Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Though most of Batman Begins sat very well with me, when I heard this, I immediately thought, “That’s the difference between a Batman movie and a Superman movie.” Because I’m considerably surprised that I haven’t heard any concerns on the Internet about this line, and I think it’s due to the fact that, among general consensus (that is, not the hardcore Batman-reading crowd), most people think that’s pretty true of Batman. He won’t kill his enemies, but he’s not too concerned about letting them die. Whereas, if Superman were to let one of his enemies die in Superman Returns, instead of hauling them off to prison, I believe there would be something of an uproar.
Somehow, this is all related to my having just finished the Absolute Authority Volume 2, collecting all twelve issues of Mark Millar’s run on the title.
What I liked here is fairly straightforward. In Grant Morrison’s introduction to Volume 1, he mentions how for the Authority, every problem is a solution; this is especially true in Millar’s issues, the Authority fights Dr. Krigstein for three issues before inviting him to join the team, and in the final arc, they’re willing to let the world solve a hole in the bleed for themselves to reaffirm the world’s confidence. That’s smart, enlightened stuff. Certainly the art by Frank Quietly and, later, Art Adams was worth looking forward to. And I did like the villains overall in this issue, from Krigstein to the bad Doctor to the replacement Authority set up by the world’s governments -- in Millar’s Authority and in Warren Ellis’ before him, you could always count on a unique, captivating villain in every arc. All of these things were good, widescreen fun.
But maybe Joe Kelly just ruined it for me.
Maybe it’s when I see the Carrier, the home base, as Grant Morrison said, that looks like a dog’s nose. I can’t help but think of the home base of Joe Kelly’s Elite, the living ship that the Elite had kidnapped. Not so different, or rather, maybe the difference is how you look at it. Then we have a couple of instances with Mid-Nighter: one, where a furry villain (albeit, one who would have killed Mid-Nighter without a thought) begs for his life, and Mid-Nighter kills him anyway; another, where Mid-Nighter tortures (like, electrocutes) a villain to get information (letting alone that the villain turns out to be the one behind the trouble after all). With the Authority, there are always “buts,” and always parenthesis, but it remains unsettling all the same. Maybe it’s just reading twelve issues of it all at once.
If anything, I thought Millar’s Authority was written fiercer than Ellis’, perhaps because at this point everyone realized the hit they had on their hands. The points Ellis was making seemed almost beside the point, whereas Millar’s seemed to be the point. The Authority, fighting Avengers knock-offs created by an errant Jack Kirby parody. The Authority, battling the super-soldiers of the world’s governments, where the kill switch for the baddest of the bad reminds us that, at the time, the United States had its own infinite crisis with hanging chads. Millar’s points are good, don’t get me wrong. But it’s interesting to read the Continuity Pages history of the publication of the Authority, because as you read the hardcovers, you can see where the title began to rise and fall as the comics world woke up around it.
Ultimately, I enjoy reading the Authority as a sociological experiment, as “what would happen if superheroes did …” But I find that I can’t enjoy it as a title itself -- I can’t get behind the characters, can’t feel much for them as individuals -- even Apollo and Mid-Nighter, brilliant creations, but when one or the other nearly dies in every arc, it just loses its drama, no? As for the rest of the team, I think the plot is supposed to be the thing, not the characters, like Law and Order. But me? I liked NYPD Blue, and I’m still holding out for the days when Superman can be as cool as the Authority in the public’s eyes and still not kill, and Batman doesn’t have to leave anyone for dead, either.
So go buy Absolute Authority Volume 2, and Volume 1 for that matter (and hey, DC! How about an Absolute Authority Volume 3, eh?). There’s no question that Jack Hawksmoor is right in the end when he says that the Authority changed things forever. For the better? Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the Authority is just the process of change on paper. Maybe that’s why it makes me feel a little queasy.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
This year alone, we've seen three JSA trade paperbacks--Princes of Darkness, Black Reign, and Lost, and though the prices of those trades haven't risen notably, it's a different story when you break it down by issue. JSA: Princes of Darkness retails at $19.95 for ten issues, or about $1.99 per issue; JSA: Black Reign, however, retails for $12.99 for six issues--or $2.16 an issue. Two months later, JSA: Lost is back up to $19.99, but now for just nine issues, or $2.22 per issue. It takes a little math, but sure enough, DC's trade prices are going up.
"But," you might say, "$2.22 is still about a quarter less than a regular $2.50 issue of JSA." That's true. But take the case of Catwoman. Relentless came out back in January, at $19.95 for nine issues, or $2.21 an issue. But Wild Ride, due out in August, weighs in at a whopping $14.95 for five issues--almost three dollars per issue. When a regular issue of Catwoman is $2.50, the Catwoman: Wild Ride trade paperback is now more expensive than its individual issues.
Here's another one: way back in August of last year, we saw Robin: Unmasked for $12.95, collecting five issues, at $2.59 an issue. Already, that's more expensive than a $2.25 issue of Robin. But coming up in September we have the Robin/Batgirl crossover trade, Fresh Blood, for $12.99--but this time, with only four issues. That's about $3.25 per issue--well more than either one of the individual titles.
So what does this mean for we wait-for-traders? Well, the news isn't all bad. The price of Greg Rucka Adventures of Superman trades breaks down to fifty cents less than the price of an average Adventures of Superman issue. The Batman: War Games trades have remained at about $14.95 for the entire year, most probably a steal with all the issues that are collected. The price of Flash: Ignition broke down to $2.99 per issue, but the upcoming Secret of Barry Allen breaks down to only $1.99 an issue, less than an average issue of Flash. The breakdown price lowered between Nightwing: Big Guns and Nightwing: On the Razor's Edge, too.
What we have to figure is, as trade paperbacks become increasingly important in the comic book industry--as seen in how DC has ramped up their trade program over the last year or so--it's only to be expected that demand will cause trade prices to rise. In this instance, it's notable mainly because comics companies are usually very vocal when they raise the prices of monthly issues, but here, the price increases are a little tougher to see. And really, most savy shoppers know that the retail price of a trade isn't exactly what you'll pay for it, either--Dreamland Comics currently offers Catwoman: Wild Ride for 40% off, or $8.99, which breaks down to well less than the price of a monthly Catwoman issue. All in all, I think, buying trade paperbacks is still more cost efficient than buying monthly issues. But the price breakdown is something to keep an eye on.
I stumbled the other day upon this archive from Peter David's blog. Do a search for Steven Marsh's first post, where he compares the wait-for-trade idea to the Prisoner's Dilemma. He says:
Basically, if one person "Defects" (and awaits the TPB) while the others buy the series (Cooperate), then they "gain" over the Cooperators; they get the book in a format that is useful to them, possibly save money and/or get extras, and definitely get the whole story at once.I find this absolutely fascinating. And frankly, he's right: we wait-for-traders need people to buy the monthlies, or else there wouldn't be trade paperbacks to buy. Though I think, in the next five years--most likely sooner--we're going to see a paradigm shift, where comics companies will better take into account trade sales when figuring the success of a comic. Because honestly, I believe titles like Gotham Central are actually selling like gangbusters, only no one can gauge it.
If no one "Defects", and everyone Cooperates by buying the series, then no one is "gaining" as much as they would by waiting for the TPB.
If everyone "Defects" and awaits the TPB (or, more correctly, if -enough- people await the TPB), then the series is cancelled and everyone loses (either by the lack of an ongoing series or even the lack of the TPB itself).
All of this has brought me to a little thought. Not a new thought, certainly, but a thought that I'd like to put out there with the readership of this blog behind me, and see if anything bites. Essentially, I have no wish to get my trades on the backs of the monthly buyers. I fully admit that monthly buyers keep the titles that I love alive, and I reap the benefits of it when I buy a trade paperback. But ultimately, I want to help the comics industry, not hurt it.
So here's the deal: I'm willing to purchase a bunch of monthly titles--like JSA, like Catwoman, like Batman and Robin and Superman--for full price or a discount, best offer requested--and then exchange them directly for the trade paperback when the trade comes out. Given the figures above, if the trade breaks down to less than the monthly issues, then the comics shop wins out. And if I choose to buy a title that never comes out in trade, the comics shop wins on my speculation, too. I get to stay current on today's titles, I get my trades when they come out, and one lucky comics shop benefits from it in the process.
Optimally, it would be great if I could get my local comics shop to do this, because then I could just go in there every Wednesday like the days of yore, but it's not to be. So calling all dreamers, here's my offer. A radical way to wait-for-the-trade while giving back, too. And I know there are a lot of smart people out there on the 'Net; let's talk about this (if you want, leave your email address as a comment and I'll email you). This could be the start of something--someone show me how to make this work.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Green Lantern: Rebirth HC and Absolute Crisis on Infinite Earths are both advance solicited--Crisis will set you back a whopping $100, making it (I believe) the most expensive Absolute Edition so far.
We already knew about Batman: War Games Act Three, as well as JLA: Syndicate Rules, but here's two doozies: Wonder Woman: Beauty and the Beasts TP, another George Perez-era Wonder Woman trade, including (thankfully) Action Comics #600; and Robin/Batgirl: Fresh Blood, collecting the Robin/Batgirl crossover, and making a nice epilogue to War Games. Now if we could only get more trades of the missing Batgirl issues, we'd be all set!
POSTED JUNE 11, 2005: This just in! Amazon.co.uk lists JLA: Syndicate Rules for October, the same month it lists Batman: Absolute Hush. Looks like September for we in the United States!
Chances are this will have JLA #107-114, plus the JLA Secret Files 2004 story.
Feel free to spread this around, but remember, you heard it at Collected Editions first!
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Geoff Johns certainly understands the ebb and flow of comic book storylines, seen most clearly in JSA, where quieter issues tend to follow each major story. This works only so-so when collected into trades, however, giving editions like JSA: Fair Play and Savage Times not enough oomph, while following Princes of Darkness with Black Reign seems like too much oomph. I think the editors at Vertigo have a better handle on it, as each Fables and Y: The Last Man collection seem like perfect television show seasons, without any down-time. It's, I'm sure, a difficult balance to create.
Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls is arguably one of those "down time trades." I say arguably because, first, it's not as though nothing happens in this trade, as sub-plots are forwarded a plenty, but in truth, as far as the main plot, nothing is seemingly different at the end (unless Johns will build on this later). Second, one gets the feeling that this three-month "slow time" may not be entirely Johns' fault--the timing of this trade coincides with Batman: War Games, and it may be that Beast Boys and Girls had to be horned in just to fit with continuity elsewhere. All that is fine; in the end, the main plot of Beast Boys and Girls doesn't shake the earth, but it's so much fun, it almost doesn't matter. Truly, it's the subplots that make this trade gold.
Wonder Girl takes center stage mid-way through, in a confrontation with Ares that foreshadows Infinite Crisis (and when you consider that both this and a similar scene in Superman: Unconventional Warfare were both originally published even before Identity Crisis, the pre-planning of all this really is quite impressive). Johns, like Marv Wolfman before him, appears to be putting things in place to root Teen Titans in generational conflict; Raven's father issues are legendary, while Kid Flash struggles with gaining Wally West's approval, Robin fears lying to his father, and now Wonder Girl worries that Ares is her father while Superboy struggles with Lex Luthor being his. In ways, I think Wonder Girl is the least fleshed-out of Johns' Titan so far, but I'm still very eager to see the inevitable confrontation when she and Superboy's secrets are revealed.
Superboy and Robin are largely absent from the main action, tying into the aforementioned War Games crossover. Far from being distracting, however, the scenes with the two heroes give the story a nice, heartfelt base, and ultimately tie into the storyline's main themes of deciding to be who you are. Peter David's Young Justice showed the heroes growing from originally mistrusting one another to finally revealing their secrets and lives, and Johns wastes no time picking up on this. Given these characters' long histories, seeing Superboy call Robin his "best friend" is an appropriate and satisfying move.
So don't pick up Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls looking for a complex or suspenseful plot (the one who gives Beast Boy a mean look did it, kids), but instead, try it for a just plain fun Titans story. Jeers to DC for padding this one with the old Beast Boy miniseries (though it is fun to remember the days when Geoff Johns was "that new Stars and STRIPE guy); the big problem with Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls is that it's so short that you'll be wishing for the next one that much sooner.
I happen to be a very ardent Superman fan, so your question is very important to me. I apologize sincerely for the length of this comment, and feel free to read as much or as little of it as you want, but I did want to try to answer fully why I think you might not have been enjoying Superman. I've made some suggestions at the end of this comment for some Superman trade paperbacks to try; if you happen to sample any, please do let me know what you think. Here goes:
You weren't enjoying Superman through the entirety of 2003 because the editors tried the worthwhile experiment of placing on the books Steven Seagle, who had admitted to a certain creative difficulty with Superman despite writing the excellent It's a Bird. Seagle did a twelve-month run that tried to highlight Superman's super-powers, but ultimately just became confusing. In addition, the series featured a quick deletion of Seagle's Supergirl, Cir-El, most probably because everyone realized the run wasn't working half-way through, and then needed to clean it up in time for both DC's upcoming Supergirl and Infinite Crisis plans. So it's a run that didn't start great, and then had to be truncated, and it wasn't helped by Scott McDaniel's art, which was fantastic on Nightwing, but didn't pair exactly right (or at least didn't look quite the same) with Andy Owens, and that contributed to the confusing appearance of the whole thing.
At that same time, Adventures of Superman write Joe Casey tried another noble experiment, this time of writing a Superman who, for almost a year, never hit anyone. Never once solved his problems with violence, instead using reason and his wits. Think about that. That's not only brilliant, but I imagine it's really really tough to do. And ultimately, Casey had already been on Superman for a while, and may have already been ready to be done with it by that point, and so the plots, as this experiment continued, became more and more outlandish, until it just didn't feel like good Superman reading any more. That's what happened there. Superman: Man of Steel had already been cancelled by that point for Superman/Batman, and Joe Kelly continued his fairly good run on Action Comics until the creative teams changed in 2004.
All of this was preceeded by a run from about 1999 to 2002, with the Superman titles written by Jeph Loeb, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, and Mark Schultz, which was really very good. They breathed new life and some modernity into the Superman titles that had disappeared toward the end of Dan Jurgens and company's run. At its heyday of the Death of Superman (or even Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite), the Jurgens run of Superman was, in my opinion, the definitive Suerperman, but its time had past, and the Loeb Superman was fresh, large, and colorful. And from Superman Y2K through Our Worlds at War, they did a fantastic job. But I think there's something to be said for keeping a team on a comic only twelve issues; there's no chance for it to get stale. And by 2002, and into 2003, the teams got a little stale, though I maintain that the Loeb/McGuinness Superman shined throughout.
In the last year, you had the Azzarello/Lee Superman, the Rucka/Clark Adventures, and the Austen/Reis Action (all of this precursed by the new continuity Superman: Birthright). I've only read the beginnings of the Rucka and Austen titles, and I can say they're ... different. Not bad, not great, just different. It's a Clark Kent that's weaker, and a Superman that's stronger, maybe too much stronger. Depends on your individual tastes. Austen's run has only lasted twelve issues, whereas Rucka's run has been renewed, so take from that which is the current definitive Superman. Whether you'll enjoy them or not is hard to say.
So I think the reason you stopped reading Superman is because, eventually, the teams on Superman in the triangle days (which I remember fondly, too), eventually puttered to a stop, and by the time Loeb and company came in, you were probably already gone. And if not, there were plenty of jumping off points along the way after that, too. But let me give you some jumping on points, some suggested Superman reading that I think is good, including some newer stuff, and maybe this will renew your taste in Superman:
Superman: Man of Steel - the first Byrne miniseries. I imagine you've read it, but if not, these stories still stand up today.
Superman: The Man of Steel vol. 1 - 4 - these are the new DC collections of the initial John Byrne, Jerry Ordway, Marv Wolfman stories. They're somewhat clunky by today's standards, but if you read them recognizing that they'red 1980s comics, it's good stuff.
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman - I know it sounds hokey, but this is actually a collection of some of those early Byrne et al Superman stories, and I recall it as being pretty good.
Superman: Panic in the Sky
Superman: Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite
Superman: They Saved Luthor's Brain! - all of these are good early Superman stories
Superman: The Death of Superman
Superman: World Without Superman
Superman: The Return of Superman - the Death trilogy, when that creative team was firing on all cylinders
Superman: For All Seasons - Jeph Loeb's excellent first Superman story, setting the tone for his 1999 - 2002 work
Superman: No Limits - this one, I'll warn you, has some parts good and some parts bad, but it's good to read before Superman: Endgame
Superman: Endgame - the first multi-part story from the new creative team has a great ending
Superman: Til Death Do Us Part
Superman: Critical Condition
Superman: President Lex
Superman: Our Worlds at War Vol. 1 & 2 - the three above again have their hits and misses, but they're probably good to read before Our Worlds at War so you know what's going on
Superman: Return to Krypton - a good story with hits and misses
Superman: The Greatest Stories - contains Action #775, which everyone raves about
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies - this is some great Superman, better than the Superman/Batman: Supergirl trade
Superman: Birthright - if you don't mind Waid's changes, this is a good story overall
Superman: Godfall - not exceptional, though the art is good, but this'll help understand the beginnings of The Wrath of Gog and Unconventional Warfare
Superman: The Wrath of Gog - Superman as portrayed here is competent and powerful, but also cocky and sarcastic. Some like Austen's take, some don't; I put it in this list as it'll help explain some aspects of Unconventional Warfare.
Superman: Unconventional Warfare - the beginning of Greg Rucka's run
Superman: That Healing Touch - part two of Rucka's run, forthcoming
Superman: Secret Identity - this is an "Elseworlds" tale of sorts, that I've heard is good but haven't read
There you go. Thanks!
Friday, June 10, 2005
I had a Smallville thought this morning.
What could conceivably explode from an asteriod ...
... crash land to Earth ...
... and wreak havoc in Smallville?
They'd have to get some gigantic CGI effects to make it work, but wouldn't
it be cool?
Sunday, June 05, 2005
The three Superman issues, of course, give way to the four-issue Majestic miniseries (which would later subsequently give way to the new Majestic series). The story is somewhat standard super-hero fare, but as with the beginning chapters, there's a charming sense that the authors are trying at every turn to take the story beyond the everyday. The first issue, for instance, takes place almost entirely in a cafe, featuring a conversation-over-coffee between Superman and Mr. Majestic; the second issue then takes an unexplained jump to a few weeks later, when a stranger moves to a small town, interspersed with scenes from the seemingly-immortal Majestic's early life. All is explained in the end, and again, whereas the story could have been very straighforward, Abnett and Lanning take some unexpected twists and turns that I very much appreciated.
Majestic, as I understand it, is the story of a once-warlord, now trying to find his place in the world during peacetime, all the while struggling to get home. In this way, he has in common perhaps more with Odysseus (or the New God Orion) than with the Man of Steel. And the challenges against the character, both internal and external, are engaging. I don't have much stake in the Wildstorm universe, finding much of the Stormwatch continuity difficult to understand, but if a trade of the new Majestic series were to come out, I might give it a glance. Mention should be made of Karl Kerschl's art and the colors of Carrie Strachenand Tanya and Richard Horie; the colors and special effects in this book really went a long way toward making the plot shine. Kerschl's Lois veers toward the frumpy, and noses often appear very square, but he's got a nice thin-line style overall that makes for appealing square-jawed super-heroes. It'll be interesting to see him on Adventures of Superman proper with Greg Rucka.
So there you go. A non-DCU review (sorta). I'm almost reading Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls, so look for a review soon, along with a couple other goodies.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
So there you have it, folks: The new editions of Batman: Tales of the Demon is the first to sport the new the new DC logo. Personally, I'm not crazy about how it looks-- that bright blue seems somewhat shiny on that dark cover, and overall the logo appears a little small. But I do think the logo looks good on this week's new comics, so we'll see how it translates and grows in the coming months.
OLD POST: If you're looking for the DC logo on today's new trades, stop. This just in: None of the DC trades released today--most notably, Batman: War Games Act Two, New Teen Titans: Who is Donna Troy?, and a new Batman Archives--sport the new logo. Maybe the trades were designed too early for the new logo ... who knows? But keep an eye out--it'll be interesting to see which one gets the new treatment.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
And Collected Editions is new and small, but one of these days, one of these days, we too will appear on a list of comics blogs. And from there, the world!
By now, I'm sure everyone's noticed the press release on the DC Comics site regarding Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Absolute Edition's release in November, or as I like to call it, Absolute Crisis (doesn't that just have a better ring to it? You know, Absolute Crisis, Infinite Crisis ...). But I also thought an idea on the DC message boards was interesting (now I can't find the link) that the companion book in the Absolute Crisis slipcover should have contained all the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover issues. Now, I don't know exactly how many of those crossover issues there were, but I think this is a fantastic idea for a trade paperback or a series of trade paperbacks, especially with all the current Infinite Crisis hype. Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Crossovers. Hey, DC--you listening?
Frequent low-price leader Discount Comic Book Service launched their new trade paperback-only website today, In-Stock Trades. It did take me a little while to realize, however, that this site is only current trade paperbacks; no pre-orders to be found. It's unfortunate, because In-Stock Trades offers free shipping over $50, and since DCBS's prices are often so low, except for their high shipping prices, I thought this was a step toward free shipping on both sites. But it seems not to be the case.
And even as I read at Comics Should Be Good and elsewhere that DC has an advertisement for All-Star Batman and Robin in the back of their comics where Frank Miller promises "lots of babes," I still have a hard time believing it, mainly because I just don't want to acknowledge that DC put something so seemingly mindless in the back of their comics. Plenty of other venues have taken them to take for this one, so I'll leave it at that, but really: shouldn't the selling point of Batman be ... Batman?
That's it for now. A review of Majestic: Strange New Visitor is on its way, as well as some price comparisons in a little while. Also, don't forget that tomorrow sees the release of the first trade paperbacks since the DC logo change. Will they have the new logo or the old? I'll try to post with pictures tomorrow.