Review: Justice League of America Vol. 5: Deadly Fable trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Justice League of America Vol. 5: Deadly Fable is a dull book, on its own but especially in the glare of DC Comics's shiny Justice League: No Justice. Despite an auspicious array of toys to play with, Fable brings us three slowly paced stories, favoring action over plot, over-narrated and not particularly well drawn. One wants to see a concluding book go out on top, especially one whose writer I honestly believe had good intentions, but with this final volume Justice League of America seals the case for its own cancellation.

All along I've praised Steve Orlando's "for the people" approach to the Justice League even as I've noted the difficulties inherent in bringing that to a superhero comic month after month. This volume fares no better than the previous, speaking its aesthetic more than it shows it; I think Orlando arrives at something smart by the end, but then of course it's too late.
Collected Editions 2017 Comic Book Gift Guide

Review: Batman: White Knight trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

We used to call them Elseworlds, these "what if" stories that imagined DC Comics's familiar heroes in unfamiliar settings. But we've come a long way from Batman as medieval knight or Victorian detective, toward writer/artist Sean Murphy's Batman: White Knight, which presents a gritty, socially complex Gotham really only a hair's removed from our own.

Scott Snyder's Batman opus Dark Nights: Metal is just the most recent to address the sci-fi idea that every decision, good and bad, creates alternate realities of the road not taken; through a few acts of grace and brutality, White Knight reveals an entirely new Bat-world, so similar yet different, floating just above our own. But, though possessing lofty ideas, Murphy's White Knight is never as metaphysical as all that. Perhaps coincidentally, DC's Black Label imprint has kicked off with two starkly different interpretations of the modern Batman, Brian Azzarello's supernatural Batman: Damned and the fast cars and dirty politics of Murphy's White Knight, and it demonstrates the range Black Label can offer.

Review: Silencer Vol. 1: Code of Honor trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Silencer Vol. 1: Code of Honor is a nice surprise. I had registered John Romita Jr. as initial artist but not for some reason Dan Abnett as writer, which might've given me a sense that the book was more than the 1990s-inspired big guns and kneepads cover seemed to suggest. Instead, Silencer is good fun, outrageous and madcap in the best ways. In its violent-protagonist-as-mother, it reminds of Marc Andreyko's Manhunter, never a bad thing, though Silencer is sillier and less dark than Manhunter, like one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's comedy-action flicks. I wonder just how long Abnett can preserve the best parts of this book's premise, but I'm definitely in for a second volume.

[Review contains spoilers]

It's in short order that seemingly normal suburban mother Honor Guest reveals herself to the reader to be former Leviathan assassin the Silencer, stabbing and shooting cybernetic rival assassin Killbox and, after pasta fagioli, then taking out Breacher and Bloodvessel. Indeed, Silencer is part ode, part send-up of that comics time when "Killbox" was a viable name for a comics character; Honor left the 1990s behind her, and now it wants to pull her back in. Artists Romita and Viktor Bogdanovic are both perfect for the series; the action gets bloodier and more outrageous the longer this goes, but both artists have such an animated distance to their work that the book is never gross, just increasingly electrifying and absurd.

Review: Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette's first Wonder Woman: Earth One volume, touted as a sexual gauntlet thrown, arrived as less than that. Though Morrison's sex-positive Diana was good to see, it came after the New 52 iteration of the character finally had an adult relationship (with the Superman of the time), making Morrison's story not so much a vanguard of change as a secondary thumbs up. Morrison's Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2, emerging now post both the wildly successful first Wonder Woman movie and the start of the #MeToo era, needed to reflect these important times and does so with a villain rooted in the pickup artist and incel subcultures. But again the story feels not quite up to its potential; a couple of times it feels Morrison goes right up to the edge and then blinks. How Morrison's Wonder Woman: Earth One books will ultimately be regarded is now going to depend a lot upon how he finally concludes the series.

Review: Flash Vol. 7: Perfect Storm trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Who is Barry Allen if he's not the Flash? In Flash Vol. 7: Perfect Storm, writer Joshua Williamson gives a good answer to a specious question; the conclusions Williamson arrives at about Barry Allen, about speedsters, and about the peculiar "Flash family" of the early Rebirth era are all quite heartening, but it comes again at the expense of the Barry Allen character himself. Williamson's Flash is ramping up for its big "Flash War" and I'm eager to see what happens next; I just wish these stories didn't keep coming at the cost of chipping away at the Barry character further.

[Review contains spoilers]

Gorilla Grodd heavily influences Barry Allen's mind in Perfect Storm, and there's a suggestion toward the end that Barry's wholly selfish decision to regain his lost powers while sacrificing Central City was Grodd's doing. Then again, the story also suggests Barry has some real angst about himself sans the Flash -- that Barry isn't so sure he's interesting, lovable, or worthwhile without his speedster powers. Such is the push and pull of Joshua Williamson's Flash. To me, Barry Allen has always been the most stable of DC's hallmark characters -- the least angsty, the most sanguine about his own nerdiness, the one for whom his powers were most just an extension of his own self. Sure, Barry might want to regain his lost powers, but the deals with the devil and general riskiness seems devoutly un-Barry. It is well in line with the Barry of Williamson's run, however, and so I was not exceptionally surprised, nor that Williamson doesn't make a stronger statement in the end as to how much was Grodd and how much was Barry himself.

Review: Super Sons Vol. 3: Parent Trap trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Super Sons Vol. 3: Parent Trap is the best this series has been so far, landing with its humor and drama from start to finish. That's even despite writer Peter Tomasi using well-established plot devices throughout; even with some tired tropes, Tomasi makes the Super Sons wholly likable, something that hasn't always come so easily, and there's even a sense of real danger for a change. Unfortunately, as is always the case, this improvement comes at this series' end; though the follow-up series is teased, I'm still not sure I'll be picking it up so quickly.

[Review contains spoilers]

Of Parent Trap's two main stories here, one involves Robin Damian Wayne's conflict with his mother, Talia al Ghul, and the other involves Superboy Jon Kent and Robin battling Super Sons Vol. 1: When I Grow Up's inaugural foe Kid Amazo. In this way, Parent Trap is effectively a book of sequels, breaking no great new ground necessarily aside from the Super-Pets team up in the included annual.

DC Trade Solicitations for December 2018 - Batman: Troika, Metal Reordered, Mister Miracle by King, New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 4, Reverse-Flash, Deathstroke: World Tour by Wolfman, Wonder Woman by Simonson and Ordway

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

It's DC Comics's December 2018 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations. In the list of books I never thought I'd see ever, the Batman: Troika paperback is solicited this month -- yes, we knew it was coming, but "Troika"'s one of those key long-wanted, never-collected stories, and to see it officially solicited now is really a marvel.

Of course, for some that will be overshadowed by the Dark Nights: Metal paperback, not so much a wonder in and of itself except that it starts to put the series now in its Scott Snyder-designated reading order. Also notable in this list is the New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 4, correcting a five-year-old mistake as this series finally gets with what readers wanted in the first place. There is also a paperback-first edition of Tom King and Mitch Gerad's Mister Miracle, the format of which had surprised some people but I really am pulling for a deluxe combo edition of King's Mister Miracle and Omega Men (extra points if it's printed so one book reads one way and then you have to flip it over and start from the back for the other one).

Let's not overlook too the run that nearly no one remembers by two comics legends, Wonder Woman by Walter Simonson and Jerry Ordway (I'm still scratching my head how I missed this the first time), plus the Marv Wolfman Deathstroke reprints still seem to be going strong. So not a bad month altogether, and that's without even mentioning the Reverse Flash spotlight book and the next dedicated Kyle Rayner collection.

Let's take a swim in the pool of solicitations, shall we?

Absolute Swamp Thing by Alan Moore Vol. 1 HC

Assuredly if there's a run that deserves Absolute treatment, it's this one. This is said to be three volumes, and this first volume collects issues #20-34 ("Loose Ends," "Anatomy Lesson," and so on), plus the Annual #2. That's all of the first and second Saga of the Swamp Thing Alan Moore collections, so if that mapping stands, the second Absolute should be issues #35-50 and the third should be #51-64. I'd be curious to hear to what extent and how noticeable the recoloring of this edition is, and if anyone can discern the reasons.

Adam Strange: The Silver Age Vol. 1 TP

Showcase #17-19 and Mystery in Space #53-79.

Batman by Neal Adams Book Two TP

A new paperback printing of the previously released hardcover and paperback. Batman #219, Detective Comics #395, #397, #400, #402, #404 and #407-408, and Brave and the Bold #86 and #96. This begins Neal Adams' collaboration with Dennis O'Neil.

Batman in the Brave and the Bold: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 TP

Brave and the Bold #92-109, with Teen Titans, Flash, Metal Men, Wonder Woman Diana Prince, Green Arrow, and Black Canary among others (including Phantom Stranger and Green Lantern, if the cover is to be believed).

Batman: Shaman New Edition TP

Previously this was solicited as Legends of the Dark Knight #1-15, and seemed like the start of a new comprehensive collection of the Legends of the Dark Knight series, kind of like DC is doing for Shadow of the Bat. But this solicitation just lists Legends #1-5, which would indeed just be "Shaman" by Dennis O'Neil. That's unfortunate, I think; I don't think there's much market for a new edition of "Shaman," but I do think a Legends of the Dark Knight collections series that started with O'Neil's "Shaman," Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson's "Gothic," and Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy's "Prey" would sell. We'll see if there's more to come.

Batman: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 7 HC

Collects Batman #55-66, Detective #154-173, and stories from World's Finest #43-52, including appearances by Catwoman and Penguin, the origin of the Red Hood (at the time), and the first appearances of Deadshot and Killer Moth.

Batman: Troika TP

Wonderfully, the final chapter of the "Knightfall" saga, never before collected and then finally included in the recent Knightfall omnibuses, now comes to trade. This is Batman #515, Shadow of the Bat #35, Detective #682, and Robin #14, plus Nightwing: Alfred's Return and Vengeance of Bane II. "Troika" was small in terms of Bat-events, but debuted in full Batman's post-"Knightfall" costume and offered some wrap-up for the mega-story. Finally we have the collection (in January).

Batwoman Vol. 3: Fall of the House of Kane TP

Collects issues #12-18, the end of the Marguerite Bennett series.

Dark Days: The Road to Metal TP

We'll talk about paperback Metal collections with new contents in a second. Paperback Metal collections with the same contents include Dark Days: The Road to Metal, with Forge, Casting, Final Crisis #6-7, Return of Bruce Wayne #1, and Batman #38-39 and Nightwing #17, though now the solicitations correctly identify these as the New 52 Batman and the current series Nightwing.

Dark Nights: Metal TP

You'll recall the to-do when the Metal hardcovers were first announced, that Batman: Lost and Dark Knights Rising: The Wild Hunt weren't collected with the Metal series proper (Lost, yeah; Wild Hunt, unless you've got all the "Dark Knights Rising" stories in there, I'm not sure). I figured they'd just fix the order for the (inevitable) omnibus, but it would seem now we've got some value added with those issues included in the paperback. Due in late January.

Deathstroke, the Terminator Vol. 5: World Tour TP

Collects issues #26-34. So glad these classic Deathstroke collections are still coming out. The last one was a short one, just issues #21-25 and an annual, so nine issues is a good look.

Detective Comics: Before Batman (Vols. 1 and 2) HC

Previously announced as two hardcover "omnibus" volumes (only collecting thirteen issues each, though you can tell me if those are "oversized" issues), this has now been changed to two hardcovers in one slipcase. The solicitation says "Please note that these stories will be scanned directly from original copies of these issues"; I'll be curious to hear what results in terms of quality.

DMZ Book Five TP

Issues #60-72 by Brian Wood, the last issues of the series. This is the paperback of the deluxe hardcovers.

Flash Rogues: Reverse-Flash TP

This is clever, in the spirit of the Batman: Arkham villain spotlight collections; first Captain Cold, now "Reverse-Flash" (I always thought it was "Reverse Flash," no dash).

Said to collect Flash (first series) #139 (first appearance) and #283 (important appearance some years before "Trial of the Flash"), Flash #197 (this is listed in the solicitation as if it's part of that first Flash series, but I'm almost positive this is from the late Geoff Johns era of the Wally West series after Crisis on Infinite Earths, being the origin of Hunter "Zoom" Zolomon), Flash #8 (the solicitation says "2012," but I'm also sure this is issue #8 from the 2010 second Geoff Johns series starring Barry Allen after Final Crisis and Flash: Rebirth, the issue being published in 2011), Flash: Reverse Flash #23.2 (from the New 52 series by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul, being that era's Reverse-Flash Daniel West), Batman #21 (the brutal Rebirth fight between Batman and Eobard Thwane at the start of the "Button" crossover) and Flash #25 (the Rebirth origin by Joshua Williamson).

So that's a good swath of representation for the various Reverse Flashes over the years and probably a good primer for the audience of this kind of thing.

Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Vol. 3 TP

Said to collect issues #66-75 and Annual #4 of the Ron Marz run. Most of this has actually already been collected before, except for the "Year One" annual, in the Green Lantern: Baptism of Fire collection, with appearances by Flash Wally West, Batman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, and Darkstars Donna Troy and John Stewart, and an Underworld Unleashed tie in. Darryl Banks and Paul Pelletier are both pretty great on the art.

Next book would have a crossover with Chuck Dixon's Connor Hawke Green Arrow (let's hope DC would include those issues), and Final Night tie-ins (and, of course, a pretty important aftermath). Given that DC seems to be trying to collect all Kyle Rayner appearances with this series, I wonder if Final Night proper might be included, and/or the Parallax: Final Night special since it impacted this series and was written by Marz.

Green Lanterns Vol. 8: Ghosts of the Past TP

Issues #44-49, stories by Tim Seeley and Aaron Gillespie. Dan Jurgens takes over Green Lanterns with issue #50 and the book ends with issue #57, so I'd assume DC will finish it off with the ninth volume.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 7: Darkstars Rising TP

Issues #42-50, the final issues by Robert Venditti. I have enjoyed Venditti's run very much, and I'm especially eager to see him use the Darkstars in this volume, though I'm not so much for the "murderous Darkstars." Hoping for some familiar faces to cameo -- no spoilers!

Harley Quinn: The Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book Three HC

Collects issues #28-42; it was previously #28-40, but that maps more exactly to Harley Quinn Vol. 5: Vote Harley and Harley Quinn Vol. 6 (at some point also this was said to include the Paul Dini backups and Harley Quinn: Be Careful What You Wish For, but neither of those are in Harley Vols. 5 or 6 and now seem to be rightly excluded here). These finish Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's and Frank Tieri's run; next (if produced) would be a couple issues by Christopher Sebela and then into the new Sam Humphries run.

Hellblazer Vol. 20: Systems of Control TP

Issues #230-238 by Andy Diggle and the Hellblazer: All His Engines graphic novel by Mike Carey and Leonardo Manco.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Four: The Complete Collection TP

Issues #1-12 and the annual by Tom Taylor and Brian Buccellato.

Justice League of America: The Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 3 HC

Collects Justice League of America #147-181, including Elongated Man, Red Tornado, the Justice Society, and the Seven Soldiers of Victory.

Lobo by Keith Giffen and Alan Grant Vol. 2 TP

Collects Lobo: Infanticide #1-4, Lobo: Death and Taxes #1-4, Authority/Lobo: Jingle Hell, Authority/Lobo: Spring Break Massacre. Also Lobo #58 is here, an issue from the ongoing series by Giffen and Grant, which suggests the ongoing series just by Grant won't be being collected -- I was hoping that it would be, as it did indeed include crossover tie-ins and such.

Mister Miracle TP

Collecting Tom King and Mitch Gerads twelve-issue series. Some online are surprised this isn't hardcover, but then again we don't have a hardcover of Omega Men, either. Maybe we need a two-fer omnibus?

The New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 4 HC

A new fourth New Teen Titans Omnibus (who's have thought years ago that we'd ever see this?). This collects through and then after the new New Teen Titans Vol. 10 paperback (issues #10-31 of the second series, annuals #1-2, and a story from Omega Men #34).

Nightwing: The Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book Three HC

Issues #29-43, interestingly enough -- so this is Tim Seeley's final volume, Nightwing Vol. 5: Raptor's Revenge, and then Nightwing Vol. 6: The Untouchable with stories by Sam Humphries, Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing, and Mike Moreci. I was expecting that this series of oversized Rebirth collections would end after the first team, so after Seeley; we know now Benjamin Percy is on the series from #44-51 and Scott Lobdell is after that, so let's see if there's a next one for this.

The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists 30th Anniversary Edition TP

Issues #21-28 with a new introduction by Patton Oswalt.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up Vol. 6 TP

Issues #31-36, with the Atom, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Birds of Prey, and Yogi Bear. Every monthly DC solicitation, I always look to see who's appearing in the book this month; good on Sholly Fisch.

Shade, the Changing Woman TP

Collects the six-issue Young Animal miniseries.

Supergirl Vol. 5: The Hunt for Reactron TP

Previously this had been said to collect Supergirl #45-46 and Action Comics #881-882 by Stering Gates with Greg Rucka, but that's been expanded to include Supergirl #44-50 and the Annual #1 of that era. That's better, as now this is more fully -- more or less -- Supergirl: Friends & Fugitives and Supergirl: Death and the Family (Friends had issue #43, but that was included in the Vol. 4 of these larger collections, and issue #44 was in a different Superman collection but is now placed here). The extent to which these books weave in and out of the "New Krypton" story probably make for confusing reading at times, but surely Sterling Gates deserves to have the last best Supergirl run collected.

Superman: Kryptonite Deluxe Edition HC

A new deluxe-size collection of the stories from Superman Confidential #1-5 and #11 by Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale.

Sweet Tooth Book Three TP

Issues #26-40.

Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang Omnibus HC

Issues #0-35, #23.1, and Secret Origins #6, collecting the entirety of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's (and friends) New 52 run.

Wonder Woman by Walter Simonson and Jerry Ordway TP

On announcement of this book, about everyone I've talked to said, "Wait, when did Walt Simonson and Jerry Ordway do a Wonder Woman run?" But sure enough, between the end of Phil Jimenez's run (newly to be collected) and the start of Greg Rucka's run (they haven't finished the re-collection, I know), there were two comics legends for six issues ("Game of the Gods"). And apparently they cut Diana's hair. I'll be curious to check out this previously missed piece.

Are you Team Metal or Team Troika?

Review: Justice League Vol. 7: Justice Lost trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

I'd be curious to see what a year in the DC Universe written solely by Christopher Priest would look like -- a year in a place where Batman's nocturnal activities make him so tired he can't adequately lead the Justice League, a place where Wonder Woman can be felled by a bullet's ricochet, a place where the Justice League is mistrusted by the U.S. government and proven inadequate on the world stage. Priest's Justice League is kind of the anti-Authority, for better or worse; rather than enforce their will on the world, it takes only one bad day to make clear their global impotence.

[Review contains spoilers]

It's a clear law of DC Universe physics that Batman, crimefighting at night and sleeping during the day (except when stories need him not to be), must not be affected by this schedule, nor show the human wear and tear that swinging from rooftops would effect on a normal person (except also when the story calls for it, and often swiftly resolved) -- else these fanciful stories could not be told. At the outset of the story concluded in Justice League Vol. 7: Justice Lost, Priest causes that very thing to happen, as Batman's tiredness leads to the death of a nun -- a nun(!) no less, Priest bludgeoning the walls of the fanciful with a dose of the outrageous.

Review: Damage Vol. 1: Out of Control trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Damage, not coincidentally, reminds of the New 52's short-lived OMAC series and also your boilerplate Incredible Hulk story. There's a heavy dose of The Fugitive, too. It is far from ground-breaking (aside from the protagonist's destructive tendencies), and without some major shot in the arm, I'm doubtful the book will last much longer. For what is a standard "monster within" book, however, Damage Vol. 1: Out of Control was better than I expected, and the suggested ties to larger DC Comics continuity offered a faint ray of hope; I think Damage has a path to success, though I'm not counting on it getting there.

Review: Batman: Preludes to the Wedding trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Knowing that Tim Seeley wasn't privy to the actual details of Tom King's Batman #50 when he wrote the specials collected in Batman: Preludes to the Wedding, I was perversely excited to read this book just to see how far off Seeley might be. The answer actually is that Seeley really isn't that far off, especially if perhaps you tilt your head and squint; rather, as Seeley is taking from much of the engagement comics that led up to Batman and Catwoman's wedding issue, and it was ultimately King's Batman #50 that sharply deviated from that, it almost seems like Seeley gets it right and King gets it wrong.

These are curious stories, often, not the least of which for instance when Nightwing and Hush fight demons in another dimension, to give you a sense of the liberties Seeley takes. I'm a sucker for these kinds of specials that line up major Batman events with their ancillary titles (e.g. the Endgame specials); DC could collect these separately with the individual titles too, but I don't think they're planning to. One doesn't miss a lot skipping these, moot as they are, but I thought Seeley had something interesting (or at least offbeat) to say about each member of the Bat-family he visits here.