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  1. #1
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    Default DC's Crimes of Passion Special

    I'm getting to be a sucker for these holiday anthologies on occasion. They're not typically the strictest continuity tales, they're often just a place for stable writers or newer writers to get a short in.

    This one was great. Let me break it down.

    1. BATMAN.
    Steve Orlando writing is what got me to flip through in the first place. Here we get a tale that does something neat, it jumps us back to Batman's earliest days and his girlfriend with the least screentime ever - Linda Page. And it basically rewrites their break-up into something that could fit into any given canon, feeling both modern but also pretty darned Golden Age, with stylish art reflective of that, probably the only story in this Century that's going to give Linda Page her due.

    2. WILDCAT.
    The Wildcat story isn't really anything special from a story perspective but it does a few really nice things. Riley Rossmo's stylish art feels like it draws a direct 1:1 line between Golden Age Wildcat and Frank Miller Daredevil. Like, an uncanny line. And two, while it's not even remarked upon, there's a twinge of interesting dynamic in the fact that if it's meant to be a Golden Age or 1940s story, the other boxer being black with a white girlfriend, something hardly out of the ordinary now, in the context of the Golden Age still pings your "oh that might be a scandal back then" memories in your brain. Obviously not enough room in short stories to really explore or get into that. But if you want to see Rossmo do a Wildcat that feels like Frank Daredevil, it's gorgeous.

    3. PIED PIPER.
    Surprisingly good. Not the worst in the pack. Clean, nice, "Flash Family" art. Funny new character who's quite a goon. Looks at some classic costumery. This one's nothing too special but I don't think it's the worst of the lot. Probably only remarkable for being the Gay orientation chapter in this romance anthology, but characters on point, with a healthy relationship guy, a guy with a past who tries to do right, and an unhealthy guy trying to mess things up. Cute.

    4. GREEN ARROW & BLACK CANARY.
    Thought this was one of the weaker ones. I like their romance fine, it's still one of my favorite DC duos and I liked his poking fun at their 'day jobs' but it comes down to a pretty dopey anti-bullying story with little intrigue.

    5. PLASTIC MAN.
    This one was more fun. Mostly because of Mike Norton's inspired choices for how Plastic Man shifts and hides and sneaks and bends and transforms.

    6. BATWOMAN.
    Probably the most conceptually interesting story in the book, as Jordan Clark and Kieran McKeown (whose work resembles Cully Hamner) actually legitimately set out to make this into a reconciliation or patchwork fix for the fallout of the post J.H. Williams DC Editorial decision to split up Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer and not let them get married, sticking Andreyko with the dirty work, the fallout, and also Andreyko's choice to have Kate get honeypotted by a debutante vampire jewel thief ... which admittedly, as Film Noir and Detective tropes go, happens to like every Detective Super-Hero so was bound to happen to Batwoman at some point, too. But man, Clark & McKeown actually address it all ... it's weird and awkward and maybe inexpertly told and consigned to this little short story in a Valentine's Day Anthology book where nobody will ever see it. And it's actually ... good. I mean Nocturna is a bookmark in it who is on the lam, hiding in the wrong town, and deserves to get punched in the face, but she just talks some poor super-villain crap, doesn't have much motivation here, and exists so Batwoman can punch some of her emotional problems in the face. But the rest is really a nice, intriguing little package that'll never get dealt with or directly referenced ever again in any Batwoman runs, so I suggest anyone that still has feelings about how that whole thing went down a few years back check it out, if only for this - it feels like a weird historical footnote.

    7. SLAM BRADLEY.
    A nice but pretty pointless addition with nice but pretty pointless art. It's nice to see Slam Bradley, but there's no real continuity nods or anything here. It's not like it's Sam Bradley and it's referencing the current state of Bat/Cat while reconciling the Brubaker years or anything. It's divorced from any meaning other than "Here's Sam ... Obligatory Batman cameo ... femme fatale ... getting old."

    8. NIGHTWING & BATGIRL.
    Probably the worst of the lot for me. I love the two of them like they're people I really know, I dig Nightwing's Rebirth threads and Batgirl's Burnside threads. I like way more Sam & Diane storylines with them than I probably should. But this still felt unnecessary.

    9. CATWOMAN.
    Funny. Just plain funny. And Abel's art is really nice. This one is more contemporary and feels like it could be a misadventure Selina had just after leaving Batman in Batman # 50 and running around on her own for a bit trying to figure things out.

    10. THE QUESTION.
    Yeah this one is the winner. A really out of the blue choice. Honestly, while there's a Crime of Passion in it ... it's not really any kind of a romance. It's like ... a brutal and bleak little Question story that just happens to have a villain who has problematic emotional shit going on. It's Hub City and that stark Film Noir grit, with perhaps a dash of Watchmen style narration putting it into a kind of earlier Vic Sage mold than a later Charlie mold. Ram V keeps it pretty tight, it's a very short, simple little Question story, and the selling point is John Paul Leon doing The Question. It's gorgeous. He colors his own work here.

    11A. Bonus Points.
    Harley Quinn does not appear in this comic book. I adore Harley Quinn, but I'm not an unreasonable human - this book still gets bonus points for her being nowhere to be found.

    11B. Bonus Points.
    The cover, while cheeky and ridiculous, also doesn't happen anywhere. It's obviously just meant to riff on those old Romance Comic covers. I do like the cover art a lot.
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  2. #2
    Extraordinary Member j9ac9k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by K. Jones View Post
    10. THE QUESTION.
    Yeah this one is the winner. A really out of the blue choice. Honestly, while there's a Crime of Passion in it ... it's not really any kind of a romance. It's like ... a brutal and bleak little Question story that just happens to have a villain who has problematic emotional shit going on. It's Hub City and that stark Film Noir grit, with perhaps a dash of Watchmen style narration putting it into a kind of earlier Vic Sage mold than a later Charlie mold. Ram V keeps it pretty tight, it's a very short, simple little Question story, and the selling point is John Paul Leon doing The Question. It's gorgeous. He colors his own work here.
    Thanks! I had no idea the Question was going to be in it - and it's a good story?? Love JPL too - I might have to get this...

  3. #3
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    Good review of a book i hadnt even heard of.

  4. #4
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    A couple thoughts. I'll not do a story-by-story breakdown, since K. Jones already has done one, and I agree with a lot of their thoughts (and am grateful for the added background on the Batwoman story).

    The first is that this very much feels like a throwback to DC of old, to a world filled with femme fatales, boxers, grizzled P.I.s, double-crossings, men in ties, no good choices, and a general melancholia. As such it reads rather differently to most of DC's current output. If that's a good thing or a bad thing I leave to the reader, but I think it shows that there are lots of themes and narratives that are unexplored in modern American comics.

    The second is the lack of female contributors. Only two women among the eleven writers (one story is co-written), no women among the artists, and a single woman among the colourists that I could see. I think that sadly says something about DC's goal about diversity among its creators: anthologies like these should be a natural vehicle for reaching out to and nurture new and aspiring creators.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  5. #5
    Spectacular Member Hatut Zeraze's Avatar
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    I love DC anthologies. They are so consistently good!

    Two of my biggest takeaways...

    Wildcat
    - I had the same connection between Rossmo's art style and the style of Wildcat's old 1940s stories as K. Jones in his opening post. I have been reading the golden age Sensation Comics on the DC streaming service and Wildcat is a regular backup in those. I could go for more Rossmo-illustrated Wildcat stories.

    The Question
    - Great story! My biggest takeaway, though, was that this may be the first Question story I have ever read that seems to have taken a cue from the 2005 6-issue miniseries by Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards. That mini-series had a take on The Question that was basically ignored and never referred to again...until Crimes of Passion. In that mini-series, Vic Sage, in addition to how he has been traditionally portrayed, had acquired the ability to "walk in two worlds", which let him see things on a metaphysical plane that were invisible to most of us. He used it as a kind of urban shaman, talking to cities (in that series, Chicago and Metropolis), beseeching the cities for their knowledge and assistance, seeking to help and serve them. In the third panel of the Crimes of Passion story, they use the phrase "I see another who walks in both worlds, as I do." - phrasing almost identical to that used in the 2005 mini. Throughout the Crimes of Passion story, his narration refers to another voice to whom he is referring, finally revealed, at the end, in the question "Why do you speak to me each night, Hub City?" While talking to a city is not an unheard of literary device, especially in noirish fiction, when uttered from The Question, in the same story as the phrase "walks in both worlds" and drawn by John Paul Leon, whose style is not dissimilar to that of Tommy Lee Edwards from the 2005 mini, the inspiration is made very clear. If the 2005 mini is a Vic Sage Question from another universe, then this Crimes of Passion story is absolutely set in that universe.

    Not that such a level of comparative analysis is needed. This story can and probably should be enjoyed as just a very nice, short comic story.

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