THIS WEEK: The DC Round-Up crew convenes for their monthly roundtable, with discussion of Shazam! #1, Peacemaker Tries Hard! #1, and Batman #135/900.
Note: the review below contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comic in question, check out the bottom of the discussion for our final verdicts.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Dan Mora
Colorist: Alejandro Sánchez
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Cover Artist: Dan Mora
Joe Grunenwald: Welcome, everyone, to this week’s DC Round-Up! We’ve got a trio of DC titles to talk about this week, starting with the debut of Mark Waid and Dan Mora’s new Shazam! ongoing series. Team, what did you think of their take on The World’s Mightiest Mortal?
Zack Quaintance: You mean The Captain? I LOVED it.
Cori McCreery: FINALLY. FINALLY SOMEONE DOES SOMETHING ABOUT MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE SINCE THE NEW 52 STARTED.
Quaintance: That being…
McCreery: USING SHAZAM! AS HIS FREAKING SUPERHERO NAME. IT WAS DUMB HE COULDN’T SAY HIS OWN DANG NAME.
Grunenwald: This is a lot of all-caps for just kicking things off, friends.
Quaintance: good note joe
McCreery: Listen Joe, this has eaten at me for eleven years, let me have it.
Grunenwald: I did really appreciate the acknowledgment that not being able to say his name was annoying for Billy. What did you think of how “The Captain” nickname was introduced?
McCreery: I think the fact that it began as a joke between siblings makes it even better for a character who is a literal child.
Quaintance: I liked it, too. I thought it was all pretty natural and good that the characters took it on themselves to figure it out. That’s a fun way to do it.
Grunenwald: Agreed on both counts. It felt organic to the characters and not like an obvious ‘See what we did there?’ from the creative team.
Cori, you mentioned the fact that Billy is a child. A thing I loved about this issue is how clearly it delineates what it’s like mentally to be Billy vs. being The Captain. What the wisdom of Solomon actually means is something that it doesn’t feel like has ever really been explored, and the explanation for it here is so smart and fresh.
McCreery: I liked that too, especially the juxtaposition that Billy gave it, in that the Wisdom tempers childish impulses, and that as a kid sometimes it’s just good to have those. You’ll have to shove them aside too much as an adult to do that as a child.
Quaintance: I feel like being a little juvenile is in the spirit of the conversation here, so I’d like to add, plus also The Captain rides a dinosaur and it rules.
Grunenwald: I was going to add, also smart and fresh are the talking alien dinosaurs. What a fantastic way to start an issue.
Quaintance: That’s a better way to say it, but yeah, it really set the tone so well.
McCreery: Yeah, it really felt fun in a way that a Shazam! book should feel you know? We’ve been blessed with two really good Shazam! series recently, and it’s just nice.
Quaintance: One thing that was interesting to me here was how Dan Mora’s artwork looked with Alejandro Sánchez‘s colors, as opposed to his usual creative partner, Tamra Bonvillain. It’s definitely a different look, but I thought it worked well for this comic.
Grunenwald: Yeah, that definitely stuck out to me as well. I feel like Sánchez’s colors almost make Mora’s linework feel lighter, and the combo fits the tone of the book exceptionally well.
Quaintance: Yeah, Bonvillain’s coloring has been absolutely perfect for books like World’s Finest and Once and Future, very vibrant and sort of grandiose. Things here are a little more pulp, newsprint-y, in my opinion, and it works really well.
McCreery: To me, the Captain, should always feel like he’s right from the Golden Age, and I feel like this did that.
Quaintance: I did have to adjust a minute, because I was so used to the Mora-Bonvillain combo.
McCreery: Speaking of the Golden Age, what’d you all think of the change to W.H.I.Z. Radio?
Grunenwald: I think it makes a lot of sense as an update for Billy to be a podcaster, and it makes a lot more sense than him being a child reporter.
Quaintance: Yeah, I thought it was cool. The kind of update that feels necessary and well-measured. I think it’s a safe bet that podcasting is here to stay at this point, and also something a kid his age can do relatively easily.
McCreery: Yeah, hard for a 14-year-old to get a job at the radio station in 2023.
Grunenwald: Is he the first superhero podcaster? I know Beetle and Booster were livestreaming via Skeets during their miniseries. Any final thoughts on Shazam! #1 or are we ready for verdicts?
Quaintance: I’m ready. BUY for me. A great and very satisfying comic.
McCreery: I think I’m ready to rule on it. And my verdict is that it rules. BUY.
Grunenwald: Yeah, it’s an easy BUY for me as well. Waid’s take on the character is really entertaining, and Mora continues his streak as the best superhero artist in comics.
Peacemaker Tries Hard! #1
Writer: Kyle Starks
Artist: Steve Pugh
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Becca Carey
Cover Artist: Kris Anka
Grunenwald: Next up we have something completely different, the debut of the new Black Label series Peacemaker Tries Hard! from writer Kyle Starks, artist Steve Pugh, and colorist Jordie Bellaire. How’d we enjoy this one, gang?
Quaintance: I just laughed a little to myself thinking about some of the SFX in it, so I’d say I liked it.
McCreery: So I’m not the world’s biggest comic book Peacemaker fan, I don’t know that I’d ever read a single comic with him that I’d enjoyed. But I loved John Cena as Peacemaker in The Suicide Squad and his self-titled TV show. And this book absolutely matched the vibe of that Peacemaker.
Quaintance: It definitely did. It felt like a really clear and well-done extension of the show. But not in a cheap, movie/TV tie-in kind of way. The comics craft in here is excellent, power by A-tier creators like Starks, Pugh, and Bellaire.
Grunenwald: I’m with Cori in also never really caring for Peacemaker, but this book was fantastic, and made him more sympathetic than I’ve ever seen him. Poor guy just wants a friend.
McCreery: Joe, I think you’d mentioned you haven’t watched the show. You need to rectify that. (Yes, this is a call-out post.)
Quaintance: Let him hear it in the comments readers!
Grunenwald: Yeah, if the tone of the show is similar in tone to this book I definitely will. (And I actually expected to be called out for also just wanting a friend.)
Quaintance: Funny you should mention him wanting a friend, though, Joe, because he kind of gets one this issue…curious what you all thought of his new buddy.
McCreery: Bruce Wayne is fantastic. I can’t wait to see more of that guy.
Quaintance: So, we’ve known about the dog since the cover art, but I think that name is hilarious and will be a big hit with fans.
Grunenwald: Every comic is better with a cute dog in it. I don’t think Bruce Wayne is quite as cute as Dick Grayson’s dog, Haley, but he’s still a Very Good Boy.
Quaintance: And it goes without saying, nothing bad better happen to that dog, or else I don’t know what I’ll do.
McCreery: Make fun of Joe, probably.
Grunenwald: Yes, please don’t John Wick this book.
Quaintance: I really want to talk about the funny SFX in this one, but also don’t want to spoil them. That’s a type of Art a reader should experience as intended.
McCreery: They were great, and I agree, not to be spoiled.
Grunenwald: Definitely not. Letterer Becca Carey really knocked those out of the park. I thought the visuals throughout this book were pretty fantastic.
Quaintance: Steve Pugh is such a good cartoonist, and Jordie Bellaire a perfect colorist for him. It looked great. I can’t wait to see what kind of other visual gags are coming our way. But really, credit due to the editor who assembled this team or greenlit the idea. I know Kyle also said that this book was born out of someone on Twitter tweeting, “Kyle Starks should do Peacemaker.” And he RTed it and it went from there.
McCreery: Just a really well done and funny book, the first Peacemaker comic I’ve ever enjoyed. Well done team.
Grunenwald: That’s editor Matthew Levine and group editor Chris Conroy, for the record, Zack. Agreed, great job by all involved.
Quaintance: Good on them. To sound like someone younger and more online than me, the vibes are immaculate at Black Label right now. Anyway, I’m a BUY on this one. Get ready to laugh.
McCreery: Absolutely a BUY for me as well.
Grunenwald: Mileage may vary depending on what you want from your superhero comics, but I’m a big fan of laughs, cartoonish violence, and profanity, so it’s a BUY for me, too.
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Mike Hawthorne & Adriano Di Benedetto, Jorge Jimenez, and Mikel Janín
Colorists: Tomeu Morey and Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Grunenwald: Finally, we have Batman #135, aka issue #900 of the dark knight’s solo-starring series, and the conclusion of “The Bat-Man of Gotham” from writer Chip Zdarsky, artists Mike Hawthorne & Adriano Di Benedetto, Jorge Jimenez, and Mikel Janín, and colorists Tomeu Morey and Romulo Fajardo, Jr. Does this finale land well?
McCreery: I think so? I think I need a little more time to ruminate on things, but I enjoyed it enough.
Quaintance: I’m also still kind of processing. It was definitely action-packed and a satisfying read. There’s a lot in this one.
McCreery: I think the twist kind of felt like it came out of nowhere for me, which makes it a little tougher to fully enjoy.
Grunenwald: It’s an extra-sized issue and there’s a lot going on, but overall I thought it was a really satisfying conclusion. The arc overall felt to me kind of disconnected from what I thought was an incredibly strong first arc from Zdarsky and Jimenez, but I thought this final issue tied things together really nicely. I do agree that the twist with Red Mask feels like it came out of nowhere, and there’s a bit of multiversal wibbly-wobbly there that I’m still trying to wrap my head around, but the whole back half of the issue was just a super-fun romp.
McCreery: I did enjoy the multiversal romp. Seeing Prime Earth Batman interact with all those other universes was a joy.
Grunenwald: I’m also a huge fan of when artists do their own take on other artists’ styles, which Jimenez does here absolutely flawlessly.
Quaintance: Some of the parts in here are just great. Batman headbutts a foe and stabs them with his ears.
Grunenwald: Using the ears as a weapon is not something I can recall having seen before. It’s so fun.
McCreery: I really appreciated Adam West giving our Batman his utility belt.
Grunenwald: The payoff of that against the Jokerized sharks was brilliant, too.
McCreery: “A Batman more prepared than me!”
Quaintance: There’s so much great stuff like that in that sequence, which goes on a really long time for what it is. There’s extended sequences within it, too, like the Batman Beyond bit. It’s really a kind of must-read for a hardcore Batman fan, I think.
Grunenwald: As the 900th issue, it felt really appropriate as a celebration of so many different iterations of the character. I thought the wrap-up was a little rushed, though. I would’ve liked to see more of Robin involved in the journey.
Quaintance: He’d sort of been on his own journey in the back-ups, but they could have intertwined sooner, I suppose.
McCreery: Yeah, we saw a lot of his portion in backups through the rest of the arc, but we didn’t get a lot that actually led him to find Bruce.
Grunenwald: He did, and I really enjoyed those back-ups. I just like when Batman and Robin are together. What’d you think of the last page reveal/cliffhanger?
Quaintance: The smiling Batmen?
Grunenwald: The Batmen of Zur-En-Arrh across the multiverse.
McCreery: The Batmen of Zur-En-Arrh were a fun little touch, I do hope we see more of them.
Grunenwald: That aspect of Batman has played such a big role in Zdarsky’s run, I feel like it’s a safe bet there’ll be follow-up on that. I also still really want to know about the Robin of Zur-En-Arrh that was teased in one of the earlier issues of the run.
Quaintance: Oh right, I forgot all about that!
Grunenwald: Any final thoughts on this issue before verdicts?
Quaintance: None for me. I’m a BUY on this one too.
McCreery: I won’t be the wet blanket, it was still enjoyable enough for me to give it a BUY.
Grunenwald: You know, it doesn’t have to be unanimous, Cori. But it is, it’s a BUY for me as well. This book was super-fun.
McCreery: I’ve gone against the grain before! Just not today!
Grunenwald: And that’s it for this week’s roundtable! See you all again next month!
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