Batman Annuals: Volume One

Written by Bill Finger, Edmond Hamilton, David Vern Reed, and France Herron
Penciled by Dick Sprang, Sheldon Moldoff, and Lew Sayre Schwartz
Inked by Stan Kaye and Charles Paris
264 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

There’s something disarmingly charming about the general silliness of Batman comics from the 1960s. I’ve often joked that some of the comics from that time period are clearly pointing towards illegal drugs in the water coolers, but the fact of the matter is that for whatever reason, no one seemed to be taking themselves too seriously. In many ways, the culmination of this is in the early Batman Annuals, reprinting each year some of the stranger, and crazier stories from earlier times.

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Northlanders #35-36

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Becky Cloonan
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

With the temperature well below freezing in the DC area, it’s nice to pull on some blankets, eat a hot bowl of homemade soup, and get down to an afternoon of reading. But ironically, the idea of reading about warm, sunny destinations gets old before long, so it seemed like the perfect time to give the latest Northlanders story, the two-part "The Girl in the Ice," a whirl. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder that while it may be cold in my neck of the woods, it could just as easily be distinctly worse out, and not just because of the advent of modern heating.

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Weird Worlds #1

Written by Kevin VanHook, Aaron Lopresti, and Kevin Maguire
Penciled by Jerry Ordway, Aaron Lopresti, and Kevin Maguire
Inked by Jerry Ordway, Matt Ryan, and Kevin Maguire
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

When done right, I like anthology comics a great deal. There’s a nice hook to having multiple stories to read in a comic, so even if there’s one part which might not be clicking quite for you, there are still others waiting to be read. (Of course, that means there needs to be more hits than misses.) So I found myself a little curious about Weird Worlds, DC’s new anthology mini-series promising some strange settings and characters. What I got? Well, a mixed bag is a good way to describe it as any.

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Fogtown

Written by Andersen Gabrych
Art by Brad Rader
176 pages, black and white
Published by Vertigo Comics

After several initial disappointing releases from the Vertigo Crime line of books, I pinned a lot of hopes on Fogtown by Andersen Gabrych and Brad Rader. I’ve loved what little art of Rader’s I’ve seen in the past (most notably on an early Catwoman story written by Ed Brubaker), and his animation pedigree has shown him to be an expressive and inventive artist. And while I’d never read any of Gabrych’s stories for DC Comics, having two openly gay men working on a crime thriller in 1953 San Francisco certainly held a lot of potential. What I actually found with Fogtown, though, is a book where some parts of the greater whole fail, while others try and pick up the slack.

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Sandman Mystery Theatre Vol. 8: The Blackhawk and the Return of the Scarlet Ghost

Written by Matt Wagner and Steven T. Seagle
Penciled by Guy Davis and Matthew Smith, with Daniel Torres
Inked by Guy Davis and Richard Case, with Daniel Torres
224 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Reading a new collection of Sandman Mystery Theatre is a guilty pleasure, but not in the way one normally uses the phrase. Having stopped buying the series during its first year due to finances, there’s a certain amount of guilt now that shows up alongside Sandman Mystery Theatre, that nagging thought that once I had a little more money I really should’ve started reading the series again. Still, when all is said and done, it’s not a bad thing to read it now via collections. If anything, I think some of the slight flaws in the book are better mitigated when read in a large chunk.

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Northlanders #30

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ricardo Burchielli
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Brian Wood and Ricardo Burchielli are known for working together on their series DMZ, also published by Vertigo. So when I heard that Burchielli had come on board to draw a story arc for Wood’s series Northlanders, I was intrigued. Ancient Viking settlements are about as far from a war-torn wasteland of Manhattan, but at the end of the day there’s no need to worry. This ends up being an entertaining first chapter in the latest Northlanders storyline.

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Joker’s Asylum II: Harley Quinn

Written by James Patrick
Art by Joe Quinones
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

DC’s Joker’s Asylum one-shots are such a simple idea—the Joker tells stories about one of the other Batman-centric villains—that it sounds like it would be hard to go wrong. I admittedly missed out on this series of one-shots the last time around, but so far I must admit I’m surprised with how much fun the Joker’s Asylum II specials are. Take, for instance, the Harley Quinn one-shot. The idea is straightforward, with Harley trying to rescue a kidnapped Joker, but what makes it work is the way that James Patrick and Joe Quinones channel the sheer derangement of Harley.

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iZombie #1

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Michael Allred
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Over the past decade, Chris Roberson’s come seemingly out of nowhere to carve himself a career in comics, books, and publishing. Originally part of the Clockwork Storybook collective of writers (which included Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges), he’s gone on to have novels and short stories published, as well as start his own MonkeyBrain Books. He’s also started to crack comics, his first major project the Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love mini-series, and now his first ongoing series iZombie. And while iZombie #1 reminds me a bit of some other creations out there, on the whole I’m pleased to see that Roberson’s rising up through the ranks in no small part because he’s a strong writer.

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DV8: Gods and Monsters #1

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Rebekah Isaacs
32 pages, color
Published by Wildstorm/DC Comics

I’m not what you’d call a long-time fan of DV8. I read the first ten issues of the series back in the day, but the writer who came on board after Warren Ellis didn’t interest me enough to stick around once Ellis and Humberto Ramos were gone. Reading interviews about Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs’s revamp mini-series intrigued my interest, though; maybe it’s because Wood has tried for several years to bring DV8 back, or maybe because the idea of superheroes viewed as gods had enough potential that I wanted to see where the creators would go with it. Considering how well Wood and Isaacs worked together on DMZ #50, it was definitely worth taking a look. And while it’s a slow start, there’s enough here to keep interest levels high.

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Spirit #1

Written by Mark Schultz and Denny O’Neil
Art by Moritat and Bill Sienkiewicz
40 pages, color, with some black and white
Published by DC Comics

As part of DC Comics’s new First Wave group of pulp hero comics, we’re getting another attempt from DC to use Will Eisner’s crime-fighting character, the Spirit. While I’m still not entirely convinced that crushing all these characters into a single "world" is a great idea, another The Spirit comic seems to make sense. After all, DC was already publishing The Spirit, so giving it an additional brand to draw attention to the title seemed reasonable. Now that I’ve read the first issue, though, I’m not so sure my gut instinct was correct on this one.

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