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.

Collects Wonder Woman (vol 3) issues 33-39.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, Bernard Chang

This collection has two story lines. The first is a two-part story “Birds of Paradise” where Diana finds out that Genocide isn’t dead but someone is hiding the body in Tokyo, in a metahuman fight club. She asks the Black Canary to show her the ropes and together they go to the fight club, undercover. In the second one, several story lines get a conclusion when Diana confronts Achilles and eventually Zeus.

The first two issues are campy fun. Diana and Dinah dress up as slutty wrestlers to hide their identity. Dinah says: “We look like high-end trashy hookers in a Tarantino nightmare… Perfect!” However, they don’t find Genocide. Instead, they find Dr. Psycho and Director Steel and the goddess of violence who wants revenge.

When Diana returns home, she has a talk with Tom. Earlier, she admitted that she doesn’t love Tom, but she wants to have children with him. So, Tom breaks up with her. Luckily, Diana can vent her frustration on Giganta but then she and Giganta have a bonding moment over their dissatisfaction of their love lives and they team up to take down Achilles’ peace party. Achilles threatens Hippolyta and Diana backs down. But then Diana realizes that she must confront him and heads to Themiscyra.

Zeus is going to retire the Amazons. In order to do that, he resurrected some of Greek mythology’s greatest heroes, including the Argonauts. He also created Achilles to be the king of the Argonauts and the Amazons. Zeus is apparently the only one to be surprised when the Amazon are very dissatisfied with that. Hippolyta agrees to step down because that’s the will of her gods. However, Alkyone, the villain from Simone’s first WW story, agrees to marry Achilles, legitimizing his rule. Alkyone was the captain of Hippolyta’s guard but she hated Diana so much that she (and her three loyal Amazons) tried to kill Diana when she was an infant. The four were imprisoned. Why Achilles would think that they somehow represent the Amazons, is beyond me. However, Alkyone is a great villain and her actions are understandable. Since this is a superhero comic, it all leads to a huge fight between Diana and Achilles, with the Argonauts and Amazon caught in the middle, choosing sides.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this collection. The first two issues were campy fun but didn’t really add to the story line much and the whole retrieving Genocide’s body was forgotten in the second issue. I loved the main villain in the second issue; Diana agreed to make amends to her and no doubt her choice will come back to haunt her. I’m happy to see Tom go but was baffled with Diana wanting to settle down and have kids. I guess that’s supposed to show her “human” side, make her more relateable. But I don’t remember anyone else taking this angle with Diana. And she seemed to have misled Tom a lot, which was very out of character for her. I liked most of the conflict Zeus created and the Argonauts ended up not so villainous, after all, which was a nice touch. I’m glad that Donna also got her chance to shine and that the conflict between her and Diana was resolved. A good, solid ending for Alkyone’s story that started in the Circle. She’s one of the best WW villains.

One more Simone collection to go. I must confess that I enjoyed Birds of Prey much more. Also, Simone’s collections aren’t stand alone. Definitely start with the Circle to get the most out of the stories.

Collects Wonder Woman (vol 3) issues 26-33.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, Bernard Chang

Simone changes the status quo of the Amazons and their gods in this story. The Hollywood story at the end of the previous collection was a comic breather and now the story is much grimmer.

The Greek gods return to Earth. Apparently, they’re aliens. Darkseid and his underlings have fouled Olympus and on top of that humans, and even the gods’ supposed champion Diana, have abandoned them. The gods are unhappy to say the least. But Zeus has a plan. A terrible plan.

On Earth, Director Steel’s paranoia grows. He sends agent Diana Prince and her team to a mall which has been destroyed by a new superbeing called Genocide. However, Steel claims that he has another job for Tresser who stays behind. However, as soon as Diana is gone, Steel tries to arrest Tresser. But Tresser escapes and is now a wanted fugitive.

Meanwhile, the villains in Secret Society are scheming against Wonder Woman. Cheetah has convinced Dr. Morrow to create something even he’s afraid of.

When Wonder Woman fights Genocide, she realizes that Genocide is or was a deity. Genocide has an aura that makes people despair and she kills a lot of people. She defeats Diana, beating her near to death. Troia and Wonder Girl are called to help her but Genocide continues her rampage to the DMA itself.

This is an intense and grim story. The Greek gods almost literally stab the Amazons in the back when Zeus creates a new group of elite soldiers to serve him, intending to replace the Amazons. They, the Olympians as they’re called, are trying to force the world to become peaceful. Which never works.

Diana faces her most difficult challenge yet when she not only fails to stop Genocide but must lead her friends against the murderous being while grievously wounded. Genocide is a very good villain to challenge WW and more than worthy addition to her rogues’ gallery. It’s also great that she’s not as sexualized as female villains tend to be. Her face isn’t shown, her hair is short and spiky, she doesn’t have a cleavage; in fact her skin isn’t showing much at all. She’s scary and not in a sexy way. However, I can’t help to think that there should have been some more dramatic way to tell her origin, at least to the readers if not to Diana.

The ending is mostly satisfying with some emotional drama and mostly likely a new direction for Diana.

Collects WW (vol 3) issues 20-25.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan, Bernard Chang

Ends of the Earth story line runs the first four issues. It’s a bit on the strange side. First issue starts with Diana in a foreign, wintry land fighting wolves. She ends up in a tavern, looking for fabled hero Beowulf. Then we return to the beginning. Department of Metahuman Affairs’ agent Diana Prince is promoted. She’s expected to lead a team of six agents. Diana is quite flustered because she feels that she hasn’t earn a promotion, quite the contrary. But then a strange man with omnious red glowing eyes (I can think of only one time when that’s been a good sign) confronts Diana in her own office. He asks Wonder Woman to kill the devil. Diana uses her lasso on him, but that’s a terrible choice. It turns out that the man, who calls himself only Stalker, has no soul and so ensnares Diana’s soul (or mind). Apparently, he sends Diana to another dimension. There, Diana needs to find the heroes Beowulf and Claw to help her defeat the demon Dgrth.

For the rest of the story, Diana and Beowulf journey in a couple of other worlds. Diana’s soul is diminishing and so her compassion is leaving her and she becomes more and more violent and cold. Eventually Diana, Beowulf, Claw, and the Stalker confront the demon.

Meanwhile, DMA’s director Steele recruits agent Tresser, Diana’s partner and love interest, into spying on Diana and agent Candy. Steele (quite right) suspects that they’re Amazons and that they’re looking for more info in preparation for the Amazon’s next attack (which of course isn’t true). Tresser manages to find out that the giant intelligent gorillas are in Diana’s apartment. It’s gorillas vs Tresser!

By the fourth issue, Diana has returned and it’s now time for Tresser to meet her mom, Queen Hippolyta. Of course, they did meet briefly during Amazons Attack when Tresser was almost killed… However, Hippolyta seems to accept Tresser. Then Diana goes to Hollywood! People are making a Wonder Woman movie and they want Diana’s endorsement. Of course, this being a superhero comic, an old WW villain is involved.

I’m a fantasy fan and Diana, more than any other superhero, has a mythological roots, so I quite enjoyed the short romp in these Hyborian-like fantasy worlds. We even get some philosophizing about what it feels like to loose your soul and what it means to live without one. However, I thought Claw was Conan and I wasn’t familiar with the other characters. Turns out that they are some older fantasy character. I’ve no idea why Simone chose to use them or if it was some weird editorial decision. Also, another enemy is left loose to plague Diana later.

The final two issues set in Hollywood are fun. The movie is a horribly twisted version of Diana’s life but considering that she’s a real person, I’m not sure if they could have done it with Diana objecting. I enjoyed Diana’s two advisers, Rhanda and Tolifhar. They’re giant white gorillas. With briefcases. Once again, Diana shows both her warrior and diplomat sides. This shows how very, very badly a WW movie could have gone wrong.

Overall, this was an uneven collection even if it was fun for me.

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