DC comics


14 short stories about Batman. They don’t follow any continuity and some are clearly in different worlds than any other stories in the collection.

Publisher: Bantam
Publishing year: 1989
Format: print
Page count: 401

This is a mixed bag of stories. The mood changes from horror to comedy, most being rather dark. Most of them have multiple POV character, one is Alfred’s diary, and one told in memos.

“Death of the Dreammaster” by Robert Sheckley: This story starts with the death of Joker. In this world, most of Batman’s allies are also dead: Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman. Not surprisingly, Bruce is somewhat depressed. Then he sees Joker’s green hair and white face on the street. He must find out what’s going on.

“Bats” by Henry Slesar: Robin is dead and Batman has apparently gone insane. Faithful Alfred is so shocked that he pours out his emotions to a diary.

“Subway Jack” by Joe R. Lansdale: This story has lots of horror elements and is somewhat choppy. Someone is killing homeless women on the subway. Batman and Gordon investigate. The writing style is somewhat gothic, with diary entries in the middle of usual prose. A couple of times Landsdale also adds descriptions of comic panels. They’re very evocative but jarred me out of reading.

“The Sound of One Hand Clapping” by Max Allan Collins: From horror to comedy, Joker is distressed because he doesn’t have a woman in his life. Then on TV he sees a female criminal calling herself the Mime and convinces himself that he’s madly in love.

“Neutral Ground” by Mike Resnick: Just five pages told from the POV of old man Kittlemeier who makes costumes to various people. He asks no names and doesn’t care what the people do with them.

“Batman in Nighttown” by Karen Haber and Robert Silverberg: In this story, Bruce is holding a masquerade party on New Year. His costume is a devil but someone else has come as Batman… and that person robs Bruce’s guests. Bruce doesn’t have time to change to his costume before driving after the “Batman”.

“The Batman Memos” by Stuart M. Kaminsky: This story is told with various memos and letters. A Hollywood exec wants to make a Batman movie and is looking into the legal and other aspects. Wayne represents Batman and comes to Hollywood. In the memos, we find out that one of the actresses goes missing.

“Wise Men of Gotham” by Edward Wellen: The Riddler is threatening wealthy men whom he calls the Wise Men of Gotham. Batman must figure out the riddles and rescue the men.

“Northwestward” (Black Widowers #61) by Isaac Asimov: A group of men calling themselves Black Widowers interview real-life Bruce Wayne on whom the fictional Batman was based on. This Wayne is over seventy years old but his minds is still sharp. He has a mystery for the group.

“Daddy’s Girl” by William F. Nolan: A Robin story. Batman is in Washington and Robin is trying to catch a cat burglar. Instead, he falls through a skylight and meets a very strange and naive girl who has never left her father’s house.

“Command Performance” by Howard Goldsmith: Another Robin/Dick Grayson story. Carol is a runaway and Dick’s classmate. When she ends up on the police station after she’s tried to substitute a cheap imitation jewelry to a very expensive real one, Dick starts to look into her story of the Man who forces teens to steal. In this story, Dick’s a reporter for Gotham High School’s Clarion.

“The Pirate Millionaire’s Cove” by Edward D. Hoch: A man dressed like a pirate kills a millionaire on his yacht. Bruce decides to go undercover in the Yacht club to find out who is responsible.

“The Origin of the Polarizer” by George Alec Effinger: Waters is a genius but he’s forced to work at a lowly job shipping electronics parts. However, he realizes that one Gotham City resident orders a lot of such parts and deduces that Bruce Wayne is Batman. In a (il)logical move, Waters sabotages Wayne’s next shipment and becomes a super villain, the Polarizer. He’s determined to outwit Batman. Meanwhile Batman and Robin are building their new computer with vacuum tubes and punch cards. They’re marveling how much more effective the BATIVAC will be. The story is set in 1957.

“Idol” by Ed Gorman: The strangest story in this collection, told from the POV of a psychopath who is obsessed with another man whom he sees as an impostor.

I liked most of the stories but I don’t think any of them are particularly memorable. Still, they showcase how versatile Batman is: from horror to comedy and comic book like stories. It even has two rather realistic stories. The cast of secondary characters also differs wildly: one has Vicky Vale, in another Bruce is dating wealthy socialite Vera St. Clair, two features Robin while in two Robin is dead. Commissioner Gordon is the only other character, besides Batman himself, who is pretty much the same in the stories he appears. I was a bit surprised that the only major villain making a significant appearance here is the Riddler. Joker is on a couple of pages in the first story.

Collects issues 1-6 of the miniseries.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Aaron Lopresti

This was a fun series set in Conan’s Hyborian Age. We get glimpses of Conan’s childhood when he meets a mysterious little girl called Yanna when they’re both very young. Eventually, Conan falls for Yanna.

In the main story, adult Conan rescues gambler Kian from torture and death. Kian promises Conan a fortune because Kian has bet against the local gladiator pit’s champion. Conan takes the gambler to that town and sees that the champion in question is a woman. Must to his surprise, he thinks that she’s his long lost Yanna. When she wins the fight, Conan tries to free her but is surprised and soon also in chains. They’re both now owned by the gladiator master. At the same time, a couple of mysterious crows are stalking our heroes.

The champion has lost her memory and doesn’t know who she is. She’s also lost most of her powers because ordinary chains can hold her.

This was a good cross-over comic. It centers on Conan and paints him as more chivalrous figure than I remember. It has plenty of action and even a couple of moral choices. We aren’t explained just how Diana is sent to Conan’s world but that’s not the point, either.

I rather liked the art which isn’t too cheesecakey.- In the beginning of the tale, Diana is wearing just rags but the blood stains on them look very similar to the symbols she usually wears which was a nice touch.

Collects the first Superman versus Aliens miniseries.

Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Dan Jurgens, Kevin Nowlan

Just like I predicted, to make the aliens at all threatening, Superman must lose his powers.

Lexcorp has a space program. Lois and Clark have been invited to interview the head of that program, doctor Sheryl Kimble. She’s an ambitious scientist (and I’m sure you all know what that means in the context of aliens…. :)). Lexcorp has captured a message from space. It’s in unknown language but Clark recognizes it as Kryptonian and as a distress call. When the probe which sends the distress call splashes into the ocean, Clark rescues it. It makes a mental connection with him and sends images of a surviving Kryptonian city which is badly in need of help. Reluctantly, he allows Lexcorp to investigate it.

Lexcorp has a hyperspace capable small space ship. Clark takes it and heads to the city which is on an asteroid, far way from any sun.

There he finds that the city has been ravaged by alien monstrosities. He finds four unconscious survivors, who look human (or Kryptonian). He puts them in the ship and sends them back to Earth while he remains to explore the city. He’s not any longer under a yellow sun so his powers diminish quickly. He’s attacked by aliens who burn his eyes. A blonde young woman, Kara, saves him. Kara tells him that the aliens have been attacking the city for years and she grew up as a soldier. Clark wants to find a way to help her and the rest of people who are out of food and medicine.

Meanwhile on Earth, the ship has returned. Of course, all the “survivors” have been infected. The aliens burst out and start to attack everyone.

This exactly what you expect from a cross-over. Superman fights increasingly desperately against hordes of aliens with Kara by his side. Kara is an experienced soldier even though she’s only 16. In the ship, on the way to the city, Clark reminiscens how he was forced to kill his fellow Kryptonians before and is determined never to kill again. Even when fighting the aliens, he tried not to kill them. When he first meets them, he tries to talk to them, so he’s very much in character. Meanwhile, Lois tries to survive the aliens and is determined to kill them. She lectures Kimble who wants keep the aliens alive for research.

The art is solid and brings out the horror of the aliens. This cross-over works surprisingly well even though it has pretty much all the expected aliens plot points.

Collects the first Batman/Aliens miniseries.

Writer: Ron Marz
Artists: Bernie Wrightson

The story starts with Batman parachuting down to the Amazon jungle at the border of Guatemala and Mexico. After wrestling with a crocodile, he meets five elite soldiers who are on a secret mission. Batman himself reveals only that he’s there to rescue someone. The leader of the soldiers, Sealey, is very hostile toward Batman while the only female soldier, Hyatt, stops Sealey from posturing and gets them to focus on the mission. After a while, they stumble on Mayan ruins and next to them is a spaceship. They find the body of a humanoid alien whose chest has been torn open from the inside. They continue to the ruins and are soon face to face with the terrible Aliens.

This is exactly what you expect from a comic like this. The soldiers include a belligerent commander, a religious man, and the woman who wants to prove herself. There’s also an obligatory twist that one of them betrays the others. The coolest thing are the Aliens and Batman fighting them.

The art is great. Wrightson is co-creator of Swamp Thing and has illustrated a lot of horror comics. I really like his Batman and he draws great Aliens.

Collects issues Aquaman Rebirth 1-7.

Writer: Dan Abnett
Artists: Oscar Jimenez, Brad Walker, Scot Eaton, Philippe Briones, Mark Morales, Andrew Hennessy, Wayne Faucher

The first issue is an introduction to Aquaman and the way he’s torn between Atlantis and the surface world. As the king of Atlantis, he’s trying to get better relations between his country and USA. (Why he wouldn’t pick, say, Canada or Britain, well… it’s a US comic so apparently there was no chance of that??)

The plot really starts in the second issue. Arthur has built an Atlantean embassy on US soil, called Spindrift Station, and the Black Manta attacks it. Still, Arthur is blamed for the supervillain’s actions. When Arthur and Mera walk into the White House, wanting to talk, they can’t see the president. Instead his chief of staff delays them while whining about protocol and then they hear that a US ship has been attacked. An Atlantean sword is left behind, an obvious way to implicate Arthur’s people. But the US diplomats fall for this act and arrest Arthur, over Mera’s objections.

Would they have arrested any other head of state? No. But later we get a prison break and an excuse for Superman to get involved. Also, Black Manta joins a shady criminal organization.

I can appreciate that Arthur is in a very difficult situation. Some of his people don’t want anything to do with the surface world; some loath them (rightly) because of pollution. Humans fear Atlantis because they’ve attacked before. Still, I think the international politics weren’t handled well. It does show how Arthur is doing his best to keep the peace while seemingly everyone else wants a war.

The best thing about the comic was Mera. She’s clearly her own person. She doesn’t care for the surface people but agrees to work with them because Arthur wants it. She’s got a temper, too. I loved their relationship and I’m really hoping that DC isn’t just going to fridge her.

I did enjoy reading this, mostly because of Mera. I haven’t read Aquaman before so I don’t know how different it’s from previous incarnations. But anyone expecting Arthur to look like Jason Momoa is going to be disappointed.

Collects issues 1-5 for JLA Rebirth.

Writer: Bryan Hitch
Artists: Bryan Hitch, Tony S. Daniel, Jesus Merino, Sandy Florea, Daniel Hernandez, Scott Hanna, Andy Owens

I’ve become quite skeptical of these rebirths, mainly because the characters don’t change; they’re just younger. That was exactly what happened with the previous DC relaunch where the JLA members met for the first time, again. I guess that’s done in order to attract new, younger readers. Or maybe some old readers feel younger again when reading about younger character. But I like the old continuity and I’m often sorry to see it’s messed with.

While most of the JLA members are the same (Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash) I was delighted to see that two members were different. Superman has apparently died. However, another Superman and his family have come from another dimension. Clark and Lois are married and have a son. Batman is, of course, very suspicious of the new Superman, to the point of excluding him unless he’s very much needed while still wanting to keep Superman as part of JLA. However, that’s pretty much pointless because when we see the (brief) interactions between Lois and Clark, it’s pretty clear that they’re the same characters, with the added responsibility of a son.

Another difference are the Green Lanterns. Apparently, Hal gave his job to Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz who are now the junior members of the League and trying their best to measure up to the more experienced heroes. So, the core group of the same characters trust each other implicitly but the new characters add some uncertainty, but not a lot. It’s still way better than the previous relaunch.

The first issue is a stand-alone, where the JLA gets together to fight a menace from space (yay! I always love those!). The menace turns to be a “Reaper” which is trying to harvest humanity and it’s only the first of many.

The rest of the collection deals with the titular Extinction Machines. Earthquakes are doing damage all over the world, at the same time. JLA struggles to respond. Also, humans around JLA members are behaving strangely and their powers are failing. However, Cyborg finds out that the earthquakes aren’t natural. So the JLA rallies against a very powerful threat.

I rather enjoyed the “new” JLA even though we only get to know the new Superman a little and not the new Lanterns at all. Superman is the only character which is introduced a little, so I don’t recommend this for new readers. (Which is a bit strange for a relaunch.). I enjoyed seeing the heroes struggling against natural forces which isn’t done too often. Essentially, the longer story feels like a blockbuster movie, going forward at a breathless pace.

Collects Wonder Woman (vol 3) issues 40-44.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, Chris Batista, Fernando Dagino, Doug Hazelwood, Raul Fernandez, Nicola Scott

Simone’s final collection has again two story lines. Murder of Crows is a two-part story guest-starring Power-Girl. The five (male) children of Ares and some of the Amazons have apparently mind-control powers. They talk to people and make them believe what they want, even inciting violence. They start with twisting Diana’s heroic battles by questioning if she was heroic or if she was working with the villains in the first place. Then they use their power on Power-Girl and twist her against Diana. The lasso of truth plays a big part, of course.

The final story line is the Wrath of the Silver Serpent where an alien armada comes to Washington and only Diana and her friends can stop them. This story hails back to second story line in “The Circle.” A couple of Green Lanterns find a world devastated and the destroyers are heading to Earth. The space ship makes a force field around Washington DC. so nobody can get in or out. So, only Diana, Achilles, the gorillas, and the remnants of the DMA can resist the Citizenry.

The Citizenry have huge silver snakes which can destroy whole cities and in the end, they will ground the whole planet into food and fuel for the Citizenry and their ships. But their leader turns out to be a more personal menace to Diana: she’s Diana’s aunt Astarte.

This was a good ending to Simone’s run. Once again, Diana shows her strengths as a warrior, a diplomat, and a strategist. She’s confronted by a horrible nation where children are turned into remorseless killers from a young age. Yet, she finds compassion for them and offers peace before she’s forced to use violence. Still, there are a couple mysteries which were left unsolved. The biggest being Astarte’s history; she remembers herself and Hippolyta as children while in this incarnations, they were all created as adult Amazons. Also, we don’t get to see Hippolyta’s and Astarte’s meeting after being apart for 3000 years.

Still, I quite enjoyed Simone’s run.

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