So the boss had me work another six-day week. It's getting to be a habit! So bear with me if I'm more confused than usual. Here what I had time for this week:

ALL-STAR BATMAN #8

AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

ARCHIE #18

THE ASSIGNMENT VOLUME 1

  BATWOMAN #1

CONTROL VOLUME ONE

DARKNESS VISIBLE #2

DIVINITY III: ESCAPE FROM GULAG 396 #1

THE FOREVER WAR #2

GREEN LANTERNS #19

JUSTICE LEAGUE #17

RED SONJA #3

SUPERMAN #19

SUPER SONS #2

TRINITY #7

VAMPIRELLA #1

THE WILD STORM #2

Some  photo spoiler-1.gif involved. You are warned!

ALL STAR BATMAN #8

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by SCOTT SNYDER 

Art by GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOLI and MARK MORALES 

Cover by GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOLI

Variant cover by GIUSEPPE CAMUNCOLI 

Variant cover by FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA

40 pg • FC • $4.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with three covers.

“Hats and Bats”! Underestimate the Mad Hatter at your own peril. Batman takes on one of his most dangerous and deranged foes in a mind-bending tale from the powerhouse creative team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli!

I get it now. Not only is Snyder pitting Batman against a different major foe in each issue (in stories that connect in an over-arching umbrella story), but he's also throwing Batman into various environments he would presumably not be good in. The first issue was set in the Arctic Circle (or the Antarctic, I've forgotten), the second was desert, the third is the rural, boggy Mississippi Delta (and the mindscape).

It's not "Court of Owls," but it's pretty good. My enthusiasm is tempered by Camuncoli's artwork, which is not a favorite. It's professional, but I don't care for his facial expressions (especially the ever-present grimace) and his thin linework.

 

AMERICAN GODS: SHADOWS #1

Publisher: DARK HORSE

Writers: NEIL GAIMAN, P. CRAIG RUSSELL

Art: P. CRAIG RUSSELL, SCOTT HAMPTON

Colors: SCOTT HAMPTON

Cover: GLENN FABRY

Variant Covers: DAVID MACK, DAVE MCKEAN

FC • 32 pages • $3.99 • Ongoing

Shadow Moon just got out of jail, only to discover his wife is dead. Defeated, broke, and uncertain as to where to go from here, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, who employs him to serve as his bodyguard — thrusting Shadow into a deadly world of the supernatural, where ghosts of the past come back from the dead, and a brewing war between old and new gods hits a boiling point. The Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, World Fantasy and Nebula award–winning novel and upcoming Starz television series by Neil Gaiman is adapted as a comic series for the first time!

American Gods: Shadows is drawing rave reviews:

“An atmospheric, beautifully illustrated take on Gaiman’s story.” -- AV CLUB

"Russell’s lyrical layouts bring Gaiman’s visual, vivid prose to life like no other artist." -- CBR

“The Holy Grail of Gaiman comics.” -- SY FY WIRE

“Neil Gaiman is one of those once in a millennia creators, much like Shakespeare, whose work is thought-provokingly complex yet interpretable on multiple levels. P. Craig Russell is one of those creators whose made an artform out of translating cherished works to the comic book medium. ”-- COMICS BEAT

“This is exactly the team fans would want on this title.” -- PASTE MAGAZINE

“It’s a good year for Gaiman fans.” -- FANGIRL NATION

“In comic form, seeing is believing. The book was stupendous and my expectation for the comic is the same. I am literally giddy with excitement.” -- GEEKS OF DOOM

“Dark Horse’s comic book adaption is an appropriate tribute to his long-form vision... Although both mediums are image-oriented and the source material is the same, adapting the novel to television versus comic books offers an entirely different set of circumstances and challenges, ones which should make both takes unique in their own right; giving fans of American Gods an entertaining fable set to unravels in two varied mediums.” -- SCREEN RANT

“Utterly gorgeous.” -- COMICS BEAT

“I love the art.” -- GEEK DAD

“Visually striking … will appeal to new readers and those existing fans.” -- BLEEDING COOL

“A gorgeous adaptation.” -- FREAK SUGAR

“Wonderful.” -- IMPULSE GAMER

See my column HERE.

ARCHIE #18

Publisher: ARCHIE COMICS

Script: MARK WAID

Art: PETE WOODS, ANDRE SZYMANOWICZ, JACK MORELLI

Cover: PETE WOODS

Variant Covers: ELSA CHARRETIER, ROBERT HACK WITH KELLY FITZPATRICK

32-page • full color comic • $3.99 U.S.

NEW STORY ARC! The Blossom Twins have found out their father has been lying to them about why they moved to Riverdale. It’s up to Detective Jughead to learn the dark truth behind the Blossom Family! Join us as we welcome new Archie series artist Pete Woods (Deadpool, Robin).

When I was 6 or 7, I was working with grandfather in his garden. (Well, he was working. I was playing with bugs or something.) My parents were getting divorced and I asked him, "B-Daddy, how come you and Nana stayed married forever, but my parents can't make it work?" He thought for a bit, and finally answered, "Son, this won't make much sense to you now, but you'll understand when you grow up. Someday you'll have a lot of different reasons to date a lot of different girls. But what you're looking for is someone you can talk to."

It did take me a little while to know what he was talking about. But when I got there, I knew he was right.

What does this have to with Archie? Well, this issue raises that question.

What do Archie and Veronica talk about? They have almost nothing in common. The Venn diagram of their experiences/interests is two separate circles. You can't kiss all the time (although teenagers generally try). What do you talk about when the kissing stops?

I'll be curious to see what Waid comes up with.

As to the new artist, he's nothing exceptional so far, looking an awful lot like the old artist. He does seem to have a gift for visual comedy, though (see the first page).

THE ASSIGNMENT (TPB)

Publisher: TITAN COMICS

Writers: WALTER HILL, MATZ

Art/Cover: JEF

FC • 136 pages • $19.99  

Hitman Frank Kitchen’s assignment to kill a fashion designer who’s fallen behind on his debts, takes a turn when his victim’s sister, a sociopathic surgeon, decides to punish him in the unique way only she can. Abducted and operated on against his will, Frank awakens in an altered condition -- but with a hitman’s hunger for revenge ...

This book has an odd history.

It started as a movie script by Denis Hamil in 1978, and director Walter Hill (Warriors, 48 Hrs.) tried to make it as a B-movie thriller -- and failed. In its original incarnation, the protagonist was a juvenile delinquent rapist whose victim's husband was a plastic surgeon. The surgeon got his revenge by performing sex reassignment surgery on the rapist, and the name of the movie was Tom Boy.

Years later, Hill came back to the script and re-wrote it as a graphic novel. I think this was when the protagonist became a hitman, where again sex reassignment was forcibly performed by a victim's significant other. The name this time was The (re)Assignment. It got made into a movie starring Michelle Rodriguez and, believe it or not, Sigourney Weaver.

And with the (semi-)success of the movie, the graphic novel has been made, from Walter Hill's story. The name has been changed once again, although it was originally solicited as (re)Assignment.

I read the first issue when it came out, but didn't review it. I didn't want to spoil the twist ending, where hitman Frank Kitchen wakes up as a hitwoman. And without addressing that, there was little to talk about. I waited to see if others would read and comment on it.

And now the whole series has been published and collected in this trade. And I still haven't read past the first issue! And that's for two reasons:

1) I'm no expert, but even I know that sex reassignment surgery can't be performed overnight. Heck, how long did it take Bruce Jenner to transition? So I asked Mr. Wikipedia, and sure enough, it's a very long procedure:

Sex reassignment surgery for male-to-female involves reshaping the male genitals into a form with the appearance of, and, as far as possible, the function of fenake genitalia, Prior to any surgeries, patients usually undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and, depending on the age at which HRT begins, facial hair removal. There are associated surgeries patients may elect to, including facial feminization surgery, breast augmentation, and various other procedures.

Wikipedia also mentioned surgery on the voicebox. And can you imagine how much time you'd spend healing up after this super-invasive operation?

But in this story, BOOM! Guy becomes a gorgeous girl without even waking up, and he's 100 percent, crack out of the box. Which nobody can do. Frances Kitchen would be flat-chested, have a male voice, have residual whiskers, have male pattern baldness and probably not be able to walk for six weeks. GIve her several years, a supportive family and tons of money (again, like Bruce Jenner) and "she" might make a halfway decent woman. Although learning to walk in heels might take a little more time ...

And that's just the physical stuff. If I woke up to discover that someone had removed my favorite body part with a knife, I'd probably spend the next month in a fetal position on a psychiatrist's couch.

So that first issue stretched my suspension of disbelief a tad too far. Then there's ...

2) I imagine actual transgenders to be appalled by this book turning the hardest decision of their lives into a plot point. And given the political climate, concern for transgenders is not out of place. I'm not the most sensitive guy in the world, but the ick factor was enough to deter me from issue No. 2.

But, hey, maybe it became awesome with the second issue. If you read it all the way through, feel free to tell me what I missed.

BATWOMAN #1

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by MARGUERITE BENNETT and JAMES TYNION IV

Art and cover by STEVE EPTING

Variant cover by J.G. JONES

Blank variant cover

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T+

This issue will ship with three covers.

“The Many Arms Of Death” part one! At last — Batwoman is back in her own ongoing series! On the island nation of Coryana, anything goes for members of the criminal underworld … and during her lost years after being drummed out of the military, Kate Kane found a kind of refuge there. But now, a deadly new bioweapon is available in the markets of Coryana, and Batwoman will have to face up to the things she did in those days…and the people she left behind, some of whom would be happier to see her dead than alive!

Writer Marguerite Bennett (DC BOMBSHELLS) is joined by James Tynion IV (DETECTIVE COMICS) and superstar artist Steve Epting (Captain America, Velvet) to present an epic Batwoman story that will alter the course of her life forever! This one’s unmissable!

I didn't read the first Batwoman series after the original artists left, so I don't know if the "lost years" are an established part of Kate Kane's history or not. Or if she's met the woman she runs into at the end of this issue before or not. That seems like pertinent information.

Anyway, she runs into this woman, who is probably an old flame. We won't know until next issue. In the meantime, the thrust of this book appears to be Batwoman when she's NOT in Gotham, doing things, as she says, that "Batman can't do." I'm not sure what those things are, and this issue doesn't enlighten me. I guess going into women's restrooms and dating lesbians are on the list, but other than that I don't know.

So even though this is really the second issue of the new Batwoman series (after the "Rebirth" issue), I really don't know enough to offer an informed opinion. Sorry.

CONTROL (TPB)

Publisher: DYNAMITE

Writers: ANDY DIGGLE, ANGELA CRUICKSHANK

Art: ANDREA MUTTI, BEN OLIVER

Cover: BEN OLIVER

152 page • Mature • $19.99

Detective-Sergeant Kate Burnham isn't making any friends in the Washington, DC Police Department. That makes her the perfect scapegoat when a routine homicide investigation threatens to blow open a criminal conspiracy reaching to the upper echelons of the DC power elite. Either Kate makes it go away, or they make her go away. Cop or criminal, power is all about control, applied top-down from the penthouse elite to the hustlers on the street. But what happens when the street pushes back ...? A political crime thriller from Andy Diggle, Angela Cruickshank and Andrea Mutti!

I enjoyed the first wo issues of this but then lost track of it. I wanted to read the whole thing and review it, but I didn't have time. I suspect I'll enjoy it.

DARKNESS VISIBLE #2

Publisher: IDW PUBLISHING

Writers: MIKE CAREY & ARVIND ETHAN DAVID

Art/Cover: BRENDAN CAHILL

Variant: ROBERT HACK

Subscription Variant: DAVE KENDALL

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

When the demons came, humanity reluctantly learned to share the world with another sentient race. Eighty years later, this uneasy co-existence has spawned an endless terrorist conflict. Detective Daniel Aston, charged with being the thin blue line between the two sides, is tested to the limit when a demon sets up house inside his soul. But to save his daughter, he’ll pay any price — including genocide.

From bestselling author and screenwriter Mike Carey (Unwritten, Lucifer, Girl with All the Gifts) and Arvind Ethan David (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency) comes an all-new, original world of darkness and demons,

What we thought happened at the end of last issue -- at least I assume we all thought the same thing -- happened. Only with a few twists that were unexpected, which could make this a very short miniseries. Or it could mean our detective is more than he appears. I'm guessing it's Door #2.

Anyway, we get more peeks into how this world works, and it's pretty cool. The demon queen (a "Vivicos") is a pretty nasty piece of work, and now we know that various demon tribes get along about as well as Shiite and Sunni. Things are getting complicated, which is good. And all the people we like are compromised, dying or undead, which is sad.

But interesting. As is the art. I'll stick with this a while longer. I suspect Carey isn't through world-building, and I'd like to see what else he dreamed up.

DIVINITY III: ESCAPE FROM GULAG 396 #1

Publisher: VALIANT COMICS

Written by ELIOT RAHAL

Art by FRANCIS PORTELA

Cover A by ADAM GORHAM

Cover B by KHARI EVANS

Cover C by ANDRÉS GUINALDO

Character Design Variant by RYAN LEE

Variant Cover by KANO

$3.99 • 32 pgs. • T+ • ONE-SHOT

Archer & Armstrong: Enemies of the State!

In the Soviet-controlled world of the Stalinverse, there is a place where liberty is sentenced to die ... and it’s Gulag 396. A maximum-security prison where the only escape is through death, the gulag is the final stop for all enemies and detractors of the world’s oppressive authority. But when public enemy Obadiah Archer is admitted as the latest inmate, could his gospel of goodwill and optimism be the spark that ignites a new faith in the prison’s population ... including the immortal undesirable known as Aram Addi-Padda?

This was the least interesting of the all the "Stalinverse" books so far.

Partly that's due to the Archer of this universe being a true believer, whereas I am manifestly not. The scenes of him proselytizing and preaching that gulag prisoners (of which he is one) should be passive to injustice and give themselves to Jesus (instead of, I dunno, escaping or fighting back) made me uncomfortable. In the "real" Valiantverse, Archer was raised by hard-core fundamentalists, but discovered his "family" was a scam and is less vocal about his beliefs. Here, they're unavoidable.

Which isn't necessarily the way things will stay. He doesn't meet Armstrong -- they're apparently always fated to team up -- until near the end, so maybe things will change. In this issue, though, Archer preached away, and the only pushback was from a bad guy (the cruel Soviet warden).

But, hey, I could swallow my views being represented as evil -- I have spent a lifetime swallowing that already -- if the issue was a rouser otherwise. Alas, it's all set-up. Hopefully things will pick up wherever the "Stalinverse" appears next.

THE FOREVER WAR #2 (of 6)

Publisher: TITAN COMICS

Writer JOE HALDEMAN

Artist MARVANO

Cover A: MARVANO

Cover B: JOHN MCREA

Cover C: I.N.J. CULBARD

Cover D: STEVE KURTH

FC • 32pp • $3.99

The visionary Hugo and Nebula Award-winning SF tale by Joe Haldeman is beautifully realised in full color by the legendary artist Marvano. An epic SF war story spanning space and time, The Forever War explores one soldier’s experience caught up in the brutal machinery of a war that reaches across the stars.

As I noted in my review of the first issue, this story was written as a novel in 1974, and adapted (in Belgium) into comics in 1988. So it ain't new.

And I confess that's part of my affection for it. There's a nostalgia vibe going on, not just in the depiction of space shuttles and cell phones the size of shoe boxes, but in tone and presentation. I can almost feel myself slipping back in time to the late '70s and early '80s, when SF was really on a downer. In those pre-Neuromancer days, SF was extrapolating from the knowns of the time -- Watergate, Vietnam, over-population, pollution, energy crises and a nuclear standoff with the U.S.S.R. -- and came up with story after story where mankind doesn't survive. That kind of pessimism and sad disappointment in our species bleeds through the margins of this story. It feels like going home!

A lot of the clever bits in this story are no longer clever, having been beaten to death by later works. But they are still treated as fresh here, and the pseudo-science hangs together well. Plus, there are also clever bits I haven't seen swiped anywhere.

All in all, it's a package I'd probably like even if it didn't make my nostalgia sense tingle. But since it does, there's no question I'm going to read it to the end.

GREEN LANTERNS #19

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by SAM HUMPHRIES

Art by RONAN CLIQUET

Cover by LEONARDO MANCO

Variant cover by EMANUELA LUPACCHINO

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“The GREEN IMPURITY” part one! Simon helps Jessica find a Guardian of the Universe to train her. As the rogue Guardian called Rami begins his lessons, but they may not be enough to stop Volthoom’s influence over the Lanterns as his obsession with controlling Jessica again grows.

Did you read the blurb above? If you didn't, don't bother -- it has nothing to do with this issue.

Instead of "The Green Impurity Part One," it's "Polaris Part One." I don't recall the Guardian who figures so prominently on Cover A even being in it. Nope, the story's all about Dr. Polaris, and is, IMHO, an effort at making him more Magneto-like (at least as far as power and danger levels). He doesn't have Magneto's interesting backstory and motivations, though, so I'm afraid he will never be A-list. He's hobbled by his Silver Age origin, as a generic scientist type who gets magnetic powers (I've forgotten how) and is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs -- as he is in Suicide Squad.

Here he seems saner, although somewhat rash (and does talk to "Polaris," whom he sees as a separate person). But using magnetism imaginatively (as you must, when facing two Green Lanterns) requires a villain somewhat less bonkers, so he is, ipso facto, less bonkers during the fights. I guess he really is schizophrenic. 

There's some boring stuff about how Polaris wants to save his comatose brother, which is paralleled by some even more boring stuff about Simon having a tiff with his brother-in-law, and reminds us all that Simon's brother was once in a coma. I really couldn't care less about any of that, as I feel like I've been through this sort of by-the-numbers, prefab characterization a thousand times before.

I'm here for Magneto vs. Green Lantern(s). That part is pretty good so far.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #17

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by BRYAN HITCH

Art and cover by FERNANDO PASARIN and MATT RYAN

Variant cover by YANICK PAQUETTE

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“TIMELESS” part three! The Justice League’s epic war through time continues as Superman confronts the leader of the Timeless army, who gives the Man of Steel an impossible choice: save Krypton from exploding—or save his friends!

As I've mentioned before, I like my Justice League stories big and crazy, because otherwise there's not much that can challenge this team.

And as crazy as this one is, I'm finally figuring out what's going on. Sure, a closer read of the last two issues might have helped, but where's the fun in that? Also, in my defense, I'd like to point out that five of the Leaguers are in different (and important) time periods, so that's five DC-history-heavy stories, plus Batman has his own story (which requires smartness) and Superman has his own story (which requires punching things), so there's seven stories within the big, overarching crazy story.

Also, with this issue, I've stopped trying to figure out how the time-traveling teens in the story connect to the Legion. You know they must! "Time-traveling teens" just shouts "Legion of Super-Heroes!" But I don't see any connection (yet) and I'm gonna stop getting distracted by it.

What I am going to continue puzzling over is something I noticed last issue, which is that Brian Hitch -- an art god to many fans -- doesn't draw Superman very well. He draws him with this really big head and wide face, but with tiny features -- mainly his eyes, which are too small and too close together. Check out the mug I've posted somewhere within this commentary and see if you don't agree. That lantern jaw with the piggie eyes is almost laughable.

RED SONJA #3

Publisher: DYNAMITE

Writer: AMY CHU

Art: CARLOS GOMEZ

Cover A: MIKE MCKONE

Cover B: J. SCOTT CAMPBELL

Cover C: JONBOY MEYERS

Cover C: Cosplay Cover

Cover E Subscription: MEL RUBI

$3.99 • Teen+ • 32 pages

ON SALE DATE: 3/15

Sonja reunites with her trusty sword with the help of her new friend NYPD cop Sir Max of Bushwick. Plus, the She-Devil finally comes face to face with her old foe, the evil sorcerer Kulan Gath, and gets some of her questions about this strange new world answered.

OK, I'm now annoyed.

I wondered in the first issue of this fish-out-of-water story how Sonja, in the present day, is somehow understood by a police officer, and what excuse they'd use for the Hyrkanian language surviving to the present, when the Hyborian Age, by definition, is unknown in the present. According to REH, Conan's world was destroyed in some cataclysm that left no trace of the Hyborian Age. Also, humanity was reduced to caveman level, starting civilization all over again (the one we have more or less recorded).

So, I wondered, was the cop an agent of Kulan Gath? Was he Kulan Gath himself? Or, even cooler, did Hyrkanian somehow survive via sorcery or something and morph into something modern, like Ukranian or some other Slavic tongue? (I've always assumed Hyrkania was the Hyborian Age version of Ukraine and environs.) Could REH's Red Sonya actually be distantly related to RoyThomas' Red Sonja, with Neanderthal relatives in between? And if so, how could this be plausibly explained?

Well, here's the answer: They didn't plausibly explain it. Instead, a local college has a "Hyborian department" with all sorts of artifacts, and one of the professors happens to speak Hyrkanian! That's pretty amazing, when you consider that those items would have had to survive a worldwide cataclysm and more than 6,000 years in the ground or under the sea.

I guess they made things to last in the Hyborian Age! But how do they even know Sonja's people called themselves Hyrkanians, and their age the Hyborian one, when language itself didn't survive the cataclysm? Did Neanderthals grunt and growl with a Hyrkanian accent?

Bah.

Or maybe I'm peeved because of the two pages I've imbedded somewhere in this commentary that are obviously supposed to be sexy and even titillating -- but are the reverse, because of the bizarre anatomy on display. The unnaturally thin waist, the bulbous mammaries, the exaggerated hips that come to points on the sides -- that isn't a sexy woman, it's some sort of mutant. In the second panel of the first page, the side angle, we see Sonja's hip bone extend up all the way to her rib cage. That's not just bad "good girl" art, it's just bad, period.

And it started off so well ...

SUPERMAN #19

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by PETER J. TOMASI and PATRICK GLEASON

Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY

Variant cover by GARY FRANK

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers each.

“SUPERMAN REBORN” part three! In the penultimate chapter of this tale the life of Superman’s son hangs in the balance—and the Man of Steel faces the truth about his life!

* The covers by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray and the variant covers by Gary Frank for SUPERMAN #18-19 and ACTION COMICS #975-976 will connect to form a single vertical image.

OK, something very strange is going on here.

Last issue we saw the big reveal of the prisoner who escaped from Mr. Oz (shown on Cover A here, but who does not make an appearance inside), who then kidnapped Jon. This issue we see Mom and Super-Dad trying to rescue him, while the reader learns what went on during Jon's brief imprisonment. So that's the A story -- and I since Cover B shows the mystery villain, I guess it's no spoiler that it's Mr. Mxyzptlk.

But here's the thing. Last week's Superwoman hinted that there is something exceptional about Lois and Superman. Maybe these specific two, but very likely all of them -- that in some way the multiverse revolves around them, and conspires to bring them together on every Earth. It's also been said cryptically by a number of cryptic characters that this Superman is not who he thinks he is (if you've forgotten, he thinks he and Lois are the only survivors of the pre-Flashpoint "New Earth"). Here, Mxy says much the same.

And now something even odder is going on. And I don't mean Watchmen-odd. Something odder than that.

Mxyzptlk implies -- or Superman infers -- that Supes is only half a person, that he was somehow split in two and that the other half was the New 52 Superman -- or at least thought he was. He's the guy what blew up and gave New 52 Lois and Lana their powers (before Lois died from them). Evidently that Superman wasn't who he thought he was, either. And, if you believe Mxy, was split off from the guy who thinks he's the pre-Flashpoint Superman.

Now, we hear this from an unreliable narrator. But something very strange is definitely happening. Especially since we see two balls of energy contact Jon, and try to help Superman and Lois save him ... as if they, too, are Superman and Lois. Or maybe ...

Well, here's what I'm building to: One of them is red. And one of them is blue. And when New 52 Superman blew up, his energy was red, and the survivor of that energy -- Superwoman -- has energy-based powers and wears red. Whereas every lighting (and lightning) effect associated with the current Superman is blue. Heck, our villain even calls him "Blue."

So, yeah, I'm driving toward a possible resuscitation of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue. Not the original Imaginary Story from the Silver Age, but the one where he was split into two energy beings, one red and one blue, around 1998. That was the pre-Flashpoint Superman, of course ... the one who happens to be the star of this very book.

And here's the kicker. This Superman/Action crossover that's leading to something very strange, and involves the colors red and blue, is being written by Dan Jurgens. By the strangest of coincidences, guess who wrote the Superman-Red/Superman-Blue story arc back in the day?

Mm-hm.

SUPER SONS #2 

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by PETER J. TOMASI

Art and cover by JORGE JIMENEZ

Variant cover by DUSTIN NGUYEN

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“When I Grow Up” part two! Robin and Superboy—in the clutches of Lex Luthor! The boys are in big trouble! How exactly are they supposed to explain what’s happened to Superman and Batman? Plus, Kid Amazo’s power grows, and this tyrant in the making is about to make life miserable for the Super Sons!

I LOVE this book. Jon and Damian are two utterly different, very specific, very well defined personalities, not just generic tweens. (I say that knowing Superboy is 12 and Robin is 13. But Damian was aged up a year to make him eligible for the Teen Titans, because the story called for it. But he's still 12 to me.) And they have nothing in common. Well, except for superhero dads. And powers and abilities far beyond those of yadda yadda. And really peculiar hobbies.

And you know what else? Crushing loneliness. Which they won't admit. Because they're kids.

Kids who are great together. I love the banter. I love the attitudes. And I love the trouble they get into.

This book is awesome. No matter how old you are, go read it as long as Peter Tomasi writes it. Tomasi really understands being a 12-year-old. I feel sorry for his significant other, but it's great news for us.

TRINITY #7

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by FRANCIS MANAPUL

Art and cover by CLAY MANN

Variant cover by BILL SIENKIEWICZ

32 pg • FC • $2.99 U.S. • RATED T

This issue will ship with two covers.

“DIVIDED WE FALL” prelude! America is divided! And now a hero has fallen and it may split the country even more. Can Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman stand against riots while defending a bigoted enemy? Don’t miss the beginning of an epic adventure that will test the ideals of our three heroes!

I thought this book was a miniseries, and once Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had undergone their Journey of Self-Discovery and The Forging of Mutual Friendship (TM), it would end.

Well it didn't, and if this issue is any indication, it should have.

First, let us note that, despite the cover, the Trinity do not appear within these pages. So that's a disappointment.

The plot is that Ra's al Ghul, Lex Luthor and Circe -- presumably the greatest foes of our Trinity -- are all drawn inexplicably to a Kharaqi tomb where they discover "Pandora Pits" -- not Lazarus Pits, but they look similar, and they contain "great evil" and are related to the story of Pandora, but doesn't appear to be the same one who recently had her own book.

And how do we know this? Because Circe, despite being just as ignorant as the other two as to how and why they've been drawn there, spends the whole issue blabbing exposition that, they keep telling us, she doesn't know.

Speaking of words and actions not lining up, that brings us to my chief gripe. Which is that Ra's and Luthor size each other up at the beginning and then mutually announce they will not be manipulated. And then spend the rest of the issue telling us they won't be manipulated. All this while they are obviously being manipulated, and do exactly what the unseen manipulator wants them to do.

Jeepers, it's aggravating. Lex: "I won't walk through that door like some sheep!" Ra's: "Me neither!" Lex: "Glad we got that settled!" Ra's: "Absolutely!" (Both walk through door.)

Also, Luthor threatens Ra's with arrest (or whatever) since he's a good guy now. But then he doesn't. The book doesn't explain why he doesn't, he just doesn't. It's almost silly.

Maybe this will be saved next issue with the introduction of some kind of mind control or something. But it better be Grodd-level to affect these two. And Maybe Circe isn't Circe. That would explain a lot.

So cross your fingers that this all a huge trick, and not just the bad writing it appears to be.

VAMPIRELLA #1

Publisher: DYNAMITE

Writer: PAUL CORNELL

Art: JIMMY BROXTON

Cover A: PHILIP TAN

Cover B: J. SCOTT CAMPBELL

Cover C: JOSEPH MICHAEL LINSNER

Cover D: Cosplay Cover

Cover E Subscription: JIMMY BROXTON

32 Pages • Teen+ • $3.99

After a sleep of over a thousand years, Vampirella finds herself back among the land of the living, but in a world far different than the one she remembers, where hope is laced with fear and blood has a far different taste. And speaking of taste, finding an appropriate outfit for the era leads our fanged fatale to a chance encounter that will garner her not one but two potential allies.

I actually enjoyed the zero issue more, where Vampi wakes up in a strange future world that we don't see yet. The possibilities were exciting.

The reality is not quite as thrilling. The future is kinda stupid, an "idiocracy" of sorts. Vampirella is the only one who speaks in complete sentences. Everybody else is practically monosyllabic and as interesting as tree stumps.

Also, she trades in her trademark outfit and gets a haircut. I've always thought Vampi's weird, red swimsuit was kinda silly, but hey, it made her stand out. It suggested something verboten might happen at any time, although nothing ever did. So I'm sorry to see it go. Without it, Vampi is just another brunette in a midi-dress and a bob cut. (I think that's what that haircut's called.) There's nothing terribly verboten -- or interesting -- in her visual now.

And the reason for vampi dresses down is because in the future everyone dresses really outre. For one thing, all the women walk around with strap-ons. And the men walk around with, I think, actual erections. I'm not sure, because Dynamite censored a lot in the review copy I got. But in this world everyone is constantly partying, which includes (I infer) random sex all the time. Or something.

Well, maybe it'll perk up (sorry) in the next issue, as Vampi investigates how the world got this way (she smells sulphur ... could it be SATAN?) and, inevitably, sets things to right. This issue was mostly set-up, and there were a couple of mysteries teased ("You don't know what you've done to me!"), so I'll be there for issue #2.

THE WILD STORM #2

Publisher: DC COMICS

Written by WARREN ELLIS

Art and cover by JON DAVIS-HUNT

Variant cover by AFUA RICHARDSON

1:50 variant cover by JIM LEE and SCOTT WILLIAMS

1:100 pencils-only variant cover by JIM LEE

On sale MARCH 15 • 32 pg • FC • $3.99 U.S. • RATED T+

This issue will ship with three covers.

All Angela Spica did was save someone’s life. And now hers is over. The rogue engineer lies bleeding in a place she hopes nobody will find -- but she’s wrong. The people embedded in the secret power structures of the world are tracking her. Skywatch. Halo. International Operations. A covert operative called Grifter. 

If only she hadn’t unknowingly foiled an assassination planned by her boss. If only her boss wasn’t the one person more interested in the Engineer’s transhuman implants than in her life.

It’s all going very wrong, very quickly. There’s going to be more blood.

I know that nobody in the real world talks like Warren Ellis' characters. Everybody's dialogue is tech-savvy and loaded with futuristic terms which everybody seems to understand, plus a lot of sarcastic snark. There might be one or two such people in the world, but unless they were talking to each other it would never work.

But so what? I love Ellis' dialogue. It's snappy! It's edgy! It makes me laugh during exposition! 

And the plot of this new series is right up Ellis' alley, too, in that it's all secret espionage agencies and spy stuff and subterfuge. I like Ellis' James Bond, and this book is that book after it's been working out for a while.

For the record, what we're following in the present or perhaps near future of a non-DC Universe Earth is a clash between three secret agencies that kinda-sorta secretly rule most of the world but would kinda-sorta like to secretly rule all of it. They all very certainly want to eliminate the competition, which is probably what keeps them all in check.

But I know what you fanboys really want to know, and that's what changes have been made to your favorite WildStorm characters. (If, in fact, you have any favorite WildStorm characters. I'm sorta agnostic myself.)

Well, OK:

Halo Corporation: Makes batteries, but also has lots of secrets. It's run by Jacob Marlowe, which is usually the case, isn't it? He seems perfectly normal so far, except for being (I think) a midget. But he's evidently very long-lived and has alien tech imbedded in him. He has a black ops unit, run by a guy named Cole Cash. (I can't recall if anyone's called him Grifter yet.) He gets around thanks to a resident transporter named Adrianna Tereshkova, who in earlier incarnations was the WildC.A.T. member Void. There's something wrong with her attention span and here eyes blunk out. There's also reference to a John (?) and we meet Kenesha, who has eidetic memory but otherwise seems normal. She was Savant, a super-powered alien, in the old WildStorm.

International Operations: Still the sinister, amoral super-espionage agency that's behind every secret in the world. We've met several top operatives, including MIles Craven, Ivana Baiul and some black woman whose name hasn't been mentioned yet. I think Miles is the boss. We also meet Michael Cray (Deathblow in another universe) who is a "wetworks" operative -- an assassin. There's some alien connection with him too, and I'm not talking about an inoperable brain tumor (which he also has). Angela Spica, who is the engineer in The Authority, is an engineer for I.O. who has engineered some sort of flight/stealth/exoskeleton suit from what appears to be nanotechnology that hide within her but it's not working right and she appears to be dying -- and on the run from all three agencies. Priscilla Kitaen is an operative, code-named Voodoo as she always is.

Skywatch: Run by Henry Bendix, it's an agency that watches from the sky -- no specifics yet. (Bendix, of course, ran StormWatch in WildStorm comics.) Lucy Blaze is an operative, code-name Zealot, and she looks like the old Zealot but does not appear to be an alien warrior woman (yet). She is very good at fighting. Her boss is Christine Trelane, who was Bendix' X.O. in the old WildStorm, but here runs Skywatch ground operations (which is not very high profile).

I might have missed some, but I think you get the gist. Either Ellis has ditched the whole Daemonite business (which I would be delighted to see), or he's building to it. Either way, right now the book is more grounded than any WildStorm iteration yet, with a lot less super-tech and super-people than ever before. I kinda like it better this way.

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Captain America Sam Wilson #20 - Sam tries to deal with the aftermath of Rage's conviction.

Hmm. Nothing terribly surprising here, and sadly no real movement towards resolution. That's a shame here, I believe.

Daredevil #18 - As he tells the story of how he got his secret back, Matt encounters the Purple Man.

I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed that we didn't get the explanation in this issue. Also, it just didn't feel very exciting despite the action.

Great Lakes Avengers #6 - Bertha and Dr. Not Good Bod throw down, and the Avengers get a new neighbor.

Pretty much what you'd expect from this title. Silly, light and fun.

Mighty Thor #17 - Thor continues playing games with the Shi'ar gods while the Asgardians come to her rescue, and we discover what's behind this entire debacle.

This is enjoyable, but

SPOILER

I've really become sick of seeing the Destroyer trotted out like a show pony. It's really lessened the impact when he shows up.

END SPOILER

Monsters Unleashed #5 (of 5) - The Leviathan mother is defeated (there's a surprise).

Well, that's the end of this mostly pretty darned fun series. Sure a lot of it was a tad silly, but I think that's okay for superhero comics.

Ms. Marvel #16 - Kamala figures out how to defeat Doc.X after a little bit of teen angst.

Kamal is still terribly likeable, and the comic is still fun.

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat #16 - Patsy discovers the source of her extra-dimensional sneezes, and gets help to right herself.

This is the second to last issue (sad, but not surprising) and it's still a lot of fun. Perhaps a little touching, and it's quite amusing who helps Patsy out with her little breakdown.

Totally Awesome Hulk #17 - Amadeus and the others--including the civilians--figure out how to fight the aliens that captured them.

This wasn't bad, although some events were pretty much telegraphed in advance. Still, and all, pretty decent.

US Avengers #4 - The Red Hulk is sent into Lichtenbad to stop a rampaging American Kaiju, while Deadpool seeks to capture a mad scientist in the same area.

This is pretty fun--the faux comic book covers are appealing and quite frankly help to pad out a comic that's largely one fight scene. Definitely fun.

SUPERMAN: I think you might be on to something with Superman Red/Blue.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SAM WILSON: The most realistically written superhero comic currently.

MOSTERS UNLEASHED: I really enjoyed the first issue, then successive issues less and less. Issue #5 I liked least. I won’t be buying the ongoing.

SPIDER-MAN #25: Mostly good stories. Although I’m still not thrilled with the current status quo I am getting used to it. At $10, one of the most expensive regular issues I can think of. It was a light week for me, though, so I decided to splurge. I really like the homage cover, though.

I'm pretty sure it's done Jeff.

Jeff of Earth-J said:


MOSTERS UNLEASHED: I really enjoyed the first issue, then successive issues less and less. Issue #5 I liked least. I won’t be buying the ongoing.

The limited series is over, but there's going to be a follow-up ongoing series.

Huh. Well I guess that explains why it was so Inhumans-centric. Yeah, I'm not terribly interested beyond this mini.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

The limited series is over, but there's going to be a follow-up ongoing series.

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