Braving the gauntlet of Big Two events, prestige format risk-takers, off-the-radar indie releases and a non-stop avalanche of floppies is DoomRocket’s HOT PRESS. With so much media out there screaming for your eyeballs, HOT PRESS is here with short-burst news and reviews of the latest stuff you should be paying attention to. This week: DC’s second attempt at making its “Round Robin” tournament feel like a good idea, thoughts on the first episode of ‘Moon Knight’, and stuff I’m reading right now.

by Jarrod Jones. Greetings from DoomRocket HQ! I’m sure you’ve already read Kate Kowalski’s advance review of Paris, Arpad Okay’s latest edition of REQUIRED READING, and, of course, you’ve read this month’s UNDERCOVER at least twice. Brian Eno’s piping into the room, sunshine’s on the desk, coffee’s in the mug—what say we knock out a quick newsletter?

– DC, a comics company that absolutely loves to trend on Twitter for seemingly any reason, has decided to go for seconds on its imperfect “Round Robin” tournament. You remember “Round Robin,” the thing that made so many folks on Comics Twitter furious last year by announcing the titles of 16 possible DC projects and then arranging them in a March Madness bracket deal where fans voted for what… sounded good, without any clue as to which creators would be attached to which project. Robins won out last year, a Bat-family miniseries that a lot of people felt was going to win regardless of overall quality or the increasingly oversaturated Batman-centric nature of DC’s current output. So far, it hasn’t been a very good book. (Robins wraps up in April.) So what was accomplished here, exactly?

You can read the synopses for this year’s 16 titles here. Also, here’s this year’s bracket:

At least DC’s house logo designer is getting paid for this.

You’ll note that the 15 losing titles from last year did not pop up on this year’s bracket. That’s part of the biggest sticking point of this whole enterprise: some feel that this tournament is unfair to creators who are asked to pitch to DC—a dream opportunity for some—only to have their chance at the big-time left up to the sort of fickle comic-reading hordes who make time out of their day for things like voting on comic book brackets. (Such is the dark nature of corporate comic books, a cynic might say.) Exactly how this idea materialized within DC is anybody’s guess, but it doesn’t take much creativity to suss out its purpose: it’s a thing designed to gin up controversy and conversation on social media. That, above all, is likely the primary gambit of “Round Robin.”

Marvel Studios and Disney+ have seen fit to let Moon Knight loose into the world. I’ve seen the first episode, and it’s a perfectly adequate hour of energetic Marvel television—but then, every one of these series start off like they’re a compressed version of a Marvel movie, so that’s no shocker. Replete with at least two needle drops within its first 5 minutes (and an obnoxiously brazen one about halfway through), a quirky, Children of Men style car chase (didn’t they just do that in Hawkeye?), and a wholly committed performance from Oscar Isaac, it’s at least fascinating in a “are we really watching a show about Moon Knight?!” kind of way.

I don’t love the costume design; it looks heavily padded in that Superman & Lois kind of way, and it’s busy (lots of details to it that you simply would not notice without perusing the show’s promotional materials). Some other quibbles: the computer effects are the sloppiest of all these shows so far, and Isaac’s dopey Bri-ish accent is so hilariously bad it simply has to get addressed in the show at some point—Moon Knight’s thing is that he has at least a couple of people bombing around inside his head, so maybe his affect is some kind of security measure to contain the beast within? I’m spit-balling.

I’m trying not to harsh on it too much. There is a level of bloodletting in Moon Knight that you just don’t see from the MCU very often at all, and there was a GG monster towards the end that Moon Knight punched into submission Hellboy-style, so there’s that. Funny enough, it feels like the least buzziest Marvel show so far? The promise of more Ethan Hawke and his fakey justice-scales tattoo should change that in the weeks to come.

Age of Cage, a retrospective on the career of Nicolas Cage written by Chicago film critic and podcaster Keith Phipps, finally dropped this week in fittingly ostentatious fashion. The Music Box Theater hosted “Age of Cage: A Nicolas Cage Double Feature” where Phipps greeted filmgoers and signed copies of his book (MJ & I hungrily snatched up an edition) before we all sat down and took in Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men (not my favorite Cage outing) and John Woo’s Face/Off (god-tier action goof). The evening got pretty rowdy, with presumably drinky audiences going ape-shit at every instance of Cage-mugging, not to mention all the face pawing John Travolta’s Sean Archer character did throughout the film. (Yeah, I guess he did do that a lot!) A great time was had by all. Now go buy Keith’s book.

World’s Finest #1. Throwback DC thrill-ride boasting this generation’s strongest creative team—Dan Mora on art, Tamra Bonvillain on colors, and Aditya Bidikar on letters—plus, just to show off, Mark Waid. (Seriously, I never thought I’d see the day Waid would write for DC again. It’s craziness, this day-and-age.) Mora’s figures are iconic in that José Luis García-López kind of way and he moves them around the page like Jim Lee wielded the X-Men way back when. Bonvillain’s got dusky vibes radiating from her colors; there’s a deepness to the superhero primary hues that feels almost reverential in its presentation—and, because Bonvillain is that good, there’s no fussy detail-minded touches that muck up the works. Just pop and candy. As for Bidikar, he goes nuts with the letters without once losing their function. (Nowhere near as easy as that sounds.) In fact, he employs forced perspective with his words in some of the issue’s frequent bursts of action, and that’s just brilliant. (Bidikar is the most idiosyncratic letterer comics has today, I’m so happy he’s running amok in arguably the biggest superhero title DC’s got today.) Cape comics are rarely this much fun while looking this good. It feels like a gift.

Namor, The Sub-Mariner (1990) #1-4. Out of the depths… and into the 90s! I’ve been waiting on the Epic Collection of this run, but I ran into a stack of the first 9 issues and I could wait no more. Cornball as it is, I very much enjoy John Byrne’s yuppie-fied takes on superhero comics; there’s a soap operatic nature to them that I feel Big Two superhero books just don’t have anymore. Gimme a fallen egomaniac monarch trying to make his way in the Bears-Bulls world of high finance, with all the attendant bad romance, deep coma drama, shady rivals (who also happen to be twins), corporate sabotage, and bug-out monster surprises you can muster, Namor, I eat that shit up.

That’s all I got for this week. Read any good comics lately? Drop them in the comments or write me: jarrod@doomrocket.com.

More HOT PRESS:

HOT PRESS 2/25/22: Holy Bat-Chip-perverse (and other things)!

HOT PRESS 2/3/22: Dino-DC, ‘Savage Avengers’, ‘Project MK Ultra’, other craziness

HOT PRESS 1/5/22: The Best Comics of 2021

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