What Are You Reading? | Three Jokers, Young Justice and WARHAUSEN!

See what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately.

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Smash Pages crew has been reading lately.

Let us know what you read this week in the comments or on social media.

Carla Hoffman

God bless America, I got to read WARHAUSEN – a Kickstarted comic based on independent wrestling superstars WARHORSE and Danhausen (thus the title of the book) and written by Jason Doring, with art by Meghan Huang and Benihamino Delvecchio.

Wrestling and comic books are two great tastes that go great together like chocolate and peanut butter; they can also be very, very rich on their own and combine into a taste too strong for the human palette, like cacao beans and raw peanut oil.  While rock bands, kids’ cartoons and kaiju have all translated well enough to the four color world of the comic book, wrestling has been very… hit and miss, with an emphasis on miss.  There’s a certain type of camp that needs to be accepted when reading a wrestling comic, that we all become hyper aware of the fact that these characters, good and evil, will be settling their disputes in a wrestling ring or fighting over a decorative belt.  Out loud that sounds silly, but there’s very little difference between that and settling World War II with fisticuffs and battling for a very fancy glove.  So to read a wrestling comic is to buy into the general conventions of comic books themselves and sometimes that can be very jarring for the average reader.

But, if you go along for the ride, enjoy the nonsense of it all and get swept away by the characters themselves, oh it’s a great time.  WARHORSE has been recently seen on the show AEW Dynamite and instantly projects his character from his first steps to the ring: he’s a heavy metal brawler who has come here to rule ass and headbang!  A lot of fun to watch in the ring, he’s also gone on to work a lot of promos online, from his Twitter account to YouTube documentary, to bring his character to life outside the squared circle.  Danhausen is much the same, a horror movie host styled wrestling pop culture madman, Danhausen is a man-hausen to be seen and experienced.  With a variety of online activity entirely in character, he has recently gotten a contract with wrestling promotion Ring of Honor.  Both are kind of cult phenomena within the independent wrestling scene and have teamed up with other wrestlers for this unique comic.

It really reminds me of the heyday of ‘90s indy comics, where everyone and anyone could put out a newsprint book and hope that they were the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Cerebus; when people put comics on the shelves with little skill or art but a whole lot of ambition and pride.  The story is fun, moves fast and has a great sense of humor and heart; there’s an irreverent seriousness to these characters, where wrestling astronauts on the moon is perfectly in line with learning to forgive old tag team partners and getting therapy.  The art is wildly colorful and clean, great pacing and design for a lot of wrestling action and emotional expression.  My one complaint is that the lettering is really hard to read.  Apologies to letterer Rob Jones, but the word bubbles could have been spread out more and the font tweaked to keep the art intact and still read the clever dialogue. 

Wrestling fans, do NOT miss out on this book: it’s everything you would want from a book fighting apathy and entropy with sweet elbow drops and chair shots.  Indy comic fans, this will transport you back to a time when anyone’s notebook doodle could become the next big hit among comic fans and bring back a very earnest tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that was once thought to have been left in the quarter bins.  WARHAUSEN is available online from Sonic Trail Creative, writer Jason Doring’s comic imprint for self-publishing. 

Love that Danhausen.

Shane Bailey

I read Three Jokers recently and I don’t think what it did was really necessary, and it doesn’t stand alone as you have to have read The Killing Joke to really get it. I feel like the whole series was just really badly planned from concept to execution. The miniseries was seeded in the main books, supposedly an issue that will effect continuity and the main DC Universe as a whole, but instead became a non-continuity Black Label book that may or may not have happened at some undetermined amorphous date. Ultimately we didn’t need to know the real Joker; it’s a story that doesn’t matter about a story that doesn’t matter.

I don’t mind Geoff Johns; I used to really like his work. His Flash run was good because he was just telling a story. That’s it. He was, month to month, telling a story in the DCU. It’s when he tried to be the tent pole guy over and over that he seems obsessed with being this huge thing. When he writes events, that ends up being his biggest issue. It becomes more about the thing and less about just telling the story.

The sad thing is the impetus for this story and the conclusion doesn’t even make sense and is written by the same author four years apart. Batman sitting on Metron’s chair, with all knowledge available to him, asks to learn the Joker’s real name, but in this series to make Batman sound super smart and capable, he says he knew the Joker’s name a week after he met him. It just makes no sense and makes Batman seem dumb, not what was intended.

What really disappointed me is that this series is full of attempts to talk about what trauma can do to a person but it does so in such a way that you can tell the author didn’t consult with anyone who has actual PTSD or suffered trauma like this. It’s hamfisted tropes borrowed from other places masquerading as something deep and profound.

I will say Jason Fabok has put out the best work of his career here, and I’m really impressed with his work. Every time I see his work, it’s better than the last time, and he’s a legit star. I still love his standalone Swamp Thing issue he did a while back.

This was supposed to be the end of a DC Universe-wide, four-year mystery to change how we think about DC’s most famous villain moving forward. Instead, it’s a book that just doesn’t matter. It solidifies the origin of the Joker told in a book that is supposed to be in/out of continuity, destined to be forgotten. 

Tom Bondurant

This week Young Justice #20 came out. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and David Walker, drawn by Scott Godlewski, and colored by Gabe Eltaeb, it was the final issue of the current volume, cancelled as part of DC’s overall cutbacks. I was a fan of the original Peter David/Todd Nauck YJ from 20-odd years ago, and this was a good companion to that series. It wasn’t as expressly wacky, and it emphasized the characters’ relationships more. While that was all welcome, it basically rolled back the clock to those versions of characters like Impulse and Superboy. As such, it asked (sometimes literally) “How does this book exist?”

Still, these meta elements managed to coexist – if not facilitate – a laid-back hangout vibe where there could be hugging and feelings, but also jaunts through the Multiverse. Godlewski’s art was vibrant and bouncy, assisted ably by Eltaeb’s colors, making the book a treat for the eyes and (probably) keeping this reader’s interest whenever the mood got too mellow. Such was the case for this issue, a spotlight on Teen Lantern as she was confronted by Green Lantern John Stewart over the unauthorized use of an Oan-energy device. Like everything else in this series, Teen Lantern’s backstory is a mix of elements from across DC’s still-fractured timeline. Specifically, her power comes from a prototype that Hal Jordan wielded back in 2015, around the time Jim Gordon was Batman and Superman was slightly more powerful than a bulky guy in a tight T-shirt. None of that matters for this particular issue, because it’s about her still being able to hang out with her BFFs, and them collectively asserting their status as the young Justice League. I get the sense that this is a final issue only because DC has deemed it to be, inasmuch as (spoilers!) Young Justice will continue in some form. It’s a low-key ending for a book that seemed designed to comfort fans of a certain age, and succeeded.

I also enjoyed Star Wars #8, written by Charles Soule, drawn by Ramon Rosanas, and colored by Rachelle Rosenberg. Continuing the story of Tarkin’s apprentice Zahra, it is almost a standalone tale of her raid on the Rebel fleet. It doesn’t do much in the way of damage or casualties, but it wasn’t supposed to. Instead, Zahra only wants to get into Leia’s head, to throw her off her game so that a later attack does more harm. I’m not sure that it’s as devastating a blow as Zahra thinks it is – surely being captured and interrogated by Darth Vader twice is more intimidating – but there are plenty of space-battle sequences and Luke showing off his new yellow lightsaber, so that checks a lot of boxes for me.

Finally, as a birthday present I got DK Publishing’s new DC Comics Cover Art book, sporting hundreds of familiar covers from 85 years of publishing history. From Joe Shuster to Greg Capullo, it’s a lot of eye candy; and it includes a decent amount of non-superhero work as well. As you might expect, there is a lot of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, which threatens to crowd out trends like the ’60s go-go checks. In fact, I don’t think there’s any real discussion of what goes into cover design, from holographic gimmicks to the old list of what sells (gorillas, the color purple, frantic questions). Still, this book is more about the artists than the commerce, and it’s a good sampling of characters, series and illustrators.

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