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: Thoughts on Netflix’s Sandman show and the return of our Bloodlines read-through.

by Jarrod Jones. MJ & I sat down and watched the first five episodes of Netflix’s adaptation of The Sandman last week. She liked it with the polite caveats of a person who adores fantasy and appreciates most of the work of Neil Gaiman, while I… well. You can listen to some of our thoughts over on the latest episode of CASUAL WEDNESDAYS, where I try to be as charitable with my opinions as I possibly can.

What can I say, it’s a tv show made in the 2020s. It’s made with Hall H in mind. There’s Patton Oswalt doing Patton-Oswalt-as-Matthew-the-Raven. Villains are given more sympathetic motivations. The jagged horror elements from the comic’s primordial phase (Preludes & Nocturnes, The Doll’s House) have been jettisoned entirely. John Constantine is out, kinda. It brought Dave McKean out of retirement to work on the show’s admittedly lovely credit sequences, which are automatically skipped over by Netflix to ensure we viewers are thrown into the next episode as soon as the algorithm can make it happen. It puts The Corinthian (Boyd Holbrook, who is quite good!) to work as its season-long heavy, because that’s how tv shows made in the 21st century do it. Lots of talking in rooms at canted angles. Even more choppy CGI.

Look, the comics aren’t going anywhere. Not for nothing, watching the first five episodes of Netflix’s The Sandman has got me hungry to read those early issues all over again. It may inspire new readers to pick up all the new editions DC has been publishing in anticipation of this show. Both are positive things. And for those of you who genuinely enjoy what Netflix’s version of The Sandman is doing, big thumbs up.

I happen to think Sandman is some of the better comics this beleaguered industry has ever cranked out, and I also happen to think that not every single comic made should be thrown up on screen. (Clearly publishers like IDW do not share my opinions on this matter.) I generally don’t enjoy the way modern tv shows are designed to be binged in 10-13 hour bursts, mostly because a lot of them don’t have the material to keep me locked in for the duration. (I had to drop Stranger Things because I just could not muster the energy to give a shit after two seasons of its particular brand of Amblin Stephen King jerk-offery.) This new Sandman tv show has a whole season available online for me to finish and, having sat through its first five hours, I’m not exactly pumped to do it. But I am interested in seeing how it makes the material its own going forward.

Sandman is a product of its time, and Netflix’s production of Sandman is a product of our time. Simple as that.

With new work and life obligations, I’ve been pretty wiped out on reading new stuff, but I did take occasion to check out:

Ant-Man #1. One of the most assured debuts I’ve read this year, without a doubt, at once a candy-colored Lee/Kirby tribute and a simmering sci-fi wonder with untold sci-fi peril crackling at its edges. It’s actually unnerving how effective Ewing and Reilly are at playing with Silver Age aesthetics and techniques—I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to see thought balloons used so frequently and—pardon my snobbery—correctly?

The lettering makes a swing for Artie Simek and doesn’t quite connect (I really wish this issue had been hand-lettered, though I realize money/time is a factor in these Marvel joints), but overall the look and feel of this issue was a delight to soak in, helped heaps by Jordie Bellaire’s eye-popping colors. Here’s a dazzling Marvel bop that is sure to only get weirder as it continues, a tale that absolutely astonishes.

– I’ve been watching the Justice League animated series for the first time in eons, and I have to say: it’s still good TV. Most of it, anyway; the first season actively tries to find its rhythms and fails more often than it doesn’t, and the way the series plays Rotating Directors makes for some wildly inconsistent visuals. (The way Bruce Timm’s Kirby influences sometimes become these garish, primary-colored nightmares—like Glorious Godfrey did in “Eclipsed”—makes me wince.)

It’s the second season of JL that really picks up steam; I largely attribute that to the work of Dwayne McDuffie, who found the elusive formula season one tripped all over the place to secure and made it sing. The team dynamics, the animation/storyboarding, and the season’s bookending of “Twilight” and “Starcrossed”—not to mention my personal favorite Superman episode in this or any other DCAU offering, “Hereafter, Pt. II”—showed me that there was still life in the animated wing of the DC multiverse. After Batman Beyond fizzled out in its third and final season, I didn’t think I’d feel any hope for these characters ever again. That changed the moment McDuffie breathed some life into Justice League. I’m amped to begin my Justice League Unlimited rewatch. (Maybe it’s time I dusted off TUBE ROCKET.)

– Speaking of losing hope and other DC media efforts: Batgirl has been axed by Warner Bros., despite the fact that the film had wrapped filming and cost $90 million dollars and would feature Michael Keaton as fuckin’ Batman and everything. The reasons this film has been consigned to the vaults, never to be seen by the public, is vague, though it’s being reported by The New York Post that test screenings for the film were “so poorly received by moviegoers that the studio decided to cut its losses and run.” (This would explain why the film, which was to star Leslie Grace and Brendan Fraser and JK Simmons and stream exclusively on HBO Max, had zero presence at this year’s SDCC.)

COVID is being propped up as a culprit for the film’s lackluster production, though I suspect that WB’s current Flash’s real-life campaign of terror might have at least a little to do with this decision, not to mention the recent scuzzy press surrounding Zack Snyder’s Justice League super-cut, courtesy of Rolling Stone. Either way, the DC film arm of Warner Bros. is in serious trouble at the moment, and I don’t think Black Adam is going to solve a goddamned thing. Just spit-ballin’.

Amazing Spider-Man is still good. Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr. are doing era-best work for the character. Just read it.

Note: I decided I am not, in fact, going to be writing 25 RETROGRADING entries for Bloodlines, good god, what was I thinking. So! This corner of HOT PRESS is going to be that bugged-out DC retrospective goodness you might be looking for for the foreseeable future. (Getting a better picture of how my brain works? Yeah, sorry about that.) So it is here where I will be covering every issue of DC’s 1993 annual event series, Bloodlines. From Outbreak to Earthplague to Deathstorm to Bloodbath, together we will run the bloody, xenomorphic gamut. 

For part one of this series, where I reviewed Lobo Annual #1 for RETROGRADING, click this.

THE ISSUE: Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #2, “Cutting Edge!” (Outbreak, Part Two.)

THE TEAM: Louise Simonson (writer), Eddy Newell (pencils), Mike Barreiro (inks), Glenn Whitmore (colors), Albert De Guzman (letters). Edited by Mike Carlin with Jennifer Frank. Published by DC.

THE GIST: The Bloodlines aliens, first introduced in Lobo Annual #1, have touched down on Earth and are ready to crack open a few of us to get at our juicy spinal fluids. As Angon, the most headstrong member in this pack of xenomorphic killers, breaks rank and begins its kill campaign through Metropolis, John Henry Irons finds himself caught in the middle of a brotherly melodrama—not to mention the gaping maw of a giant, lobster-shelled alien monster.

NEW BLOOD: Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #2 introduces us to Edge, aka Tom O’Brien, a hard-nosed tough who heads up a youth outreach program in John Henry Irons’ neighborhood. It’s through Tom’s transformation after Angon’s attack that it is confirmed that the monster’s double-jawed bite can trigger a dormant metahuman gene in certain individuals. Tom is gifted his new superhero sobriquet by his little brother Petey by the end of this issue on account of all the razor-sharp blades that protrude from his arms, legs, torso, and head. (“You got all these wicked edges where your hair used to be!” Petey squeaks.) Edge does not, however, get to wear that bitchin’ barbed-wire outfit you see in the cover above, which might explain why this dude just didn’t catch on.

Y’see, Edge didn’t enjoy much fame as a DC New Blood. Even though he showed up in the Eclipso chapter of this crossover and fought in the Bloodlines finale Bloodbath, Edge scarcely popped up in the DCU after that, meriting only fleeting pop-ups in Showcase ’94 #12 and the Bloodlines spin-off mini Blood Pack (and even there he gets a one-panel cameo in its final issue). Shooting blades any which way may not win you many popularity contests, but the way DC buried Tom O’Brien is a tough thing to gnaw on when you consider that even Loose Cannon lived to fight another day in the Superboy ongoing.

BEST BIT: It’s a good-looking issue overall, though the bit where Tom is discovered by a crew of Underworlders in the Metropolis sewer and then begins his painful transformation into Edge is a nice showcase for Eddy Newell’s artwork. Paired with Glenn Whitmore’s colors and Mike Barreiro’s inks, it’s a prime example of Nineties grunge comics.

WORST BIT: Can’t really find too many faults in this one! Louise Simonson spins a cozy yarn with plenty of weirdo action beats, though Newell’s crowded pages do create a few strange visual tangents that don’t get cleared up by Whitmore’s colors. But I love the scuzz on display here, as well as that good, grimy, 90s-street-level Metropolis stuff that shows off what Superman: The Man of Steel did so incredibly well back in the day.

FUN FACTS: Edge is the first metahuman to spawn from Angon’s bite, and he will not be the last; turns out it was Art Adams who designed the Bloodlines monsters, while Christian Alamy is responsible for the design of the aliens’ cool egg-shaped space vessel that crashed just outside Metropolis in this issue and turned into a floating abattoir back in Lobo Annual #1; the glow-in-the-dark arrows Tom finds painted in the Metropolis sewers were put there by Keith Parks in Superman: The Man of Steel #18, which just shows how on-it Louise Simonson was when it came to managing her corner of the DCU. (Bonus fun fact: Keith Parks would later become the adopted son of Perry and Alice White.)

DOES IT RIP? As one-part family melodrama and one-part alien-stalker yarn, this annual strains a bit to hit its oversized page count, but it gets there. Newell’s pencils continue the grungy visual throughline Christian Alamy began in the Lobo kick-off annual, and they absolutely rock under Barreiro’s detail-heavy inks. Some of the panel work is a bit too chaotic, but overall Newell nails Art Adams’ kooky monster design and he gives John Henry Irons some killer iconic shots as Metropolis’ reluctant new man of steel.

NEXT UP: Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #1, wherein Batman blasts into the Bloodlines brou-ha-ha, the late (and great!) Alan Grant returns, and a phys ed teacher from Gotham’s east side just up and decides he’s gonna smash some crime.

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 7/7/22: Thor thoughts, Amazing Spider-Man praise, and mild Bat-doubts

HOT PRESS 6/30/22: Getting back on track, Shelly Bond’s Filth & Grammar, and other fun stuff

HOT PRESS 4/1/22: DC’s second round of Round Robin, Moon Knight, and other things