On this week’s episode, I’m digging back into the comics Brian Michael Bendis had a hand in creating after moving from Marvel to DC a few years back. Expanding on Episode 41, this time I’m focusing on just the Wonder Comics imprint that he started which featured his own work as well as that of others like Mark Russell, Stephen Byrne, Amy Reeder, Joe Quinones, Sam Humphries and others on books like Young Justice, Wonder Twins, Amethyst, Jinny Hex Special and Dial H For Hero.
George Marston’s Newsarama story about Bendis’ Jinxworld imprint moving to Dark Horse is what spurred me on to read these books in the first place. It’s also where I learned that he was no longer DC-exclusive starting earlier in 2021.
Going back a bit, Bendis leaving Marvel for DC was such a big deal that George Gene Gustines wrote about it for the New York Times in 2017.
Also, big thanks to Carole over at Comic Book Treasury for creating the Bendis Superman/Action Comics Reading Order page that I used to start this journey.
Here’s the very informative interview with the writer himself conducted by Joe Grunenwald for The Beat.
Before wrapping up, I also mentioned the debates between Bendis and Kirkman about creator-owned comics, which you can read a recap of on CBR from 2008!
If you asked me what the best show on TV is, I’d probably say something like Mad Men, but the truth is that my favorite shows just happened to return recently. And no, it’s not Downton Abbey, though that is a great show. My favorite shows on TV, heck my favorite television concept right now, is Cartoon Network’s DC Nation. If you’re unfamiliar, this is an hour of TV that runs at 10AM on Saturdays and Sundays that’s made up of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Young Justice and a series of shorts based on various interpretations of DC’s stable of heroes. As a gigantic and longtime fan of DC Comics, this hour is tailor made for me, luckily, it’s also made up of high quality shows that absorb me more than plenty of other shows on this season.
Green Lantern: TAS follows Hal Jordan, Kilowog and their artificial intelligence Aya running around the galaxy fighting threats, many of which are based on Geoff Johns’ run on the Green Lantern comics, it’s spinoffs and events. I’m not exactly sure how the seasons break down, especially since Cartoon Network decided to put DC Nation on hold for like three months, but currently, this group is trying to figure out how to stop the Manhunters and their boss The Anti-Monitor. Since returning, this search knocked Hal into an alternate dimension that was all steampunk-y and brought the gang to the home of the Blue Lanterns.
The fun thing about Green Lantern: TAS is that all of this material seems new even though it’s heavily based on comics I’ve read. That’s partly because unlike Batman or Spider-Man, there haven’t already been plenty of iterations of these characters and what they’ve done. It also helps that a lot of the material they’re mining comes from the last few years and doesn’t go way back to the Silver Age. I mean, you’re not watching huge-headed Hector Hammond in CGI on every episode, but instead focusing on the space cop elements of the book that I love so much. My only complaint? Not enough Green Lanterns. I think we’re building towards something big that will involve all the colors of the Lantern rainbow fighting Anti-Monitor and the Manhunters. Did you guys see the episode with Ch’p on Oa? How awesome was that? More Ch’p!
I actually talked to Young Justice creators Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti about the cartoon back when I was still working at ToyFare. They were cagey about a lot of the details because the show hadn’t debuted just yet, but I could tell they were really ambitious about this project. I had no idea at the time how ambitious though, even though they explained to me how each episode had a date and time stamp that would also coincide with the tie-in comic. Maybe it’s my cynical nature, but I still thought, “Okay, we’ll see.” And boy, did they show me.
My wife and I started watching the series, the premise of which has the Justice League using a team of young heroes to go on covert missions against villains all the while dealing with their youth. The first season, which was fantastic, was followed up by the second which is shockingly amazing. Between season there’s been a five year jump in continuity, some of the biggest members of the Justice League are missing, an alien alliance has a giant metaphorical gun pointed at the planet and all kinds of changes have gone on in the Young Justice world.
The beauty of a series like Young Justice is that, unlike a lot of other superhero cartoons, it doesn’t just repackage existing stories, but instead builds its own stories using the ones that have come before it and compiling something new and possibly better. There’s a clear reference in the season’s subtitle to the 80s crossover event Invasion, but they also pull from classic Justice League comics — I freaked out when Despero showed up last weekend — and even the fantastic Blue Beetle series from a few years back. It’s really like they took the whole chronology of the DCU, put various elements on notecards and then threw them all over the room to get rid of the order and then put them back in a way that made sense in service of their story.
Another aspect of this series that I really like is how you really have to either keep up or just sit back and enjoy the ride. There is a mountain of story so far in this season, a mountain I have trouble remembering for the most part. I wonder how kids keep up with it or if they have any trouble. I’m able to rely on my existing DC knowledge to fill in some of the gaps, but it’s all new to them. They’re better at absorbing information than adults are, so maybe it’s not a problem for them. The cast of characters is pretty huge at this point and the second season not only introduced plenty more, but also had a few characters switch up their superhero identities. I love not knowing what all is going on and trying to remember if we’ve had certain things explained or if they’re going to come to us eventually. I’m patient, so I don’t mind waiting for the slow burn.
DC Nation also has a ton of excellent shorts that I adore. The only one that gets on my nerves is that weird British thumb ting that uses kids voices, that’s just not in my wheelhouse. But, I’ll take a few of those every season just to get to a Plastic Man, Animal Man, Amethyst, Thunder & Lightning (Black Lightning’s daughters), Anime Batman, Super Best Friends Forever (shown above) and a ton of others. I’d actually love to see Cartoon Network get behind something like SBFF or Thunder and Lightning and give it a full series of episodes. I’m sure the idea of building a whole series around female superheroes worries CN execs, but I think there could be a real future there.
With Teen Titans Go and Beware The Batman getting added to the DC Nation block, I’m even more excited about where DC Nation is going. I’m not sure if those two shows will bolster the block to two hours instead of one or if the new shows will replace the old and trade off when new seasons are ready. I’m super happy with DC’s animated situation right now between DCN and the straight-to-DVD movies they keep nailing (a bunch just got added to Netflix Instant, so I’m going to get caught up!). Can’t wait to see where things go from here.
SPYBOY/YOUNG JUSTICE (Dark Horse & DC)
Written by Peter David, drawn by Todd Nauck and Pop Mahn
Collects SpyBoy/Young Justice #1-3
I fully intended for this belated Trade Post to feature an all WildStorm line-up, but then I realized that I had already reviewed Authority: Harsh Realms, which I re-read and liked better this time around. Anyway, I had already read this crossover between two Peter David books and figured this fun and lighthearted look at teen superheros fighting and teaming up would fit in perfectly well with some hardcore WildStorm stuff (it’s not really that hard core).
Anyway, as it turns out, this book isn’t very good, which is disappointing because I am a gigantic Young Justice fan. Ben and Rickey turned me onto the book when we were all still at Wizard and I’ve gone back and gotten all the issues I didn’t already have. On the other hand, I’ve never read a SpyBoy comic. Here’s the problem with the book, I just didn’t care about the story. David intertwines the worlds of the characters very well, but since I’m not familiar with the SpyBoy Universe, so anything on that side wasn’t all that interesting to me. So, I’m guessing if you’re familiar with both books, this will be awesome for you.
My other problem was that I don’t like Mahn’s art. It starts off pretty solid, but it’s almost unreadable by the end of the book. I’d rather they just had given the entire thing to Nauck as I think he’s a rad artist (and also a rad dude). So, there you have it. As only a Young Justice fan, the book wasn’t really for me because, frankly, I just wanted more Young Justice that I hadn’t read yet. I would definitely consider giving SpyBoy a read though and maybe revisit this book later.
THE AUTHORITY REVOLUTION VOL. 1 & 2 (WildStorm)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Dustin Nguyen
Collects Authority: Revolution #1-6 and #7-12 respectively
I’ve talked about how much I dig WildStorm in general and The Authority more specifically, but I still haven’t read everything. In fact, I didn’t even know that Brubaker wrote anything for WildStorm aside from Point Blank and Sleeper, so when I saw these two volumes written by him and drawn by the excellent Nguyen on Sequential Swap, I zeroed in and traded for them. Luckily I was not disappointed.
There is a volume or two between these two books and the end of the previous volume that I had not actually read yet, so I was a little confused on some of the details and how the characters would go from here to the places they were when WorldStorm happened. The overall story here is that a version of Henry Bendix returns to screw with the Authority, leading them to disband for a while. We also get to meet the new Doctor, Rose Tattoo and a grown up Jenny Quantum, plus an entire world of the previous Jennies. The thing I really like about what Bru did with this comic is that he mined the history of this team along with other WildStorm books and created a helluvan interesting story that I dug. I’m not sure if newbies would be able to jump in and appreciate the story, but I had a lot of fun with it. These will be going on the shelf (or more accurately in the box) with my ever-expanding collection of WS trades.
CAPTAIN ATOM: ARMAGEDDON (DC & WildStorm)
Written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Collects Captain Atom: Armageddon #1-8
I’m not sure if I would recommend Captain Atom: Armageddon to anyone but die hard WildStorm fans, Captain Atom fans or people who want to know exactly what the hell has been going on in the WildStorm U over the past three years. The idea here is that after exploding trying to save the world in Superman/Batman, Cap pops around a little bit and then ends up in the WSU, the only problem is that he’s going to destroy the universe and there’s nothing he can do about it. In an effort to try and help himself and not be guilty of universe-cide, Cap visits with just about every team and hero on the planet, getting some assistance and also into his fair share of fights. I do think it’s interesting that he considers this reality so much more distasteful than his own with their heroes who do what they want (mainly the Authority).
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Pfeifer does a great job with the story, it’s just a bit long. I enjoyed it because I’m such a WS geek, but I could see how it might get boring for newbies. I also really liked the ending because, well, it results in what the title promises, but instead of ending in nothingness, things get resorted and sometimes restarted.
Here’s the problem though, this lead to one of the more confusing periods in the history of WildStorm as most of the books relaunched but to different degrees and varying levels of success and output. WildCats came out by Grant Morrison and Jim Lee. Or at least one issue did. Morrison’s Authority drawn by Gene Ha got two issues. Then Gen 13 seemed to have been completely restarted from the ground up, though that was somewhat explained later on (it wasn’t enough to keep me reading that book at the time though). On the other hand, Stormwatch seemed to carry on without any hiccups and just changed focus. I don’t even remember what was going on with Deathblow aside from the fact that he was talking to a dog and died. Plus, ever since the post-Apocalyptic nature of the WSU now, it’s not really necessary reading unless you need to know every beat. All that said, I thought, like Bru did with the Authority run, that Pfeifer weaved a really great story using the tapestry of the WSU and Camuncoli did a great job with the art, giving the book a literal edge that it needed.