Review: Birds of Prey Vol. 3: Clash of Daggers trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Duane Swierczynski's debut New 52 Birds of Prey volume was stellar, easily dispelling any concerns about a writer other than Gail Simone taking over this title; art by Jesus Saiz didn't hurt, either. But the second volume was dull more than it was interesting, and I found the third volume, Birds of Prey Vol. 3: A Clash of Daggers unfortunately fairly dull too. Once again, Swierczynski does nothing to disrespect Black Canary and the Birds, but the story doesn't offer much more nuance than the superheroes fighting boilerplate bad guys and bickering uninspiredly amongst themselves. Really die-hard Green Arrow or Katana fans might enjoy a couple of continuity notes here, but I couldn't recommend it to anyone beyond that.

Review: Gravel Vol. 1: Bloody Liars trade paperback (Avatar Press)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

Warren Ellis’ tenure at Avatar Press began similarly to Alan Moore’s work with Image and Extreme, with the key difference that Avatar doesn’t appear to interfere on an editorial level. The result is fifteen years of publishing Ellis’s most challenging and violent books; in turn, this has raised their stature in the comic book world. One only needs to look at Zenescope to see what Avatar would have become without books like Garth Ennis’s Crossed and Ellis and Mike Wolfer’s Gravel.

Introduced in the Strange Killings series of mini-series, the character of William Gravel became popular enough to warrant an ongoing series -- the first one Avatar ever published. Much of this early material has only been collected in a rare hardcover, Never a Dull Day, but the first trade of the ongoing, Gravel: Bloody Liars works as an effective start.

Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 4: Discipline and Punish trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, October 27, 2014

DC only let Ales Kot write four issues of Suicide Squad, and given that the last collection saw the end of Adam Glass's long run on the series and the next volume finishes out the series with a half-dozen issues by Matt Kindt, it's hard to see Suicide Squad Vol. 4: Discipline and Punish as more than a way station before bigger events. But for a series that has sometimes been very good, sometimes been very bad, Kot's short trade is a momentary bright spot. Though I can understand why a reader might just jump to the new Sean Ryan series, Kot's book is worth picking up, and raises my esteem for the writer, if nothing else.

DC Trade Solicitations for February/March 2015 - Futures' End tie-ins, Superman: Doomed, Secret Six, Orion Omnibus

Friday, October 24, 2014

An interesting change -- maybe a typo, maybe not -- that DC Comics lists their hardcover and trade paperback collections solicitations for this month as February/March 2015 collections, even as the rest of the sections are January 2015, and last month's were December 2015. This is perhaps more accurate -- the trades solicited never come out the same month as the single issues solicited -- but still a little bit confusing organizationally.

It seems some months are all about the classic trades, and then some months -- maybe fitting for the post-holiday offerings -- the New 52 comes roaring back. That's what's got most of my attention this time, between parts of Superman: Doomed beginning to emerge and more titles collecting their Futures' End tie-in issues. Shall we dig in?

Superman: Doomed HC

I've no idea yet whether Superman: Doomed is good or not, but DC is surely betting hard on it, if that's any indication, running the story in Action, Superman, Superman/Wonder Woman, Batman/Superman, and Supergirl. Based on scope alone, I'm looking forward to it.

There's been some concerns that this Superman: Doomed collection wouldn't include the whole story, but if I'm not mistaken, this is more or less it: Superman: Doomed #1 and 2, Action Comics #30-35, Superman/Wonder Woman #7-12, Superman #30, Action Comics Annual #3, Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1, Supergirl #34-35 and Batman/Superman #11.

The only problem I potentially see is the exclusion of Superman #31, but given how otherwise complete this collection is, my guess is that's just an oversight in the solicitation. And to be sure, these issues will also be collected in their individual trades.

Batwing Vol. 5: Into the Dark TP

As with many of the books for this month, Batwing Vol. 5 includes the Futures' End tie-in issue; I'm glad to see so many Futures' End tie-in issues collected, in contrast to last year's Villains' Month. This marks the final collection of Batwing, a title I more or less lost track of after "Night of the Owls"; I'll probably get around to reading it one day -- Batwing appears in Batman: Eternal, right? -- but it's not necessarily high on my list.

Constantine Vol. 3: The Voice in the Fire TP
Justice League Dark Vol. 5: Paradise Lost TP

Both the Constantine and Justice League Dark series see their first trades after the Forever Evil: Blight crossover, and both contain their Futures' End tie-in issue.

Justice League United Vol. 1: Justice League Canada HC

It's a cute nod that the title once called "Justice League Canada" gets that as the title of its first collection. It's interesting that in addition to collecting its own Futures' End tie-in issue, this trade also includes the Justice League proper title's Futures' End collection. You'll have to tell me if one leads into the other.

Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 2: War and Peace HC

I really liked Charles Soule's first Superman/Wonder Woman collection, much more than I was expecting, and I'm looking forward to the second one, though -- as I mentioned above -- this trade collects the Superman/Wonder Woman issues of Superman: Doomed separate from the full collection. The book also includes not only the Superman/Wonder Woman Futures' End tie-in issue, but also the Wonder Woman Futures' End issue written by Soule.

Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 5 – Godkillers TP

Green Lantern: New Guardians gets a trade of its own between the "Lights Out" crossover previous and the "Godhead" crossover to come. Another series I've lost track of -- really I've lost track of the Green Lantern titles overall. I thought Geoff Johns wrote some good interactions for Hal Jordan in the Justice League, and personally I'm eager to see Hal with closer ties to the DC Universe again.

Teen Titans Vol. 5: The Trial of Kid Flash TP

Finishes out the Scott Lobdell Teen Titans run. Presumably we'll see the Futures' End issue collected with the first of Will Pfeifer's new series.

Secret Six Vol. 1: Villains United TP

Once again, the great news is that Gail Simone's Secret Six is back in the New 52, and this explains the new spate of "classic" Secret Six trades. This book includes the Villains United miniseries, the Secret Six miniseries, and the Villains United Infinite Crisis special, which is about two trades worth of material. No word yet on what the second collection will contain, but I don't think anyone would mind if DC collected the Six's appearance in Simone's Birds of Prey along with this.

I might have preferred hardcover for these reprinting, but I'm happy for anyone who hasn't had a chance to read Secret Six to be able to do so now.

Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City TP

"Dark Knight, Dark City" is a classic on its own (I reviewed it some time ago when it came out as a DC Comics Presents volume), but I adore this kind of "putting it in context" collection that includes Peter Milligan's Detective Comics stories from the same time. This early Tim Drake/pre-Knightfall Batman era is largely uncollected, and I hope this is the beginning of more from that era.

Orion by Walter Simonson Omnibus Edition HC

Doug offered a great preview a couple weeks back of what this will collect. Orion is another of these dynamic 2000s JLA-era series that was never collected -- Tom Peyer's Hourman is another one -- and the fact that it zooms back to us in omnibus form is just splendid. This is the anti-Showcase Presents, in essence; the same way we're getting Orion, I'd have wanted to see the 1980s Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Infinity Inc., and on and on.

Shazam!: A Celebration of 75 Years HC

Among the contributors listed for this book are Otto Binder, Dennis O'Neil, and Geoff Johns. Hopefully the omission of Jerry Ordway will be corrected in the book; this would not be a proper Shazam celebration without material from Ordway's superlative Power of Shazam (speaking of series that need omnibus collections). Aside from kicking off with a great graphic novel, Ordway's Captain Marvel was not too cheesy, not too modern, and it was in Ordway's book that we saw the beginnings of the Black Adam iteration that Johns would further popularize.

Secret Origins Vol. 1 TP

Based on the character's named in the solicitation, this would seem to collect issues Secret Origins issues #1-4, at least. Given that we know at least some of these stories will also be collected in the characters' individual volumes, I'll be trade-trade-waiting on this one until I see how the material shakes out elsewhere.

Batman: The Dark Knight Unwrapped By David Finch Deluxe Edition HC

Last but not least, this collection of David Finch's pencils among a variety of recent Bat-titles. I rather like Finch's Batman work (some other cover work notwithstanding) and I expect this will be an attractive book; indeed I think Finch was ill-served by some of the inking late in the New 52 Dark Knight title, and maybe this book will right those pages a bit.

OK -- what are you buying and what did I overlook?

Review: Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

In the 1990s, the LEGION character Lobo achieved a kind of ubiquity in which, having started as a bit player, he became more popular and outrageous in LEGION until he broke out on his own, still appearing across the DC Universe as a "serious" character but also in his own farcical title and a litany of one-shots and team-ups -- Lobo and Batman, Lobo and the Authority, Lobo and Judge Dredd, Lobo and Christmas, Lobo and comic cons.

When Tom Taylor teamed Harley Quinn and Green Arrow in Injustice, it was inspired; when Taylor teamed Harley and Lobo, it was fate. With Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's new Harley series, the first issues of which are collected in Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City, we find the Harley Quinn character becoming today what Lobo was then, and even Ambush Bug before them -- that DC Universe character still played straight elsewhere, but who's managed to get just one toe planted firmly on the other side of the fourth wall. With her own Christmas and convention specials now, Harley stands to inherit one of the great (if necessarily absurd) heritages of DC Comics.

Review: Bedlam Vol. 1 trade paperback (Image Comics)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

One of the best Batman story concepts of the past few years was the Riddler going straight and becoming a private detective. While it was inevitable that Edward Nigma would eventually return to villainy, he was finally useful as Batman’s foil rather than his outright enemy. But the redemption coming from a brain injury always seemed a little forced. Nick Spencer and Riley Rossmo’s Bedlam is a deconstruction of some of the same ideas as the Riddler’s redemption, but with added twists: What if it was the Joker who became a hero, and what would he have to go through for that to happen? The answer to these questions is a creepy and clever riff on some old tropes.

Review: Batman Vol 5: Zero Year -- Dark City hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Between the Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman: Earth One, and Gotham, it's not hard to tire of seeing Batman's origins these days, nor to suspect some elements -- the murder of the Waynes, Alfred's halting attempts to be a father to a traumatized Bruce -- of passing into cliche. To that end, it's no less than astounding that Scott Snyder in Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year - Dark City manages to tell young Bruce Wayne stories that feel fresh and are also considerably moving (brought a tear to my eye in the third chapter, issue #27, you did, Mr. Snyder) -- and that's even leaving aside the rock 'em, sock 'em Batman adventure that frames those pieces.

If I had to choose, I'd say the second part of "Zero Year" is Snyder and artist Greg Capullo's best Batman volume yet.

Review: Earth 2 Vol. 4: The Dark Age hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Taken on its own merits, Tom Taylor's Earth 2 Vol. 4: The Dark Age might be a passable alternative-DC-Universe title, if somewhat unremarkable among other superhero books and maybe a tinge too similar to the author's and others' works. But what's truly disheartening here is that in the five issues of Dark Age, Taylor takes what was the New 52's answer to a Justice Society title and transforms it into another Justice League title. An in-continuity Elseworlds title is interesting, but I can't get quite as enthused about it as I could when this was a "DC of yesteryear" book.

Review: Violator vs. Badrock: Rocks and Hard Places trade paperback (Image Comics)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

It’s a shame that trades rarely have forewords anymore. The opening to Violator vs. Badrock in particular is a fascinating look into Rob Liefeld’s mind. In it, Image executive and distribution expert Larry Marder tells of how the story was created: Liefeld was playing with toys of the Violator and Badrock and decided that it would make a cool comic. While there’s no proof that this is the case, I can only conclude that this was a storytelling technique that Liefeld lifted from Spaceballs. It’s clear that even Marder, the man who ran McFarlane Toys, is embarrassed with this origin as he instead veers to praise its author, The Original Writer (the author formerly known as Alan Moore).

Review: Earth 2 Vol. 3: Battle Cry hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, October 13, 2014

It's clear writer James Robinson is in his element in Earth 2 Vol. 3: Battle Cry, name-checking as he does obscure DC and even Quality Comics characters as he continues to build the world of Earth 2. In this, it's equally apparent the tragedy of this being Robinson's last volume on the series.

Those hoping for a clear conclusion of Robinson's run will be disappointed -- the book ends with a good cliffhanger, but nothing conclusive and no thematic wrap-up. Instead, much like Earth 2 Vol. 2: Tower of Fate, Robinson tells the story in his trademark fits and starts, weaving together four or five different storylines like a symphony -- one "tune" drops off over here, only to come rushing back a few issues later over there. Here, perhaps, we find the closure to Robinson's Earth 2 run, a volume that's as Robinson-esque as any that came before.