I enjoyed the 2018 version of New Talent Showcase far more than either of the earlier volumes. While part of that had to do with the efforts of the creative teams in the book, part was also due to some changes in the format.
There are only six stories in this collection, and with fewer tales, that means each one gets a larger page count. More time to tell the story results in better told stories. As well, while the tales in the earlier volumes all ended in cliffhangers, making the reader desire follow ups that would never come into existence, in this volume each of the six stories is self contained.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Amancay Nahuelpan open the issue with a Batman story. It’s a well crafted tale, most of which takes place in the open air, as Batman rescues an anti-vigilante activist from Zsasz, all three of whom are falling from an airplane, potentially to their deaths. High drama indeed! The story is tight, and the activist dealt with very well, remaining sympathetic, even though the reader cannot help but disagree with her. Nahuelpan does excellent work on the vertiginous visuals. This would not be in any way out of place in a Bat-book.
The next story is by Sanya Anwar and Priscilla Petraites, featuring John Constantine, as he helps a powerful businessman against vengeful ghosts. The story is set in Hong Kong, and it’s an effective tale, if not the most original. But Constantine is handled well, the ghosts look really creepy, and the tale closes with a satisfyingly nasty twist.
Catwoman gets an adventure by Joey Esposito and Dominike “DOMO” Stanton. To be honest, this one took a bit to grab my interest. It only really takes fire once Robin shows up. Both are pursuing some scum, working for the Penguin, who pit animals against each other in cage matches. The narration gives the reader Catwoman’s thoughts, and we see that she is none too fond of Damien Wayne, but has grown to notice how his personality changes when he is with his pets. And of course, anyone who loves cats can’t be all bad in Selina’s eyes. I wound up really enjoying this story as it reached its conclusion. Both are determined to keep their nighttime activities a secret from Bruce, and a weird sort of bond forms between Catwoman and Robin by the end.
The only story that didn’t really grab was the Green Lantern one, though I don’t really blame Robert Jeffrey II and Max Raynor for that. I’m just not a huge Green Lantern fan, and the science talk in the first few pages was enough to make me drift away. Still, I liked the core premise of the tale, with the flashbacks to John Stewart’s mother. Visually, the page in which the villain uses her ring to create “the world you fight for” really stood out for me.
Hands down my favourite story in this issue is the Zatanna one, brillianetly rendered by Ryan Cady and Isaac Goodhart. The story takes Zatanna to an Italian village, where her father had tricked some demons many years before. The village wants Zatanna to pull off the same trick, but she has larger goals, to get rid of the entities completely. The tale is told with humour, and some very good twists. The art is wonderful throughout. I love the way Zatara’s part of the tale is told, as if in an old movie, and the two page spread of Zatanna’s performance works very well. It’s fun and funny, and the high point for me.
Magdalene Visaggio and Aneke close out the book with a Wonder Woman story. The art on this story is extremely good, but the tale feels a little unclear. We are presented with Diana coming to the aid of a young woman who has been shot. As they climb a mountain, Wonder Woman tells her of an early battle she had with an archaeologist who found a powerful relic on Themiscyra. I don’t hugely see the connection between these, nor did I ever fully understand why the girl got shot in the first place. But it was all wonderful to look at, so I didn’t wind up minding too much.
All in all, this is an impressive collection. The Batman and Zatanna stories are both so good that they are worth the cost of picking it up.