Book Review: DC Pride: The New Generation – Hardcover Collection

“DC Pride: The New Generation”
Writers: Devin Grayson, Stephanie Williams, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Jadzia Axelrod, Alyssa Wong, Tini Howard, Greg Lockard, Stephanie Phillips, Travis G. Moore, Danny Lore, Ivan Cohen, Brittney Williams, Kevin Conroy, and Meghan Fitzmartin
Artists: Nick Robles, Meghan Hetrick, Lynne Yoshii, W. Scott Forbes, Evan Cagle, Giulio Macaione, Samantha Dodge, J. Bone, Belén Ortega, and Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque
Color Artists: Triona Farrell, Marissa Louise, Tamra Bonvillain, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Alejandro Sánchez, Nick Filardi, and Luis Guerrero
Letterers: Aditya Bidikar, Ariana Maher, Frank Cvetkovic, Lucas Gattoni, and Pat Brosseau
Review by Adam Ray and Steve J. Ray

The DC Pride: The New Generation Hardcover Collection brings together the now legendary 2022 special and the brilliant Tim Drake coming out tale. The DC Pride 2022 special, much like its predecessor, delivers a grand parade of these characters at their best, showing readers a rainbow of straight and queer fans the kinds of heroes that everyone can be proud of.

I once heard a very cynical person on the internet once say that companies ultimately do not care what we, the consumer think; they will push their product on us in a way that panders to what we want, or what we believe that we want, so that we align ourselves with them, and buy their products.

Steve J. Ray, the managing editor on this very website (plus, my father and the co-author of this very review) once said, “No company does Pride better than DC”, and honestly, that’s hard to argue. I think that’s because the company’s at the forefront of setting the tone of what kind of stories are being told. They have a big say in what forms popular culture.

DC Pride: The New Generation – Review by Adam Ray

By filling their titles with inclusive and queer characters at all times of the year, often to some immense backlash, they’re showing real allegiance to LGBTQIA+ people across the world. DC brings queer heroes that people can actually be proud of, and ones that would have been unthinkable twenty, ten, or even five years ago.

Super Pride

Blessings to Devin Grayson for opening the DC Pride: The New Generation collection with the recognition that Pride was originally a riot to make society at large aware of injustices against LGBTQIA+ individuals. Many people see Pride as this grand, colorful party and that isn’t at all how it began.

The story talks masterfully about how well symbols can be reinterpreted. The many colors of the Pride Flag itself started as the love between cis men and have now gone on to encapsulate all manners of gender representation and sexual orientation.

The color choices, specifically in the story of letting Superman be a beacon of Pride are incredibly bold. Superman has always been a figure of staunch Americana. Now, with that grand ‘S’ on a colorful backdrop, the symbol of Hope and Peace can include hope and peace for all people.

Confessions

Anyone who didn’t assume that Themyscira wasn’t some kind of Sapphic wonderland needs to return all their Wonder Woman-related possessions immediately.

A look at the history of characters like Nubia and Big Barda takes us to the many shades of girl love out there. In an environment like classic 1980s wrestling, there’s just as much opportunity for unique exploits.

The art and color combinations in this tale are astounding but for a reason. There’s something modern and detailed in the environments and backgrounds of the lounge in Themyscira when contrasted with the muted colors and wonderfully recreated smudge of the 80’s flashback, to mirror an 80’s comic. By making the retelling feel this close to the material, we get a special, technical story.

Think of Me

Throughout this review, I’ve been using LGBTQIA+ as a term, as it’s the one that most people are aware of. As an initialism, it grossly underplays how many orientations and gender representations there are. The ‘A’, a late addition to the name is by no means more or less valid.

This issue is both a classic superhero narrative of beating the villain at their own game, as well as Connor Hawke’s coming out to his mother as asexual. It’s a difficult balance to naturally talk about a person’s orientation in the context of beating up a ginger man who can sing to mind control people. Stein and Brandt chose to conflate the struggle of the battle with the emotional struggle of opening up about your feelings. This perfectly brings the two conflicts together into one very well-told story.

Up at Bat

“I’m a trans woman in Gotham, of course, I have a weapon”. It’s sad that this is a necessity in our real towns and cities, but it’s a sad reality. I’m not sure putting the trans flag on said weapon puts out a great message though.

We’re used to our heroes being resolute, but the Bat family is largely human, and we see often them bleed and suffer. Having a new hero offering assistance to Batgirl, then saving the day, is a masterful way to introduce them to a new audience.

A World Kept Just for Me

Characters from Atlantis are usually split between two worlds. Man and Atlantean, surface and ocean. These tensions make them interesting. Jackson Hyde’s Aquaman also has the same tension from his history as the child of Black Manta, which is multiplied by the example of his not being accepted when he was growing up for being openly gay. This tension will always make characters like these rich and interesting sources for a story.

The shading and color choices show this throughout. The welcoming and soft blues, with the haze that makes it feel like we’re underwater, show the loving tolerance of Ha’wea’s family. This is the opposite of the harsh desert orange of New Mexico where Jackson grew up. To be queer means being aware of that tension, and hoping you land in an accepting space.

The Gumshoe in Green

How has one story conflated some of my very favorite things? Green Lanterns, Noir 1930s style detectives, and smashing the horny bisexual trope? Only in DC Pride can we get perfect storms like these.

The noir theme was maintained by some of the most ambitious coloring work I’ve ever seen. The whole tale was kept largely in shades of grey. I may extend that to show that there are no clear definites with either people or places, and we all exist in a spectrum. The pops of color come only from green; the lantern ring and the noodles, plus a few other things. Sometimes that isolation, to feel like you’re the only one in a drab world is very relatable, and it takes seeing an old flame, the only other person in color to lift your spirits.

Public Display of Electromagnetism

Being gay does not necessarily mean being out. To be publicly attached to another person, or to have others aware of your gender alignment or orientation is a personal and brave thing to do. It took Ray, a character very new to me to go through some real danger to admit to himself and the rest of the team that he was attached.

Again, we can count on DC Pride 2022 to be one of the brightest titles in DC history. The dark inky powers of Shadow Thief, sucking color from the pages into the bright explosions Ray brings, light up both the story itself and then the character’s spirits. It really mirrors the turmoil he was going through.

Bat’s in the Cradle

A story doesn’t need rich unpacking of themes or wildly ambitious art choices for it to be a good one that sheds a light on the unfair practices the US military has against LGBT individuals.

This story recounts Batwoman’s personal history within the armed forces, and her staunch determination to help others even though they did not help her. These actions despite this make her truly heroic. It’s this kind of figure that can inspire others, to choose to do the right thing, despite how queer people have been mistreated, to hopefully inspire those unjust few to be better is incredibly inspirational.

Special Delivery

Probably my biggest takeaway from this story was the one “extras” pansexual pride Wonder Woman t-shirt. I would wear that.

I think a particularly good Pride story should just be a simple, heartfelt love story. This deeply and truly was that. The tale centers on Tim Drake’s Robin, a character many forget is bisexual because of the wildly intolerant fan base that exploded at the news of the new Superman’s coming out. With any truly impactful love story, it shouldn’t matter the orientation or presentation of the characters. Change either of them to a woman, and do things change? Not really. That’s why we need more romantic stories like this.

The Hunt

The romance between these queer characters is as memorable and iconic as the characters themselves. Since Harley Quinn’s earliest appearances, the possibility of her being in a romantic relationship with Poison Ivy has been a toyed with idea, to the delight of all manner of comics fans. This story exemplifies this relationship. They are at their usual antics and showing their understanding and love for each other effortlessly as they walk through the many tribulations that could distract them.

The washed out, pastel color palate in this story is so beautiful. It has the same Sapphic colour tones we’d associate with this iconic couple anyway, so the choice was a masterful one.

Are You Ready for This?

Pride brings out conflict and a unique set of moments for characters on all worlds.

The bright and vibrant pop art of this story leaves us all with a sense of hope and fun, as the odds are stacked up against queer hero Kid Quick. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops, going into Multiversity Teen Justice.

Finding Batman

I’m so happy to see this story appear in The DC Pride: The New Generation Hardcover Collection. The disclaimer before “Finding Batman” was incredibly necessary, not only as a content warning, but also to remind us that while this book is full of positive pride tales, so many queer stories are tough.

The recount of Kevin Conroy’s life is triumphant, and required a great deal of bravery. There are very few other places or opportunities for a story like his to be told with such simplicity and directness. Conroy’s voice is raw and direct; factually telling us about times loaded with memory.

The artistic choices are a raw haze. like an independent biopic comic, but one that mirrors the haze of memory. The choice of white detail on a final black panel mirrors the choices of animation on the character that defined Conroy’s career and that brought this revelation of a story to us here today.

This tale is so powerful that our friend and colleague, Eric Lee, wrote a separate editorial about it, for our sister site, Fantastic Universes.

The Tim Drake: Pride Special – Review by Steve J. Ray

The DC Pride: Tim Drake Special also forms part of this superb collection. It contains the stories “The Sum Of Our Parts” from Batman: Urban Legends #4-#6, and “A Carol Of Bats” from issue #10, plus a brand new tale “The Elephant In The Room”. In it, we’re reintroduced to Tim’s school friend, Bernard Dowd (who first appeared back in Robin Vol 2 #121, from February 2004).

I adore the character of Tim Drake, and it’s clear that this creative team does too. The third Robin is still my favorite, as he’s such a rich, complex, and capable character. His detective skills rival Batman’s, and the Dark Knight himself has stated on numerous occasions, that he truly believes that Tim will one day surpass him.

Meghan Fitzmartin is a wonderful writer, and for me one of the greatest Tim Drake scribes of them all; she gets him, respects him, and knows what makes him tick. What more could any Robin fan want?

Belén Ortega and Alejandro Sánchez are behind most of the art in this book. In the opening tale, “The Sum Of Our Parts”. Alejandro Sánchez provides the color, with Luis Guerrero taking his place on the closer, “The Elephant In The Room”. All of them deliver gorgeous work. I love talents that provide great storytelling; facial expressions, body language, settings, and backgrounds, as well as action and adventure. These creative teams deliver on every front.

Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque handles the art, with the excellent Nick Filardi on color duty, in “A Carol Of Bats”. While I prefer Belén’s line art to Alberto’s, having this tale between both of Belén’s does help to accentuate and differentiate both halves of the book. This middle chapter features a Batman who’s both a million miles from being at his best physically, or financially, while also being in extremely rare form emotionally.

There’s a scene in this story that shocked, surprised, and inspired me. Those who see the Dark Knight as aloof, cold, and distant will get a very pleasant new look at him when they pick up this issue… as they must. I wasn’t even close to seeing it coming.

Thanks to the wonderful final chapter, “The Elephant In The Room” I no longer feel like Tim’s story has been overshadowed by Tom Taylor’s (stellar) work in Superman: Son of Kal-el. Seeing Tim reunited with his Young Justice teammates, Nightwing, and the Batgirls was truly magical. Seeing Batman, and Stephanie Brown (in Steph’s case, quite literally) embracing Tim’s new normal was beautiful and heartwarming.

Tim’s other story in the DC Pride: The New Generation (reviewed above, by Adam) is written and drawn by the wonderful Travis Moore, with colors by Enrica Eren Angiolini, and is lettered by Ariana Maher. Trust me, it follows on from this saga perfectly.

Conclusion

The DC Pride: The New Generation collection is truly remarkable in every way, but is definitely underlined and given true power by the strength of “Finding Batman”. Yes, we have a whole book that brings us heroes in action, and there’s a wonderful spread of all orientations and gender representations here. We’ve had the heroes made this way, but the life and actions of one man, rising through adversity, and becoming as much of a superhero to fans as the character he voiced is the kind of Pride story that gives the world real inspiration.

Also having Tim Drake’s momentous coming out as bisexual story collected, continues to give the third Teen Wonder the most character development he’s had in years. This isn’t all down to his acknowledging his sexuality, but also because it shows how hard it is to have a personal life while also being a superhero.

Once again DC has presented us with a rounded and exquisite presentation of the kinds of people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. This collection truly offers many heroes we can all be proud of… and they’re always around, not just for Pride month.

As well as all the wonderful stories, this gorgeous book also has a massive cover gallery, a section featuring sketches and designs, an introduction by Nicole (Dreamer) Maines, and a tribute to Kevin Conroy.

The DC Pride: The New Generation hardcover collection is available to buy now, wherever book and comics are sold. It can also be ordered direct from Penguin Random House.

$19.99 – ISBN 9781779518484

Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment. Review Copy Courtesy of Penguin Random House.


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