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Review: Batman/Superman: Authority Special #1

Batman/Superman: Authority Special #1

Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson and artists Trevor Hairsine, Scott Hanna, Jonathan Glapion, Rain Beredo, and Ben Templesmith do the unthinkable in Batman/Superman: Authority Special #1, which is make the Dark Multiverse compelling. This comic definitely spins out of the excellent Superman and the Authority miniseries, but no prior knowledge of any of the “Metal” comics are needed for this alternate universe romp as Batman teams up with Superman and his old team to do a first strike on a world where the Dark Knight has become corrupted by the League (Now, Empire) of Shadows and is the patriarch of the autocratic Al-Ghul dynasty. Templesmith handles the art duties for this “Shadow Earth”, and his slightly askew painterly style easily ups the quality of the book.

However, my favorite part of Batman/Superman: Authority Special was the constant trash talk between Midnighter and Batman with the lethal leather daddy taking the piss out of the Caped Crusader for much of the comic. Johnson leans into the metafictional connection between Batman and Midnighter and also that they’ve never met on panel, and their jawing and eventually teaming up gives the issue a strong undercurrent of humor beneath the grimdarkness. Philip Kennedy Johnson and Trevor Hairsine also expand on Apollo being a Superman fanboy in the previous miniseries and have him geek out a little bit over Batman too. These playful touches make this new iteration of the Authority endearing, and Johnson gives Batman and Superman a relationship of mutual respect. As evidenced by the sour facial expressions, Hairsine, Glapion, and Hanna give him, Batman isn’t impressed in the Authority as a unit, but he sees them and especially Enchantress’ interdimensional travel abilities as a way to protect Earth.

Although the rulers of Shadow Earth aren’t given much characterization beyond the League of Shadows on steroids and all related, Ben Templesmith puts his own spin on their realm and makes The Authority and Batman’s journey to their world that much more jarring as the art transitions from Trevor Hairsine, Jonathan Glapion, and Scott Hanna’s house style superheroes with a bit of Wildstorm widescreen edge to utter horror. The opening splash page with flames, skulls, darkness, and armor makes Batman/Superman: Authority Special feel more like the cover of a heavy metal album than a superhero team-up book. Interdimensional travel takes a toll on our protagonists as their figures warp and elongate against dark vistas featuring eye popping details like a Barbelith-esque red sun. It adds an air of atmosphere to what could just have been a punch-up against alternate universe Batmen, and Philip Kennedy Johnson and Templesmith show these doppelganger-type figures actually holding back against an icon that has inspired them to become tyrants.

Batman/Superman: The Authority Special shows that a creative team other than Grant Morrison and Mikel Janin can tell a compelling story with this cast characters, and I’m excited to see some of the character moments, such as Lightray going from being hero for fame to being in real action or Apollo and Midnighter working on the whole no-killing thing, expanded up on in future issues of Action Comics from Philip Kennedy Johnson. Paper-thin villain characterization aside, this book is a solid one-shot adventure with an eerie setting thanks to memorable art from Ben Templesmith plus loads of funny interactions between Batman and Midnighter.

Story: Philip Kennedy Johnson
  Art: Trevor Hairsine with Jonathan Glapion and Scott Hanna, Ben Templesmith
Colors: Rain Beredo Letters: Tom Napolitano
Story: 8.0 Art:8.8 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Superman and the Authority #4

Superman and the Authority #4

After an all-too brief four issues, Superman and the Authority #4 ends before the titular team can even blast off on their first mission together. However, that kind of seems to be the point as Grant Morrison, Mikel Janin, and Jordie Bellaire drive home that this is a team that has much bigger fish to fry than Ultrahumanite, Brainiac (I eye-rolled when he was revealed as the “Big Bad”. Of course, he was.), and rejects from the original run of The Authority. Also, in a more metafictional way, Morrison is showing that they’re beyond such petty things as superhero fisticuffs and are giving the DC Universe one last gift of a kick-ass superhero team plus one final, beautiful Superman moment and a couple “stingers” that could fuel a whole damn event comic or two.

Superman and the Authority #4 continues the divide and conquer structure of the previous three issues with Grant Morrison and Janin showing Superman fighting the Ultrahumanite by his lonesome, then the Authority doing their Wildstorm political satire with a heavy dose of punching, and finally, a primal, elemental battle between light and dark aka Apollo and Eclipso for the soul of Lightray. Lightray is more potential than a character at this point, but she does bring in a nonbinary, queer OMAC fittingly named Mac into the story that almost steals the whole comic at the end and might even have Manchester Black and Midnighter beat in the snappy one-liner department.

Each portion of the story plays with tropes from different comics eras or eras of Morrison’s career. For example, the opening fight between Superman and the Ultrahumanite mentions the gangsters he fought in the Golden Age and the different kinds of kryptonite from the Silver Age while Morrison’s whip-smart characterization of Lois Lane is straight from All-Star Superman. And after these small stories come to a close, Superman and the Authority #4 wraps up in a clever way that rejects the final slugfest that most “event” type books turn into and instead act as a road map for future characters, and in universe, heroes.

But, just because Superman and the Authority #4 doesn’t conclude with an apocalyptic punch-up, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have plenty of action. Mikel Janin turns in layouts and choreography that updates early aughts widescreen superhero books for the era of TikTok and NFTs. He takes glee in showing Midnighter kick the shit out of a white supremacist baddie named Iron Cross, who is probably pissed that Donald Trump doesn’t have a Twitter account any more, in swooping panels.

On the other hand, Janin uses tighter grids in conjunction with Bellaire’s intense flat colors to show any time Authority members are stressed out or in real danger like when Natasha Irons has to switch armor while fighting alien refugee Siv, who is not so bad in the end. There’s real power behind the punches and kicks with Mikel Janin adding speed lines and energy bursts to his clean figure work. Kirby Krackle meets ligne claire and all is right with the world as he, Morrison, and Jordie Bellaire embrace the fun, bombastic side of superhero comics while also shifting the paradigm just a little bit.

The Authority’s “new way” of doing things that Superman alluded to in previous issues comes to play in the battle between Natasha Irons and Siv. After making the Authority’s first opponent a totally irredeemable Nazi, Grant Morrison shakes things up and makes Siv, an alien who fights to raise awareness for her species that is hated and feared after accidentally crash landing in California. By beating up some superheroes, she can help her people get resources and recognition. Natasha Irons is aware of this fact, but still ends up shorting Siv out in the heat of battle as she switches armor in mid-air.

Janin’s frenetic paneling and MTV style “edits” helps build suspense as he cuts from Irons free-falling to Manchester Black tussling with one of his old Elite buddies Coldcast, a Black superhero that is trying to repair his reputation … by teaming up with a white supremacist aka respectability politics with metahuman powers. However, after all the hullabaloo, there’s one great panel of Irons apologizing to Siv and doing everything in her power to help Siv’s people while Siv contemplates pacifism. This little mini arc shows that like a great rock song, Grant Morrison and Mikel Janin can nail the quiet moments as well as the loud ones like Midnighter aggressively fighting and flirting with a French queer badass named Fleur de Lis, who I hope makes an appearance elsewhere.

Superman and the Authority #4 features the memorable action and one-liners of its predecessors while having a true heart thanks to the sequences with Superman deciding to move on to deal with other threats and letting his amazing, bisexual son Jon Kent defend Earth as Superman in his stead. There’s a real Shakespeare/Prospero in The Tempest relationship between Morrison and Superman as they, Janin, and Bellaire put on one last spectacle, remark on how the old days weren’t so great (I love Black’s dialogue about JFK), and set up some threads for the next generation of DC Comics writers to play with. I personally think this won’t be Grant Morrison’s last DC story, but if it was, Superman and the Authority #4 is suitably entertaining and thought provoking and looks towards the future instead of being blinded by nostalgia, namely, bring on nb OMAC!

Story: Grant Morrison  Art: Mikel Janin
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Tom Napolitano
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy

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Around the Tubes

Dark Ages #1

It’s one of two new comic book days! What are you getting? What are you excited for? Sound off in the comments below! While you think about that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web to start the day.

The Beat – A Year of Free Comics: The world has ended in HOMESICK and you can’t even remember it – Free comics!


CBR – Aquaman 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1
CBR – Dark Ages #1
CBR – Midnighter 2021 Annual #1
Collected Editions – Raven: Daughter of Darkness Vol. 1
The Beat – Sun Eater Act One

Preview: Midnighter 2021 Annual #1

Midnighter 2021 Annual #1

Written by: Michael Conrad, Becky Cloonan
Art by: Michael Avon Oeming

The big finish to the adventure starting all the way back in the conclusion of Future State: Superman: Worlds of War. Midnighter traveled into the future to help get himself out of a jam, only to swap places with his future self. Now, the Midnighter from the future finds himself trapped in a paradox, working his way back to his onetime present to swap places again. Don’t worry if you’re confused-so is he! The key to this whole thing is Andrej Trojan, the nefarious industrialist who tried using Superman’s mission on Warworld to his own end. Midnighter has been carrying Trojan’s robotic skull with him, hunting for the 2021 iteration of the man, and shutting his whole company down before any of this trouble even starts. Finishing the serial, which runs in the back of Action Comics, this time-travel escapade also leads into Superman and the Authority!

Midnighter 2021 Annual #1

Review: Midnighter Annual 2021

Midnighter Annual

After a series of short backups in Action Comics, Michael Conrad, Becky Cloonan, Michael Avon Oeming, and Taki Soma get to wrap up their time travel/action movie/love story/techno-thriller/body horror saga in Midnighter Annual. It’s a good time and Midnighter, Apollo, and Shilo Norman aka Mister Miracle have throuple-like chemistry as they escape from various explosions, killer robots, and try to figure out the mechanics of the whole time loop deal and make sure organic life isn’t extinct while cracking jokes and having heart to hearts. However, Oeming and Soma’s very un-house style-like art and colors are what make this arc such a great read.

Visually, Midnighter Annual isn’t a DC Comic nor a Wildstorm comic: it’s a Michael Oeming and Taki Soma comic. Their power-packed style with a side of flat colors and slight psychedelic elements is front and center in the book from the first action sequence where Midnighter, Apollo, and Shilo fight off Andrej Trojan’s drones/cultists and remember that Midnighter can teleport anywhere. (He didn’t do this in previous issues because it led to Shilo’s death in multiple timelines.) Oeming’s gift for cartooning brings out the different personalities of the lead characters. This ranges from Apollo casually using his godlike abilities to protect the man he loves to Midnighter relishing in each goon he takes out and Shilo stressing out and quipping like standup comic having an anxiety attack to deal with how out of his depth he is. Although their faces (Except for Apollo and Trojan) are hidden by masks, Michael Avon Oeming makes their faces super expressive in his signature style.

Plus Midnighter always perceiving himself wearing a mask (Until the end when we get in true paradox mode.) is the perfect for his visual. It reminds me of a Steve Orlando interview from 2015 where he talks about Midnighter only knows fighting and doesn’t know basic stuff like if he likes the taste of bagels or going to the movies. To get the job done and break the time loop, Midnighter must compartmentalize, and there’s no time for opening up or sharing your feelings even with the man who loves him most, Apollo. Midnighter and Apollo share many embraces and sweet moments across this double-sized comic, but Midnighter never lets him in on the secret that Trojan is literally in his head until nearly the end of the issue. Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad make fun of this with cheeky, innuendo-laden dialogue about threesomes, but you can tell in Oeming’s art and use of negative space that this lack of disclosure has created a rift between this iconic power couple.

However, Apollo isn’t just an all-powerful foil for Midnighter in Midnighter Annual. He gets to have his own personality and reactions to situations including a triple dose of pettiness and being over it all. When Andrej Trojan’s chief scientist releases sarin gas to take out Midnighter and company, Apollo shields them from the poison and backhands his henchmen like he’s swatting flies. Even though he is full of emotional depth, Apollo is basically a god in this comic as Midnighter alludes to a pinpoint line of dialogue from Cloonan and Conrad. He can make gold sparks come out of his hands, and Taki Soma uses a brighter color palette whenever he jumps into action. Part of what Midnighter and Apollo a great couple is their love, passion, and chemistry despite their differences in personality, and Midnighter Annual definitely doesn’t shy away from those.

I think that this is the part of the review where I have to confess that I’m not the biggest fan of time travel-driven stories. However, Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Michael Avon Oeming through dialogue and visuals show that they’re more focused on Midnighter’s journey than the nitty gritty of time travel mechanics a la a much weirder (and less incestuous) Back to the Future. In a chilling scene with dark background colors and a nine panel grid layout from Oeming, Midnighter is offered a release from the stress of time loops and stopping the world’s extinction from Trojan, but that would be a total cop out for a guy who was beating baddies to death with a hammer a few issues of Action Comics ago. Between juggling multiple timelines, taking a copious amount of notes, and doing strange things to protect Shilo and Apollo, you know he’s not going to take the easy way out and leans into that complexity.

Even though it’s a non-stop action thrill ride with a garish color palette from Taki Soma and uniquely kinetic art from Michael Avon Oeming that’s an argument against house styles, Midnighter Annual is another installment in the beautiful love story between Midnighter and Apollo, but with some very trippy obstacles. Add in the everyman vibe of Shilo Norman plus the sense of humor in Conrad and Cloonan’s script, and this is is the flashy conclusion to this Midnighter arc that his fans deserve while cementing Andrej Trojan as a memorable member of his rogues gallery as he tries to avoid the thing that closes all of our loops, er, lives aka death.

Story: Michael Conrad, Becky Cloonan Art: Michael Avon Oeming
Colors: Taki Soma Letters: Dave Sharpe
Story: 7.9 Art: 9.0 Overall:8.4 Recommendation: Buy

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Preview: Midnighter 2021 Annual #1

Midnighter 2021 Annual #1

Written by: Michael Conrad, Becky Cloonan
Art by: Michael Avon Oeming

The big finish to the adventure starting all the way back in the conclusion of Future State: Superman: Worlds of War. Midnighter traveled into the future to help get himself out of a jam, only to swap places with his future self. Now, the Midnighter from the future finds himself trapped in a paradox, working his way back to his onetime present to swap places again. Don’t worry if you’re confused-so is he! The key to this whole thing is Andrej Trojan, the nefarious industrialist who tried using Superman’s mission on Warworld to his own end. Midnighter has been carrying Trojan’s robotic skull with him, hunting for the 2021 iteration of the man, and shutting his whole company down before any of this trouble even starts. Finishing the serial, which runs in the back of Action Comics, this time-travel escapade also leads into Superman and the Authority!

Midnighter 2021 Annual #1

Review: Superman and the Authority #2

Superman and the Authority #2

Superman and Manchester Black assemble the new Authority squad in Superman and the Authority #2, and the issue goes about the ol’ recruitment drive issue in a creative way while still leaving time for plenty of interactions between the Man of Steel and his predominantly fans turned teammates. Grant Morrison structures this comic in a really engaging way collaborating four artists and four colorists to tell a frame story featuring Superman, Manchester Black, and their new teammates (Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire), a Natasha “Steel” Irons solo adventure (Fico Ossio and Sebastian Cheng), an Apollo and Midnighter team-up (Evan Cagle and Dave Stewart), and a June Moone aka Enchantress spookfest (Travel Foreman and Alex Sinclair). Each of these small units of story allow Morrison and the artists to play in different genres and flesh out each member of The Authority while building to a bigger whole.

The Grant Morrison-penned banter between Manchester Black and Superman along with the clean lines of Janin and strong colors tie together the disparate art styles and sub-stories of Superman and the Authority #2. This older Superman is vulnerable and self-aware about it taking Black’s snipes about his power set reduction in stride while quipping about being “a samurai in autumn” and not caring if he has to take a spaceship (That’s quite cool) everywhere instead of flying. He also is straight up revered by his teammates with Natasha Irons joining the team simply because he’s on it, and Midnighter using the Authority team membership as his anniversary present for Apollo, who breaks his usual reticence and gushes about how Superman was an inspiration to him. (Even if he’s a bit more violent than the Man of Steel.) June Moone gets the last story, and the team doesn’t really interact with her that much, but almost silently, Superman’s silhouette acts as a figure of hope in the middle of the utter hopelessness of the Hilltop Sanitorium.

Natasha Irons gets the first short story, and Morrison, Ossio, and Cheng craft a story that in a previous age might be called cyberpunk. Basically, her and her uncle, John Henry Irons’ Metropolis headquarters has been overrun by sentient Internet beings endangering their operations as well as their city and the whole world. Grant Morrison and Fico Ossio take a literal approach to the enemies they fight, such as trolls, “eternal edgelords”, and of course, plain ol’ misinformation that continues to take the world especially in a world ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. (If you’re reading this review and haven’t been vaccinated, please get the vaccine.) Sebastian Cheng’s garish color palette as Irons battles the racist, sexist slime of the Internet feels like you’re in the middle of a flame war, and Ossio overwhelms the page with figures. However, Steel is no damsel in distress and uses her empathy and intelligence to deal with the threat and prove that she’s a worthy successor to Superman as hero of Metropolis and will fill the tech role (Think Angela Spica in the original Authority) well.

As a known Midnighter fan, of course, the second sub-story from Grant Morrison, Cagle, and Stewart is my favorite as Midnighter and Apollo bicker like an old married couple while trying to save some psychic kids that are being trafficked in a very high tech, body horror kind of way. Evan Cagle and Dave Stewart’s art showcases the dark badass nature of Midnighter with sweeping shadows and minimalist imagery in panels like guns falling or bloods dripping to just show how in control of the situation he is. However, there’s a bit of the hiccup in the action, and this gives Apollo a chance to play hero and then murder children with his yellow glow getting a little sadder. The atomic sheen that Stewart gives Apollo gives Morrison a chance to do some political commentary via Superman and Manchester Black about “idealistic liberals” and basically how a Democrat was responsible for dropping the only atom bombs in history. It’s a fitting observation as leftists and progressives become increasingly disgruntled with a party that won’t do squat while it has control of the legislative and executive departments and negotiates with a party that was responsible for and tolerated a right wing insurrection. Personally, Midnighter and Apollo have a fun, flirtatious dynamic, but their good intentions (Saving Middle Eastern children) turned downright genocidal is a spot-on metaphor for American foreign policy as well as the failure of “liberal” ideals.

Finally, the June Moone story is for fans of Grant Morrison’s work on Arkham Asylum and is a little bit like a less gory, easier to follow Nameless. Travel Foreman and Alex Sinclair’s visuals are suitably atmospheric with plenty of dark shadows and corridors plus a mainly monochromatic palette with hints of red. It’s a Lovecraftian psychodrama as June Moone’s boyfriend has been having an affair with the Enchantress and wants to unleash her tonight with the help of an elder, purple god. After the science fiction and superheroics of the majority of Superman and the Authority #2, Morrison, Foreman, and Sinclair capture hopelessness in a house with the door held slightly ajar in the end. Out of the Authority team members, Enchantress is the least traditionally heroic, but every Authority squad needs a shaman or wizard type figure, and she’s a powerhouse on that account. But first the team will have to play Orpheus to her Eurydice.

Superman and the Authority #2 is a master class in how to assemble a superhero team in the space of a single issue. Grant Morrison, Mikel Janin, Fico Ossio, Evan Cagle, and Travel Foreman seamlessly combine multi-genre short stories with a thematically rich overarching narrative of an aging Superman and a chaotic Manchester Black trying to do this superhero thing the right way. (No genocides, please!) I can’t wait to see this merry band fight through Hell, and Apollo fangirl over (hot dad) Superman some more!

Story: Grant Morrison Art: Mikel Janin, Fico Ossio, Evan Cagle, Travel Foreman
Colors: Jordie Bellaire, Sebastian Cheng, Dave Stewart, Alex Sinclair Letters: Steve Wands
Story: 8.6 Art: 9.2 Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: DC Pride #1

DC Pride #1

In honor of Pride Month, DC Comics dropped DC Pride #1, an 80 page anthology featuring short stories with LGBTQ+ characters by mainly LGBTQ+ creators. In addition to the stories, there’s an introduction by prominent gay comics writer Marc Andreyko (Manhunter, Love is Love) and pinups by some of the best LGBTQ+ artists (and artists period) like Sophie Campbell, Nick Robles, and Kevin Wada. The overall tone of the anthology is celebratory, but one story definitely made me tear up. I really enjoyed how DC Pride touched all corners of the LGBTQ umbrella and its exploration of how our differences make us stronger and really hope that one day all the characters featured in the book can have their own comic.

After the aforementioned introduction by Andreyko and a vibrant pinup of queer Teen Titans Aqualad, Bunker, Traci-13, and Crush from Travis Moore, DC Pride #1 leads off with a Batwoman story from James Tynion and Trung Le Nguyen. It starts with a look back at Kate Kane’s childhood, and how she didn’t conform to traditional gender roles and desires beginning with the games she would play with her sister Beth (Now the supervillain Alice) where they would pretend to be dolls complete with makeup, frilly dresses, and the accoutrements of traditional femininity. There’s almost a fairy tale cadence to both Tynion’s writing and Nguyen’s art as Kate grows up, finds love in the arms of a variety of women, and forges an identity as the superhero, Batwoman. Trung Le Nguyen’s flat reds and blacks punctuate these changes while James Tynion’s script takes a macro-level to the theme of pride as they show a montage of various queer heroes in the DC Universe fighting their battles and being themselves. This opening story is a fine encapsulation of Batwoman’s character journey and also is an ode to embracing queerness and gender conformity in a heteronormative world. Plus Nguyen’s story book style applied to superhero comics is a real visual treat.

estrano and midnighter

The next story was one of my favorites as Steve Orlando returns to Midnighter (kind of) and Extraño as the magician regales John Constantine with a tale of a night out with the violent vigilante. Orlando and artist Stephen Byrne’s story is pure fanservice and adventure in the best way with iconic visual and verbal moments like Midnighter punching a Nazi vampire’s head off and John Constantine flirting with Extraño at a bar and totally being open to a threesome with Extraño and his werewolf husband. This story is mostly made up of fun things like one-liners, magic, and mayhem. However, Steve Orlando digs a little deeper with his script and commentates on how queer history is rewritten by bigoted historians with lovers becoming relatives (Like in the original Sailor Moon English dub) or “pals” as Midnighter and Extraño fight the aforementioned vampire to stop him from casting a spell that makes people think the mythological heroes Achilles and Patroclus were cousins, not lovers. This is a very real issue, and it’s vindicating to watch Midnighter and Extraño kick the asses of those who would straight-wash history in a thrilling, beautiful way thanks to Orlando’s witty script and Byrne’s power-packed visuals.

The third story in DC Pride is a noir-tinged saga of dark alleys, fisticuffs, and political activism starring Renee Montoya aka The Question from Vita Ayala, Skylar Partridge, and Jose Villarrubia. The plot is fairly straightforward with the Question tracking down missing defense attorney and city council candidate Valeria Johnson. Partridge and Villarrubia bring the dark shadows, atmosphere, and flat background colors when Montoya puts the fear of her into some loutishly heterosexual goons. I love how Skylar Partridge uses inset panels to show Montoya’s speed and skill and match Ayala’s snappy narrative captions. The whole story looks gorgeous, and there’s also a hint of budding romance between Renee Montoya and Valeria Johnson as the latter isn’t just a do-gooder damsel in distress. It definitely feels like a backdoor pilot for a Renee Montoya Question series, and I would love to see more of this creative team fleshing her and her relationship with Valeria out.

The Question story is followed by a hilarious and touching Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy story from Mariko Tamaki, Amy Reeder, and Marissa Louise. Basically, this anti-heroic duo stop a plant monster from going on a rampage (After giving it several cute pet names.) and talk about their relationship. Underneath Louise’s candy-meets-body horror palette and Reeder’s memorable facial expressions and high-wire layouts, they chat about going from the “will they, won’t they” stage to the moving in and starting a life stage. Tamaki’s script is peppered with jokes (Including a classic lesbian U-Haul one.), but she also once and for all shows that Harley and Ivy are a well-matched, occasionally wacky queer couple, and that they’ve brought a lot of support and laughs into each other’s lives. Also, Harley’s hammer should always have a Kirby face on it.

Alan Scott and Obsidian

Full disclosure: Sam Johns, Klaus Janson, and Dave McCaig’s Alan Scott and Obsidian story was the one that made me cry. At brunch with Obsidian and his partner, the Golden Age Green Lantern opens up to his estranged son and tells him that Obsidian’s confidence to live as an out gay man encouraged him to finally come out and be his full, true self to the world. Janson uses nine panel grids, Ben-Day dots, and a command of 1940s fashion to show Alan’s secret romance with a train conductor named Jimmy and also walk down memory lane when being gay was a crime and gay bars were shuttered and didn’t have liquor licenses. As well as expanding on Alan Scott coming out in the main DC continuity in Infinite Frontier, this story is an homage to queer elders and their struggles in a world where they could be jailed or even killed holding someone of the same gender’s hand in public. It’s a beautiful intergenerational story and really made me fall in love with Alan Scott as a character even more. He’s the queer grandpa I never had.

The sixth story in DC Pride #1is a fast-moving, romantic story from Danny Lore, Lisa Sterle, and Enrica Erin Angiolini about Jess Chambers (Future State Flash) getting ready for their date with Andy Curry aka Aquawoman. This pair had fantastic chemistry in Future State: Justice League, and it’s nice to see a story centered around their relationship that also riffs on the classic Flash tropes of lateness, Rogues, and legacy. As Jess faces off against Reflek, who was trained by Mirror Master, Sterle and Angiolini get play with different panel shapes simulating the speedster trying to break free from a hall of mirrors while trying to get their outfit, makeup, and gift together. Also, it’s refreshing to see a story featuring a nonbinary character not be all about their gender identity, but focus on action and relationships like any other Flash story. Andy and Jess have a nice thing going, and like many of the other characters who appear in this anthology, I hope to see more of them, their impeccable fashion senses, and cool superpowers in future DC titles.

DC Pride #1 returns to the intergenerational queerness well in a Pied Piper story from Sina Grace, Ro Stein, and Ted Brandt. They introduce a new character, Drummer Boy, who is inspired by Pied Piper to create mind-controlling beats so that he can take money from rich fat cats and save Central City’s gayborhood from gentrification, which is a very real problem in real life today. Drummer Boy calling out Pied Piper’s photo ops and not taking direct action since he’s been rich and famous is something that could be directed at many LGBTQ+ celebrities like Ru Paul, who literally uses his wealth to destroy the Earth. This issue creates a real fantasy in which LGBTQ+ celebrities help their community instead of palling around with war criminals at NFL games while Grace gets in some licks about being smart with one’s direct action and abilities when Pied Piper points out that if Drummer Boy steals money off rich people’s credit cards that they’ll just contest the charges. Drummer Boy has a real activist streak as a hero, and I love the energy that Stein and Brandt visually bring to his powers as well as not making him look like the average Ken-doll superhero body type.

The penultimate story in DC Pride #1introduces the transgender superhero Dreamer, who first appeared in the Supergirl television show, to the comics in a story written by Nicole Maines (Who played Dreamer in the show) and with art by Rachael Stott and Enrica Erin Angolini. Dreamer’s debut is a slice of story as she rushes to clean up a League of Shadows cell before rushing off to date night with Brainiac 5. Maines’ script has a cheery, humorous tone with a hilarious final panel, and Dreamer makes a lot of quips to go with Stott’s acrobatic fight choreography that is still good at showing motion even though her art style is more photorealistic. There’s a big feeling of wanting to get the fights over with so that Dreamer can spend time with the man she loves, and this story could honestly be one big metaphor for work/life balance. Dreamer makes her mark with charm and wholesomeness in the story, and her oneiromantic abilities have real visual flair.

Jackson Hyde

DC Pride #1 wraps up with a superhero spin on a big damn Pride parade with Andrew Wheeler, Luciano Vecchio, and Rex Lokus chronicling Aqualad’s first Pride since coming out with his new friend (and Extraño’s apprentice) Syl. Lokus’ colors match the tone of the story from bright and triumphant to dark and dreary as Eclipso has everyone at Pride airing out their worst thoughts and finally triumphant again with a group of DC’s LGBTQ+ superheroes led by Extraño saving the day and being the true, queer selves in the process. This story is a true victory lap, but Wheeler spends a little time in Aqualad’s head as he takes in the sights and sounds of Pride and also grapples with not wanting to be like his father, the villainous Black Manta. Even though everyone feels isolated and alone when targeted by Eclipso, there is actually a large, vibrant LGBTQ+ community of heroes in the DC Universe and hopefully they show up in stories beyond this anthology, which has honestly been a recurring theme as I read through the stories in DC Pride #1.

DC Pride #1 is a fantastic showcase not just for DC Comics’ LGBTQ+ characters, but the company’s LGBTQ+ creators too as they capture a range of relationships, feelings, sexualities, and gender identities. There’s a lot of focus on established romantic relationships, but some of the stories explore activism, community, and the Midnighter/Extrano/John Constantine is a straight up adventure yarn. I enjoyed seeing myself and my queer siblings uplifted in this comic and hope DC can do something more ongoing with these characters, situations, and especially creators.

Story: James Tynion IV, Steve Orlando, Vita Ayala, Mariko Tamaki
Sam Johns, Danny Lore, Sina Grace, Nicole Maines, Andrew Wheeler
Art: Trung Le Nguyen, Stephen Byrne, Skylar Partridge, Amy Reeder, Klaus Janson
Lisa Sterle, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, Rachael Stott, Luciano Vecchio
Colors: Jose Villarrubia, Marissa Louise, Dave McCaig, Enrica Erin Angiolini, Rex Lokus
Letters: Aditya Bidikar, Josh Reed, Ariana Maher, Tom Napolitano, Becca Carey, Steve Wands
Story: 9.8 Art: 10 Overall: 9.9 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Review: Midnighter and Apollo #6

midnighterapollo6coverMidnighter and Apollo #6 concludes the miniseries in breathtaking, double page spreading, and smooching as fashion as Apollo rescues Midnighter from hell and shines a little life into his life. Steve Orlando, Fernando BlancoRomulo Fajardo Jr., and John Rauch go for broke in showing the bond between Midnighter in creative and epic ways. The plot is  simple: escape from the creepy hell place, but the creative team pours all their efforts into letting Midnighter and Apollo go full badass and team up together against the hordes of Neron before having some much needed alone time.

Fernando Blanco’s layouts have been a consistent highlight of this series , and he tops himself in Midnighter and Apollo #6 beginning on the second and third pages. Blanco plays with symmetry with an opposing set of panels juxtaposing Apollo flying through Hell with Neron torturing Midnighter about how he’s going to die here because he’s a murder, and evil always wins. Except Neron’s words are empty air because the panels featuring Apollo get bigger and bigger as Fajardo’s yellows seeping in culminating in a full page splash of Apollo cold cocking Neron. It’s just lines on the page, but you can feel the rage and love behind Apollo’s solar powered fists as he goes flying. For most of Midnighter and Apollo, Midnighter has been trying to save Apollo, but its time for superpowered boyfriend to return the favor.

Through their quick dialogue during the action scenes and an extended epilogue, Orlando and Blanco dig into why Midnighter and Apollo work as a couple in a sweet, violent way. There’s nothing like exploding your scarecrow-looking demon doppelganger to show that your man really cares for you. But Midnighter gets really honest too as he’s in excruciating pain after returning from Hell with his body and fight computer healing all over the place. He doesn’t come back with some big no killing plan after having a near death experience, but is going to continue to kill the really bad guys to stop the pervasive spread of evil. It’s a dark duty that Blanco shows with the bodies of his victims


When it comes to stories or songs about rescuing your lover from the Underworld, most writers and artists allude to Orpheus and Eurydice. But Steve Orlando should be applauded for a little deeper into Ovid’s Metamorphoses and referencing Apollo and Hyacinth as the god couldn’t rescue the man he loved, but did create a beautiful flower out of his death. He riffs on this myth and gives it a much needed happy ending (In more ways than one.) even though both Midnighter and Apollo have been put through the wringer throughout the miniseries. Apollo didn’t pick out his superhero name because of his solar power, but because he was inspired by the story a man, who went to the realm of the dead to plead for his dead lover’s life. And he’ll keep fighting for Midnighter to the end. It’s nice to see them as a happy couple at the end, talking out their issues, and sharing the strangest of dinner parties with Extrano, his husband, and some friends from the Midnighter ongoing series.

Yes, queer characters occasionally get happy endings, and Midnighter and Apollo #6 is a wonderful story of two men, whose love was so strong that they would fight Hell and all its demons just to be in each other’s arms. The comic also is a technical marvel with Fernando Blanco’s clever layouts and Romulo Fajardo’s play of light and darkness showing the contrasts between Apollo and Midnighter while also showing that their differences make them great. Midnighter’s determination and Apollo’s sense of hope definitely makes them the true power couple of the DC Universe, and hopefully there will be many more adventures featuring them in years to come.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Fernando Blanco Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr. with John Rauch
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Midnighter and Apollo #5

midnighterapollo5coverMidnighter punches out and spits on the DC Universe’s equivalent of the devil (The nefarious Neron.) in Midnighter and Apollo #5. If that doesn’t get you excited for this comic, you should really exit this plane of reality and chill out in Limbo, or the world with no shrimp. In all seriousness, writer Steve Orlando, artist Fernando Blanco, and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr push Midnighter to his absolute breaking point in this issue as he takes a special spell from Extrano that basically turns him into a badass angel of light for seven minutes and gets to whale on Neron while looking for Apollo.

With its sturdy grids and double page spreads for the big finishing move, Blanco and Fajardo go into overload as Midnighter puts every ounce of strength, training, and of course, love into his physical battle with Neron even though he’s more of a concept. Blanco is truly an architect of pain and uses these grids to show the gradual battering of his body. While this is going on, Fajardo blends the angelic and demonic in his use of yellow for the spell that Midnighter uses to shield his body while fighting Neron to go with his usual black and dark grey palette for our protagonist. The yellow begins in the margins of a scene where Midnighter talks some trash to Neron about him being the ultimate enemy, and that all he needs are his fists to win. But he’s really buying time to activate the spell in the rush of giant, golden angel and Hebrew letters. One of the fighting video games should really rip off this “angel punch” move as a finisher for one of their characters.

But, underneath its reverse theodicies and musings about the nature of evil and the afterlife, midnighterapollointeriorMidnighter and Apollo #5 is one big street brawl. Midnighter gets some amazing licks in an almost silent set of pages filled with back hands, kicks, and just sheer punishment. But this is all an illusion, and Midnighter almost becomes incorporeal with his body crumbling in Apollo’s arm after his seven minutes is up. Midnighter would get in a fist fight with the devil to save the man he loves, but defeating a concept on his home turf is a tall order. Without the special spell, he is putty in Neron’s hand, a crumbling mass of red, black, and grey as the soulless Apollo flutters aimlessly like the souls who did neither good nor bad (Or anything out of the blue.) in Dante’s Inferno. Apollo can speak and move and has his usual yellow coloring from Fajardo, but seems like he can’t do anything to get him and Midnighter out of this situation.

To make Midnighter and Apollo even more emotionally unbearable, Steve Orlando pulls a twist on the old Sandman quote, “What power would Hell have if those here imprisoned were not able to dream of Heaven?” except it’s not Morpheus not besting a demon, but Midnighter being utterly unable to save the soul of Apollo. But there is still hope with a sliver of yellow on the final page. I really have no idea how DC Comics’ power couple are going to get out of this trap. Deus ex Extrano, perhaps?

In Midnighter and Apollo #5, Steve Orlando, Fernando Blanco, and Romulo Fajardo toss out the philosophizing and fancy fight computer enhanced panels for a blunt instrument of a reading experience. Midnighter and Neron beat each other bloody in what turns out to be a pointless battle for best boyfriend in the universe as evil isn’t something you can’t best in hand to hand combat.

But I hope that Midnighter and Apollo can beat it because the cliffhanger at the end of Midnighter and Apollo #5 is pretty bleak even for a series that has mostly been set in a place where weeping and gnashing of teeth are an hourly occurrence.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Fernando Blanco Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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