Review: Titans: Old Friends hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'm in the vocal minority, I know, when I say there's a lot of Judd Winick's work that I've really liked. And I firmly believe Judd Winick can write the Titans; after all, he did it for almost five years on what I'd suggest was essentially a Titans title that I liked quite a bit: Outsiders. But there's no question that the first book of Winick's Titans-proper relaunch, Titans: Old Friends, has some problems. So, if Winick can do it, and we've seen him do it before, where does this volume not work?

Earlier this week, I took issue with Andrew Kreisberg's writing on Green Arrow/Black Canary, following a run by Winick himself; in that case, Kreisberg's plot didn't move me, but I had no problem with Mike Norton's realistic art. Titans: Old Friends suffers from the opposite: I'd venture the writing in the first five of Winick's seven chapters of Old Friends might stand a lot better if not for the ridiculously sexualized art of Ian Churchill and Joe Benitez.

Maybe, one could argue, Winick called in his script for nearly every Titan to be nude in the first chapter, but Winick's Outsiders was sexual too, without seeming childish. Churchill draws in a perhaps-excusable overly-muscled style a la Rob Liefield, but Benitez positions the characters like models in a photo shoot even when they're just standing around talking. In addition, Benitez's figures are so stylized as to look gruesome (consider Nightwing's scrawny chicken legs while having sex with Starfire) such that they come off neither attractive nor pornographic -- just kind of juvenile.

I'm sure Benitez's art has its place somewhere, but frankly I'm surprised at this choice by long-time DC Comics editor Eddie Berganza; it seemed to me entirely the wrong foot for Titans to start on. Winick is not totally without fault; his Kevin Smith/Edward Norton/Aaron Sorkin-inspired dialogue choices here -- lots of short sentences, lots of characters repeating one another -- very quickly becomes annoying, but again, I have to turn to Churchill and Benitez; the choppy dialogue is much more obvious with only two fairly-static panels a page, and less so toward the end of the book when artist Julian Lopez takes over.

Now, some might take issue with my laying the silliness and choppiness of Titans' first few issues at the feet of the artists, but consider that the rather lovely final two issues, drawn by Lopez, still have Winick as their writer. Here, after the Titans fight off the first wave of an attack related to Raven's past, Winick puts quiet focus on the burgeoning relationship between Raven and Beast Boy, and the long history between Nightwing and Starfire. In a couple of pages, Winick offers a mature, cogent take on the latter two characters and their recent on-again-off-again relationship; it demonstrated to me that Winick is a writer wise enough to take love and sex more seriously than the initial art on this book would suggest.

As well, I'm quite convinced that Winick gets the voices of these characters as handed down from New Teen Titans writer Marv Wolfman and beyond. Winick's Beast Boy Gar Logan has a joke a minute on every page, but it's with the understanding that Beast Boy's jokes hide his insecurity over his depth of feeling (the scene where Red Arrow, cracking wise, notes he's taking over the funny-but-cares role from Beast Boy is a self-referential classic). At the same time, in perhaps the fruition of Wolfman's original vision for Beast Boy, Logan is in essence the leading man in the story, as his Titans cartoon-inspired love for Raven is the most interesting and moving part of the story. Winick gets Logan and Cyborg's friendship, too -- frankly, if Tom Grummett had drawn this book in total, I think it might've received a far different reaction.

Old Friends believably takes the Titans from their disparate lives to rejoining as a team mostly, as one Titan notes, to spend more time with their "family." It's a ridiculous, but at the same time perfectly fitting, reason for these characters to come together -- if the Titans just hang out together, then inevitably because of who they are, they'll find crime to fight. This is something with which other comics team writers have struggled -- just as difficult as the "proactive team" seems to write, the "team that is not a formal team" is right up there. If any group of characters could fit that bill, it's these Titans, and by the end, I think Winick's taking the title in the right direction. I'll be curious to see if that keeps up in the next volume, before a different creative team ultimately takes over.

(See some contrary opinions, which I respect, from FanBoy Wonder and IGN.)

[Contains full and variant covers]

The Collected Editions Blog Fifth Anniversary

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Collected Editions blog celebrated its fifth anniversary yesterday. In lieu of flowers, just one request: please leave a comment on this post.

As Collected Editions completes its fifth year, I'd like to take this opportunity to get a real sense of who's out there. I appreciate all our wonderfully vocal commenters, but I know they're just a small fraction of everyone who stops by each week.

So right now, even if you're reading this by email or wouldn't ordinarily comment, please leave a comment on this post. Just say "hi," plug your own site, or mention your favorite Collected Editions entry or how you found the blog; I think it'll turn into a fun conversation. If you've been reading Collected Editions a long time, even since the beginning, I'm curious about that. If you're inclined to post about, retweet, or otherwise spread the word about this, I appreciate that, too.

(And when you finish, visit the Hunger Site, where your clicks help feed the hungry.)

I'll wax poetic on five years of Collected Editions later on, but right now I just want to say "thank you" to (possibly) everyone who's commented or otherwise significantly helped out over the last five years (and apologies if I missed anyone): 0011101, 2frog, A. Vandelay, Aalok Joshi, Aaron Strange, abc, Absentmindedprofessor, Adam, Adam Noble, AJ, Akylle, alanultron5, Amy, Andrew White, Angela Paman, Augie, Avi, Ben, Bill Williams, BlackmarketPies, Bob Hodges, Bob Schoonover, Boots, brad, Brad B, Brandan, Brandon, Brian, Brian Smith, Bronston Kingston, Capricorn116, Carl Walker, Carlos, Charles LePage and ComicList, chasdom, Chirag, Chris Marshall, chrishaley, Christian, Clark, cmoney, coffee maker, Colin, ComicReaderDude, Confusion, CT, D. Mark Simms, Dan, Dark Knight, Dave, Dave Tobin, David, David Blais, Davie Chin, dellllllllllllllll, Derek Roper, Devin, Dinis, DJK, dkazaz, dl316bh, DocGroove, Dominick Bellizzi, Dorian, Doug, Doug Glassman, Dylan Palmer, EDP, Eric Schubert, Eric Trautmann, Erika Peterman, Evan, Evan Wired, Fayzan, fb1990, Ferrão, Four Color History, Fred (SpaceBooger), Gail Simone, Gareth, GDG, Gene, Geoff, George, George Koch, grebok, Greg, HardtravelingHero, Heidi MacDonald and the Beat, herrmaja, hilker, HQuest, Ian Aleksander Adams, Ian Riddell, indy2003, Ipstenu, J. Charles Brister, J. L. Bell, jake, James, Jason, Jason Barrow, Jasper, JB, JED, Jeff, Jeff Michaels, Jeff R., Jeffrey Hardy Quah, Jeremy, Jesús, Jhunt, jim kosmicki, JLE, jmm, Joe, Joe Dy, Johan, John, Johnny, Johnny Sorrow, JohnP1732, Jonathan Atkins, Jonathan Pizarro, Joseph, Julia, Kartoffelkopf, Kelson, Kenny L, Kevin H, Kevin Melrose, Robot 6, and Comic Book Resources, Kevin T., Khairul H., Kid Kyoto, Kid Nicky, Kirk Warren, Kurt Busiek, Lex, Liang Xiu, lilbaggie, liquidwater, Loafy, Logan Mo, Loki Carbis, Lord Ruthven, lord worthington, LuchoMon, Luis, m0vie, Marc, Mariano P. A., Mark Fossen, MarkPoa, matches, Matthew, maxime, MaxL, Maxo, mhr_kara, michael, Michael Bailey, Michael K. Willis, Mike Haseloff, Mike W., Mikeysm, MisterSmith, Morgan, Mr How, Mr. Fob, MrManiac, mxlm, Newsarama and Blog@Newsarama, Nhexima, Nicole Canal, Ninja Hayabusa, Nitz the Bloody, Nobody, Noodledoodle, Novaguy, Outsider, partofahole, Paul DeBenedetto, Pers N. Grata, Phillip Hayes, PHSChemGuy, presetyourjet, Quique12, Randall, Ray, Reed Solomon, Rich, Rick Rottman, Rob, RobB, Rokk Krinn, ryan, Sabatino, Scion, Scott Cederlund, Sebastian, seth hurley, Seven Ride, shagamu, Shane, Silver Tomato Productions, Simon Finger, Siskoid, Sneakysqueaky, SpeedsterSite, Spooky, Stanley, Steve, Steve J., Steve Mohundro, TariqKhonji, Ted Kord, teentitan, thatnickguy, The One and Only, The Word Of Jeff, The-Iron-Inspector, TheFalcon, Tightsandcapesforever, Tina, tlyoung88, ToastedBagel, Tom, Tom Smith, tomztoyz, Tony Z™, toodiesel, TS, valmiras, Vince, viscous, weaver33, WendySkeleton, wishlish, WonKa, and all the anonymous commentors out there -- thank you, thank you, thank you.

Here's to another five years. Let the festivities begin!

Review: Green Arrow/Black Canary: Enemies List trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Writer Andrew Kreisberg transitions Green Arrow well from the end of Judd Winick's run to the beginning of Kreisberg's, enough so that I actually breathed a sigh of relief about the new team taking over this tricky title. Well, I breathed too soon. In terms of Green Arrow himself, Green Arrow/Black Canary: Enemies List isn't a poor story so much as it just doesn't reach out and grab me; in terms of Black Canary, however, Kreisberg seems unfortunately to fall into a bunch of the same traps as writers before him.

My biggest complaint about Enemies List doesn't involve the characters themselves, but rather a far-too-decompressed plot. To sum up in a sentence, a woman that Green Arrow saves goes mad and begins picking off his enemies, before trying to kill Green Arrow in a murder/suicide pact. This takes five of the book's six chapters, including a rather run-of-the-mill showdown between Green Arrow and the dark archer Merlyn, and then a couple issues where Arrow and Black Canary have a big think, unsuccessfully, about who might be killing their enemies on their behalf.

The problem is, as new villain Cupid is able inexplicably to slaughter Arrow's entire rogues gallery (including, unfortunately, the rather interesting Brick), it only serves to remind the reader how un-interesting Cupid is, basically a Green Arrow version of Harley Quinn. Without pages upon pages of needless angst, Arrow's first encounter with Cupid could've come down to two chapters, in my opinion. That would have left plenty of room for a satisfying conclusion to the story, instead of the cliffhanger that makes Enemies List feel like all setup and no resolution.

Kreisberg, I think, meets with the same trouble that I think faced Birds of Prey writer Tony Bedard and also numerous writers who've taken on Superman and Lois Lane -- when you have a strong, happy character, especially strong happy characters who are married, but you want to create conflict in a series, where do you go? In Bedard's case, this meant weakening the previously-strong Oracle; in Kreisberg's case, it involves pitting the previously-stable Arrow and Canary against each other in a way that comes off as artificial.

Arrow essentially vanquished Merlyn at the end of the previous Green Arrow series, so the irrational bloodthirst that Merlyn inspires in Arrow seems just that -- irrational. At the same time, Canary has her own vendetta against Merlyn in regards to her adopted daughter Sin, so Canary's failure to understand Arrow's rage is equally arbitrary. The scene of Arrow and Canary in marriage counseling is cute, but altogether a plotline that involves a ridiculously overpowered female villain coming between Arrow and Canary takes for granted the broad strokes of these characters (Arrow's womanizing, Arrow and Canary's troubled past) without delving into any of the nuances.

And indeed, any story is in trouble that begins with Black Canary, martial artist extraordinare, with a knife held to her throat by a street punk named Dregz while Green Arrow has to save her. As well as I thought Kreisberg wrote Green Arrow -- especially in the first chapter, he got Ollie's overprotectiveness of his children, as well as the sexual humor Winick used in the book, down pat -- his Black Canary comes off again and again as a damsel in distress. It's almost a shame to find Canary here in her trademark black-and-yellow Birds of Prey gloves, when the story takes up none of her Birds of Prey-established growth. I wasn't quite sure where this story took place in relation to Canary's losing control of the Justice League over in that title, but the stories are part and parcel of the same problem with the character.

Frankly, it's perhaps how much truer to life the Green Arrow and Black Canary character are (as comics characters go) that make them so difficult to write. Arrow is a militant left-wing liberal, a hook that's easy to grab, but that ignores the charming conservative side he shows regarding his own family. Similarly, Ollie's womanizing is an easy plot twist, but using it ignores his growth before proposing to Black Canary. Canary herself is both romantic interest and superhero, a seemingly tough combination to write when most romantic comics interests are the ones who need saving, like Lois and Mary Jane Watson. And having two superheroes date requires extra amount of finesse; as physical heroes both, is it more or less OK when Arrow tasers Canary into unconsciousness (as he does here, far too superficially) than if a writer would represent the same thing between a "normal" couple?

It's all of these issues that make a Green Arrow/Black Canary marriage and title more complicated than it might first appear. Maybe Kreisberg's work on Green Arrow/Black Canary will get better as it goes, but for me a lackluster story and poor character choices combine to make me very wary of picking up the next volume.

[Contains full covers, including "Faces of Evil" cover; "Origins and Omens" story]

Review: REBELS: The Coming of Starro trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

If you're like me, you have fond memories of Vril Dox trying to rescue an Eclipso-possessed Superman from a volcano alongside Guy Gardner and Lobo, and you understand what an unmitigated joy it is that writer Tony Bedard brings Vril Dox back to the page in R.E.B.E.L.S.:The Coming of Starro. When Dox finds his former L.E.G.I.O.N. teammate Strata and the two start talking about Strata's husband Garv, it nearly brought tears to my eyes; this is 1990s nostalgia at it's best, and if you don't agree then you don't have a heart.

[Contains spoilers for REBELS: The Coming of Starro and Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds]

Bedard's REBELS has much in common with his short stint on Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Here, as in there, Bedard gets nitty-gritty with alien politics; both the Dominators, again, and also the Citadel, the Durlans, the Khunds, and more (not to mention the Omega Men). These are old-school, Invasion-era DC Comics aliens (the original LEGION having also stemmed from Invasion) and it's what quickly differentiates REBELS from Green Lantern Corps* -- Corps so far has largely been from writers Dave Gibbons and Peter Tomasi's imaginations, while REBELS feels firmly and enjoyably rooted in established DC Comics space-faring lore.

(* News of the day as I'm writing this is that Bedard is taking over writing chores on Green Lantern Corps, so it'll be interesting to see whether some of the classic DC aliens begin filtering over, and how soon until we have a Corps/REBELS crossover [throw in a new Darkstars title, and it'll be just like old times].)

The best part of Vril "don't call him Brainiac 2" Dox has always been his know-it-all self-righteous smugness, in a way easier to enjoy than Batman's emotionally-damaged grim and grittiness. Bedard has Dox's voice down pat, indistinguishable from Keith Giffen or Mark Waid before him; but Bedard also takes the opportunity to demonstrate how Dox has changed. For longtime fans, that Dox actually asks Strata to "please" help him regain control of a sabotaged L.E.G.I.O.N. is astounding; there's some sense here that replacing his former teammates with robot drones has left Dox almost lonely. Dox is a jerk, but he feels honor-bound to help the planets that have paid him for protection, and these two sides are entirely why he has and continues to work as this series' protagonist.

Starro also follows on Bedard's Legion run in that Supergirl and Brainiac 5 from that run figure strongly in tying this LEGION/REBELS incarnation to the group in the future. Here indeed Bedard even improves on the original LEGION's ties, and I thought his creation Wildstar (a mix of Legion couple Wildfire and Dawnstar) was especially inspired, as was his Bouncing Boy equivalent. It all only falls apart a little bit in that the Brainiac 5 that Bedard uses is pretty much out of continuity as of the end of Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds; I might have preferred to see him use Superman and the current incarnation of Brainiac 5 instead, though it would also be interesting for Bedard to try to explain away the Multiversal wrinkle in a story, too.

In addition, having already seen the demise of a LEGION/REBELS series once, I'm mildly afraid that Bedard has limited himself with this series. Having the LEGION characters on the run as REBELS is a good short-term concept, but eventually they essentially become the Omega Men; it seems to me there's a lot more story potential with Dox and the LEGION police force than Dox and the REBELS outlaw gang -- eventually they explain the situation to Superman and they're the LEGION again, right?

I'll also admit some disappointment with this new incarnation of Starro as an alien conqueror (who looks just a bit too much like Mumm-Ra the Everliving). There's not much to distinguish him from your run-of-the-mill alien world conqueror, and I found it a bit too convenient that Starro just happened to take over LEGION from Dox; there seems plenty easier ways to take over the universe. Bedard seems to posit Starro as the ongoing villain of REBELS, but I'm not convinced he can quite hold the series until we see more characterization.

Still, just when Rann/Thanagar: Holy War had me a little concerned about the state of DC's space comics, REBELS is a great "new" series, and has certainly earned my buck. Kudos to Tony Bedard for bringing back Vril Dox, and hey, long live the, uh, REBELS.

DC Comics Solicitations for May 2010 - Blackest Night, Final Crisis, and Suicide Squad

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Without a doubt, DC Comics May 2010 solicitations spell out an expensive month for collected comics fans.

In terms of new material, with the exception of Doom Patrol, Green Arrow/Black Canary, and the World's Finest miniseries collection, DC devotes most of its output to the whopping seven Blackest Night hardcovers solicited.

Fittingly, two major paperback reprints this month are Final Crisis and Batman RIP, crossover precursors to Blackest Night; if you were waiting for paperback on Final Crisis but buying hardcover Blackest Night, won't your wallet be sore! Also don't overlook one long awaited gem, the Showcase Presents: Suicide Squad black and white collection (Chris, believe it yet?).

With the Brightest Day initiative beginning in May, I might have liked to see the Blackest Night hardcovers also in May, but I imagine that would require DC to have announced the collections officially well before Blackest Night endeded, and I wonder if that was the sticking point.

The biggest news from these solicitations is that, contrary to DC Comics' own press release, Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps won't (or won't just) reprint stories from Tales of the Sinestro Corps, but rather includes stories from Green Lantern #49 and Adventure Comics #4-5, which we had noted here were otherwise missing.

Also, the Blackest Night: Rise of the Black Lanterns hardcover contains not only the "resurrected" cancelled DC titles, but also "Black Lantern" Green Arrow #30 and Adventure Comics #7, which means just about every Blackest Night crossover issue is collected ...

... except Titans #15.

Given the fanfare with which DC announced Titans #15 just before Blackest Night began, it seems a shame not to include it somewhere. Hey DC, couldn't we get this slipped in?

So now my question to you is, the seven Blackest Night hardcovers look like about $180 worth of comics before discounts. How are you planning to afford it? Anyone been on a comics diet to make room in their budget? Or is $180 on comics no big deal, especially for Blackest Night?

Reminder: Your presence is requested ...

The Collected Editions blog located at collectededitions.blogspot.com invites you to visit on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 to help celebrate its fifth anniversary. Casual dress. See you then!

Review: Rann-Thangar: Holy War Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 15, 2010

A collection of DC Comics' best space-faring heroes; a cosmic, time- and dimension-bending story that spans from the beginning of time to the very end, and even a tie to the goings-on in DC's supernatural realm -- why isn't the second volume of Jim Starlin's Rann-Thanagar: Holy War a lock for me? Starlin is a comics legend, unquestionably, but one wonders if with this story he didn't try to do too much; some parts of Holy War soar, whereas other parts, perhaps unnecessary, come through rather flat.

[Contains spoilers for Rann-Thanagar: Holy War]

First, the good. If Starlin wrote (or was tasked to write) just an Adam Strange story, there might be far less wrong with Holy War. Indeed the main character of Mystery in Space, Starlin's first most recent foray into DC's cosmic characters, had been meant to star Adam Strange, which is why perhaps Strange takes such a leadership role in this story while Starlin's replacement Mystery protagonist, Comet, becomes something of a clown.

Starlin's Strange makes a couple of what I consider to be uncharacteristic foolhardy decisions, but Starlin also presents him as swashbuckling and heroic in the manner we've come to expect from Adam Strange. In this second volume especially, Strange must consider (amidst battles with marauding aliens and resurrected gods) his growing role as a politician more than a fighter on the planet Rann, something that picks up from themes in Adam Beechen's Countdown to Adventure (coincidentally, I think). Inasmuch as I might prefer Adam Strange "classic," this new role for the hero, and the new status of Rann at the end of this story, breathe new life and offer potential for great Adam Strange stories to come.

And certainly, Starlin does well in making this a cosmic story, not just one that involves alien heroes. Starlin devotes the entire sixth issue of Holy War to the epic origin of the Demiurge, the story's mystery villain, and there's a bunch of great mixes here: a mix of hand- and computer-drawn artwork, and a mix of both science-fiction and mythical, supernatural elements. Starlin hints at a great magic war that involves, among others, Zauriel, Etrigan, the Phanton Stranger, and the Demon, and I frankly wouldn't have minded more information on this rather than other aspects of the book. The Demiurge himself is rather mundane, not much different than I understand Starlin's Thanos or other entropy-seeking cosmic bad guys to be, though I did enjoy, through some time-travelling quirks, that the Demiurge appears in the story both as the villain and, in the future, apologetic for his villainy.

The large cast of Holy War, however, ultimately comes off as so much window dressing. To illustrate, Starlin's own Chief Max of Hardcore Station stands mute with the other heroes for three to four issues before Adam Strange finally asks him a question, such that I was completely surprised to realize Max had been there all along.

Starlin also inexplicably continues to flog Animal Man, both by having the other characters call him weak, giving him nearly no role, and ultimately mis-representing his powers -- one imagines DC wanted to include Animal Man because of his recent history with Adam Strange and Starfire, but it doesn't seem that Starlin wants Animal Man there and might've done everyone a favor by leaving the character aside. Starfire gets a moment's face-off against Lady Styx (the best villain of the bunch), but she's saved by The Weird and comes off as largely unnecessary herself.

The first volume ends with the question of whether Adam Strange has caused the death of all the citizens of Starman Prince Gavyn's Throneworld; the answer is yes. Starman is believably upset (though largely off-panel); Strange feels some guilt, but it doesn't have nearly the depth of, say, the aftermath of Green Lantern John Stewart letting the planet Xanshi be destroyed in Starlin's Cosmic Odyssey. When Strange, rather un-ironically, must also risk killing the entire population of Rann, but ends up repopulating them on the now-deserted Throneworld, the princely Starman is very, very quick to accept his new subjects; Starlin resolves the situation far too neatly and entirely without the kind of consequences due to this situation, though a part of me is glad he's refrained from needlessly angst-ing the Adam Strange character.

Once again Starlin turns to his constant theme of sacrifice for the greater good; whereas Comet and the Weird each had to consider sacrificing innocents for the greater good in Mystery in Space, here again Adam Strange sacrifices Rann and the Weird seemingly commits suicide in Holy War in order to defeat the Demiurge. Starlin admirably tackles weighty issues where other writers might shy away, but I must say it begins to feel a tad repetitive; maybe "life and death" is the only dilemma worth mulling over, but when Strange muddles over the same issues that Comet did before, it lessens the difference between the two, and makes Holy War feel like a generic cosmic opera.

Indeed, this commonality is Holy War's biggest problem -- there's a great cast here and the makings of an interesting story, but ultimately Rann-Thanagar: Holy War didn't grip me as much beyond elements of stories I'd already read before.

[Contains full covers, "What Came Before" text]

I'm going to keep with the cosmic theme now; Holy War has tired me, actually, of space stories, but I've heard how good the new REBELS series is, and so I'm curious to see if it'll defeat even my current intertia. We'll see!

DC confirms Superman: Earth One details, Titans: Games, Co-Feature trades

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Note: On Wednesday, October 27 at 8 pm EST, Collected Editions will host a live discussion and read-along of the Superman: Earth One graphic novel. See our live event announcement for more details.

The wonderful DC Comics blog The Source has released a list of DCU Collected Editions solicitations through the end of 2010. Among those titles included are Superman: Earth One, Teen Titans: Games, new collections of DC's co-features, and many, many others.

Here's what I find notable in the list, which you can read in full at the link above.

Graphic novels and other headliners:
Of course I'm most excited about Superman: Earth One and Absolute All-Star Superman. DC confirms that the price of Superman: Earth One will be $19.99 and the page count will be 128 pages; see our earlier discussion about the Superman: Earth One details. What's strange is that, if this is a list through the end of 2010, Batman: Earth One is nowhere to be found. One wonders if this'll be DC 2011 and not DC 2010, and also if we won't see a second Superman: Earth One volume until 2011.

As some commentors have already noted, 320 pages for Absolute All-Star Superman doesn't leave much room for extras; here's hoping there are some.

It turns out that the supposed Luthor graphic novel is actually just the Lex Luthor: Man of Steel miniseries from a few years back. I wasn't wowed by this book when I read it, and if you liked Joker, I tend to wonder if Luthor will be something of a disappointment. DC gets points for trying to bank on the success of Joker, however.

There was some discussion on the DC board about the JSA All-Stars issue in Starman Omnibus Vol. 5. Note that it's the 2003 JSA All-Stars miniseries in question here, either just the Starman backup story by James Robinson, and maybe also the Stargirl story by Geoff Johns.

The fourth JSA Deluxe book contains JLA Classified #1-3 by Grant Morrison, the JLA: Earth-2 graphic novel, and the final issues of Morrison's run, so it looks like this is the last volume. For some reason I had it in my head that this was a five-volume series, but I guess not.

With all the Blackest Night books, it's going to be an expensive end of the year, but I don't very well think I can pass up New Teen Titans: Games right when it comes out. Between Games and Earth One, it's fun to see some relevant (in-continuity or non-reprint) graphic novels coming out from DC these days.

SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE HC (September)
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Shane Davis
Original graphic novel
$19.99 US, 128 pg

ABSOLUTE ALL-STAR SUPERMAN HC (October)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Collects: ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #1-12
$99.99 US, 320 pg

THE STARMAN OMNIBUS VOL. 5 HC
Writers: James Robinson, David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns
Artists: Steve Yeowell, Peter Snejbjerg, Wade von Grawbadger, Keith Champagne, Steve Sadowski, Lee Moder, Chris Weston, David Ross and others
Collects: STARMAN #47-60, 1,000,000, STARS AND S.T.R.I.P.E. #0, ALL STAR COMICS 80-PAGE GIANT #1 and JSA ALL STARS #4
$14.99 US, 464 pg

LUTHOR HC (October)
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Lee Berejo
Collects: LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL #1-5
$19.99 US, 128 pg

JLA DELUXE EDITION VOL. 4 HC (November)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Howard Porter, John Dell, Drew Geraci, Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines and Frank Quitely
Collects: JLA #34, 36-41, JLA CLASSIFIED #1-3 and JLA: EARTH 2
$29.99 US, 368 pg

THE NEW TEEN TITANS: GAMES HC (November)
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artists: George Pérez, Al Vey and Mike Perkins
Original graphic novel
$24.99 US, 144 pg

Blackest Night crossover books:
Justice League of America, R.E.B.E.L.S, and Booster Gold all cross-over with Blackest Night here. I'm midly disappointed in the page count of R.E.B.E.L.S, I must say; five issues for $17.99 isn't a great value, though I read the first book these past few days and loved it.

The new Secret Six trade includes the resurrected Suicide Squad issue (speaking of which, anyone know who this forum poster is?).

The Green Arrow/Black Canary trade includes the Black Lantern Green Arrow issue.

The Blue Beetle collection gathers the final issues of the series plus the co-feature issues from Booster Gold. It skips the Blackest Night crossover issues, but those are picked up by the Booster Gold trade (and it's nice they both come out in the same month). And speaking of co-features ...

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA: TEAM HISTORY HC (September)
Writer: James Robinson
Artists: Mark Bagley, Rob Hunter and Andy Kubert
Collects: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #38-43
$19.99 US, 192 pg

R.E.B.E.L.S: THE SON AND THE STARS TP (September)
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artists: Claude St. Aubin, Geraldo Borges and Scott Hanna
Collects: R.E.B.E.L.S #10-14
$17.99 US, 144 pg

SECRET SIX: DANSE MACABRE TP (November)
Writers: John Ostrander and Gail Simone
Artists: Jim Calafiore, Peter Nguyen and Doug Hazlewood
Collects: SECRET SIX #15-18 and SUICIDE SQUAD #67
$14.99 US, 128 pg

GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY: FIVE STAGES TP (November)
Writers: Andrew Kreisberg and J.T. Krul
Artists: Mike Norton, Bill Sienkiewicz and Will Conrad
Collects: GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY #27-30
$17.99 US, 128 pg

BLUE BEETLE: BLACK AND BLUE TP (December)
Writers: Will Pfeiffer and Matthrew Stuges
Artists: David Baldeon, Carlo Barberi, Mike Norton, Steve bird and others
Collects: BLUE BEETLE #27-28 and stories from BOOSTER GOLD #21-25 and 28-29
$17.99 US, 168 pg

BOOSTER GOLD: THE TOMORROW MEMORY TP (December)
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund
Collects: BOOSTER GOLD #26-31
$17.99 US, 160 pg

Co-Features collected:
We see the Manhunter and Ravager co-features now collected; I think the bloom's off the rose with these co-features a bit, especially noting that Manhunter is gone for good again now. Frankly I think I'm happiest to see the Faces of Evil: Deathstroke issue, required reading for Outsiders, stuck in the Ravager trade (but what, no room for the also-related DC Universe: Last Will and Testament?). Funny that the Ravager trade isn't labeled Teen Titans Spotlight like the Raven, Cyborg, and Wonder Girl collections.

MANHUNTER: FACE OFF TP (November)
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artists: Georges Jeanty, Jeremy Haun, Cliff Richards and others
Collects: Stories from BATMAN: THE STREETS OF GOTHAM #1-13
$17.99 US, 128 pg

TEEN TITANS: RAVAGER – FRESH HELL TP (December)
Writers: David Hine and Sean McKeever
Artists: Georges Jeanty, Yildiray Cinar, Mark McKenna and Julio Ferreira
Collects: FACES OF EVIL: DEATHSTROKE #1 and stories from TEEN TITANS #71-76 and 79-82
$14.99 US, 144 pg

Monthly titles:
Among various monthly titles, we find a second Red Robin collection that picks up from the end of the first Batgirl collection of the new series (and ends at what I'm guessing is an integral point in the "Batman Reborn" saga). We see collections of each of the current Justice Society series, but neither one apparently collects the recent JSA Annual (as a side note, I read a couple pages of Matthew Sturges JSA All Stars the other day, and while I've been wary of someone other than Geoff Johns on the title, I rather liked the team's "strike force" mentality). The Wonder Woman trade, one DC board poster noted, ends right before issue #45, touted as Wonder Woman's #600th issue. Whether this means there might be a writer change in the works ...

RED ROBIN: COLLISION TP (September)
Writers: Christopher Yost and Bryan Q. Miller
Artists: Marcus To, Lee Garbett, Ray McCarthy and Trevor Scott
Collects: RED ROBIN #6-12 and BATGIRL #8
$19.99 US, 192 pg

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA: AXIS OF EVIL TP (December)
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Travis Moore, Jesus Merno, Dan Green and Jesse Delperdang
Collects: JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #34-40
$14.99 US, 168 pg

JSA ALL-STARS: CONSTELLATIONS TP (October)
Writer: Matthew Sturges
Artist: Freddie E. Williams II
Collects: JSA ALL-STARS #1-6
$14.99 US, 144 pg

WONDER WOMAN: CONTAGION TP (October)
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Nicola Scott, Matt Ryan and Doug Hazlewood
Collects: WONDER WOMAN #40-44
$14.99 US, 128 pg

Superman:
Figuring out in what order to read these final New Krypton trades seems like something of a nightmare. It's interesting that the second Action Comics collection gets billed as Nightwing and Flamebird Vol. 2, but the second Mon-El trade is "Man of Valor" -- I wonder if the Mon-El trade can be read on it's own, or if it will be marketed as such.

I wonder if Last Stand of New Krypton will collect just the first issue of that miniseries, or if the solicitation has a misprint and it collects all three. If not, hopefully the other two go in the War of the Supermen collection and not a volume two -- these second volumes just seem to slow down the comic-to-trade pace so much.

November also sees the "New Krypton"-related Outsiders trade, even as the title is still billed as part of the Batman family.

SUPERGIRL: DEATH AND THE FAMILY TP (September)
Writers: Sterling Gates, Helen Slater and Jake Black
Artists: Fernando Dagnino, Jamal Igle, Raul Fernandez and Jon Sibal
Collects: SUPERGIRL #48-50 and SUPERGIRL ANNUAL #1
$17.99 US, 144 pg

SUPERMAN: MON-EL – MAN OF VALOR HC (September)
Writer: James Robinson
Artists: Fernando Dagnino, Bernard Chang, Javier Pina and Matt Camp
Collects SUPERMAN #692-699, SUPERMAN ANNUAL #14 and SUPERMAN SECRET FILES 2009 #1
$24.99 US, 224 pg

SUPERMAN: NIGHTWING AND FLAMEBIRD VOL. 2 HC (October)
Writers: James Robinson, Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann
Artists: Bernard Chang, Pere Pérez and Bit
Collects: ACTION COMICS #883-889 and SUPERMAN #696
$24.99 US, 176 pg

SUPERMAN: LAST STAND OF NEW KRYPTON HC (November)
Writers: James Robinson, Sterling Gates and Eric Trautmann
Artists: Pete Woods, Julian Lopez, Jamal Igle and others
Collects: SUPERMAN: LAST STAND OF NEW KRYPTON #1, ADVENTURE COMICS #8-8, SUPERMAN #698 and SUPERGIRL #51
$24.99 US, 160 pg

OUTSIDERS: THE ROAD TO HELL TP (November)
Writer: Dan DiDio
Artists: Philip Tan, Don Kramer and others
Collects: OUTSIDERS #26-31
$14.99 US, 144 pg

Reprint collections:
This new Legion trade leads right up to the famous "Great Darkness Saga," which might be out of print -- I imagine we'll see a hardcover printing soon. The "prologue" collection genre's a little strange; this reminds me of the equally out-of-nowhere New Teen Titans: Terra Incognita trade.

The modern issues of the long-awaited Batgirl collection include a two-part Legends of the DC Universe story showing Batgirl's modern origins, and a Batgirl/Robin story from Batman Chronicles. It's late; anyone want to run down the other contents? I would note it's kind of a pity that there's not (A) Oracle stories in this volume, or (B) at least a minor shout-out to the Batgirls that followed.

Batman: Dead to Rights collects the "Do You Understand These Rights?" and "Bad Cop" Joker stories by Andrew Kreisberg.

I'm not overmuch excited about the new printing of the Hitman series, but I know other people are. If you want more, pre-order the first one, kids.

I'm surprised World's Greatest Super-Heroes, a collection of the oversized prose and paintings books by Paul Dini and Alex Ross, is a paperback and not a deluxe hardcover. I wonder how the art and text will survive, shrunk down to size, or if they re-set the prose pieces.

Tales of the Green Lantern Corps volume three collects the first issues where the main Green Lantern title became Green Lantern Corps.

THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: PROLOGUE TO DARKNESS TP (September)
Writer: Paul Levitz
Artists: Pat Broderick, Keith Giffen and Bruce Patterson
Collects: THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #284-289 and THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES ANNUAL #1
$19.99 US, 208 pg

BATGIRL: THE GREATEST STORIES EVER TOLD TP (December)
Writers: Gardner Fox, Frank Robbins, Dennis O’Neil, Elliot S. Maggin, Bob Rozakis, Kelley Puckett and Devin Grayson
Artists: Carmine Infantino, Sid Greene, Gil Kane, Murphy Anderson, Vince Colletta, Don Heck, Mike Grell, Terry Dodson, Kevin Nowlan and Duncan Fegredo
Collects: DETECTIVE COMICS #359, 396, 400, 422, 423, 424, BATMAN FAMILY #1 and 9, LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE #10-11 and BATMAN CHRONICLES #9
$19.99 US, 160 pg

BATMAN: DEAD TO RIGHTS TP (December)
Writer: Andrew Kreisberg
Artists: Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens
Collects: BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL #22-25 and 29-30
$14.99 US, 144 pg

HITMAN: LOCAL HEROES TP NEW PRINTING (December)
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artists: John McCrea, Carlos Ezquerra and Steve Pugh
Collects: HITMAN #9-14
$17.99 US, 144 pg

THE WORLD’S GREATEST SUPER HEROES TP (September)
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Alex Ross
Collects SUPERMAN: PEACE ON EARTH, BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME: SHAZAM!: POWER OF HOPE, WONDER WOMAN: SPIRIT OF TRUTH, JLA: SECRET ORIGINS and JLA: LIBERTY AND JUSTICE
$39.99 US, 400 pg

TALES OF THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS VOL. 3 TP (December)
Writer: Steve Englehart
Artists: Joe Staton, Bruce Paterson and Mark Farmer
Collects: GREEN LANTERN #201-206
$19.99 US, 144 pg

Conclusion:
Is it bad that the thing I'm most excited about at this moment is the Ravager trade with the Faces of Evil: Deathstroke in it? Of course, there's also the Superman books, Games, and more. If you could only read one book on DC's end-of-2010 list, what would it be?

Review: Rann-Thanagar: Holy War Vol. 1 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Having enjoyed Jim Starlin's Mystery in Space, with the widescreen cosmic action and creative science-fiction going a long way toward balancing the early-1980s, overly-narrative tendency still inherit in Starlin's style, I looked forward to the first volume of Mystery's effective sequel, Rann/Thanagar: Holy War. But Holy War brings with it a shift both in Starlin's writing of key characters, and also in the book's art team, and it causes Holy War to show far more of its seams than Mystery did. I did not enjoy this first volume as much as I had hoped.

[Contains spoilers for Rann/Thanagar: Holy War Volume 1]

I wasn't very familiar with writer Jim Starlin prior to his most recent DC Comics work, and for me his real breakout was his writing of the new Comet (formerly Captain Comet) in Mystery in Space. While Starlin's Comet is not always the toughest or most debonaire cosmic fighter, he makes up for it with brains and a heartly helping of gumption, always ready with a quip or "try it again" attitude; I mentioned before that Starlin's Comet reminds me of a space-faring Sam Spade. The first most jarring element of Holy War, then, is that we find Comet now a coward, a rather sniveling psychic-for-hire who refuses jobs, as a matter of fact, because they might be too dangerous. It would be easier to rectify this if Comet transfered from Starlin to a new writer, but indeed it's Starlin's own Comet who goes from Indiana Jones in one comic to early Booster Gold in the next. For a fan, right away it's clear that Holy War is no Mystery in Space.

The change is made worse, in my opinion, by the shift from artist Shane Davis in Mystery to Ron Lim in Holy War. Now, I know Lim has a history working both with Starlin and on cosmic characters (although minor in his biography, I much enjoyed Lim's art on a couple Kyle Rayner-era issues of Green Lantern), but both his Comet and other characters look thin and cartoony especially in comparison to Shane Davis's large, widescreen, in-your-face art; Comet physically seems no longer a powerhouse, but rather a hundred-pound weakling, nor are the villains terribly imposing. Overall, Holy War feels much less immediate -- Mystery looked like a Star Trek movie and Holy War looks like a doodle.

The difficulties, mind you, aren't just limited to my personal peeves about Comet. Starlin deals with a gigantic cast of characters in the story, which is entertaining, but in the beginning he seems to jump between them too much solely for the purpose of checking in (with way too large transition boxes by Lim), which makes at least the first two chapters seem rather scattered. There's an element of self-deprecation throughout the story that hinders it, both when the gathered heroes soundly reject the idea to formalize the team as suggested by Starlin's own The Weird (perhaps the best character in the whole thing) or when the other heroes criticize Animal Man's weakness (Starlin gives Buddy nearly nothing to do). Starfire gets few lines also, and seems to appear here mainly as window dressing; Starlin also reduces Adam Strange's wife Alanna to a damsel-in-distress in near tears at the kidnapping of Hawkman, a far cry from the fighter we saw in Countdown to Adventure.

For me, the main bright spot (since much of the plot involves the heroes running around to fight a loosely-defined religious threat) came with this volume's cliffhanger. Starlin threatens to duplicate perhaps his most lasting contribution to the DC Comics universe -- the moment in Starlin's Cosmic Odyssey where Green Lantern John Stewart's mistake causes the utter destruction of the planet Xanshi and all its inhabitants. In Holy War, Adam Strange's pigheadedness -- uncharacteristic, again, for the character -- causes the seeming death of all the citizens of Throneworld short of the Starman Prince Gayvn.

I say "seeming" because there's a chance we may find all the Throneworldians as slaves of the alien conqueror Lady Styx in the second collection of this series, but the "did Starlin or didn't he?" caught my attention -- as I noted in my Mystery in Space review, one thing I like about Starlin's writing is his willingness to take chances (and cause collateral damage), and I'm unsure at this point whether it would be better that the Throneworldians are OK and it's just a fake-out, or whether I want to see Starlin writing the characters actually going throught with it (probably the former -- I'd hate for this to follow Adam Strange around).

In the midst of the story is a Hawkman special, which essentially establishes that everything you once knew about Hawkman is wrong (again), but doesn't offer much in the way of explanation otherwise. The value or folly of this will likely be determined by what DC Comics does with Hawkman next; I know Hawkman plays a role in Blackest Night, and then if subsequently Starlin writes a blockbuster Hawkman series that makes the un-revelations here make sense, then all will be well; otherwise it's just another nail in the coffin of a historically mis-managed character.

Personally, I liked Geoff Johns' revamp of Hawkman and the short-lived series that stemmed from it, and I thought Johns' new Hawkman origin made sense; I'm hard-pressed to see why DC wants to muddy the waters again. Ultimately these numerous Hawkman retcons come off to me as kind of silly; DC bends themselves in knots trying to explain in-story the different versions of a character when the truth is just "hey, a writer at one point wanted to start from scratch," and it seems with every retcon things just get worse, not better.

So now I'm off to the second volume of Rann/Thanagar: Holy War, mildly optimistic but with a sense it's probably downhill from here. I gave Starlin a chance, but probably I'm going to skip the next series, Strange Adventures, until I can find it on the very cheap.

[Contains full covers]

Might continue the cosmic trip with R.E.B.E.L.S after this, but there's Green Arrow/Black Canary and Titans waiting in the wings, too. Thanks for reading!

You are cordially invited ...

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On Wednesday, February 24, 2010, please stop by the Collected Editions blog to help celebrate the fifth anniversary of your wait-for-trade headquarters. See you then!

Review: Mystery in Space Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 08, 2010

My two outings on this blog with Jim Starlin's work have been a mixed bag. I wasn't much enamored with Death of the New Gods, as it failed to live up to my admittedly high hopes for it; but, I found I very much liked Starlin's Mystery in Space, an offbeat tale that's at times a bit clunky, mired in Starlin's 1980s-esque over-narating, but still offers much to enjoy. I've finally read the second volume, which also contains Starlin's 1980s miniseries The Weird.

What I liked about Mystery in Space, some readers might find offputting -- there's a lot, and I mean a lot, of the characters talking to themselves. One sees Starlin nearly aching to use thought balloons; instead, almost every panel contains narration. What's so appealing is that Starlin recreates "don't call him Captain" Comet as a cosmic Sam Spade, even dipping sometimes into hard-boiled detective lingo -- a hero who may not always be smooth, but at least has a quip in waiting, and keeps up that rat-tat-tat internal monologue the whole way through. This might not have worked on Nightwing, for instance, but Starlin succeeds in giving this new Comet his own appealing voice.

Ditto for The Weird, with whom Starlin seems to take as his mission to make as oddball and inaccessible as possible. Weird isn't strange in the sense of Ambush Bug -- that is, irreverent -- but rather narratively challenging; in the course of the story, he has his memory wiped at least three times, such that at least once I wasn't sure what Weird did or didn't know. As such, there's an innocent, distracted, and detached internal monologue that follows Weird that's strangely soothing. The Weird ponders deep philosophical questions of death, religion, and identity, but from a distance, like watching bubbles pass overhead. Again, it's Starlin creating an engaging character voice, and that goes a long way to make up for Weird's over-talking.

I was rather surprised to come to the 1988 Weird miniseries collected at the end of this volume, then, and find a far-less-weird Weird than the one in Mystery in Space. This Weird, an energy creature existing in our universe in the body of a corpse, knows his mission and reason for being; even if he stops along the way to interact with the dead man's family, he's still a Weird far more in control of his destiny than the picaresque being in Mystery in Space. The Weird miniseries is a rather straightforward tale of the Justice League International misunderstanding, and finally teaming up with a well-meaning alien rebel against a coming invasion; frankly, I'm not sure the point of the original Weird miniseries (if not just to team Starlin and artist Bernie Wrightson), though it's fun to see that League in action again.. Had I read Weird before Mystery in Space, I might have had more reservations about the character returning -- for me, the Mystery in Space Weird is the far more interesting character.

Still, the finale of Mystery in Space and the Weird miniseries do share interesting thematic questions. In a harrowing scene, a Mystery in Space villain kills all the residents of a section of the Hardcore Station satellite trying to draw out Comet; Comet must later contemplate killing an equal number of cult-controlled followers in order to save the station ... and does. The Weird likens it to when he had to kill "the Jason,"* which the reader learns more about in the Weird mini -- here, too, the Weird had to decide between letting a villain go free or destroying half of Metropolis. It's interesting that almost twenty years ago, Starlin has his protagonist make the same decision, sacrificing innocent lives for the greater good, and I appreciated both times that Starlin challenges the reader with something other than the easy answer.

I'm on now to read the next chapter of what seems to be a cosmic DC Comics Starlin epic, Rann/Thanagar: Holy War. I was pleased to see, at least for a while, Starlin cornering the market on DC's cosmic characters, as I think this section of the DC Universe (and also the supernatural characters) has worked well with connected miniseries by one writer. I'm not sure if that role has been passed to Tony Bedard, however, with his well-received R.E.B.E.L.S. series, but in the meantime, I'm looking forward to more with Comet, Weird, and the rest. (And where's my Hardcore Station collection, I ask you?)

[Contains full covers, explanatory pages]

We continue our look at Jim Starlin's DC work coming up next!

* Edit: As I was adding this post to the schedule, it suddenly occured to me the irony of one of Jim Starlin's characters killing "the Jason." Weird indeed.

Review: House of Secrets: Foundation trade paperback (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

[This review comes from Collected Editions blog contributor Derek Roper]

I’ll admit, I’m not a Vertigo fan, which is strange because I like all the twisted humor and sick on-goings of Secret Six. But, I’m a fan of the House of Secrets. Ever since my introduction to it in Villains United, I wanted to find out more about the House. I bought the Showcase Presents volumes and loved most of the stories in them (except for the second volume). Later, I found that there was an updated, 1997 version which took place during the days of grunge: House of Secrets: Foundation. The recipe was there: the House, an intriguing era of time, and the promise of good story (according to reviews).

The House, once inhabited by Abel (the narrator of the 1960s-70s anthology), is now a vacant, quintessential haunted house. It's sad to see the spooky casa transformed from a rich mansion with paintings and other valuables to an empty crack-house flop pad.

Eventually runaways Traci and Rain Harper take shelter in the House. Rain is the protagonist of the series and uses who she can to get what she wants. The first issue has her hitchhiking across country and using a man for transportation and food, then blithely gets rid of the him. Her personality is polarizing; I didn't like Rain at first, but writer Steven T. Seagle successfully makes her sympathetic when he reveals the molestation and rape she suffered from her father.

Seagle's dialogue and timing are great; rather than being scared when Rain is approached by the Juris, the band of ghosts she must help judge humanity, Rain instead lets off a string of expletives (plenty in this book). Rain’s dialogue is snappy and plays well off of the other characters who well-represent the grunge period, like the angst-ridden Erik. The names of the songs the band Nightmare of Reason sings here are fitting for the time period -- the snippets of lyrics are always depressing and filled with cuts and scars which make them that much more believable.

I found the Juris just as scary as the tales the House is known for. They are a court of five apparitions that appear when someone is being judged for their secrets. Most of the time the Juris find the defendant guilty and banish them to the basement for damnation. Seagle gives each of the Juris a distinct voice, and the cases that they judge combine well for a powerful ending.

Traci is an intriguing character as well; although ditzy and very needy, her sometimes bubbly persona is a façade to some dark secrets. She is seen talking to an unseen character, much like Abel’s imaginary friend Goldie. Could Goldie be back? Or is this something more sinister?

Teddy Kristiansen is the artist on the book and creates some gruesome scenes (I enjoyed this team on the graphic novel It's a Bird, too -- ed.). His depiction of the Juris are brilliant, each attribute telliing of the time period they’re from. It made me shiver when I turned to page 20 and saw the old woman that was being put on trial, reminiscent of the painting The Scream by Edvard Munch. The backdrop for the story is perfect -- Seattle weather and lots of pale people, with the only shade they get is when they are in the clubs performing. Kristiansen uses different art forms to match each character, as when the Juris have a small girl on trial for one of her secrets and her secret is reviewed through child-like drawings. It is very emotional and bleak at the same time.

The questions that remain for the next volume are what happened to Abel? And why is the house in Seattle now and not in Kentucky? There is a vagrant that is seen around the premises of the House a couple of times and he is short, timid, and sports a beard -- hmm . . .

The ending is surprising, tied up neatly, and solidifies there are so many fans of Rain on the Vertigo and other message boards. For once, she starts to feel again and gets a second chance at a family. Seagle leaves plenty of threads for other storylines, but here's the problem: this volume came out in 1997 and only collects #1-5. As far as I know, there are no plans to release the rest of the series.

The art and the story in House of Secrets are both brilliant and very modern. Even though the grunge era is gone (for a lot of us) the story is solid and this thriller will haunt the mind and make one question the merit of one’s own secrets. Like Dean Motter says in his forward, “Though such a heritage is impressive, make no mistake. This is a very different House. It takes so much more to frighten us these days.”

Ask Collected Editions #1 - Flash, Grant Morrison, Booster Gold, Fables

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


We're introducing a new segment on the Collected Editions blog today. It's "Ask Collected Editions", where I answer your most pressing trade paperback questions.

Reader Silver Tomato Productions left some great questions in his comments, so I thought I'd answer them in a post. Here goes ...
... Being a trade afficienato, I was hoping you could straighten out some reading order related stuff.

Firstly, the Flash books. I want to read some modern Flash, preferably from Waid and Johns. Where do I start, in terms of TPBs, and could you please walk me through the reading order of the subsequent ones.

Secondly, I want to dabble in some Grant Morrison. What's the reading order in terms of TPBs for his Batman run? Is We3 good? Seven Soldiers? Any other suggestions?

Thirdly, I wanted to get on the Booster Gold bandwagon, but I know that that's a hefty comittment. In addition to 52, what do I need to read before starting on Booster, and what're the names of the Booster trades.

Lastly, I wondered why you don't have more Fables reviews up? Did you lose interest after Arabian Nights and Days? If you're going to do them, that's fine, but if you can't/don't want to and are open to the idea, I'd love to do some guest reviews as far as Fables.

That's it. Thanks for all the work you do for wait-for-traders like myself.

Tomato
Well, Tomato, let's see what we can do.

For the Flash reading order, allow me to direct you to our Top Flash Trade Paperbacks list, which runs down (no pun intended) the various Flash eras since Crisis on Infinite Earths. I'm also particularly proud of our retrospect of the Geoff Johns Flash era, if you'll allow another plug.

The reading order for Grant Morrison's Batman run is Batman and Son, Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul, Batman: The Black Glove, Batman R.I.P., and then on to the new Batman and Robin series. Of those I mentioned, Black Glove is wonderfully creepy (the best of them, short of the R.I.P. event), and Resurrection one you could skip if you were so inclined.

As for Morrison's other work, I enjoyed Seven Soldiers and devoted a series of reviews to it on the blog, but I don't necessarily run to re-read it like I might Batman R.I.P; I think it gets a tad confused toward the end. I haven't read We3, but I hear lots of good things about it -- see Wild Tyme, Comics Worth Reading, Line of Fire Reviews, Always Bet on Bahlactus, and Read About Comics, among others.

New Booster Gold trades include 52 Pick-Up, Blue and Gold, Reality Lost, and the forthcoming Day of Death. For some classic Booster Gold material, one of these days I'm going to pick up the oversized, black-and-white Showcase Presents: Booster Gold, collecting the old Dan Jurgens series.

Regarding Fables, I didn't much enjoy Homelands, but I thought the series bounced back with Arabian Nights (and Days). Bottom line, however, there were just so many mainstream DC Comics trades I wanted to buy, and the price of trades going up such, that I just couldn't afford to keep getting Fables (or Y: The Last Man, much to my chagrin). Now I see Vertigo is releasing deluxe editions of both series (love those deluxe editions!); chances are that somewhere down the road I'll start over with those, and then you'll see reviews of both series.

Thanks again Tomato for your questions and for supporting the blog. I appreciate it!

If you'd like to participate in "Ask Collected Editions," send your questions to our Yahoo account (see address in footer) and I'll try to answer them in the next segment. (Questions may be edited, not all questions may be used, etc., etc.) Thanks for reading!

Absolute All-Star Superman Tops DC Fall 2010 Trade List, Batman: Widening Gyre, and Levitz/Giffen Legion

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

New trade paperback solicitations starting to roll in for the end of 2010! Let's see what we've got ...

* Absolute All Star Superman

We've been predicting this one ever since DC released All-Star Superman in separate hardcovers; finally All-Star Superman gets the oversized treatment it deserves (and I can finally read it!).

* Batman: The Widening Gyre

The next volume of Kevin Smith's current take on Batman arrives in September, along with the paperback of Batman: Cacophony. I've heard mixed reviews of these books, but obviously DC seems content to let Smith have a go at it for a while.

* Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1: Prologue to Darkness

I had thought this was the beginning of a series collecting the Keith Giffen "five years later" Legion series, but I see now this is a collection of the Paul Levitz and Giffen run prior to the acclaimed "Great Darkness Saga." (But a collection of the "five years later" stories would be good, too). My other theory was that Giffen could shortly be joining Levitz on the new Legion of Super-Heroes series, and this could be the first collection of that.

* Luthor

Following their successful Joker graphic novel, Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo return with Luthor. The two already did a take on Lex Luthor, Man of Steel, with which I wasn't terribly impressed; maybe with the success of Joker, DC will give them a longer leash on this new book. Part of Joker's success, I thought, was proximity to the Dark Knight movie; I wonder if Luthor can stand on its own without an equal push.

* Starman Omnibus Vol. 5

Writer Sterling Gates congratulated DC Comics Collected Editions editor Anton Kawasaki on the Starman Omnibuses the other day, and indeed the praise is well deserved -- these books are beautiful, and these books are complete. Probably the fifth volume collects the trade paperbacks A Starry Knight and Stars My Destination, issues #47-60, before the sixth volume finishes it out.

* Superman: Nightwing & Flamebird Vol. 2

* Superman: Mon-El - Man of Valor

* Supergirl: Death and the Family


As I speculated the other day, here's the final Nightwing and Flamebird and Mon-El volumes that, along with Superman: New Krypton Vol. 4, close out the "New Krypton" storyline. Next up, "Brainiac and The Legion of Super-Heroes," "The Fall of New Krypton," and "War of the Supermen."

* Batman: Streets of Gotham Vol. 2: Leviathan

* Batman: Life After Death

* Red Robin: Collision


I might pass on the "substitute Batman" stories for now, short of Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin, but I'm sorely tempted to get Batman: Life After Death by Tony Daniel, since he single-handedly wrote and drew Batman: Battle for the Cowl, and I'm interested to see how he follows it up. Likely Red Robin: Collision includes Batgirl issues after the first trade of that series.

* Secret Six Vol. 3: Danse Macabre

* Power Girl Vol. 2: Aliens & Apes

* Wonder Woman: Contagion

* JSA All-Stars: Constellations

* R.E.B.E.L.S. Vol. 3: The Son and the Stars


Trade collection of ongoing series as expected. Wonder Woman now firmly in paperback; JSA All-Stars gets its first collection, but I continue to wonder if the JSA franchise can support two titles.

So, Absolute All-Star Superman, eh? A bevy of Bat-books to choose from? What's on your to-buy list (and for that matter, what have you dropped lately)?

Review: Green Lantern: Agent Orange hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, February 01, 2010

Possibly the Green Lantern series has set its own bar a little too high, because after volume upon volume of what's been a consistently high quality series, Green Lantern: Agent Orange just failed to impress. As Geoff Johns continues the build-up to the Blackest Night crossover, part of me says "Enough already!" -- Agent Orange might just be one last prelude too many before the main event.

Compared with the great last Green Lantern volume, Rage of the Red Lanterns, it's easy to see why Agent Orange didn't measure up. Both stories introduce new hues of Lantern into the mythos, but whereas Rage contrasts the Red Lanterns with the Lost Lantern Laira's grief over her fallen comrade and Hal Jordan's mixed feelings about Sinestro's upcoming execution, Agent Orange follows a mostly straightforward hunt for the Orange Lantern. There's some interesting conversation regarding the differences between greed, represented by the Orange Lantern, and hope, represented by the Blue, but nowhere near the crackle that Rage contained.

At this point, the characters in Green Lantern are so set in their ways (in advance, perhaps, of larger character changes in Blackest Night) as to no longer be suspenseful or surprising. The constant bickering between the Green Lanterns and their ruling Guardians grows old; one wonders why the Lanterns, heroes in their own right, tolerate the Guardians' constant recalcitrance.

And writer Geoff Johns seems to delight in doling out the Guardians' secrets one by one, playing a constant game of "I know something you don't know." The entirely unsurprising origin of Agent Orange Larfleeze is such a letdown that it spoils my eagerness for the next hidden tidbit. The Guardians' new rule that the Vega system is no longer offlimits to Lanterns fell flat for me, since even I -- well versed in DC Comics lore -- didn't know there was something about Vega in the first place; far better were the Guardians' previous rules about love and capital punishment that dealt with the Lantern's emotions, rather than minutia.

I enjoyed artist Philip Tan well enough on Final Crisis: Revelations, with his dark, sketchy art that brought out the moodiness of that story. Agent Orange has similarly suspenseful, secretive moments, though Johns seems through Lantern Hal Jordan to want us to envision Larfleeze like a Muppet; I wondered what the whole story would've looked like with more energetic art suited to animated characters. Tan offers beautiful scenes, but then also ones where the Lanterns, especially John Stewart, appear wooden. Strangely, Tan also paints just one panel per page, and not often the most pertinent or emotional panel; that the painted panel had no story relevance beyond appearing once per page seemed to me gimmicky and distracting, rather than adding to the story.

I did appreciate Agent Orange's unique Lantern power to kill, and then replicate his victims, creating a virtual Orange Corps and calling it -- Johns being punny -- "identity theft." While this seems to mildly duplicate what I understand of the Black Lantern power yet to be revealed (animating the actual dead corpse trumps stealing the corpse's identity any day), it's better by far than the Red Lantern power which is, no joke, to vomit fiery blood. In the measly four issues collected here, the Agent Orange power doesn't get much change to shine, but I'm curious what Johns does with it down the road.

Bottom line, I'm just ready to get on with it. It's January now -- the Blackest Night trades don't hit until July, kids. That's a long, long, almost interminable time to wait. Green Lantern is good, really good, I know it, but Agent Orange didn't do it for me -- that makes the wait for the better things to come all that much harder.

[Contains Philip Tan sketchbook, various Lantern corp profile pages from Blackest Night #0.]

Thanks for reading!