JUSTICE LEAGUE: Darkseid War Part One by Geoff Johns and several artists kicks off a Big Event that launched last year and ran until a couple of months back (such is our age). Unfortunately reading the story of Darkseid’s opening battle with the Anti-Monitor convinces me DC has no idea what to do with Jack Kirby’s New Gods (much like the Orion reboot in Wonder Woman). The backstory of how Mr. Miracle was enslaved on Apokalips to stave off a cosmic war comes off quite mundane in Johns’ telling—if he’d been sold to R’as al Ghul or Dr. Doom instead of Darkseid it wouldn’t have made much difference. And I’m heartily tired of Johns’ villains showing their evil by threats of bodily violation (“I will rip the spine out of his body!”). And similar to Johns’ Green Lantern run, he uses this opening volume to seed lots of stuff running way into the future, none of which inspires me (this new origin for the Joker looks frightful).
MS. MARVEL: Crushed (primarily by G. Willow Wilson but also Mark Waid and multiple artists)was a disappointment after the previous volume, as the main plotlines are a)Kamala’s parents fix her up with a cute Pakistani and b)Inhumans plot to take over Jersey City as the new master race. Plotline A is stock (I’ve seen this kind of Immigrant Traditional Parents Fix Up Daughter plotline in a fair number of sitcoms) and B just shows how Inhumans are the new mutants. Some fun bits though such as Loki crashing the prom at Kamala’s high school
BATGIRL: Family Business by Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher has Batgirl run into multiple other members of the “Batman Family” including Huntress, Dick Grayson, Batwoman, Batwing, the Gotham Academy cast plus discovering her father is now Batman and trying not to let crimefighting get in the way of her maid-of-honor duties at a friend’s wedding. This is a lot of fun, without the plot holes of Vol. 1 and even making Bat-Gordon interesting.
PASSING STRANGE: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha A. Sandweiss chronicles the double life of Charles King, a once-legendary geologist and explorer of the American West who sometime in the late 1800s met Ada Copeland, a former Georgia slavewoman, and passed himself off as a light-skinned black man to marry her (Sandweiss notes the One Drop rule may actually have made it easier for a white guy to represent himself as black). Unfortunately we have no first-person accounts of how the couple met, whether Ada ever suspected the truth, etc., etc., so Sandweiss is limited to discussing what might have happened (I give her credit for not presenting her guesses as facts, as some do) which sucks out the dramatic potential. And away from his double life, King isn’t that memorable a character. So not a winner.
THE JEFFERSON RULE: How the Founding Fathers Became Infallible and Our Politics Inflexible by David Sehat argues that the tradition of politicians invoking The Wisdom Of America’s Founding Fathers to justify particular policies goes back to Jefferson painting the Federalists as heretics veering from the True American Tradition, which of course coincided with his own views. Sehat then traces this line of argument as it’s employed by both sides through the decades (both FDR and his adversaries claimed the Founders’ mantle), and concludes this hurts politics by ducking the question of which policies are actually good for America. More informative than I expected, though for me it bogs down from the Reagan era onward (but if you’re not as familiar with the past 30 years of political debate, you may like it better).
THE REPEAT YEAR by Andrea Lochen is mainstream fiction with a do-over plot: a woman wakes up New Year’s Day to discover it’s twelve months ago and she has a chance to change the events that drove away her true love. Unfortunately, people persistently want to react the same way as the original timeline, even when she warns them what will happen … This is way too talky in the serious-literature way (lots of conversations about people’s emotional epiphanies) but that’s more a matter of personal taste than quality, so YMMV. And of course the concept is so familiar to me just now, that I’m more critical than if I’d read it say, five years ago.