Review: Cable and X-Force Vol. 1: Wanted trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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

It’s apparent that for the Marvel NOW! initiative, the X-editors couldn’t figure out what format to use for X-Force. On the one hand, Rick Remender’s weirder and more continuity-laden Uncanny X-Force had been a hit. On the other hand, readers were clamoring for the return of classic X-Force characters, especially since Cannonball and Sunspot had been upgraded to Avengers. As a result, they made an interesting decision: “Let’s try both and see what happens." Unlike the multiple Avengers titles, there’s not a wide enough readership for multiple X-Force books, so there was a sense that only one format would survive. Dennis Hopeless and Salvador Larroca’s series won, at least in the sense that the books merged into a team led by Cable after a crossover. The first volume is Cable and X-Force Vol. 1: Wanted.

Review: COWL Vol. 1: Principles of Power trade paperback (Image Comics)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Part Ex Machina (which was itself part West Wing), part Watchmen, Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel's COWL Vol. 1: Principles of Power is another great addition to Image Comics's pantheon of self-contained, imaginative series. The first volume is largely introductory, with a maybe too-split focus between introducing the characters and establishing what the rest of the series will be about, but there's a lovely amount of superhero politics involved that places COWL firmly next to Ex Machina and Greg Rucka's Checkmate, for instance.

Review: Deadpool Vol. 5: The Wedding of Deadpool trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

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

This is a weird trade -- not because of what’s in Deadpool Vol. 5: The Wedding of Deadpool, but rather in how it’s assembled. It collects issues the first Annual along with issues #26-28 ... but the Annual is also included in a later trade, this particular book starts with #27 and ends with #26, and the Annual came out before any of the issues published here. Since they’re in the book out of order, I’ll talk about them out of order.

The Annual was the first work for Marvel by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker of Thrilling Adventure Hour fame, and it simultaneously brings back a character while explaining away a format change. The previous volume of Deadpool by Daniel Way featured a second set of captions to go along with the traditional yellow boxes. The white boxes weren’t as funny, took up too much room on the page and often interrupted the story’s flow. Acker and Blacker reveal that this is because during an adventure, Deadpool and fellow immortal vigilante Madcap died and fused together; the white boxes were Madcap’s thoughts. This actually makes re-reading Way’s Deadpool a lot more worthwhile; it’s also reminiscent of Deadpool bodily merging with Cable in the Cable and Deadpool book.

Review: Batman Eternal Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, December 08, 2014

As I've said before, sometimes if something isn't good, it's a consolation at least that there's a lot of it. Such is the case with Batman Eternal Vol. 1, which is about a 500-page trade, such that if you take it along on a plane trip you'll have plenty to occupy you until you touch down. And I appreciate that whereas sometimes DC has collected their weekly series into four or more volumes, the first year of Eternal will be done in two volumes that, again, offer a hefty amount of reading.

This doesn't make up for the fact that Eternal bows significantly under its own weight. Trimmed down to a monthly series, Eternal might make for a peppy Bat-epic, but as a weekly title, Eternal is bloated and repetitious. The book would seem to have a number of lofty goals, including serving as something of a backdoor pilot for DC's newly revised line of Bat-titles and adhering the New 52 Batman mythos closer to the Gotham TV show. But this volume of Eternal turns out to be a lot of prelude for the supposed "real" story in the next volume, and I think it'll leave readers wondering if all this build-up was worth it.

DC Comics Convergence: Guide to What to Read Before: Week Four

Friday, December 05, 2014

It's Week Four, the final week of our Convergence coverage, where we look at what DC Comics trade paperbacks and collections lead in to the Convergence miniseries that DC announced this week.

I was pretty on the mark with my guesses last week that this week would spotlight DC's Silver Age Justice League "Crisis"/Multiverse stories that pre-dated Crisis on Infinite Earths this week. We've got representation from Earth 2, Earth 3, Earth 4, Earth S, and Earth X, though I was wrong about the inclusion of the Batman of Earth 5. I am glad to see spotlights not just on the Justice Society, but also Infinity Inc., and also Infinity Inc. stars Huntress and Power Girl in their own Convergence miniseries.

Here's the run-down:

• Justice Society of America (Dan Abnett)
• Crime Syndicate (Brian Buccellato)

What to read:
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 1
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6

Probably the latest-most appearances of the Multiple Earths-era Justice Society is Infinity Inc. Vol. 1: The Generations Saga, which collects that series's issues just prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths. The classic Justice League/Justice Society team-ups, however, including the introduction of the multiple Earths and "Earth 2" concept," can be found in the Crisis on Mulitple Earths series of books. Because each volume deals with different Earths, these will be sprinkled throughout this list, but the first volume is a good starting place both for the Silver Age introduction of the Justice Society. The very earliest individual-character team-ups, like the first meeting between Earth 1's Flash Barry Allen and Earth 2's Flash Jay Garrick, can be found in the Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups volumes.

The Earth 3 Crime Syndicate (who've re-appeared in a number of continuities, including Grant Morrison's troublingly-named JLA: Earth 2 and the recent Forever Evil) also first appeared in a story collected in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 1. They battle the Justice League and Justice Society in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6 as well.

• Infinity Inc. (Jerry Ordway)

What to read:
Infinity Inc.: The Generations Saga
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 5

It's a thrill to see Jerry Ordway, noted artist of the classic Infinity Inc. series, involved with this book, though I dare say I wouldn't have minded seeing him pencil it as well. Irrespective, one can catch up with Infinity Inc. with the sole collection of this series. DC solicited a second collection but later canceled it before publication; I can only hope that maybe if people buy the heck out of Convergence: Infinity Inc., maybe we'll see that book solicited again.

Infinity Inc. apparently fights Jonah Hex in this one; Hex meets the Justice League and Justice Society in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 5.

• Detective Comics (Len Wein)

What to read:
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 2
Huntress: Darknight Daughter

It's similarly interesting to see long-time Batman and Detective Comics scribe Len Wein writing Convergence: Detective Comics. Given the presence of Huntress Helena Wayne in this one, though, it's surprising the book didn't go to Huntress-creator Paul Levitz, who's instead writing the Convergence: World's Finest Seven Soldier's story. Regardless, the second volume of Crisis on Multiple Earths includes the first appearance of the grown-up Earth 2 Robin Dick Grayson, and Huntress: Darknight Daughter collects Levitz's Silver Age Huntress back-up stories.

• Action Comics (Justin Gray)

What to read:
Power Girl

In the way that all of this week's books deal with some of the same time period, there's some overlap; case in point, both Huntress and Power Girl can be found in the Infinity Inc. trade. The Earth 2 Power Girl's Silver Age origin from Showcase Comics is reprinted in the Power Girl trade that came out just before the series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Convergence: Action Comics-writer Justin Gray.

• World's Finest Comics (Paul Levitz)

What to read:
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3

The classic Seven Solders of Victory cross over with the Justice League and Justice Society in a story collected in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3. Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't believe the Seven Soldiers exist on a different Earth in this one, just that they're time-lost.

• Blue Beetle (Scott Lobdell)

What to read:
Crisis on Infinite Earths

Though this is called Convergence: Blue Beetle, it actually seems to represent DC's Charlton characters -- Question and Captain Atom, at least. The Charlton characters joined DC very late, such that the main pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths appearance of the Earth 4 iteration of these characters is actually Crisis on Infinite Earths; after Crisis, they were retconned as being originally from the main DC Earth.

• Shazam (Jeff Parker)

What to read:
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 4

At first I thought it was Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil and Bone's Jeff Smith writing this one, but it's Jeff Parker -- maybe not as headline-making, but the Aquaman scribe is OK, too. The Silver Age Justice League and Justice Society first encounter Fawcett's Marvel characters, now of Earth S, in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 4.

• Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters (Simon Oliver)

What to read:
Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3
Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron Vol. 1

The Freedom Fighters from Earth X meet the Justice League and Justice Society also in Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3. The Silver Age Plastic Man appears alongside other heroes of this era in Showcase Presents: All-Star Squadron.

• Booster Gold (Dan Jurgens)

What to read:
Justice League International Vol. 1: The Signal Masters
Justice League International Vol. 2: Breakdown
All Star Western: Gold Standard

Though this is listed as a "Multiple Earths" book, my guess is the Booster Gold here is the New 52 Booster Gold, so required reading would be Dan Jurgens's two volumes of Justice League International, which finished with Booster involved in a time-crisis. True completists might want Booster's appearance in All-Star Western, but the Dan Jurgens-penned books ought be good enough. Now, if this turns out to be some pre-/post-Flashpoint Booster Gold hybrid, the Geoff Johns Booster Gold series might then come in to play.

So that does it for DC Comics's Convergence announcements. I'm more excited about some of the upcoming weeks than others, but all in all I think DC's done a pretty good job of covering their various eras here; at least one I might have liked to see was an immediately post-Crisis on Infinite Earths week, using the Byrne-era Superman, Perez-era Wonder Woman, Miller-era Batman, etc. Any eras or titles that you think DC missed with Convergence?

Check out my previous weeks' Convergence Reading Guide features. Thanks!

Week One
Week Two
Week Three

Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 4: The Wrath hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, December 04, 2014

John Layman and Jason Fabok continue their impressive run with Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 4: The Wrath. Layman again tells interesting stories about Batman versus his various rogues, both established, esoteric, and ones Layman has created fresh for this volume. The storytelling twists and winds at times, though for the most part not unpleasantly, and again Layman's deep-character backups stories form the jewels that help this crown sparkle. Detective Comics is really engaging here, something it isn't always, and Layman and Fabok are to be commended for it.

Review: Deadpool Vol. 4: Deadpool vs. SHIELD trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

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

Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn’s Deadpool Vol. 4: Deadpool vs. SHIELD carries a bit of a misleading title. Admittedly, Deadpool vs. ULTIMATUM and One Crooked Agent of SHIELD would be a less interesting title despite its accuracy. Much of the reasoning behind the trade’s title is synergy with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The issues collected here came out shortly before the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and concurrently with the Agents of SHIELD television show’s build-up to the film. As a result, John Garrett (Bill Paxton’s character in Agents) gets name-checked, Batroc the Leaper and Crossbones appear, and Phil Coulson plays a major role along with his flying car Lola.

Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3: Emperor Penguin hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, December 01, 2014

Detective Comics has been of late one of the also-rans of the Batman family line, paling in comparison to the big doings in Scott Snyder's Batman and Peter Tomasi's Batman and Robin. It's therefore well worth mentioning that Chew writer John Layman's arrival with Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 3: Emperor Penguin heralds a group of relevant, surprising Batman stories that evoke a tone of Batman: The Animated Series or Paul Dini's previous run on Detective. No offense to Brian Buccelato and Francis Manapul to come on this title, but based on Emperor Penguin I'd have been glad to see Layman writing Detective for the long haul.

Review: Transformers: Dark Cybertron Vol. 1 trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

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

The Transformers: Dark Cybertron crossover is not an event that could have happened before, or even soon after, the launch of the two ongoing titles. Each book was able to feed on years of previously set-up clues to slowly inch More Than Meets the Eye and Robots In Disguise towards James Roberts and John Barber’s desired point. This is especially clear in hindsight when it comes to Robots In Disguise, which treaded water after its Volume 4 trade while Roberts delivered the fantastic “Remain In Light” arc in More. That’s not to say that Robots didn’t matter in the meantime; Barber gave us insights into the minds of Starscream, Soundwave, and Shockwave while the main Autobot and Decepticon forces were exiled to the wildernesses of Cybertron. “Syndromica” also finally concluded and hinted at Shockwave’s overall plan.

DC Comics Convergence: Guide to What to Read Before: Week Three

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Welcome to the Week Three of our Convergence coverage, looking at what DC Comics trade paperbacks and collections lead in to the various Convergence miniseries that DC has announced this week.

Last week I theorized that DC would offer pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths stories this week, and that turns out to be the case, though some, especially the Convergence: Wonder Woman miniseries, are much more pre-Crisis (some years earlier) than others. Looking at DC's original Convergence promo image, just about every character group on that image has been used as a hero or villain except Superman: Red Son, an OMACed Justice League (Futures' End?), Justice Riders, Silver Age-ish Justice Society/Infinity, Inc., Crime Syndicate of Earth 2, Charlton characters, Fawcett characters (Captain Marvel family), Quality characters (Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, Plastic Man), and the DC One Million characters.

This suggests to me that next week might spotlight the multiple Earths of DC's Silver Age Justice League "Crisis" stories that pre-dated Crisis on Infinite Earths. That'd be Earth-2 (Justice Society), Earth-3 (Crime Syndicate), Earth-4 (Charlton), Earth-S (Fawcett), and Earth-X (Quality) (the lone Batman in the Convergence image could be the Batman of Earth-5, introduced in Detective Comics #500).

For this week, however, back to the Crisis on Infinite Earths-era titles:

• Batman and the Outsiders (Marc Andreyko)

What to read:
Showcase Presents: Batman and the Outsiders

Both Batman and the Outsiders and Outsiders on their own have a significant post-Crisis on Infinite Earths collections library (roundabouts Infinite Crisis). For pre-Crisis adventures, a reader's only option is the black-and-white Showcase Presents volume, which collects the first 19 issues of the Mike Barr/Jim Aparo series.

• Adventures of Superman (Marv Wolfman)

Marv Wolfman's Convergence: Adventures of Superman visits Superman and Supergirl prior to the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, so the final Crisis-era Superman story, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, doesn't really count here since it takes place after Crisis. Nothing really to read to get current here short of maybe Wolfman's own Crisis itself.

• Wonder Woman (Larry Hama)

What to read:
Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Vol. 1
Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Vol. 2
Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Vol. 3
Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Vol. 4
Tales of the Multiverse: Batman – Vampire

The pre-Crisis "mod" era Wonder Woman Diana Prince, created by Mike Sekowsky, battles creatures from Doug Moench and Kelley Jones's Elseworlds Batman vampire tale. DC has helpfully collected all the Diana Prince stories in four volumes, and collected the three "Red Rain" stories in one volume, though to call this the pre-Crisis-era Wonder Woman is something of a misnomer. Yes, Wonder Woman's Diana Prince stories predated Crisis, but Wonder Woman had well since returned to her original costume as of Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labors long before Crisis.

• Flash (Dan Abnett)
• Justice League of America (Fabian Nicieza)

What to read:
Tangent Comics Vol. 1
Tangent Comics Vol. 2
Tangent Comics Vol. 3
Tangent: Superman's Reign Vol. 1
Tangent: Superman's Reign Vol. 2

Tangent was a DC Comics "Fifth Week" event in the late 1990s that gained some traction later on when the characters were made an "official" alternate DC Earth around Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis. The stories themselves, especially the early ones, are enjoyable, positing certain DC heroes created from scratch in an environment of Cold War paranoia; the individual tales are also related in subtle fashions that might remind one of Jack Kirby's Fourth World or Grant Morrison's Seven Soliders of Victory. The solicitation of Convergence: Flash doesn't offer much in the way of continuity notes for Barry Allen, but these books will fill in all a reader needs to know about the Tangent characters.

Similarly there aren't any collections of the "Detroit era" of the Justice League, including Elongated Man, Aquaman, Batman, Steel, Vibe, Vixen, Gypsy, Martian Manhunter, and Zatanna, but here again, the Tangent books will catch you up on their Convergence foes.

• Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (Stuart Moore)

Here, too, the solicitation doesn't offer much to signify the exact era for Superboy or the Legion of Super-Heroes. In general Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga is one of the more well-known pre-Crisis Legion stories, written by Paul Levitz.

• Green Lantern Corps (David Gallaher)

What to read:
Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 1
Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 2
Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 3

The stories by Steve Englehart and Joe Staton recently collected in the Green Lantern: Sector 2814 series saw Hal Jordan retiring and John Stewart and Guy Gardner vying for the role of Earth's Green Lanterns, the general premise of Convergence: Green Lantern Corps (the Green Lantern title would become Corps after Crisis). The third volume includes stories that specifically tie in to Crisis on Infinite Earths.

• Swamp Thing (Len Wein)

What to read:
Roots of the Swamp Thing
Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 1
Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 2
Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 3
Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 4
Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 5
Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 6

I'm pretty excited about Convergence: New Teen Titans later in this week's releases, but the double-threat of Convergence: Swamp Thing written by Swamp Thing creator Len Wein and with Kelley Jones's always-spooky art takes the top spot. Wein's first Swamp Thing stories appear in the Roots of the Swamp Thing collection, though if the theme of the day is post-Crisis, the real refresher will be Alan Moore's Saga of the Swamp Thing volumes. Saga Vol. 4 is where Swamp Thing intersects with Crisis.

• Hawkman (Jeff Parker)

What to read:
Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth Omnibus Vol. 1
Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth Omnibus Vol. 2

There also aren't any collections of the "Shadow War" era of Hawkman (specifically the 1985 miniseries by Tony Isabella and Richard Howell, Shadow War of Hawkman). That Hawkworld writer/artist Tim Truman provides the art here is welcome, though something of an anachronism since Hawkworld was specifically post-Crisis and contradicted some pre-Crisis Hawkman lore. Hawkman and Hawkgirl meet Kamandi and his anthropomorphic friends in this one, an inspired team-up that should have happened already.

• New Teen Titans (Marv Wolfman)

What to read:
New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 1
New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 2
New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 3
New Teen Titans: Games

Between Titans, Speed Force, and New Teen Titans, DC's definitely giving fans what they want in this event (I wonder if Convergence could become a yearly event, or a regular series in which a writer has free reign to use any DC character currently in limbo). The appearance of both Jericho and Kole puts Convergence: New Teen Titans firmly in the era of the second New Teen Titans series; issues #1-6 of that series are collected in the New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 3, though Kole wouldn't join the title until issue #9. Wolfman last wrote the Titans in the long-awaited graphic novel New Teen Titans: Games.

Check out my previous weeks' Convergence Reading Guide features, and come back next week as we finish out DC's Convergence announcements.

Week One
Week Two