Major DC Comics trade news for 2006!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I've come across a whole slew of DC Comics trade listings, including slim details on more Superman, Batman, Batgirl, Green Lantern, JSA, Seven Soliders of Victory, Superman/Batman, Nightwing trades and more. In addition to that, however, are Supergirl trades, another Batgirl trade by Andersen Gabrych, Fables: Arabian Nights and Days and 1001 Nights of Snowfall, Batman: City of Crime, an Infinite Crisis trade paperback, All-Star Superman and Batman trades, Batman: Gotham City Confidential, Superman: Where No Superman Has Gone Before (the Infinite Crisis crossover, perhaps?), JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell, a Power Girl trade, Green Lantern Corps: Recharge, and ... Absolute Kingdom Come. Yes, that's right, the powerhouse Mark Waid/Alex Ross story, in Absolute format. Keep watching this space kids ... it's a great time to be a DC (and a trade paperback!) fan.

"52" trade collection news

Over at Newsarama, Bob Wayne talks DC's upcoming 52. As you may have seen, not only is the price set at $2.50 (and, as one poster notes, it's a sad day when $2.50 is considered a "low" price), but also Wayne states that there will be no collected edition of 52 until 2007. Which ... might be OK with me. The entire DC Universe skips one year later, leaving that fifty-two week period unaccounted for, so I can just start reading the "One Year Later" books, and that year will be filled in when it's filled in. Anything that keeps the local comics shops in business, OK with me, as long as we continue to see more, faster trades overall. My two cents.

New reviews coming soon ...

Infinite Crisis #4 review

Sunday, January 22, 2006

"Wha ... they just killed Pantha!" -- actual quote while reading Infinite Crisis #4.

This most recent issue of Infinite Crisis--the one where, as Geoff Johns described on Wordballoon.com, "things go nuclear"--is my favorite so far in terms of "stuff happening"; only now do I feel like the plot has really started moving. We understand now the "hows" of everything Alexander Luthor has been planning, if not necessarily the "whys." I'm glad to see all of the Countdown miniseries tied together, even Day of Vengeance, and the suggestion that the heroes will become more pro-active now, lead by Batman, portends good things for the rest of the series.

Unfortunately, this issue felt very compressed to me, and with only three issues left to go, I'm afraid that the next three issues will feel compressed, too. There was a lot of great stuff here, almost on every page--dropping Chemo on Bludhaven, Crispus Allen becoming the Spectre, learning how all four Countdown miniseries finally tie in, a big shocking fight scene, and the return of Barry Allen and Max Mercury--but it all just seemed to come so quickly that it felt like some things got short-changed. For instance, apparently the beetle scarab is now attached to the new Blue Beetle's spine; maybe it would have been a waste of pages to show that actually happening, but when Booster Gold talked about it, I felt like I had missed something. In the case of something like Infinite Crisis, I don't mind being taken step-by-step, and if that meant that Infinite Crisis would have been twelve issues like the original, that would have been fine with me.

I was however glad to see that it doesn't look like Wally West died, or, at least, I don't think he did. That his whole family was pulled into the Speed Force suggests Wally will be back; that's too big of a plot point to just let go. Personally, I'm very much in favor of Wally keeping on as the Flash; Bart Allen has not been Kid Flash long enough to trade for the red suit. At least if Wally's gone he has his whole family with him, rather than dying a tragic death a la Barry Allen. I felt it would have been "death for death's sake" if Wally West died in Infinite Crisis just like Barry did in the original; better that Wally evolve some way, growing perhaps beyond the whole Speed Force set-up. I hope get further details about what happened next issue, rather than having to wait for the new Flash series in order to learn more.

Certainly, Infinite Crisis #4 wasn't a great place for mid-nineties Titans. Again, the character deaths seem to focus on "limbo characters," be it Phantom Lady before or Pantha, Red Star, and Baby Wildebeest now. At the same time, these were shocking deaths, and deaths of characters I cared for (hey, everybody has to be somebody's favorite), so in terms of adding emotional punch to the series, the deaths suceeded. And I did think that the extreme violence in this issue lent a seriousness to Infinite Crisis that puts it on par with Identity Crisis; in specific, Superboy's ripping Risk's arm off was a frightening moment, and I hope that Geoff actually revisits Risk down the road, showing what happens to him, rather than let it be for shock value only. With these deaths, DC shows that it means business, and I welcome it even as I'm concerned who else will be killed in the last half of the series.

Though it seems extreme that it should take four issues for all the players to be gathered, I'm looking forward to issue five for the game to finally begin. Infinite Crisis doesn't read like a story to me the same way that Identity Crisis did, but there were some nice character moments that made it worth while. Here's looking forward to issue five, the one that's rumored to be so big, it launches us all one year later. See you then.

DC Comics Trade Solicitations for April 2006

Monday, January 16, 2006

UPDATED: Lots of good stuff below. I'm especially impressed with Superman: Strange Attractors, apparently held so that almost all the Action Comics issues leading up to "One Year Later" can be included; a Hawkman trade that skips the "Fate's Warning" storyline (never to be collected, I assure you) in favor of the "Golden Eagle" storyline that leads in to the Rann/Thanagar War (better, I guess, than nothing); a new JLA trade; part two of Legion and part three of Seven Soldiers; and a new Y: The Last Man. All in all, not a bad month. Full solicits are below:

THE FLASH ARCHIVES VOL. 4 HC
Written by John Broome and Gardner Fox, art and cover by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.
The Flash Archives Vol. 4 reprints issues #125-132 of The Flash (1961-1962), faithfully recolored and restored to their original glory. This volume follows the Fastest Man Alive as he zips through adventures around the world, and features an introduction by longtime comics writer and former Flash editor Mike W. Barr.
216 pages, $49.99, in stores on May 10.

SUPERMAN: FOR TOMORROW VOL. 1 TP
Written by Brian Azzarello, art and cover by Jim Lee and Scott Williams
This volume collects the first half of "For Tomorrow," originally presented in Superman #204-209. A cataclysmic event has struck the Earth. Millions of people have vanished without a trace. No one is left unaffected -- not even Superman!

SUPERMAN VS. LEX LUTHOR TP
Written and illustrated by various, over by various.
DC presents several of the best comics stories featuring Superman battling his arch-nemesis! Witness the various incarnations of Luthor in stories from Action Comics #23, #544, Adventure Comics #271, Superboy #86, Superman (Vol. 1) #90, #164, #292, #416, Man of Steel #4, Superman (Vol. 2) #9, #131 and Superman: Lex 2000.

SUPERMAN/SHAZAM: FIRST THUNDER TP
Written by Judd Winick, art and cover by Josh Middleton.
Witness the first meeting of The Last Son of Krypton and Earth's Mightiest Mortal in this collection of the stylish 4-issue mini-series! While Superman must stop members of a cult from stealing an ancient artifact from the Metropolis Natural History Museum, Captain Marvel must defeat giant robots rampaging through Fawcett City!

SUPERMAN: STRANGE ATTRACTORS TP
Written by Gail Simone, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, art by John Byrne and Nelson, cover by Byrne.
Legendary creator John Byrne returns to pencil the adventures of the Man of Steel, in action-filled tales written by Gail Simone! This volume collects Action Comics #827-828 and #830-835, in which Superman squares off against Dr. Polaris, Dr. Psycho, Black Adam, Satanus, Livewire and more!
112 pages, $12.99, in stores on May 17.

CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS VOL. 4 TP
Written by Elliot S. Maggin, E. Nelson Bridwell, Martin Pasko and Paul Levitz, art by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin, cover by Alex Ross.
Collecting Justice League of America #122-124, #135-137 and #147-148! In this latest collection of team-ups, meet the heroes of Earth-S, led by the Earth's Mightiest Mortal, Captain Marvel, as well as the Legion of Super-Heroes!

HAWKMAN: GOLDEN EAGLE TP
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, art by Joe Bennett, Dale Eaglesham, Steve Sadowski and others, cover by Joe Bennett and Ruy José.
A new collection featuring Hawkman #37-45! Madness and mayhem plague Hawkman and Hawkgirl as they battle an alliance of adversaries from the past! But it is that startling return of Golden Eagle that sends the greatest shockwaves through Hawkman's life.

SHOWCASE PRESENTS HAUNTED TANK VOL. 1 TP
Written by Robert Kanigher, art by Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Irv Novick, Jerry Grandenetti, and Jack Abel, cover by Joe Kubert.
One of the most unusual concepts in war comics gets the Showcase treatment in this volume collecting stories from G.I. Combat #87-119, Brave and The Bold #52 and Our Army At War #155. The ghost of a Confederate general returns to protect to his namesake, commander of a tank in North Africa in WWII.
560 pages, black and white, $16.99, in stores on May 17

JLA: WORLD WITHOUT A JUSTICE LEAGUE TP
Written by Bob Harras, art by Tom Derenick and Dan Green, cover by Daniel Acuña.
A new collection reprinting JLA #120-125! Batman dissolved the JLA in the wake of the revelation that some members had resorted to tampering with the minds of not only their villainous opponents but even the Dark Knight himself. But that doesn't change the need for heroesŠand an obsessed Green Arrow desperately attempts to hold the beleaguered team together as innocent people begin dying. And all clues lead to an old JLA foe, one dangerous enough to take them down...one by one. When the adventure ends, the JLA may never unite again!

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES VOL. 2: DEATH OF A DREAM TP
Written by Mark Waid, art by Barry Kitson, Kevin Sharpe, Georges Jeanty, Dale Eaglesham, Ken Lashey and various, cover by Kitson.
A new volume collecting Legion of Super-Heroes #7-13! As the team suffers infighting, the dream of a United Planets dissolves into hopelessness. Only a brawl between the Legion and the agents of Terror Firma can halt the coming invasion -- but it's not without a great sacrifice!
200 pages, $14.99, in stores on May 24.

SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY VOL. 3 TP
Written by Grant Morrison, art by Pasqual Ferry, Ryan Sook, Frazer Irving, Yanick Paquette, Doug Mahnke, Billy Dallas Patton, Mick Gray, and Michael Bair, cover by Paquette and Bair.
The brilliant mind of Grant Morrison is showcased once again as his most groundbreaking and ambitious project yet continues! This third volume in the series collects Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #1-2, Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #4, Seven Soldiers: Klarion The Witchboy #4, Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #1-2, and Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #1.
Independently, each of these characters is featured in a story arc of their own that redefines their purpose in the DCU. But their stories also interweave with the other Soldiers' tales, telling a grander story of a devastating global threat to mankind. Together these reluctant champions must arise and somehow work together to save the world...without ever meeting one another!
176 pages, $14.99, in stores on May 31.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE VOL. 4: THE SCORPION TP
Written by Matt Wagner and Steven T. Seagle, art by Guy Davis Cover by Gavin Wilson and Richard Bruning.
Collecting issues #17-20 of writer Matt Wagner's the acclaimed reimagination of the original Sandman. With The Scorpion, writers Matt Wagner and Steven T. Seagle continue to breathe rich new life into pulp genre conventions.
104 pages, $12.99, in stores on May 3.

Y: THE LAST MAN -- PAPER DOLLS TP
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Pia Guerra, Goran Sudzuka and José Marzan Jr., cover by Massimo Carnevale
The saga of Yorick Brown, the last man on Earth, continues in Paper Dolls, collecting issues #37-42 of writer Brian K. Vaughan's and artist Pia Guerra's hit Vertigo series. In addition to catching up on the adventures of Yorick's monkey Ampersand (whose body holds the key to stopping the male-killing plague) and telling the origin of Agent 355, Paper Dolls chronicles the search for Yorick's fiancée Beth in Australia -- a search that yields a large dose of unwanted publicity for the Last Man and deadly consequences for those he cares for!
144 pages, $14.99, in stores on May 17.

OLD: Not much news yet ... I'm hearing Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 4 (placing Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups in some very weird place) and The Silver Age Flash Archives Vol. 4 ... I'll let you know if I hear any more ...

Changes to DC's Collected Editions department

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I hate to even post this, but briefly, Newsarama reports that Bob Greenberger has been let go by DC. Bob, lately the head of DC's Collected Editions department, has been in comics for quite a while, near from Crisis on Infinite Earths itself through to Infinite Crisis, and he was nice enough a little while ago to answer trade paperback questions on his blog. My belief is that at least some of the positive changes taking place in DC's trade program of late were due to Bob's influence, and this news is unfortunate.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Teenage Revolution review

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Over at postmodernbarney.com, Dorian uses the phrase "fetishization of nostalgia" to describe, among other things, Alex Ross's super-serious revamp of what is essentially the Super-Friends. I'm likely using the phrase incorrectly (more than likely, actually), but I would argue that it applies too to Legion of Super-Heroes, which is perhaps the ultimate byproduct of what's been called the Geoff Johns-ification of comic books. Beginning with The Flash and moving very quickly to JSA, Johns presented a philosophy that "everything old is cool again"--that a villain named the Weather Wizard can actually be formidable, that a hero named Mr. Terrific can be cooler than cool, that Guy Gardner can wear his big green jacket and not look laughable, that all the hokey things--all the nostalgia--that we love about comics can be redeemed, if only they're played straight and given some modern sensibilities. It worked, and it worked when Johns went on to Teen Titans, Hawkman, and Green Lantern, and it worked for Jeph Loeb on Superman/Batman, and it worked for Judd Winick on Outsiders; as Judd wrote in his introduction to Outsiders: Looking for Trouble, "We wanted to create 'old school' super-hero comics ... guys in costumes, unapologetically, fighting evil." But nowhere, I think, have we seen the culmination of this more, for better or worse, than in Mark Waid's Legion of Super-Heroes.

The Legion of Super-Heroes are an intergalactic group of kids who have banded together in the future to promote activism and fight for moral issues in a universe grown stagnant by overall peace. In deference to the twenty-first century super-hero culture that they worship, they've chosen to name themselves a la Superman and Batman: Invisible Kid, Light Lass, and the like. Investigating uprisings and revolutions, however, soon gives way to rumors of universal war, and an investigation into the brewing conspiracy that will spark it. Much of this trade works to introduce (or, perhaps, reintroduce) the Legionnaires and their varied powers, setting up subplots that will follow into the war itself in the second volume. Most of the Legionnaires will be familiar to those with a passing knowledge of Legion lore--Cosmic Boy remains the leader, while Brainiac 5 is the know-it-all. Waid stated in an interview (I think) that he made the laudable choice to hold Legion stalwarts like Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl until later in the trade in order to give lesser-known Legionnaires a chance to shine; thus we spend much of our time with Karate Kid, Shadow Lass, Ultra Boy, Invisible Kid, and Dream Girl. It's a fun mix, and I enjoyed some of Waid's updated origins--Triplicate Girl and Phantom Girl especially.

Mark Waid's Legion appears to be answering to two masters. The first is the nostalgia vote--of which I think Waid is a part--which has largely been what's been keeping Legion alive all these years anyway--those people who yearn for the days of Lightning Lad, and were appeased but never too happy with Live Wire. That's Legion's core audience; I feel like the modern crowd, for the most part, could've taken Legion or left it with no big fuss. And it's the modern audience that makes up the second, those new readers that some Legion series is going to have to attract, some time, if it's ever going to make financial sense for DC to continue publishing a title set directly in the DC Universe, with often little or no tie to the DCU as a whole. And this is the fence that the new Legion of Super-Heroes straddles, a series that, while oftentimes charming, has built into it's story-core a love for its own nostalgia--perhaps, the author shining through--that is at times both fascinating and a little disturbing.

On one hand, we have those wonderful Legion code-names, the very Legion code-names that we phased out after Zero Hour because they were, obviously, relics of the past. On the other hand, we have the characters themselves acknowledging their code-names' own silliness--a bit of comics meta-interpretation--and using them verily because they're throwbacks. Essentially, they're saying--with Waid's voice strongly right behind them--"we're so cool, we can be unhip and still be cool" (in an interesting bit of slight-of-hand, too, Waid explains away the modern slang in the book, saying the future kids use it for its retro feel). This is a comic where the characters are in love with everything silly and fantastic about comic books, and that's great, though one might worry about the potential for the pendulum to swing too far to the nostalgia side, too.

The great difficulty with this set-up, however, is that in re-shaping the Legion so that they're not crime-fighters primarily, it can often feel like nothing's happening in this book. For the most part, there's no bad guy to fight, just politics, and while I like politics and super-heroics in Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman, it doesn't always work here. The Science Police doesn't like the Legion--check. A Legionnaire tells their origin--check. Hints at the conspiracy--check. Like a futuristic wash cycle, those three elements lather, rinse, and repeat a number of times throughout the trade, so that in the end, the story seems to be spinning its wheels. Add to that the Legion back-up stories that appeared in the monthly issues--placed such with the trade that sometimes they forward the plot, sometimes not--and the flow of the story becomes disjointed by the end. Despite all this, the trade does have a definite and suspenseful end--but whether to praise this from a trade reader's perspective, or decry it for decompressed storytelling, I'm not sure.

It's no secret, I think [SPOILERS AHEAD!] that after Infinite Crisis, Supergirl joins the Legion of Super-Heroes. I think this is a great idea, and I hope Waid uses it to the fullest potential. When the Teen Titans' Superboy joined the last Legion, the writers finessed continuity by making Superboy "time lost." Here, I think the best thing Waid can do is to tie Legion so firmly to Supergirl that Legion is required reading. Let Supergirl come and go in Legion with abandon, the timeline be damned. Reflect ongoing Supergirl storylines in Legion, such that Legion gets firmly entrenched in the DCU. What Legion always missed before was relevance, and it shouldn't be difficult to give it some. Maybe, if this Legion strengthens its DCU ties, it'll stick around a while, too.

[Contains full covers, sketch-book.]

Back to the Bat-verse for me, with Robin/Batgirl: Fresh Blood, then some Outsiders, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Two weeks until Infinite Crisis #4!

Justice to be collected in three trades

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The recent Wizard #172 reveals that DC plans to release Alex Ross's Justice mini-series in three four-issue trades. Ross's first wrap-around cover features the heroes, the second features the villains, while the third shows the heroes "preparing for battle in new armored costumes designed by Ross." So there you go. I imagine we'll see a 2006 release for one volume, at least.

Teen Titans: The Future is Now

Teen Titans: The Future is Now contains the kind of whiz-bang stories we've come to expect from this series, both past Titans and present, and it's possible that it might just be the best volume of the current series so far. And if you're currently reading Infinite Crisis (like I am!) and hadn't read Teen Titans: The Future is Now (like I hadn't!), go read it--it'll leave you even more confused and titillated than you already are.

This trade picks up from both Teen Titans: Beast Boys and Girls and Legion: Foundations, with Superboy trapped in the future. He arrives to recruit the Titans to help the Legion in battling the Fatal Five-Hundred, a battle they win even as they lose the war; the Legion's timeline is obliterated, and the Titans are returned ten years in their future. There, they join the conflict between the Titans East and the Titans West, meeting dark dopplegangers of themselves. Once the Titans return to the present, their trip to the future makes one Titan, Starfire, reconsider her place with the team, while Robin--reeling from the death of his father in Identity Crisis--re-envisions the possibility of his one day becoming Batman. A new member, Speedy, joins the team, just as the newly-awakened Dr. Light kidnaps Green Arrow and declares war on all Titans.

There's a strong focus on mentors this time around. The future Titans keep a somewhat grotesque hall of mentors, each in tribute to one of the darker influences on their lives (we might wonder, parenthetically, why Kid Flash has Max Mercury instead of Jay Garrick). This astounds the present Titans, but they learn later, while fighting Dr. Light, that the JLA may not be as spotless as they thought. This reinforces a familiar Titans theme, that in the end, the only ones the Titans can really count on are each other. It also strengthens Cyborg's role as one of the best--and my personal favorite--Teen Titans leaders so far; even as Nightwing at one point leads the team during this trade, it is Cyborg that almost single-handedly brings down Dr. Light, and then almost immediately turns around and helps to welcome Speedy on to the team despite difficult circumstances. With Starfire gone, Teen Titans changes from a team of old-and-new Titans, to a true teen group under the mentorship of Cyborg. It'll be interesting to see how the team dynamics change from here.

The Identity Crisis tie-in in The Future is Now comprises the one-shot "Hiding" and the three-part "Lights Out." "Hiding" follows Tim Drake after Identity Crisis, and his reactions to his father's death are pretty much as expected; what this story adds instead is first, a thread tied between Identity Crisis, Villains United, and Infinite Crisis, and second, a perfect explanation of the somewhat mysterious Identity Crisis scene between Nightwing and Starfire. Starfire's sudden rush to Nightwing in Identity Crisis seemed somewhat forced given the characters' strained relationship; here, Johns offers an explanation both fluid and in-character. This could be the best Identity Crisis tie-in addition, second only to the post-Deathstroke-fight scene over in Geoff Johns' Flash: The Secret of Barry Allen.

"Lights Out" is also good, exciting from beginning to end, but its overall significance seems more relevant to ongoing events in Green Arrow than in Teen Titans. In an interesting bit of comic book cameo-ing, the titles of "Lights Out" are all written in the Green Arrow logo font, further cementing the unofficial Green Arrow-crossover feel here. That Johns still makes this feel like a complete Teen Titans story at the same time (and not, as with JSA, an Identity-Crisis-dependant story) remains a credit to his Teen Titans writing. If there was one only thing I disagreed with, though, it was seeing the two small-time crooks who shot Bolt in Identity Crisis behaving like, well, small-time crooks. The decision of one of these boys to save Bolt was one of my favorite scenes in Identity Crisis (as I discussed) and watching them fool around with Lex Luthor's war suit challenged this somewhat.

As for Infinite Crisis, we learn--or receive hints about--quite a bit here. There's the suggestion not only that Bart Allen will team with Donna Troy (strange, since he's not together with her group of heroes), but that Bart is soon to become the next Flash (I don't buy it, but that's just me). The future Batman--Tim Drake--talks about having to "rebuild the future" (due to the universe's collapse, perhaps?) and how so many heroes died during "the Crisis" (fighting an army of villains led by Alexander Luthor?). The future Deathstroke says that Roy Harper becomes Green Arrow; Bette Kane--as Batwoman--says that she died and was resurrected with help from Tim Drake and Ra's al Ghul (currently deceased); and Starfire and Nightwing apparently live happily ever after. And that's all without considering which Earth's Lex Luthor appears in these pages, and whether or not his shadowy "partner" is Superboy-Prime. Let the speculation continue, folks; I'll be interested to see how much of this makes sense after Infinite Crisis is over.

I was most impressed by Geoff Johns' sense of continuity here. We're travelling on somewhat-tred ground already--members of the Titans teaming with the Legion, a grand Titans reunion--but Johns uses this familiarity very much to his advantage. As Kid Flash, nee Impulse, re-teams with the Legion, Brainiac 5 picks right up with the "Koko" jokes from where they left off. It's nothing that would distract those not-in-the-know, but amusing to long-time fans. We're also reminded of the Impulse/Rose Wilson relationship during the end of the Marv Wolfman run; Similarly, Johns spares a panel for a reference to the short-lived Superboy/Batgirl relationship--again, nothing that required great attention, but a nice little touch. Past Titans, including perennial favorites like Pantha, Baby Wildebeest, and Red Star in his old, recently-seen-in-the-Teen-Titans-cartoon costume, appear--all-in-all, as with JSA, Johns continues to offer long-time DC fans plenty of good times here, without confusing newer readers.

High recommendation then for this trade. Teen Titans: The Future is Now includes full covers for all issues, and sketch section at the end of the future Titans' costumes (no introduction, and two "blank" logo pages to make the two-page splash pages work). Off now to follow the Legion into Legion of Super-Heroes: Teenage Revolution and the Outsiders into Outsiders: Wanted. I'll get to the Countdown to Infinite Crisis trades one of these days ... join us, won't you?