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Review: Love is Love

loveislovefiOn June 12, 2016, a hateful man killed 49 people and wounded 53 at The Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, Florida. This was a terrible day for the LGBTQ community, and I was just plain sad. A couple weeks ago, I had celebrated getting a job and moving to a new city with a few friends at a couple gay clubs in my old home of Richmond, Virginia so a thought went through my head, “It could have been me.” Even though I am relatively privileged as a white cisgendered, relatively straight passing bisexual male, I had no queer friends in my new home to turn to and confide in after the events in Orlando. But what got me through was the queer comics and comics journalism community, and my Facebook inboxes and Twitter DM’s were filled with messages of hope and understanding. I may have felt alone in my current situation, but these beautiful people, many of whom I have never met in the flesh, got me through the tough days after the Pulse shooting.

The Love is Love comics anthology project from IDW Publishing with assistance from DC Comics, Archie Comics, Aftershock, and the Will Eisner estate gave me a similar feeling of the comics community coming together to mourn after The Pulse shooting. While reading the graphic novel, I simultaneously felt sadness and hope and remembered that despite the scandals that the comics industry has some great folks, whose excellent work appears in this comic. I enjoyed how well-represented all genders, races, sexualities, and religions were in Love is Love along with the different art styles and color palette. On a pure aesthetic level, most of the stories in Love is Love hit two of my favorite genre sweet spots: superhero and autobio, which made it a great read on both an emotional and intellectual level.

Honestly, I could write a book about the brilliant one to three page stories, poems, and pinups in Love is Love, and maybe I will one day. For the purpose of this review, I will hit on a few that affected me personally; those stories that through words, art, colors, and letters gave me comfort as I thought back to Orlando.

batwomanPaul Dini‘s Harley and Ivy story is insanely adorable and nails their romantic relationship in a nutshell with each one making compromises for the each other. For example, Harley goes vegetarian while Ivy is subjected to a Three Stooges marathon. Bill Morrison‘s art is very similar to the style of Batman: Animated Series and peppered with all kinds of background details to add to the humor. Another funny story (Albeit darker than Harley and Ivy shenanigans.) that provided some great comic relief in the midst of the emotionally headier material of Love is Love was a Deathstroke one by Taran Killam where he switches out his arsenal of guns for karate after the Pulse shooting. Gallows humor is a great way to stave off pain.

As someone whose sexuality is still not accepted by those close to me and was afraid to come out until I was 19, Love is Love‘s portrayal of homophobia is harrowing, yet all too relatable. Early, in the book, Daniel Beals and David Lafuente do a splitscreen story where two young boys see the same news coverage of The Pulse, but react in vastly different ways because of their parent’s homophobia and empathy respectively. Then, there is a nuanced story from Jeff King and Steve Pugh where a girl is sad about the shooting and wants to go to the memorial service, but her dad is uneasy about men kissing men. Later, he realizes how thoughtless he was and apologizes. I know Pugh from his superhero work on Fantastic Four and Detective Comics, and this appeal for forgiveness was just as fictional as Batman or Reed Richards in my own life.

The stories that bypassed my head and went straight to my heart strings were ones that focused on queer clubs as sanctuaries. In six pulsing panels and two pages, comics legends Grant Morrison and Jesus Merino capture the beat with alternating colors and skeletons in the background. Without a word, an image engulfed my mind and reminded me of fog lights, cute boys, and too many Long Island ice teas. In a similar vein, Emma Houxbois and Alejandra Gutierrez looked at the escapism of a queer club experience complete with cuties and the sad realities of the morning after. (Full disclosure: I worked closely with Emma on the Fantheon podcast and at the websites The Rainbow Hub and Pop Optiq and she has contributed to this site.) The comic had a soft color palette and intelligent narration while still connecting to my personal experiences and of other LGBTQ people. And it was followed by a silent comic by Brian Michael Bendis, his daughter Olivia Bendis, Michael Oeming, and Taki Soma that captured the joy and energy of a queer night club with people dancing with they wanted to and bright colors everywhere courtesy of Soma.

Many of the creators, who were from Florida, had very personal stories to share about the LGBTQ community of Orlando, which were sad and enjoyable, like Scott Snyder, who wrote a prose piece with a spot illustration by Jock about working at Disney World, and how some of the queer employees, who played various Disney characters, would invite him to a gay bar every Thursday and accept him.

Love is Love gave me an opportunity to listen to the stories of some queer comics creators that I have admired for quite some time, like James Tynion and Phil Jimenez. Tynion’s story was drawn in black and white by artist Molly Ostertag except for splotches of rainbow in the bracelet that he got as a youngster. It skips time frantically in a two page story as he comes to terms with his sexuality cutting from him spending time with his friends at Pride to facing the fact that he is a bisexual boy at an all-boy’s Catholic school. Jimenez did his comic with his writer friend David Kim and talked about how they had grown up from using codenames to show that they are dating men to being out and proud DC Comics creators. The comic is filled with snatches of conversations they had about relationships and even superhero oddities as they reflect on their friendship after the events in Orlando. Jimenez also excels at wispy, life drawing as well as superheroes, Amazons, and the Invisible College.

The queer DC Comics character that means the most to me is definitely Midnighter, and I was happy to see him featured in a couple of the Love is Love stories. The first one is by Dan DiDio and Carlos D’Anda and acts as a crash course in DC’s LGBTQ characters. It’s pretty amusing and features Midnighter and Apollo doing shots of tequila and getting on the dance floor with Batwoman as Renee Montoya snarks from the sides. The other one was my favorite story of the entire Love is Love collection from Tom Taylor, Emily Smith, and Michael Garland. Midnighter was angry after The Pulse shooting just like I was angry, and Garland punctuates his anger with a red background. He’s just punching aimlessly when Apollo shows up and says that he is not alone and will be safe with him. This kind of solidarity between queer people in the face of death and tragedy truly empowered me as Taylor makes good use of Midnighter’s vulnerable side that is the emotional center of Steve Orlando’s current work on his title.

Other highlights of Love is Love included Tom King and Mitch Gerads doing a rainbow-tinted Batman tale, Sterling Gates returning to Supergirl and writing about how she failed to save the day, married couple Amanda Seibert and Cat Staggs showing Batwoman comforting a child, whose mother died at The Pulse, and much more. There’s even a wonderful, yet vulnerable riff on Beauty and the Beast from Marguerite Bennett and Aneke where Bennett, and an LGBT-inclusive riff on DC’s old romance comics from project creator Marc Andreyko with art from George Perez, Karl Kesel, and Laura Allred.  A full list of collaborators on Love is Love can be found here, and I definitely plan on delving into their other work.

Love is Love is personal, beautiful, and tragic collection of comics that really affected me despite their being more “ally” creators than LGBTQ ones. I hope it will make the world a more loving and inclusive place even in the shadow of the election of two homophobes to the office of president and vice president.

As Batman says in King and Gerads’ story, “Today, I will get up. Today, I will face their hate… And I will again fight for my love.” Visual and verbal moments like that are why I love comics.

Story: Various Art: Various
Story: 9.5 Art: 10 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Telos #2

Telos #2A secret history of Convergence is revealed when Brainiac offers Telos a terrible choice: Save his people or save his planet. And now, years later, is Brainiac the only ally in Telos’s search to find his lost family? Or could he put his faith in K’Rot, Stealth, and Captain Comet instead?

We get a lot of info on the history of Telos in this second issue where we’re introduced to a whole bunch of the new characters that feel like they’ll help Telos be some sort of guardian of the galaxy or something.

Written by Jeff King, Telos #2 feels like a choppy comic with scenes actually missing, as if pages were literally missing. I found myself going back and rereading a bunch of the comic to make sure I didn’t, and the comic isn’t that complicated to begin with.

The story is basically the plot of being sent to jail to meet up with someone and help break out. We’ve seen it a bunch, and even then, still choppy.

But, the issue does give us a lot of insight into Telos the character and his previous life. It is somewhat interesting, and I’d like to see Telos used in some other way, but here, something just feels… off. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but it’s just not clicking for me right now.

Art duties are courtesy of Jason Paz on inks and Carlo Pagulayan and Igor Vitorino on pencils. The art is decent with what I’d call a “house style” and look I’d stereotypically expect in a DC Comic. There’s lots of different aliens in this comic and the team handles it well and on top of that the action is entertaining to check out.

The comic is ok, but something isn’t quite working for the series, especially in this issue. There’s some cool ideas and potential, and maybe we’ll see it down the road pay off, but for now, the comic feels like a jumble of concepts, plots, stories, and ideas that aren’t quite fleshed out enough or used in the right way. Telos is a character to keep an eye on, hopefully he finds footing in his own story.

Story: Jeff King Art: Jason Paz, Igor Vitorino, Carlo Pagulayan
Story: 6 Art: 7 Overall: 6 Recommendation: Pass

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Telos #1

Telos #1 CoverThe villain of the world-shattering Convergence event stars in his own new series! Set loose from his planetary tether at the end of the best-selling Convergence, Telos finds himself free and able to traverse space and time via a sliver of Brainiac’s powers. As this epic begins, he embarks on an odyssey, journeying across time and space in search of his past.

Remember Convergence? Remember Telos? The bad guy turned confused guy at the center of this Summer’s DC Comics event that resulted in the latest DC relaunch? Well Telos is at the center of this new comic series, which is good because he just kind of took off at the end of the event. We don’t know a whole lot about the character, so the series is a continuation and a blank start in many ways.

Writer Jeff King does what he can in Telos #1 which has the character on a mission to find his missing family and kick Braniac’s ass. Yeah, that’s about the story. There’s some interesting writing using some classic literature, but overall the story is very blah. There’s nothing that hooked me at all. I’ll probably check out the second issue, but overall, this is a pretty basic comic, and the reason to come back isn’t there for me.

The art by Jason Paz and Carlo Pagulayan is pretty good. It looks nice, I can’t really knock it at all, but the style is very much the house style we can expect in DC. With so many different styles out there, this now feels a bit generic.

The comic is ok. It’s not bad in any way, there’s just nothing that really excites me about it. Telos as a character didn’t interest me in Convergence, and that carries over here too. It’s a series I wasn’t expected, and after reading the first issue, I’m not expecting it to stick around too long.

Story: Jeff King Art: Jason Paz, Carlo Pagulayan
Story: 6 Art: 7.25 Overall: 6 Recommendation: Pass

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

SDCC 2015: DC Announces Three Convergence Spin-Offs

During San Diego Comic-Con 2015, DC Comics announced that October 2015 will debut three new series spinning out of April’s Convergence event. The three are:

SUPERMAN: LOIS & CLARK #1

Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Lee Weeks
On-sale October 14

Following the epic events of CONVERGENCE, here are the adventures of the last son and daughter of Krypton and Earth as they try to survive in a world not their own. But can they keep this world from suffering the same fate as their own? Can this Superman stop the villains he once fought before they are created on this world? What is Intergang, and why does Lois’s discovery of it place everyone she loves in jeopardy? And what will happen when their nine-year-old son learns the true identity of his parents?

SUPERMAN LOIS & CLARK #1

TELOS #1

Written by Jeff King
Art by Carlo Pagulayan and Jason Paz
On-sale October 7

The villain of the world-shattering CONVERGENCE event stars in his own new series! Set loose from his planetary tether at the end of the best-selling CONVERGENCE, Telos finds himself free and able to traverse space and time via a sliver of Brainiac’s powers. As this epic begins, he embarks on an odyssey, journeying across time and space in search of his past.

TELOS #1

TITANS HUNT #1

Written by Dan Abnett
Art by Paulo Siqueira
On-sale October 21

CONVERGENCE is over, but the ripples are still being felt, especially by a young precog named

Lilith. What are these visions she’s having of a Teen Titans team the world never knew? And why

does she feel compelled to seek out Dick Grayson, Roy Harper, Donna Troy and an Atlantean named Garth and warn them that something dark and sinister is coming after them? Who are Mal, Gnarrk, Hank Hall and Dawn Granger, and what is their connection to the others—and to the fate of every soul on Earth? This is the Secret History of the TEEN TITANS!

TitansHunt_Promo_Final

TitansHunt_Promo_Final

Review: Convergence #8

Convergence-8-coverAll the heroes of the DC Universe unite to face a crisis of infinite proportions – but when all is done, there can be only one reality. But will even that survive the battle?

Convergence #8 is on shelves, ending two months of mediocre storytelling, and giving us a clearer direction of the DC Universe to come. Written by Scott Lobdell and Jeff King, the issue continues much of what’s plagued previous issues, choppy storytelling and leaving out key moments and facts.

With Deimos defeated, the chronal energy is loose threatening to destroy the multiverse. What will the heroes do? Well somehow it involves Brainiac absorbing the energy, and sending folks back, expect none of this is really explained and just is kind of presented. But, there’s a problem, the original Crisis on Infinite Earths stands in the way!

And here’s the issue, as is the problem with much of this event. If you don’t know your DC Comics history, you’d have no idea what’s being referenced, and why it’s important. I haven’t read Crisis on Infinite Earths in decades, so the specifics aren’t exactly fresh in my mind, and I have WAY too much to read to go back and reread it all. So, some of the specifics as to what’s said went over my head, and I shrugged my shoulders for most. And even in the “correction” there’s lots of things that can be debated as far as the impact and how it mucks with DC Comic history.

But here’s the cool, the results, and this is a spoiler, but one that’s all over, it now opens up all of DC history for future stories. Everything is game, and that’s represented by a few double page spreads by Stephen Segovia and Carlo Pagulayan. It’s a who’s who of DC comic history, which is neat to see in its own way. Overall though, the art isn’t quite up to the standard we’ve seen elsewhere and even in other spin-offs.

Really, in the end, the comic is a read mainly due to its importance in shaping what’s to come, not due to actual quality. There’s some things spinning out of it, like Earth 2: Society, that I’m now even more excited about. But, the real good is DC has opened the vault, and the future is wide open.

Story: Scott Lobdell, Jeff King Art: Stephen Segovia, Carlo Pagulayan
Story: 6 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.25 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Convergence #7

CONV_Cv7_55410d7b0e3fd1.85141484Worlds live. Worlds die. And nothing will ever be the same.

The largest battle in the history of the Multiverse is here! Who will win and who will lose when Deimos battles the combined might of the Earth 2 survivors, the heroes from Kingdom Come, the Titans and Parallax? All this and more, as the heroes of The New 52 join the fight!

I feel like I missed something between the last issue of Convergence and this one. The heroes of the New 52 last I remember were staring at a planet making its way through a rift. There’s some being that clearly Superman knows, but I have no idea who he is, and Superman is rescuing members of Stormwatch? What happened between issues!? I’ll also overlook the switch of Guy Gardner back to a Green Lantern from Red.

The rest of the issue is pretty much a giant fight scene as forces battle each other to survive and eventually everyone then focuses on Deimos, just like the whole good guys fight each other when meeting before teaming up storyline trope.

While all of that is pretty blah, the one thing I did like of who deals the killing blow to Deimos. There’s an interesting aspect of redemption in it, and as this character’s storyline is one I grew up with, it was something I particularly liked. There’s also the interesting argument and aspect of heroes killing.

Next week sees the conclusion of this event, which puts everything back on the table for the DC Universe. We know the series that will be coming out, but how the DC Universe/Multiverse will fit together is the bigger question I just don’t quite know the answer to.

The issue, like the previous ones, is just ok. This event is a rarity in that the tie-ins are much stronger than the main series, the opposite of the usual. The big thing though is how DC sticks the landing with the next issue, and what comes next. That in the end is how this event will be judged for the better or worse.

Story: Jeff King, Scott Lobdel Art: Aaron Lopresti
Story: 6.5 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Convergence #2

convergence #2 coverAs Telos, the Planet Incarnate, easily defeats the survivors of Earth 2, Thomas Wayne and Dick Grayson set off to find help in the pre-Flashpoint Gotham City. The emotional implication of these worlds colliding comes crashing down when Thomas Wayne confronts this world’s Batman, as father meets son!

Plus, Alan Scott’s attempts to connect with The Green yield unexpected results, setting our team on a quest to escape the planet. And the cyborgs of Futures End engage in a battle to the death against the reimagined heroes of the Just Imagine Universe, while the city of Superman Red and Blue takes on the opposing forces from GENERATIONS!

The second issue of Convergence focuses in on the viewpoint of Dick Grayson and his views of what’s happened and what’s happening. This would be an interesting “everyman” point of view, but Grayson isn’t very likeable. After a brief intro to Grayson’s experience, we’re quickly pivoted to mostly a fight between the Earth 2 heroes and Telos. The fight is somewhat lame, and entire segment rather boring, but you need to get these heroes off on their mission. That involves exploring the world and trying to get some allies to help them.

The big emotional punch is supposed to be the meeting between Thomas Wayne and a version of Bruce Wayne. What should have been an incredible emotional punch comes off as cold, distant, and about as touching as a wet fart.

Convergence so far has a feel of a cheap event, thrown together from ideas we’ve seen before in previous comics and other media. The story so far is just not interesting or entertaining, it’s just rather bland and recycled. What has succeeded is some of the tie-ins, so it might be best for those interested to start there.

The second issue gets the comic moving, but it’s not enough to get me excited to see what happens next. Generally the characters aren’t likeable, and the villain is so detached, I just don’t care about him.

For a hyped event, Convergence has me waiting for it to be over to get back to our regularly scheduled program.

Story: Jeff King Art: Jason Paz, Carlo Pagulayan
Story: 6.5 Art: 7 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Pass

Review: Convergence #1

Convergence #1 CoverDC Comics‘ big event brings the entire DC Universe, from the dawn of time through The New 52, together. They must fight to survive against a threat that bends the Multiverse to its will. Brainiac has collected cities of doomed and forgotten worlds, who must battle each other – and the losers will be destroyed! But why is he forcing this conflict? Join the refugees from Earth-2 as they unlock the truth behind this world that exists outside time and space and is very much alive! Is Brainiac really in control – or is this planet named Telos an unparalleled force of evil?

In the lead up to Convergence I personally have been back and forth as to my interest in the series. Having read Convergence #0 last week, my interest turned towards the positive, as the set-up was intriguing at least.

Convergence #1 quickly got rid of that interest presenting a comic that felt more like a choppy set of ideas as opposed to a coherent narrative. The comic is especially cumbersome for those who might not have been reading DC’s weekly comic Earth 2: Worlds End. The issue kicks off with the heroes of the Injustice pocket of the Multiverse dealing with an unknown assailant, and it would seem getting a quick beatdown. It’s a setup that’s supposed to show that anything can happen, and that there’s actually high stakes here. Instead, without any interest or connection to the characters, and really no introduction as to what is happening and how it connects to the bigger narrative, I found myself not caring about their fate. It was a cheap move for shock that failed to deliver an impact.

The majority of the issue is the heroes of Earth 2 attempting to figure out what happened and the Brainiac of Telos attempting to figure out why they have no city attached to them. It’s then declared a battle of heroes will commence and that they will actually have to fight. It’s a cool concept, if it were a video game, but feels like a bad cut-scene before I get to battle it out myself. Also for those who might not have read Earth 2: Worlds End, I feel like a lot of what is said by that group of heroes would be lost or just not understood. There’s just a weird disconnect.

The art for the issue is just ok. It feels like it was a “B” team a bit, not featuring a DC heavy hitting artist as you’d hope for a big event such as this. Much like the story and concept as a whole, it just doesn’t feel like DC is bringing its “A” game here.

Convergence rests in nostalgia from those who have followed DC Comics throughout the decades. As I’m not one of those people, it needs more to bring me in. While the zero issue had my interest perked up, this first issue quickly drained all of that. Here’s hoping the tie-in series will bring more excitement.

Story: Scott Lobdell and Jeff King Art: Jason Paz and Carlo Pagulayan
Story: 5 Art: 6.75 Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass

Review: Convergence #0

convergence 0 coverWorlds live. Worlds die. And nothing will ever be the same.

Where do worlds go when they die? Crisis, Zero Hour, and Flashpoint all saw characters and timelines suddenly disappear – gone, but far from forgotten. They’re all still there, and they’re fighting for their lives.

The Earthquakes felt round the Multiverse, Superman’s lost days after “Doomed,” the World’s End – all these points will converge as the history of the DCU is spun from a new perspective, the perspective of a mad god and his arrogant child. The biggest story in DC history ties into literally every DC story ever told – and it all begins here.

Kingdom Come, Red Son, Wild West Justice League, Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew – all the worlds you remember can still be found on Telos. Everything matters. Every story matters.

The entire DC Universe, from the dawn of time through The New 52, must fight to survive against a threat that bends the Multiverse to its will. Your favorite characters from every era are all here! But are you going to say hello again just to say goodbye forever? The stakes have never been higher as the heroes you love are brought together and it all starts here with Convergence #0.

Kicking off the April/May event Convergence #0 lays the ground work of the battleworld story that’s set up, as if it’s some sort of secret war that’ll be fought. We find out about the mysterious being behind all of this, as the mystery is uncovered by us the reader, and Superman, who is in the center of it all.

Already there’s some confusion for me as it has a bit to do with the Doomsday storyline and some missing time, but I just ignored that and moved on to see what’s up.

What really drew me, and what will draw me into the numerous serious spinning out of it, is watching the various versions of Superman rendered by artist Ethan Van Sciver. There are lots of iconic moments, some I thought happened in the New 52, but I guess not? All of them rendered solidly by Van Sciver. And that’s the best part of the issue.

The story is a lot of set-up, lots of discussion, and not much else. It’s the moments before the credits role on a film, setting up what’s coming ahead. Is that a bad thing? For a first issue yes, for a zero issue, it’s not so bad. This zero issue is set-up and lets us know what’s to come. That’s its purpose.

Does the Convergence series have potential? Yes, looks like this could be a fun event for fans of DC’s very iconic history. For others, it’ll be mixed. I’m in the middle somewhere as to what I expect. The first issue is drawn out a bit and could have done with more of plot infusion and used some storytelling elements from Archaia’s Tales of Sand, but it did what its goal was. It got me to understand what Convergence will be about. It got me to get a bit excited to see some of the new series, more so than I was at least. So, mission accomplished.

Story: Dan Jurgens, Jeff King Art: Ethan Van Sciver
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

DC Comics Expands Its Convergence Art and Reveals a Logo

ConvergencePromo_1200_545ac8e14697f7.11375445Earlier this week, DC Comics announced their next big event Convergence, which seems to bring together numerous storylines, as well as expand their Multiverse. Today, they revealed more of the announcement image drawn by Carlo Pagulayan and Jose Marzan Jr. with colors by Hi-Fi. It also now includes the logo for the even.t

Convergence is a two month event comprised of a nine-part weekly comic book written by Jeff King and Dan Jurgens and drawn by Carlo Pagulayan, Stephen Segovia, and Ethan Van Sciver. It also has 40 distinct, two-part miniseries written and drawn by some of the most exciting creators in comics, it’s an event told at an unprecedented scale.

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