Adam Strange/Future Quest Special #1 (of 1) — Writers: Marc Andreyko and Jeff Parker; Art: Steve Lieber; Colors: Veronica Gandini
Booster Gold/The Flintstones Special #1 (of 1) — Writer: Mark Russell; Pencils: Rick Leonardi; Inks: Scott Hanna; Colors: Steve Buccellato
Suicide Squad/The Banana Splits Special #1 (of 1) — Writer: Tony Bedard; Pencils: Ben Caldwell; Inks: Mark Morales; Colors: Jeremy Lawson
March had five Wednesdays, and DC’s regular-issue publishing schedule relies on four Wednesdays each month, so the company uses the extra “fifth week” for annuals, mini-series and, sometimes, special events. This week features just such an event: four comics where the Hanna-Barbara cartoon characters team up with the regular superheroes. Is that as stupid as it sounds? Not always — it turns out, for example, that teaming up Green Lantern and Space Ghost is a cool idea; Steve Rude art on this would have been perfect, but absent the Dude we have Ariel Olivetti, whose painterly style turns out to be flexible enough to combine the cartoonier and more-realistic superhero worlds seamlessly. Each of these comics also sports a backup story with lesser-known members of the H-B stable (helping to justify its $4.99 cover price, while setting the stage for those characters to get their own books), and Green Lantern/Space Ghost has the best of show there, too — Howard Chaykin, of all people, doing Ruff ‘n’ Reddy as vaudeville-era comedians who’ve ditched their partners and joined each other as a new act, right at the dawn of the TV age. Since that’s when the original Ruff ‘n’ Reddy show aired, and since Chaykin’s an expert and an enthusiast concerning that era, this would be worth that $4.99 by itself. Adam Strange/Future Quest has an amnesiac Adam getting zapped into the Future Quest universe by a malfunctioning zeta beam, with the inevitable adventuring commencing from there; Steve Lieber’s got a tough job, with more than a dozen characters to handle (including Birdman and the Herculoids), but he makes the Quests the core of the story and calibrates everyone else from there, and everybody stays on model and it works fine. The backup is a Top Cat/Batman encounter, written by Dan Didio and drawn by Phil Winslade (another artist who’s good at walking the tightrope between superhero-realistic and bigfoot-cartoony), and if you can imagine Top Cat as Howard the Duck, wandering around Gotham City, you’ll have a good idea where it’s going. Next up is Booster Gold/Flintstones; it’s written by Mark Russell, who’s made the regular Flintstones title into an surprisingly-sharp-elbowed satire that has little to do with the original cartoon, but is just smart and weird enough to grow on you. The backup’s a Jetsons tale, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor, and drawn by Pier Brito, and while nobody’s particularly on-model (George Jetson looks like he’s being played by Joel McHale), it turns into a better-then-expected, if a bit wtf, origin story. That leaves Suicide Squad/Banana Splits, which is fully as offbeat as it sounds, from that eye-catching, effective cover to a story involving the Splits sent to Belle Reve, to its musical-twist ending, to the backup tale: Snagglepuss as a pink-furred, elegant but slightly-seedy Tennessee Williams, testifying before the House Unamerican Activities Panel during the McCarthy era. Mark Russell does the writing again, his script sharpened by the current political climate, and Howard Porter channels his inner Jack Davis to deliver art that’s quite different from his regular style, but fits this cast perfectly. That leaves Harley’s Little Black Book, which deserves a spot in this introductory list because it’s a Harley/Lobo tale written by Palmiotti and Conner and drawn by Simon Bisely, Lobo’s original Main Man. Considering its previous issue had Harley and Superman by Neal Adams, parodying his classic Superman/Muhammad Ali book, this comic’s been attracting some top-tier, classic illustrators lately….
Titans Annual #1 — Writer: Dan Abnett; Art: Minkyu Jung; Colors: Adriano Lucas
Batgirl Annual #1 — Writer: Hope Larson; Art: Inaki Miranda; Colors: Eva de la Cruz
DKIII: The Master Race #8 (of 9) — Writers: Brian Azzarello with Frank Miller; Pencils: Andy Kubert; Inks: Klaus Janson; Colors: Brad Anderson
Kamandi Challenge continues to be worthwhile because of the art — Amanda Connor’s so involved in writing Harley Quinn stories with partner Jimmy Palmiotti that she doesn’t often draw anything any more, so it’s a treat to see her breezy style on this book, especially in drawing anthropomorphic anteaters, turtles, bats and jaguars; her humor often comes through, but she’s able to deliver on the big dramatic cliffhanger splash at the end, too. The Titans Annual teams up Nightwing, Donna Troy, Garth and Wally with their JLA mentors — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and The Flash — as those eight characters find themselves trapped in a mysterious enclosure, with no way out (if this was a Marvel book, it would turn out to be Arcade and a Murderworld, and here the bad guy behind the manipulations turns out to be the DC equivalent). As always with Abnett, it’s cleverly plotted, and the character interactions (especially between Troy and Wonder Woman, which turns out to be the center of the story) are interesting and logical; at forty pages, the story has plenty of room to stretch out and accomplish its goals. The Batgirl Annual features a “World’s Finest” teamup of Batgirl and Supergirl (they’re “meeting for the first time” in this story, which makes me wonder: how, exactly, did the reintegration of the DC timelines over in Action Comics last week affect stuff like this?), and it’s OK; it does set up a mystery that you’ll have to read the next Supergirl to resolve, but at least what’s here has a natural conclusion, and not some read-the-next-issue cliffhanger. There’s a back-up story that says it “takes place before Batgirl #1″ (probable translation: it’s an inventory story set during the last volume, and we need to publish it before it’s so out of date it’s useless), and it’s written by Vita Ayala, drawn by Eleonora Carlini and colored by Mat Lopes; if you liked that “Batgirl in Burnside” era, you should like this too. Finally, the penultimate issue of DK III is out: Wonder Woman and the Amazons kicking a bunch of Kryptonian butt, mostly, with the mini-comic extra story involving Batman and Commissioner Yindel, and drawn by Frank Miller. It’s issue number eight of nine; you’re either buying this by now or not, so my opinion of the comic isn’t particularly relevant.
Inhumans Prime #1 (of 1) — Writer: Al Ewing; Pencils: Ryan Sook and Chris Allen; Inks: Ryan Sook, Walden Wong and Keith Champagne; Colors: Paul Mounts
Spider-Woman #17 — Writer: Dennis Hopeless; Art: Veronica Fish; Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Black Widow #12 — Writers: Chris Samnee and Mark Waid; Art: Chris Samnee; Colors: Matthew Wilson
Not too many Marvels of note this week: X-Men Prime launches the newest incarnations of that franchise, with Storm, wanting to resign after the events of Inhumans vs. X-Men, trying to talk Kitty Pryde into taking over; simultaneously, we check in on what’s happening with the younger, time-displaced versions of the mutants (as they learn that, for them, “you can’t go home again” might be literal), while someone’s collecting the black-ops-friendly characters like Sabretooth and Lady Deathstrike. All of this serves as a prologue/preview to the three new ongoing X-Titles: X-Men Gold (Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Old Man Logan, and it looks like Jubilee, Ilyanna and Rachel all running the school, now located on Earth in Central Park); X-Men Blue (the time-lost younger versions of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman and Angel); and Weapon X (the killers: besides Lady Deathstrike and Sabertooth, there’s Domino, the Winter Soldier and Old Man Logan again, moonlighting from the other book and confirming his popularity). Each new book’s creative team has a hand in this one, so readers can get a good idea of how everyone’s going to look and act. Inhumans Prime does much the same thing for that Kree-centric race, who are also the subjects of three new series (I know; I don’t know why Marvel thinks that’s going to work, either…), with Royals chronicling the “classic” Inhumans of the royal family, Black Bolt focusing just on… well, you know, and Secret Warriors covering the new kids — including, apparently, Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl/Devil Dinosaur; spending $4.99 on this comic will let you know whether you’ll be wanting any of those other three. Then, of the regular superhero books, Spider-Woman comes to an end; too bad, because this volume, starting with a pregnant Jessica and ending with a surprisingly-solid family unit, has been fun, smart and unexpectedly emotional (I didn’t realize how central Roger was to the book before he “died”), and this finale wraps everything up in fine form, and gives the cast a deserved happy ending… at least until the next incarnation (I’ll bet the three trades it’s generated will be perpetual sellers, though). That leaves Black Widow, also ending its run after twelve issues (one of those “it was a mini-series, although if it had done great it wouldn’t have been” deals, apparently), with Samnee and Waid concluding their story with Natasha, like Jessica Drew, in a good place, and with a couple more trade collections that should class up anyone’s bookshelves (or iCloud storage…).
Galaxy of Brutality: Space Riders #1 — Writer: Fabian Rangel, Jr.; Art/Colors: Alexis Ziritt
The Old Guard #2 — Writer: Greg Rucka; Art: Leandro Fernandez; Colors: Daniela Miwa
The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed #2 — Writers: Chris Roberson with Mike Mignola; Art: Paul Grist; Colors: Bill Crabtree
Deadly Class #27 — Writer: Rick Remender; Art: Wes Craig; Colors: Jordan Boyd
Rick and Morty #24 — Writer: Kyle Starks; Art: Marc Ellerby; Colors: Katy Farina
… and here are the indy books: Jughead: The Hunger is a one-shot Jug’s-a-werewolf story meant to cash in on the Afterlife With Archie/Riverdale horror market, with Michael Walsh doing his best Francesco Francavilla impersonation; I was OK with it until the Betty the Werewolf Slayer twist (does it still count as a spoiler if it’s stupid?), and then, wondering who wrote it, flipped to the credits and said “Oh. Him.” Nice art, though, and the tie-in with Jug’s constant hunger is clever; if you like the idea of Miss Grundy and other members of the cast getting slaughtered, here you go. Galaxy of Brutality: Space Riders is a psychedelic-colored underground/cosmic romp, a tale that looks like it was laid out by Jack Kirby and finished by Spain Rodriguez (come to think of it, those two are probably collaborating up in cartoonist’s heaven right now…); it would be a perfect comic for 15-year-olds, except that it overuses the f- and s-words, just to prove it can, and has a backup story with enough nudity to call attention to itself. I admire the raw energy that just crackles off its pages, though. The Old Guard is Greg Rucka’s new series, about five immortals who’ve survived into the 21st century, and have their fingers in a bunch of shadowy international intrigue. It’s a high-quality shadow-drenched action/suspense thriller; pick up its first two issues and see if you like it. Animal Noir is Raymond Chandler with talking animals, on a world with a deep backstory that comes out in slow drips and casual asides, and the art’s as good at combining the humor and the hard-boiled stuff as the story. The Visitor is a Mignola-verse Hellboy book, told from the pov of a long-lived alien who tracks him through the years, trying to decide whether to encourage him or kill him; it’s notable for the Paul Grist art, minimalist but packed with information, and with a careful spotting of black ink that Mignola, especially, would appreciate. Moonshine’s attraction is also its art: Eduardo Risso drawing 1920s New York City gangsters battling hillbilly bootleggers and werewolves in Appalachia should be worth anybody’s time. Deadly Class is coming off a huge, satisfying reveal/return last issue, and, being coy, doesn’t mention it at all in this one, focusing instead on Saya, her backstory and her current predicament. That’s necessary character stuff, skillfully presented, and this is a good time to do it: readers in a good mood about last issue’s twist won’t mind waiting another month to get the payoff. Finally, it’s funny how loyally I like both Rick and Morty and Lumberjanes: they’re opposites, Rick and Morty about two guys doing existential, cynical, violent guy things, and Lumberjanes all empathy and friendship-is-magic and let’s-cooperate estrogen, but they’re similar in the ways they get you to care about their characters, in how they revel in Uncle Scrooge-like high-adventure storytelling, and in how, after you’ve read a couple of them, you can’t help but want to read the rest.