Consisting of eight stories that are ten pages each, DC’s Beach Blanket Bad Guys Summer Special gathers a collection of writers and artists to tell a variety of stories showcasing some of DC’s most notorious super villains. As is the case with most anthologies, having so many different people leads to varying degrees of quality. Fortunately, most of the stories work to some degree.
It is hard to pick one story that stands head and shoulders above the rest though the art and color in the Black Manta story ‘Icy Embrace’ and the Deathstroke piece ‘Dog Days of Summer’ look great. Both have completely different styles yet work for similar reasons. Gabriel Hardman’s art looks like a classic comic strip, complete with numerous panels to convey action and emotion (a remarkable feat considering Manta’s trademark mask.) The use of heavy lines is striking and the story looks beautiful. Matthew Wilson uses light and shadow excellently, giving the story the eerie atmosphere required.
Carlos D’Anda’s take on Deathstroke appropriately looks more like a cartoon than a comic strip. Given the nature of the story, character expression is very important and D’Anda does a great job. Despite the somewhat dark nature of the story, Luis Guerrero uses a wide array of colors. This not only adds to the art, but is an effective contrast to the story being told.
Both stories are also fun reads. The two have a Twilight Zone like twist, with Manta’s being more hopeful and happy, while Deathstroke’s is chilling. There are also varied stories featuring Lex Luthor, Mr. Freeze, and Cheetah that provide insight into the main characters’ motivations. Most importantly, they are fun without being heavy handed. (The Luthor story ‘Help’ cuts it very close, however.)
‘Dog Days of Summer’ highlights Beach Blanket’s biggest problem. Quite simply, there are too many stories. This makes some seem rushed while others come off as filler. For example, Slade’s story moves along nicely until it suddenly reaches its climax. It is a shocking twist, but it also is not the emotional gut punch it should be. The opening story featuring Joker and Bizarro just sort of ends while the one involving the Penguin is too predictable. Eliminating those along with the ones starring Giganta and Flash while adding more to Deathstroke’s would have made for a much stronger book.
While some stories are much better than others, they all convey a sense of summer until the finale, ‘Independence’ by writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing. The story stars the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 and while there is nothing wrong with the story, it is just a unwanted shock to the system after reading more light hearted character driven fare. ‘Independence’ is a dark story that does not fit the book’s tone.
DC’s Beach Blanket Bad Guys Summer Special is a entertaining giant sized issue that does not take itself too seriously and just wants to tell stories. There are some missteps along the way, but it is a perfect way to spend some of your summer.