Yesterday, I looked at five comics that I enjoyed during 2015. Click on the link here if you’re interested. I wanted to throw in a few more recommendations of books I enjoyed before we close out the year tonight.
Fun For All
While DC Comics has been guilty of darkening up their line since the start of the New 52 back in September 2011, there have been some lighter highlights. Yesterday, I mentioned the all-ages titles of Bat-Mite and Bizarro, which were six-issue miniseries introduced as part of the recent DC You Campaign, and I wanted to highlight one of those books today.
Reading the Bizarro miniseries was probably the highlight of my year, and proof that an all-ages title can actually work for everyone. The story isn’t set in the current continuity (There are a surprising number of books that aren’t included in the current continuity), which allows the freedom to go in more random directions. Written by Heath Corson, the story follows Jimmy Olsen as he tries to take a road trip with Bizarro (a backwards Superman) to “Bizarro America,” otherwise known as Canada.
The six-issue miniseries sees the duo – along with a pet chupacabra – run into used car salesman that get powers of mind control, ghosts and aliens. There’s a risk that a story like this could easily jump the shark and become somewhat lame (like what happened with Bat-Mite), but Corson and his artist, Gustavo Duarte, keep raising the stakes but remember to bring the funny. I imagine the whole story will be collected into a trade paperback sometime soon, and it’s something I recommend picking up. Hopefully Corson and Duarte are allowed to do some more stories like this in the coming year.
The fun wasn’t limited to miniseries outside of continuity, though. Late last year, DC Comics introduced Gotham Academy, a book about Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school. Of course, because it’s in Gotham City, the school isn’t exactly what it seems, with a group of students there encountering a number of weird circumstances – super-villains, ghosts and ghouls and weird teachers. Brendan Fletcher, who also writes Batgirl and Black Canary, and Becky Cloonan hit another one out of the park with Gotham Academy, and the art by Karl Kerschl is stunning, especially on a tablet.
Johns’ Justice League Epic
When DC Comics rebooted in September 2011, the centerpiece was Geoff Johns’ and Jim Lee’s Justice League, and the team’s new origin story was bringing the big guns together to fight Darkseid, the evil New God leader of Apokolips. Everything done in the Justice League book since then has been building to the epic Darkseid War, which kicked off in June’s Justice League 41.
The Anti-Monitor – the main villain in 1985’s Crisis On Infinite Earths – has returned and targeted Darkseid, and the Justice League is caught in the middle. Instead of trying to beat the two big bads in the story, the heroes are instead just trying to survive.
Normally, a story like this would be promoted with the hyperbolic “Nothing about these heroes will be the same again!” Except, Justice League has diverted away from the main DC Comics continuity. Superman, who in his own books is depowered, is at full strength here; Batman, replaced by Jim Gordon in a bat-robot in continuity, is still Bruce Wayne. The same tactic is being used by Bryan Hitch in his JLA book.
Johns is always great with epics, especially when they’re contained (see his work on Green Lantern for other examples), and The Darkseid War has so far been one of his best.
Three More Great Books
While I am typically a DC Comics fan, I at times have been willing to reach out and try new things, and those things frequently become some of my favorite regular reads. Such is the case with the following three series.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have a reputation for some great noir stories, including Criminal and Fatale. So when The Fade Out was released in August 2014, it was an easy decision to start picking it up. Set in 1948 Hollywood, the maxiseries follows a movie writer struggling after coming back from the war as he gets wrapped up in the death of an up-and-coming starlet. Sean Phillips works in a number of cameos from Hollywood actors in the 40s, while Brubaker’s story has been compelling. The best part of the single issues are the letter column in the back and the essays on old Hollywood, making it the best value you’ll find in a comic book right now.
Two collections are available right now and the series will wrap up in the next few months.
The license for Will Eisner’s The Spirit has bounced around between a number of comic book companies over the years. I started reading when DC Comics had the license a few years ago. Now, Dynamite is producing a Spirit book in recognition of the character’s 75th anniversary. As the new series starts, The Spirit has been missing for two years and his allies – including the Police Commissioner, the commissioner’s daughter (and The Spirit’s girlfriend) and private investigators Strunk & White – are still trying to find out what happened to Central City’s hero. And then he comes back. And now, The Spirit is trying to figure out what happened to him. Matt Wagner’s Spirit stories have been a lot of fun so far, and with six more issues in the first arc, the book should continue to be a highlight well into 2016.
The final recommendation is probably the most out there. Douglas Adams is most well-known for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, but another great Adams character is Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective. IDW produced a five-issue miniseries about the character this year, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. The series sees the long-lived detective arrive in San Francisco and dealing with a case that involves copycat serial killers and reincarnated Egyptian mummies, while Gently works with a pair of coffee shop owners and various other ridiculousness, spouting off about how he will close the case through the interconnectedness of all things. While I’m not an expert in Adams’ work, Chris Ryall’s series seemed to keep the author’s spirit and kept me looking forward to the next issue.