Review: Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scott Snyder succeeds in writing a truly frightening Joker story in Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family, a collection well-timed for release near Halloween. Snyder already demonstrated his mastery of Batman horror in The Black Mirror, and Death of the Family feels like a successor to that -- but more intense throughout, even, and with a more palpable, continuous sense of dread.

The end let me down just a tad. Snyder finishes with a nice twist, and in all his take on the Batman/Joker relationship is both faithful and also groundbreaking, but it's possible that there's so much dread in Death of the Family that it can't deliver the horrors it promises. That's ultimately a small matter, however. Death of the Family sets a new bar for Joker stories; I'm curious, and perhaps a little scared, to see what happens when Snyder brings the Joker back again sometime in the future.
Collected Editions 2017 Comic Book Gift Guide

Review: Aliens Omnibus Vol. 3 trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

I applaud Dark Horse’s attempts to collect the numerous Aliens comics in order of publication, but a conflict between Aliens Omnibus Vol. 2 and Aliens Omnibus Vol. 3 made me skip reviewing the second volume for the time being. The last story collected in Omnibus Vol. 2, “Colonial Marines," is a failure of a maxi-series that took two years to publish ten issues (cut down from a twelve-issue run). Over a dozen Aliens, Predator and AVP projects were published in the meantime, including “Rogue," the first mini-series collected in Omnibus Vol. 3. The ending of “Colonial Marines” ultimately tied into the (much better) “Rogue”… but “Colonial Marines” was published in the Omnibus Vol. 2 published before Omnibus Vol. 3 with “Rogue," making the ending of Omnibus Vol. 2 nonsensical.

Review: Mind MGMT Vol. 2: The Futurist collected hardcover (Dark Horse Comics)

Monday, October 28, 2013

It happened a second time, of course.

In all, I enjoyed Mind MGMT Vol. 2: The Futurist more than I did the initial volume. While for most of the volume I still felt Meru lacked a certain quality to make the reader really care for her, I did like the offbeat "team" that emerges in these pages. Certainly writer Matt Kindt layers each page with characters with increasingly more unusual mental powers, and Kindt's exploration of these is fascinating -- what would it really be like if you could see the future? Control minds completely, other people's or even your own -- making the reader think in the way good science-fiction should.

As with Mind MGMT Vol. 1, however, there's a twist here, one that again caught me flatfooted and that recasts not just elements of this volume but of the first one as well. By the end of this book, every complaint I had about Mind MGMT has been answered, every aspect that seemed "off" to me now explained and fully integrated into the story.

Review: Superman Vol. 2: Secrets and Lies hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

For my money, if you want to take a new Superman relaunch that's had a rough start and make it seem legitimate, there's no better creator to bring on than Dan Jurgens. From the first splash page of Superman protecting a mother and child behind his cape, Jurgens and Keith Giffen's Superman Vol. 2: Secrets and Lies is wonderfully familiar, while at the same time the updated costume constantly reminds us they're telling stories in a new world.

It's possible this book may feel too nostalgic for some. The flip side of this book reading like a set of pre-"Death of Superman" stories is that it comes off a bit light; there's never a real sense of danger in the super-villains and monsters Superman fights. I give the writers points for some clever plots, however, especially the titular "Secrets and Lies"; if the point of this book is simply to fill the gap between George Perez's departure and Scott Lobdell coming on full-time, this is an adequate stopgap measure.

Review: Hawkeye Vol. 2: Little Hits trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

Even though it helped launched Marvel NOW!, Hawkeye still feels like no other book that Marvel puts out, either in storytelling or visual design. The Hawkeye Vol. 2: Little Hits collection features one issue told in anachronic order, one issue containing two stories, and four issues which slowly tell one long tale which will be finished in another trade. At times, the issues feel like they should all be read one right after the other ... but then, there are moments where Matt Fraction and his artists clearly want you to take a break between issues. It can be maddening to figure out the proper pace of reading.

JSA Omnibus lists updated contents

Monday, October 21, 2013

As pleased as we were to see the JSA Omnibus Vol. 1 on DC Comics's 2014 release schedule, a big sticking point was that the book would collect only issues #6-28 of the original series, skipping issues #1-5 that were written by James Robinson and David Goyer rather than Geoff Johns, who joined the title with #6.

DC Comics has apparently heard your cries, because as commenter David Raid points out, the contents for JSA Omnibus have now changed on Amazon. This isn't definite, but it's a pretty good sign that we're getting what we want.

The original contents were JSA #6-28, JSA Annual #1, JSA Secret Files #2, JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice, JSA: Our Worlds at War #1, JLA/JSA Secret Files #1, Secret Origins of Super-Villains 80-page Giant #1 and JSA All Stars #1-8.

Review: Justice League Dark Vol. 2: Books of Magic trade paperback (DC Comics)

Second acts are tough, especially in the DC Comics New 52. Neither the second volumes of Green Arrow nor Red Lanterns improved over their first. Superman Vol. 2's creative team left with the end of that collection. So it is with great pleasure, though not much surprise, that I found Jeff Lemire's Justice League Dark Vol. 2: Books of Magic is a significant improvement over Peter Milligan's first trade, and one that clearly demonstrates how Justice League Dark can continue successfully into the future.

[Review contains spoilers]

Lemire delivers a consistently excellent product on the horror comic Animal Man, so it's no shock that his supernatural-themed Justice League Dark should also be good. But what Lemire does early on that helps the book immeasurably is to pull it somewhat out of that "magic" realm. Whereas Milligan's book opened with the Justice League outclassed against a magical force, Lemire takes the supernatural Dark team and depicts them in a rather "regular" superhero mission, matching wits with long-time Justice League villain Felix Faust.

DC Trade Solicitations for January 2014 - Batman by Moench and Jones, Trinity War, Ostrander's Martian Manhunter, Hawkworld

Friday, October 18, 2013

Break out your party hats -- you wouldn't know it from the calendar, but according to DC Comics's latest trade paperbacks and collections solicitations, it's already 2014! DC's ringing in the new year with an early solicitation for the Trinity War crossover trade, the eagerly-awaited Batman by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones collection and Martian Manhunter by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake, plus a bunch of wrap-up trades for cancelled titles: Deathstroke, Dial H, Ravagers, and Threshold.

Before we dig in, by the way, Bleeding Cool had an interesting article noting the potential cancellations of Katana and Sterling Gates's Vibe, later confirmed by DC; the site points out that each series' first collection seems to have been re-solicited, now to include the entirety of each series in one book respectively.

And now for January 2014:

Justice League: Trinity War HC

Solicited now to take advantage of all the hullabaloo, but this book doesn't actually come out until next March. All the issues collected here can also ostensibly be found in other collections: Justice League #22-23 (Justice League Vol. 4), Justice League of America #6-7 (Justice League of America Vol. 1: World's Most Dangerous, out in November), Justice League Dark #22-23 (Justice League Dark Vol. 4), Constantine #5 (Constantine Vol. 1: Spark and the Flame, solicited this month), Trinity of Sin: Pandora #1-3 (Trinity of Sin: Pandora Vol. 1) and Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger #11 (Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger Vol. 2 or 3). That's a longer wait -- the Justice League book won't be out until April -- but that's the situation if you don't want to buy the same material twice.

I have seen other solicitations that suggest the "Trinity War"-based DC Free Comic Book Day 2012 issue will be in here, though this is not mentioned in DC's official solicitation.

Constantine Vol. 1: The Spark and the Flame TP

Collects Constantine #1-6, #5 of which is a "Trinity War" tie in.

Dial H Vol. 2: Exchange TP

This second and final Dial H collection includes the final issues, #7-15, plus the Villains Month issue, Justice League #23.3: Dial E.

Deathstroke Vol. 2: Lobo Hunt TP

As I keep saying, I'm probably about the only one looking forward to this book, which collects Deathstroke #9-20 and the Zero Month issue (so thirteen issues, which is a lot for a trade). I am not expecting Shakespeare; rather I'm looking forward to the wild, outlandish, misshapen fun of a Rob Liefeld story that involves Deathstroke, Lobo, and some of the 1990s greatest Wildstorm creations, followed by Justin Jordan's Team 7-styled take on Deathstroke, the Teen Titans, and the Ravagers. This is going to be a blast, I'm sure of it.

This overfull trade, by the way, crosses over with the "Hawkman: Wanted" storyline, though (probably wisely) it doesn't collect any issues from the other series. Savage Hawkman Vol. 2: Wanted, an equally-large trade due out in December, will have the Hawkman issues; Green Arrow Vol. 3: Harrow has Green Arrow's contribution plus one of the Hawkman issue.

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 3: The Fatal Five TP

Another sizable trade -- Paul Levitz's Legion works best in big chunks, and this collects issues #15-23, nine issues. This also marks the end of this Legion iteration, ahead of the new Justice League 3000.

Ravagers Vol. 2: Heavenly Destruction TP

The second and final Ravagers collection includes issues #8-12 plus the Zero Month issue.

Supergirl Vol. 3: Sanctuary TP

The third Supergirl collection includes issues #13-19. Issues #14-17 are part of the "H'el on Earth" crossover with Superman and Superboy; those issues can also be found in the H'el on Earth collection. For the whole story in individual trades, you'll want Superman Vol. 3: Fury at World's End and Superboy Vol. 3: Lost.

Threshold Vol. 1: The Hunted TP

All of Keith Giffen's nascent space series Threshold is collected here -- issues #1-8 and the Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1. The DC solicitation doesn't mention the Larfleeze back-ups, suggesting they might not be collected, though the Amazon solicitation does mention them.

Wonder Woman Vol. 4: War HC

Issues #19-23; completes Brian Azzarello's first Wonder Woman storyline. I felt a little let down by Vol. 3, but I'm excited for the twists and turns in Azzarello's conclusion.

Dc Universe Presents Vol. 3: Black Lightning and Blue Devil TP

Though labeled as a collection of the Black Lightning/Blue Devil story, issues #13-16, this trade actually collects through #19, the end of DC Universe Presents, including Arsenal and Starfire stories.

Batman by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones Vol. 1 HC

This is one we've been waiting for a while now. Check out our original breaking announcement for the full details, but this book collects Batman #515-525, 527-532, and 535-536, stretching from just after Knightsend to Underworld Unleashed and Legacy. A great set of supernatual, self-contained Batman stories.

Martian Manhunter: Son of Mars TP

If you were only going to order one trade this month, this is the one I'd recommend. We've been waiting forever for DC to start collecting John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake's Martian Manhunter, and now they're collecting both this and the team's Spectre. This trade collects issues #0-9; the book ran for 38 issues, so there's plenty more volumes for DC to publish if we support this one!

Hawkworld (New Edition) TP

No idea why DC's reprinting Hawkworld at this point, except that it remains the best Hawkman origin around (after which Hawkman continuity trends toward entropy, inevitably). I reviewed this one a few years ago.

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga (New Edition) TP

Maybe we can take from this that Legion isn't "dead" dead at DC quite yet. This reprints the 2010 deluxe hardcover, which expanded the "Great Darkness Saga" collection beyond its shorter, original collection.

Power Girl: Power Trip TP

Collects JSA Classified #1-3 and Power Girl #1-12 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (with Geoff Johns on the JSA issues), and Amanda Conner. These are enjoyable stories that present Power Girl well, if a little breezy for my tastes. This seems to me a strange reprint choice given how far out of continuity these stories are from the main DC universe, though I know the creators remain popular on their own.

Jla Vol. 4 TP

The original hardcover collection of this book included JLA #34, #36-41, and JLA Classified #1-3. Unusually, the paperbacks have had slightly different contents. I'm surprised issue #34 isn't here (in fact I suspect that might be a typo); this book omits Grant Morrison's JLA Classified stories, but includes the beginning of Mark Waid's run, the "Tower of Babel" storyline (which is a good switch in my opinion).

Justice League of America Omnibus Vol. 1 HC

You'll recall DC had solicited a Justice League of America Chronicles Vol. 1 paperback, which would have collected just Brave and the Bold #28-30 and Justice League of America #1-3. This Omnibus volume (replacing the canceled Chronicles) includes Brave and the Bold, Justice League of America through issue #30, and Mystery in Space #75.

Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives Vol. 3 HC

This is not for me particularly, but there's someone who gets mad in the comments whenever I don't mention DC's Archives releases. Collects Superman #132-139 and parts of Action Comics #255-266. Enjoy!

That's a little taste of what I'll be picking up this January. What's on your pick list? Sound off in the comments!

Review: Green Lantern Vol. 3: The End hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's with a fair amount of regret that I began reading Geoff Johns's last Green Lantern volume, Green Lantern Vol. 3: The End. Though Johns had already had successes with JSA, Flash, Teen Titans, and Hawkman at the time that he took on Green Lantern, undoubtedly Green Lantern served to cement his reputation as a writer able to breathe new life into properties once thought untenable.

I specifically stopped reading the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Green Lantern series because I didn't find Hal Jordan compelling, only picking it up again when DC Comics killed off Hal for Kyle Rayner; that Johns made me a Hal Jordan fan -- that he proved that Hal Jordan must always necessarily be at the center of the Green Lantern series -- is an accomplishment indeed.

Review: Secret Avengers Vol. 1: Reverie trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

The Marvel NOW! version of Secret Avengers, as presented in the book’s first trade, Secret Avengers Vol. 1: Reverie, does not use quite the same format as its predecessor. Steve Rogers and later Hawkeye commanded a tight group of covert heroes; this version is far more fluid in how it utilizes its assets. One version isn’t better than the other; in fact, with the massive amount of Avengers books on the shelves, Secret Avengers sets itself apart by being a "non-team" book of the highest caliber.

After a brief catch-up thanks to the Marvel NOW! Point One issue, the first issue reveals one of the book’s target audiences: fans of the films. This is no surprise -- Avengers Assemble and Indestructible Hulk both cater to new fans -- but this issue uses on-screen concepts almost entirely. This is actually a smart move as Nick Spencer’s use of Hawkeye, Black Widow, Maria Hill, Coulson, and Nick Fury Jr. allow him to slowly introduce comic-centric concepts later on. For instance, the bad guy is new (and possibly connected to Warren Ellis’ Secret Avengers: Run The Mission) and there’s a cameo from Druid of the Secret Warriors.

Review: Lazarus Vol. 1: Family trade paperback (Image Comics)

Monday, October 14, 2013

If anyone could take Downton Abbey, set it in a post-apocalyptic future, people it with invincible assassins, and make it work, it would be Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. And it definitely works.

Lazarus is a new Image Comics series from Gotham Central (and etc.) collaborators Rucka and Lark, which despite my Rucka fandom fell under my radar until Image recently released a value-priced collection of the first four issues, Lazarus Vol. 1: Family. Impressively, Rucka offers a complete story arc and introduces a fully-realized new world all in just this handful of issues, inadvertently putting to shame his fellow creators who need six issues to do what Rucka does in four.

Review: Nightwing Vol. 2: Night of the Owls trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I praised Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows's first outing on the New 52 Nightwing as worthy of following that gold standard of Nightwing runs, Chuck Dixon's. If anything, I hoped Higgins would branch out and make Nightwing more his own, and the lead-up to the "Night of the Owls" crossover seemed headed in that direction.

Unfortunately, though I enjoyed Nightwing Vol. 2: Night of the Owls's "Owl" tie-in issues, I felt the series mostly took a step backward with this volume. Gone is Higgins's interesting Fugitive-eqsue device of having Dick Grayson travel the country with Haly's Circus, fighting crime from town to town as Nightwing; instead, Nightwing is largely Gotham-bound here, fighting an overblown and not very engaging villain.

Review: Indestructible Hulk Vol. 1: Agent of SHIELD hardcover/paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

Writing a Hulk comic book can be difficult because he is one of the rare heroes where his heroic identity and secret identity are truly two different people. Even though they share a body, Bruce Banner often does not remember what he did as the Hulk, which is a scary proposition considering what his alter ego is capable of.

Some writers combine Banner’s intelligence with the Hulk’s body; Peter David did this during his seminal run with both Grey Hulk and the “Professor” persona, and Greg Pak did it later in Planet Hulk and World War Hulk. All of those are excellent stories, but Mark Waid’s take in Indestructible Hulk: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. perhaps approaches the Banner/Hulk dynamic best of all.

Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 2: Cycle of Violence hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, October 07, 2013

I picked up Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 2: Cycle of Violence mainly because I continue to enjoy David Finch's art, and I thought I'd give this somewhat aimless title another shot while Finch was still part of the team. Finch doesn't disappoint here, but there's a marked difference between his art in Golden Dawn and Knight Terrors and his art here; for me, Finch's work in this particular volume isn't worth the price of entry.

But, new Dark Knight writer Gregg Hurwitz does offer a genuinely scary Scarecrow story, and Finch, to his credit, buffets it with genuinely disturbing art. The Dark Knight title has struggled to find its place within the franchise, but if Hurwitz intends to continue with these long-form villain profile stories (following from his Penguin: Pain and Prejudice miniseries), that's a potentially winning combination. It's not for me necessarily, but Hurwitz has convinced me he's the right person for the job.

Review: Team 7 Vol. 1: Fight Fire with Fire trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

So many interesting elements go in to Team 7 Vol. 1: Fight Fire with Fire that it's a shame the book doesn't come together as a larger whole.

Constant readers will know one of my favorite series in the past ten years is Greg Rucka's Checkmate, which used almost-random characters from the DC Universe in a espionage/political thriller setting, to great effect. Team 7 mimics that, combining disparate heroes and villains in similar situations; however, Team 7 never gets so far as to make me care about the characters the way Checkmate did. Varying art quality equally make it difficult for the book to hold my attention.

[Review contains spoilers]

I read Team 7 not long after I watched the first episode of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, and there's some parallels to be drawn between the two. Like SHIELD, Team 7 is about an elite group of agents recruited to stand between regular people and the "new normal" of super-heroes in the early New 52 world. But even as I found SHIELD perhaps too cutesy in the ABC way, it still did well introducing a number of new characters, dropping enough hints about their lives to get the audience interested in them, and balancing it all with good (if predictable) humor. Team 7's humor is so droll as to be deadpan -- "I can try," Suicide Squad's Amanda Waller tells new character Dean Higgins; "Don't try. Do," he replies, and "Thank you, Master Yoda" is Waller's un-funny retort.

Review: Avengers Assemble: Science Bros trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

Marvel launched Avengers Assemble as a movie tie-in in only the loosest of terms. The initial storyline, by Brian Michael Bendis, featured the film’s cast as they fought Thanos and teamed up with the Guardians of the Galaxy (the next non-sequel Marvel Studios film). It would have been easy to just get rid of Assemble once that story was finished, but the reshuffling of the Avengers franchise thanks to Marvel NOW! meant that a niche had opened up. I think there’s room for a lighter Avengers title amongst all the heavy space drama, which is where Avengers Assemble: Science Bros comes in.