Collected Editions State of the Trade 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006

Unfortunately, December's unexpected technical difficulties still has Collected Editions derailed just a tad -- we're getting back up to speed, but we're not completely fixed yet (not the least of which is that NaNoWriMo icon on the lower left, which should soon change to "winner"). One result is that this will unfortunately pre-empt this year's Collected Editions 2007 Trade Predicitions List.

But, at the same time, do we really need it? The latest press releases from DC have touted 10 and 11 "One Year Later" trades respectively. As Collected Editions predicted back in 2005, nearly every "One Year Later" title has received a trade or (without exact figures in hand), will be receiving one soon. Which makes a predictions list almost unnecessary; if your favorite title participated in "One Year Later," eventually it'll get a trade.

The "completist" half of my brain thinks this is great. As compared to almost two years ago when Collected Editions started, it's now easier and safer for a comics fan to "wait-for-trade" than it's ever been before. But, the "good of the industry" half of my brain does have to wonder. Already, some of the "One Year Later" stories have been so panned by fans that the books' entire creative teams have been changed, but still we see Nightwing: Brothers in Blood and Flash: The Fastest Man Alive coming down the pike. Do we sacrifice quality for quantity here? Should some things not be preserved for posterity?

I also notice that while many of the new trades retain volume numbers on their spines, we still don't see this on the Superman or Batman trades -- and the back-and-forth between softcover and hardcover on the Superman trades will only serve to confuse casual readers. I know why DC does this -- you don't want to cut off existing Superman or Batman trades by starting a new numbering system -- but I think it makes it very difficult for a less dedicated fan to know where to start and where to go, and I think "One Year Later" was probably DC's best chance for a while to do anything about this.

Not, though, to see the glass completely half-empty, especially surrounded by all these riches. As I've mentioned before, the advent of second Fallen Angel and Manhunter trades, Huntress: Darknight Daughter and the classic "All-Star" Justice Society, and titles like New Teen Titans: Terra Incognito, all portend very well for the depth and breadth of DC's growing trade industry. No doubt in 2007, in addition to all the regulars, we'll see likely hardcovers of Justice League and Justice Society of America, the Donner/Johns Action Comics run, more Absolute editions, and, of course, a four-volume hardcover set of 52. So I'm eager to see what the field looks like at the end of 2007, but cautiously eager -- here's hoping a trade boom isn't followed by a trade bust.

Happy new year to all!
Collected Editions 2017 Comic Book Gift Guide

Green Lantern Corps: Recharge mini-review

As concerned as I've been about the recent 1980s rebirth among the DC Universe (Hawkman, Oliver Queen, and then Hal Jordan), nothing's filled me with more dread than the resurrection of the Green Lantern Corps title. While in theory, the return of the Corps has always been an important benchmark--namely, a signal that Kyle Rayner, having recreated the Corps, would have come into his own--the idea of a new Corps title never seemed the logical next step. To me, the Corps represented everything that was wrong with late '80s comics--an esoteric title steeped in long, drawn-out cosmic mythology, with a cast of thousands that was hard for a casual reader to pick up and get in to, or even care about. So I picked up Green Lantern Corps: Recharge, the lead-in to the new Green Lantern Corps series with some trepidation, even though it starred two of my personal favorites, Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner. Well, time will tell if it's the writing of Geoff Johns or Dave Gibbons that makes Green Lantern Corps: Recharge shine, but shine indeed it does. This is a great, fast-paced story, with spot-on dialogue for all the characters, and plenty of interesting intrigue. It's hard to tell the new Lanterns apart in the beginning, but by the end, the Rannian, the Thanagarian, and the reluctant doctor Lantern all have memorable personalities (if not names), and I'm looking forward to learning more about them. Any title that's smart enough to make the distinction between Guy Gardner's rough persona and his actual heroics is good enough for me--Recharge is an excellent space epic that hits all the right notes that Rann-Thanagar War missed.

Rann-Thanagar War mini-review

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

With four Countdown to Infinite Crisis mini-series to choose from, one of them had to be a dud, and for me it was the Rann/Thanagar War. Now I know a lot of people liked this one, and I did admire the many fronts from which the story was told; ditto on the appearances of Hawkwoman, Komand'r, Vril Dox, Captain Comet, Tigorr, Starman, and others. But there was still far too much pseudo-science for my tastes--fancy words and theory that ultimately just translate to "hit the bad guy"--and far too much shoe-horning to make this story fit the end of Adam Strange: Planet Heist and the beginning of Infinite Crisis--the first issue is taken up almost entirely by trying to whittle out a reason that Thanagar would be at war with Rann; in the end, it's nearly impossible to tell who's attacking whom as the great Infinite Crisis rift opens up in space. But in all, I thought comics legend Dave Gibbons' writing held up well, and he did a good enough job with Adam Blake that I'm eager now to read Jim Starlin's upcoming Mystery in Space, as well as the Omega Men miniseries.

Hawkman: Rise of the Golden Eagle mini-review

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

[In order to catch up, Collected Editions will be running some mini-reviews for the next few titles. Same reviews ... just mini.]

In terms of the Hawkman series as a whole, from the end of Black Reign to the beginning of Rise of the Golden Eagle, the transition to the fourth Hawkman trade is fairly jarring. In terms of the Rise of the Golden Eagle story itself, I actually enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. I think I still have some preconcieved notions of the kind of comics that Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray right from back in Palmiotti's somewhat flip run on Superboy (which was actually pretty deceptively intelligent in its own right), and the blood-and-gore chew 'em up Punisher aspect of Hawkman is pretty much in the forefront here--but at the same time I couldn't help but appreciate that they used no less than seven pages at the end of the trade for a slow, satisfying epilogue. Though Golden Eagle's ultimate role in this story is very easy to guess, his motivations are not, and I loved how deeply rooted the whole story was in Hawkman lore (even if some parts of that lore still only make sense if you close both ears and one eye). Thankfully Joe Bennett's penchant to draw protruding nipples on all the women fades away early on, and though it's sometimes tough to tell exactly who's throwing what punch, the art remains consistantly and interesting throughout.

Review: Green Lantern: No Fear hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I had some trepidation starting to read Green Lantern: No Fear, as word on the street was that many had found the Green Lantern monthly series rudimentary after Green Lantern: Rebirth, and I still had my misgivings about Hal Jordan's ressurection anyway. Instead, as someone who was never that much of a Hal Jordan fan to begin with, I quickly came to understand the charm of the character. Geoff Johns delivers his trademark deeply layered work; not only do we get a heaping of rejuvinated villains, but also the beginning hints of a dark alien conspiracy, and a book that is at heart a story about Hal Jordan and the sacrifices he's made in his life for his own family.

Newly reborn, Hal Jordan both returns to Coast City, rejoining the Air Force. He discovers an experimental plane based on Manhunter technology, just as he's caught in the crossfire of a new Manhunter hunting an older version. His old enemy Hector Hammond tells Green Lantern of a race of aliens that experiment with human evolution, that have now returned to Earth; Hal is kidnapped by the aliens along with the Shark. Hal fights an alien-empowered Black Hand to save himself, the Shark, and Hammond from being used as Thanagarian weapons.

I read a little Green Lantern back around issue #25 of the third series, where Hal fought Guy Gardner to be Green Lantern of Earth; I thought I might keep reading it, but dropped it soon after. Hal was the leader of the Justice League Europe around that time, and while I remember some of the heroes were happy to see him, others thought Hal might be too stodgy and conservative. Even as Guy Gardner was played for laughs, I couldn't help but agree when Guy called Hal a "whiner." Certainly I liked the Green Lantern concept; when Kyle Rayner came along, I collected every issue. When Oliver Queen came back, and then Hal Jordan, I felt a certain amount of dismay; though I would grant that Connor Hawke's adventures had never really taken off like Ollie's, it seemed a step backward. I still feel that way, to an extent; even as I enjoy Judd Winick's writing on Green Arrow, it's necessarily the story of an old man, of someone past his prime remembering the good old days, and in ten years I'm not sure that'll make interesting reading. So I worried that a Hal Jordan title might be much the same, and that as soon as the newness faded we'd be looking at another "Emerald Twilight."

But by grounding Hal Jordan firmly on Earth--the Guardians want Hal to do nothing more than patrol his own sector with partner John Stewart--and stripping some of the mythology from the man--many of the new Green Lanterns don't even know who Hal Jordan is--Geoff Johns has created a Hal Jordan that feels new and accessible. I very much enjoy the dilemma Johns has created with Hal's new supporting cast, making Hal a solider in the Air Force where his morally-questionable general knows Hal's secret identity; and moreover, the social relevance of Hal's life in Coast City is spot-on. It's hard to say where the writing and planning of Green Lantern corresponded with Hurricane Katrina, but the parallels of Hal Jordan encouraging families to move back to a devestated city couldn't be more clear. Johns echoes themes between his protagonist and the hero's adopted city just as he did with the Flash and Keystone; the Green Lantern with no fear lives in a city learning to overcome its own. And Hal Jordan is whiny no more, with a certain James Bond kind of charm; I especially liked the scene where Hal, in a crashing jet, with no power in his ring and a Manhunter trying to kill him, turns to the reader and thinks, "Believe it or not, I still got a plan."

Of course, it wouldn't be a Geoff Johns series without formerly lame villains recreated into some of the scariest things you've ever seen. But where I really think Johns shows his mastery here is in his portrayal of Hector Hammond. Even more than Captain Cold in the Flash, we know from the get-go that Hammond is unquestionably evil, but when helping Green Lantern against their common enemy, Johns allows their enmity to blur; additionally, Hammond's new fan-like adoration of Hal is just so creepy it's funny. In this way, the villains become as interesting as the hero--the only exception being the Shark, whom I remember as having a pink-tinged head; this Shark looked almost exactly like Superboy's King Shark, and I wonder if someone else wasn't mixing up the two.

Suprisingly, I was less impressed with Green Lantern: Rebirth artist Ethan Van Sciver's rendition of Green Lantern here; the inks on his work (his own inking, I believe) seem too dark, with far more lines that necessary. Alternatively, Carlos Pacheco is an excellent fit for this book, drawing a fluid, youthful Green Lantern that matches the character's rejuvination. And the final chapter by artist Simone Bianchi feels jarringly out-of-place, though it does give the finale a good horror-movie feel.

I was impressed with the make-up of the Green Lantern: No Fear collected edition. As a hardcover, with very few chapter titles, the book reads even more as one story, instead of a collection of issues, than Green Lantern: Rebirth did. More than many others, the story feels like a graphic novel, buffeted by the way that Geoff Johns makes this a slowly unfolding story about Hal, his brothers, and his relationship with his mother, in addition to all the superheroics. In a way, there's a lot in No Fear that demonstrates the potential for collected editions to come; I give this one a pretty high recommendation.

[Contains full covers, a history of the Green Lantern Corp.]

Well, with this adventageous beginning to the outer space aspect of Infinite Crisis, I'm on now to Hawkman, before the Rann/Thanagar War. Moving right along!

Review: Villains United trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

One more Countdown to Infinite Crisis miniseries down, and the quality has remained consistently high. Though there was little doubt that Gail Simone could write a enjoyable rip-roaring villain-filled adventure full of one-liners and snappy comebacks, Villains United is truly a lot of fun. It reads like Reservoir Dogs with capes -- most of the protagonists are just as ready to turn on each other at the slightest rumor of betrayal, as they are prepared to die as long as it's in a blaze of glory.

The story makes a good point -- that, if the villains are going to start "going good" or teaming up, the heroes need to be that much better -- though I'm still puzzling over some of the book's revelations, even after Infinite Crisis.

[Review contains spoilers for Villains United and Infinite Crisis]

Simone gives Geoff Johns a run for his money here in terms of resurrecting old and forgotten villains, and creating dynamic, powerful new ones. Simone makes Catman this year's breakout character, as he nearly shines on the page with brains and bravado -- it's no coincidence that, dressed in a shadowy black costume with pointed ears, Catman resembles a certain Dark Knight -- and the brilliance is that Catman's slovenly prior appearances remain firmly in continuity.

I felt tepid about a new character, Scandal, in the beginning, but the revelation that's she's Vandal Savage's daughter promises more interesting stories to come; not to mention, Simone gives Knockout, one of my old favorites, a great part to play. But more than that, Simone resurrects "Mike" the Parademon from the three-part Total Justice mini-series, written by Christopher Priest, that was really only meant to launch a Mattel toy line -- and here I thought I was the only person who read it. Simone obviously loves the characters about which she's writing, and it makes the story all that more fun.

At the end of the story, we learn that Mockingbird chose the various villains for the Secret Six based on their knowledge of the respective villains of Batman, the JSA, the Suicide Squad, the Teen Titans, the JSA and others (though not, oddly, the JLA). This has a lot of potential -- six unlikely villains hold the key between them to defeating all the heroes -- and I was disappointed once it was pointed out that it hadn't been used more. Though the Secret Six do their best to defeat their enemies (with more than a few suicide runs), I never saw any specialized knowledge of the villains shared between them -- perhaps that's something for the sequel.

There were a couple other times I felt a little lost while reading this story -- at one point, Catman's being torn apart by a villain, and then magically appears at the fallen Deadshot's side -- but in a way it just adds to the fascinating breakneck, mayhem pace of the story.

What I still can't puzzle out, however, is which Luthor is which? Most of us know by now that the Alexander Luthor of Earth-Three served as the Lex Luthor that lead the Secret Society, while our Earth's Lex Luthor, missing since Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, worked behind the scenes as Mockingbird. We tell them apart, as we see at the end of Villains United, because our Lex Luthor wears the green-and-purple battlesuit, while Alexander Luthor leads the Society.

The problem comes at the end of Teen Titans #20, where a Lex Luthor has paid various villains to retrieve his battlesuit, and then discusses the job with the Calculator; this Lex goes on to team with Brainiac in Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Insiders. I think this is our Lex, in that he's been plaguing Superboy since the beginning of Teen Titans, and it's our Lex who created Superboy from his own genetic material -- making him Alexander Luthor just wouldn't have as much emotional depth.

At the same time, that conversation with the Calculator is very misleading, and then Luthor talks about a mysterious "partner"; I originally thought he meant Deathstroke or Superboy-Prime, but I see that it could just as easily be Brainiac. Insights?

[Contains full covers (including reprints), extensive prelude excerpts from other comics.]

Now I'm on to Green Lantern and Hawkman in preparation for Rann/Thanagar War. I took a quick look at that trade, and it's too bad it doesn't contain the same preview excerpts as the beginning of Villains United; this was an excellent addition to the Villains United trade, and DC's collection team gets a gold star for doing it. Stick around; more reviews to come!

Flash Retrospective (Flash: Rogue War review)

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

In 1992, a somewhat-unknown comic book editor named Mark Waid took on writing The Flash, and over the next eight years Waid would redefine the character as a DC flagship, crystalize the title as one to watch, and make his name as the writer who would go on to the acclaimed Kingdom Come and DC's 52. Following Waid's Flash run in 2000 came an--at that time--equally-unknown writer named Geoff Johns, whose Flash run would not only also propel him to the front lines of DC Comics, but also definte and re-define Wally West as the Flash. Whereas much of Waid's influence on the Flash mythos had to do with the Speed Force that gives all of DC's speedsters their powers, Johns focused instead on Wally West and Keystone City, giving both an inter-dependence that matched Batman and Gotham, or Superman and Metropolis. In fact, with Johns' work on Flash split between two artists, Scott Kolins and Howard Porter, it's even possible to look at John's time on Flash as two distinct runs: one where he set the groundwork for creating a new Flash, and one where we received a glimpse of what that new Flash could have been like.

From the beginning, one of Johns' main tenets of The Flash is that Wally West is the hero who is "just a man." At the beginning of The Secret of Barry Allen trade, Johns writes that while Superman "soars above," Batman "hides," and Wonder Woman "preaches" to everyone, Wally "runs alongside" everyone, at one point changing the alternator in a woman's stalled car as he passes. Keystone is portrayed as a blue-collar, automotive city, much like Detroit where Johns was born. Johns' first scene of Wally in the Blood Will Run trade has him enjoying a regular hockey game, and the major villain in that story is Cicada, a cult leader who sees the Flash as a god; Cicada's defeat influences Wally to return to living in Keystone City proper, "with the other regular people of Keystone." Indeed, Wally defeats the Thinker in Crossfire also by being "a regular guy" with human emotions. The super-intelligent Gorilla Grodd makes three major appearances in Johns' story, and Johns uses Grodd to examine the animal nature of humans; Wally claims in Blitz that he's not an animal, but his animal desire for vengeance against Grodd and, later, Zoom, remains a struggle. In this way, Johns not only portrays Wally as a man, but continues to examine the meaning of manhood and humanity.

One of the cornerstones of Johns' Flash--and an attribute that solidified Johns' reputation as an excellent character-writer on JSA and subsequent titles--was his revitilization of the Flash's Rogues. The first Rogue the reader meets in Blood Will Run is Captain Cold, not pulling off a heist, but enjoying the same hockey game as Wally. Their return to this hockey stadium in Ignition, and their friendship in that story when each has forgotten the other's super-identity, solidifies the idea that the Rogues are people, too, like Wally. In The Secret of Barry Allen, Wally notes that his origins are much like the Rogues, in that he and the Rogues (shown through a series of "Rogue Profiles" throughout the trades) each came from difficult childhoods, and each were gifted powers or abilities through accidental means--only Wally had Barry Allen to set him on a heroic path. In fact, it's toward the end of the last Flash trade, Rogue War, that Wally notes that he couldn't ever hate the Rogues nor Zoom, because he knows "what losing family can do." Additionally, many of the new Rogues that Johns creates have distinctly human (rather than wildly villainous origins)--Peek-A-Boo is a medical graduate student trying to save her father, while Fallout was a blue-collar mason caught in a nuclear accident--reinforcing Johns overall characterization of Keystone City.

In the first four of Johns' Flash trades, however (Blood Will Run, Rogues, Crossfire, and Blitz), the changes to give Wally a more "of the people" outlook are mostly "in theory"--that is, we're told by Johns that this is Wally's new personality, but the change is mostly incongruous with Wally's portrayal beforehand. After Ignition, this changes dramatically (as does the book's art style, from Kolins to Porter). By erasing the public's knowledge of the Flash's secret identity, Johns at the same time creates a new backstory for Wally; as Wally's wife, Linda Park, notes in The Secret of Barry Allen, her parents now believe Wally West is a college drop-out who became a mechanic for the Keystone police. And though this origin is technically a Spectre-created fake, it now creates a subtle change in the tone of Johns writing of Wally West. This is most notable in Wally's interactions with Wonder Woman; in the "Truth or Dare," storyline, he expresses frustration with Diana's holier-than-thou (or holier-than-regular-people) preaching, and makes the point that while, when the two fought a forest fire, Diana would rather allow property to burn rather than hurt the earth, Wally's concern is for people and their possessions first. One senses a political conservatism to the post-Ignition Flash that is actually very much in line with the Marv Wolfman New Teen Titans portrayal of the character, even as it makes this Wally distinct from the Wally at the beginning of Johns run.

With Wally's new post-Ignition outlook and origin, Johns goes on to demonstrate how the Flash is now the ultimate realization of his "people's hero" theme. In Blitz, shortly before Linda is attacked by Zoom, Wally worries whether he's responsible as a hero for creating the villains he fights; in The Secret of Barry Allen, however, after Wally's identity is no longer public, Nightwing recasts this, explaining that the Flash, like Batman, goes out of his way to make enemies in order to keep the villains focused on him, instead of the public. Wally decries the Flash Museum as a grotesque "temple," but once his identity is hidden, comes to understand that the Flash now represents not just Wally West, but symbolizes all the people of Keystone City. In Crossfire, the people of Keystone and Central Cities help Wally save the day, but with the Flash now anonymous, Johns suggests that anyone could now be the Flash--that any regular person might be the hero of Keystone.

There is a theme of class relations inherit in Johns' Flash stories; interestingly, Johns manages to have Wally switch class roles as he changes from the first Wally to the second. When the story begins, Wally is well-known as the Flash, and enjoys a celebrity status; after the knowledge of his identity is erased, however, Wally is referred to in The Secret of Barry Allen as "Mr. Park," the blue-collar husband of a TV news reporter. This further solidifies Wally as "of the people." In turn, he gets a new supporting cast, including his garage boss Wheeler and his daughter Reece. We also see this shift played out in the cultured police detective Morillo, who originally believes that Keystone is not for "regular" police before he's paired with the street cop Chyre. There's also the Mr. Element villain in Ignition, who goes on a killing spree in order to be the smartest man in a town that values vocation over education; additionally, in The Secret of Barry Allen Johns parallels the "high art" of the gaudy Flash museum, where Wally feels unconfortable, with the dank "low art" of Iron Heights, where the guards express their thankfulness for the Flash. In this way, Johns further defines the new Flash by clearly showing how he functions in society.

With all this, then, it is unfortunate that ultimately, the promise of the new Flash can never be fully realized. The Secret of Barry Allen and Rogue War, the two trades that feature the new Flash, are both taken up by sweeping, plotline-tying storylines, and also Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis crossovers; by the time they end, and Johns would ostensibly return to "normal" stories with the new Flash, the series comes to a bittersweet end--though the Rogues seem set to leave Keystone, the new police trio of Chrye, Morillo, and Ashley Zolomon have a greater bond, making this both an end and a potential beginning. The new Wally West might have been the DC Universe's first truly blue-collar hero--not only in his mechanic job, but in his thoughts, opinions, and interactions with others, from his relationship with his supporting cast to his newfound friendship with the midwestern Superman and his tension with the god-like Wonder Woman. We enjoy the effort that Johns put in to creating the new Wally West, even as it seems strange never to fully see that Wally West in action; as the Flash legacy is synonymous with infinite dimensions, we're left with faint but promising glimpses of what might have been.

Nightwing: Mobbed Up review

Monday, December 18, 2006

Collected Editions has had some technical difficulties, but we should be back up and running now. Looking for lots of reviews coming soon!

For a superhero crime drama, a la Wanted, Nightwing: Mobbed Up is actually pretty good. The bad guys are both likable and crooked, the hero's moral dilemma is both clear and compelling, and writer Devin Grayson makes us care for the new, non-powered supporting cast with surprising quickness. Where the book has trouble is that it's not a terrible compelling Nightwing story; when one only has to look as far as the first volume of Batman: Under the Hood to see Batman and Nightwing getting along, it's difficult to take Nightwing's supposed resignation of his mantle seriously. Taken on it's own merits, however, Mobbed Up is interesting, if somewhat light, reading.

After a series of bad incidents, Dick Grayson has seemingly set aside his Nightwing identity and joined the Fertitta crime family in New York, in an attempt to learn who the new power will be in Bludhaven after Blockbuster's death. Dick ends up working for Black Mask, but his plans to infiltrate the new Secret Society are complicated when he finds that Deathstroke is involved--and Deathstroke knows Dick's identity. Meanwhile, the mob family that Dick's grown close to is raided by the police, and Dick is charged with finding their missing daughter.

Given that most of the characters in Mobbed Up are brand-new, and likely none will appear after One Year Later, Devin Grayson does a good job of making us care for them. Given the mobster undercurrent, the characters are often simultaneously normal and dangerously strange, like the father-figure who doesn't hesitate to pull a gun on one of his cohorts, or the young daughter with a stalker-esque crush on Dick Grayson. In this story, Devin Grayson uses the characters well to set the mood. At the same time, I sometimes found myself confused both as to who was who, and who worked for who--there aren't any biography pages here, and Devin Grayson takes little time to explain mob hierarchy, not to mention that most of the characters are balding, gray-haired men.

Late in the story, Nightwing encounters Robin, and it's a scene both well-written, and unfortunately whiny. It's a nice chance for Devin Grayson, through Dick, to reflect on the growth of the Tim Drake character over the more-than ten years since he came on the scene, and it also offers some continuity bits in the mentions of Bruce Wayne's potential adoption of Tim. From there, however, the narrative quickly devolves. As during War Games, Devin Grayson writes Dick with uncharacteristic self-pity and even more, a wallowing self-pity that I think most readers wouldn't connect with the Dick Grayson character; it's hard to feel for Dick in these moments, and again, it's even harder to take seriously Dick's claim that he's done with being Nightwing, when we know we'll find him in Infinite Crisis just around the corner.

Nightwing: Mobbed Up is greatly buffeted by the art of Phil Hester and Ande Parks (how Green Arrow misses thee!), which helps some of the slower parts of the story. There are a surprising amount of non-dialogued fight scenes in this trade, and they might seem a waste if not for Hester and Parks gorgeous choreographing. For a crime drama, again, Devin Grayson continues to prove herself an able storyteller--one gets the sense perhaps that she's too close to this particular character to really be objective with him. But if nothing else, Mobbed Up is a nice set-up for the super-villainy promised in part two, and not a terrible read if you can get it on the cheap.

[Contains full covers, biography pages, "What Came Before" section.]

I'm on to a Geoff Johns-Flash retrospective, toward Flash: Rogue War. From there, Villains United. More reviews soon!

DC Trades for Early 2007, and a brief hiatus ...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

'Lo all. Collected Editions is going on a brief hiatus for the month of November; posts may be sporatic, or not at all. Meantime, please enjoy our take on DC's announcement yesterday of their March/April trades, and we'll be back in December with more news, reviews, and collected editions goodness. Ciao!

BATMAN: SNOW TP
Writers: Dan Curtis Johnson and J.H. Williams III
Artist: Seth Fisher
Price: $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN
Page count: 128 pages
Collects: BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #191-196

Somewhat surprised to see this, as it's not even the last LODK story, but just one of the many and not particularly notable continuity wise. It's ones like these that make me worry about a collected editions "boom," where everything gets collected, that'll eventually end up in a bust.

UPDATED: As Nobody noted, this trade contains art by Green Lantern: Willworld artist Seth Fisher, who died last year. As Comicon reported, Patty Jeres, the former DC Comics' Director of Sales and Marketing, praised Fisher as "Moebius, the next generation."


CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS: THE TEAM-UPS VOL. 2 TP
Writers: Gardner Fox, John Broome and Mike Friedrich
Artists: Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson and Sid Greene
Price: $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN
Page count: 200 pages
Collects: THE ATOM #29 and 36, THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #62, THE FLASH #170 and 173, GREEN LANTERN #45 and 61, and THE SPECTRE #3

Collects team ups of Al Pratt and Ray Palmer; Starman and Black Canary; Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, and (Kid Flash) Wally West; Alan Scott and Hal Jordan, and the Spectre with Wildcat, respectively.

THE FLASH: THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE - LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE TP
Writers: Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo
Artists: Ken Lashley, Karl Kerschl, Andy Kubert and Joe Kubert
Price: $12.99 US/$15.99 CAN
Page count: 144 pages
Collects: THE FLASH: THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE #1-6

GREEN ARROW: CRAWLING FROM THE WRECKAGE TP
Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens
Price: $12.99 US/$15.99 CAN
Page count: 144 pages
Collects: GREEN ARROW #60-65

NIGHTWING: BROTHERS IN BLOOD TP
Writer: Bruce Jones
Artists: Joe Dodd, Bit, Paco Diaz, Robert Teranishi and Wes Craig
Cover artist: Jock
Price: $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN
Page count: 168 pages
Collects: NIGHTWING #118-124

ROBIN: WANTED TP
Writer: Adam Beechen
Artists: Freddie Williams II, Karl Kerschl, Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines and Prentiss Rollins
Cover artist: Patrick Gleason
Price: $12.99 US/$15.99 CAN
Page count: 144 pages
Collects: ROBIN #148-153

SHADOWPACT: THE PENTACLE PLOT TP
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Bill Willingham, Steve Scott and Wayne Faucher
Cover artist: Bill Willingham
Price: $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN
Page count: 168 pages
Collects: SHADOWPACT #1-7

The "One Year Later" collections of each of these titles.

SECRET SIX: SIX DEGREES OF DEVASTATION TP
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Brad Walker and Jimmy Palmiotti
Cover artist: Karl Kerschl
Price: $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN
Page count: 144 pages
Collects: SECRET SIX #1-6

I'm pleasantly surprised to see this one so quickly. Could an ongoing series be far behind?

SUPERGIRL: CANDOR TP
Writers: Greg Rucka, Mark Verheiden and Joe Kelly
Artists: Ian Churchill, Ed Benes, Kevin Maguire and others
Cover artist: Ian Churchill
Price: $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN
Page count: 176 pages
Collects: SUPERGIRL #6-9, SUPERMAN/BATMAN #27, SUPERMAN #223, and pages from JSA CLASSIFIED #2 and JLA #122-123

Short of the fact that it's "Kandor," not Candor, I'm pleased to see how much is collected here, including Superman/Batman #27.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN: THE GREATEST STORIES EVER TOLD VOL. 1 TP
Writers: Edmond Hamilton, Jeph Loeb, John Byrne, Karl Kesel, Greg Rucka, Cary Bates and Len Wein
Artists: Curt Swan, Ed McGuinness, John Byrne, Dick Giordano, Peter Doherty, George Klein, Tim Sale, Dick Dillin, Neal Adams, Joe Giella, Dan Davis and others
Cover artist: Alex Ross
Price: $19.99 US/$23.99 CAN
Page count: 200 pages
Collects: SUPERMAN #76, MAN OF STEEL #3, WORLD'S FINEST #88, 142, 159, 176 and 207, DETECTIVE COMICS #756, BATMAN & SUPERMAN: WORLD'S FINEST #7, SUPERMAN/BATMAN SECRET FILES 2003 and more

Collects the Superman/Detective Comics crossover "Lord of the Ring," plus the Batman & Superman: World's First issue that dealt with Jason Todd's death.

ALL STAR SUPERMAN VOL. 1 HC
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Price: $19.99 US/$26.99 CAN
Page count: 160 pages
Collects: ALL STAR SUPERMAN #1-6

Me, I'm holding out for the twelve-issue absolute edition.

BATMAN: DETECTIVE TP
Writer: Paul Dini
Artists: J.H. Williams III, Don Kramer, Joe Benitez, Wayne Faucher, Victor Llamas
Cover artist: Simone Bianchi
Price: $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN
Page count: 144 pages
Collects: DETECTIVE COMICS #821-826

Collects the first story of the new Detective Comics creative team after "Face the Face."

CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS VOL. 5 TP
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artists: Dick Dillin, George Pérez, Dick Giordano, Frank McLaughlin, Rich Buckler, Jim Starlin and Bob Smith
Cover artist: George Pérez
Price: $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN
Page count: 176 pages
Collects: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #159-160, 171-172 and 183-185

Collects crossovers with the JSA and time lost heroes (including Jonah Hex), the death of Mr. Terrific, and the New Gods, respectively.

HAWKGIRL: THE MAW TP
Writer: Walter Simonson
Artist: Howard Chaykin
Price: $17.99 US/$21.99 CAN
Page count: 168 pages
Collects: HAWKGIRL #50-56

I'm quite a bit disappointed to see that we've jumped right over the Hawkman Rann/Thanagar War issues, and I'm not crazy about the Hawkgirl creative team, though it's been getting good reviews. I'm curious about this one.

SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES VOL. 4: ADULT EDUCATION TP
Writers: Mark Waid and Tony Bedard
Artists: Barry Kitson, Adam DeKraker and Rob Stull
Price: $14.99 US/$17.99 CAN
Page count: 192 pages
Collects: SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #20-27

The next trade volume in this series.

WONDER WOMAN: THE GREATEST STORIES EVER TOLD TP
Writers: William Moulton Marston, Robert Kanigher, Dennis O'Neil, George Pérez and Phil Jimenez
Artists: H.G. Peter, Ross Andru, George Pérez, Phil Jimenez and others
Cover artist: Alex Ross
Price: $19.99 US/$23.99 CAN
Page count: 192 pages

What, no Greg Rucka?

Nightwing: Year One review

Sunday, October 29, 2006

While reading Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty's Bat-Family "Year One" stories, I can't help but consider the rumor I've heard that the writers have one more story--a fourth to their "trilogy"--still in the planning. Given that we've had a Dick Grayson-Robin: Year One, a Barbara Gordon-Batgirl: Year One, and a Dick Grayson-Nightwing: Year One, one could speculate that the next in line is a much-deserved Oracle: Year One. But I found in reading Nightwing: Year One that the story is as much about Nightwing's origins, ultimately, as it is about Jason Todd's--making this as much Nightwing: Year One as it could be the precursor to the year one story of Robin II.

In Nightwing: Year One, Dick Grayson returns to Batman's side, presumably from between the pages of New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, only to have Batman fire him for Dick's divided attention between Batman and the Teen Titans. Dick embarks on a trip to find himself, encountering Superman and Deadman, before teaming with Batgirl as the new Nightwing--while Batman meets a young Jason Todd stealing tires off the Batmobile. Batman conspires to have Dick and Jason meet during Batman's "Gauntlet" test--but when Alfred is kidnapped by Killer Croc, the former and new Robins have to work together to save him.

Though Nightwing: Year One is enjoyable overall, little of what's established here is new--nor, at least, is it necessarily attributable to modern continuity. Much of what we see here--Dick Grayson's firing, his first meeting with Jason Todd--never actually happened, or at least, it happened entirely differently (and more amicably) pre-Crisis, and post-Crisis, it didn't "happen" so much as it was related in flashback. So, for instance, while you can wedge this story between the pages of New Teen Titans, it very barely lines up with Batman. There are, of course, nice moments--we get more scenes of the mainly undefined Dick Grayson/Barbara Gordon relationship, as well as a new "first appearance" of Killer Croc--an origin reconned out of mainstream continuity when Jason Todd lost his first, circus-based origin after Crisis on Infinite Earths. And it's a nice touch that, like Ma Kent, Alfred still made Dick's first Nightwing costume, even after he's left the 'Cave.

The appeal of Jason Todd--at least, in theory--would be that he would be Robin, but that he would be tougher and more complicated than the clean, mostly do-right Dick Grayson. Here, the writers demonstrate that appeal well, but not blithely--over the final two chapters, they turn Jason Todd from a smart-mouthed kid to a flawed promising Robin, altering the readers' perceptions by slowly altering Dick Grayson's perceptions. Once Dick begins to see himself in Jason, he can't help but laugh at the sheer audacity of anyone trying to steal the tires from the Batmobile--and it allows him to see what benefits Jason might have as Robin. There's interesting work here, made all the more interesting--or perhaps tragic--in its posthumous nature.

[Contains full covers, a (somewhat questionable) Nigtwing timeline.]

I read Nightwing: Year One as it contained Nightwing #101-106; I'm now to continue with Nightwing issue-wise with Mobbed Up. From there, Flash: Rogue War, and then on to Villains United and some space-faring adventures. Come join!

Trade paperback timeline updated ...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Updates to the trade paperback timeline include adding some "One Year Later" trades, and a bit of reshuffling around the Countdown to Infinite Crisis trades. Enjoy!

Batgirl: Year One review

If nothing else, Batgirl: Year One is a nice tribute to the bygone Chuck Dixon Birds of Prey years. There's a lot of cute "nudge-nudge-wink-wink" moments here, like the newly-christened Batgirl teaming up with Black Canary, or the "revelation" of how Jason Bard became crippled and started his own detective agency. Unfortunately, in our new "One Year Later" universe, it's a lot of sound and fury ultimately influencing nothing, but for hardcore Batgirl fans, I'm sure it's a nice touch. Batgirl: Year One is a solid story with good art, and serves as an admirable sequel to Robin: Year One; at the same time, I found it something of a light read, leaving many of the more serious Batgirl questions unanswered.

Barbara Gordon, tired of not being taken seriously by her adoptive father, dresses as Batgirl for a costume party interupted by the Killer Moth, whom she momentarily defeats. Keeping the costume, Batgirl is confronted by Batman and Robin; Batman tries to dissuade her from her choice. When Jim Gordon is kidnapped by a mob boss trying to frame Killer Moth and his new partner Firefly, Batgirl teams up with Black Canary to stop them. She later works with Robin, and after defeating the Moth and Firefly herself, is finally accepted by Batman.

Dixon, with co-writer Scott Beatty, writes a nice Batgirl here, somewhat in line with his portrayal of Oracle. There's an "oracle" theme, somewhat heavy-handed, throughout the book, and we get as many glimpses of the hero that Batgirl will become as we do questions about Barbara's choices--she thinks it's unlikely that there will ever be a "Congresswoman Gordon," though apparently that's back in continuity now. And though she shares a kiss with Dick Grayson in the story, the muddled path of that love affair becomes no more clear, either. Where Dixon succeeds is in showing the path of Barbara Gordon from the beginning to the end of the story, and how the role of Batgirl goes from being a lark to a mission--the use of Barbara's shoes, which start out as high heels and end up as climbing boots is a particularly effective silent indicator. Of course, there's also a requisite appearance by the image of the Joker, where Barbara indicates she's "not afraid" of what might come next--the foreshadowing, again, is remarkably heavy-handed, but ultimately that's what "year one" stories are all about.

Though the story has Batgirl's name on the masthead, there's much about Batman in this book that I felt went unsatisfactorily unexplored. As is usually the case these days, Batman initially tries to convince Barbara to give up her Batgirl role; the parallels to Batman's conversations with the Spoiler are perhaps intentional, though the reason that Batman accepts Batgirl when he later denied Spoiler are never entirely clear. And, perhaps for space reasons, Batman's revelation of his identity to Batgirl (and his reasons for doing so), are also mostly glossed-past. As is the fact that Barbara Gordon is Jim Gordon's niece, a fact that couldn't have been lost on Batman, but his feelings about betraying Gordon's trust are never truly explored. That Jim Gordon is aware of his adoptive daughter's nocturnal activities is preserved here, and works well with the progress of the story overall.

[Contains complete covers.]

I'm on to read Nightwing: Year One now, and then ... ? I'm on the road to Villains United, but I'm not sure if I should read Nightwing: Mobbed Up before that story or after, and whether I should read The Flash: Rogue War before or after. I'll report back and let you know.

Batman: War Crimes review

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

There's no question that the story in Batman: War Crimes will appear controversial to most, in the main part due to the major change it brings to a Bat-verse stalwart. What separates those who enjoyed War Crimes from those who didn't likely bears a lot on how one enjoys their comic books as a whole. When a long-established character acts radically different from a way they always have, is that drama, or bad writing? Can a comics character convincingly break and go "over the edge," or are comics characters so much a product of their own archetypes that no one in comics can ever truly change? The Bat-verse tries these lines in War Crimes.

In the wake of the War Games crossover, Black Mask consolidates his hold over the Gotham underworld, while talk-show host Arturo Rodriguez reveals Stephanie Brown's role as Spoiler and Robin, aided by the mysterious Aaron Black. Batman tries to consult Dr. Leslie Thompkins for clues, but finds her missing. He confronts Aaron Black, and ends up interrupting a fight between Black Mask and the Joker, who wants to kill Black Mask for ruining his chances to kill another Robin. Aaron Black is revealed as the Cluemaster, while it turns out Rodriguez worked with Black Mask to raise his ratings. Batman captures both the Joker and Black Mask (though Black Mask later escapes), and ultimately confronts Spoiler's real killer, Leslie Thompkins, who let Spoiler die in order to try to caution other vigilantes from joining Batman's quest.

One obvious problem here is the gross similarity between Leslie Thompkins' motives and those of Jean Loring in Identity Crisis. Both killed in order to try to make the heroes think twice about their lives; when Loring did it, it was novel, but when Thompkins does it, it's just repetitive. And additionally, we know that Loring has a history of mental illness, whereas Thompkins has been a devout pacifict for most of her recent portrayal. We get the sense that Leslie Thompkins reached the end of her rope, and allowed Spoiler to die out of desperation, but it's an argument that doesn't make a lot of sense; even Jean Loring claimed she only meant to wound Sue Dibny, not kill her. And that's where War Crimes begins to have problems.

Leslie Thompkins, again, is a known pacifict, but yet, at the end of War Games, she has killed. The writers, of course, would say that people change, and here, Thompkins changed as well; the argument against this would be that Thompkins' actions go "against her character." Well, can't her character change? It's a question that rises more and more lately, especially as DC tries to take bigger risks with its characters--can't Hal Jordan go mad and destroy the Corps? Can't Wonder Woman kill? It goes against character, and yet characters in other mediums can change--but in comics, as with Hal Jordan, ultimately the change isn't for the better. And most would probably say that this change in Leslie Thompkins isn't for the better, either. Where War Crimes fails, perhaps, is in that Thompkins' desperation isn't tangibly shown--she couldn't have been more tired during the gang war than during No Man's Land, and after War Games, Thompkins wasn't even seen until War Crimes, so it's all very sudden.

Some on the Internet reacted to the writers' decision quite vehemently; personally, it seemed so incongruent (and I otherwise enjoyed War Crimes) that at most, I think I shrugged--I can't associate this Leslie Thompkins with the Leslie Thompkins of Devin Grayson's excellent Batman Chronicles #18--and ultimately, I wonder if a Batman writer would ever return to this plot anyway--there hardly seems a way to redeem Thompkins for use in the Bat-verse (and to turn her into a costumed villain ... *shudder*). And the story's proximity to Infinite Crisis didn't help, either--with the "One Year Later" push to start storylines fresh, it's all the more likely that War Crimes will just be swept under the rug.

What redeems War Crimes, however, is that it's just a darn good Batman mystery. We've got a handful of crazy villains (including a back-to-loony Joker), a good moral dilemma for Batman, quite a few hidden identities, and clues--lots of clues--that lead Batman to the real culprit. When most Batman stories these days favor the superhero side overall, War Crimes is a whodunit--and a convincing one, in that all the clues do lead to the killer, even if the killer's motive is something of a stretch. I even applaud the Bat-writers' planning; the clues to Thompkins' crime are apparent at the end of War Games, making War Crimes fit nicely alongside.

[Contains complete covers, What Came Before pages.]

So Batman: War Crimes is a good story, if not perhaps so good for the Batman mythos overall. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this trade contains both four monthly comic stories, as well as a smattering of Secret Files stories--a nice and welcome addition. And now I'm off to read Batgirl: Year One, on the way to reading Nightwing: Year One and Nightwing: Mobbed Up. From there, it's on to Villains United--come join, won't you?

Review: Batman: Hush Returns trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Batman: Hush Returns -- collecting seven issues of Batman: Gotham Knights -- is a very interesting take on the Batman mythos that's great to read, but falls flat in the fact that the ending is a cliffhanger and there's likely not a second volume to follow. It's a shame, really.

And additionally, while I'm not one to decry a trade of monthly issues in any form -- Hush Returns near-unabashedly touts itself as a volume meant entirely to capitalize on the fame of Hush and Infinite Crisis (as, perhaps, was the Lieberman run on Gotham Knights itself), with presenting a complete story only a secondary concern. None of this is the writer's fault, but it's an interesting study of DC's trade plans overall.

Hush Returns begins with the Riddler in Arkham, his life threatened by the returned Hush. The Riddler arranges for the Joker to break him out and protect him -- trading the Joker for the name of the corrupt police officer who killed the Joker's wife -- but not before Hush is able to beat the Riddler severely. After the Joker attacks Hush, Hush hires Prometheus in Star City, bringing Batman briefly in contact with Green Arrow. Hush tries to attack the Riddler again, this time beating up the Joker; Riddler goes to Poison Ivy for help. From here, the trade jumps abruptly to a story where Talia al Ghul forces Hush to save Prometheus from Poison Ivy's toxins so that Talia can get Prometheus's Cosmic Key.

A. J. Lieberman writes what he admits is a different kind of Batman book, one where Batman isn't necessarily the main character and, for the most part, I think he pulls this off well. There's plenty of intrigue between Hush, the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Poison Ivy, and Prometheus, and there's also enough mystery to go around, not the least of which is who Hush is right now.

Though different than a traditional Batman title, I was impressed with the internal continuity that Hush Returns shares with some of the other Batman trades. I'm coming to Hush Returns rather late, after War Drums, War Games, and Under the Hood, but to read Hush Returns before all of these is to be able to follow a very logical progression at least for the Joker, and for Batman's relationship with Green Arrow. Frankly, it's obvious that there was at least some collaboration on Lieberman and Judd Winick's part, or that Winick familiarized himself with what Lieberman set up in Gotham Knights, and it's a welcome and impressive attention to detail.

I read a bit online about fan reactions to Lieberman's Gotham Knights, and one of the great debates seems to be Lieberman's portrayal of the Joker. Obviously, Lieberman writes a far saner Joker than we're used to, whether in Jeph Loeb's Hush, No Man's Land, or Batman: Broken City. At the same time, maybe one of the benefits of Hush Returns being a trade is that it becomes a representation of an encapsulated moment in time, rather than a monthly title where the reader has to fear that this is the "new portrayal" of the Joker.

For me, it didn't bother me that much -- while I frankly far prefer a Joker who is origin-less*, it wasn't as though Lieberman simply revamped the Joker, but rather co-oped parts (if not all) of The Killing Joke (and some parts, like the Joker's connection to the circus where he imprisioned Jim Gordon, are worth keeping in the canon anyway). And the Joker as head crime boss of Gotham City? That didn't last long anyway (enter Black Mask) and besides, part of me still got a vicarious Super-Friends chill seeing the Joker and the Penguin interacting (back from when I was a kid, and thought the Penguin was the Joker's sidekick like Robin was Batman's).

The Hush Returns book itself doesn't look like other Batman trades; there's a definitively stylized look to the book from art department member Jennifer Redding, which sets it apart from other Batman books. The reader gets the sense that this is for one of two reasons: either this book was meant to be a front-end seller deserving of an unusual design (which, given that volume two isn't on the horizon, is unlikely), or that the book was intended to be so low on the radar that the art department was allowed to experiment with it.

Hush Returns contains a six-part Hush tale and a one-part Villains United tale; neither one is complete, but both are there. Here, too, we get the sense that this a book low on the radar; it has all the buzzwords that make it trade-worthy, but it's not important enough for, say, a complete story. Which is, on one hand, a sad state of affairs, but on the other hand, a sign that DC's realized that there's real profit to be made from trades of monthly issues, even if each one's not a barn-burner (the upcoming New Teen Titans: Terra Incognita is another example). I see this as a good thing that will likely become better and more refined as we go.

And what are the chances we'll get the last, missing page from this trade in the upcoming JSA Classified trade paperback?

[Contains thumbnail covers, two "What Has Come Before" pages.]

All right, I'm now on to Batman: War Crimes as this Bat-verse train rolls along. Then some Nightwing, perhaps, and Vilains United, and then a Flash extravaganza. You know where to be.

* A phenomenon, perhaps, that I wouldn't attribute to any other character except the Joker. Which is interesting -- is the Joker so archetypcial that he even transcends the need for an origin?

Infinite Crisis hardcover released

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

DC pushed forward the delayed Infinite Crisis hardcover to today's release; the new cover is here at right, but if anyone picked this up today, we want details! Please leave a comment and let us know what's new, what's added, and what's changed. Collected minds want to know!

New Collected Editions reviews coming this weekend. Take care!

EDIT: Wizard's got the lowdown on some of the new scenes in the book, including "a two-page spread of 80 heroes paying homage in a church that fits neatly into issue #5 of the series, a battle sequence between Batman, Robin, Nightwing and Deathstroke from issue 7 and a scene showing the final fate of Nightwing and more of the epic battle in Metropolis from the same issue, said editor Anton Kawasaki," and the two-page spread of the DC heroes drawn by George Perez. I, for one, can't wait.

If you got it today, do please comment and let us know what you think.

EDIT AGAIN: Any Eventuality writer (and Collected Editions commenter) Nobody has posted "Intentional Crisis: Original vs. Final," an excellent run-through of the new pages in the Infinite Crisis collected edition, noting the cathedral scene, the Deathstroke fight, the seemingly awkward Nightwing scene, and the final Perez spread. And I'm glad to hear that red mist page is gone, though I'm also glad they include a comparison at the end. Thanks for all the details!

Also, over on the DC Comics Message Board, posters also mention some dialogue changes (including the conversation between Batman and the Earth-2 Superman, which I think makes that much more effective). At the same time, it seems only Power Girl and Donna Troy remember the multi-verse? Boo! Isn't that how the DCU got in convoluted trouble the last time?

Thanks all -- a new review tomorrow!

DC Announces Early 2007 Trades

Monday, September 18, 2006

Well, thank the stars, the fast is over. In addition to what we already knew about, DC announced a whole lot of great stuff today. Let's take a look:

Superman: Back in Action - Action Comics #841-843, plus DC Comics Presents #4, #17, and #24
This continues from Superman: Up, Up, and Away. The three DC Comics Presents issues feature Superman and the Metal Men, Firestorm, and Deadman respectively--I'm not sure if there's special significance to these issues, or if they're just additional team-ups. A nice bonus, either way.

Superman: Camelot Falls - Superman #654-658
Interesting to see this in hardcover, when Up, Up, and Away and Back in Action aren't. A somewhat small hardcover, too, though I'm glad to see Superman getting the attention.

Superman: Emperor Joker
Well, this is a long time in coming. I wonder what brought this on--and moreover, if it'll match Superman: Endgame and the other Superman trades of its time. What's next, Flash: Wonderland?

Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven
Glad to see a trade of this miniseries so soon.

Fallen Angel Vol.2: Down to Earth
Hooray for DC, collecting issues #7-12 of Fallen Angel. Everyone pre-order this so DC will finish out the series.

Ion: The Torchbearer
And, on the other hand ... half a collection of the Ion mini-series. I'll buy it, because I'm a pushover, but I sure would've rather a full collection.

JSA Classified: Honor Among Thieves
Collecting issues #5-9 of JSA: Classified. I think one can be relatively sure that all the Classified issues will eventually be collected, ready-made trades as they are. This one follows the Power Girl trade.

JSA: Ghost Stories
Finishes up the current JSA run with issues #82-87. It remains to be seen if Justice Society and Justice League will both relaunch with hardcover collections, and how long DC will keep that up.

The Justice League of America Hereby Elects ...
I can't resist trades of old issues with current continuity ties, and this one has it in spades. Contains Justice League of America #4, #75, #105-106, #146, #161 and #173-174, where Green Arrow, Black Canary, Red Tornado, Zatanna, and Black Lightning respectively join the JLA.

Manhunter Vol. 2: Trial by Fire
More good news, with a whopping nine-issue Manhunter trade (issues #6-14). Everyone pre-order this one, too, and get your friends to do the same.

Outsiders: The Good Fight - Outsiders #34-41
Collecting the first One Year Later exploits of the Outsiders.

And last, but not least ... the DCU Infinite Christmas Special
What, no surprise ending to this one? Remains to be seen if a non-continuity 80-page special does as well as Countdown and Brave New World--then again, it's hard to miss with Batgirl and the Shadowpact.

Fallen Angel ... Manhunter ... the stars are shining bright today, kids. Thanks for stopping by.

Robin: To Kill a Bird review

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I felt fairly lukewarm about Robin: Unmasked--the somewhat awkward, choppy cut-scenes, combined with a garish art change halfway through, didn't help the fact that Tim Drake felt mostly out-of-character, nearly giving up his Robin persona after he believes he kills a criminal, which I think is not nearly the first time Robin's had to deal with that. But Bill Willingham's portrayal of Spoiler-as-Robin in Batman: War Drums showed promise, and Robin/Batgirl: Fresh Blood did, too. Which is why, as a long-time Robin fan, I was pleased to find much more to enjoy in Robin: To Kill a Bird. Perhaps without the constraints of crossovers, Willingham has finally hit his stride with this title; though his run only lasts one more trade, we can at least say it had some effect while it lasted. With some nice surprises and character moments, To Kill a Bird is a worthy addition to the Robin cannon.

To Kill a Bird finds Robin in Bludhaven, hunted by a bevy of masked assassins. He ultimately traces them to the Penguin, but finds he's receiving unexpected help in ending the Penguin's contract--a military group that wants to make Robin their newest recruit. At the same time, Bruce Wayne offers to adopt the orphaned Tim Drake, until Tim's mysterious long-lost Uncle Eddie arrives. And Robin's foe Johnny Warlock brings a new enemy back from the dead, while Alfred begins a relationship with Tim's widowed mother.

From the moment that Bruce Wayne offers to adopt Tim Drake in this trade, I was hooked. It wasn't something I'd considered, and Bruce's humble requesting, combined with Tim's excitement, really made me root for it to happen. Then, Willingham introduces the mystery of Uncle Eddie, and when that came toward its resolution, I found myself thinking, "No, Willingham wouldn't ... would he?" In this trade, Willingham shows his willingness to be controversial, and it does the story a lot of good. Alfred's unexpected flirtation with Dana Drake--and the subsequent conversation that he and Batman have about it--is shocking and controversial and just plain interesting, and that's exactly what this story needs.

Willingham's villains take a giant leap forward here, too. Though I didn't initially like the magic-based Johnny Warlock going up against the more urban-grounded Robin, I found that his appearances in sub-plots here did a lot to flesh out the character. And while Willingham introduces quite a few other villains here that might otherwise just be one-note foes, there's obvious effort made to characterize each, from the honor of the Rising Sun Archer to the unique challenge Robin faces with the Dark Rider, even to Robin's interrogation of the Penguin. In pitting Robin against these characters, Willingham shows why the Robin title is more than just Batman with a younger protagonist; Robin's solutions are wilder, his battles more off-the-cuff, and all in all the stories have a nice, fluid feel.

The art switches a couple times in this trade, though the effect is far less jarring than in Robin: Unmasked. Damion Scott continues the great work he did on Batgirl at the beginning of this trade, though his reappearance toward the end, where the art gets cluttered and is rife with two-page spreads, quickly heralds his replacement by Scott McDaniel. (It's surprising, frankly, that only Scott gets a mention on the trade cover, and not McDaniel.) McDaniel's work holds up well (though I still prefer him inked by Karl Story); the Batman/Alfred scenes in the Batcave are reminiscent of McDaniel's definitive work on Batman #600 and #605. In the middle of the trade, we have quick hits from Giuseppe Camuncoli and Pop Mhan, nearly indistinguishable from one another, but both do great jobs, and I'd be happy to see Robin drawn again by either.

[Contains full covers (slightly reduced size).]

I'm continuing my pre-Villains United trip through the Bat-verse now, with Batman: War Crimes, and Nightwing: Mobbed Up. Stay cool out there!

Infinite Crisis Hardcover Delayed

Sunday, September 10, 2006

DC has delayed the Infinite Crisis hardcover from the original September release date to Wednesday, October 11, the same day as the release of the Infinite Crisis Companion. While the extra waiting is a shame, I can entirely understand from a marketing standpoint wanting the two volumes to come out at the same time, instead of having the Companion seem like an also-ran.

Review: Space Ghost trade paperback (DC Comics)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I've long had a theory that every comic series must be somebody's favorite. I may never have been a big Captain Atom fan, but gosh darn it there must be somebody out there who has every Captain Atom issue, and fainted dead away with joy when Captain Atom: Armageddon was announced. And I figure the same must be true for Space Ghost. The trade, while not terribly awful, was unfortunately not for me, but I do grant that there must be someone out there, somewhere, who's seen every Space Ghost episode and read every Space Ghost book, and for whom the Space Ghost trade has a vaunted place on their shelves. Well, I can appreciate that, even if I can't concur.

Space Ghost begins with Peacekeeper Thaddeus Bach joining his planet's special forces unit, the Wrath. When his boss, Temple, murders someone on their first mission, however, Bach defects, and his wife is killed in revenge. Temple beats Bach and leaves him for dead, but he's found by a hermit who nurses him back to life and, eventually, reveals a hidden weapons stash. Bach pursues Temple, seeking vengeance, but when the planet Meridian is attacked by a bug-species, including their leader Zorak, Bach chooses redemption instead. He adopts two orphaned children, Jan and Jayce, and takes on the secret identity Space Ghost.

I looked up Space Ghost on the Internet right after I finished the miniseries, hoping to discover how neatly the Space Ghost comic dovetailed into the cartoon. I was sadly disappointed. There are slight bits -- Thaddeus is Space Ghost's first name on the Coast to Coast cartoon, he visits a Ghost Planet of sorts in the comic, and he gains a wise mentor as mentioned, apparently, in only one old Space Ghost comic -- but the ties are tentative at best. And it's even hard to equate the scheming Zorak from the cartoons with the planet-ravaging race of Zorathians in the comic; at best, this is hardly Space Ghost's origins, but more a re-imagining of the concept as a whole.

The other difficulty with this story is it's overarching generality. The back of the trade very nearly tells the whole story: A policeman finds out his force is corrupt, he becomes a renegade and swears revenge and ... yup, he finds redemption in the end. Frankly, had this same character landed on a planet where the wise old alien gave him comet-weapons instead of ghost-weapons, this could have been an origin for a new Captain Comet. Or Plasma Man or Space Cowboy or what have you. It's an archtypical, general origin, pasted on to a character we don't know that much about, with very little tie to the small amount we do know about the character ... well, nothing plus nothing kind of ends up with nothing.

To be fair, I do see Joe Kelly's point, that this is essentially just "two-fisted ... pulp science-fiction," and if that's all you're after, there is something to love here (and we all know how I honestly enjoyed Kelly's other work). Kelly's got plenty of weird and exotic aliens in this book, and it's all beautifully illustrated by Ariel Olivetti. Maybe it's just the Infinite Crisis curse ... *sigh* I tried to take a break, but if it's not a tie-in trade, it's just not the same. It's a sickness, I know. On the other hand, one policeman in the trade does quip, "You have the right to ... shut up!" so maybe a little criticism's not completely misplaced.

[Includes introduction, full covers by Alex Ross]

And there are even rumors of a Space Ghost sequel which, this review aside, I actually think I'd read. More on that if or when the book comes out. For now, I best get back to DC-land; maybe some Bat-titles on the way, or perhaps the lead-up to Rann-Thanagar. We'll see.

One Year Later Insignia on OYL trades?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I just saw a cover shot of this week's Batman: Face the Face, and contrary to my expectations, it doesn't sport the "One Year Later" circle. However, I'm only looking at the front, not the back. Has anyone seen this, and is there any "One Year Later" notice to be found?

Y-The Last Man: Girl on Girl review

Saturday, August 26, 2006

While my recent reading of Fables: Homelands left me feeling lukewarm about the next volume, I just finished Y: The Last Man - Girl on Girl and I'm eager to read more. Perhaps it's that, silly me, when Ring of Truth ended with the characters headed for Japan, I just guessed that this volume would open with them there; instead, Girl on Girl is adventure on the high seas, both captivating in its own right and leaving the reader hungry for more. But Girl on Girl also contains some strong character moments, and some of the best social controversy of the series, which only bodes good things as the series continues.

Yorick, Agent 355, and Dr. Mann, in search of the kidnapped monkey Ampersand, ride on a ship across the Pacific; Yorick is quickly discovered. While Yorick spends the night with the ship's captain, Dr. Mann and 355 have an unexpected liason. An Australian submarine attacks, and the characters learn that the ships they're riding is smuggling heroin; Yorick and the group must escape before the submarine scuttles the ship--with them on it.

The headline of the "Girl on Girl" storyline, of course, is Agent 355 sleeping with Dr. Mann. I had, of course, fallen for the stereotypical cliche that Yorick and 355, slowly building from initial animosity, would fall in love by the end of the series. This, however, is the easy answer, while Y: The Last Man is all about challenging the easy answers. On one hand, we have a story where women make up 99 percent of the characters, the heroes and villains and everyone in between. On the other hand, as Brian Vaughn has his character Kilina point out toward the end, "an entire planet of women, and the one guy gets to be the lead." Y: The Last Man is both gigantically egalitarian, and entirely unfair, and one gets the sense that this is brilliantly on purpose.

Agent 355 and Dr. Mann's relationship--or, at least, the tension that will come from the lack thereof--is one of our first senses of the story turning away from Yorick as the center. We already know that Ampersand kept Yorick safe from the plague, and not vice-versa, and now Yorick's love life begins to wane from the spotlight. That Dr. Mann got together with the professed-heterosexual 355 also raises interesting issues of sexuality; in a world of only women, a heterosexual woman both pursues a homosexual experience, and also, does not pursue an available man when she has the chance. It is, perhaps, what many heterosexual people believe they would not do in the same situation, and reading it, one can't help but think and rethink their own beliefs and attitudes. Ultimately, Yorick and 355 will have to talk this out further, and I'm very eager to see where Vaughn takes this, and if he complicates it even further.

There's one final story included, "Boy Loses Girl." Even as we begin to doubt Yorick's love for Beth, we're faced with a story in which it starts to look like Beth might die. Being the good people we are, the reader worries for Beth as the story continues--only to find her survive. For a while I've thought that when Yorick finally reaches Beth, it would be Beth who rejects him; yet, just as Vaughn causes the reader to care more deeply for Beth, we get the sense that it may be Yorick that rejects her. Once again, between Beth, 355, and Dr. Mann, Yorick becomes less and less integral to the story; perhaps, as an earlier story suggested, he may not even survive until the end.

[Contains full covers.]

Y: The Last Man was refreshing; I think I'm not quite ready to return to the DCU-verse. Space Ghost next, perhaps, and maybe the Absolute Watchmen that's been burning a hole in my shelf. Come on along!

JSA: Black Vengeance review

Sunday, August 20, 2006

As a Day of Vengeance crossover, JSA: Black Vengeance is not required reading; it's nothing more than a footnote in the plot of Day of Vengeance, and the headache of figuring out where it fits between the pages is hardly worth the price of admission. As the next JSA trade volume, however, JSA: Black Vengeance is fantastic. JSA is always at its finest when it combines wild adventures with the pure "aw shucks"-ness of these Golden Age characters, and the first story here, "JSA/JSA," delivers whole-heartedly. Black Reign and Lost were good, but "JSA/JSA," I think, really captures the JSA spirit of Stealing Thunder.

Rip Hunter has brought the JSA to 1951, where the House Committee on Un-American Activities has forced the Golden Age JSA to disband, and where Per Degaton intends to frame the JSA to destroy the team for good. Stargirl, Mr. Terrific, Dr. Mid-Nite, Jakeem Thunder, Hourman, Sand, and Atom Smasher must find their respective predecessors and warn them of the plot; Atom Smasher asks to rejoin the JSA. In the present, Eclipso possesses the Spectre and causes him to attack Kahndaq; when the JSA intervene, Jakeem Thunder is trapped within his magic pen, and Atom Smasher is nearly killed, only to be saved by Black Adam.

One thing I liked about the very first JSA story, Justice Be Done, is that it stuck to the original JSA formula: the characters come together in the beginning, split into teams for smaller adventures, and then rejoin in the end. The first story in JSA: Black Vengeance, "JSA/JSA," preserves this to some extent--each of the members are given twelve hours to individually find and convince the original members to wear their costumes again. What happens from here is largely predictable--each of the heroes learns something new about their mentors, and everyone learns a valuable lesson--but each of the adventures is imbued with so much creativity that their hokiness quickly gives way to pure joy. Of special note is the Mr. Terrific plotline, that not only mixes action with social commentary when Terrific fights Klan members, but also wraps up loose ends concerning the original Mr. Terrific's relationship with Roulette. And as all the modern heroes struggle to make the older heroes believe them, Geoff Johns throws in a humorous wrench--Dr. Mid-Nite walks into the original's house, explains himself, and the two walk out together without the slightest shrug.

Though the "Black Vengeance" storyline, on the other hand, has some good moments--Power Girl using her heat vision, for one, and a truly nail-biting ending--it hardly revisits the issues at the core of "Black Reign." Black Adam remains a shade of gray, both a just and blood-thirsty ruler for the people of Kahndaq; Stargirl and Captain Marvel barely talk, furthering their relationship almost not at all; and when Stargirl confronts Atom Smasher with a moral speech about not killing under any circumstances, it's not that it's not valid--it's just not new. New seeds are not planted in "Black Reign"'s soil, so much as it's just the old soil retilled. But redeeming moments there are--while Eclipso's Jean Loring identity is all-but-wasted in Day of Vengeance, here it adds a personal touch, especially in showing more of Hawkman's feelings about the events of Identity Crisis. Alone, this might not be enough, but with "JSA/JSA," it makes JSA: Black Vengeance worth it.

[Contains full covers, bio pages, and a prologue containing missing pages from issues in JSA: Lost.]

All this and a great cameo from another Golden Age super-team resurrected for the modern era--JSA: Black Vengeance ranks up there with the best JSA trades. Me, I should be on to the Rann-Thanagar War or maybe some Bat-family trades, but I've had a hankering for some Y: The Last Man, or maybe the Space Ghost trade lying around; we'll see. Thanks for reading!

Review: Day of Vengeance trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

By writing about magic confined within the superhero genre in Day of Vengeance, Bill Willingham avoids the overwriting sometimes found in his Fables work. Willingham grounds Day of Vengeance from the beginning in the hard-luck trappings of the Oblivion Bar -- much as he gives Fables a real life sense through the politics of Fabletown -- but Day of Vengeance fortunately never becomes sidetracked from the story and characters by layers of research, as Fables sometimes does. Day of Vengeance reveals any number of mystical origins, but all of them are relayed clearly and with relevance to the story. Magic, in the DC Universe, is sometimes boring; Day of Vengeance is not.

[Contains spoilers]

I think I expected to like Day of Vengeance the least of all the "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" miniseries; after all, even if the Rann/Thanagar War, at the outset, seemed only tenuously connected to the DCU proper, at least it had familiar Green Lanterns in it. But the team dynamics of Day of Vengeance are just so engaging -- Ragman as the "everyman," kissing the Enchantress and then being teased mercilessly; Nightmaster as the team leader that makes his whole team eat a good breakfast before a fight; and, of course, a talking monkey -- that I couldn't help but be drawn in by the story. Each of the characters take a turn narrating a chapter, in true Jeph Loeb style, and it helps to distinguish their personalities and powers.

I especially liked Willingham's exploration of Nightshade — feeling that she hadn't shown the full extent of her powers in an early battle, Nightshade resolves to fight harder; later, we get a better glimpse of her powers, making a nice character thread throughout the chapters. And Willingham writes a fantastic Captain Marvel, including a truly touching scene where all the magic characters of the DC Universe offer up their powers to help Captain Marvel fight the Spectre.

Day of Vengeance loses, however, only in an examination of its villains. The Spectre here is ghostly and ruthless, buffeted greatly by Beast Boy's Justiniano, doing some of his best work; however, this Spectre seems greatly removed from previous incarnations, speaking in full, complete sentences with Ming the Merciless wit. Eclipso, on the other hand, is all but inscrutable; it's easy to understand that the Spectre is attacking magic and the Shadowpact has to stop him, but it's far less clear why Eclipso's egging him on.

Even if, as we come to understand later, the Eclipso gem was given to Jean Loring by Superboy-Prime so that Alexander Luthor could gather all the world's magic, we're never quite sure what's in it for Eclipso. And in the end, when Eclipso is made to orbit the sun, a quick look at Eclipso: The Darkness Within shows that when Eclipso is exposed to sunlight, he leaves the host body; Jean Loring ought be burned to a crisp while Eclipso lives another day. The use of Jean Loring appears to be for the Identity Crisis-name-check only; once Eclipso takes over, the character is all but indistinguishable from any other Eclipso around, which is probably a waste of some potential drama.

All in all, however, Day of Vengeance is surprisingly good, and takes the top spot right now above OMAC Project; we'll see how the other stories hold up. I'm eager to read JSA: Black Vengeance to get more of Captain Marvel's side of the story, and Robin: Days of Fire and Madness to see more of the Shadowpact (there's also, apparently, a Shadowpact-member appearance in Birds of Prey: The Battle Within, too). The preview pages from the upcoming Shadowpact series, however, still leave me cold; Willingham writes and draws, and it seems like the actions and dialogue often overlap (at one point, Superman says, "I'll try my heat vision," while using his heat vision; at other, Blue Devil quips, "Let me trying hitting this guy," while he hits the guy.). Early reviews are good, however, so I'll wait to see how the trade comes out.

Thanks for reading!

Infinite/Identity Crisis Softcover Mix-Up

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Blink and you'll miss it ... right now on the DC Comics webpage, the Flash* advertisement for Justice League of America #1 says, "Also Available: Infinite Crisis Softcover," but the link takes you to what they meant--the Identity Crisis softcover. No doubt someone will catch and fix this shortly.

Review: Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Insiders trade paperback (DC Comics)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Coming as it did just a few scant months (and one trade more per series) before Infinite Crisis, Teen Titans/Outsiders: The Insiders might well have been the series closers before Infinite Crisis. That is, there's plenty of team shakeup at the end of the trade, but it's going to be painfully short-lived given the coming One Year jump. But moreover, The Insiders is a direct, and well-done, sequel to Young Justice/Titans: Graduation Day, the acknowledged beginning to the Countdown to Infinite Crisis, and as such it should more stand as the end of the Countdown, rather than the almost, kinda end. But these are tiny quibbles -- praise, really -- about a trade that, while mostly fight-scenes, also contains unexpected heart, and is a nice anniversary for both of the series.

Superboy resolves to tell the Teen Titans that he's learned Lex Luthor is one of his genetic fathers -- but before he has the chance, Lex enables a sleeper program that pits Superboy against the Titans. Robin calls the Outsiders for help, but they're attacked by their own teammate Indigo. It turns out Indigo is Brainiac 8, and Lex Luthor has teamed with Brainiac 13. The villains attack the teams at Star Labs -- with an army of Superman robots -- echoing Graduation Day; Wonder Girl is able to awaken Superboy, while Shift must kill Indigo to save her. Superboy subsequently leaves the Teen Titans, considering himself a threat, and Nightwing quits the Outsiders; Jade recruits Captain Marvel Jr. to add power to the team.

As a sequel to Graduation Day, The Insiders succeeds enthusiastically. I didn't quite make the Graduation Day connection in this trade until the excellent shot of Wonder Girl facing the Superman robot in the same pose as Donna Troy, shortly before she died; if one didn't know better, they might have been worried that Cassie was headed for the same fate. In fact, the trade does a great job showing how all the characters have evolved over the last year of Teen Titans and Outsider stories, Wonder Girl especially. I thought it was a nice touch that the covers to parts three and four of the story are homages to the two series first issues, thematically bridging the gap between the two.

When we learn that Indigo, as an agent of Brainiac, was sent all along to kill Donna Troy, it completely reverses the way we interpret Graduation Day. Arsenal blows up the headquarters that the Outsiders received after Graduation Day, effectively "closing" that chapter. And Nightwing quits the Outsiders -- just as he quit the Titans after Graduation Day -- and were it not for One Year Later, we might figure this to be the end of Nightwing's involvement with teams for the forseeable future. The strife in much of this is contingent on how much the teams have grown over the year they're together; the state of the union appears strong, even as that union begins to crumble.

As villains, Superboy and Indigo are notable also because they're each one half of a driving team romance. In the end, it's those romances -- with Wonder Girl and Shift, respectively -- that redeem the characters. Wonder Girl and Superboy have been building since their Young Justice days, and their relationship here is a natural continuation of that; if anything, it might have been more effective had they actually been dating here, as after the Teen Titans Annual, instead of undefined. Shift and Indigo's relationship, alternatively, is much newer, but there's a great scene in Insiders that shows them together, and it's a wonderfully tragic counterpart to the end of the book. If a story has any strength, it's in making the reader dread the inevitable, and The Insiders delivers in spades.

There's a couple of different art teams here, with considerably different styles. Carlos D'Anda is pretty controversial for his dark, grungy lines, but for Outsiders, I'd argue that it works appropriately. I had more trouble with Matthew Clark on Titans, following Mike McKone; Clark's traditional style contains hints of Rob Liefeld, with cheesecake poses and perpetually open mouths. I found I liked Tony Daniel much more, inked by Art Thibert; his close-up shots strongly evoked Tom Grummett. None of the art is unreadable, certainly, and all of it works well for The Insiders' wide-screen action; some of it just worked better for me than others.

[Contains bio pages, full covers.]

Well, I'm off now to continue our Countdown to Infinite Crisis countdown, reading Day of Vengeance. From there, the JSA tie-in, and more. See you around.

Review: Green Arrow: Moving Targets trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 31, 2006

On one hand, Green Arrow: Moving Targets is the origin of the new Speedy: where she came from, how she convinced Green Arrow to give her the job, and what personal challenges she'll have to face. On the other hand, Green Arrow: Moving Targets is a tale of two artists, and how two startlingly different art styles can almost completely change the tone and perception of a series. Finding them in the same trade makes the dichotomy all the more apparent.

Oliver Queen should be relaxing after freeing his city from demons at the end of Green Arrow: City Walls, except that the mayor has quickly instituted martial law, Black Canary breaks up with him, Mia Dearden continues to endanger herself to make up for killing a man, and a second-rate gangster named Brick begins taking over the city's crime families. All of this is set aside, however, when Mia learns she has HIV. Mia convinces Ollie to let her become the new Speedy; in return, he brings her to San Francisco to join the Teen Titans. In Star City, Brick hires the Duke of Oil to try to kill "Team Arrow"; Arsenal is kidnapped by Green Arrow: Straight Shooter's Drakon, who turns out to be working for the Riddler -- no, the Secret Society -- no, Brick -- and the Outsiders arrive to help rescue him.

I enjoy the social activism apparent in Judd Winick's Green Arrow; though I grant that both Green Lantern and Green Arrow titles have a history of dealing with social issues, with Green Lantern it's always seemed incidental to me, while Green Arrow's politics are an inherit part of his personality. The issue of Mia's HIV is handled with grace and sensitivity, if not perhaps a bit of permissable melodrama -- I have as much of a hard time believing the principals of a school would put all classes on hold so that one student could reveal their HIV status, as I do that Mia could discuss it with the entire school so calmly and professionally the first time out -- but at the same time, we know how important Pedro Zamora was to Judd Winick, and as such we'll allow a few liberties.

And I do appreciate the idea of a Speedy with HIV; as Arsenal notes, that could have been him, and indeed, had HIV been a more open issue back then, it likely would have been him. Roy Harper grappled with a drug addiction, but for all intents and purposes he's more or less gotten off easy, story-wise; Mia Dearden takes the struggles of the Speedy character to a new level. I applaud Winick for writing this, and I'm eager to see both how he uses it, and how he allows Mia to be a character with HIV who's not solely defined by her disease.

I was thinking, during an early scene where Green Arrow is talking with the mayor, how inherently ridiculous Green Arrow's costume is; if we imagine this in "reality," how could the mayor keep a straight face while talking to a vigilante with a feather in his cap? The art of Phil Hester and Andre Parks, however, makes it work; everything is small and understated, with lots of angles giving the illusion of curves; the action scenes reflect the same kind of preciseness that Scott McDaniel used on Nightwing, giving Green Arrow's fight with Brick a ninja-like grace. Tom Fowler's art, however, halfway through the trade, seems to take the other tact, presenting Green Arrow as more of a larger-than-life characature, with a gigantic head capped by a sharp, pointing beard, and often distorted, grimacing lips.

The tone of the story changes, too; Winick moves from the urban gangster Brick to wildly fantastic supervillains like the Riddler and the silly Duke of Oil, and for me, some of the charm of the story lessened. Winick and Fowler's Riddler acts and looks like the Joker, while the art on the fight with Drakon (could have been another fill-in artist, at this point) was often drawn too confusing to be exciting. The trade ends with a bang, but ultimately Green Arrow very barely saves the day. It is distinctly the first half of this trade that makes it worth reading, not the second half.

The collections department at DC makes a critical error here in revealing the Riddler's role on the trade's back cover. Drakon's appearance is somewhat of a surprise, but the Riddler is the story's big reveal, and the back of the trade blows it. Personally, I've stopped reading the trade backs for the most part. Still, for Infinite Crisis fans, there is a last page surprise still waiting when you finish.

[Contains character bios, a thumbnail cover gallery.]

So Green Arrow remains imminently readable among other titles out there, even with some slippage at the end, and I salute Judd Winick for the social issues that he confronts here. I hope to see more of this as Green Arrow goes on. For Collected Editions, I might read a little Teen Titans next, and then finally Day of Vengeance. See you later.