Archives for posts with tag: Batwoman

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With the release a few weeks ago of Wonder Woman Vol. 6: Bones, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s spectacular run on Wonder Woman is now available in full in trade format. The story, told over 35 issues and a few annuals, is compiled in six volumes each sporting a one word title: Blood, Guts, Iron, War, Flesh, and Bones. I imagine DC will release the run in a more concise form- maybe two volumes? omnibus? In its current state, you’ll want to read all six volumes as it is one complete story with suspense constantly building to a very classy plot twist.

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Tasked with rebooting Wonder Woman for the New 52, Azzarello and Chiang made the bold decision to alter her origin story- exposing her origins from clay as lie told to Diana by her mother Hippolyta to keep her own affair with Zeus a secret from Diana and more importantly, Hera, who have demanded retribution for another woman sharing a bed with her husband as is the custom among Olympians. This change to Wonder Woman’s origin story brought forth scores of fantastic characters, a true pantheon of pun-masters. The scripts for this story possess a wit rare in comics or any other medium- a wit that perhaps can only perform in the medium of comics and a wit unabashedly fond of puns.

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I spoke at length about Wonder Woman’s introduction to her extended family tree at last year’s Comics and Popular Arts Conference at Atlanta’s Dragon Con. With each issue, Wonder Woman becomes more acquainted with the citizens and standard operating procedures of Olympus. Hephaestus, Hades, Eros, Dionysus, Aphrodite, Cassandra, Artemis, Apollo, Demeter, Strife, War, and a Wesley Willis-inspired Milan are just a small sample of the colorful characters Wonder Woman now finds herself related to. The whole family adjusts not only to Wonder Woman, but other surprise family members come in to shake things up- particularly the one known only as the First Born.

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Because Wonder Woman has her hands full with all of this family drama, the rest of the DC universe stays largely off the pages of these books with the exception of regular appearances by Orion of New Genesis (not old Olympus). Readers who follow Superman/Wonder Woman know that Superman’s absence from the adventures outlined in this story has left the Man of Steel with some feelings of inadequacy.

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The lack of other DC superheroes is a bit of a blessing. Readers can read this run without feeling the baggage of an entire universe’s continuity. The series has since the New 52’s inception been a title that non-superhero readers could digest more easily than more continuity-rich titles like Green Lantern, Superboy, or any of the Trinity (War or Sin) related titles. Because of this, I highly recommend the collection as a gift for beginner readers. While the book contains a healthy bit of violence, some sexual content, and an intrinsic critique of religion, I believe the book is not only appropriate for young readers, but particularly valuable to a younger audience as it introduces them to Greek mythology as well as sophisticated story-telling elements in a way that’s more enjoyable than formal education.

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As the New 52 comes to a close, this run on Wonder Woman will be remembered as one of the best elements of the reboot. Unlike other great runs (Manupaul and Buccellato’s Flash, Williams and Blackman’s Batwoman (especially), Johns and Reis’s Aquaman) that have ended, this series demonstrates a more perfect overall architecture. As I read the final pages, I feel more satisfied as the story came to its conclusion. The only other run from the New 52 that comes to mind that demonstrated the kind of forethought seen here is Morrison’s Action Comics but the creative teams behind both titles approached rebooting two of DC’s biggest titles. I don’t include Snyder and Capullo’s Batman here because their run hasn’t ended (and hopefully won’t end for a good long while)

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After weeks of ambiguity regarding the fates of their titles after moving their offices from New York to California, DC Comics cleared things up somewhat with a statement this week. The simple answer: The New 52 is dead! Long live the New 52! The truth: DC Comics is removing the label New 52 and making continuity less of a concern if favor of greater diversity in story-telling. DC is not simply shedding the label, but also an ideological commitment to an experiment. The experiment? A new (err..rebooted) and thoroughly connected (err…though filled with holes) universe (err…multiverse)! Originally planned as 52 titles a month published in sync, following a universal timeline, the New 52 was a lofty ambition. For the experiment to work, creators had to work within a tight framework not only in narrative, but in artistic style- prompting the oft-used terms “DC house-style” or “Jim Lee house style.” These rules allowed a pretty cohesive fictional universe to thrive, but also alienated many creators and readers who wanted stories outside the framework of the larger experiment. By abandoning the New 52 and their ideological commitment to the New 52 experiment, DC Comics will be opening itself up to new, smaller experiments. The publisher’s lineup will be more chaotic this June not only because many titles will leave and many new titles will arrive, but those new titles and even the continuing titles will draw from a larger creative arsenal- new creators, new styles, new impressions on the characters, and new impressions on what super-hero comic books can do. To be fair, DC Comics continued to publish an assortment of books outside of the New 52 such as Lil Gotham and all those video game-related titles. Now new books like Bat-Mite and Bizarro promise to approach comics without the baggage of the New 52 experiment. The official word from DC suggests the end of the New 52 is motivated purely by creative ambitions, but it’s obvious to most readers that DC has found an awkward but workable solution to several concerns: 1) the move to California 2) the stress of managing the big continuity 3) the desire to attract more casual comics readers (the ones reading Image titles) 4) the New 52 is destroying itself.

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That 4th one can be broken down to specific problems within the New 52. I believe the beginning of the end came when the original creative team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman left Batwoman over creative differences on whether or not Batwoman would marry. While this was not the first dispute-driven departure of a respected creator during the New 52, this departure, unlike George Perez leaving Superman, shook up something that most people believed the New 52 was doing right. Fans and critics alike couldn’t say enough nice things about the work being done on that book. The rush to replace Williams and Blackman with not only a talented creator, but one with a little LGBT cred to ease PR concerns, left Batwoman in the hands of Marc Andreyko and the book got noticeably worse. After Geoff Johns and associates completed their run on the Green Lantern titles, DC found a new creative team, but things fell apart and they again found themselves scrambling the fill some roles. Luckily they found a sort of dream team to take over those titles. Most problematic about the Green Lantern creative team shift, Geoff Johns wrote an epilogue in his final issue of Green Lantern, an epilogue whose authenticity would come immediately into question as the new creative team found ways to destroy all the love stories in that blossomed in that epilogue. Other books saw transitions. The success and failures of titles in transition were surprising. I really expected Chew’s John Layman to write a better Detective Comics while Jeff Lemire wrote a Green Arrow story unlike anything else he’d ever written, reinforcing what his run on Animal Man had suggested- the guy who draws those creepy picture book also has a visionary take on the super-hero model. Another reason why I see the Batwoman shift as the beginning of the end can be seen in the fifth collected volume of the title-  an inconsistency that runs along the spine, singling out the volume among all other New 52 titles as the unmentionable yet obvious stain on the whole endeavor.

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Look at that tiny little five! How embarrassing that must be for Batwoman Vol. 5: Webs! The other book that sticks out in a complete New 52 collection is Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family because it’s white instead of black. While it may still drive the obsessive and compulsive a bit mad to look at, the change is obviously intentional. The tiny 5 on Batwoman Vol. 5 appears to be a Freudian slip, a subconscious expression of shame in ruining one of the New 52’s best titles.

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Since the official announcement of the New 52’s end, I’ve tried to figure what the New 52 really has been. Despite all the Convergence hype, it feels like the experiment is going out with more a whimper than a bang. There’s no real story to tie up as far as I can figure. So the question remains what was the New 52?

Here are 52 things I think made the New 52:

1) The Court of Owls

2) Wonder Woman’s new origin story

3) introduction (and reintroduction) of Vertigo characters into the DC universe

4) Superman-Wonder Woman love story

5) Triumphant revitalization of Aquaman (Throne of Atlantis arc)

6) Titles created just to foster the continuity experiment (Blackhawks, Team 7, OMAC, Threshhold)

7) Crime Syndicate and Forever Evil

8) Darkseid’s destruction of Earth-2 and Superman’s subsequent reign

9) Death of Damian Wayne

10) Skinny Lobo

11) Rotworld arc

12) Justice League Dark formation

13) Central role for The Phantom Stranger

14) Central role for Pandora

15) Future’s End

16) Joker cut off his face

17) Muslim Green Lantern

18) Gay Green Lantern

19) Young Green Arrow

20) Walking Barbara Gordon

21) Brother-killing Batgirl

22) Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham

23) Penguin takes control and loses control and regains control of Gotham criminal underworld

24) Catwoman takes control of Gotham criminal underworld

25) The Riddler brings Gotham to its knees

26) Batman Eternal and Jim Gordon’s blues

27) The most sophisticated Mr. Mxyzptlk story in DC history

28) Guy Gardner became a Red Lantern

29) The Guardians of the Universe were replaced by new Guardians of the Universe after proving themselves fascist tyrants one too many times

30) Kyle Rayner continued to become more messianic

31) Hal Jordan became the leader of the Green Lantern Corps

32) Superboy was a clone of Superman’s wicked son Jonathan Lane Kent from the future and also there were other Superboys

33) Cyborg Superman is… Supergirl’s father?

34) Lucius Fox’s son becomes Batwing

35) Harley Quinn did it with Deadshot

36) H’el on Earth (and Krypton)

37) The Culling of Teen Titans and Ravagers and a general feeling that Scott Lobdell was going to end up writing every title in the DC universe

38) Short lives of good titles (I, Vampire; Voodoo; Mr. Terrific; Captain Atom; Dial H)

39) Huntress and Power Girl, the World’s Finest of Earth-2, arrived on the primary Earth

40) Daniel West is the Reverse-Flash

41) Bad futures depicted in Justice League 3000, Future’s End, Superboy, Teen Titans, and the Legion of Super-heroes

42) Aimless movement from the Legion of the Super-heroes

43) Two heavy-handed comics nobody liked (The Green Team and The Movement)

44) Martian Manhunter with Stormwatch, Martian Manhunter without Stormwatch

45) The return of Lyssa Drak and a Sinestro-led Sinestro Corps

46) Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE and other Dark titles

47) Trinity War

48) Lights Out, Relic, and the draining of the emotional spectrum

49) Trying to figure out what to do with Darkseid

50) Trying to figure out what to do with Deathstroke

51) The Rogues with super-powers

52) Company-wide campaigns particularly in Septmember- 3D covers, MAD variants, Scribblenauts, Robot Chickens, Zero Year, etc.

Spoiler alert: Slade Wilson shoots his eye out!

Spoiler alert: Slade Wilson shoots his eye out!

Welcome to second installment of the World’s Second Greatest Detetective’s 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide! In the first installment, I offered suggestions to those shopping for fans of the television programs The Flash, Gotham, and Smallville, the video games in the Batman: Arkham-verse and Injustice, and the film Man of Steel as well as some suggestions for a person’s individual fancies regarding Superman. While I enjoyed writing that list and believe it could come in handy for a handful of holiday shoppers, I felt quite embarrassed when I got towards the end (blogger’s exhaustion as it were) when I realized I had compiled a list almost exclusively contained heterosexual white males. This is 2014 and while heterosexual white dudes still dominate comics in both content and the industry, there are plenty of interesting characters and talented creators who have overcome the default settings that always inhibited Western media. I’ve included a mere fraction on this list.

COMICS FOR A LESBIAN WHO LIKES BATMAN AND HAS AN ELEGANT TASTE IN DESIGN: Batwoman has consistently been one of the most beautiful books in the past decade. Like Batwoman’s costume, the book’s art has experimented heavily with black, gray, and red to create a superhero book that looks more like a haunted luxury hotel than a comic book. You have two options really: before the New 52 or in the New 52.

BEFORE NEW 52: Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III’s run on Detective Comics has been collected in Batwoman: Elegy. This book stands well by itself and costs less than $20, but if you really want to impress…

NEW 52: I’d recommend the first 4 volumes of Batwoman. J.H. Williams III sticks around and is joined by W. Haden Blackman. Their departure from the series was a small controversy and the story told in these volumes came to an underwhelming conclusion in the first issue contained in the fifth volume, but don’t let that discourage you.

COMICS FOR A LESBIAN WHO ALSO LIKES BATMAN BUT PREFERS CRIME NOIR: I suggest you take a look at Batwoman and if you think the person on your list would like it more if there were less skulls, you need not worry. Renee Montoya, one of Batwoman‘s ‘Eskimo sisters’ and a supporting character on television’s Gotham, is another prominent bad-ass lesbian in the DC universe. Her appearances in the New 52 have largely been limited to the background of the various Bat-titles, but prior to the New 52, Renee Montoya was kind of a star. I recommend Batman: War Games, any of the Gotham Central collections, and The Question: Five Books of Blood. Having made those recommendations, I should admit that I believe 52 is the best Renee Montoya story ever told, but I do not recommend you purchase 52 for a novice DC Comics reader. Much like I wouldn’t suggest Crisis on Infinite Earths for a fan of The Flash television program, 52 requires a good bit of background knowledge to fully appreciate.

COMICS FOR COWGIRLS: Without thinking too deeply on it, I’m going to declare Pretty Deadly as the best current title featuring a female main character, strong female cast, and predominantly female creative team. While I haven’t read everything out there, I feel pretty confident in my assertion because few artists provide layouts that can compare to Emma Rios’s pages and her style works so well with the story Kelly Sue Deconnick has written.

There’s only one collection of Pretty Deadly available, so if you really want spoil the cowgirl in your life, I recommend your pick up all the volumes of The Sixth Gun, a slightly brighter tale than Pretty Deadly with a significantly less creepy art style. The Sixth Gun is also appropriate for a wider age range than Pretty Deadly.

COMICS FOR READERS WHO WANT HISPANIC CHARACTERS AND ARE CAPABLE OF SHRUGGING OFF PATRONIZING STEREOTYPES: In the New 52, there are two characters that I consider guilty pleasures- actually that’s true, a lot of them that are guilty pleasures that require a suspension of  some of my values in the hope of developing a sophisticated world-view beyond good and evil- whether my affection for scantily clad superheroines, ultra-violence, or a bit of racism, something about reading comics makes me lower my ethical guard and it is in this state that I fell in love with the lovable gay Mexican undocumented immigrant Bunker of Teen Titans and to a lesser extent the Detroit-born Latin cheeseball Vibe, appearing in various titles including a his own short-lived title series. I’d recommend the collection of the Vibe series, titled Justice League of America’s Vibe: Breach, to people who like the fashion in Joel Silberg’s cinematic masterpiece Breakin’. There’s plenty in Vibe that worthy of being subjected to the harshest of structuralist, post-colonialist, deconstructionist, etc. critiques- have a friend writing a thesis on representation of Hispanic Americans? This is the book!

However, I find Bunker much more enjoyable than Vibe. Heavily defined by his sexuality, ethnicity, and geographical origins, Bunker comes across as a bright-eyed bundle of sunshine optimism. Everything in the US is awesome! Everything about being a superhero is awesome! Teen Titan Friendship is awesome! I’ve written before about the Othering of the Bunker character and in that post, I focused primarily on Bunker’s portrayal as an immigrant more than as a Mexican gay man and I still believe it is the most heavily contributing factor to his characterization.

COMICS FOR FANS ON THE CONSTANTINE TELEVISION SHOW: If the person on your list likes Constantine, I suggest you go the source material and start at the beginning of the Hellblazer titles. Most of the volumes are priced at $19.99 and can be found cheaper in the rainforest. Each collected volume is about 300 pages, so a single volume is a pretty hefty gift. If the person on your list likes Constantine but wishes John Constantine ran into Superman and Swamp Thing on a regular basis, I’d push you towards the New 52 Dark titles like Justice League Dark (soon to be a major motion picture…maybe), Constantine, The Trinity War, or perhaps the Forever Evil: Blight collection (but that only really works if you also pick up Justice League Vol. 5, Justice League of America Vol. 2, and the Forever Evil main collection…well, maybe not…)

COMICS FOR FANS OF THE WALKING DEAD SHOW WHO EITHER ALREADY READ THE WALKING DEAD OR FIGURE THEY’VE SEEN THE SHOW AND DON’T REALLY WANT TO GET WRAPPED UP IN THE COMIC: There are so many zombie comics out there now and many of them are pretty good. Want a funny zombie book? Try Last Resort. Want a zombie story set in wartime Afghanistan? Try Graveyard of Empires. Prefer the Vietnam War? Try ’68. Is the zombie enthusiast on your list like to be one step ahead of  the crowd (a good move during the zombie apocalypse)? I’d recommend the collection of the digital comic iZombie or the animal zombie tale The Other Dead as both will coming to the small screen some time soon. Still, my top recommendation for zombie books is Revival. It’s a small town tale that does it’s best to reconcile the humanity of their reanimated loved ones with the terrifying implications of the dead coming back to life.

Blogger’s exhaustion has hit again. I should return to present the 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide pt. 3. If you have a comic fan that you’re having trouble shopping for, feel free to send me a description of their interests to waynexiaolong@gmail.com or leave some info in the comments below. Feel free to do so after the holiday season has passed- I’m happy to consult on gifts for any occasion. If one of your celebrity friends had their nude photos leaked by hackers, you might not want to give them a copy of The Killing Joke.

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For the second year, the World’s Second Greatest Detective presents an assessment of the comics I’ve read, awarding accolades to books that impressed me. Like last year’s list, this one comes at the beginning of September because my comics year begins and ends with Dragon Con in Atlanta. A lot of titles that I mentioned last year continue to turn out great work: Saga, Revival, Batman, Manhattan Projects– but I’d rather steer attention to titles that didn’t make last year’s list either because of my ignorance, their slow creep to trade, or the fact they didn’t exist last year. There will also be some categories this year. For example:

Best Comic Book Character portrayed in an animation

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Katana in “Beware the Batman”

I should remind you that I don’t read any Marvel books, though the announcement that Charles Soule is leaving all his DC titles and the particular temptation of his Death of Wolverine has me eying the other side of the fence a bit. My decision to abstain from Marvel Comics is sort of arbitrary, but not totally without reason- limits on time and resource do not permit me the luxury of reading every comic book, so I picked one of the big two companies and don’t read the other at all. Though I do read a lot of independent comics and that’s really where my heart belongs. I picked DC over Marvel because of many reasons, but the simplest is Batman.

Not all of the accolades will categorized. Nor may all those mentioned really be ‘comics of 2014’ in the truest sense. For example, thanks to a generous donation by Oni Press to the WonderRoot Jackie Ormes Comic Book Library. I had the privilege to read two series that knocked my socks off:

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Courtney Crumrin is the fun story about a misanthropic little girl who lives a society worth hating, but luckily finds an uneasy friendship with her witch uncle and a few easier friendships with netherbeasts. It’s a clever book and the content is acceptable for most age levels.

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The Sixth Gun is an epic story set in a very Wild West, shaped by all sorts of occult and heebie jeebie ghost stuff. Cullen Bunn and the other creators of The Sixth Gun have moved onto other things and the news that DC would cancel All Star Western saddened me a little. East of West is still kicking around, but 2014 has  introduced a Western title that I may enjoy more than all three of those titles.

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Pretty Deadly contains some amazing art. Much like the best work of J.H. Williams III or Francis Manpaul, Emma Rios’s artwork stands out for her creative use of the medium. Panels and pages work together to create a fantastic pace. As Kelly Sue Deconnick’s writing takes the story in and out of stories and timelines, the art and especially the coloring distinguish the different parts of the whole quite well. Deconnick opened the Comics and Popular Arts Conference at this year’s Dragon Con with a rousing talk touching on a variety of subjects such as how we learn publicly and with record in a fast-paced technological society and how that empowers a ‘gotcha culture’ which in turn hinders our ability to learn; the use of the white male as the default character; the futility of overly emotional and aggressive responses to opposing ideas; and comic books. Her husband writes a pretty good comic too.

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Sex Criminals is a twist on Bonnie and Clyde, Robin Hood, Out of this World, 9 Songs, the Matrix, A Dirty Shame…and yeah, it isn’t. It’s an incredibly original story about a girl who stops time when she orgasms and a boy who also stops time when he orgasms. They discover this shared ability during the act of coitus and put it to good use, robbing banks to raise money for a library under attack by a viciously greedy bank that the boy happens to work for and where he poops in his boss’s office plant once a day.

Another catergory?

Worst Comic Book Character portrayed in an animation

For the video game-inspired animated movie Batman: Assault on Arkham, a bit of a revolution for the animated superhero movie with its Guy Ritchie-like pace, excessive profanity, explicit sexuality, and a level of violence exceeding even last year’s The Dark Knight Returns, DC made a Suicide Squad movie under the guise of a Batman movie. One thing I like about it is how they retained the original physical attributes of Amanda Waller instead going for the Angela Bassett model. One thing I didn’t like is how they turned King Shark from this:

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King Shark in the comics to:

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King Shark in Batman: Assault on Arkham

He looks a cross between Bane and Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me. Their motivation for desharking the shark is unclear to me. I also don’t understand why David Goyer wants to demartian the Martian Manhunter.

Best Comic Book Companion to a video game

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Injustice: Gods Among Us begins before the video game’s storyline. In the simplest terms, Joker has tricked Superman into killing Lois Lane who is pregnant with Superman’s baby. Superman gets so mad that he kills the Joker, beginning the fascist reign of Superman and a doting Wonder Woman. Because it is an Elsworlds story with so many DC characters involved, the opportunities for bringing the essences and flaws of these characters abound. Tom Taylor wastes none of them. The Bat family is especially well-done is the book- particularly Alfred and Catwoman.

Best Art in a Superhero Comic Book

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Jae Lee did some of the best work of his career during his time on Grag Pak’s Batman/Superman. Of all the superstar artists from the 1990s that have continued in comics, I think the development of Jae Lee’s work has been the most interesting to watch. If you haven’t seen his work on Before Watchmen: Ozymandias, I highly recommend that one too. Batman/Superman is a dreamy book, but it is not without a strong sense of character and expression. This collaboration between Pak and Lee stands out as a triumph in comic storytelling.

Second Attempt That Makes The Most Sense in the New 52

Giving Deathstroke another chance at having his own title. Also looking forward to Gail Simone returning to her Secret Six roots later this year.

Second Attempt That Makes The Least Sense in the New 52

Why are the Teen Titans starting over again with issue 1?

Best Volume 3 collection of the New 52

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Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics fulfilled its own prophecies in Vol. 3: At The End Of  Days. Morrison’s writes for the long haul and sometimes it works really well (Seven Soldiers of Victory, All-Star Superman, the epic story of Damian Wayne, Doom Patrol, Filth). His eighteen issues on Action Comics is separated into three acts, best illustrated by their separate trade collections. Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel comes off as a pretty typical superhero comic- it’s action-packed and reintroduces many classic characters from Superman’s mythology such as Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Metallo (Metal-Zero), and Brainiac. There are few weirdo moments, typical of Morrison’s work, but don’t overpower the straight-forward superhero elements. Vol. 2: Bulletproof is pretty weird, more distinctly Morrison. The story is all over the place, referencing itself, making the most out of the queer moments from Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel, as well as introducing a Barack Obama doppelganger named Calvin Ellis- another dimension’s Superman. Finally, in Vol. 3: At the End of Days, all the kookiness starts to make sense and the details of Clark’s arrival in Metropolis in Vol. 1 become enriched by a Myxlplyxian plot that satisfies the patient reader.

Best Vol. 4 Collection(s) of the New 52

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While The Flash Vol. 4: Reverse, Wonder Woman Vol. 4: War, and Batwoman Vol. 4: The Blood is Thick all continued runs by outstanding creative teams, it is books like the Green Lantern family of books, Justice League Dark, and Green Arrow that have seen new creators come in and take the books in different directions to which I’d like to draw your attention. Much praise has been tossed to Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Green Arrow, collected in Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine. The art distinguishes itself from the unofficial DC house-style and the writing invigorates Oliver Queen as a character. I do think that in praising Lemire and Sorrentino’s work, a lot of undeserved criticism has been thrown Ann Nocenti’s way. Her depiction of Oliver Queen as an Ugly American in the People’s Republic of China is one of my favorite instances of seeing China portrayed in a superhero comic. Jim DeMatteis has seemingly inherited the Dark family of DC titles, emerging from his run on The Phantom Stranger. In Justice League Dark Vol. 4: Rebirth of Evil, he takes over for Lemire- moving the story from Trinity War to Forever Evil territory. The little demon Constantine‘s are great, but I wouldn’t have minded a bit more Frankenstein, my favorite member of the Justice League Dark. With the announcement of Charles Soule signing an exclusive contract with Marvel, I expect DeMatteis may take over Swamp Thing, which had a good, but short Vol. 4: Seeder. Matteis does interesting things with the character in Justice League Dark, but if I was going to pick the new writer of Swamp Thing, I’d go for either Tim Seeley, Kurtis Wiebe, or Angelo Tirrotto. To write an Animal Man title despite his joining Justice League United, I’d recruit Corinna Sara Bechko or Joshua Ortega with the instructions to keep Animal Man dark. Finally, the new slew of Green Lantern creators gave the ring-slingers an exciting year. Ranked best to least best: Red Lanterns, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians. Outside of those Vol. 4s, I was disappointed with the Larfleeze title, but look forward to Cullen Bunn’s Sinestro.

Best Non-Picture Book Author to Write a Picture Book

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Toby Litt on Dead Boy Detectives

When I lived in Ireland, I discovered the work of Toby Litt, an author whose work was not available in the United States, and absolutely fell in love with it. Deadkidsongs, in particular, left me creeped out and inspired. When I heard he would be rebooting the Vertigo series Dead Boy Detectives I waiting in hefty anticipation for the trade to be released. While I was not disappointed, I must admit that Litt has not taken to the medium as quickly as the likes of Brad Meltzer who blew the comics world away with Identity Crisis. I do however see great potential in the future comics work of Litt as he adapts to the medium. Reading the trade, you can see him become more comfortable and, in turn, more capable.

Best Superhero Live-Action Movie

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X-Men: Days of Future Past, like its predecessors, stands well above the rest of the Marvel movies (with the possible exception of Captain America: Winter Soldier). Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, and the rest of the classic mutants put on a great show and new arrivals like Quicksilver brought energy to the film. This and X-Men: First Class are my favorite of the X-Men movies. They somehow managed to make Fan Bing Bing look terrible, which is my only real complaint about the film.

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In conclusion, I’m looking forward to more great comics this year though I have some concerns about a few creative teams at DC (Wonder Woman) and will miss some of my favorite creators and titles as they disappear from the shelves, hopefully replaced by new books of splendor, wonder, and ideas.

 

 

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My wife alerted me to this bit of news earlier this morning and I haven’t seen it reported at all in the English-language press, so allow me to share this with you. The message above was allegedly received by a merchant on the incredibly popular Chinese on-line market place Tabo Bao. The message demands that the seller remove all manga that depict homosexual acts or the homosexual lifestyle from their Tao Bao shop. The demand is in accordance with a policy aimed at producing “a more harmonious society”- the go-to justification for anything in the public policy of the Chinese Community Party. While censorship is nothing new for China, the motivation to restrict information is usually political, personal, or related to promoting a favored business (personal relationship business or Chinese firm over foreign firm). Bootleg films and comics are widely available in China. You don’t have to look too hard. Like in most places, the rise of the internet in China has repeatedly threatened and changed the status quo. Like QQ, Baidu, Tudou, Renren, and Douban, Tao Bao has become an incredible force in the on-line consciousness of China, but unlike those sites, it is still very much rooted in the material world. With this policy and its enforcement, the capability of any resistance movement to use the on-line marketplace to distribute unpopular literature is challenged and a precedent is set for all communities using sites like Tao Bao to engage in less than sanctioned economic activity or rather perfectly sanctioned economic activity in which the content of a book compels the government to intervene its sale and distribution.

In somewhat related news, my wife got me a pretty sweet Batwoman statue for the holidays.

As I recently posted, I’ve considered Batwoman to stand out as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, title in the New 52. The reason for my admiration and enjoyment for the comic is the well-crafted storytelling and innovative artwork of the fantastic creative team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. They announced this week that they would no longer be working on the book because of an editorial dispute that makes DC editorial look really bad. It’s allegedly not a gay marriage issue, but the issue involves gay marriage, so the association is forced. In denying Batwoman her marriage, DC has contributed to the public discourse on gay marriage, even if the decision was entirely motivated by editorial concerns. The fact that it drove such an amazing team from a book they so obviously loved putting together also contributes to DC’s reputation for driving away its talent. Of all the creators who have walked away since the New 52 started, this news is the most disappointing.

In all honesty, I don’t see how a marriage, gay or otherwise, could really screw up the Batwoman story. There could be a very logical progression here- Kate and Maggie get married, Maggie gets killed, Kate is single seeking vengeance.  What could DC have planned that a Batwedding would disrupt? Are all the females characters in the DC universe so busy that none could spare the time to serve as bridesmaids?

In the interest of the democratic nature of the comic book audience-creator relationship, I’m just writing this to throw my two cents in- DC Comics should beg these guys not to leave. I think a regular rotation of creators on titles can be good, especially in big universes like DC and Marvel and especially if a creative team is putting out lousy work, but Williams and Blackman have made Batwoman such a unique title that they deserve better editorial support.

Ten Best Comics of 2012 2013

Like US military intervention in Syria,  Dragon Con looms in the very near future. Feeling less informed on Syria than comics, I present what I hope will be an annual tradition for Wayne Xiaolong. I present my list of the best comics of the year. These are comics that I read between last year’s Dragon Con and this year’s Dragon Con, so rather than mark the year from New Years to New Years, we’ll be marking the year from Labor Day to Labor Day.

THE BEST COMICS OF THE YEAR (in no particular order, but the first one is the best one)

Saga

In my opinion, Saga is by far the best comic book of the year, if not the best comic book ever. Saga continues to amaze not only with each issue, but with each page and in every panel. The dialogue will make you think, laugh, and smile. This book compelled to read most of Brian Vaughn’s back catalog and I highly recommend you read  Y: The Last Man in its entirety and also check out Pride of Baghdad. He’s also producing “Under The Dome,” which is starting out interestingly enough. Fiona Staples’s art is amazing and I am drawing much inspiration from her style on some of my own projects.

Pinocchio Vampire Slayer

This is a fun book put together by two creators slated to appear at Dragon Con, Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins. It was announced at Comic Con that all of the volumes of Pinocchio Vampire Slayer will be collected in an omnibus edition, which is probably the way to read it because the individual volumes are quick reads that leave you wanting more.

Batman

The whole Bat-family of books has been a joy to read since the launching of the New 52 despite the death of my favorite Robin of all-time, which happened in Batman Inc. not Batman. Batman has carried the weight of the two major crossovers in the Bat-family of books, “The Night of Owls” and “The Death of the Family.” Both have been really creepy. Greg Capullo’s art compliments Scott Synder’s twisted imagination to create an almost fatty macabre noir. Really great stuff. Seriously though, all the Bat-books are worth reading- Batgirl, Batman and Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Detective Comics, etc.

68

68 is a zombie book that takes place mostly in Vietnam during the late 1960s. Rich in historical reference and detail, overflowing with sophisticated humor, and filled with consistently creative art (which is often difficult for a war comic), 68 continues find value in an idea that lesser creators would turned into a dull gimmick.

Revival

Like 68, Revival is a book about the dead coming back to life, however the walking dead in Revival retain a lot more motor function.

tenbest20122013

The Flash

The Flash puts the science back in science fiction. The art in The Flash is arguably the best in the New 52.

Batwoman

Remember when I said the art in The Flash is arguably the best in the New 51? Batwoman is the reason for the argument.

Strange Attractors

Nearly all the books on this list use the comic book medium in new, exciting ways specific to the medium. Perhaps most so in The Flash and Strange Attractors. Strange Attractors actually makes me want Charles Soule and Francis Manipaul to team up- the whirring lines in both books almost create a new dimension in the format, elements of movement that challenge the medium but also echo Silver Age Flash as well as the Family Circus. This book is a great gift for anyone from or who lives in New York City. There are a lot of great lines in this book.

The Manhattan Projects

This book is crazy and crazy in a well-researched and incredibly creative way. Hickman’s writing is absolutely top notch and nearly overshadows Patarra’s incredibly innovative art and approach to story telling as well as the book’s sleak overall design.

Lost Cat

More greatness from Jason.

No Place Like Home

I love this creepy spin on the Wizard of Oz and can’t wait to learn what’s really going on.

Hopeless Maine

Tim Burton should direct this comic book. If you like Coraline or similarly creepy stories with assertive young girls facing physically impossible odds, you’ll appreciate this spooky story of orphans and friendship.

Anyway, that’s the list. I better get to bed as I’ll be volunteering all day tomorrow for Dragon Con- figured I’d get as much of my volunteering out of the way on Thursday, so I can enjoy the actual Con. I’m looking forward especially to “Gender, Race, and Identities in Comics” on Friday; the parade, post-parade brunch, Amanda Connor, Darwyn Cooke, Neal Adams, and some Bootie mash ups on Saturday; Jimmy Palmiotti on Sunday (and of course, my own panel “Comics Through a Socio-Political Lens”); and being able to still stand as I do my last volunteering on Monday.

It’s going to great weekend, Atlanta. Maybe it’ll even be a great year.

 

 

bestyworstynew52

This is a continuation of yesterday’s Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 1) which, in accordance with its title, discussed some of the bests and worsts of DC Comics’ New 52. Please keep in mind that all honors are awarded based on their performances in the first collected volumes of their series. If you want me to weigh in on whether or not I approve of Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship, which begins in the second volume of Justice League, I’ll tell you that it’s okay with me because I know Superman’s going to find his way back to Lois Lane.  He loved Lana before he loved Lois and that worked out fine. The Kryptonian heart surely contains as many riddles as the human heart. I don’t blame Diana either because Steve Trevor has always seemed to me like what the porn industry calls a suitcase pimp. He’s a stripper’s boyfriend, a leech, an Andy Warhol Factory vampire. I thought the arranged marriage to Aquaman in Flashpoint was an interesting direction for her love life. I think Kara-El would also make an interesting mate for Diana. Before I start auctioning off rental space in Wonder Woman’s uterus, let’s get to the Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 2), which, in accordance with its title, is a continuation of yesterday’s Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 1) which, in accordance with its title, discussed some of the bests and worsts of DC Comics’ New 52.

Best and Worst of the Superman Family of Titles

Best: Action Comics Sadly, none of the Superman titles approach the quality of stories like All Star Superman, Superman for All Seasons, Red Son, or Birthright. Still each of the titles in the Superman family offered entertaining fair. The new manifestations of some of the classic Superman relationships distinguish the New 52 Superman from his previous incantations. Obviously, there is Clark’s relationship with Lois. She’s very suspicious of him, a suspicion that is long overdue. Lois is a smart woman. Clark Kent is a sketchball with an obvious link to Superman. Finally, we have a Lois who suspects something. In Action Comics, Superman meets some of his classic villains for the ‘first’ time: Lex Luthor, Metallo, Brainiac. He also sees some old friends like Steel and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Grant Morrison seems a little greedy with the Superman mythology, making George Pérez’s complaint that Superman (which takes place 5 years after Action Comics) was difficult to write without the cooperation of Grant Morrison. The book itself is pretty straight comic book story-telling, unlike Morrison’s wilder stuff like The Filth or Flex Mentallo. Another relationship that we see start from the beginning is the relationship between Kal-El and his lovely cousin Kara in Supergirl. Supergirl is one of my favorite characters. I really enjoyed reading about her in the Superman/Batman and Supergirl titles prior to the reboot and I must admit that I prefer her in the skirt as opposed to the Power Girl-esque camel-toe-inducing outfit she has now. Her outfit looks classier in Supergirl than Superboy. She’s a great character. I look forward to seeing more of her in the New 52.

Worst: The premature death of Martha and Jonathan Kent. I don’t know who made the decision to have these two iconic Mary & Josephs die prior to Clark’s arrival in Metropolis, but that was a dumb move.  A lot of Superman’s renewed popularity comes from the success of Smallville, in which Clark’s Earth parents played a significant role. Many Superman fans suffered through Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and only survived because of the contributions of Eddie Jones and K Callan as the Kents.

Best and Worst of the Batman Family of Titles

Best: Batman. I really enjoyed most of the Batman books and the introduction of the Court of Owls as Gotham City’s spooky secret society. The overlap between books was good. I can only imagine the experience of reading Nightwing without knowing that Dick’s a Talon- a great tagline for your on-line dating site: Dick’s A Talon. I like a lot of the new villains introduced in the Batman books, but I like the Owls the best. Greg Capullo’s art is pretty sweet, though the rotating of the actual book is pretty hokey. Still I’m glad they’re experimenting. The most innovative art in the Batman family and possibly the whole New 52 is Batwoman. It’s a pity that J.H. Williams III didn’t continue to do the art after the first volume- no offense to the talented artists currently working on Batwoman, of course.

Worst: Catwoman. Catwoman was an okay book, but the others are much better. On a note unrelated to this honor, Catwoman and Batwoman are always dressing/undressing.

Best and Worst of the Green Lantern Family of Titles

Best: The origin stories of the Red Lanterns’ rages in Red Lanterns

Worst: The cheesy story at the end of Green Lantern Corps where John Stewart returns the GL he silenced with death to the GL’s family, only to have a few heart-warming moments with the GL’s mentally challenged younger brother. The depiction of the mentally challenged brother is insultingly cliché and surely offensive to mentally challenged Green Lantern readers everywhere. Sometimes Green Lantern stories amaze you with their social and political relevance and sometimes they seethe cheese like your grandmother’s knees.

Best and Worst of the Edge Family of Titles

Best: All Star Western. Telling the story of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham in nineteenth century Gotham, All Star Western is a good mystery story. The art’s good, especially the covers. I wish DC had more titles that took place in the past. I’d really like to see some Elseworlds stories in the New 52. As a comic book historian, I like a little history in comics. It’s like wearing another gender’s corset.

Worst: Stormwatch I’m excited to see what Peter Milligan does with it. I really enjoyed his work on Red Lanterns and Justice League Dark

Best and Worst of the Dark Family of Titles

Best: I really, really, really like the three cancelled series from The Dark family of titles: Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Resurrection Man, and I, Vampire. I feel certain that Resurrection Man, Frankenstein, and the other members of S.H.A.D.E. can survive without their own monthly title, but I was really looking forward to the development of the I, Vampire  plot. It’s cancellation is a bummer.

Worst: I haven’t read Demon Knights, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Jason Blood/Etrigan. It’s unfair to assign Demon Knights as the worst, but the other Dark titles are all so solid that I can’t bear to call them the worst.

best&worst

One of the reasons I took the internet and started this site is my hypothesis that superhero comic books are a uniquely democratic art form that has become increasingly democratic with the rise of internet communication. Superhero comic books have traditionally solicited the opinion of their readers. The industry has engaged in all sorts of gimmicks to find out what their audience likes and dislikes. The internet has allegedly made this process easier for the producer and consumer alike. Comic books are magic capitalism, right?

I’ve really enjoyed reading the first round of trades for DC Comics’ New 52. I’ve read nearly all of them and feel confident speaking on those I’ve read. Today I finished Men of War, which will probably be the last of the first round of New 52 trades that I will read. I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts on the reboot with a list of bests/worsts and Men of War sparked the spark, compelling me to finally publish my list of bests/worst, to proclaim my demands and evaluations as a client, to cast my ballot across multiverses in a vain last minute attempt to influence the big decisions like which book gets cancelled (I’m too late) and which authors and artists should get raises. The truth is that I enjoyed every single one of these trades, so the ‘worst’ shouldn’t be taken too seriously except in the first case (Worst Line of Dialogue). The meaning of ‘best’ and ‘worst’ will surely change from category to category.  Sometimes ‘worst’ means ‘failed to live up to my expectations’ and my expectations are higher for Detective Comics than Hawk and Dove.

Best and Worst Lines of Dialogue

Best Line:  In DC Universe Presents Deadman, Deadman and the Son of Morning are playing twenty questions. I’m fond of one of the Son of Morning’s answers to Deadman’s run-of-the-mill philosophical questions.

“God has earned the right to ignore you.”

Worst Line: In the story “NAVY SEALs: HUMAN SHIELDS” in Men of War, Soldier Ice says to Soldier Tracker:

“I got out of the Peace Corps ‘cuz it made realize if you want to do good, it helps to have an assault rifle.”

Well, Jonathan Vankin, the author of the worst story in Men of War, has some interesting street cred. He’s written a bunch of conspiracy books and  edited Tony Bourdain’s comic. He’s an advocate of underground icon Harvey Pekar and he contributed to a shit ton of Verigo stuff and  participated in Brightest DayIf I see Jonathan Vankin’s name on a comic again, I won’t buy it. During my Peace Corps service and most of my life, I’ve found if you want to do good, people will assault rifles are a big fucking inconvenience.

Best and Worst Story Lines from Men of War

Best: “Frankestein and G.I. Robot: Dead Man Flying” by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and Tom Derenick

Worst: The aforementioned “NAVY SEALs: HUMAN SHIELDS

Best and Worst Male Title Character

Best: Robin in Batman & Robin. Damian Wayne is one of my favorite characters and my favorite Robin of all time. I’d really love to see DC produce an animated film of Damian’s arrival into Bruce’s life. Peter J. Tomasi captures what makes Damian different from the other Robins and there’s a lot of difference between Damian and the previous Boy Wonders. Throughout the first trade, Damian and his tortured genius develop alongside Nobody’s nefarious plot, creating one of the more compelling story arcs of the New 52.

Worst: Green Lantern in Green Lantern: New Guardians. Kyle Rayner is the worst Green Lantern and by far the worst lantern in Green Lantern: New Guardians. The book could’ve been called Orange Lantern: New Guardians and avoided the dubious honor of Worst Male Title Character. I don’t mind hating Kyle Rayner too much, so if I was to issue one complaint about the book, I would request more attention be paid to Bleez. She’s a great character, really tears it up in Red Lanterns.

Best and Worst Female Title Character

Best: Batgirl in Batgirl. This is one of the hardest to choose because so many of the best titles in the New 52 are titles featuring female characters. Sorry, Wonder Woman. Sorry, Batwoman. Sorry, Voodoo. The return of Barbara Gordon to the identity of Batgirl brought me much joy. Gail Simone really used the landscape of Gotham, Barbara’s relationships with classic characters, and superb villainous foils to make the narrative of Barbara’s return to Batgirl meaningful.

Worst: Catwoman in Catwoman.

Best and Worst Team Title:

Best: Justice League. Yeah, everybody knows why Justice League is great. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are geniuses. It’s the cornerstone of the New 52, so let me talk about how great Red Lanterns is. In Red Lanterns, Peter Milligan tells the story of a corps in crisis and through that story, he visits the origin stories of many of the Red Lanterns. The artwork is explosive, especially if you like red. As I mentioned before, Bleez is incredible in this book. Her rage and the rage of the other Red Lanterns distinguish this corps from the others and prove why the Red Lanterns, more than any other corps besides the Greens, deserve their own title.

Worst: Stormwatch While I found Stormwatch engrossing and found several of the characters appealing, it lacks the magic that the other team titles possess. Martian Manhunter has traditionally been one of my favorite characters, but his direction in the New 52 leaves me wanting. Where is his personality? Does he just hate everybody now? He was an environmentalist in Brightest Day, Clark’s sort of 2nd round godfather on Smallville, down with M’Gann J’onnz despite their different colors, and a green Harlem Globetrotter for much of his career- you know, he was likeable. I like my Martian Manhunter with a little naivete, a little child-like wonder. Now he’s a super-cop, which is contemporary comics go-to archetype.

Best and Worst Legion of Super-Heroes Title

Best: Legion Secret Origin. I entered the New 52 with only a scant knowledge of the Legion of Super-Heroes. I knew they were from the future and hung out with Superman and Brainiac. I had also read a handful of articles about how the title tried with varying success to deal with race issues. Honestly, I’m pretty ignorant about these characters and feel them to be less important and less interesting than other characters in the DC universe. Because the stated goal of the New 52 is to help introduce new readers to these characters, I hoped this reboot would help me make sense of the scores of characters involved in the Legion. The mini-series Legion Secret Origin does a good of that. It gives these iconic characters as sense of youth, a sense of adventure that may have dwindled under the bureaucracy of the Legion.

Worst: Legion of Super-Heroes. As someone who is not a Legion of Super-Heroes expert, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters I was introduced to. After a few issues, I was able to ascertain which characters figured more prominently in the story and the Legion itself. I like Brainiac-5. I think the story in Legion Lost is more easily understood than Legion of Super-Heroes and deals with time travel more directly.

Best and Worst Member of S.H.A.D.E.

Best: Bride. First of all, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. has been one of the best titles to come out of the New 52 and my heart is broken that it has been cancelled. I really fell in love with Frank and his wife during Flashpoint. The characters in this title are each really special, so choosing one would be hard if Mrs. Frankenstein wasn’t on the team.

Worst: Warren Griffith. He’s a great character, just not as great as the others.

Best and Worst of the Seven Families of Titles (Justice League, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Edge, The Dark, Young Justice)

Best: Batman, with The Dark a close second. Because each family of titles has a different numbers of books in it, I’ve imagined an averaged level of quality, rather than which family has the best or largest amount of titles. Batman has a lot of titles and some are more connected than others. The Night of Owls and Batman, Inc. stories kept the family tightly pretty closely together.

Worst: Young Justice. Besides Teen Titans, none of the Young Justice titles really stood out.

Best and Worst of the Justice League

Best: The Flash, with Wonder Woman a close second. By far, The Flash features the funnest art in the New 52. A handful of New 52 titles exhibit particularly innovative art (Wonder Woman, Batwoman, I, Vampire) and the innovations in the visual representation correspond with the essence of the character being depicted; this is no truer than in The Flash, where speed is translated through blurs, fractures, bursts, and shatters.

Worst: Justice League International. This book is pretty offensive. It perpetuates the misconception that Africa is a country- superhero comic books seem to have an especially hard time dealing with this. General August in Irons represents an impossible China where their highest ranking military officials have never eaten a hot dog- seriously? Chinese people eat a variety of sausages, including hot dogs. Rocket Red perpetuates the same Cold War stereotypes he perpetuated before the reboot.

Keep your bat eyes bat-peeled for part 2, same bat-site, same bat-internet.

 

secret

I’m posting a crossword puzzle that I made based on characters from DC Comics. Hopefully it proves to be a fun and challenging distraction for some of you. Click here or at the crossword link on the top of the page to have a try. Following the link will allow you to see the clues.

realcrosswordeasytoprintforeasyboysandgirls

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