Review: Justice League: Trinity War hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

If the story that DC Comics's Justice League: Trinity War ended up being had been the story that readers had been expecting, I might consider it a passable, amusing first meeting between the three Justice League teams.

Unfortunately, the build-up and denouement of Trinity War so significantly differ from one another that it's hard to see what might otherwise have been a satisfactory story as anything other than a disappointment. And it's too bad, that.

[Review contains spoilers]

Every reader -- and I make that broad statement unequivocally -- went into Trinity War expecting that it would reveal the truth about Pandora, the mysterious figure who "caused" the New 52 relaunch in-story in Flashpoint and who appeared in every New 52 #1 issue, and about her fellow Trinity of Sin. While Trinity War does broaden Pandora's background somewhat, her role in Flashpoint and the reason she's been dogging DC's heroes is touched on not at all.

Review: X-O Manowar Vol. 1: By the Sword trade paperback (Valiant Entertainment)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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

Everything that happens in X-O Manowar Vol. 1: By The Sword occurred by page four in the first collection of the series' 1990s run, X-O Manowar: Retribution. However, this isn’t a case of a decompressed comic; instead, this is the kind of origin story that the character should have always had. For the Valiant relaunch of X-O Manowar, writer Robert Venditti went through the original run, found the parts that worked, and emphasized them to make the rebooted version successful. The idea of a fish-out-of-water superhero works better once we know who he actually is; a full issue goes by before ancient warrior Aric gets abducted by aliens, instead setting up his role in the war against the Romans. It’s not too complex, but it’s much more background than Retribution ever gave him.

Review: Justice League Vol. 4: The Grid hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fair warning that as with my recent review of Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis, this review of Justice League Vol. 4: The Grid might properly be called an "Uncollected Editions" column, in that I will mostly focus on the issues collected that precede the "Trinity War" tie-ins -- so, issues #18-20 and not issues #22-23 (issue #21 appears in the Shazam collection). This is ahead of my full-fledged Trinity War review, coming up.

I tend to like the first act of Justice League titles better than the second act. Grant Morrison's JLA was fairly superlative all the way through, but I favor pre-Rock of Ages to post; I dig Steel and Huntress being part of the League, but when I read a Justice League title, I want to read about the Big Seven, not their associates. I pretty well liked the line-up of Brad Meltzer's post-Infinite Crisis Justice League, too, but inevitably around Final Crisis-time most of the big guns bowed out and we were left with the second stringers. Not bad, but not my preference.

Trade Perspectives: Green Team, Teen Trillionaires and the Argument for Digital Trades

Friday, April 11, 2014

The news that DC Comics has cancelled the collection of Franco and Art Baltazar's Green Team, Teen Trillionaires marks the first New 52 ongoing series not to be collected in trade.* Previously it had seemed that every New 52 series would be collected, as evidenced by the number of cancelled series that received full collections -- Sword of Sorcery, GI Combat, and Team 7, to name a few.

Still, logically we probably might have expected this wouldn't last. And, if we take DC at their word regarding cancelled trades in the past, that pre-orders just weren't there, then logically we can't expect DC to publish a book on which they'd have a reasonable expectation they'd lose money. Admittedly, I did not pre-order Green Team, Teen Trillionaires, though I fully expected to purchase and read it at some point.

Review: Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

As many of you know, the Aquaman/Justice League crossover "Throne of Atlantis" is somewhat controversial among the wait-for-trade circles, in that each collection includes five of the same issues and only two independent of the other. The Justice League trade, at least, includes five of its own issues and two Aquaman issues; the Aquaman trade has four Aquaman issues to three Justice League issues, almost half-and-half.

I was disinclined to buy Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis given that there were only two issues I hadn't read, but I did want to read those issues as I gear up for Trinity War (itself its own collecting controversy) and Aquaman Vol. 4: Death of a King, and fortunately a friend had a copy to lend. As it turns out, those two issues factor into "Throne of Atlantis" significantly enough to offer a considerably different reading experience than reading the crossover through the Justice League Vol. 3 book. To that end, this review might more accurately fit in our "Uncollected Editions" series, as a look at the two issues original to Aquaman Vol. 3, Aquaman #0 and #14.

Review: Invincible: The Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 hardcover (Image Comics)

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

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

Ten years after Deathmate, the core Image brand was in a rut. Some of its component studios were doing well for themselves, such as Top Cow’s successes both on the page and on television with Witchblade. But other parts were spinning off into their own companies, notably Dreamwave and Devil’s Due, following in Wildstorm’s footsteps. Image’s flagship title Spawn was far past its heyday of film and anime tie-ins; McFarlane Toys was on the downward spiral into making statues over toys. Still, Image had enough pull to get some creators to launch a group of titles featuring teenage superheroes. Firebreather by Phil Hester was great, but its animated adaptation entered development hell and killed much of its momentum. Jay Faerber seemed to be the next big thing thanks to Noble Causes until a disastrous run on DC's The Titans arguably tarnished his career.

And then there was Invincible. Robert Kirkman had made his Image debut with the Guyver-esque romp Tech Jacket, but his new book, about the son of Superman pastiche Omni-Man Nolan Grayson, seemed destined to not go far. Co-creator and artist Cory Walker kept the title delayed frequently, and his somewhat odd-looking artwork, including a tendency to draw eyes as just dots, was a bit off-putting. But then issue #8 happened and introduced two major turning points: the massacre of the Guardians of the Globe (a Justice League parody) and the arrival of new artist Ryan Ottley. Not only could Ottley stay on schedule, but his sharp, detailed artwork was like nothing Image had published in years. The switchover was also very amicable, which prevented background drama.

Review: Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2: Breach of Faith trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 07, 2014

I've seen J. M. DeMatteis's name a lot but I haven't read much of his work, and of that, most of it was "bwah-ha-ha" stuff co-written with Keith Giffen. To that end, I was a little nervous about his taking over Justice League Dark, which just finished a stellar third volume by Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes, and also what his scripts for Phantom Stranger, from plots by Dan DiDio, would look like.

Having finished Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger Vol. 2: Breach of Faith, I can rightfully say I've followed DeMatteis's creations to Hell and back ... and I'd do so again in an instant.

[Review contains spoilers]

In the first volume of Phantom Stranger, DiDio posited this title as a bit like Quantum Leap or The Fugitive; in most of the issues the Stranger is sent, presumably by God, to push someone on to a certain path, and the Stranger is often responsible for betraying the person in the process. The second volume's structure is similar; the story finds the Stranger on a quest to find his missing adopted human family, but while there's more connection, the stories still feel self-contained and episodic. This is a boon, I think, as it gives the series an air of a horror serial like Tales from the Crypt or Twilight Zone.

Review: Justice League Dark Vol. 3: The Death of Magic trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

There was a team book I used to like. The characters didn't "go together" necessarily but were thematically tied, such that it was always interesting to see who'd walk in the door. The team had many adventures in the book, but somehow the series always seemed to avoid those adventures turning into over-hyped "events." Instead, storylines began and ended, usually fantastically, and then maybe there would be a quieter issue or two before the next big adventure would start. It was a book that just did its thing, and did it better than many others I've read.

That book was Geoff Johns's JSA. And some might think it blasphemy, but when I was reading Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes's Justice League Dark Vol. 3: The Death of Magic, there were times I couldn't help but be reminded of JSA.

Uncollected Editions: Deathmate (Valiant/Image Comics)

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

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

Valiant was robbed.

When you look at the six-issue Deathmate crossover between the 1990s Valiant and Image Comics universes and the industry crash it precipitated, it was Valiant that unfairly took the most damage. They put out their issues on time and did the best with what they were given. Their losses forced them to be bought out by Acclaim and their titles were revised to make them more viable for video game tie-ins. Yet Image, whose books were months late and heavily oversold, went on to launch numerous animated series, films, and toy lines. The fact that I can get an action figure of Rob Liefeld’s Shaft for six bucks on eBay while Archer and Armstrong remain confined to the printed page is an insult.

And now a word from Doug Glassman about Deathmate

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

And now a word from Doug Glassman about Deathmate ... [My best Don Pardo impression -- ed.]


I’ve been going about this all wrong! See, I just re-read Deathmate and it reminded me that I’ve forgotten a huge part of how I got into comics! Back in the day, my friend Jimmy and I would go to the comic book store across the street from our elementary school and check out the new stuff on display. And one day, there they were: Deathmate, all six issues, ready to be bought up by my grubby little hands. Just take a look at the six most important comics in my entire collection, my most prized possessions:

Behold all that beautiful multi-colored chrome! Here, take a closer look:

Aren’t they ... wait ... what’s that in the background?