Friday Night Fights: Heroes in a Half Shell!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Tales of TMNT #2 brings us this classic fight between Shredder and Master Splinter!

Shredder gets in the first punch!

It looks like Master Splinter is on the rocks. But wait ...

"Surrender?" Splinter asks.

The moral of tonight's story? Never give up, never surrender, and always bet on Bahlactus!
Collected Editions 2015 Comic Book Gift Guide

DC Comics May 2008 Solicitations and Odds and Ends

It's been terribly busy here in Collected Editions-land, and I've been meaning for a while to blog on all sorts of things. Let's get right to it:

DC Comics May 2008 Solicitations:
Couple of highlights of the DC Comics May 2008 solicitations; no big surprises, though we do see fewer hardcovers than in previous months. Maybe DC is finally getting the message? Countdown brings us Countdown Presents: The Search for Ray Palmer, while Metamorpho: Year One appears in paperback (whereas Green Arrow: Year One was in hardcover).

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes appears in hardcover; I was sorry to see that this volume didn't include any classic Superman/Legion tales, though probably that gets in to the whole Superboy legal battle. That The Flash: Wild Wests is being released in hardcover is a bad sign, because it means we'll be stuck with Flash hardcovers for the foreseeable future.

We also get the next Justice League International hardcover. Now granted these JLI hardcovers are cool, but so far they're only reprinting already-reprinted materials (Justice League: A New Beginning, and Justice League International: The Gospel of Maxwell Lord). If we get a third JLI volume, that'll be the real coup.

More on hardcover prices:
If you bought comics this month, you might've seen no less than five mainstream DC hardcovers this month: Superman: Last Son, Justice League of America: The Injustice League, Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Volume 2, Green Lantern: Tales of the Sinestro Corps, and The Question: Five Books of Blood.

Even with the lowest prices I can find, that's still over $60 for the five of them -- and that doesn't include Checkmate, the Atom, 52 Aftermath: Black Adam and The Four Horsemen, Infinity Inc., and the first Countdown trade.

For me, I ended up having to pass on The Question hardcover, even though I love both the Renee Montoya character and Greg Rucka's writing -- I'm already invested in Superman and Justice League, as well as Green Lantern and the Sinestro Corps War. On the paperback front, I passed on all the 52 Aftermath titles and Infinity Inc., even though I'm a Steel fan from way back -- again, I just can't afford to start reading new titles when the old titles have become so expensive.

These reports, by the way, are by no means a "woe is me," but rather I wonder if other fans are having the same experience I am -- are you passing on new titles because of the price of old ones? Certainly, this pertains bad things for DC Comics, if hardcovers are squeezing out new series. Anyone else making these either/or decisions?

Collected Linkblogging:
I don't often get to listen to comics podcasts, but I heard the Collected Comics Library's Podcast #156 the other day about the Countdown 80-Page Giant specials. Chris does a great job explaining them, and made me very eager for DC to release a trade paperback of all the issues in all of these specials -- is it too much to hope?

Chris also talks about a comics exhibit that was presented near him in Detroit; apologies that I don't have all the details here, but Chris gives a cogent criticism of the show that demonstrates Chris's wide knowledge about many different aspects of comics, and I really enjoyed listening to the podcast. Collected Comics Library is a big supporter of Collected Editions, and we hope you visit them as well.

(And is that frequent Collected Editions commentor Michael K. Willis blogging over at Discount Comic Book Service? I think it is ...)

Thank you!
Thanks to everyone who writes comments or sends notes in support of Collected Editions -- we appreciate it! For those asking how you can help, the best thing to do is mention Collected Editions at your favorite forum. If you see a review you like and can plug it on a message board you frequent, that goes a long way toward getting the word out about the blog.

Coming up we're reviewing Catwoman, Supergirl, Blue Beetle, the Atom, Ion, Green Arrow, and 52. Stay tuned!

Review: Justice Society of America: The Next Age collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

In a spirit similar to Green Lantern: Rebirth, Geoff Johns reinvents the JSA--again--in Justice Society of America: The Next Age. Coming as this does just on the heels of the new Justice League of America, Johns offers a story that feels both more cohesive and better characterized than Brad Meltzer's first Justice League arc, even as Johns works with far fewer issues that Meltzer does.

Perhaps on purpose, Meltzer and Johns each have the core heroes of their respective teams start with photographs, like trading cards, that they use to pick the new team members. But whereas Meltzer's heroes learn you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friends, Johns' do indeed succeed in filling their roster with new recruits. It's a difference that feels backward: the JLA should be the hand-picked strike force and the JSA should be the super-buddies, not vice versa, but there you go.

At the same time, it's a stretch to say that the Justice Society "team" really appears here. There's not a mission per se--in as much as the team has a corpse land in the center of their first meeting, and from there must protect their families from attack--and so it's hard to know what Johns, through the new team, really intends to do. Not that it matters, necessarily--Johns' story is a suspenseful, action-packed super-heroic joy, in which the Justice Society gets to trade blows with super-powered Nazis. Johns introduces a bunch of new characters very quickly, but does a great job making us sympathetic to all of them.

Overall, I like the new make-up of the team. JSA stalwarts Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite return; the bombastic Hourman and Liberty Belle take a parental role with the even more bombastic Damage, echoing Black Canary and Green Lantern's mentoring of Red Arrow in the Justice League. I'm curious what plans Johns has for Cyclone, the grand-daughter of the original Red Tornado; I'm not convinced the Justice Society needs another enthusiastic teenager a la present-member Stargirl, but I'm willing to be convinced.

My only concern was in the drastic changes in others of the characters; aside from Hourman's new reckless personality, we have an inexplicably ghoulish Sand, Obsidian as the headquarters' security system, and Jakeem Thunder nowhere to be found. These "missing moments" weren't handled in 52, and came across as a bit jarring. I did like the choice of Power Girl as the new Justice Society chairwoman, as deserved as Black Canary taking the same role in Justice League.

Dale Eaglesham provides interesting, nuanced art throughout the book. I've so recently associated Eaglesham will Villains United and drawing "creepy" characters that I wasn't sure he was quite right for the hero-oriented Justice Society. This is a concern not completely laid to rest, but his scenes with the irrepressible Cyclone suggest Eaglesham can do "happy," too. The book is a beauty to look at, with colors and papers befitting a hardcover.

In terms of premieres, I have to say I favored the first Justice Society trade over the first Justice League. While the Justice League story was confusing and the team-creation suspect, Justice Society delivers both a straightforward story and a well-characterized group of heroes about which I'm eager to read more. The two teams meet in the next trade, so we'll see how the two authors read working together.

[Contains full covers, mini-profiles, introduction by Peter Tomasi, sketchbook section by Alex Ross and Dale Eaglesham]

Been a very long time since we read any Catwoman, so we might dip there next. And then ... you'll have to tune in and find out! See you.

13 on 52: Week Thirty-Seven

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

(Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 3.)

Thirteen words for Week Thirty-Seven: Booster revealed, but how two places at once? Did Booster-1 know Supernova's identity?

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Thirty-Seven? Post them here!

Review: Justice League of America: The Tornado's Path collected hardcover (DC Comics)

Monday, February 25, 2008

One of the ideas in Brad Meltzer's Identity Crisis was that of the League within the League; Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman might be the big three, but it was Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and others who kept the heroes' secret identities safe back in the day. As such, it shouldn't be a great surprise that Meltzer's first Justice League trade, The Tornado's Path, turns on much the same idea; whereas the Big Three gather in the Batcave to precisely decide the best choices for the new Justice League, that membership is ultimately chosen by Green Lantern, Black Canary, and others.

In the manner of choosing the League's new roster, Meltzer creates parallels between modern sensibilities and comics history, much as he did in Identity Crisis. It makes the most perfect of sense to us that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman should hand-pick the Justice League membership; after all, these three are the de facto leaders of the team, and the League should be a body of purpose, not a grouping of chance. But the plain fact, as pointed out in this volume, is that League membership has often been fortuitous happenstance, really from their very first case. That the new membership should simply be made of the varied heroes participating in the "Tornado's Path" case follows that same tradition.

Indeed, Meltzer's League is one without the Big Three as its necessary cornerstone. Despite that the Big Three take center stage in nearly every League group shot, it is Black Canary whom Meltzer gives the much-deserved chairman's role. He even goes so far as to have new member Black Lighting invite Batman onto the team, instead of vice versa; the implication, as Batman points out, is that while the Big Three are valued members of the team, they are not the team themselves. This is a hard philosophy really to see through--I doubt many would want to read a Justice League that didn't include the Big Three--but in the wake of the world-spanning Infinite Crisis that hinged on the Big Three, seeing them lose a bit of the spotlight is actually somewhat refreshing.

The Tornado's Path itself is a fun story, in a cotton-candy summer blockbuster vein. Scads of villains abound here, each one masterminding a larger scheme than the last. In contrast to the finely-honed Identity Crisis, the actual plot of Tornado's Path is nearly inscrutable, with various elements from Solomon Grundy, T. O. Morrow, Vixen, Red Tornado, and Amazo combining in a comic book soup that makes very little sense. But watching Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Black Canary take on Amazo is just plain fun, as is the heavy dose of Justice League history with which Meltzer imbues this comic. Never, I'd say, have I seen a Justice League comic so in touch with all the team's previous adventures (Meltzer has old Justice League panels reprinted here, for gosh sake!), and it very much seems an element that previous Justice Leagues have been missing.

Ed Benes offers exceptional art here, bright and loud and bombastic and, at times, gruesome. Pieces of Meltzer's script are reprinted at the end, and much of the gore that Meltzer kept off-screen during Identity Crisis he's brought on-screen here. To wit, Red Tornado gets terribly mangled here, with his robotic face maimed and his human body eviscerated, all shown in graphic detail. It's a mite more blood than one might expect from a Justice League comic book, and I don't necessarily think it was the right decision, but Benes sure gets a chance to show his drawing chops. There's also a three-page fold-out spread in the end, not to be missed.

I like the minor members of the new Justice League--Black Lightning, Hawkgirl, Red Arrow, Red Tornado, and Vixen--and I'm eager to read about them while at the same time fearing for their longevity. Looking into the future, Justice League writer Dwayne McDuffie has for the most part kept this line-up, but I can't imagine them going down in history like Grant Morrison's Big Seven line-up. Truly, Meltzer's new team feels less like a Justice League than a collection of super-friends, though in the end I'll grant that's perhaps not a bad thing, once in a while.

[Contains full covers, second printing cover thumbnails, Introduction, commentary section by Meltzer and Benes.]

We're going to keep going with the big guns, with Justice Society of America: The Next Age coming next. Stick around!

Friday Night Fights: Actually Not the Question

Friday, February 22, 2008

As I understand it, this is not the Question dressed in purple.

I don't believe it, but that's what I'm told.

(And don't forget the ringmaster who always looks sharp, Bahlactus!)

Review: Justice League of America Hereby Elects trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

With all apologies, Silver Age DC Comics stories are hit or miss for me. I like the Crisis on Multiple Earths trades because they're "event" comics and give a sense of DC Comics history, whereas I've for the most part avoided the Showcase collections because I don't have an interest in "regular," if you will, Golden or Silver Age Superman adventures.

As such, I very much enjoyed Justice League of America Hereby Elects, the companion collection to the new post-Infinite Crisis Justice League era. I've mentioned before that I like these "relevant" archival DC Comics collections--that is, collections that reprint old DC stories that are essentially still in continuity--and these become all the more relevant now that Infinite Crisis has looped so much more of DC's history back into continuity.

Hereby Elects is a collection of Justice League "new member" tales, when Green Arrow, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Hawkgirl, Zatanna, and Black Canary were offered membership to the League. While these are not all spotlight tales--Green Arrow is captive for much of his story, and Hawkgirl's is similarly light--they show an interesting cross-section of Justice League history. Elongated Man is put to good use in his own story, and for those only familiar with Ralph's comic Justice League International incarnation, this is a better chance to see Ralph as a real member of the League (as is Elongated Man's issue in 52: The Companion).

Those interested in DC's new/old multiverse should also take note of this volume. While there's no direct focus on the multiverse here per se, the Black Canary and Red Tornado issues both reference the other earths, and indeed some of the issues collected in Hereby Elects directly follow issues collected in DC's Crisis on Multiple Earths volumes. Red Tornado specifically occupies quite a few of these stories, dying and being resurrected at least twice, and increasing this volume's relevance for fans of the newest Justice League.

While I had my reservations, Justice League of America Hereby Elects turned out to be an interesting diversion, and I enjoyed reading about this incarnation of the Justice League enough that I've added Justice League: Zatanna's Search (referenced here) to my to-buy list. Here's hoping DC follows this trade with more of the same.

[List of Justice League memberships from various eras, Justice League membership certificate, but no covers (!)]

On now to Justice League of America: The Tornado's Path!

13 on 52: Week Thirty-Six

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

(Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 3.)

Thirteen words for Week Thirty-Six: Lobo unleashed expected. Supernova Booster? Doubt Buddy's gone; should Sobek die, Osiris snaps.

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Thirty-Six? Post them here!

Review: Birds of Prey: Blood and Circuits trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Birds of Prey remains a top DC comic and a fantastic read, though I didn't favor Birds of Prey: Blood and Circuits as much as I did the previous trade, Perfect Pitch. The issue with trade collections, as we've discussed before, is that there tends to be "down" trades, less event-filled, in between the eventful "up" trades. Now, don't get me wrong -- between one member leaving the team, a whole slew of new heroes joining, a potential new Batgirl and a villain from Oracle's past, a lot happens in this trade, but overall Blood and Circuits didn't feel quite as focused to me as Perfect Pitch.

Black Canary leaves Birds of Prey in this trade, following her adoption of the child-assassin Sin, and her manner of exit did disappoint me a bit. Certainly the Black Canary character has outgrown Birds of Prey, mainly through writer Gail Simone's dedicated work building her up, and she's more than ready to take her rightful place with the Justice League. Canary's reason for leaving the Birds, however, is in order to be a better mother to Sin; not that there's anything wrong with that, but we all know DC's not going to let a character like Black Canary just retire, and as such the inevitable "retire only to be called back to action" plot feels a little tired. I expected, and personally would have preferred, Canary to leave the Birds to go directly to the Justice League, and I'm interested to see if Canary's time with the Birds is mentioned in the first Justice League trade.

Simone introduces two new characters here, and I found I liked each more in theory than in fact. That is, I like what both the young Misfit and the villainous Spy Smasher are supposed to represent, but I don't necessarily enjoy the characters themselves. Misfit is a stop-at-nothing, leaps-before-she-looks kid that's perhaps more like Oracle than Oracle would like to admit, while Spy Smasher demonstrates Oracle's intelligence without her conscience, and these conflicts will be fascinating as they play out, but the difficulty is that each character feels obviously created just for Birds of Prey. Spy Smasher is supposedly a long-time opponent of Oracle's, but this is hard to believe since we're just now encountering her; additionally, both Spy Smasher and Misfit have each discovered Oracle's supposedly impenitrable double identity. That so many characters have entered Oracle's inner circle lately stretches the story's credibility to me, though I do remain curious to see where these stories go.

With Canary's departure, Birds of Prey opens up as something of a Charlie's Angels-type book, with a rotating cast of operatives completing Oracle's missions. I'm in favor of this, and it was a thrill to see Manhunter and Big Barda in action (even if Huntress seems a little out of place in less urban settings) but my hope is that it doesn't reflect a move in Birds of Prey away from character toward more plot-based stories. There are a bunch of different villains in Blood and Circuits -- Black Alice, the gangster Yasemin, and the mobster and his daughter in the end -- and it made me miss more focused Birds of Prey days when the team went up against just Savant or Lady Shiva for the trade. I know the Secret Six are right around the corner, and I'm hopeful their fight with the Birds will make the stories feel tighter overall.

[Contains full covers, profile entries.]

I did appreciate Oracle's tribute to Blue Beetle at the beginning of this trade; this, combined with Oracle and Black Canary's reminiscing about early, Chuck Dixon-era Birds of Prey adventures, gives the title a sense of scope and history that's rewarding to long-time fans. More realistic, not-too-cheesecakey art, makes Birds of Prey a joy to read. Despite my hesitations about this trade, I'm very much looking forward to the next.

Thanks for reading!

Friday Night Fights: When the Sandman Kicks You ...

Friday, February 15, 2008

... You say "Ow!" Just ask this guy:


(It's true! Hey, I don't make the rules, I just repeat them!)

(And don't dare forget the ringmaster that rules them all, Bahlactus!)

Review: Birds of Prey: Perfect Pitch trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Gail Simone's previous Birds of Prey trade paperback, The Battle Within, offered a good pre-One Year Later cliffhanger regarding Barbara Gordon's paralysis. But Birds of Prey still had a couple pre-One Year Later issues to go, making Birds of Prey: Perfect Pitch something of a combination trade--two stories, one set just before the events of Infinite Crisis, and one picking up a year after the fact. As such, Perfect Pitch offers an interesting transition, serving as both a coda to Simone's work on Birds of Prey so far, and the beginning of something new.

Over their long histories, the Birds of Prey characters have had something of a rough go, with Black Canary often serving as a hostage for Green Arrow to rescue, Oracle many times relegated to Batman's secretary, and Huntress kicked out of the Justice League. In the first Perfect Pitch storyline, as the Birds fight the Calculator and the Secret Society, Simone takes time to address the issues facing each of the Birds. Black Canary confronts Green Arrow about the ways he's mis-treated her, and ultimately forgives him, while Barbara Gordon reveals her Oracle identity to her father, in that way perhaps fully accepting her Oracle role herself.

This leads to a confrontation where Oracle and Commissioner Gordon defend Oracle's actions to Batman, and Batman must later admit his own mistakes when he finally gives Huntress the approval she deserves. Indeed, the brusque pre-Infinite Crisis shadow of Batman falls in one way or another over all the Birds of Prey, and Perfect Pitch serves to bring this to a close; when Black Canary kisses Batman in the end, it is a symbol of the humanity often missing in the pre-Infinite Crisis Batman, now brought to the surface by the Birds.

Simone features Black Canary in a solo story in the second half of Perfect Pitch, as Dinah trains under a woman proported to be Lady Shiva's mother. As Dinah single-handedly defends an entire village from an armed militia, Simone brings Black Canary nearly full circle from the start of her Birds of Prey run--from victim, captured by Savant and needing to be saved by Huntress, to martial arts expert and full-fledged super-hero in her own right.

The rise of Black Canary here only underlines the injustice this character has faced for most of her incarnation--a mid-level fighter, ill-treated by Green Arrow, and ultimately aimless before being recruited by Oracle; it's no wonder that, until recently, Black Canary was often relegated to supporting character status. Here Simone, without necessarily detracting from Lady Shiva, turns Black Canary into a Shiva-level fighter, and she becomes that much more interesting for it. Why should Shiva, as a villain, be the greatest fighter in the DC Universe? Giving Canary that same potential is a change very long overdue.

At the same time, Simone differentiates Dinah by showing that, even though Dinah now has Lady Shiva's potential for violence, she tempers it with humanity, partially in the form of adopting the child Sin. At face value, having Black Canary adopt a child would concern me; in the hands of a lesser writer, giving Black Canary a child would be a step toward "domesticating" Black Canary, having her retire from crime-fighting, at least until another writer wrote out or killed the child in some gratuitous way. But Oracle's protest that super-heroing "eats kids and family members" only serves as a reminder of the amount of death the DC Universe has faced lately; surely Simone introducing a child, one that reminds Black Canary of happiness, must be a good thing. I'm hopeful other writers will believe the same.

[Contains full covers, brief biographies, brief One Year Later page.]

On now to read Birds of Prey: Blood and Circuits, before we start a run-up to Justice League of America: The Tornado's Path. Stay with us!

13 on 52: Week Thirty-Five

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

(Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 3.)

Thirteen words for Week Thirty-Five: Lex's evil and Supernova's mystery--is he Steel? Jake's definitely Hannibal. Plus Offspring!

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Thirty-Five? Post them here!

Link to Steve Gerber Interview

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Just read online that comics creator Steve Gerber passed away. I can't claim great familiarity with Steve's work (he created, among scores of other things, Howard the Duck), but I did immediately recall the interview he gave last September with Newsarama. Here, Steve talks both about Countdown to Mystery and his illness, and I remember thinking how well I thought he spoke and how eager I was to read the series.

I'm going to be reviewing Helmet of Fate here in the not too distant future, and I'll be sure to put a link to any memorial organization at the same time.

Just saw online where Gail Simone talks about her own remembrances of Steve Gerber; worth a read.

Was going to talk about comics prices and some other things this week, but I'll save it for the next. Be good to each other!

Review: Checkmate: Pawn Breaks trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Well, I like Checkmate a lot. If you enjoyed the first trade (see our review), you'll like the second; Greg Rucka continues to write a multi-layered series full of intrigue and political machinations. I didn't think Checkmate: Pawn Breaks was quite as effective as the first volume, but Checkmate still stands head-and-shoulders over any number of other comics series out there.

The first of two stories collected in Pawn Breaks, "Pawn 502," is good, though much of it centers around a new Checkmate "pawn" that the reader hasn't met before, so the emotional attachment is somewhat less; there's also some identity-switching that could probably have stood another page of explanation. What "Pawn 502" does do well is show the scope of how Checkmate connects with the DC Universe as a whole--the Shadowpact appears here, but even better is Sasha Bordeaux's face-off with Sarge Steel of the Department of Metahuman Affairs (and currently Diana Prince's employer). "Pawn Breaks" ends, however, without much conclusion, and I found myself wanting more resolution then, instead of having to wait for a later trade.

The second story however, "Corvalho," is classic Checkmate. It is, as with the end of Checkmate: A King's Game, a Suicide Squad story, but this one told from Checkmate's perspective. What I like about "Corvalho" (and other West Wing-type political thrillers) is that we've grown to know these characters so well that we begin to intuit the implications of the characters' political machinations--when Mr. Terrific realizes he's forced to send Tommy Jagger up against Bane, even as Bane killed Jagger's father, I felt the "oh no" moment just as Terrific did; similarly, we get a sense of dread when the Black King sends Fire on a mission believing she's loyal, even though we know she works for Amanda Waller. The double- and even triple-crossed that Rucka builds into Checkmate continue to amaze.

My favorite part of Pawn Breaks was Mr. Terrific, the new White King, choosing a new Knight. I literally had chills when Terrific announced he was looking for someone, as Rucka has shown that he has the entire DCU to work with, and isn't afraid to use it. Batman was of course a both obvious and unlikely possibilty, but Terrific's new choice was just as good: the electronic Flash villain, Thinker. No doubt having Thinker around is going to go wrong at some point, but in the meantime the spectral green computer's appearances are deliciously fun amidst the straight-laced Checkmate spies.

Coming up next for Checkmate is the Outsiders crossover "CheckOut," and as two of my favorite series right now are Checkmate and Outsiders, I can't wait. Though I had some difficulty with the art in this volume--it's good, don't get me wrong, but sometimes the men start to look alike and it's hard to tell who's who--Checkmate remains a well thought-out, dialogue-heavy, richly characterized comic book series set smack-dab in the middle of the DC Universe. If you're not reading it already, please do yourself a favor and start!

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

Who's your favorite Checkmate character?

Friday Night Fights: Don't Think I Can Handle This ...

Friday, February 08, 2008

... It's another day in Metropolis ...

... I think I'll talk to my analyst ... (ah, you know the rest!)

(Check out last week's Fight, which we forgot to enter! And don't forget the chap who's always got a pocket full of Kryptonite, Bahlactus!)

Review: Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side of Green trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Constant readers know my schtick on Green Lantern Corps -- this was the title I was never supposed to like, but here with the second trade (third, if you count Green Lantern Corps: Recharge), this title makes me believer. Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side of Green is a fantastic space romp with strong police procedural flavors; moreover, it's a title where both main writer Dave Gibbons and guest writer Keith Champagne write a fantastic Guy Gardner, probably one of the toughest characters in the entire DC Universe to write correctly. Hat's off to this team; this book comes highly recommended.

Guy Gardner shines in the two storylines included in The Dark Side of Green. The first, by Champagne, feels just slightly like a fill-in because it stars only Guy and not the rest of the Corps cast, but Champagne's story is almost compelling enough for us to forget what's missing. Here, Guy is recruited by a black ops arms of the Corps to steal a weapon from the Dominion; in the second story, by Gibbons, Guy is accused of murder and must prove his innocence on the Green Lantern planet Mogo.

Both writers cast Guy as sassy and sarcastic, but without the petty obnoxiousness other writers might include; Guy here is a professional -- though not a staid one -- and his first priority here is always his duty. I loved Beau Smith's portrayal of Guy in Warrior, and I'm glad his character growth has been continued here; interestingly, Champagne has Guy advocate against killing a foe, in contrast to Guy's murder of Major Force in Warrior, though whether this is retcon or it's meant to show additional change in Guy is unclear.

Dave Gibbon's Green Lantern Corps story here finally brings together the somewhat disperate cast of the Corps -- Guy, Natu, Vath, and Isamot -- whose missions usually have them at disparate ends of the universe. This gives the story a large-scale feel as it transfers to the Sinestro Corps crossover.

I had complained a bit in my last Green Lantern Corps review that Gibbons' art, while fitting to a Guy Gardner story in the last trade, seemed out of step with the tone of Green Lantern Corps as a whole. I'm pleased to see Gibbons back on art chores with this trade, with his art better integrated by just drawing certain scenes and characters; the effect was a more fluid blending of Gibbons' and artist Patrick Gleason's styles overall.

[Contains full covers]

In short, Green Lantern Corps: The Dark Side of Green is a delight, from the revelation of Mogo's Green Lantern partner to the final ominous yellow-tinged ending. If you've been on the fence about this series, go back to the beginning and pick up the first trade; I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

13 on 52: Week Thirty-Four

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

(Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 3.)

Thirteen words for Week Thirty-Four: Osiris like Superboy-Prime. Stakes raised: Marvels vs. Squad vs. Titans. Kent scene brilliant.

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Thirty-Four? Post them here!

Super(Hero)-Tuesday 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I forget now where I heard this, but someone once said to me that DC Comics is more like the liberal Democrats and Marvel is more like the conservative Republicans. Ever heard that before?

I don't know if it's true or not, but it came to mind on this (American) Super-Tuesday. What do you think?

Review: Robin: Teenage Wasteland trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Adam Beechen, in my opinion, writes the best Robin since Chuck Dixon, and Freddie Williams is up there with my favorite Robin artists. I've just finished Robin: Teenage Wasteland, and with the Cassandra Cain fiasco behind us (for the most part), Beechen offers up nine Robin issues here, all of which are spot-on in story and characterization; Robin hasn't been better than this in a long time.

Beechen writes a somewhat grim Robin; after the death or injury of Robin's parents, Superboy, Spoiler, Batgirl, and others in this tale, Robin drives himself with a "no one else dies" mania. This is not the laughing Boy Wonder of days of yore, but the black-and-white in which Robin sees the world is perfectly true to his youth. This is in no way, however, a "dark" book--there's humor and spots of light, especially surrounding what's billed as Tim Drake's "first date." This is hardly his first, but rather his first date with his tutor Zoanne, and Beechen strikes a nice balance between playing to Robin's youth and at the same time acknowledging his relative long time as a super-hero.

The two main storylines here deal with Robin offering up himself as a decoy to stop a group of kidnappers, and Robin tracking down a drug-ridden young street gang trying to kill a reporter. Both of these stories are gritty and down-to-earth, and Robin's role in them is clear, as opposed to Robin simply acting as a stand-in for Batman or Nightwing. Beechen uses Robin's new status as Bruce Wayne's adopted son well in the first story, as Bruce must make a tearful plea--only partially an act--for Robin's safe return. The second story ties into Robin's dating life, as Zoanne's father works for the company making the gang's drugs; in both of these, Beechen demonstrates excellent writing here, making Robin's challenges more than just plot devices, but rather obstacles that affect his life overall.

I was most wary of the Klarion the Witch-Boy story included here, fearing it wouldn't mesh with Seven Soldiers, despite art assists from Frazer Irving. Instead, the Klarion tale is right in line with Klarion's Seven Soldiers portrayal, and should make perfect sense to Seven Soldiers fans. Ordinarily I think the Gotham heroes work best in "real," rather than supernatural, stories, but Beechen pulls this off; the relative speed of the story, Klarion's age, and the overall coolness of Beechen's Robin help to pull this off.

For longtime Batman fans, the interaction between Batman and Robin in this story could be nothing less than startling. Batman tends almost a little too far toward the emo side of things in Beechen's portrayal--at one point, Bruce asks Robin if he'd like Batman to stay and talk before Batman goes on patrol; at another, Batman stops to ask Robin about his date. After years of the grim and gritty Batman, this is a nice change in Batman, even if it seems just slightly overdone. One big surprise is that, when Batman interrupts Robin's date, Robin begs off the mission and Batman agrees; in a generic super-hero storyline, the hero would indeed have to interrupt his date, and there's a sense here that Robin makes the wrong choice, though the fact that Batman is OK with it is just further proof of the growth, at last, of their relationship.

[Contains cover thumbnails.]

I'm curious if there are any Robin readers out there who didn't like Robin: Wanted because of what happened to Batgirl, who read Robin: Teenage Revolution. What did you think of it? For me, this book ran on all cylinders--even the done-in-one "after-school special" suicide story worked with the book overall. Someone else who read this, what did you think?

The reviews keep coming and they don't stop! Hope you'll come back, too.

Friday Night Fights: Super-Baby Knockout!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Because no one delivers a knockout ...

... like Super-baby delivers a knockout!

(Excepting, of course, the ever-loving Bachlatus!)