Written by: Sam Johns, James Tynion IV Art by: Sweeney Boo, Guillem March
Très bien-the Joker visits Paris! Gordon must get to Joker ahead of the Sampsons, but has the Clown Prince set an ambush for his pursuers? Plus, Barbara fights for her life after her introduction to the new Talon! Punchline backup: The search for Kelly Ness-Punchline’s former friend who is also in Blackgate Penitentiary-begins.
Written by: Sam Johns, James Tynion IV Art by: Sweeney Boo, Guillem March
After barely surviving in the jungles of Belize, The Joker flees to Europe! Jim Gordon pursues the madman, but the seeds of doubt begin to sprout…if The Joker didn’t gas Arkham Asylum, who did? And what’s the next move for Vengeance, daughter of Bane? Backup: Punchline’s takeover of Blackgate Penitentiary continues as her most insidious goal becomes clear: find a woman she used to call her friend in her college days and make her pay for her betrayal. On the outside, Harper Row tries to pull her brother, Cullen, back from the brink of Jokerized radicalization!
Written by: Sam Johns, Matthew Rosenberg, James Tynion IV Art by: Sweeney Boo, Francesco Francavilla
The never-before-seen tale of the Joker’s first night in Arkham Asylum is finally revealed! When a lunatic in a clown suit tries to poison Gotham City’s reservoir and is placed in Arkham Asylum before his trial, Detective Jim Gordon realizes something’s different about this new inmate that could forever change the future of Gotham. Backup: Rising-star artist Sweeney Boo joins the series as things get worse and worse for Punchline and Bluebird. Punchline’s prison war against the Queen of Spades escalates and no prisoner at Blackgate Penitentiary will be exempt from choosing sides. And after barely escaping death at the hands of Punchline’s former accomplice, will Bluebird have the will to continue her investigation and find the mysterious woman from Punchline’s past who has the answers she’s looking for?
The Joker so far has been a very enjoyable and quite surprising comic series. When first announced, I was a bit turned off about a series that would put in the spotlight an “edgelord”, making the Joker “fun” instead of the unrepentant vile force of nature he is. Instead, we got a story about a man full of regrets and unaccomplished goals. The series isn’t about the Joker, it’s about James Gordon and his unfulfilled mission to stop the Joker once and for all. The Joker #5 takes us into the past exploring the dance between these two and their earliest of years.
Matthew Rosenberg and James Tynion IV team up for an interesting “year one” type story. It gives us some of the earliest years of the two’s dance. Arkham Asylum wasn’t yet the facility it is now and Gotham’s crime bosses’ still ruled. What we’re presented is the beginning of a man’s obsession and the Joker’s torment. There’s a Moby Dick aspect to it all and it delivers even more depth to not just Gordon but the Joker.
What’s interesting is that Rosenberg and Tynion show how forward-thinking Gordon is. While others are focused on the likes of Falcone, Gordon sees the new threat that Joker represents. We also see how his obsession splits his focus and ability to be effective. While the Joker has killed, Gordon’s obsession with the Joker has as well.
Francesco Francavilla steps in on art and color and his style is as fantastic as expected. With lettering by Tom Napolitano, the issue has both a horror and noir style about it. It’s fantastic to look at and even simple scenes like sitting in a chair deliver tension and fear. The art nails the mood and feel of the issue perfectly.
The issue also continues Punchline’s story both in prison and outside. We see how the character is still sowing chaos. Writers Sam Johns and James Tynion IV deliver a chapter that feels a bit like a bridge to the next arc for the character after the initial setup. Sweeney Boo‘s art pops as expected with a great style and beautiful neon colors. Ariana Maher‘s lettering emphasizes the interesting back and forth between characters.
Story: Matthew Rosenberg, James Tynion IV, Sam Johns Art: Francesco Francavilla, Sweeney Boo Color: Francesco Francavilla Letterer: Tom Napolitano, Ariana Maher Story: 8.5 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.65 Recommendation: Buy
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.
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.
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.
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
Written by: Sam Johns, James Tynion IV Art by: Mirka Andolfo, Guillem March
Main story: It’s murder and mayhem in the jungles of South America with The Joker pitted against everyone hunting him! He’s prepared for this massacre in a way that only the Clown Prince of Crime can…but what secret does he whisper to Jim Gordon as the bullets fly?! What is the TRUE mystery?!
Written by: Sam Johns, James Tynion IV Art by: Mirka Andolfo, Guillem March
The hunt for The Joker is under way, as Jim Gordon heads to a remote part of South America to run down a lead…and comes face-to-face with the Clown Prince of Crime himself! The mystery around A-Day deepens, but not before an attack by the blood-thirsty Sampson family! And in the Punchline backup story, Punchline has to face off against the Queen of Spades’ new muscle…Orca! At the same time, Bluebird’s investigation at Punchline’s alma mater takes a dark and horrifying turn!
The Joker #2 continues the surprisingly strong debut of the series. When announced, the thought of a series focused on the Joker created a cringe reaction. Expectations of a comic was one for the edge-lord crowd. Instead, the comic focused on a worn-out force of good who’s tempted to do one last positive thing before he can truly retire. The Joker #2 continues its focus on James Gordon while also throwing in a few more factors.
James Tynion IV delivers a comic that’s more Nazi-hunter than the spandex and tights stories of Batman’s world. There’s a grounded aspect to the series that keeps the story focused and the fantastical at the minimum. At its core The Joker #2 is a man struggling to decide what to do. Should he do what probably needs to be done, kill the Joker or does he still believe in the concept of the judicial system? There’s a debate within Gordon and not just in his words but the agony on his face do we understand what he’s struggling with.
But, the issue drops so much more.
Tynion taps a little Guy Ritchie and Joe Carnahan and injects numerous other factors into Gordon’s mission. We get glimpses of the other groups and individuals who have the same mission. They all want to kill the Joker. This includes criminal organizations, enhanced individuals, and so much more. The pieces on the board are varied and should make for some entertaining and action-packed moments. It takes some of the grim nature of the comic and adds a little levity through action.
There’s also a revelation within that changes Gordon’s relationship and history with Batman and his allies. It’s something that’ll have individuals going back to re-read key moments in their interactions and what he knows. It adds a layer of trust, respect, and honor to what Gordon is doing and what he did as Police Commissioner. It also could be easily spun that it taints his relationship in some ways as well. Depends how you read into the revelation.
The art by Guillem March continues to be fantastic. With color by Arif Prianto and lettering by Tom Napolitano, the art has a style that evokes the grittier Batman comics of the 1980s. There’s also some additions to the story that creates a less dour feel to the issue. With the various groups also with a similar mission as Gordon, we get the “goofier” aspects of the story. It’s more of the costumed shenanigans that Batman deals with and while it can be action-packed it’s not so much a man trying to close that final chapter in his life and wrong his mistakes. The Joker’s scene too adds a bit of brightness and comedy that’s the trademark of the Joker. The pages are literally brighter in color an interesting contrast to what Joker is experiencing compared to others.
The comic also continues its back-up Punchline story. Tynion is joined by Sam Johns on art. Mirka Andolfo handles the art with Romulo Fajardo, Jr. on color and lettering by Ariana Maher. Punchline as a whole has become a much more interesting character after “Joker War”. This story, along with her one-shot, added a lot to a character who started as a much more serious riff on Harley Quinn. We get an interesting debate on how much of her persona is real and how much is clout chasing and her influence on others. There’s some really interesting aspects to the character to explore and doing so in ways to show how others perceive her is a solid choice.
The Joker #2 is another fantastic issue. The series has begun to balance its serious tones with the lighter aspects of Batman’s world. It also sets up what should be an action-packed series going forward as the various competing groups eventually clash. It continues to surprise me forgoing the expectations I had of it and instead delivering a series that doesn’t celebrate the chaos of the Joker and instead examines the lingering damage that endures.
Story: James Tynion IV, Sam Johns Art: Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo Color: Arif Prianto, Romulo Fajardo, Jr. Letterer: Tom Napolitano, Ariana Maher Story: 8.75 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Written by: Sam Johns, James Tynion IV Art by: Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo
As the dust settles on Arkham Asylum and tragic recent events, The Joker is the most wanted man in the world-and powerful forces are lining up around the globe to hunt him…but where exactly is the Clown Prince of Crime? Jim Gordon, facing his twilight years haunted by the madman, knows where to start the hunt, and he’s been given the go-ahead to pursue him…but will he be willing to pay the price? And what shocking revelation will Gordon stun Batman with before he departs? And in the backup story, within the walls of Blackgate Penitentiary, Punchline has become the target of the Queen of Spades from the Royal Flush Gang. It’ll take everything Punchline has just to survive, while on the outside, Bluebird digs deeper into Punchline’s horrific past!
DC has announced new releases coming to store shelves in June.DC Pride is an 80-page anthology comic featuring LGBTQIA+ characters from across the DC Universe. Crush & Lobo is a new eight-issue miniseries written by Mariko Tamaki with art by Amancay Nahuelpan. Crush & Lobo will launch on June 1 and DC Pride will publish on June 8. DC will also publish a series of nine Pride-themed variant covers in June, showcasing DC’s top characters as realized by the comic book industry’s leading artists.
DC Pride #1 will feature LGBTQIA+ characters from all corners of DC’s ever-expanding Universe, including cameos by fan favorites Batwoman, Renee Montoya, Alan Scott, Midnighter, Apollo, Extraño, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Constantine, and more. The DCPride creative teams, and the characters they’re developing stories for, are:
Batwoman (Kate Kane) by James Tynion IV & Trung Le Nguyen
Flash of Earth-11 (Jess Chambers) by Danny Lore & Lisa Sterle
Green Lantern (Alan Scott) & Obsidian by Sam Johns & Klaus Janson
Aqualad (Jackson Hyde) by Andrew Wheeler & Luciano Vecchio
Dreamer by Nicole Maines & Rachel Stott
Renee Montoya by Vita Ayala and Skylar Patridge
Pied Piper by Sina Grace, Ro Stein & Ted Brandt
Additionally, DC Pride #1 will include full-page profiles of DCTV’s LGBTQIA+ characters and the actors who play them, and fans of The CW’s Supergirl will be thrilled to see the first comic book appearance of Dreamer, a trans woman superhero, in a story written by actor Nicole Maines, who plays Nia Nal/Dreamer on Supergirl.
Rounding out the DC Pride anthology is a forward by Marc Andreyko (Love is Love), single-page pin-ups by artists Kris Anka, Sophie Campbell, Mildred Louis, Travis Moore, Nick Robles, and Kevin Wada, with more surprises to come! The DC Pride #1 cover is by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Tamra Bonvillain.
DC will also release a series of Pride themed variant covers showcasing DC’s leading characters through the month of June, giving fans the opportunity to purchase comics featuring covers with Batman, Harley, Ivy, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more, all by cutting-edge comic book artists!
Batman #109 Pride variant cover by Jen Bartel
Crush & Lobo #1 Pride variant cover by Yoshi Yoshitani
DC Pride #1 Pride variant cover by Jen Bartel
Harley Quinn #4 Pride variant cover by Kris Anka
Nightwing #81 Pride variant cover by Travis G. Moore
Superman #32 Pride variant cover by David Talaski
Teen Titans Academy #4 Pride variant cover by Stephen Byrne
Wonder Girl #2 Pride variant cover by Kevin Wada
Wonder Woman #774 Pride variant cover by Paulina Ganucheau
Crush & Lobo spins out of the pages of Teen Titans Academy, and will debut with a cover by Kris Anka, a Pride variant cover by Yoshi Yoshitani, a 1:25 ratio variant by Christian Ward, plus an exclusive Dan Hipp team variant for participating retailers. In this new eight-issue miniseries publishing between June 2021 and January 2022, Crush, daughter of the Czarnian bounty hunter Lobo, is in full-on self-destruct mode! After rage-quitting the Teen Titans and blowing up her relationship with her girlfriend Katie, Crush decides it’s time to finally confront her father in space jail and get her baggage sorted before she wrecks everything. Like father, like daughter?
DC will also publish GLAAD Media Award-nominated Suicide Squad: Bad Blood by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondoon April 27, DC’s gothic LGBTQIA+ romance Poison Ivy: Thornsby Kody Keplinger and Sara Kipin on June 1, and Mariko Tamaki and Yoshi Yoshitani’s highly anticipated YA graphic novel,I Am Not Starfire, will publish on July 27 as part of the publisher’s overall Pride plans in 2021.Lois Lane by Greg Rucka and Mike Perkins, Far Sectorby N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell andYou Brought Me The Ocean by Alex Sánchez and Julie Maroh have also been nominated for GLAAD Media Awards in 2021!