Review: Teen Titans Vol. 5: The Trial of Kid Flash trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Among my takeaways from the first iteration of the New 52 Teen Titans is that Scott Lobdell really cares about these characters. He's shepherded their adventures through these last few years, surmounting external crossover after crossover, and giving the Titans arguably their clearest mission statement in a while. Always the story comes back to the Titans supporting one another; always the story comes back to each Titan trying their best to do the right thing.

Teen Titans Vol. 5: The Trial of Kid Flash is not perfect; it's a big story, which is good, but it sometimes means the finer details get lost along the way. Also, not Lobdell's fault, but the book is not at all reader-friendly, a growing problem among DC trades. But as with the last volume, Lobdell writes a story that zips along through various twists and turns, and with a plucky cast that Lobdell imbues with real emotion, demonstrating his faithfulness to the characters. If not ground-breaking, I think this is the end of a run that DC can be proud of.

Review: Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman Vol. 1 hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

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

My primary guide for this month of reviews is the Secret Wars Prelude trade which will be released in May. Most of its contents make sense right off the bat, with the two most intriguing being Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates issue #4 (reviewed two weeks ago) and Fantastic Four issue #611. That's the final issue of Jonathan Hickman's epic run, and while it may hold specific clues that I haven't caught yet, the Prelude should have instead included the first two or three issues of Fantastic Four. Hickman's plan has unfolded ever since those issues; “Time Runs Out" is just the start of the third act following Fantastic Four and Infinity.

Review: Superman: Action Comics Vol. 5: What Lies Beneath hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Action Comics faces some of the same challenges as Detective Comics, that even as these were the original flagship titles for their respective characters, the main story with each character tends to happen in the titular books and not in these companions. In the New 52, Action Comics has mostly itself to blame for secondary status, given three volumes of Grant Morrison's story that all took place five years before the present action. Those were enjoyable books, but they set Action as the "background book"; that Vol. 4 offered just one story in Andy Diggle's abbreviated run, also set in the past, with the rest of the book telling a tale in service to Scott Lobdel's Superman: Psi War, only continued to reinforce this.

Five volumes down the road, then, Action Comics Vol. 5: What Lies Beneath is arguably the first "real," modern-day Action Comics volume written and drawn by what appears to be a creative team that intends to stick around (if Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder's presence post-Convergence is any indication). In just one volume, Action will be sucked again into the larger Superman ethos with Doomed, but these pages are Pak and Kuder's own. What entails is a wonderfully madcap, yet sensitive, self-contained story, not even itself entirely safe from the demands of other titles, though Pak navigates it all and still tells his own story like a pro.

Review: Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Power Outage hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

The joke is undoubtedly on me, but I liked Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Power Outage better than I liked volume one, and I'm glad I gave the series another chance. The second volume is just as madcap, but with a basis in superheroics that the first volume lacked. Admittedly this perhaps undermines the very direction the Harley Quinn series is trying to go, but for me it grounded the comedy in a realm more familiar and I had a greater sense of being "in on the joke."

[Review contains spoilers]

Power Outage collects Harley Quinn issues #9-13, the Futures End issue, and the Harley story from Secret Origins. Of the monthly issues, the final three are a Harley Quinn/Power Girl team-up, and the first two involve Harley's hijinks in a burlesque show and a roller derby. This combines what I liked best about the first book, Hot in the City -- Seinfeldian stories about "nothing" where Harley goes on with "normal" life in her Harley Quinn way -- with what I felt could be improved; the first book was mainly given over to a spy caper whose jokes were outside my realm of familiarity, whereas writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti riffing on Power Girl's costume and Thanos-analogue "Manos" is right in my wheelhouse.

Review: Loki: Agent of Asgard Vol. 2: I Cannot Tell a Lie trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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

Out of the books I’m reviewing this month, Loki: Agent of Asgard Vol. 2: I Cannot Tell a Lie (released later this month) is the only one without any official Secret Wars ties, as well as the only one not written by Jonathan Hickman. It’s worth noting that there’s a bit of a gap between Trust Me and this trade. That story is an Original Sin tie-in called The Tenth Realm, which replaced both this title and Thor: God of Thunder briefly and revealed that Image Comics transplant Angela is their long-lost sister. The writers and main artists on both books contributed to that great mini-series, but there’s a major reason why I’m skipping ahead: Doom.

Review: New 52: Futures End Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, April 13, 2015

In DC Comics's current history of weekly series, for every standout, like the inaugural 52, there's been a clunker (Countdown to Final Crisis) and then some so-so ones along the way. Most recently I found Batman Eternal a tad convoluted, with overcomplicated layers upon layers in an attempt to pad the story out to the length a weekly series requires.

I therefore did not have high expectations for, but was pleasantly surprised by, The New 52: Futures End Vol. 1. Rather in the vein of 52, Futures End follows a motley selection of characters to far off locations. The sheer variety of storylines keeps Futures End from retreading the same character beats over and over (for the most part); the writers even account the passage of time in the book, a nice touch for a weekly series. Though with an occasional stumble, there's strength of writing and strength of art here, and it comes together thankfully for an enjoyable weekly event miniseries.

Review: Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Discussions as to what Wonder Woman stories should be "about" sometimes seem to me to be missing the point or over-thinking it; though Superman stories are sometimes "about" truth and justice or Batman stories sometimes "about" vengeance, writers seem less concerned with what these stories mean than whether they're good stories or not, which isn't always the case with Wonder Woman. One reason I think Brian Azzarello's current run on Wonder Woman has been successful is that Azzarello appeared less concerned at the outset with Wonder Woman's mission or the contradictions within her character and more concerned simply with telling a good Wonder Woman story within her mythological world (I have equally liked Wonder Woman runs by Greg Rucka and by Gail Simone, that did and didn't share some of these concerns).

Review: Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates Vol. 1 hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

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

While Marvel's Ultimate line had some strong years, its downfall in the coming months has been long overdue. The Ultimatum event gutted the imprint through excessive character death without giving much back in return, forcing numerous relaunches. The books since then have played with the shrinking line as if their world itself is slowly ending, which sometimes feels a bit too on the nose. To this end, rarely has a good comic been let down by a terrible name as much as Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates. It's especially baffling since during the relaunch before this one, the Ultimates title was changed to Ultimate Comics: Avengers. The brand acknowledgement of The Ultimates couldn't have been strong enough to overwhelm the silly redundancy of the title they went with.

Review: Batman and Robin Vol. 5: The Big Burn hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, April 06, 2015

Batman and Robin Vol. 5: The Big Burn is a masterwork by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, second only to their inaugural Born to Kill (and not discounting the final two Batman and Robin volumes yet to come). It is the first -- and last, I guess -- great Two-Face story of the New 52, and what pangs the purist in me felt over the changes Tomasi made to Two-Face's origins were mitigated, surely, by the strength of the writing and story here. It's only a shame this story came in the midst of Damian Wayne's absence, making it something of a great Batman and Robin-team book sans the "Robin," but Tomasi even works that in unexpectedly to demonstrate Damian is absent but not forgotten.

Review: Star Trek Vol. 9: The Q Gambit trade paperback (IDW Publishing)

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Seems to me the conditions are about right for a Star Trek/Star Wars crossover comic. Marvel is making a splash with their newly regained Star Wars license; IDW has demonstrated Star Trek's crossover viability with Legion of Super-Heroes, Doctor Who, and Planet of the Apes, at least. And c'mon, haven't you always wanted to see the Enterprise versus the Death Star? Captain Kirk wooing Princess Leia? Spock using the Force? Sulu with a lightsaber? Not to mention the inevitable sequel that introduces Data to R2-D2 and C-3PO.

These scenarios assume one main thing, which is that if you're going to do a notable crossover between Star Trek and some other entity, it's probably best to use The Original Series or Next Generation. I am personally perhaps a greater aficionado of Deep Space Nine and Voyager, but even I recognize that when it comes to big Star Trek franchise moments, probably better to bring the best-known, most-recognized characters.