DC’s Terrors Through Time is a fright filled anthology of DC’s heroes as they face off against their darkest fears, ghostly hauntings, and the perils of trick or treating. These eight tales feature a varied cast of characters, adventures, and creative teams and at least one is sure to be up your alley. The reviews this time have been covered by the Batman-News crew as a team, so enjoy our varied opinions in addition to the tales!
The Phantom Stranger in “The Longest Night”
Review by: Jérémy Bernard
Let me just start off by saying that this story isn’t really a story. It’s sort of a long winded intro or many days in the life of Phantom Stranger. It doesn’t really explain anything about his background but he does at least explain his mission. While I think loose structures aren’t inherently bad this opening is just a bit too meandering for my taste.
I like how Paul Levitz made the weirdness of the character something that makes him very unapproachable which emphasizes the fact that he hates his endless struggle. If only the characters were more memorable because the art by Raul Fernandez and coloring by Santi Arcas looks incredible to me. With such little story to chew on though, it feels more like a series of really cool looking posters displaying a pro-landback (yet also pro soldier?) paranormal protector who is forced to forever lurk in the shadows.
The Super Sons in “Trick or Treat”
Review by Matina Newsom
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that Super Sons: Trick or Treat is all I could ask for in a Halloween themed Super Sons story. It’s light, funny, and an absolute delight. And it opens with a costume swap.
Just like the title says, for Halloween Jon and Damian are swapping outfits and going trick or treating. But of course it’s not your typical Halloween night, not when our main characters are the children of superheroes. They go door to door not in a neighborhood, but to the Justice League themselves, and eventually find themselves in a little adventure at the Hall of Justice. The costume swap comes into play, both for jokes and plot reasons and frankly I’d pay the price of admission to this book ($9.99) just to see Jon dressed as Robin and Damian as Superboy.
Speaking of which, Luciano Vecchio does a great job rendering the boys themselves and the rest of the characters. Vecchi’s style is round, clean, and supremely cute making it a perfect fit for this all-ages story. He does a great job keeping both boys looking like themselves, even dressed as their companion. Damian’s body language is clearly Damian-esq while Jon gives off the most laid back messy haired Robin I’ve seen in a long time.
I had a blast reading this story, and I’m sure you all will too. It’s a delightful addition to this collection and was just the perfect spooky tale for me this season.
Gotham City Sirens in “The Pueo Promise”
Review by: Theresa Campagna
Huh, I kinda enjoyed this little tale!
Peter V. Nguyễn provides both the story and the artwork as he re-imagines the very first team-up of the Gotham City Sirens. The three rogues are on vacation when they run into each other and embark on an adventure to find out who has been killing various animals on an island.
It’s a story filled with pastel-colored art on top of dark backgrounds, serving both the light-hearted moments of the Siren’s interactions with each other and the more dangerous action-oriented sequences. There’s a lot happening on each page, but it manages not to clutter the plot or the artwork. Peter calculated everything he wanted to be in his story and made the pacing work.
Peter also managed to insert some easter eggs into his short tale. I enjoyed the references to each of the Siren’s costumes from the past (Catwoman appears in her purple 90s outfit, Ivy in her traditional leaf-bikini, and Harley in her jester suit). Oh, and I even enjoyed how Harley Quinn was portrayed! Finally, here is a version that is based on the voice of the traditional Harley Quinn, not the loud-mouthed, crass, “Deadpool-ized” version that is still solidified in mainstream continuity.
If I had one complaint, it would probably be that Selina seems to switch from the aloof and independent character she usually is, to an open and friendly “girl’s girl,” whenever she is a part of the Sirens. I think that Gotham City Sirens is a concept that could work really well, but the writers need to take the time to properly develop the team dynamic and develop why Selina would want to be involved in it, rather than just changing her character whenever Ivy and Harley are around. (There is actually more Gotham City Sirens merchandise out there than comics, so we don’t have that much content out there that develops the trio together).
Swamp Thing in “Half-Life”
Review by William Martin
Half-Life is a rather disappointing entry. I guess I’ve been spoiled by Ram V’s excellent run but I had high hopes for this story. It reads more like a meditation on the Green than anything thanks to the overabundance of wordy monologue. This monologue doesn’t seem to stem from any character in the story, nor does it feel necessary to telling the story, which boils down to Swamp Thing protecting two humans from a monster in a post-apocalyptic future.
The reader is also given very little to latch onto when it comes to these human characters (a father and his child). We know nothing about their personalities and to make matters worse there is some kind of time jump halfway through the story. At least, I assume it’s a time jump. It’s not very clear. Afterwards, we are reintroduced to someone who seems to be an older version of the child from the beginning. With most of the comic taken up by swamp thing anyway, we never get enough time with these characters to get to know them.
The art is good, at least. There is an emphasis on organic forms which is very fitting for a Swamp Thing story. The post-apocalyptic backgrounds are also very strong. They are detailed enough to show the dilapidation and muck but not so detailed that they distract from the characters.
The colors are also solid! Mike Spicer is the only creative on this story that I am very familiar with and as usual his work is fantastic. He truly brings life to this linework with his rich palette.
Overall, It’s not the strongest story thanks to middling writing but it’s inoffensive enough and has good art. This is by no means a deal breaker for this anthology. If you’re interested in other stories here, don’t let this one turn you away.
The Justice Society of America in “The Midnight Hour”
Review by Aaron Ray Jr.
The Midnight Hour fuses the classic structure of spookhouse horror comics of the 1950’s with the post-war adventures of The Justice Society of America. Naturally, the book follows Dr. Mid-Nite as the sole survivor of an ambush who then dedicates himself to freeing his comrades from a Nazi cult. More specifically, the cultists are described as “Creep-Os” or mindless agents of Hitler after a skull-shaped mcguffin. In actuality, the heroes are separated one by one and interrogated by zombies with purple knives. Charles Skaggs cleverly uses Dr. Mid-Nite’s “nite-vision” as a key advantage in being able to find and reassemble the society.
While you can never go wrong with zombies, I do feel like this tale needs a bit more meat on its bones. It starts in medias res, and goes room to room repeating the same structure. I assume the details of the mystery is intended to be less important than the novelty of the JSA interacting with the ghouls. What sells the book is the macabre artwork on the pages. Seeing Hawkman, Black Canary, and the others in deep dramatic shadows facing down evildoers is a lot of fun. Even the warped sketchy panels help fulfill the kooky Halloween aesthetic.
The Midnight Hour delivers on the vintage intrigue in looks and simplicity, but overall it can be seen as very bland. Although the story feels authentic, it isn’t actually a memorable scenario. The juiciest dramatic moment that can be wrung from the short story involves Jay Garrick getting serious when rescuing Dinah Lance. It’s a full recommendation for anyone who can’t resist seeing the JSA getting to punch out Nazi zombies under any circumstance.
The Green Lanterns in “A New Darkness”
Review by Cam Lipham
Green Lantern content? Hell yeah!
As the site’s resident GL superfan, I couldn’t WAIT to get my hands on this one. And now that it’s here?
I’ll admit I was a little disappointed by this one. The premise, two GLs stumbling upon a weird eldritch monolith in space, is incredibly fun. There’s a ton you can do with an idea like that. The problem? It’s not executed very well.
Jeremy Haun focuses the story on two original characters, Jan, a younger lantern on probation for… something… and Kar-Von, a veteran who wields both a green and red ring. This was particularly intriguing to me, as it’s the first time in years we’ve seen a dual-colored lantern, but unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. There’s a brief snippet or two about controlling your emotions, not giving in to them, but it’s one that we’ve seen in Lantern media for decades now. I realize this is a one-shot short story and it doesn’t matter, but something thematic would have been cool.
Another aspect that fell short for me was the lack of actual horror in this story. I mean, you’ve got eldritch abominations floating on a giant doom rock in the middle of space. You can have a BALL with that. I know these stories had to remain mostly all-ages, but it feels watered down to an action story with a few spooky things tacked on.
Juan Doe’s art is incredible, and really helps this story out. Every page is bursting with color and action, it’s a visual smorgasbord that makes you want to turn the page just to see more of this amazing art.
Score: 6 /10
Etrigan in “Blood Lost and Found”
Review by Jackson Luken
Blood Lost and Found is a short vignette that explores the existential questions that Jason Blood, AKA Etrigan, has been faced with over the years. It’s not the most complex tale (it would be hard to be at just under 10 pages), but Matthew Levine uses what little space he has to present Blood in a sympathetic light. He’s someone who may struggle with who he should be given how far removed from the rest of humanity he is, but is able to find his moral center when it matters.
The story takes place 500 years ago, with Jason as a reclusive wanderer who reluctantly answers the cries of help from helpless villagers. Any fans of Geralt from The Witcher should know the type. He laments the ways in which he feels disconnected from humanity as a whole, and that his immortality has left him aimless. Only through saving a young boy does he discover his true purpose as a protector of those around him.
I like that the story is able to demonstrate what it is that motivates Blood. Seeing him personally struggle with how he should use his demonic “curse” lets us peek into the mind of a person like that. Seeing the child’s knight toy makes him realize that being a hero can be something that makes fighting have meaning. He channels this immense destructive power into something that can help others, and you can tell that it makes him feel more complete, even with his divided persona. It’s fairly compelling, if not totally original. I mentioned this before, but everything from the lone wanderer aesthetic, to the outfit, to the reluctant monster-slaying quest, to the gruff misanthrope with a heart of gold feels pulled straight out of The Witcher. Whether this is a bad thing is up to personal taste, but it’s very hard not to notice.
The demon fight itself is fun, and Jorge Corona’s vibrant art really brings it to life. The exaggerated faces and bright colors sell the Hellish imagery. I only wish that Etrigan would remember to rhyme. He even gets called out as a “rhyming demon”, yet that only seems to last a moment. I did love seeing Jason return in the modern day for round 2. It was a perfect little way to show how he’s grown with the lesson he learned that day.
Damian and Deadman in “The Haunting of Wayne Manor”
Review by William Martin
When it was decided that we would be collaborating on this review I couldn’t volunteer fast enough to cover this story. Kelley Jones is my all time favorite Batman artist and his run with Doug Moench is my favorite run. Needless to say, I’m always excited to see Jones get more work. I also generally enjoy Tim Seeley’s writing so this story certainly had potential.
I’m happy to say that it lives up to that potential! Seeley exhibits a strong understanding of both title characters and was also very wise in his character choice. As a self serious character Damian thrives off juxtaposition against others with a sense of humor. His relationship with Dick Grayson certainly proved that and while I’m not going to claim that he’s equally compatible with Deadman, there are definite possibilities.
Kelley Jones also turns out some of his best work in years for this story! He obviously had a lot of fun drawing it and despite the fact that drawing characters consistently was never his strongest suit this story didn’t seem to have that problem. Damian always looks like himself and doesn’t vary in age between panels (problems Jones had with Tim Drake in the 90s).
My only real complaint is that the colors are too flat. In recent years colorists have been one of biggest drags on the appearance of Jones’ art. His work really stands alone in many ways and I believe some colorists have trouble figuring out how to effectively work with his style. This story is a better recent example but it still doesn’t accentuate his work in the best way possible.
Overall this story is well worth a read and hopefully DC gives Kelley Jones more work going forward. I do love him so.
- It’s spooky season, and this is the perfect fix
- Anthologies are your jam
- There’s totally a story in here for you, I promise
There really is a little of everything here, from lighthearted stories like the Super Sons adventure to more serious ones that focus on some of DC’s darker sides Terrors Through Time is an overall solid read. No matter what you’re looking for I can say there’s probably something tucked in here that will scratch that October, cool weather, scary story itch. The sheer variety of stories and creative teams in this anthology is enough to make this book worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for something to add to your Halloween reading list. We hope you all enjoy reading through it as much as we did!
Overall Score: 7.5
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.