Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m sick of poems, and I hope you are too, because that’s as far as I think I’m taking that bit. It’s that time of year, folks! Love is in the air, romance is a-brewing, and this 80 page Valentine’s Day special gives us a peek into what it has in store for some of the oldest (and a few of the newest) couples in the DC universe. I’m a sucker for holiday specials in any format, and this massive mashup does not disappoint. But what heartwarming happenings await our hopeful heroes? What harrowing heartbreaks? Let’s dive in and find out, shall we?
Batman and Catwoman in “Perfect Matches”
The first story on this rollercoaster of romance stars what may be the most controversial comics couple of the past year, and it’s a doozy. Writer Christos Gage drops the pair into a surprisingly mundane situation: Maxie Zeus’ wedding! Of course, it’s never truly a mundane function when Gotham’s nastiest rogues gather in one spot, and artist Xermanico makes sure to capture every second of the action. Teamed with the colors provided by Romulo Fajardo Jr., Xermanico’s art does a fantastic job of making its large cast pop off the page, even in smaller group panels. While the short nature of the anthology format does lead to a couple of pacing issues for me, this adventure still manages to be full of charming little character moments, giving each of the villains their one or two panels full of fun (who doesn’t love the idea of Riddler complaining about the friendzone) and playing up the banter between the Bat and Cat for great effect. And yes, for those of use wondering (I know I was), it does address the wedding. No, not Zeus’ wedding, THE wedding. I’ll stop talking and let you experience that for yourself, though. 8/10
Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor in “Bittersweet”
The second entry in the book, written by Crystal Frasier with art by Juan Gedeon, follows Diana Prince and her long-time love interest Steve Trevor as they attempt to have a nice Valentine’s date. Of course, this being a comic book, things do not go to plan. Their date is interrupted by the Blue Snowman, a lesser-known but just goofy enough villain that I didn’t have to know anything about to be charmed instantly. It’s also good that Blue Snowman isn’t a big villain in that they’re not necessarily the focus of the story. There’s a big flashy fight against the Snowman and their blue ice, of course, but it serves more as set dressing for a good ol’-fashioned heart to heart between Diana and Steve, one that genuinely touched me in a way that I didn’t expect from a Valentine’s Day special. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the ending is a real treat too, and while it initially felt a tad out of nowhere, I read the story again and it’s just something you love to see. Overall, really sweet story accentuated by really expressive and dynamic art. 9/10
Amanda Waller and Perry White in “Loose Lips”
Alright, look. This isn’t your typical love story, I’ll admit. I mean, Perry White, Editor-in-Chief at the Daily Planet, having a Valentine’s Day dinner with Amanda Waller,
director of Task Force X mid level HR employee for the Pentagon? I’m just as perplexed as you are, dear reader! This story, written by Mark Russell and drawn by Nik Virella, focuses on the dangerous dance of dialogue that one would expect to arise from a conversation between these two. Overall, this story was solid, but I don’t really have much to say about it, and that makes me sad. I’d probably have liked this more as a side story in a Superman book, but it’s harmless enough and not bad at all. 6/10
Kid Flash and Red Arrow in “A Tale of Two Titans”
Kids. You know em, you might love em, but you definitely remember being one. This story, in my opinion, encapsulates the feeling of being a kid perfectly. The story focuses on the two young lovebirds as they each prepare for their first big date with a friend. Wallace is with Avery Ho, the Flash of China, and Emiko is leaning on her teammate Crush for moral support. Both are absolutely terrified of screwing things up, and it’s adorable. Writer Marquis Draper almost perfectly nails the feeling of tension before a date. There’s that feeling in your gut that none of your clothes are nice enough, that the restaurant might forget your reservation, the overwhelming presence of all the superficial things that could go wrong that, as pointed out by Crush and Avery, don’t really matter as long as you be yourself. The story finds more than one way to talk about love, however, also giving us a glimpse at a small bud of unrequited love, though at the risk of spoilers I won’t elaborate. The art, done by Pop Mhan with colorist Chris Sotomayor, also goes a long way in reinforcing the youthful energy of this story. The bright colors and expressive faces really capture that feeling that the world is exciting and dramatic that comes with being a kid. Once again, superhero antics are a backdrop for relationship talk, and I love it. It does, however, lead to a sense of odd pacing, especially since most of the book focuses on Wallace. I personally would have liked to see a bigger balance between the two halves of the relationship, especially with the inclusion of Emiko’s perspective at all. 7/10
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy in “The Beginning”
If you couldn’t tell from the appearance of these two on the cover, this is another big one. Harley and Ivy have quickly become one of comics’ power couples over the past few years, and for good reason: they’re just so good together. Writer Tim Seeley explores just how good for each other they are in this short story, which consists of Harley and Ivy reminiscing about their relationship. Rebekah Isaacs, the artist, does a fantastic job of showing our not-so-heroines throughout the years, aging both them and characters like Batman and Nightwing in what I feel is a really nice addition to the story. So many different designs for the same 4-5 characters in just 8 pages is not something you usually see in a book, but Isaacs handles it immaculately. The shading and coloring, done by Kurt Michael Russell, is also very nice, giving each page a dynamic feel, even if it’s two characters sitting in a room together. The story even wraps up with a nice and heartwarming little twist! What’s not to love? 10/10
Hawkman and Hawkwoman in “Together Forever”
I’m going to be honest, the second half of the book, marked at the halfway point by this story, got me a little more excited than the prior five stories. Not that the prior five weren’t interesting, but I am absolutely more intrigued by the characters that aren’t shown as much love by editorial, like Hawkman and Hawkwoman. This has always been a thing for me, ever since I was 6 years old watching Super Friends in my parents’ basement, and it’s a massive weakness when it comes to reading comics: I see a B lister or below, I’m in. “Together Forever”, unfortunately was written for the people who aren’t like me, who probably don’t know all of Hawk-lore. Admittedly, the creative team of Cavan Scott, Jose Luis, Jonas Trindade, and Rex Lokus handle the exposition of the Hawks’ backstory in an interesting and engaging way, flashing back to an adventure they shared in one of their past lives that mirrors their current situation. I’m also beyond stoked to see Carter and Shayera return to their archaeologist roots, exploring a freakin’ space pyramid of all things!. I think my biggest complaint about this story is the inconsistencies in art, with a couple panels having Carter change hair color and style. 7/10
Mister Miracle and Big Barda in “Anniversary”
I’m going to come out of the gate and say it here, I do not like the art in this one. Done by Rob Guillory, its stylized, goofy nature does a lot to accentuate the whimsical story it accompanies, but there are too many shots where I think it just looks ugly. I really hate to say stuff like that, but just… look at those faces. Those aren’t even the worst ones in the issue. The story itself, written by Regine Sawyer, is fine enough as well, with Scott and Barda’s anniversary being interrupted by an attack of the Furies of Apokolips. The heroes do battle with their extraterrestrial assailants, but this time it really is just a fight, with the Furies screaming about some “secret weapon”. This really does feel like the laziest of the stories, though it’s fun enough and overall harmless. 4/10
Nightwing and Starfire in “Ex-Position”
Up next, we have the story I was personally most excited for: the inevitable Dick/Kori Awkward Hour! I, like I’m sure many of you, grew up with the Teen Titans cartoon, and I absolutely LOVE these two together, even if I’m eternally conflicted on the whole Dick/Kori vs Dick/Babs debate. This story doesn’t necessarily break the mold for this anthology, with the conflict between the two former Titans serving as set dressing for them to work things out, but writer Sina Grace manages to make the story stand out in the way he captures the awkward “ex-talk”. Things like “it’s good to see you” and “I should have said this sooner” pepper the dialogue in between strategy discussion and combat callouts, and it’s hilarious. It actually made me laugh out loud and feel for the pair. The art, done here by Karl Mostert and Ivan Plascencia, is also phenomenal. They actually do a thing with the paneling in the middle of the story that I won’t talk too much about for fear of spoilers, but there’s a bit where a character begins to hallucinate and the panels are bordered with these ethereal, glowing lights that is truly beautiful. Unfortunately for the hardcore Dick/Kori fans, there’s not much in the way of hot and heavy action, but there is a very nice sense of closure, and even a bit of progress, by the end of the story. 8/10
Sgt. Rock in “Able”
Less a love story in the traditional sense, and more a story of a man who witnessed love, “Able” is a fantastic war story about two people who cannot be together because of who they are. Both the writing, done by Pornsak Pichetshote, and the art, provided by the artist/colorist duo of Chris Mooneyham and Mike Spicer, perfectly capture the atmosphere of a war flashback. This whole story reads and feels like someone recounting their time in a war, and it works to the book’s massive benefit. However, the story isn’t exactly original with its content. This isn’t anything we haven’t seen before in stories that have probably done it better, but that doesn’t make it bad by any means. Without saying too much, I think this story is a good rehash of classic ideas, and definitely surprised me as one of the better reads in the book. 8/10
John Stewart and Fatality in “The Heart Wants”
The premise of this story is simple: Yrra Cynril has been captured again by the Zamarons, and John Stewart is here to save the day. What follows is a philosophical debate masked as a neon firefight. If that piques your interest, or you just love Green Lantern as much as I do, you’ll like this story. John Ridley absolutely knocks it out of the park here, managing to fully grasp and communicate John’s tumultuous relationship with Yrra. He loves and wants her, yes, but he’s also wracked with guilt over the destruction of her homeworld. She has every right to hate him, and he knows that. Hell, he even hates himself a little to boot. The important part, however, is that he’s not going to let any of that stop him from making things right. Amancay Nahuelpan’s art is good as well, with a couple wonky faces here or there, but the colors in this issue are beautiful. Colorist June Chung uses light and contrast masterfully to set the scene in the Zamaron throne room, and there’s one silhouette panel in particular that really stuck with me. Aside from other assorted personal nitpicks, the biggest problem for me was that the ending doesn’t necessarily feel final, which I wouldn’t mind if I wasn’t pretty sure this is the last we’ll see of this plotline. Overall, the story is enjoyable, and gives John an emotional depth that I think he’s usually deprived of. 7/10
- You’re looking for some genuinely wholesome superhero love stories.
- Holiday specials are your jam.
- Superheroes being people is a large portion of why you love them.
Love is a Battlefield was not a book I expected to be this good. I mean, a love anthology with not a peek at Clark Kent and Lois Lane? That’s a bit of a bummer, especially when the other two Trinity members get some of the spotlight. Despite my reservations, every single story, even the ones I didn’t like so much, had something to bring to the table and, at the very least, was a fun ride. The writing was heartfelt, the art was expressive, and the characters felt like they got chances to actually explore their relationships. There was only one subpar story here, so if you’re wondering about value I’d say it’s absolutely worth your money, especially if you’re into themed anthologies or holiday specials.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.