EP0050: Superman Vol. 4: Black Dawn

An old enemy returns and why the Kents left Hamilton County.

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There’s something weird going on in Hamilton County when Batman comes to town. Find out more about it as we take a look at Superman Volume 4: Black Dawn. Straight ahead.

[Intro Music]

Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.

D.C. Rebirth began with Clark Kent and family living in Hamilton County. Clark running a farm with Lois getting rehired to the Planet, first impersonating her younger self and then made the actual Lois Lane with the advance of Superman Reborn, where the 2 timelines were merged. She, and now Clark, have jobs in Metropolis and so, eventually, it’s going to require moving there. I think this has always been in the offing. As much as I like the idea of Clark Kent, rural farmer who super commutes as Superman, I think that these things in comics, there tends to be a gravitational pull back towards a certain status quo and one of those big things is Lois Lane and Clark Kent, reporters for The Daily Planet, working and living in Metropolis. So, this was always going to end and I think that the writers of Superman, where most of the Hamilton County stuff occurred, were really aware of that; that this was not going to last forever and so they actually were pretty clever about it. They worked in little hints throughout the Superman issues that showed some of the weirdness going on in Hamilton County but never focused on it too much except for one issue which didn’t seem at the time to really go anywhere but in retrospect, was part of the weirdness going on throughout this.

And so, we come to Black Dawn and in many ways Black Dawn is like a finale of a T.V. series. The book contains issues 20 through 26 with the Black Dawn storyline taking up issues 20 through 25 and you remember Superman is being published every two weeks. Currently, it’ll be just monthly when Brian Michael Bendis takes over. So, this is the culmination of a year’s worth of storytelling and their writer Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason as the artist, really, it’s a great run. I highly recommend it, right from the first volume but at any rate the story begins with Batman coming to town to report some problems with John’s powers and some weirdness going on in Hamilton County and Superman, Batman, Robin and his son John, aka Superboy, are doing the general superhero thing of scoping around in the shadows until Lois Lane comes out and shines the light on them and tells them to be like normal people and go indoors to talk and so there is this great picture. This is one of my favorite pictures from the Patrick Gleason art on Superman where you’ve got Batman and Superman sitting at the kitchen table of farmhouse along with Robin and Superboy and you’ve got the rooster clock in the background and it’s just as beautiful for how out of place and awkward Batman looks in this picture. It’s got one of these great lines, where because Batman doesn’t eat his pie, and Superboy asked “Doesn’t your dad like Apple?” and Robin whispers, “Batman doesn’t eat pie.”, and it’s just a beautiful, weird little thing and I just love that. It’s really emblematic of the sort of fun this series has had. Really, it’s just a tremendous picture and it’s one of my favorites in this run so I love that and essentially Batman reveals that there’s weird readings and that John’s powers are being repressed, for some reason, and he’s here to investigate and everybody goes to bed but Batman wanders out on his own and is captured. So, it’s a serious situation and other people disappear and get captured. Lois finds herself alone in the farmhouse and so we get an issue where Lois is dealing with being alone in this really weird landscape and you get Lois Lane driving the Bat-mobile.

If you recall, last week I was talking about how some of the really great modern Lois Lane stories are being written right now and I think this issue was a great example of that. The art is good throughout the story but there is a little bit of unevenness because Doug Mahnke actually comes on to do some of the art on several issues in this series as well as collaborating with Gleason on them but there is a reason for Mahnke’s inclusion and I’m going to spoil kind of a mid-art reveal, so giving you a warning, spoiler warning on this.

It’s revealed that the villain behind this is Manchester Black, who first appeared back in Action Comics 775 back in 2001. Manchester Black headed a group of anti-heroes known as the Elite. They faced off against Superman in a story called “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?”. The Elite were written as a response to a group of anti-heroes known as The Authority, who really took on extraordinary actions and freed themselves from the mores that traditionally limited what superheroes would and would not do. Their actions caused so much devastation that it led to Superman confronting them all in battle and defeating them. In many ways, the idea of one man up against a wide array of opponents and foes, it calls to mind, to me, when I read it a kind of like high noon Superman version and it’s a really great story. So, they bring Manchester Black here and Manchester Black has been working with aliens in the area and helping to keep them safe in exchange for their cooperation and his plot is to get Superboy and turn him towards his end, towards his sort of rough form of vigilante justice. He uses his psychic and telepathic powers in order to help achieve that end and it’s up to Superman and Lois to find a way to save their son. There’s a solid ending to the story. I won’t spoil that part of it and it really does show the strength of the Super Family. If I had a critique of the story, this sort of long, involved, yearlong, even just in Universe months, long entrenchment really just did not seem Manchester Black style. It seemed like they wanted to bring back Manchester Black for the sake of it rather than him really fitting in the story. That said, there does lead to some pretty, creepy looking art that’s pretty stylistically done. I will say that Manchester Black, such a photo that brings disturbing imagery through what he does as well as his ability to manipulate minds and so you do end up with some art that is a little bit startling for a book known for its more fun visuals, including what looks like, and appears to be at the time, an amputation or near amputation but other than this, I think this was a solid story to close out the Hamilton County run.

Now we also get for Issue 26, a one issue story and this one is “Brains versus Brawn”, and it’s a guest story written by a Micheal Moreci and Scott Godlewski and the setup is that Superman is teaming up with Superboy and trying to teach him how to use his powers but Superboy, in battle is kind of doing his own thing rather than following that Superman’s directions. At the same time, Superman has flashbacks to the time when Paul Kent it was challenging him and expecting him to do things a certain way. Superboy ends up having a failure and Superman recalls what happened with Paul Kent where Paul own the fact that he had caused the problem by insisting that Clark do everything his way and so Superman concludes that Superboy too has got to be given a chance to really learn and develop his own style rather than be forced to do everything Superman’s way and I think that there is a good moral lesson in that and particularly about the relationship of father and son, where a parent should be equipping a child to be themselves rather than a copy of the parent. However, I do question if the issue does take the lesson a little too far because with Superboy, we’re dealing with a 10-year-old with superpowers and it 10 years old, all you pretty much got is instinct without the years of experience and training. So, there does have to be a balance where you are listening and where there is also room for growth. So, it may have been a bit unbalanced in its approach but it’s still a valid moral and I enjoyed it. Overall, as I think has been the case with every volume in the series, I enjoyed Black Dawn and I will gladly give this particular volume a rating of classy and I am eager to see what’s ahead for Clark Kent and family as they move to the city and we’ll be picking that up in future volumes.

Alright, well, that’s it for now. If you do have a comment, email to me classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Be sure and rate the show on iTunes and Follow us on Twitter at classycomicsguy and if you’re liking the podcast please rate on iTunes and from Cascade, Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.

EP0048: Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years, Part Two

A look at some later Lois Lane adventures as part of a celebration of 75 years of Lois Lane.

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Transcript below:

Graham: I look at some more modern day Lois Lane comics as we continue our look at Lois Lane, A celebration of 75 Years straight ahead.
Continue reading “EP0048: Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years, Part Two”

EP0047: Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years, Part One

A look at Lois Lane’s early appearances beginning at Action Comics #1.

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Graham: Today we salute Lois Lane and as we take a look at Lois Lane: A Celebration of 75 Years straight ahead.

[Intro Music]

Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.

Graham: D.C. Comics has, several times, created cross decade collections focusing on a single character. Probably the first time was in the late 1980s where they released The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told and The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told and they also released similar compilations for the Golden Age and Silver Age in imaginary stories. And then the early part of the 21st century, they revived the Greatest Stories Ever Told line but this time with more characters: Batgirl, Wonder Woman and Shazam, but many of us question these. I say many of us, at least me and several reviewers online. We took a look at Shazam: The Greatest Stories Ever Told and said are these really the greatest Shazam stories ever told and a lot of them ran into that problem. So, they started doing something different with a celebration of a certain number of years. Generally 75 years for a given character. So, they’re not saying they’re the best stories ever told featuring that character but they are stories about that character and you can’t really argue with that though it is a fair question as to what the quality is.

One thing that D.C. did with these new celebrations of milestone years was they didn’t just focus on the main heroes. They have several villain collections mostly from Batman’s Rogue Gallery. I believe that there’s one for the Joker, there’s one for Two-Face and Catwoman. As far as I know, Lois Lane is the only character who is essentially known as a supporting character, who has her own collection in these milestone lines. So, we’ll take a look at these Lois Lane based stories and probably one of the big challenges is that most Superman stories, which is where the majority of her appearances occurred, came where she is not the main character. So, it’s a question of do we get stories that are really about and connect to Lois even if she’s not the focal point.

The book begins with the Golden age and probably one of the most oft reprinted stories ever Action Comics #1 and #2, which is of course Superman’s first story but it’s also Lois Lane’s first story. So, it’s fair game to include it. It’s an iconic story and in many ways it, even in this first issue from the Golden Age, forms a lot of the key characteristics of what would make Lois Lane, Lois Lane at her best. Even though it was mostly just Superman flying around doing his heroics, she still played a part. Then they also reprint Action Comics #6, which is one of my favorite comics of the Golden Age because essentially what happens is that there are people who are merchandising Superman and they’re talking about making a Superman radio show and Superman movies and of course none of this had happened in 1938 and Superman toys and there is some nefarious goings on behind the scene, which Lois actually figures out and really does shine through here but it’s just a great story. Probably my favorite part of the book is the Lois Lane, Girl Reporter back-up scripts. These were features that appeared in The Adventures of Superman and they were 4 or 5 page stories but they were really good. She would be given some task by some guys who were kind of condescending towards her and she would manage to save the day. Sometimes she would end up calling in the police to help which isn’t unreasonable, but she essentially led the way and I think that scripts like that makes some of her behavior in Superman stories make more sense, if she’s actually handled stuff without Superman being around and managed to go through things competently, then she might feel more comfortable taking risks.
As it is, various portrayals of Lois Lane, you kind of wonder how she survived long enough to meet Superman with all of the risks she takes. But I like these scripts and if there were more of them, I’d like to see them collected in a book.
Then you have Lois Lane Loves Clark Kent, in which she goes to a psychiatrist and explains she has a fixation on Superman and she’s in love with Superman and the psychiatry suggests that what she needs to do is to turn her efforts and her energy to someone she doesn’t really care about so that she will care about them and will no longer be fixated on Superman. It’s actually a funny story which, I think unlike some of the Silver Age stories, which kind of make Lois Lane ridiculous, is funny without being disrespectful.
Moving on to the Silver Age items in the collection, you have The Girl in Superman’s Past. This story introduces Lana Lang and allows another angle to the Lois/Superman relationship, with Lois having a rival for Superman’s affections in the person of Lana Lang. In many ways during the Silver Age, much of Superman comics and a lot of Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane, which this showcase issue would eventually lead to, became a bit of a sitcom and this character, I guess, was her ethel and set the stage for a lot of high jinx to ensue.
I also like the New Lois Lane, which was a story where Lois decided that she was going to give up trying to find out Superman’s secret identity and the problem with this is that Superman wants her to discover a fake, secret identity that he’s set up so that it will get someone else off his trail but all of the clues he leaves for her, she ignores as part of her desire to turn over a new leaf. It’s funny and it’s just a really cute script. I like that one quite a bit.
The other two Silver Age stories are just kind of average and I find some modern sensibilities and in many cases with good reason, I do think that it did feel a little bit like the compilers were trying for a certain sort of a narrative with the Silver Age. I mean, there were a lot of scripts like that but they were somewhat selective in what they put in there to kind of build this narrative.
Then we have 1970s I Am Curious (Black), in which Lois is trying to get a story out of the black neighborhood of Metropolis known in this story as Little Africa. Whether this is related to the Suicide Slum introduced in the Black Lightening, I don’t know but she found great resistance, so she asked Superman’s help to turn her black so that she could actually experience and interact with people and try and understand them. And of course being kind of light Silver Age, Superman has access to a machine to do that because you can get any machine like that up in the Fortress of Solitude back during that era and I think the story overall comes from a good heart. I think it may have drawn a little bit on the book Black Like Me. It’s a good hearted story. It’s somewhat tame, but it tells a simple and powerful truth. It may overstate things, well, it does overstate things a bit, when Superman tells Lois that the reaction to finding out that Lois is really white by a black supremacist who received a blood transfusion from her would say something about the possibility of peace on earth but still I think the overall thrust of it was good and it’s definitely well intended and like I said, comes from a good place and actually that was all of the Lois Lane stories that it had up there, up until the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which is kind of weird because essentially you have 15 years of stories about Lois Lane and featuring her that weren’t included or considered for inclusion. I do know, for example I read in a Supergirl comic from the 1970s, there was a back-up script, featuring Lois Lane that was a lot more like Lois Lane, Girl Reporter from the 1940s rather than Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane.

That will be all for now. Join us back here for part 2, as we take a look at the modern comics collected in this book featuring Lois Lane. In the meantime send your comments to classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Please be sure and rate the show on iTunes, if you’re enjoying it and follow us on Twitter at classycomicsguy. From Boise, Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.

EP0046: Nightwing, Volume 4: Blockbuster

Dick Grayson goes through relationship problems, which are far worse than Nigthwing having to battle a boatload of supervillains.

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Host: Nightwing takes on a ship full of supervillains, from stem to stern, and then faces his former espionage colleagues in a battle for his life but could the worst thing going for Dick Grayson be his relationship problems? We’ll tell you all about it next as we look at Nightwing volume 4 Blockbuster straight ahead.

[Into Music]

Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best Comics in the universe from Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.

Host: During the New 52, Dick Grayson went through an era where he was no longer a superhero or Nightwing but rather a secret agent for Spyral because spies are known for their very punny use of names. However, with D.C. Rebirth, Dick Grayson returned to the role of Nightwing at the first book better than Batman. It’s really good but in current adventures you can probably start reading with Nightwing Volume 2 book, Back to Bludhaven. In that book he came to Bludhaven, got a job at a community center and came upon a group of washed up young super villains who were trying to avoid falling back into the life of crime and also were a bit phobic having been defeated by Batman and Robin in the past so they moved to Bludhaven for a fresh start. Among them is Shawn, who as a super villain operated as the Defacer. Dick fell in love with Shawn and she is actually kidnapped at the end of the 2nd volume and rescued in the 3rd volume. During that period, it was thought that Shawn was pregnant, but her pregnancy test was not confirmed. So, with that history in mind we take a look at the Volume 4 of the D.C. Rebirth Nightwing Blockbuster and we’ll talk about the two arcs as action pieces and then talk about the relation stuff that went around it

Nightwing Blockbuster; This one focuses on Roland Desmond, who is actually the brother of Mark Desmond, the original Blockbuster. Tiger Shark is the big fish, if you will, in Bludhaven, the boss of the city and does not like Nightwing’s presence and wants Blockbuster to take care of him. However, Blockbuster appears to Nightwing offering him a chance to take down the villain, Tiger Shark and really this is a case of Blockbuster trying to play both sides against the middle and it’s an interesting maneuver. He actually ends up leading Nightwing into a trap where he is aboard a ship full of supervillains who have been brought on by Tiger Shark and are supposed to turn the tables on Nightwing.

I actually like a lot about this storyline. One thing that I will highlight; I think the Blockbuster character is interesting in the way that that character develops in his plan plays out is kind of fun to watch. I also think that I like how Tim Sealy, the writer of the book, handles this guest supervillain or I should say all the super villains on the boat because a lot of them were somewhat obscure, particularly if you weren’t expert in every aspect of the D.C. Universe and sometimes when you have a book it gets kind of overloaded when you have so many supervillains stars where you’ve got to explain who this super villain is and all of their background. However, you don’t really have that with Nightwing and the idea advanced by Seeley is that Nightwing was required to learn very basic sketches of the various supervillains that he and Batman might encounter so that they would be prepared and so you just get this very quick thumbnail sketch. What’s the nature of this villain? What’s the nature of the threat that he poses? Cool, let’s fight and it’s just handled very quickly in a way that doesn’t bog down the story. So, I really like that aspect of this and I also like how it shows Dick’s heroism when it’s revealed that all of the supervillains’ lives are at stake and Dick has to make a decision as to what he’s going to do and of course, he tries to save everyone. It’s a good story I think there are some nice twists along the way and I enjoyed it pretty thoroughly.

In this first story, Dick is aided by a former super villain and a hacker, Gizmo, to help in his investigation of who’s bringing weapons into the city from the Second Hand, a group of illegal weapons sellers. At the end of the story, it’s found out that Gizmo has been killed and the Second Arc, Spyral, involves him going to investigate and to find who killed Gizmo and bring them to justice and this involves a team up with the Huntress as they have to go overseas to find who’s behind the Second Hand and therefore who’s behind Gizmos killing. I think this is an interesting story because it does end up them having to deal with their time with Spyral and once again we’re given a good story with good use of continuity. You do not have to have read Grayson, The Spy Series to understand this book. They give you enough information so that you understand the characters without being overwhelmed with too much continuity. It might make some readers curious to go back and read Grayson. It didn’t quite do that for me. I also think that the villain revealed in the final issue is a nice touch. Not a great villain but pretty solid and there’s some good back and forth between the villain and Grayson and it’s a good solid story.

The relationship issues in the book, particularly how Shawn is handled, is a separate thing I think from the action story. Certainly, it’s going on throughout this. As the book begins, Dick and Shawn are still together. However, she really wants him to get a job and I have to admit I’m somewhat confused as to how it happened that he lost his position, so she could get a position and she wants him to interview for a job so that she would have confidence that Dick Grayson would be there, would be in Bludhaven because he had a job to get to. And actually, at the beginning of the book he resists going for the job interview because he is really concerned about this spread of these very dangerous weapons that were based on alien technology getting on to the street of the city and feeling he had to dedicate his time to being Nightwing and he had his backpay from Spyral to rely upon so it wasn’t like he was going to be out in the street if he didn’t get a job. But Shawn insisted and harangued him into doing agreeing to do the interview and he agreed to do the interview but things came up so he didn’t do the interview and she was upset and thought that he was relieved that she wasn’t pregnant and then he delivers this response. He says “One of the things that made me fall in love with you is that I can be honest with you. Another one is that you know exactly who you were. The anger that the Pigeon manipulated to make you into the Defacer now motivates you to help people but it’s not gone. That anger still defines you. I’ve spent so much time making sure I’m not driven by tragedy, by revenge, by anger. It’s important to me. Having that pregnancy scare, and everything we went through, made me realise I want my child to learn that from me but sometimes, sometimes I wonder if our kid would learn the opposite from you, Shawn.” This is one of those statements that has a lot of truth into it because I think anger does drive and define Shawn as a character. However, this is one of those things that is very stupid to say. No matter how much you feel that you can be honest with her because it’s a very harsh and cutting thing and it’s the type of thing that will end up breaking up the relationship, which it does when he returns from fighting Blockbusters. She says it’s over, there is nothing to say and then after that they learn of Gizmo’s death and she blames him for that. I don’t know if she ever says that directly to his face. It’s not reflected in the comic but it may be something that Dick assumes is the case.

When Dick leaves Bludhaven, Shawn really meets up again with the Pigeon who at first, Shawn assumes is trying to get her into a legitimate art project but then finds out that it’s more crime and villainy the Pigeon is trying to drag her back into and she resists but then she goes along as the stress of the job that she has really starts to get to her. Her frustration, her rage, her anger, her grief over the death of Gizmo. The only thing that stops her from a full, fledged return, is somebody else actually about to make that same mistake and it reminds her of her responsibility and actually at the end of the book she decides she wants to get back together with Dick but is given a really heart-breaking conclusion to the book. I won’t spoil it but it is a very sad conclusion. Nobody died, but you can understand what this does to her.

I actually like Shawn as a character and this group of ex supervillains. It does show the challenges you face in trying to change the direction of your life and there are a lot of people out there like Shawn who have been through some very difficult circumstances in their lives and they are trying to change, trying to do better with their lives but they’re constantly dogged by habits and attitude that have them make poor and self-destructive decisions and I think that does make her a well-rounded character, a very tragic character. She was never a major heavy hitting supervillain, never the sort of mistress of evil type character. She struggles on the good side of leisure too and I honestly hope that it works out for the best and she definitely struggles and even though she’s made some bad decisions and I think did some things in terms of some of her demands on Dick that weren’t really fair, I still like her and found myself cheering for her at the end of the book and heartbroken right along with her for what the way it ended.

I will say I wouldn’t recommend this book for kids. There are some things, there’s graphic sex or anything else like that but there are some things implied and really good parental discretion is advised here. Still I will give this book a rating of classy. Writer Tim Seeley tells a good story with some compelling characters and manages to use continuity without clubbing the reader over the head. Which makes for a very different sort of comic. The art is fairly good and Nightwing continues to be one of the more solid series in the D.C. Rebirth line.

Alright, that’s it for now. If you do have a comment, send it to me classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Be sure and rate the show on iTunes and follow us on Twitter at classycomicsguy and check out the website classycomicsguy.com. From Boise, Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.

EP0045: The Flash, Volume 5: Negative (Review)

The Flash’s power is out of control and the wonky artwork isn’t helping.

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Transcript below:

Another volume of The Flash is out. Does that mean more sorrow, suffering and anguish for Barry Allen. Find out as we look at The Flash: Volume Five Negative, straight ahead.
Continue reading “EP0045: The Flash, Volume 5: Negative (Review)”

EP0040: Green Lanterns Vol. 4: First Ring

Jessica Cruz gets the worst instructor ever while Volthoom plots revenge eons in the making.

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Transcript below:

Jessica Cruz gets the worst training officer possible. We’ll tell you all about it in Green Lantern Volume Four: The First Ring, straight ahead.
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EP0039: Understanding the Eras of the DC Universe

Golden Age, Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, New 52, DC Rebirth. We take a look at the eras of the DC Universe.

Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, New Fifty-Two. DC Rebirth. What do these terms mean for the DC Universe? We’ll talk all about it straight ahead.

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EP0037: Green Lantern, Earth One, Volume One

In this alternate universe tale Hal Jordan is a space miner who find finds a Green Lantern ring that’s running out of power.

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Transcript below:

It’s a new spin on the classic story of the Green Lantern. Find out about it as we review Green Lantern: Earth One Volume One straight ahead.

  Continue reading “EP0037: Green Lantern, Earth One, Volume One”

EP0036: Batman Beyond, Volume 2: Rise of the Demon

Terry McGuiness has to fight his own suit to deal with the new head of the League of Assassins, a former member of the Bat-Family.

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Transcript follows:

Terry McGinnis tries to survive another adventure in Neo-Gotham, but he has a challenging obstacle: his Batman suit. Find out what happens as we take a look at Batman Beyond Volume Two: Rise of the Demon, straight ahead.
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EP0034: Trinity, Vol. 2: Dead Space

The book featuring DC’s most awesome heroes (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) begins with three villains gathering and then our heroes having a pow wow to discuss continuity before getting to a real adventure.

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Transcript below:

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, DC’s longest enduring superheroes come together to talk. We’ll tell you all about it next as we take a look at Trinity Volume Two: Dead Space straight ahead.
Continue reading “EP0034: Trinity, Vol. 2: Dead Space”