It Happens Once A Year: Graeme Takes On Some Recent DC Annuals

April 7, 2015

Covergence #0 might have been the most high-profile title DC released last week, but it was just one of a number of books designed as “events” in their own right — I got no less than five annuals in my comps package, all but one intended to tie in with storylines in the ongoing series, and each from a series that I’m not currently reading in single issues (or at all). So, for the first time in a long time, it’s some capsule reviews. Nostalgia ahoy!

Batman & Robin Annual #3: The outlier of the group, Batman & Robin not only stands alone by only having one artist for the whole book, but it’s also the only annual not to actively be involved to storylines from the regular book. Instead, it’s a wrap-up for Peter Tomasi’s book as a whole, and enjoyably ridiculous as such — it sees Batman and Robin take care of some shape changing aliens on the moon, because what about that doesn’t sound like an everyday Batman story? It’s silly, sentimental and complete in and of itself; a great little annual, in other words. (Juan Jose Ryp’s art is nice, too.)

Batman/Superman Annual #2: This is an odd one, seeming like a done-in-one that ties in previous goings-on in the Superman series right up until the end, when it’s revealed that it’s apparently the first part of a storyline that’ll run in the post-June run of the book. It’s an ending that kind of ruined the book for me, to be honest; to that point, Greg Pak and an army of artists had created a fun-enough romp about a powerless Superman surviving multiple attempts on his life, much to the consternation of a Batman who’d rather he stay someone quiet and let other people deal with it, but then it becomes a “to be continued in June… when everything changes!” cliffhanger, and the throwaway quality that seemed attractive is squashed. File under “Probably more fun if you’re reading the book anyway.”

Batwoman Annual #2: Poor Batwoman; this issue, which seems to be the final part of the series, wraps up Marc Andreyko’s run on the book and — as someone who remembers what this was like under Greg Rucka and JH Williams back in the day, man, this book has undergone some changes. Not only has Andreyko brought an almost impenetrable fantasy/horror storyline to the issue, but he’s also turned Kate into the leader of a superhero team that also includes Ragman and Clayface because… well, I don’t really know. The bigger shock, though, is the art here — Batwoman was always a book that looked slick and beautiful before, and the jam issue here is… not that. It’s not that the art’s bad (although Georges Jeanty’s work looks rushed at points, and is ill-served by Karl Story’s inks), but it’s an entirely different look and aesthetic than what came before, and as someone who read the book back then, it’s a disorienting experience revisiting it and finding it quite so different. The entire thing feels far more generic than it used to, and as a result, much more easily dismissed. A shame, really.

Sinestro Annual #1: Easily the best of the five annuals with Cullen Bunn using the multiple artists to full effect, turning the issue into an anthology of origin stories (It’s even titled “Sinestro’s House of Mystery,” amusingly enough). There’s a framework that seems to fit very much into the ongoing series — it even appears to pick up from a cliffhanger of sorts at the opening — but it’s not overwhelming enough to make the book too confusing for new readers like me; Bunn manages to keep the origins short enough to have impact (leavened with more than a little humor), and the art — from the likes of Daniel Warren Johnson, Mirko Colak and Andy Kuhn — manages to have enough individuality to offer visual variety, but enough similarities in tone to work as part of the same universe. The result is something that makes me want to check out the regular Sinestro book, and surely that’s the end result everyone wants, right?

Teen Titans Annual #1: And then there’s this book which… maybe makes sense as a middle chapter in an ongoing storyline, but as a standalone annual is just maddening? Not only is there no real explanation of what’s gone before — did Superboy commit the slaughter he’s accused of? I have no idea — but there’s also no resolution to any of the events contained herein. It’s an annual that has no need to be an annual, with a story that feels like it’s just spinning its wheels instead of giving any forward motion whatsoever. It’s a mess, something that feels like the most random X-Men comic from the 1990s, only without the brand awareness of a Wolverine or Cyclops. In other words, despite the presence of Grayson‘s Tom King on plot and co-script, best left avoided.

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2 comments on “It Happens Once A Year: Graeme Takes On Some Recent DC Annuals

  1. Vernon Wiley Apr 12, 2015

    Great capsules, Graeme! It’s a great service here you’ve done here, helping folks avoid really crappy five dollar comics, as well as pointing out the decent ones.

    I might of given Convergence a chance had the zero issue been anything but a sad hot mess (also five bucks!), but DC clearly has other things in mind these days when publishing comic books.

    Thanks for your enilightened opinions, reading the books I can’t, and thanks to DC for giving you these free so that you can tell us to avoid them when necessary. Whatever happens, don’t be goofy like CBR and give just about everything the big two publish a passing grade.

    I have to say, good comics criticism on the web is extremely rare, and it’s always a pleasure to read Jeff and your eduacated rants.

    • Paul Spence Apr 14, 2015

      I agree with you, Vernon. Part of the appeal of the podcast, and the reviews on this site, is that they express views that are different from what is offered up by a lot of the mainstream comic book press.

      I have read reviews on other sites that were an uncritical rave of a book that was awful. Graeme and Jeff do not follow trends, but express individual opinions. Sometimes I agree with them and sometimes I don’t, but they offer viewpoints that are well thought out and expressed in an entertaining and humours way.

      I tend to give more weight to the opinions of the Whatnaughts because they can actually explain what works, or does not work, in a particular book. This is far more preferable to the uncritical praise you can find at Comic Vine and CBR. Can anyone forget the idiotic rave review CBR gave to the final issue of Age of Ultron? That was pure obsequious book licking of the Marvel Teat that was positively cringe inducing.

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