12th Feb2021

‘DC: Love is a Battlefield #1’ Review (DC Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Various | Art by Various | Published by DC Comics

You know the drill by now. Whenever there is a holiday or celebration of some sort, DC whip up a fresh helping of their 80 Page Giants. They usually consist of ten or so stories, by a mix of top name creators and some unknowns obviously given a short story assignment to bed them in gradually in readiness for greater things down the line. Story quality is usually as mixed as you would expect, some great stuff, some average, and some filler. Overall, though, you get good value for your money. So, February being Valentines, this time round we are in the mood for love….

First story up is the obvious I suppose, being that Batman and Catwoman have one of the longest on and off romances in comics, and basically DC put Batman in everything at the moment. ‘Perfect Matches’ sees Christos Gage and Xermanico take us to the luxury yacht of Maxie Zeus, filled to the brim with the cream of Gotham’s criminal underworld. Catwoman is obviously on the invite list, but Batman of course wouldn’t be, so her plus one is Matches Malone himself (Bruce Wayne with glasses and moustache basically). In a lighthearted caper chock full of great banter and fantastic art, this kicks things off in style. Bruce and Selina at their best. Story two sees Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, two more long term lovebirds, in ‘Bittersweet’, by Crystal Frasier and Juan Gedeon. Their complicated relationship, and their thoughts on it, are played out against a supervillain attack while they were trying to have a Valentine’s Day dinner. It’s short, but fun, with great dialogue and nice art. Liked it.

After two conventional DC couplings, how about Perry White and Amanda Waller in ‘Loose Lips’, by (who else) Mark Russell and Nik Virella. Not a real ‘date’ of course, but a meeting at which two of the cagiest, toughest old boots at DC try to outwit and outthink each other while pretending to be a couple for their meetings cover. It’s very funny, with some nice little twists and turns. Loved it. From old to young, as Kid Flash and Red Arrow feature in ‘A Tale of Two Titans’, by Marquis Draper and Pop Mhan. Written like a Nickelodeon show (I could totally see this being made) its charts the getting ready for date night by two young teens who just happen to be superheroes. The dialogue is fun, the story and art a little too frothy and lightweight. Entertaining though.

The midway point sees us reach Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy in ‘The Beginning’, by Tim Seeley and Rebekah Isaacs, the subject of the great Kaare Andrews cover. I’ve said elsewhere I just don’t like Harley Quinn, but this does the impossible and actually makes me warm to her. Told in a flashback format, we see the evolution of the relationship between Ivy and Harley, from their first meeting as doctor and patient, through to the future as two mature ladies not quite ready to call it quits. If you want to see how to use the short story format, study this. It’s perfect. Wonderful story and art. Two more old timer lovebirds pop up with Hawkman and Hawkwoman (see what I did there…) in ‘together Forever’ by Cavan Scott and Jose Luis. It’s short and sweet, but gives us a look at the Hawks love over time as they keep getting reincarnated and falling in love again. Oh, and helping some space aliens too. Nice story and art again.

‘Anniversary’ , by Regine Sawyer and Rob Guillory, sees a rare thing, a superhero couple in the DC Universe that are married. Mister Miracle and Big Barda to be precise. As is the fashion with these two, this is a quirky take, as their Valentines plans are ruined by the Female Furies, Barda’s old team from Apokolips. It’s fast and furious, and all’s well that ends well when you have a boom tube. Ahem. Next up is the appropriately named Dick Grayson, the dirty dog of the DC male superheroes, and Starfire in ‘Ex-Position’ by Sina Grace and Karl Mostert. They try to deal with the breakdown of their relationship by pretending they don’t miss it or each other, while punching aliens. Cheaper than a shrink I suppose. Still, by story’s end a civil future is on the horizon, and Dick may be Dick in name but not in nature. Doubt it though.

The penultimate story is an interesting one, Sgt. Rock in ‘Able’, by Pornsak Pichetshote and Chris Mooneyham. It’s a surprising one, because the love story you think you see is not the obvious one. Rock is just the observer, like us, but by story’s end a serious point has been made about the many people that died in wars fighting for their countries while having to keep hidden something about themselves. Superbly written and drawn in a nice Joe Kubert-esque style, this one makes you think. We finish on the old reliable superheroes again, with ‘The Heart Wants’, featuring John Stewart and Fatality, by John Ridley and Amancay Nahuelpan. It’s about lost chances I guess, bad choices, as John tries to free Fatality from the Zamorans and rekindle their relationship. It’s left open which way things turn out, which is pretty appropriate for Valentine’s Day I guess.

This was a very good selection of stories, virtually all of them very well written and drawn, hard to pick one I didn’t like. My one gripe is the stories that aren’t here. No Clark and Lois? No Barry Allen and Iris? No Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris? Surely there’s room for both old and new coke? These were the romances that DC lived off for decades, so seems a little remiss not to acknowledge them. Still, old fan boy grumbles aside, this was a strong collection, just missing those pinups that often are dotted through the 80 Page Specials.

Something for everyone here, which I guess is the point, of both this collection and of Valentine’s Day itself.

Happy Valentines to you all. (Except Dick. Don’t encourage him, he gets enough action)

**** 4/5

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