Best Shots Reviews: DCEASED - UNKILLABLES #2, ROBIN 80TH ANNIVERSARY 100-PAGE SUPER SPECTACULAR #1

DC March 2020 solicitations
Credit: DC
Credit: DC

DCeased: Unkillables #2
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Karl Mostert, Trevor Scott, Neil Edwards and Rex Lokus
Lettering by Saida Temofonte
Published by DC
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Tom Taylor and Karl Mostert shake up their lineup in the sophomore issue of DCeased: Unkillables, and while there’s a little bit of rigor mortis stiffness to some of the pacing, Mostert’s Quitely-esque artwork will likely be enough of a draw to keep readers hooked. Unlike the larger-than-life bombast of Taylor’s flagship DCeased series, this street-level book feels more like a traditional zombie apocalypse, as we’re put in the trenches with antiheroes and bad guys like Red Hood, Deathstroke, Ravager, and Bane.

While much of Taylor and Mostert’s opening issue felt spread out amongst the various lead characters, now all the various threads start to come together in some bleakly violent ways. Admittedly, this spinoff doesn’t quite have the same world-shaking scale of the initial DCeased series - after all, we’ve already seen the implications of somebody like Superman or the Flash getting infected with the Anti-Life Equation - but Taylor’s able to bring a different flavor to the proceedings here. For starters, most of Taylor’s motley crew are far more vulnerable than the heavy hitters of the Justice League - only Deathstroke, Ravager, Batgirl and the Creeper have any sort of edge with their respective healing factors or precognitive abilities.

But what really sets Unkillables’ story apart is that while the Justice League was instantly united in a common (but doomed) good, this collection of supervillains, vigilantes and burned-out do-gooders don’t have that same moral compass. Watching Jim Gordon willingly let the Suicide Squad murder a room full of the infected feels like a powerful moment - a bedrock shift of principles in the face of truly dire circumstances. Yet it’s that unpredictability that gives Unkillables some of its strongest moments -you’d never expect a stone-cold killer like Lady Shiva to risk everything to rescue her daughter Batgirl, while Vandal Savage’s uneasy supervillain alliance shifts from betrayal to counter-betrayal in the span of just a few pages.

Of course, artist Karl Mostert is the one doing the heaviest lifting in getting readers to come back for a second helping of DCeased so quickly. His influences from Frank Quitely are deeply apparent, sometimes to the point of discomfort - look at the way he draws Red Hood and Ravager, and tell me you’re not seeing shades of New X-Men or Batman and Robin - but even if he veers a little too deeply into Quitely’s wheelhouse, he’s definitely picked one of the masters to emulate. Mostert thrives most in his action sequences, such as Batgirl squaring off against Lady Shiva - there’s a real grace in the way Mostert portrays arcs of movement, whether it’s Cassandra doing a flip or Shiva giving Jason Todd a shattering roundhouse to the face. That said, Mostert still has room to grow - some of the panel-to-panel transitions can be a little jarring with their composition, like Jason appearing in a fight scene out of nowhere, or Jim Gordon pulling a gun on Shiva from such a distance that it’s easy to miss on the first read.

While some might critique DCeased: Unkillables for not being quite different enough from the initial maxiseries, I might argue that was DC’s plan rather than an outright flaw - given the runaway success of the first installment, why mess with a clearly lucrative thing? But thanks to Mostert’s dependable artwork, Taylor has managed to find some new storytelling angles with this same horrifying high concept. If the original series didn’t scratch that Anti-Life-infected itch for you, you’ll likely find a lot to like with DCeased: Unkillables

Credit: DC

Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1
Written by Marv Wolfman, Chuck Dixon, Devin Grayson, Tim Seeley, Tom King, Judd Winick, Adam Beechen, James Tynion IV, Amy Wolfram, Peter J. Tomasi and Robbie Thompson
Art by Tom Grummett, Scott Hanna, Adriano Lucas, Scott McDaniel, Rob Hunter, Protobunker, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Hi-Fi, Mikel Janin, Jeromy Cox, Dustin Nguyen, John Kalisz, Freddie E. Williams II, Jeremy Colwell,Javier Fernandez, David Baron, Damion Scott, Brad Anderson, Jorge Jimenez, Alejandro Sanchez, Ramon Villalobos and Tamra Bonvillain
Lettering by Tom Napolitano, Carlos M. Mangual, Troy Peteri, Steve Wands, Rob Leigh and AndWorld Designs
Published by DC
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

The not-always-a-Boy Wonder is 80 years old, and DC has put together a loving tribute to the most popular sidekick in comics history. It doesn’t matter which main continuity Robin is your favorite, they are all accounted for here, with work from Marv Wolfman, Devin Grayson, James Tynion IV, Judd Winick, Damion Scott, Ramon Villalobos, Tom Grummett, and more. It’s not a perfect anthology, but it's not meant to be. It’s meant to showcase these creators’ love for the character and Robin’s legacy in the DCU.

I won’t get too into the specifics of each story. Robin has been through so many permutations over the years that not every approach will work for every reader. The Dick Grayson sections by Judd Winick and Chuck Dixon, for example, don’t really hit for me despite their massive success with the character. However, the Tom King and Tim Seeley-scribed Agent 37 tale with Mikel Janin delivers a tight story with some of Janin’s best art in years. Meanwhile, Devin Grayson and Dan Jurgen’s story feels like a story that works around the character of Nightwing rather than really engaging with him, but it’s a fun nod to his history with the Titans.

While Dick Grayson gets the lion’s share of the real estate as the 80th birthday boy, the anthology also takes time to give a shout-out to his successors, as well. Judd Winick and Dustin Nguyen deliver arguably the best story in the collection, a heartwrencher about Jason Todd that really sums up his relationship to Batman and the Bat-Family, given that Jason was the first person to really have to grapple with the Robin legacy as well as Dick Grayson’s sizable shadow. James Tynion IV and Javier Fernandez’s story takes a look at the legacy through Tim Drake’s eyes, and probably does the best at taking (sorry) a birds’ eye view of what it means to be a Robin and how a character as unique as Tim Drake finds his place amidst characters who have forged their own paths.

With the first three Robins getting fairly traditional stories, the final three installments of this anthology take some of the wildest swings in terms of art style. Amy Wolfram and Damion Scott check in on the origins of Stephanie Brown’s costume, which provides a nice bit of levity to go along with Scott’s cartoony and hyper-exaggerated art. Two other stylistic highlights include Peter J. Tomasi and Jorge Jimenez showing how Damian Wayne’s friendship with Jonathan Kent has defined the modern Robin dynamic with some truly beautiful and compelling visuals, while Robbie Thompson and Ramon Villalobos provide their own tribute to Damian’s complicated relationship with his father, given additional ambiguity and intensity thanks to Villalobos’ quirky style.

All in all, this is an effective anthology that showcases these creators' talents and the different eras of Robin. Not every story is going to be for every reader — there’s not a huge showing for Stephanie or Jason Todd, for example, while Carrie Kelly only gets a pin-up — but I’m sure most fans won’t be upset by these portrayals. Comics are so much about our relationships with the characters that we love. But strangely, sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint why we love them. This anthology does a good job of trying to get to the heart of each of these Robins, and it makes for a solid Wednesday read.

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