Review: Red Lanterns Vol. 1: Blood and Rage trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Peter Milligan is a smart writer, proven over any number of his titles but not in the least the psychologically-explorative Infinity, Inc. DC Comics's announcement that Milligan would write the Red Lanterns title for the New 52 was something of a head-scratcher, as the fare would necessarily be more consistently cosmic than Milligan had written previously.

At the same time, the leading Red Lantern Atrocitus had long been a scene-stealing, morally-complex figure under Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns. Milligan's involvement perhaps portended some great exploration of the nature of rage (source of the Red Lanterns' power), why mankind is drawn to violence. and whether anger can ever be just.

Milligan approaches that in Red Lanterns: Blood and Rage, but the book is far from the crackshot study that readers might have hoped for. Instead, this first volume of Red Lanterns is strangely cautious, a slow and kind of paint-by-numbers introduction to the characters. Artist Ed Benes depicts the various alien species well, but his insistence on distorted cheesecake -- especially as pertains to the sole female protagonist of the book -- only drags Red Lanterns farther from what could have been a serious work and closer to what's essentially just another generic Green Lantern spin-off.

Review: Batwoman Vol. 1: Hydrology hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Batwoman: Hydrology, the first Batwoman collection of the DC New 52, will be a source of joy to Batwoman fans and a source of confusion to new readers. Hydrology is enjoyable, painstakingly drawn by writer/artist J. H. Williams (with co-writer W. Haden Blackman), but its roots in the "old" DC Universe -- subsequently delayed so as to emerge in the New 52 premiere -- are well on display here. The Batwoman saga was a continuity puzzle before and now it's even more so, but that does not negate the pleasure of the Batwoman series in general.

[Review contains spoilers]

There is nothing wrong necessarily with Williams and Blackman's story here, but the star of the show is Williams's art. Though a little something went away with the departure of former Batwoman writer Greg Rucka (Williams's panels tend to be very straight, like architecture, whereas under Rucka they twisted and curved across the page), Williams still makes Batwoman infinitely more visually detailed than, say, the entirety of Static Shock.

Review: Carnage USA hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

[Guest review by Doug Glassman]

Carnage: USA takes place shortly after Family Feud, with Carnage on the run from the authorities and taking refuge in a remote meatpacking town. Spider-Man and the Avengers go after him, and the rescue mission goes horribly wrong, as Cletus Kasady has physically taken over the town of Doverton.

Carnage has usually been able to take over other creatures on a limited basis, but the crazy devil actually came up with a good strategy, gaining more mass by lying low and eating thousands of cows. As a result, he’s able to simultaneously take over the bodies of everyone in the town, along with Captain America, Wolverine, Hawkeye and the Thing. In a neat touch, they’re literally his puppets -- there’s always a tendril connecting his victims to him, turning them into a part of him instead of spawning new symbiotes (a process which never ends well).

Uncollected Editions: Batwoman: Cutter (DC Comics)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A new entry in our "Uncollected Editions" series, where we look at single issues that might've made a collection, but never came to be.

There's nothing terribly significant about the "Cutter" storyline from Detective Comics #861-863, except that it stars the Kate Kane Batwoman and it was written by her creator and author of Batwoman: Elegy, Greg Rucka. "Cutter" holds some mystique because it was not included in Elegy even though the issues followed right after those that were collected, and because it completes Rucka's Batwoman work with DC Comics.

When I read Elegy, I was vocally disappointed that "Cutter" wasn't included; having just read "Cutter" alongside Elegy, however, the reasons are fairly clear. Artist Jock does nice work on "Cutter," a preview as it were of his unforgettable chapters of Batman: The Black Mirror, but his thin lines and minimalist style are starkly different than J. H. Williams's lush spreads in Elegy. Also, while "Cutter" is interesting, the "Go" storyline that completes Elegy is Rucka's real Batwoman triumph.

Review: Batman - Detective Comics Vol. 1: Faces of Death hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Tony Daniel is the kind of writer/artist that the reader wants to root for. Having made a name for himself at DC Comics drawing Teen Titans and Batman RIP, Daniel went on to become the writer/artist of Batman: Battle for the Cowl -- attractive, without a doubt, but melodramatic and with poor characterization. Daniel followed this, however, with the absolutely stellar Batman: Life After Death; here, Daniel would seem to be growing as a writer, and he also make good use of continuity as to suggest true Batman fandom.

Daniel's follow-up to Life After Death, however, Eye of the Beholder, wasn't quite on the same level. It was clear Daniel could offer exemplary work, but the results were hit and miss. Daniel's next project would be relaunching Detective Comics, veritable DC Comics's flagship title, for the New 52 -- which Tony Daniel would show up?

Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Friday, July 20, 2012

What do you get when you cross _______ with _______? The Dark Knight Rises.

Spoilers after the jump.

Review: Static Shock Vol. 1: Supercharged trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ordinarily these reviews examine collected comics as books -- ignoring, for instance, any scheduling conflicts that would affect the monthly reader's experience but not that of the collected reader; and also side-stepping the "inside baseball" well-known to those who read the comics news sites every day, but not to those who might pick up a collection in the bookstore just because it looks interesting. Such is the custom of novel reviews, which rarely address whether the writer likes his editor or not, and such is the intention here.

For the first time, however, a book has come along that is such a mess as to make it almost impossible to review as a book itself. Static Shock: Supercharged is a terrible, terrible mess of muddled and conflicting storylines; the cluttered, distorted artwork only makes matters worse.

Review: X-Men and Spider-Man hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

[Guest review by Doug Glassman]

When discussing the major difference between the DC and Marvel Universes, you can look at the interactions of their teams as a prime example. The Justice League and Justice Society had frequent team-ups and Thanksgiving dinners at their various headquarters. The Titans and Infinity, Inc. each sent members up through the older teams. Conversely, the Avengers and X-Men rarely interact and only have a few members in common -- Wolverine and Beast being the most notable. Young superheroes are often too fractured to ever move past their teams. It’s a dynamic currently being explored in Avengers vs. X-Men, which feels like a war that’s been a long time coming.

Acting as a sequel of sorts to Dan Slott’s Spider-Man and the Human Torch, Christos Gage's X-Men and Spider-Man depicts a refreshingly positive interaction between two disparate Marvel elements. Peter Parker first met the X-Men in issue #9 of their title, which is also collected here at the end. I almost wish they had put this issue at the front, but then the reader would probably have been distracted by how bizarre Banshee looked in the 1960s.

Review: Mr. Terrific Vol. 1: Mind Games trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Writer Eric Wallace's Mr. Terrific: Mind Games represents a first for DC Comics's New 52 line -- it is one of the first New 52 titles to be cancelled. As such, Mr. Terrific Volume One is actually "volume one and only," and the trade collects all eight issues of the series.

Despite its cancellation, Wallace does a nice job here -- Mr. Terrific is a science-based superhero, and Mind Games has science in spades. The book suffers however from a rough start, uneven artwork, and occasional clumsy writing on Wallace's part; a second collection of Mr. Terrific would have been welcome, but it's not hard to see why the book was cancelled. It's a shame, both for the loss of the title and character, and for the way Wallace addresses race (and fans address race back) that would have been interesting to watch had the book continued.

Reading the DC New 52: Month One

Friday, July 13, 2012

Last week I finished reviewing DC Comics's first month of New 52 collection releases (it may take more than a month to review them, but they were all released in May). As I go through the New 52 collections, each time I finish a month, I'll be here with a "Reading the DC New 52" column -- a more off-the-cuff look at the best and worst of the books, what stuck out at me, what I'm looking forward to, and so on. And I hope you'll consider the titles and chime in as well.

The first month's books are Justice League and Justice League International, Animal Man, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Stormwatch, Catwoman, and Green Arrow.

Of these, hands down the best remains Jeff Lemire's Animal Man: The Hunt. Lemire's New 52 changes are subtle -- Buddy's origins are revised, but they were never so clear to begin with -- and he preserves what has forever made Animal Man stories so successful: not just Buddy Baker, but his wife Ellen, son Cliff, and daughter Maxine. In this way Lemire doesn't reinvent Animal Man so much as give Animal Man a really great, interesting new adventure to take part in, which is ultimately what DC really needs to revive its line (I like the New 52, but if a writer would "pull a Lemire" on every title, they wouldn't need the reboot to generate sales).

Review: Power Girl: Old Friends trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's happy news after the disappointing end of the Justice Society title in Monument Point that Power Girl: Old Friends, the final collection of Judd Winick's run on that series before the DC New 52, is so good.

Those who question Winick's morality and upbringing after his Catwoman: The Game will have to also take into account his Power Girl work; leaving aside the baseline objectification inherit in a superheroine with a keyhole in her costume, Winick's Power Girl stories are energetic and respectful, and end on a strong note for the character. If one might argue that Winick's Catwoman work is disrespectful, it would be hard to say that such is endemic for the writer.

Like many of the final trades leading up to the DC New 52, it's obvious that at times Winick truncates or abandons plotlines in order to bring the book to a close; also writer Matt Sturges steps in for two self-contained stories in the end. Despite the brevity, however, Winick achieves a satisfying ending, and Power Girl fans ought not be disappointed with this book.

Review: JSA: Darkness Falls trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

[Our look this week at the last pre-New 52 days of the Justice Society continues today with a trip back to the early days of JSA, with this guest review by Doug Glassman]

I was singing the praises of JSA: Darkness Falls all the way back in 2005 when I wrote for Comixfan . . . a position I originally left because I felt like the only DC reader on a Marvel-centric site. Oh, how the times have changed, although my opinion about the book certainly hasn’t. Perhaps my greatest disappointment with the New 52 is how much of Darkness Falls was written out of continuity, even on Earth-2.

In retrospect, it’s amazing how nearly every story in Geoff Johns’ run on the pre-relaunch title began in this trade. It chronicles Obsidian’s turn to evil, the revamped Injustice Society and the beginning of the fall of Atom Smasher, which would eventually lead to the reintroduction of Black Adam as a major force in the DC Universe. The only major villain missing is Mordru, who was the villain in the previous trade. Like Busiek’s Avengers, Goyer and Johns kept a number of storylines running consecutively, switching between them as new opportunities arise.

DC Trade Solicitations for October 2012 -- and Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We thought this day would never arrive ... but there's a crisis coming.

Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 6, that is.

Yesterday DC Comics released their October 2012 solicitations -- always fun, but no great surprises within (quick run-down: Blackhawks Vol. 1: The Great Leap Forward, Blue Beetle Vol. 1: Metamorphosis, Captain Atom Vol. 1: Evolution, DC Comics — The New 52 Zero Omnibus, DC Universe Presents Vol. 1: Deadman/Challengers of the Unknown, Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 1, Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating The DC Universe Omnibus, Red Hood and The Outlaws Vol. 1: Redemption). Something did just pop up on the schedule for March 2013, however, that bears some discussion.

The Crisis on Multiple Earths trade series collects the Silver Age team-ups between the Earth-1 Justice League and the Earth-2 Justice Society, stemming from some rather simplistic (by modern standards) team-ups of the 1960s to significant pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths events like the deaths of Mr. Terrific and Red Tornado, the return of the Seven Soldiers, Black Canary's move from Earth-2 to Earth-1, and appearances by the New Gods, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the Captain Marvel family.

The first volume came out in 2002, and the second, third, and fourth volumes followed every year, plus some "Team-Up" books that collected meetings between individual Earth-1 and Earth-2 characters.

Then Crisis on Multiple Earths hit the skids. Volume 5 was solicited for 2007, but then never came out, and for a while we here at Collected Editions thought the series was dead. Murmurs of volume 5 emerged again in 2009, and finally, the book came out in 2010.

Comic Coverage has a fantastic series of articles on the various JLA/JSA team-ups, and there's also more information on the DC Crisis Wikipedia page about the contents of these collections. To put a too-fine point on it, volumes 1-5 collected up to Justice League #185 from 1980, which was a JLA/JSA/New Gods story, and then stopped.

And now, two years later, it looks like we'll have another Crisis on Multiple Earths volume next year.

Usually the Crisis books have collected just two or three story arcs. That would suggest Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 6 might include Justice League #195-197, #207-209 (with All-Star Squadron #14-15), and #219-220. I'm not sure the first two stories have much significance, but the last is the one where, through a series of twists and turns, we learn the Earth-1 Black Canary is actually the daughter of the Earth-2 Black Canary, not the same character, ironing out some continuity issues that were later changed by Crisis on Infinite Earths anyway.

At the same time, there's really only one more major JLA/JSA team-up of the era after that, and that's Justice League 231-232, which also cameos the Monitor and Harbinger from Crisis on Infinite Earths -- a lead-in, if you will. Twelve issues is more than these collections usually include, but I would love to see DC go for broke and finally, finally, finish this series, a good eleven years after the first volume emerged.

How cool a nice, well-bound hardcover omnibus of all the JLA/JSA team-ups from the six volumes of Crisis on Multiple Earths would be is another conversation entirely ...

What are you buying from DC's October 2012 solicitations? What are you still waiting for them to collect?

Review: Justice Society of America: Monument Point trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 09, 2012

Writer Marc Guggenheim once took one of the worst eras in Flash history and crafted from it five issues of pure genius that not only redeemed the series, but remain eminently re-readable even after the fact. This is an important fact to establish when approaching Guggenheim's Justice Society of America: Monument Point, the final pre-Flashpoint Justice Society collection, which sadly falls short of Guggenheim's earlier DC Comics work.

Though the circumstances seem the same -- Guggenheim gets to write the end of a cancelled series -- they are not the same necessarily. If anything, Guggenheim had a greater lead-time on Justice Society, such that reader expectations must be necessarily higher; at the same time, there's no telling just how close to the DC New 52 premiere that Guggenheim was told he had to wrap things up.

Review: Batman: Earth One graphic novel (DC Comics)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Batman: Earth One is not Geoff John's first time writing the Dark Knight; Batman is a major part of Johns's DC New 52 Justice League, of course, as well as Infinite Crisis, Brightest Day, and Green Lantern, among others. But Earth One does represent Johns's first solo Batman story, and he does deliver something new: a Batman less assured and less capable than any Batman we've read previously. Johns also has the dubious distinction of writing what may be the first ever Bruce Wayne/Alfred Pennyworth wrestling match.

J. Michael Straczynski's Superman: Earth One made headlines even before the book hit the stands for what seemed to be an Edward Cullen-esque Clark Kent (far from the truth and sensationally overreported). Johns's Bruce Wayne in Batman: Earth One ought be far more recognizable to the mainstream reader and therefore far less controversial. The irony is that despite Straczynski's more youthful Clark Kent, the story Straczynski told was singularly "classic" -- an iconic "Superman and the Daily Planet gang" story, while Johns's Batman: Earth One is the one that's full of difference -- familiar faces with new personalities and familiar names on entirely different characters.

Review: Spider-Man by Mark Millar trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

[Guest review by Doug Glassman]

Late last year, Marvel finally reissued one of the most requested and most needed Spider-Man trades. Previously published as three small trades, Spider-Man by Mark Millar had been out of print for years, much to the consternation of Spidey fans who wanted to read this important chapter.

Collecting the first twelve issues of Marvel Knights Spider-Man, this story has often been called “Spider-Man’s Hush.” Considering its epic length, scope, year-long run time and permanent effect on the character, this is a very apt comparison.

Mark Millar’s run on Marvel Knights Spider-Man was actually composed of three arcs, hence the three trades. While they can all be read on their own, they connect beautifully and Marvel was wise to collect them all at once. The first arc, “Down Amongst the Dead Men,” sees Spider-Man finally put the Green Goblin behind bars, only for him to arrange the kidnapping of Aunt May. This introduces the central conflict for the next twelve issues, with multiple supervillain subplots weaving their way in.

Review: Catwoman Vol. 1: The Game trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, July 02, 2012

Judd Winick writes a wild, violent, sexual tale of Selina Kyle in the DC Comics New 52 debut Catwoman: The Game. Here, Winick tries to fill gigantic shoes that preceded him, the iconic Ed Brubaker run that redefined both the look of Catwoman and what a Catwoman story could be -- nuanced and intelligent and steeped in crime noir. Winick follows in this tradition, but he is less apologetic than Brubaker, for better or worse -- his Catwoman bounds from impulse to impulse, disaster to disaster, without the altruism that writers often feel compelled to inject into Selina's stories.

That Winick's story and Guillem March's art offer content perhaps better suited for a Vertigo or Marvel Max line have earned Catwoman: The Game no end of controversy. Still, even if Winick's content is taboo, that Winick pushes taboo boundaries is not in and of itself a bad thing.