Review: DC Pride 2024

“DC Pride 2024”
Writers: Al Ewing, Ngozi Ukazu, Gretchen Felker-Martin, Jamila Rowser, Jarrett Williams, Nicole Maines, Calvin Kasulke, Melissa Marr, Phil Jimenez
Artists: Stephen Byrne, Claire Roe Oneilljones, D.J. Kirkland, Jordan Gibson, Len Gogou, Jen St-Onge, Giulio Macaione

Color Artists: Triona Farrell, Jeremy Lawson
Letterers: Aditya Bidikar, Lucas Gattoni, Jodie Troutman, Ariana Maher, Morgan Martinez, Andworld Design, Frank Cvetkovic
Review by Adam Ray

It’s that time of the year again! DC Pride 2024 brings us a wide range of stories featuring a host of great characters and a cornucopia of stunning and vibrant artistic styles.

These annual specials are always an event and a highlight of my year. The latest installment has added to this tradition in a spectacular way from the drop, with new artistic takes and the usual selection of strong stories.

In between each tale, there’s a character portrait; a pin-up set to all the colors on the pride flag. They’re all very welcome visual interludes that show just how diverse the LGBTQIA+ community is in DC comics, and how it reflects back to readers that a great queer character can be anyone.

Hello, Spaceboy

The story opens with a struggle that I can personally relate to… why can’t we all just get along? In the queer community, there’s always the trouble of how best to get to grips with yourself and your own self-identification. It’s a problem for people on Earth and for Starman.

In the end, we get to see a very heartfelt and relatable romance. Even super-powered beings from another world need to come up with excuses to spend time with the ones they like, but it’s more a case of fighting monsters than it is of just showing up at work.

The art and colors pop in this story, leaving us to feel a real sense of 80s nostalgia with the character’s fashion, and the neon and rainbow schemes. This all adds up to a story that lands very close to home for this reviewer.

The Rivers and the Lakes that You’re Used To

The light-hearted and cartoonish proportions do wonders to keep stories in this new Pride issue that much more approachable and welcoming to readers of all ages. Yes, psycho-conservatives, this comic is certificated 13+, and people of that age range should be reading it to learn about love, fairness, and equality.

This story uses art and color to wonderfully convey scene changes and different settings. The brighter sky blue tones contrast perfectly with the darker underwater hues, and the transitory green in the middle makes it all feel reminiscent of the gay men’s pride flag. It’s an amazing choice when the art and design work with the theme of Pride in such subtle ways.

Marasmius

It’s important to recognize that, despite the allegiance of good members of the community, we can still feel the bitter sting of bigotry and hatred from those who don’t understand. It may not be our job to fight them as aggressively as Poison Ivy does in this story, but there’s something satisfying about her doing so.

I could even argue that it’s a little damaging to see this kind of media, as it’s important to rise above hate, but it’s also true to the character for Ivy to handle her rage in this way.

One of the story’s saving graces is its artwork. The design of the architecture of the alien world is immense and gripping. We see strange and well-imagined alien beings all over the issue, which leaves the human antagonists sometimes as the most hideous.

Steeling Time

This brings us to a welcome and real look that, even among superheroes, relationships can be messy. Be they straight ones or queer ones. This is a relatable story about doing the right thing, but even for heroic figures, it’s still easier to fix up power armor than to talk to the girl you like.

Once again the visuals harken right back to the queer themes we’re playing with. Everything towards the second half of the story is in muted oranges and pinks, like the colors of the Sappho flag. At the same time, walking around that party scene was like a game of spot-the-characters. It’s so rewarding to see even background moments having respect for the queer pantheon of DC’s characters.

Bros Down in A-Town

The manga influences in this story are stark and surprising. The focus is on expressions and the way facial features are accentuated, as well as how some of the action is set to the characters reacting to neutral backgrounds with detailed shots coming in when it’s relevant to the story.

The reason Eastern-style comics are made this way is to save on time constraints and stringent budgets. I think it works particularly well as it adds to the alien setting that the protagonists are in. Being that bombastic just makes a lot of sense.

We get a real sense of the community actually being a community in this story. Superman helps Ray through the all too common internalized fear and doubt that comes with coming out of the closet. It demonstrates the grassroots heroism that adds to the appeal of the younger Superman. DC Pride 2024 shows us the importance of being a good ally to other queer people in your life.

Lessons in Astral Projection

It wouldn’t be Pride without Dreamer, and it wouldn’t be the LGBTQIA+ community without strong Trans representation. Dreamer, since her first appearance in the Supergirl TV series, has been a cornerstone for strong Trans characters in comics.

In this particular story, she’s handling her own feelings of inadequacy with her powers and the face of why she even has them in the face of being a Trans character, especially in the case of Naltorian people. It’s a double-layered struggle that most in the community can relate to.

The entire tale is enveloped in a welcoming wrap of dreamlike blues that would make anyone feel comfortable. We get a great show of her powers on display and the transitional nature between dreams and wakefulness: the dynamics that the character is based on.

I particularly love how well-lettered this story is. The message from her mother in the middle is legible but still feels like an emotional, frantic scrawl that a real person would create. It’s contrasted by the detailed letters of her home world’s prophecy set to her signature blues and gives the words real mystical significance.

Phantom Rodeo

We get another fine use of lettering at the beginning of this story, putting the creative team in and amongst the action. It all feels very cinematic.

This tale does the other wonderful thing that DC Pride is famous for, which is to give a new lease of life to certain characters as their runs begin in other titles. One character’s appearance in The Flash makes this a great opportunity to show off a lesser-known non-binary character among the DC Speedsters.

There are significantly fewer queer themes or messages in this story, but that’s largely due to the need for it to be a tie-in.

The Strange Case of Harleen and Harley

DC Pride 2024 is a celebration of great things to come in DC Comics. It’s been a while since we got a real preview of coming attractions in a release like this, but “Strange Case” is one of them.

The publisher has been releasing a veritable treasure trove of amazing young adult graphic novels in recent years, and this heartfelt look at a young Harleen and Ivy is set to be a fan favorite from release. You can expect to hear more news about it. right here on Dark Knight News.

The neutral, pastel characters of blues and greens fill us with hope and wonder for these two young girls, while also giving the whole story a nostalgic feel for these new versions of such familiar characters. I’m eager to see the rest of the story.

Spaces

Following on from the tradition of Kevin Conroy’s “Finding Batman” (DC Pride 2022), we get a heartfelt look back at the life of iconic writer/artist Phil Jimenez. We hear his heartfelt and deeply emotional connection to Wonder Woman and the setting of Themyscira and his place as part of it.

The sweeping looks at Paradise Island and the color contrasts of the young boy’s sepia memory, the grown man’s settled blues, and the rushing golds of the setting he so dearly loves bring everything into sharp focus. The creative team has done the impossible and made something so striking, that we feel Jimenez’s nostalgia with him. It’s a rare thing to pull off.

The story leaves us with the sobering and welcoming thought that we all wish we could go back to see ourselves young, and still full of hope. We have to remind the young version of us, especially ones like the real Jimenez who were struggling with their identity, that things will be alright in the end.

The poignancy of the story truly hit home for me as a queer creator. I’d give anything to give the younger me some similar advice, and seeing that struggle mirrored by a creator I’ve always admired and respected is humbling.

Conclusion

DC Pride 2024 is a heartfelt and well-balanced montage of collected and contrasting stories from across the queer spectrum and the wide array of many kinds of characters that can be found in the DC Universe.

Some points weren’t focused on the LGBTQIA+ presentation, and some may have presented some possibly unhelpful actions committed by the queer main characters. Those moments are easy to forgive when the vast majority of the stories are heartfelt, powerful, and optimistic.

Yet again, DC has brought a powerful and hopeful message to its readers.

Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment


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