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Review: Mister Miracle #11

If there’s one thing popular fiction has taught us by now, it’s: never make a deal with the devil! And yet Mister Miracle is still listening when Darkseid approaches him with just such a devilish proposition-if Scott sends his newborn son to Apokolips, there will be peace on New Genesis. Since when has Darkseid been famous for his honesty?! It’ll be a miracle if this doesn’t blow up in Scott’s face.

For ten issues Mister Miracle has been amazing and confounding. The mystery has been teased for all these issues with “Darkseid Is” and how this ties into DC Universe continuity and with this issue, it all becomes clear. Writer Tom King has again and again shown that he can play the long game with stories that play out over years and this is another example with an issue that just nails it in every way.

Mister Miracle #11 is the issue that had my dropping my review copy and stating “holy shit” multiple times. It’s a rollercoaster of an issue that toys with your emotions and throughout packs such a punch. I rarely vocally react to comics and this one had me reacting out loud multiple times. It’s hard to review it without spoiling things.

King has put together the penultimate issue of this series and delivered such a reveal at the end that it’ll leave you questioning the entire series and wanting to go back to the beginning to reread. This is a comic series that begs to be reread multiple times.

King also nails the emotional aspects of it all. Barda and Scott’s quandry as to what they should do with Jacob is heartwrenching and as a new father, I felt myself sucked in emotionally. Often comics are measured in how you relate to them at the time and new parents or soon to be parents (parents in general) will appreciate this one on a whole other level. There’s an emotional play that’s perfectly executed.

Mitch Gerads‘ art is exciting sticking to the usual nine panel page layouts with little variation. But, what Gerads does that’s truly impressive is take us on a visual rollercoaster. King’s story would be exciting but to see the physical toll of it all can only be delivered visually. Like the last issue, every nuanced movement tells so much as to where our heroes stand. Gerads has an impressive ability to focus on subtle body language to tell you so much more.

This is a hell of an issue and maybe the best reveal in comics in the last decade. This series has been impressive up to this point but this issue cements the maxiseries as a modern classic. With one more issue to go to explain and wrap it all up, this is the true climax that will set up an emotional finale.

Story: Tom King Art: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles Cover Art: Nick Derington

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Mister Miracle #11

Mister Miracle #11

(W) Tom King (A) Mitch Gerads (CA) Nick Derington
In Shops: Sep 19, 2018
SRP: $3.99

If there’s one thing popular fiction has taught us by now, it’s: never make a deal with the devil! And yet Mister Miracle is still listening when Darkseid approaches him with just such a devilish proposition-if Scott sends his newborn son to Apokolips, there will be peace on New Genesis. Since when has Darkseid been famous for his honesty?! It’ll be a miracle if this doesn’t blow up in Scott’s face.

Preview: Batman #55

Batman #55

(W) Tom King (A/CA) Tony S. Daniel
In Shops: Sep 19, 2018
SRP: $3.99

The KGBeast lives! The Russian super-assassin is back-but under whose orders? Does he have a specific mission, or is this simply some leftover Cold War mayhem? Nyet, comrade-it has to do with Bruce Wayne’s recent court case involving Mr. Freeze. Something is rotten in Gotham, and you can still smell it, even if it’s on ice!

New DC Giants Come to Walmart Including Tom King Writing Superman

Issue #3 of the 100-Page Superman Giant comic, along with the third issue of Justice League Giant, begins shipping to more than 3,000 Walmart stores nationwide today, with all participating stores displaying these titles by Sunday, September 9First announced in June of this year, these “100-Page GIANT” monthly titles combine new stories by top DC writers with classic tales from DC’s deep history.

The cornerstone of Superman Giant #3 is part one of the 12-chapter “Up in the Sky,” an original story by multiple Eisner Award-winner Tom King, writing his first Superman story since the poignant and heartfelt “For Tomorrow” in April’s landmark Action Comics #1000. King, along with artist Andy Kubert, inker Sandra Hope, colorist Brad Anderson and letterer Clayton Cowles, has created a classic superhero story involving the kidnapping of an Earth child from Gotham City. Featuring DC mainstays Lois Lane and Perry White, in addition to cameo appearances from Batman and Green Lantern, this 12-part tale asks the question: How far across the galaxy will the Man of Steel go to bring a single child home?

Also headed to shelves this week in the pages of Justice League Giant #3 is the first installment of Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, Chad Hardin, Alex Sinclair and Travis Lanham’s new Wonder Woman story, “Come Back to Me.” Conner, Palmiotti, Hardin and Sinclair, having built their fanbase for years with their blockbuster monthly Harley Quinn series, reunite to showcase Diana Prince, Steve Trevor and Etta Candy and tell a story about firefighters battling a blazing wildfire in the mountains.

Preview: Batman #54

Batman #54

(W) Tom King (A/CA) Matt Wagner
In Shops: Sep 05, 2018
SRP: $3.99

Dick Grayson-the original Robin-gets to spend some quality time fighting crime with his mentor for the first time since Batman popped the question to Catwoman. It’s a walk down memory lane as Bruce Wayne helps Dick get over the loss of his high-flying acrobat parents, which in turn led to his crime-fighting career. Guest artist Matt Wagner (Mage, TRINITY) jumps on board for this special issue!

Review: Batman #54

Dick Grayson-the original Robin-gets to spend some quality time fighting crime with his mentor for the first time since Batman popped the question to Catwoman. It’s a walk down memory lane as Bruce Wayne helps Dick get over the loss of his high-flying acrobat parents, which in turn led to his crime-fighting career.

Have you ever read a comic that you know was a filler issue? The quality of the story an the art just didn’t match what had come before. Something was off? Batman #54 is the filler issue of writer Tom King‘s impressive run. For the first time I got a sense of a comic which was thrown into the mix to create a breather and some padding.

The issue explores the relationship between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne as both father and adopted son and as Batman and Nightwing. There’s some aspects that are great, including a running joke about Batman’s D-List villains. But, there’s an emotional disconnect that creates a distance between the reader and the subjects. Where Batman should be emotional, really cold and uptight, he instead comes off as a douche. This isn’t someone we want to help, this is an asshole we want to let stew in his misery.

King attempts to slide the emotions throughout the issue. In the beginning Bruce is the caring one, helping Dick cope with his loss. Dick acts like you’d expect a child to act in numerous ways. We can have empathy for him and his reactions seem natural. As Dick grows up, Bruce feels like he’s more detached. This could be his war as Batman is weighing on him but you’d expect some distance in the beginning as well. Instead at the middle point he’s already cold and uncaring. It’s odd and due to it, it’s kind of surprising Dick is helping him post being stood up at the alter. He’s a jerk at this point and emotionally distant. He’s the cold, uncaring parent.

Later in the story, things are switched with Dick attempting to help Bruce but unlike the emotional child reactions of a young Dick Grayson, we’re presented again with the cold lack of feeling that we experience in the middle of their relationship. Dick is expecting him to show emotion when it’s clear he hasn’t for some time. Dick is expecting a reaction we are shown shouldn’t be expected.

There’s a disconnect there and also with the more affable Bruce we’ve seen over these years. It’s hard to care for his well-being after reading this.

Then there’s Matt Wanger‘s art. The cover, where he’s joined by Brennan Wagner is fantastic. The interiors, where he’s joined by colorist Tomeu Morey, are lacking. The style just doesn’t quite work though Wagner does do a solid job of juxtaposing the time frames. Detail feels like it’s lacking. Poses are awkward. Perspectives don’t look right. And the coloring doesn’t work either beyond one panel where you can’t tell if a line on Batman’s cheek is lighting or a tear.

Awkwardness abounds in this issue which just stumbles at every opportunity. A story which relies on emotional connection doesn’t give us any reason to care for a character’s well-being and connect with them. They’re cold and leaves the reader much the same.

Story: Tom King Art: Matt Wagner
Color: Tomeu Morey Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover: Matt Wagner, Brennan Wagner
Story: 5.0 Art: 5.0 Overall: 5.0 Recommendation: Pass

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

When the Anti-Harassment Bodyguard is the Harasser

One of the most omnipresent images of this year’s San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) wasn’t a big comic book announcement or a still from a movie trailer. It was the fact that Eisner Award winning Batman writer Tom King needed a bodyguard because of death threats about his handling of the wedding between Batman and Catwoman in the recently published Batman #50. This bodyguard was David Wray, who has provided security for Stan Lee in the past. Wray became somewhat of an Internet darling during SDCC posing for pictures with King and other creators, and some fans even wanted his autograph or for him to have a cameo in Batman or another Tom King comic.

Wray has been a managing partner at the Cincinnati Comic Expo since 2013. According to Expo administrator, Matt Bredestege, he also has had the position of Comics Guest liaison and travels to conventions to personally invite guests to Cincinnati Comic Expo. This role gives him a good deal of authority in choosing guests for the Expo.

However, Wray has exhibited behavior towards women online that could be considered harassment and allegedly refused to invite a prominent female comic book creator to the Cincinnati Comic Expo because she was a “feminist.” He has also made a homophobic joke about Tom Hiddleston at an Expo executive committee meeting implying that he was gay because of the way he looked.

I spoke with Megan Goodier on the phone about David Wray’s actions and her interactions with him both online and offline. Goodier was a volunteer at Cincinnati Comic Expo from 2011-2015 and a member of its executive committee in 2015 until she stepped down because of health reasons. She has known Wray since 2013 and worked closely with him on the executive committee.

At an executive committee meeting, Goodier brought up the fact that the Expo had not invited many female comics creators as guests. Guests are paid an appearance fee and have their travel and lodging covered by the Expo whereas artist alley creators pay for their tables/exhibition space at the convention. She brought up writer Gail Simone (Batgirl, Wonder Woman) as a possible guest, but this was immediately shot down because she talked about being a feminist a lot. Goodier mentioned that she self-identified as a feminist, and Wray responded by saying, “I will never book her for my show.”

In response to the claim of not booking Gail Simone because she self-identifies as a feminist, Matt Bredestege stated that:

We have never disqualified any guest for their personal beliefs or ideals… No one’s thoughts and opinions on sexuality, religion, politics, science, or whatever has ever been a factor in having them appear or not appear at the Cincinnati Comic Expo.

He followed up by saying that Simone had been invited as a guest to the Expo on “several occasions” and that would he “would provide copies of the communications of the communications between (them).” However, when I asked for these emails, my request for comment was not returned. We followed up with Gail Simone’s agent, Ari Lubet, and asked if she had ever attended or been invited to Cincinnati Comic Expo, but did not get a response.

In 2016, the Cincinnati Comic Expo booked actor Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Chuck) as a media guest even after, in 2014, he helped popularize the phrase and Twitter hashtag “Gamergate” and participated in the harassment of female game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu and journalist Anita Sarkeesian. Baldwin’s actions and the mobilization of his large Twitter following to attack these women definitely went against the Cincinnati Comic Expo’s conduct policy of “providing a safe and harassment-free experience for everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, or religion“.

According to Matt Bredestege, the Cincinnati Comic Expo organizers were “not aware” of Adam Baldwin’s connection to Gamergate and booked him in “late 2015/early 2016” because fans wanted actors from the popular 2002 science fiction show Firefly to attend the show. After the announcement, a fan did bring “the allegations to [the Expo organizers’] attention” online, but they “….already had a binding legal agreement with [Baldwin] and his agency” and kept him as a guest.

As well as booking a known enabler of online harassment towards women and saying he would not book a prominent comics creator because she was too feminist, David Wray has also made unwanted advances toward multiple women over Facebook Messenger. (See below image gallery.) In a 2015 Facebook conversation, Wray told Megan Goodier that he “would do everything I can” to get comics creators Matt Fraction (Hawkeye) and Chip Zdarsky (Jughead) to attend Cincinnati Comic Expo if she got him a date with a woman on her Facebook friends list that was much younger than him.

Goodier said that she had not contacted the woman in years and told Wray to back off, but he still messaged the woman even though he admitted that it made Goodier “uncomfortable.” He even mentioned Goodier to the woman although they hadn’t talked in a while. Along with admitting he messaged the woman after Goodier told him not to, Wray threw in some additional creepy comments about the “crazy/hot scale” and turning down strippers.

Following this up, Wray contacted another woman on Goodier’s friends list, who she had volunteered with at Free Comic Book Day and whose picture he had found on her Facebook profile. Again, Goodier told him to back off and even mentioned that “she is even more feminist than me”. This led to a rant a rant criticizing “radicals” and “shit stirrers”, including those who protested Rafael Albuquerque’s 2015 Batgirl variant cover, which was an homage to Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke where Barbara Gordon was crippled and sexually assaulted by the Joker. Albuquerque later requested that the cover be cancelled because those protested it were getting “threats of violence and harassment”.

Even though Cincinnati Comic Expo has a strict anti-harassment policy, its own managing partner David Wray harasses women online. Megan Goodier also states:

There are other women in the area who have had bad experiences with him, who have chosen not to step forward or say anything. I don’t have receipts. These women don’t want to publicly step out  about what happened to them. I know of them, but I cannot prove it. You mention the name David Wray to women who have worked, especially in the convention industry or even in the comics shops in town, they know exactly who you mean. And he does not have a good reputation.

Matt Bredestege, an administrator at Cincinnati Comic Expo, responded to these accusations towards David Wray via email by saying:

We have no comment on these allegations at this time. The allegations are new to our attention. We have reached out to see the alleged messages and no copies have been provided to us.

However, Megan Goodier provided another Facebook Messenger conversation from July 26, 2018 where Cincinnati Comic Expo founder and director Andrew Satterfield and “marketing partner” Jackie Reau offered to talk with her either in person or over the phone about David Wray’s actions. Goodier said she was “not comfortable having any meeting that would create further my word against his situations…” and offered to send screenshots of her chats with Wray that are in this article. Both Satterfield and Reau read her message and didn’t respond.

Heroes in Crisis #1 Gets Variant Covers by J.G. Jones, Mark Brooks, Francesco Mattina, and Ryan Sook

DC Comics has revealed new variant covers for Heroes in Crisis #1. The series by Tom King and Clay Mann focuses on a new facility called Sanctuary that allows heroes to process the trauma they experience.

The first issue issue has four new variants from artists J.G. Jones, Mark Brooks, Francesco Mattina, and Ryan Sook.

Sook will provide variants for the entire series with themed covers that take a deep dive into Sanctuary’s files showing off some incidents from across the DCU.

Heroes in Crisis #1 arrives September 26th.

Review: Batman #53

The jury in the Mr. Freeze trial is hopelessly deadlocked because one man won’t vote guilty-and that man is Bruce Wayne. Freeze’s defense is that Batman used excessive force, making his arrest illegal, and Bruce is the one man who actually knows for sure what went down between Batman and his ice-cold nemesis. And if Bruce is right, that means everything he’s devoted himself to as the Caped Crusader is a lie; he is hurting more than helping. With Dick Grayson putting the Batsuit back on to keep Gotham City safe while Bruce is sequestered, could this be the out Bruce needs to discard the cape and cowl forever?

There is something that few will discuss that have been on a jury, the fact you get to play god with someone’s life. Whether it’s letting them walk free, be behind bars for a time period, or decide on taking their life through the death penalty, as a juror, you have to make a decision that will make or break the future of the accused. I’ve sat on a jury for a murder trial, I was the foreman, and I can’t deny this concept crossed my mind on a few occasions during the few weeks of my experience.

Writer Tom King takes this head on but expands it to Batman as a whole who we are reminded is just a man, a fallible man. He’s not the god-like being that so many in Gotham has made him out to be since he has saved so many of their lives. And this case is made through the words of Bruce Wayne. Batman #53 is the conclusion of the story arc focusing on the arrest of Mr. Freeze and whether Batman made a mistake in doing so. But, there’s a bigger picture. It’s Bruce Wayne coming to grips with Batman, what he means in his life, and the recent event of being left at the altar. This is the closest we’ve gotten Bruce to confess to his reality in a while and it’s a heartbreaking one that’s worthy of a confession to a Priest. King has been deconstructing Wayne and Batman and by issue’s end we’re at square one going back to basics.

King is helped by artist Lee Weeks and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser whose art gives us an arc that feels like a classic play in look. Taking place in the jury room, everyone discusses the case and their thoughts with panels focused on each character and their every movement. It’s the details here that stand out, like a cross around the neck. The coloring is limited with a style that reminds me of some of the classic Batman stories like “The Long Halloween.” Lettering by Clayton Cowles emphasizes keywords as if noting to the actor were to deliver the emotional punch.

This entire arc feels like a play with actors taking on roles and delivering an emotional punch. It’s a story that helps define Batman not as a god who is always right, but as a man who makes mistakes. It’s a realization of reality by Bruce. This is one hell of an arc and a story that I can go back to over and over to pick out the tiny details. A fantastic ending that launches both Batman and Bruce Wayne in a new direction and a dose of reality.

Story: Tom King Art: Lee Weeks
Color: Elizabeth Breitweiser Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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