GLORY: The Once and Future Destroyer by Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell picks up Image’s counterpart to Wonder Woman (much as Supreme was their Superman) a decade after her series ended. Riley, a young Glory admirer, finally tracks down the legendary warrior only to learn the hard way that she’s becoming more of a danger to humanity than a protector. Interesting enough I look forward to the next volume.
JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER: All His Engines by Mike Carey (of Unwritten) and Leonardo Manco has DC’s working-class, chain-smoking occultist taking a hand when an old friend’s niece falls into a coma. Turns out that she’s been caught up in a demon’s scheme to open up a small Hell of his own rather than engage in the real Hell’s cutthroat power struggles. But Constantine knows how to outmaneuver both demons and gods … An entertaining story, though Constantine’s too annoying for me to do more than tolerate him as a central character.
JSA:The Liberty Files by Dan Jolley and Tony Harris is an “Elseworlds” novel (imaginary stories about What If the DCU had turned out differently) in which secret agents Bat, Owl and Clock (Batman, Dr. Midnite and Hourman in our world) are sent to stop a German superweapon which turns out to be an alien superman powerful enough to wipe out the allied war effort. This is entertaining in the World War II years, a little less so post-war (much closer to a straight Justice Society story with slightly different costumes).
BIRDS OF PREY: Your Kiss Might Kill by Duane Swierczynski, Javier Pina and Jesus Saiz is a disappointing follow-up to the first volume. Not only is there no follow-up on the mind-controlling villain in that one, this TPB gives a big revelation early on (Black Canary murdered her husband) then largely ignores it for a story in which Poison Ivy forces her team-mates to become ecoterrorists (I could understand it fading into the background, but apparently nobody even asks Canary about it). The individual issues are good, but they don’t add up to a whole.
FABLES: Werewolves of the Heartland by Bill Willingham and Jim Fern is set shortly before the defeat of Mr. Dark in the main Fables book. Out on a mission for his fellow Fables, Bigby Wolf stumbles into a town of werewolves born indirectly out of his WW II experiences with the OSS. Unfortunately, the town is a seething mess of alpha-male werewolves jockeying for supremacy and Bigby’s presence starts everything catching fire. Not first-rate, but good; I imagine we’ll see some follow-up eventually.
In my teens, I was delighted by Marvel creating Captain Britain as giving the UK it’s own super-hero seemed very cool (Britain had its own comic strips, but to make it into Marvel or DC? Wow). CAPTAIN BRITAIN: Birth of a Legend by Chris Claremont, Gary Friedrich, Herb Trimpe and others reprints Brian Braddock’s transformation into his country’s champion, then pits himself against super-villains Hurricane, the Reaver, the Manipulator, the Highwayman, Dr. Synne and the Red Skull (with Captain America crossing over), not to mention the obligatory super-hero hater Inspector Thomas (who actually announces himself when he shows up as “the cop who hates super-heroes.”). Enjoyable (although the last story arc was dreadful) but like many TPBs, the format makes story glitches glaringly obvious: In one arc, Brian discovers his father’s experimental computer is an evil AI, then it’s completely forgotten about.
Given I’ve enjoyed Terry Carr’s other anthologies, FANTASY ANNUAL III is surprisingly disappointing. While it has some excellent stories, such as Stephen King’s “The Crate” and Walter Tevis’ “Rent Control” (a couple discover they can stop time as long as they don’t argue) and a Manly Wade Wellman Silver John story, a larger number than his earlier collections fall flat: “White Horse Child” by Greg Bear is too preachy and the Bad Father in Orson Scott Card’s “Eumenides in the Fourth Floor Laboratory” is almost a caricature in his evilness. Even Fritz Leiber, one of my favorite writers, disappoints in the meandering ruminations of “The Button Molder” though the ghost’s final appearance is indeed terrifying. A disappointment.