleazy Howard Chaykin-esque (He draws this issue’s variant cover) supporting figures add to this feeling of dirtiness and depravity.

Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Chris Sotomayor have done the 1980s urban vigilante (Watchmen, Dark Knight, the O’Neil/Cowan Question run) and Western genres in the previous two issues of The Question and dig into the noir detective story in The Question #3. It’s evident that all three artists are having fun with lots of spot blacks, eye-catching visual flourishes like the red hair of Sage’s client, Maggie Fuller, and the all-important chiarascuro lighting from desk lamps and cigarettes. The Question is stylish and filled with verbal/visual irony like when Sage monologues about getting close to solving the case while some union-busting toughs are sneaking up on him to beat him up. And though the story is set decades before The Question’s creation, the page is crammed full with signatures of the character, like smoke rings and investigation boards with string between them even if Sage is mostly unmasked for the comic’s duration.

The cherry on top is Jeff Lemire’s approach to dialogue and captions. One of things that I like about Lemire (And why Marvel, DC, Valiant etc. keep bringing him in to refresh their various intellectual properties.) is that he never gets in his own way and adapts his style to the genre or type or story that he’s writing in. This is why Black Hammer is so clever and superhero genre tour de force/world tour, and he transfers this over to The Question #3 bringing the 1940s to 2020 with the help of Willie Schubert’s typewriter lettering. His dialogue is tommy gun fast with Sage cutting to the quick of the situation until he gets knocked upside the head. But then Cowan and Sienkiewicz are there with the reminder that Sage’s mentor-in-the-shadows Richard Dragon is a martial arts master, and the tone shifts from Maltese Falcon to Enter the Dragon. They use the whole page to show Sage’s fluid fighting moves, which aren’t like your average “put up your dukes” private eye and are a good transition to get a glimpse at one of Vic Sage’s other lives/deaths.

THE QUESTION: THE DEATHS OF VIC SAGE #3

But The Question #3 isn’t merely an interesting genre exercise or visual masterclass. (The Denys Cowan/Bill Sienkiewicz pencil/ink process pages at the end make the extra money spent on this issue worth it and will look glorious in the magazine-size Black Label format.) It’s an ode to the violently socially conscious and anti-establishment of the late 1930s and early 1940s without the racial stereotypes of those Golden Age books. The plot of The Question #3 is Sage taking on basically a pro-bono missing person case, and that missing person just happens to be both a union organizer and the brother of another union organizer. Like he usually does, Sage thinks he connect everything to one big conspiracy, but with the shifting timelines and eternal corruption of the police force of Hub City, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Lemire and Cowan’s use of flashbacks isn’t confusing, but shows that there’s no simple answer to the problems that Vic Sage is facing. Because we’re still getting fucked over by corporations in 2020 like we are in the early 1940s. (If not more so thanks to a steady string of Republican and “centrist” Democrat heads of state.)

Like that infinitely memeable Alan Moore quote about conspiracies, Vic Sage’s faith that “everything is connected” as Jeff Lemire so aptly puts is a child’s blanket (Or prayer) in the face of a hurricane because, as Moore states, “the world is rudderless”. Lemire, Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Chris Sotomayor show the loose and futile nature of Sage’s faith in underlying order through non-linear storytelling and a series of catastrophes to match the impressionist, scratchy art and muted palette. The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage #3 is the best issue of the series yet, and I’m excited to see how they put all the threads, timelines, Vic Sages, Questions, and questions in The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage‘s finale

Story: Jeff Lemire Pencils: Denys Cowan  Inks: Bill Sienkiewicz
Colors: Chris Sotomayor Letters: Willie Schubert
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.3 Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics/Black Label provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Preview: Wonder Woman: Dead Earth #3 (of 4)

Wonder Woman: Dead Earth #3 (of 4)

(W) Daniel Warren Johnson (A/CA) Daniel Warren Johnson
In Shops: Jun 17, 2020
SRP: $6.99

DC BLACK LABEL AGES 17+
The revelation of the Haedras’ true nature overwhelms even the mighty Amazon Princess, forcing Diana to seek out the one person who can help her: Superman. But what Diana finds at the Fortress of Solitude is one of the most shocking secrets in the history of Wonder Woman. 8.5″ x 10.875″

Wonder Woman: Dead Earth #3 (of 4)

Preview: Strange Adventures #2 (of 12)

Strange Adventures #2 (of 12)

(W) Tom King (A) Evan Shaner (A/CA) Mitch Gerads
In Shops: Jun 17, 2020
SRP: $4.99

DC BLACK LABEL AGES 17+
What is the truth about Adam Strange? When an activist who publicly accused him of war crimes ends up dead, the public begins to doubt Strange’s stories about his adventures on the planet Rann-and he’s even starting to doubt himself. It’s going to take a special investigator to get the truth, and he’s going to have to tear apart Adam Strange’s life and reputation to do it.
A special miniseries set on two worlds, it takes two artists to bring Strange Adventures to life. Mitch Gerads tackles the earthbound sequences, while Doc Shaner launches us into space. And it’s all written by Tom King, the Eisner Award-winning writer who brought you Mister Miracle, Omega Men, and Sheriff of Babylon.

Strange Adventures #2 (of 12)

Hellblazer: Rise and Fall by Tom Taylor and Darick Robertson comes to DC Black Label in September 2020

In Hellblazer: Rise and Fall, a new three-issue mini-series by Tom Taylor and Darick Robertson launching this September, a billionaire mysteriously falls out of the sky and is gruesomely skewered on a church spire. Even stranger, they have angel wings attached to their back. More bodies soon follow, raining death and causing widespread panic. Detective Aisha Bukhari is stumped by the phenomenon until she’s visited by her childhood friend, occult investigator John Constantine.

DC’s Hellblazer soon discovers a link between the falling elite and a shocking moment in his and Aisha’s misspent youth. How do these killings tie to the first act of magic ever committed by John Constantine? How does this involve Heaven and Hell? Thirty years later, Constantine’s no stranger to supernatural threats and hard-pressed to consider stopping any monster who haunts a nation by killing the most corrupt among its citizens.

Even if this mess is kind of John’s fault, will Constantine be happy to let a few more rich bastards fall from the sky, like a vindictive Robin Hood? Does John have any interest in stopping the 1% from…trickling down?

Hellblazer: Rise and Fall, a three-part 48-page Prestige Plus format (approx. 8.5″ x 10.875″) mini-series written by the bestselling Tom Taylor with art and cover by master storyteller Darick Robertson, debuts September 2020. All three issues of Hellblazer: Rise and Fall will carry DC’s Black Label content descriptor (Ages 17+) and will retail for $6.99.

The Cover for The Last God: Songs of Lost Children #1 is Revealed

On September 22, a new tale to the epic DC Black Label world of The Last God is spun with a one-shot story spotlighting Queen Cyanthe! in The Last God: Songs of Lost Children #1.

The Last God: Songs of Lost Children #1 is set a decade after the infamous battle of the Black Stair.  An incognito Queen Cyanthe and her handmaiden embark on a journey to the poverty-stricken villages outside Tyrgolad. When faced with stories of disappearing children and a real-life encounter with a great and ancient monster, Cyanthe realizes that tales of lurking monsters are anything but folklore and must return to her warrior roots to slay this new and ghastly threat. Special guest writer Dan Watters and artist Steve Beach join the world of the Last God for this tale from the age of Tyrgolad.

The Last God: Songs of Lost Children #1 is a can’t-miss story for fans of both The Last God series and dark fantasy alike! Check out the cover by Kai Carpenter below!

The Last God: Songs of Lost Children #1

Review: Birds of Prey #1

Birds of Prey #1

With the Birds of Prey having a bit of a moment with a cult love of the recent movie release, you’d think DC Comics would be focused on capturing that wave with a comic that’s accessible, new reader-friendly, and most importantly. Instead, we get Birds of Prey #1, a one-shot comic that’s a part of the “adult” DC Black Label line of comics. It’s also a mess.

Written by Brian Azzarello, the story follows a Mexican drug cartel and their soldiers, the Esposas De La Muerta, as they make a move on Gotham’s drug trade. What follows is a story that is steeped in stereotypes, many bad, and action movie cliches. The drug mentioned is fentanyl, which is the first issue of the comic and highlighting the unfortunate choices from there. While “Mexican drug cartels” might be the “enemy” the current President points to, fentanyl is mainly flowing from China. So, for those who know these things, that detail takes me out of the story. It makes the “bad guys” presented feel even more cliche and not needed.

From there, it’s just bad plotlines like drug overdoses, calls to missed connections just before getting killed, crooked cops (this part doesn’t even make sense), and shoot outs that defy all logic. It’s a poorly paced, badly plotted comic that has so many issues… well, lets try to find something positive.

Azzarello does deliver some nice banter. The interaction between Huntress, Harley Quinn, and Black Canary is fun with some solid banter and dialogue. The lettering by Steve Wands really pays off here. There are also some fun “action film” moments that are enhanced by Emanuela Lupacchino‘s art but so much is steeped in bad cliche and stereotype.

Lupacchino’s art absolutely has its moments but there’s just comically bad moments as well. It all comes together for a rather blah visual experience. The design for the Esposas De La Muerta take from the Dia De Los Muertos. Again the gives us nothing new or interesting, just Mexican visual stereotypes. That extends to speech patterns in Azzarello’s writing.

Birds of Prey #1 doesn’t take flight and instead plays off like an 80s B-movie mixed with really outdated views of Mexicans and just incorrect real world information. It’s hard to overlook the bad here. Take out the Birds of Prey, and you have a bad crime story that’s forgettable in every way. DC had an opportunity to deliver a comic that’d entice movie audiences to discover more but this comic’s end result might be the opposite.

Story: Brian Azzarello Art: Emanuela Lupacchino
Ink: Ray McCarthy Color: Trish Mulvihill, John Kalisz Letterer: Steve Wands
Story: 6.0 Art: 6.0 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Preview: House of Whispers #21

House of Whispers #21

Written by: Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters
Art by: Dominike “Domo” Stanton

Trapped in Guinée, the Land of the Dead, Papa Midnite and Erzulie must join forces to return to their own realms…unfortunately, their mutual foe the trickster god Ananse is in the way, and he’s eager for a rematch!

House of Whispers #21
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