As DC winds down its first year of the New 52, it's the perfect time to return to the yearly tradition of Annuals! Over-sized tales of the DC Universe that CHANGE EVERYTHING. Or sometimes, not so much. Here’s some quick-hit reviews of the one-shots hitting comic book stands today:
GREEN LANTERN ANNUAL #1
If you want to go by “importance,” this issue is probably the most important annual hitting this week to the overall fabric of the DC Universe. It - somewhat - ties up the first year story arc featuring Hal Jordan and Sinestro as Cosmic Buddy Cops, and sets up the next few months of stories with the “Rise of the Third Army.” Plus, it brings writer Geoff Johns back together with penciller Ethan Van Sciver. If anything, that underlies the importance of this issue to DC, as the duo have worked together before on other big issues like "Green Lantern: Rebirth," "Sinestro Corps War," and "Flash: Rebirth."
Though this one-shot isn’t as gob-smackingly exciting as those previous first issues, Sciver and Johns deliver a solid Green Lantern story that serves as an easy entry point for new readers, folds in even more wrinkles into Johns’ already expansive GL mythology, introduces a hideous new villain, and as always Sciver delivers dynamic superhero art better than nearly anyone in the industry.
THE FLASH ANNUAL #1
There’s a pretty key line on the second page of this comic - which stands as one of, if not the best issue of the New 52 "Flash" so far - where the main character says, “Just start slow. Focus. Build my speed. Look ahead at the horizon.” And there, with one simple sentence, co-writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccallato lay out exactly how this comic is going to work, from the first page to the last.
Through a series of short stories focusing on different characters in the "Flash" universe, we find out how the Rogues got their powers upgraded, a little about the background of Barry Allen, and some teases for the future. And then things rapidly start to go nuts, before ending a page so fantastic, I literally laughed out loud. Like the "Green Lantern" annual, this is a great entry point for new readers not just because it teases the next year of stories, but because it shows off everything that’s working about "The Flash." Right now, that’s a whole lot.
BATMAN: DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL #1
On the opposite end of the spectrum is this comic, which - despite knowing exactly who Batman is, and who most of the characters in this book are - left me feeling a little flummoxed. I’m guessing this is a continuation of the Black Mask storyline from "Detective Comics," based on clues in context, but I’m not 100% sure? Help?
It also doesn’t help that despite some generally good looking character shots from the art team, there’s a couple of wincingly strange panels, including one where a Bruce Wayne straight out of a romance novel rides towards a table piled with fruit and lemonade which seems to be floating in thin air. There is a nice villain fight towards the end of the issue, and some intriguing teasers for the future, but I’m imagining this has far more pay-off for the constant reader than the casual one.
JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL ANNUAL #1
I’m probably as surprised as you are that the most exciting issue of "Justice League" this week isn’t JL #12, it’s this issue - which, mind you, ties in heavily to the events happening over in "Justice League: Regular Stylez." In fact, despite having only read the first few issues of this JLI, the script by Geoff Johns and Dan Didio is supremely clear, full of big emotion, and big danger.
No spoilers (though you can probably figure out the villain from the cover), but this issue fondly recalled the “Deathstroke taking down the entire League” fight from "Identity Crisis," or - given the unbelievable odds facing Booster Gold here, a certain fight with a little guy named Doomsday. Jason Fabok’s art and framing are also excellent here, which is good news for his upcoming run on "Detective Comics." All in all, a great, high stakes comic with a corker of an ending.
SUPERMAN ANNUAL #1
Like several of these other annuals, Superman is bringing together plot points from other books, bringing the threat of the Daemonite invasion to another level. Still, with all this connectivity, it doesn’t have enough time to really feel like a Superman story. Not only is a lot of time spent on other characters, but this is - on purpose, mind you - the middle of a story, not the beginning, or the end.
Because of that, it ends up feeling a bit unnecessary, despite clearly being composed of several stepping stones. It also doesn’t help that the first half of the issue, at least, is rather confusingly laid out. It clears up as we go, but before we start getting into the fight scenes, it’s supremely hard to follow. I’m curious to see where this story is going, it’s clearly an important one to the overall DC Universe. But this issue doesn’t add enough character, or danger to raise that curiosity to the level of “must read.”
All of the issues reviewed here are on comic book stands starting August 29th, from DC Comics!
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