Strange Love Adventures #1 – Stephanie Phillips, Rich Douek, Rex Ogle, Andrew Marino, Che Grayson, Devin Grayson, Jackson Lanzing/Collin Kelly, Ram V, Writers; Jon Sommariva, Scot Eaton/Wayne Faucher, Geraldo Borges, Pablo M. Collar, Jon Mikel, Roger Robinson, Christian Duce, Phil Hester/Eric Gapstur/Ande Parks, Artists; Rex Lokus, Hi-Fi, Nick Filardi, Dee Cunniffe, Tony Avina, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Colorists
Ray – 8.5/10
Ray: Another anthology is upon us, with eight oddball Valentine’s Day stories. How does this book stack up to last year’s outing?
First up, Stephanie Phillips returns to Harley Quinn with Jon Sommariva in “Lightning in a Bottle.” It’s a hilarious, ridiculous tale where Harley—in a flashback while she was still with Joker—gets angry after a breakup, vandalizes the JLA headquarters, and gets into a fight with Shazam. That’s enough to win the approval of Black Adam, who thinks she would make a fine queen and member of his lightning army. Little about this makes sense—but it all comes together in the ending, which makes it fit much better into the theme of this anthology.
Things get even stranger in “The Grodd Couple,” by Rich Douek and Scot Eaton, a Flash story that starts with Barry racing home with gifts for Iris—only to find her slow-dancing with Gorilla Grodd. One would expect it to be a mind-control story—but it’s actually about Grodd seeking Iris’ help for his romance with the mostly-forgotten Gorilla villainess Primat, who loves human romance novels. This results in a particularly odd double date as Barry and Grodd fight to get along for the women they love. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s funny.
“Love of Country” by Rex Ogle and Geraldo Borges focuses on Peacemaker, probably DC’s least-romantic hero—until now. When we meet him, he’s carefully putting together a Valentine’s Day card for his sweetheart. He gets called into duty when the Fearsome Five attack, proceeds to brutally beat them and create a few fatalities, and then get back to give his Valentine to the one he loves more than anyone else—with a ridiculous punchline that proves Ogle knows how to write this character. Like the one before it, it’s a comedy story more than a romance one.
Andrew Marino and Pablo M. Collar turn the focus on a character who hasn’t a spotlight in a while—Jaime Reyes, aka Blue Beetle II in “Ritual of Love.” He’s getting ready for a first date when a pair of giant rock monsters are fighting and the Scarab calls him into action. Only the rock monsters view fighting as a courtship ritual, and now the female thinks Blue Beetle is her mate after he saves the day. The outcome is particularly funny and reminds me a lot of the best Spider-man stories as he tries to salvage both cosmic and Earth romance. And really, isn’t it time Jaime got his own series again?
Che Grayson and Jon Mikel have one of the most unusual stories in the volume in “In the Name of Love,” focusing on Superman being Billy Batson’s wingman. When Billy is invited to the wedding of his crush’s mom, Clark agrees to come along to coach him in how to make his move. But when the virtual wedding—an odd sci-fi twist—gets hijacked by the bride’s vengeful ex, Superman and Shazam spring into action. The action moves a little too fast and furious here, but the characterization of our two heroes is top-notch.
“Service” by Devin Grayson and Roger Robinson doesn’t really fit with the theme, but it’s nonetheless the best story in the volume by a fair margin. Told from the perspective of Alfred as he repeats the butler’s creed to himself, it follows the history of the Bat-family and how he held it together through wordless scenes accompanied by his narration. The visuals here are brilliant, it’s great to see the entirety of the Bat-family celebrated, and I love seeing a tale that acknowledges Alfred’s impact on the world’s greatest heroes. Now bring him back.
For something completely different, “Romance on Dinosaur Island” by Lanzing, Kelly, and Christian Duce is a complete delight. Sgt. Rock is marooned on the titular island out of time, assuming he’s a lone survivor, and becomes oddly invested in the romance between two velociraptors. He keeps himself sane by mapping their progress, intervenes to keep larger predators from tearing them apart, and ultimately makes a fateful decision based on the faith they’ve restored in him. It truly lives up to the title of the anthology, but it really works.
Finally, Ram V and Phil Hester bring us home in “Dinner for Two.” As Bruce is forced to call off his Valentine’s Day date when Riddler sends him a cryptic message, Batman goes on a chase of the five people Nygma cleverly alluded to. This winds up being a chase through the many people Riddler left behind over the years, the people he almost got close to but was pulled away by his compulsions. It raises some very interesting questions about Nygma and what drives him, and is probably the best Riddler story I’ve read in years.
Overall, this is a solid anthology that gets better as it goes along—and the last three stories are excellent.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.