Review: Batgirl Vol. 4: Strange Loop trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Through a couple of stories in Batgirl Vol. 4: Strange Loop, Hope Larson seems to be finding a distinctive voice for the series, making the fact of the end of her run unfortunate. But no sooner does this book get good than it stumbles, reminding of some of the other misses over the past 25 issues, and at that point the end seems right. There's sufficient here to remind of the best of the Burnside era, including plenty good art, but also sufficient tidbits to whet my appetite for Mairghread Scott's new run, too.

[Review contains spoilers]

The premise of Larson's Rebirth Batgirl run has been to affect a certain distance between Batgirl Barbara Gordon and her adopted Burnside neighborhood. Larson -- being the first (and essentially only) writer to tackle the Burnside Batgirl besides creators Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and company -- first sent Barbara overseas; upon her return, Barbara was still "of" Burnside, but the narrative was peppered with Barbara's recognition of differences, including Burnside's growing gentrification.

Review: Trinity Vol. 4: The Search for Steve Trevor trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

That Trinity Vol. 4: The Search for Steve Trevor marks the end of the Rebirth Trinity series is not a great surprise. The series started with an interesting premise, the pseudo-New 52 Batman and Wonder Woman getting to know the pre-Flashpoint Superman, but with Superman Reborn, this became simply a "Big Three" team-up book.

Not that that might not have a place, but especially with Trinity Vol. 3: Dark Destiny, we've increasingly been seeing a title that wants for a regular creative team and also a storyline with some relevance. I like that this volume launches from Wonder Woman's search for Themyscira, but nothing significant happens in that regard; with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman regularly appearing in one another's titles these days and in Justice League, a toothless team-up of this sort no longer impresses just for existing.

Review: Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 8: On the Outside trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Bryan Hill's Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 8: On the Outside whets my appetite for Hill's Batman and the Outsiders series, just as the future of that series unfortunately becomes murky. Even so, as my first exposure to Hill's comics work, I was satisfied and would be happy to read this author again; I also thought artist Miguel Mendonca was solid here, with shades of Eddy Barrows' good work earlier on Detective.

In this age of multiple Leagues and ubiquitous Bat-families, the dynamic original Mike W. Barr Outsiders lineup has less to distinguish it now as necessary and relevant except for nostalgia value. However, I thought Hill did a good job here of presenting Black Lightning Jefferson Pierce as a teacher above all, and that's a laudable hook on which to hang a team book, teen heroes with leader as teacher-mentor. Hill also brings a believable "outsider's view of the Bat-family" perspective to the book; we see this both in Pierce's interactions and in some of the missteps in Hill's story, totally forgivable from a new Bat-writer in an overall impressive first outing.

Review: Superman Vol. 7: Bizarroverse trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Superman Vol. 7: Bizarroverse brings to a close Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's run on Superman. Surely this series was better than Superman has been in a while, though this volume offers prime examples of how quickly heartfelt in this run could turn to cloying. No doubt there's something to be said for humorous, all-ages Superman stories like these and an ode to the rural Superman aesthetic we're probably unlikely to see again for a while. I wouldn't besmirch what Tomasi and Gleason have accomplished here, but this finale makes me more excited for the new team than nostalgic for the past.

[Review contains spoilers]

Tomasi and Gleason's Superboy Jon Kent has grown on me. There's a particular tone the writers give Jon when he's semi-panicking -- usually caught between a hard place and his parents finding out about the hard place -- that cracks me up every time, here when "Boyzarro" has crashed into Jon's room. I also think the writers' conception of a boy Jon's age is particularly apt, as when Jon has been eager to venture to Dinosaur Island to save Captain William Storm but then gets cold feet right before departure.

Review: Immortal Men: The End of Forever trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Immortal Men was the first of DC Comics' "New Age of Heroes" titles to be cancelled; since that time, we've also seen the ends announced for The Unexpected, Curse of Brimstone, and Sideways (plus the straight-to-miniseries New Challengers), leaving only Silencer, Damage, and The Terrifics from the original pack. As such, Immortal Men: The End of Forever is the first "done in one" "New Age of Heroes" collection I've read, and the first via which we can begin to speculate about the outcome of the "New Age of Heroes" experiment (not good, essentially, though to be fair three [for now] ongoing series with new characters out of seven might not really be a failure).

Immortal Men itself is not bad (lesser than Silencer, on par with Terrifics, and ahead of Damage), though the premise is considerably more interesting than the execution. James Tynion writes, ostensibly following up from his strong team-book work on Detective Comics, and art in the first issue is by Jim Lee, arguably DC's biggest-draw artist. But even with all that power, Immortal Men never quite grips, and never quite finds its hook nor its heart. I'd have kept reading, but the book's end is not a surprise.

DC Trade Solicitations for March 2019 - Zero Hour Omnibus, Batgirl of Burnside and Batman Eternal Omnibuses, Catwoman by Jones, Justice League: Drowned Earth, Justice League by Priest Deluxe, Action Comics by Bendis

Sunday, January 06, 2019

With the new year, a little late on my coverage of DC Comics' March 2019 trade paperback and hardcover solicitations, but here it is! If you're an omnibus lover, isn't this the month for you, because we've got a Batgirl of Burnside Omnibus, Batman Eternal Omnibus, and the Zero Hour 25th Anniversary Omnibus, none of which I remember hearing about before. I'll get to the contents of the Zero Hour Omnibus later in this post, but it looks comprehensive to me and there's a bunch of rarely collected series in there.

For me the Zero Hour Omnibus is the headline, but other notable books include a deluxe edition of Christopher Priest's Justice League and also we get a third volume of Mike W. Barr's Batman and the Outsiders. In terms of "regular series" trades, there's the Justice League: Drowned Earth collection, the first "New Justice" Teen Titans, and Brian Michael Bendis' Action Comics and the tie-in Supergirl volume by Marc Andreyko. So what seems to me a good month with both solid books and surprises.

For the first time in 2019, let's take a look ...

Adventures of the Super Sons Vol. 1: Action Detective TP

Issues #1-6 of the twelve-issue Adventures of the Super Sons miniseries, which is never how I like miniseries collected. This is paperback; I'll hold out for the guaranteed hardcover. DC is collecting Marv Wolfman's second Raven miniseries the same way, though that one I don't expect to come out in hardcover. (Though, DC might do well to collect both the first and second miniseries, maybe with some other Raven material, in a deluxe book. But I digress.)

All-Star Superman (DC Modern Classic) HC

Hardcover with slipcase.

Batgirl of Burnside Omnibus HC

Collects issues #35-52 of the Brenden Fletcher/Cameron Stewart run with art by Babs Tarr and others, plus the Batgirl: Endgame special and the Annual #3 (guest-starring then Dick "Grayson" Grayson and others).

Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 3 HC

Collects Batman and the Outsiders #24-32, Batman and the Outsiders Annual #2, and DC Comics Presents #83. Previously also listed was excerpts from Who’s Who #12-15. This is Mike W. Barr's final collection of this title before it becomes Adventures of the Outsiders.

Aside, having Looker on the Black Lightning TV show last year was inspired. Grace Choi is around too, of course, and now seemingly with powers, plus Dr. Jace. I am all for Rex Mason being one of the Green Light kids and that show going full-on Outsiders within a couple of years.

Batman Eternal Omnibus HC

This was a giant Batman weekly. In the final tally I liked it a lot, but it was huge, and especially reading it three trades (the amount of material, consider that fills seven or eight trades regularly) made it feel unending. Omnibus buyers will get their money's worth.

Contextually, the book follows Forever Evil and ends just before Batman: Endgame; with contributions by Scott Snyder, the series seems an oft-forgotten piece of Snyder's run (except now getting this new collection). The series closed also just before the New 52 became DC You, and there's lots of proto-DC You material here if you were a fan of that era -- lead-ins to a more grounded Catwoman, Gotham by Midnight, etc., as well as shades of co-writer James Tynion's later Rebirth Detective Comics.

One wonders if maybe a Batman and Robin Eternal omnibus might be next, maybe with "Robin War" issues included.

Batman Noir: Gotham by Gaslight HC

Black and white pencils and inks of Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola's inaugural Elseworlds story, recently adapted as an animated movie.

Batman: Death of the Family Saga (DC Essential Edition) TP

Originally listed at 300 pages, this is up to almost 400 pages now. Contents are the Batman issues #13-17, Batgirl #14-16, Nightwing #15-16, Batman and Robin #15-16, plus "pages from" Batgirl #13, Nightwing #14, Red Hood and the Outlaws #14-15, and Teen Titans #16, making this sound like a "re-cut" kind of edition (Titans and Red Hood particularly had a lot of series-specific scenes not related to the crossover). Ordinarily I'd prefer to have whole issues in a trade but this is a cute "definitive" way to re-collect the story.

Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 9: Deface the Face TP

Issues #988-993 in paperback, by James Robinson. I don't remember Robinson's post-Infinite Crisis "One Year Later" Batman: Face the Face that clearly (I reviewed it some eleven years ago), so I might have to give it a re-read to see to what extent Robinson calls out to his earlier story in this one.

Batman: Detective Comics: The Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book Four HC

The solicitation for this collection still says issues #974-982, which is the Vol. 6 Fall of the Batmen and Vol. 7 Batmen Eternal collections, the final issues by James Tynion, plus one guest issue by Mike Moreci (#982) before Bryan Hill's story. Issue #982 isn't in Detective Vol. 7, so I'm surprised to see it here (and a little skeptical that it will be).

Catwoman Vol. 1: Copycats TP

Issues #1-6 of the new Joelle Jones series.

Damage Vol. 2: Scorched Earth TP

The second collection of the Robert Venditti series, collecting issues #7-12.

DC Poster Portfolio: Jim Lee TP

Some of these new Poster Portfolio books seem clearly right for collecting an artist's contribution to DC's recent bevy of variant covers (still waiting for the book of Joshua Middleton's Aquaman covers). For this, however, I wonder how far back DC will go, including Lee's Batman: Hush work or earlier, or just recent stuff.

Elseworlds: Superman Vol. 2 TP

The contents of this one have changed considerably since it was advance solicited. Whereas this was originally said to include Superman/Wonder Woman: Whom Gods Destroy by Chris Claremont and Dusty Abell and Superman: The Dark Side by John Francis Moore and Kieron Dwyer, this is now Son of Superman (with Howard Chaykin and J.H. Williams), Superboy's Legion (Mark Farmer and Alan Davis), Supergirl: Wings (J.M. DeMatteis), and Superman: True Brit (John Cleese and Kim "Howard" Johnson).

Final Crisis (DC Essential Edition) TP

In paperback, Final Crisis #1-7, DC Universe #0, Superman Beyond #1-2, and Batman #682-683.

The Flash/Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold Deluxe Edition HC

Deluxe-size collection of the Mark Waid/Barry Kitson miniseries, with a new introduction and "never-before-published full-issue script."

Fortune and Glory: A True Hollywood Comic Book Story TP

Collects Brian Michael Bendis's three-part comics autobiography. Introduction by Paul Dini.

Injustice 2 Vol. 4 TP

Issues #18-24.

Injustice 2 Vol. 5 HC

Issues #25-30. Tom Taylor's series ends with issue #36 so it would seem the next volume is the last.

Injustice Vs. Masters of the Universe HC

The team-up you never knew you wanted until it happened. Issues #1-6 by Tim Seeley and Freddie Williams, in hardcover.

Justice League by Christopher Priest Deluxe Edition HC

Collects the entirety of Christopher Priest's run on Justice League, issues #34-43.

Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth HC

Said to collects Justice League/Aquaman: Drowned Earth #1, Justice League #10-12, Aquaman #40-41, Titans #28, and Aquaman/Justice League: Drowned Earth #1, though the Aquaman issues should actually be #41-42 (issues #39-40 are part of a Suicide Squad crossover and issues #41-42 are "Drowned Earth" tie-ins).

Those four Aquaman issues mentioned above aren't enough to make their own trade (unless someone gets creative), so probably here is the only place we'll see Aquaman #40-41. Remains to be seen if the Titans issue will also be in one of that series' trades or just here.

The Kamandi Challenge TP

Paperback edition of the hardcover released earlier this year.

Kingdom Come TP

Black Label edition, with the "never-before-published original proposal."

Plastic Man TP

Collects the six issue miniseries by Gail Simone and Adriana Melo.

Powers Book Four TP

Previously said to be issues #23-30 and #1-11, the new solicitation says Powers (series 2) #1-18, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming.

The Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives 30th Anniversary TP New Edition

Issues #41-49 with a new cover by Dave McKean.

Scarlet Vol. 1 TP

Issues #1-5 of the new Scarlet series by Bendis and Alex Maleev.

Supergirl Vol. 1: The Killers of Krypton TP

Collects issues #21-26 by Marc Andreyko, spinning out of the new Brian Michael Bendis Superman run.

Superman: Action Comics Vol. 1: Invisible Mafia HC

Issues #1,001-#1,006 by Brian Michael Bendis with Patrick Gleason and others. In hardcover.

Superman: World Against Superman (DC Essential Edition) TP

"Essential" (paperback) edition. Previously this was solicited as issues #1-18, the entirety of Grant Morrison's 18-issue run on the New 52 Action Comics. This solicitation says issues #1-10, which doesn't seem right because it ends on a cliffhanger, unless DC plans a follow-up volume.

Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen by Jack Kirby TP

Continuing the individual-series breakdowns of the Jack Kirby's Fourth World omnibuses, this is issues #133-139 and #141-148.

Teen Titans Vol. 1: Full Throttle TP

The new team of Adam Glass and Bernard Chang; I'm dubious but I've been hearing good things. Collects the special and issues #20-24.

Wonder Woman Vol. 8: Dark Gods TP

The next collection by James Robinson, issues ##46-50 and Annual #2 (the solicitation says Annual #3, but there hasn't been one). Steve Orlando comes on with the next book before G. Willow Wilson joins after that.

Zero Hour 25th Anniversary Omnibus HC

At almost 1,000 pages, this is said to include Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #4-0, Steel #8, Outsiders #11, Detective Comics #678, Batman #511, Superman: Man of Steel #37, Superboy #8, Green Lantern #55, The Flash #94, Superman #93, The Flash #0, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #31, Hawkman #13, Legionnaires #18, Valor #23, Adventures of Superman #516, L.E.G.I.O.N. ’94 #70, Green Arrow #90, Guy Gardner: Warrior #24, Team Titans #24, Legion of Super-Heroes #61, Action Comics #703, Justice League of America #92, Justice League Task Force #16, Justice League International #68, Robin #10, Anima #7, Catwoman #14, Damage #6, Darkstars #24, Green Lantern #0, and stories from Showcase '94 #8-10.

That is indeed the event itself and every Zero Hour tie-in from that period. Surely this is the first time an issue of Anima has been collected, and surely there’s some others in there for which it’s only the second or third time they’ve been collected -- Damage, Team Titans, Valor, etc.

I agree with the inclusions of Flash #0 and Green Lantern #0; Wally West disappears in Zero Hour and the zero issue offers a little resolution (not a lot but enough), whereas Green Lantern #0 takes place in the aftermath of the last issue. There’s maybe a couple others that could have been included -- Damage #0 or Green Arrow #0, though the latter doesn’t really mention Zero Hour’s events. The two that are included are probably enough.

I’m glad to see that what’s offered here doesn’t exclude what’s in the already-released Zero Hour tie-in paperbacks (including the upcoming Justice League: Zero Hour, which I’m very excited about). At this point, if you excluded the already-collected tie-in issues, you’d have about 14 issues, which is not much bigger than some of the existing Zero Hour tie-in collections; maybe DC can finish their paperbacks with just one more “Zero Hour Companion” book.

So ... Zero Hour Omnibus: too heavy or just what you always wanted?

Review: Green Arrow Vol. 6: Trial of Two Cities trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

There feels a change in the wind for DC Comics' Rebirth titles. Aside from stalwarts Tom King on Batman and Joshua Williamson on Flash, we've seen upsets in the Super-titles, Dan Abnett departing Aquaman, Robert Venditti leaving the Green Lantern titles, Rob Williams' run on Suicide Squad scheduled to end, and with Green Arrow Vol. 6: Trial of Two Cities, the end of Benjamin Percy and Juan Ferreyra's run on Green Arrow. To me, Percy's Green Arrow has been one of the best-looking but under-recognized Rebirth titles, and it's a shame it won't be on the stands any more.

We also know now this title only has twelve issues or so to go under other writers before it's cancelled. Trial isn't then the last trade of this iteration, but as the last book by a regular team, it's another way the trade feels like the end of the era. Another Green Arrow book has been promised, but there's big artistic shoes to fill especially for the next time DC gives the Emerald Outlaw a go.

Review: Aquaman Vol. 6: Kingslayer trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Aquaman Vol. 6: Kingslayer marks the final parts of what's been an impressive 14-part (et al) storyline in Dan Abnett's Rebirth Aquaman series. This kind of modular, long-form storyline (essentially continuous over three volumes) is almost unheard of in this day and age of easily digestible six-parters, reminding of Aquaman's own classic "Search for Mera" or "Zatanna's Search" from the 1960s, or the 1980s "Trial of the Flash" (if not quite that long). Abnett's even reflected the Atlantean civil war in a couple of other titles, as well as in the Mera, Queen of Atlantis tie-in miniseries.

This would also seem to be the last independent trade of Abnett's superlative Aquaman run, collecting issues #34-38. Issues #39-40 will appear in a Suicide Squad crossover volume and issues #41-42 are part of the "Drowned Earth" Justice League event; with issue #43, new Aquaman writer Kelly Sue DeConnick takes over. So in some respects, Kingslayer is the finale, though everything doesn't quite feel complete, and my fervent hope is that Abnett can still use these crossover issues to wrap up some of Aquaman's threads before he goes.

Review: Mera, Queen of Atlantis trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

In his introduction to the recent Aquaman: The Search for Mera collection of classic material, current Aquaman writer Dan Abnett calls Mera "neglected" and "undervalued" by the annals of comics lore. She has long been Aquaman's equal, and even of late a Justice Leaguer, but largely unknown by the general public (though the new Aquaman movie might change that). To that end, Abnett's Mera, Queen of Atlantis miniseries is deserved and long overdue.

It is not necessarily a pilot nor good argument for an ongoing Mera series, though I'm not sure separating Mera from the Aquaman title would be a service to either character anyway. The character arc of the book is predictable. But at a time when the most recent collection of Abnett's Aquaman title is involved in the good but esoteric conclusion of a long-running Atlantean civil war storyline with mostly new characters, Mera has familiarity going for it. The principal characters in Mera will be recognizable to Aquaman movie fans. Further, Mera serves to bridge unresolved elements from the New 52 Aquaman run to Rebirth, something the main Aquaman series might not have had time for but that's a good thing to take care of in a miniseries.

Review: Batman Vol. 8: Cold Days trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

It is another stellar volume of Tom King's Batman. In the aftermath of the wedding volume, Batman Vol. 8: Cold Days begins not with a bang but with a whimper (or a whimper-bang); in as many times as we think we've read this particular kind of story before, King finds a way to defy expectations and still deliver, and then follows with a second story that confuses and confounds the topics at play all the more. Nearing as we are 80 years of Batman, that any writer should find something new to say month in and month out is a minor miracle on its own; that King not only has new to say but also manages to toy with comics as a storytelling form at the same time is a real treat.

[Review contains spoilers]

After Jason Todd died, after Batman was branded murderer and fugitive, and surely a half dozen other times, we know full well we're in for a spate of "Batman can't control his anger and goes nuts" stories before the Bat-family of your current continuity talks him down from the belfry. Such might've been the case under most writers after Catwoman jilted Batman at the rooftop altar last time around. Instead, King tells a story that takes place largely in a jury deliberation room, a story that — while not completely absent punching and kicking — mostly involves Bruce Wayne and his jury duty cohorts sitting around and talking. It is a Batman play; clearly there's meant to be shades of 12 Angry Men here, but also it reads like a forgotten Gotham Central story with Lee Weeks providing the Michael Lark-esque realism (colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser's pastels deserve some credit, too).